A classic Christmas cookie from Master Baker Steve James.
Master Baker Steve James has decided to move on and we will no longer be running his “Food for Thought” column each month. We appreciate the knowledgeable insight he gave our readers over the past four years. To bid adieu we are re-printing a recipe that ran in December 2004, when he was the executive pastry chef at The Balsams.
This classic favorite is soft on the inside, yet crispy on the outside. It can be decorated in a myriad of ways and is a fun project for the whole family.
Once you have made the recipe you can freeze or refrigerate the dough until you are ready to roll it out.
After they are baked, store the cookies in an airtight container and they will keep for several weeks, if they are hidden well enough.
Sugar CookieFor decorating, use a flat icing made simply with powdered sugar and milk or use the Royal Icing recipe below. For more glitz, dust the freshly frosted cookies with edible glitter available at craft stores or dust with super-sized sugar granules before baking.
Yield: About 5 dozen (3-inch) cookies
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/ cup butter
3 tablespoons corn syrup
2 large eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
7 cups cake flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
Cream the first five ingredients until smooth. Add eggs in two stages, scraping the bowl often.
Add cream and vanilla and mix slightly. Sift the cake four and baking powder and add. Do not overmix. Just as soon as the mixture comes together, shut the mixer off. Dough is ready.
Chill dough overnight. Roll cookie dough down to about 1/4-inch thickness and cut out shapes using cookie cutters of any shape. Brush top of cookies lightly with milk and sprinkle tops with sugar. If you choose to decorate with icing, leave the sugar off at this point. Bake at 385 degrees for about 10 minutes.
Do not overbake – cookies should be lightly baked.
To decorate cookies, mix 2 cups powdered sugar with a little milk and mix or use the Royal Icing recipe below. Mixture should be thick. Color as you wish with a few drops of food coloring and put in a piping bag and decorate after the cookies have cooled.
Royal Icing3 level tablespoons meringue powder
3 1/2 ounces warm water
1 pound confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Combine all ingredients and beat on high speed for about 8 minutes.
Keep mixture covered with a damp cloth while using. Extra icing keeps for several weeks if stored tightly and covered in the refrigerator. When ready to use again, bring to room temperature and re-beat.
– Master Baker Steve James
Tip: You can make confectioner’s sugar by blending granulated sugar in a blender.