Best Sugar Cookies Ever

We spent last weekend in Rockford, celebrating a very special boy’s very special first birthday. Jenn and Bill really outdid themselves with the treats, and I’ll be honest when I say that I was tempted to dig in with the same sort of abandon demonstrated by the birthday boy. It got messier from here, but I had to share the restrained cute:

In addition to Max’s chocolate-and-chocolate smash cake, Jenn and Bill made a two layer Mario cake – chocolate on the bottom, funfetti on the top – with homemade fondant, complete with Goombas, mushrooms, bricks, and pipes:

Mario Cake!

There were also homemade cupcakes, but what I really want to tell you about are the sugar cookies, decorated to look like Starmen:

Starmen!

and Yoshi eggs:

Yoshi Eggs!

Now, I’m usually not a sugar cookie kind of girl. When presented with your conventional cookie options, I usually go for monster cookies first, then molasses, oatmeal raisin, and last, but not least, chocolate chip. These sugar cookies, however, were just about the best sugars I’ve had. They were delicious right out of the oven – and stayed soft (but not chewy) for a few days after. I ate the last star Wednesday morning – nearly a week after they were baked – and the cookie was still soft.  That’s much better than your average store-bought cookie, which even with preservatives will be stale by the end of the day.

The weekend’s treats totally did in my diet and my sweet tooth – but I look forward to making these when both recover.  Jenn shared her recipe, which she got from her friend Robyn, and which I’m happy to share here. Jenn and Robyn note that gel food coloring will result in more vivid colors, and should be added after frosting reaches the desired consistency. Liquid food coloring, on the other hand, should be added to the frosting BEFORE other liquids, as it may affect the frosting’s consistency.

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sour cream (or sweet cream soured with 2-3 tablespoons vinegar)
6 cups sifted flour – more if necessary
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat your oven to 375, and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat mats. Cream butter and sugar. Blend in eggs and vanilla. In a 2 cup measuring cup, dissolve the soda in the sour cream, mixture will froth and almost double in volume. Add to butter mixture and blend. Sift dry ingredients together and blend into the wet ingredients gradually. If necessary, gradually add more sifted flour until you can easily roll out the dough. Cut out cookies and bake 10-12 minutes on the prepared baking sheets. Yield will vary depending on the rolled-out thickness and size of your cookie cutters.

Buttercream Frosting
1/3 cups cold butter
1 pound powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Food coloring (optional)
1/4 cup whole milk or cream

Cream butter. Add powdered sugar, salt, vanilla, and liquid food coloring if using. Add milk or cream, stirring constantly, until the frosting forms stiff peaks. Gel food coloring will produce more vivid colors; if using, add after the frosting reaches the desired consistency.  Spread on cooled sugar cookies – or enjoy on graham crackers or straight off the mixing spoon.

1219 So many baked goods

How we spent our evening:

Cookies!

Flooding

Juli and her Rabbi

And this was in addition to the nearly 5 dozen pretzels from this morning’s bakefest (thanks for the post, Olivia)!  All credit for these sweets goes to Juli – though we did contribute our sensational decorating skills.  I tried my hand at flooding, Shane made creepy faces, Juli made an amazing rabbi-snowman, and Dave – well, Dave made this guy:

Dave's Masterpiece

1119 Vegan Molasses Cookies

I went to my first A2 crafty meet-up the other night at Pot and Box, a sweet shop focused on “beautiful, ethically-sourced and responsibly-serviced flowers and plants.” I’d heard a lot about the space and its owner, but hadn’t been until a new crafty vegan friend invited me to the night of craftiness. Her invite provided the perfect opportunity to try a bit of vegan baking while making molasses cookies, which I’ve been craving for a while.  Are we vegan?  Not even remotely.  Are we considering going vegan?  Not a chance.  But that’s no reason not to incorporate vegan and vegetarian recipes into our diets and repertoires – especially when they can be surprisingly delicious.  Yes, I said it.  Surprisingly delicious.

We’ve both long been skeptical of vegan baked goods.  What about the butter! The eggs! The full-fat dairy!  Baked goods made with substitutes for those things – margarine instead of butter, light cream cheese instead of full-fat, skim milk instead of cream – are often so sad that we both had a hard time imagining tasty baked goods lacking dairy altogether.  I had a vegan cupcake at Sticky Fingers last summer and oh boy, BORING.

