Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Spiced Orange Sugar Cookies.

I'm not sure what it is, but I've always loved piping.  Holding a pastry bag gives me instant comfort (even when I was working at bakeries and nothing was going right that day.)  Maybe it's because I know what I'm doing, I feel comfortable with it - yet every year I debate whether or not to do decorated sugar cookies for Christmas.

Food should first and most importantly taste good.  I stick with that in everything I bake and cook.  The problem with sugar cookies is that they often look oh so lovely, but taste pretty bad - too sweet, no flavor, dry, the icing is plasticky or flakes off like chalk.  (Believe me, I tasted enough scraps when I worked in bakeries to know...)  So when I do decide to make decorated sugar cookies, the cookie base itself MUST be delicious and flavorful because I prefer royal icing for decorating which doesn't allow for much creativity when it comes to flavors (unless you add extracts, of course.)  You can also feel free to use a simple powdered sugar glaze to decorate (powdered sugar with milk or water and food coloring, if you wish - my problem with this method is that it's always too liquidy to pipe into enough detail), or just sprinkle the cookies with sanding sugar or sprinkles before baking as well.

I love this recipe for cutouts because you can re-roll the scraps 3 or 4 times and the baked cookies taste just as tender as the ones rolled out the first 2 times.  I do have to say for my snowflake shapes it helped to freeze the sheets of dough that had been stamped with the cutter and then carefully remove the shape when frozen, but it shouldn't be necessary with shapes that aren't as fragile or intricate.

To use this dough as a basic sugar cookie cut-out recipe, just omit the orange zest and spices.

Spiced Orange Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Big Fat Cookies by Elinor Klivans
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
Zest of 1 orange
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through spices) until well combined.  In a large mixing bowl, cream the orange zest, butter, shortening and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat well.  Add the dry ingredients slowly, mixing until everything is incorporated.

Divide the dough into 2 discs, wrap well with plastic, and refrigerate for an hour or until it becomes much less sticky to roll.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll out the dough to about 1/4-1/2'' thick and cut shapes out, placing them on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Re-roll as much as you need (or want) to, and when you're ready to bake, pop them in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, depending on how thin or thick you cut the cookies.  They should be a nice golden around the edges and on the bottom of the cookie.  Let them cool completely on the sheets, then keep them in airtight containers either at room temperature until you're ready to decorate, or in the freezer for longer storage.

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree with you, nine times out of ten those pretty cookies in stores look lovely but may as well be used as ornaments for all the flavor they have. I usually add a little bit of lemon extract to my icing because I can't stand the taste of pure powdered sugar. Yours look very festive. My favorite is the candy cane :D