Thursday, December 10, 2009

Holiday Sugar Cookies

Traditional holiday cut-out sugar cookies are tough.

No, seriously. They're tough. As in dry and crunchy, instead of soft and tender like I fantasize they should be. I think half the recipes I've seen must be designed to hang on the tree and not to eat. Or they should have been.

They also suck to roll out.

I went looking for the perfect Holiday cookie recipe: one that had a tender crumb, was easy to roll out, took a glaze well and was, above all, yummy.

I think I found it with this one.

These cookies are a little thin, and as with all cookie cutter cookies, they're a bit of a project. But very worth it. I was surprised to find the cookies actually tasted better the next day, even after being glazed. I have no idea how they are on the third day; none of ours lasted that long.

The glaze freaked me out a bit, because there was no egg or the usual royal icing-type ingredients. And who puts cream cheese in cookie glaze?

But it really works.

Oh, and did you know that cookie cutters have two sides, and you cut out cookies with the thick one? I didn't.

Here's the recipe:

Holiday Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup superfine (or baker's) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and softened
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together into your mixer bowl. In an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat the butter into the flour mixture, one piece at a time. Continue to beat the flour-butter mixture until it looks crumbly and slightly wet, 1 to 2 minutes.

Beat in the cream cheese and vanilla until the dough just begins to form large clumps, about 30 seconds. Knead the dough by hand in the bowl a few times until it forms a large, cohesive mass.

Transfer the dough to a clean counter and divide it into 2 even pieces. Press each piece into a 4-inch disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until the dough is firm yet malleable, about 30 minutes.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll it out between 2 large sheets of parchment to an even 1/8 inch thickness. With the dough sandwiched between the parchment, slide it onto a baking sheet, and refrigerate until firm, about 10 minutes.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle, and heat the oven to 375. Line two more baking sheets with parchment.

Working with one sheet of dough at a time, remove the top parchment and stamp out cookies with cookie cutters. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet with a thin metal spatula, spaced about 1 inch apart.

Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until light golden brown, about 10 minutes, rotating halfway. Let cool in the baking sheet for 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before glazing.

Holiday Cookie Glaze

2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons softened cream cheese

Whisk all of the ingredients together until smooth. Color with food coloring, if you'd like.

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