I have always had a love affair with cookies, really any kind, and that was what started my interest in baking. I am sure when I was in University eating spaghetti with ketchup my family questioned if I would ever get beyond my poor culinary skills. After my mom watched me set a bag of microwave popcorn on fire (yes my date was also super impressed) just before leaving home I am sure she thought I would either starve to death or hurt myself in some culinary explosion. But my desire to learn how to make perfect cookies made me persevere. I grew up spoiled by my mom’s, and Grandma’s cookies. There was always a tin on my counter growing up that magically stayed full, with different kinds every time I opened it. Some days when I miss my Grandma I pick one of her recipes to make, not only do I return to the comfort of childhood, I feel a little closer to her in that moment. Since today I ended up crying in my car after dropping my kids off at school ( I had a mom fail morning) I thought making cookies would improve my day. Plus I just needed a little bit of comforting, maybe you do too. I know cookies were the healing answer for my husband when he was in hospital after he lost his leg due to a workplace accident. In fact that was when I really got into baking and noticed its healing power. Anyway I decided to make these into Valentine’s day cookies as they are the perfect cookie to decorate, and give as little gifts. They are buttery, not too sweet, and the perfect combination of crisp yet chewy. The fun thing about this recipe is you can change out the vanilla to whatever you prefer like almond extract, sometimes I use a little lemon extract and add lemon zest. But today I decided to keep it purely how Grandma made it.
It doesn’t require to many ingredients, flour (sifted), butter, vanilla extract, eggs, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar.
Mix all the dry ingredients together in one bowl and set them to the side. Start with an electric hand mixer and place the butter and sugar in the bowl.
Beat until it just comes together. Then add an egg one at a time, beating between each addition to make sure its fully incorporated. On the last egg add the extract as well.
Once all the eggs are mixed in its time to add the dry ingredients. Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl and using the electric mixer give a couple beats until it comes together and looks crumbly.
Then it’s time to get your hands dirty. I like to use my hands to bring all the dough together until it’s a nice smooth ball. You could use your mixer but you don’t want to overwork the dough. Using your hands will make sure that doesn’t happen.
Now that you have a lovely ball of dough, flatten it into a disk and wrap in saran wrap. Place it in your fridge for about 30 minutes. This makes it easier to work with. But if you are in a rush you can skip that stage. If you have lots of time, make this dough and leave it in the fridge until the next day. This dough also freezes really well, and makes about 48 cookies. So if you only want half, wrap the rest and freeze it. It will stay good about one month.
Since the dough has now had time to chill we are ready to roll it out, and cut it. Over and over and over again (sometimes when I have had enough I decided lets just freeze the rest of this). You don’t want it too thin, or too thick. I think the perfect thickness is about 1/4″ – 1/2″. Note: you can also keep your little entertained by giving them a little dough and some cutters I know I did.
Cut out the cookies using your desired shape, if I am using many cutters I try and group the same ones together on the tray. Otherwise if the sizes are too different, some may burn and others may be under cooked. Place cut cookies on a parchment lined cookie tray.
Place tray in oven at 375 degrees and bake for about 6-8 minutes depending on the size of your cookie. You know they are done when they are just starting to look golden. You really don’t want a lot of colour on these cookies. Place them on a wire cooling rack to completely cool. If the time is up, and you are worried they aren’t quite done, take them out of the oven and let them cool on the tray for about 5 minutes.
Sometimes icing the cookies to make them a little fancier is fun, but you can also just roll them in granulated sugar. Or use coloured sanding sugar or sprinkles on top. I have done both today so you can see how each looks. That and I may lose my mind if I hear my two year old asking me for a cookie every three seconds, so the sprinkles ones are for her to give me some space.
Now that the cookie wish has been fulfilled everyone is happy, and I can add some icing to the other cookies. You could use a royal icing, it will make for the best looking finish, but I prefer just a plain flood icing recipe. I like the taste and texture it gives better than the royal icing. But if you prefer something else you do you, I am not here to judge.
If you would like to use this icing it is pretty easy. Just icing sugar, corn syrup, juice from half a lemon, heavy cream, and extract. I am using the cotton candy extract (I think we all know I have a slight addiction there) but again it can be whatever you like. Lemon, orange, vanilla, almond, really you are the boss here.
Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a standard mixer, using the whisk attachment mix on medium high to bring it all together. If you are worried about icing sugar flying everywhere and coating every surface this is a little trick I use ( I like to think I learn from my mistakes). Take a clean tea towel and drape it over the top of the mixer and bowl, that way the cloth catches any wild sugar.
Once your icing comes together if it looks too thick (like mine does) add a little more milk a tablespoon at a time until you reached desired consistency. Too thin? Add a little more icing sugar and mix. For the border icing I keep it a little thicker, and set this amount aside. Then I add a little more milk to thin it for the flooding icing that goes inside the border.
You will know you have the right texture for the flooding icing when you lift your whisk/spatula and it drips in a thick ribbon nice and slowly into the bowl. You want it thick enough to hold its shape, but thin enough it is easy to work with.
Once you have your icing, time to decorate. Again the sky is the limit here, whatever colours or details you want to add go for it. Since these are for Valentine’s Day I am going to make them look like the conversation heart candies I have always loved.
When icing cookies it works best to first pipe a border for the cookies and then flood and fill the inside. Let them dry then add more details through icing, or like I did using food paint and a brush.
I free handed some cute little phrases on to the cookies, and as I tried not to shake or smudge (curse of being a lefty), I think they turned out fairly decently. Although I’d be lying if I didn’t think a stamp or stencil would have made life much easier. Personalize your cookies however you want. That is why baking is fun, its not the generic grocery store stuff. It’s your mind, heart, and creativity coming together to make something one of a kind. Now I am off to eat some cookies and have a cup of tea, my house smells like my Grandma could walk into the kitchen at any moment. Although I like to think she is already here.
Grandma’s Sugar Cookies
1 cup Unsalted butter
2 teaspoons Vanilla extract (or your choice)
1 1/2 cups Granulated sugar
3 large Eggs at room temperature
3 1/2 cups Flour (sifted)
2 tsp. Cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Baking soda
- Cream together the sugar and butter until fully incorporated using an electric hand mixer on medium.
- Add in eggs, one at a time, beating well to fully incorporate each egg. Add in the extract with the last egg, and beat with mixer until incorporated.
- Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix with hand mixer a couple of times until it looks crumbly.
- Using your hands mix the dough until the crumbs come together to form a smooth ball. Do not over work the dough.
- Flatten the dough ball into a disc and wrap in saran wrap. Place in fridge to chill for 30 minutes. Dough can be left overnight to be used the next day.
- On a well floured counter, roll out the dough until it is between 1/4″ and 1/2″ thickness.
- Use cookie cutters to cut out desired shapes and place on parchment lined cookie sheet.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 6-8 minutes depending on the size of cookies you’ve cut out.
- Once the cookies are just starting to turn to a golden-brown, remove from oven and cool on wire cooling rack.
3 cups Icing sugar
4 tablespoons Milk (or cream)
3 tablespoons Corn syrup
Juice from half a lemon
2 tsp. Cotton candy extract (or whatever you like)
- Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
- Mix on medium high until it comes together to form a smooth icing.
- If it’s too thick (like toothpaste) add a little more milk one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.
- Too thin (like water) add a little more icing sugar or else the icing will just run off your cookie.
- For the border icing I keep it a little thicker than add a little more milk to thin it for the flooding icing that goes inside the border.
- Let icing dry completely before drawing on it with food markers or paint. Or keep adding details with different colours of icing.