Our skepticism was challenged last month, though, when we devoured peanut butter chocolate chip cookies at a potluck – and then discovered that they were vegan.  These cookies were fantastic – delicious, chewy, and super flavorful.  We ate at least half a dozen between us, and I immediately had to request the recipe.

So it was with cautious enthusiasm that I tackled these molasses cookies.  The blog photos looked great.  I had flaxseed meal on hand, so I didn’t have to worry about grinding flax seeds.  The batter was spicy and sweet, a little crumbly after being chilled, but sticky enough to roll into balls the size of small walnuts.  I baked them up in two batches in the toaster oven, giving them about 9 minutes instead of 6, and they came out soft and chewy and totally delicious – and even better the next day.  I’m sold.

Recipe:
Classic (vegan!) Molasses Cookies from Hell Yeah It’s Vegan!

Cookie Monster

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie
Photo by norwichnuts

I have been craving cookies since lunchtime yesterday.  With $20 in my pocket, I could’ve easily bought one somewhere, but we had plans to go out for $1 tacos, so I figured I’d save my calories (and dollars).  We ate our fill of tacos, queso, chorizo, chips, and salsa for under $20, but I still wanted cookies.  Not enough to bake a batch when I was already stuffed with Mexican food, though.

When I still wanted cookies this morning, though, I decided it was time.  I had to go to three separate places before I found any cookies at all – a coffee shop, a cafeteria, and another coffee shop – but then I happily forked over my $3 for a big oatmeal raisin cookie and a coffee.  Totally worth it.

0604 Marathon Night in the Kitchen

I had good intentions for tonight.  They involved sitting on the couch with my knitting and watching The Straight Story or maybe The Jerk and a leetle bit of prep for the Saturday bakefest.  Instead I spent literally the entire evening in the kitchen, save the 15 minutes when I ran cookies over to SELMA.  The. Entire. Evening.  I mean, there are worse ways to spend a Friday night – this just wasn’t what I had in mind.

First, cookies for Saturday’s hoop build and also for a Couchsurfing potluck.  SELMA’s stopped using white sugar since there doesn’t appear to be any sugar available that is local AND non-GMO – so I tried to find a recipe that used other kinds of sweeteners.  This recipe, from The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook, uses corn syrup, apple butter, and brown sugar – all of which are a little bit more wholesome, even if they don’t hit the local/non-GMO mark entirely.  I made a double batch – which should have been 40 cookies, but resulted in 66 dense and chewy cookies.  To be honest, they tasted more like fuel than like a treat, which is probably A-OK for hoop builders and race runners.  I probably won’t make this recipe again, though.

Between cookie tasks, I prepped the ingredients for Saturday’s brunch cocktail, the Leland Palmer.  I’ll tell you more about that once we actually consume them, but the prep involved a good amount of juicing, playing with jasmine tea pearls, and the last of our honey.

The last of our [x] turned out to be a theme of the evening – over the course of a few hours, I ran out of honey AND flour AND milk AND raisins AND probably some other stuff that I’m just blocking out right now because it was so ridiculous.

Finally, and perhaps in a kitchen that was too hot, I made the pastry cream for Saturday’s bakefest.  Having helped with the pastry cream for both the croquembouche and the homemade Twinkies, I figured I’d be in good shape – but the damned cream just refused to thicken.  It smelled fantastic, though, and after a few frantic texts to Olivia, I decided to leave well-enough alone and just put the cream in the fridge for further examination on Saturday.

Somewhere in there, I realized that it had gotten late and I was hungry.  In lieu of dinner and in the spirit of using up the extra egg whites from pastry cream, I made a quick omelette with the last of the garlic scapes and the last tomato.  Let me draw your attention to one important fact in this paragraph: this was the first time I think I have ever made a successful omelette.  It was delicate.  It folded in half.  It was delicious.  Perhaps the secret is more whites than yolks, and also benign neglect – I was so busy with everything else that I couldn’t really stress out over the eggs or the sauteeing scapes, and as a result, everything was perfect.

Recipe:
Oatmeal Cookies from The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook
Leland Palmers from Bon Appetit
Pastry Cream from Martha Stewart