Turning 33… and making sugar cookies

Today I turned 33. And it is honestly the first time I’ve ever felt “old.”

I jokingly say that I’m old when I find out kids I used to babysit are graduating college or getting married. Or when I do the math and remember how old my little brother is (because honestly, Connor, how are you not still twelve?) but I’ve never felt like time was slipping away from me before.

So. To process all that, I needed a time consuming recipe. Something not too terribly complicated, but something that had a lot of steps.

So. Sugar cookies!

People asked for me to blog about my baking, so let me know what you think in comments.

This baking blog thing is new to me, so I don’t have a ton of photos. But I did have heart-shaped cookie cutters I bought on 90% off clearance after Valentine’s Day last year and all the ingredients, so I kinda had to make them.
I used a recipe from The Kitchn, found here, with a few modifications.

I don’t know if I should be sharing this with the class, because I’m pretty sure this is my very best secret weapon when it comes to cookie baking, but we should all have access to deliciousness at every opportunity, right?

First: the vanilla & almond extracts. USE THE REAL STUFF. None of that imitation vanilla in my kitchen. (Except for that bottle in the back of the cabinet that someone else bought and that I use in baking emergencies when I run out of real ingredients). You don’t need the fancy $14/bottle vanilla… but for all our sakes, please use the real stuff.

Second: Again with the extracts. Double ’em up, cowboy. In every single cookie recipe I make, I put in twice the vanilla the recipe asks for. It’s my go-to cheat in my baking arsenal. For this recipe, we discovered the joy of twice the flavor by a happy accident, and I’ve been doing this with my chocolate chip cookies forever, but it’s now a standard practice in my kitchen.

Third: The lemon zest. You might think to yourself, eh, I’ll skip that. Why buy a lemon to just use the zest? I’ll tell you why: the little citrusy zing you get from that zest helps counter balance the sweetness from the cookie itself and the frosting you pile on top. This recipe only calls for a teaspoon, but a lemon will give you about a tablespoon of zest. I zested the lemon, fully meaning to only put in a bit, but dear reader, I dumped it all in to see what might happen. LET ME TELL YOU. THE BEST POSSIBLE FLAVOR.

Fourth: The butter. Please, for the love of everything holy. Use. Real. Butter. This recipe calls for unsalted butter, so don’t substitute margarine, coconut oil, or anything else (unless you have a food allergy, then you have my begrudging blessing). It also calls for it to be set out for an hour before you start baking, so make sure you follow that step. The other thing to remember with the butter? Throw it in your kitchen aid and, for lack of a better phrase, beat the crap out of it. All the baking blogs tell you to beat the butter until it’s soft and fluffy, but seriously let it go on high speed for about 5 minutes or so until it gets really pale. Your stomach will thank you later.

Fifth: Roll out your dough to be about a quarter-inch thick so your cookies aren’t crunchy, and do it in between 2 sheets of parchment paper. It’s the only way I can manage to not get flour all over myself and not find cookie dough in the weird space between my countertop and my stove. All bets are off when it’s time to use the powdered sugar, though.

Now, to be perfectly honest, I am not a huge fan of sugar cookies–sometimes they are just too sweet, sometimes they are too bland. These, however, are worth the 24-hour wait while I chilled the dough in my fridge. You can get away with just an hour, but since I mixed up the dough at 11:00 at night, I let myself go to sleep and deal with it the next day.
Like I said… I needed a multi-step process. You don’t get over feeling old by just standing next to your Kitchen Aid waiting for butter to go all pale and fluffy.

So, after your rolled dough has chilled in your fridge, pull it out and start cutting out cookies! You’ll want to let the dough warm up a bit, but not too much! This dough gets soft really quickly, and they get harder to cut out and move to cookie sheets.

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Waiting on a cookie sheet…

Make sure you bake on parchment paper–I promise it’s worth it.

These cookies also go brown pretty quickly. It’s important to know your oven–for these, at this thickness, I do 5 minutes on the bottom rack, and then move it to the top for 5 more. This way you can also do 2 sheets of cookies at once and have them bake evenly.

It’s also important to note that these don’t really go super brown, at least not on the top. They get a bit golden on the bottom, but that’s perfect.

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Perfection!

Now, for the frosting. Typically with sugar cookies, especially at Christmas, I’ll use a buttercream frosting. It’s rich and decadent and everything Christmas should be. With these, though, I wanted something a bit more understated. Something sweet, but that wouldn’t detract from the great flavor of the cookies.

I used this recipe for easy icing from Sally’s Cupcake Addiction. I will say I only used the amount of vanilla asked for in the recipe since the consistency of the frosting can be tricky. It was a bit too thin, so I added in maybe a couple of extra teaspoons of powdered sugar…at that point I just kind of eyeballed it. You want the frosting to drip off your spoon in a ribbon that takes a few seconds to settle back into the rest of the icing. I test-iced a cookie to make sure it was the right consistency before I frosted the whole batch… and to give myself an opportunity to guilt-free taste test.

I added in a bit of red food coloring, and if you’re using the liquid drops, you’ll want to add it in earlier rather than later to account for the extra liquid in your frosting. I like the Wilton gel food colorings, but for a glaze icing like this one, it’s not too hard to adjust the consistency if you’re using liquid drops.

I used about 3 spoons and mini-spatulas before I settled into a groove using an offset pallet knife to frost each heart. Shake on some sprinkles, let the frosting harden up a bit, & you’re good to go share with whomever you deem worthy (or channel Cookie Monster). Om nom nom!

The end result. Om nom nom.

So a couple dozen hearts are frosted and delivered to those who will enjoy them, and I’m still 33. But I spent several nice, quiet hours with just my thoughts and my Brandi Carlile Pandora station, and I’m feeling better about it. Dare I say, even looking forward to the year.

I may not be feeling 22 like TSwizzle, but 33’s not too bad.

Next up, mini-cupcake king cakes for Mardi Gras.
Happy baking!

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