Every year our school district's scholarship foundation hosts an auction to raise money to help graduating seniors with college expenses. This auction is a very well run event which has grown so big it is a sell-out every year. It features a silent auction, raffles, a superb sit down dinner and a voice auction for larger items run by a professional auctioneer. It's always a lot of fun and sure brings in the big bucks. I have donated various items over the years, but now I am the cookie of the month lady. For the winning bidder, I deliver a batch of fresh cookies once a month for a year. I've baked chocolate dipped macaroons, whoopie pies, pumpkin chocolate chip, peanut butter kiss, chocolate mint dots, carrot cake sandwiches, chocolate chip pecan, oatmeal raisin, m&m, and frosted sugar cookies... to name a few. At the auction each year, I provide samples for taste testing. This year's winning bidder informed me that while everyone else was wild about my chocolate chip pecan samples, she was won over by my sugar cookies.
I got this recipe from my friend, Jill, who said it came from her sister-in-law, Shirlene. Where Shirlene got it, I don't know - but it's a good one. And although I'm not normally into superlatives, this is the best sugar cookie I've ever tried. They turn out the way I like them, anyway -- soft, chewy, flavorful.
To make the dough you'll need:
2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. lemon extract
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
6 cups flour
I start out with softened butter (and yes, I get the "lightly salted" standard butter in the dairy case - unlike Martha's always required "unsalted" which is beyond me, but I'm no expert) and sugar. Certainly not required for this cookie, I love the "baker's" fine sugar. It's nothing more than a texture thing. Maybe I just like the way it pours or dissolves faster. I don't know. Stupid.
Anyway, mix it up good on medium speed until it's lighter in color.
Then add the eggs (room temp), vanilla and lemon extract.
Not reconstituted lemon juice like ReaLemon -- extract, like this.
Anyway, whip the heck out of it until it's smooth and shiny and wicked.
Now it's time to add the dry ingredients and call me lazy, but I just don't sift... and while I'm confessing, I don't usually add "half at a time" when called for. Just dump it in. However, be careful when turning on the mixer because it will ploof out of the bowl. (So much for my wisdom)
Mix it up, but don't overdo it. You'll get a thick yet soft dough that's not too hard on the mixer.
I divide this dough four ways and wrap it in plastic wrap.
...flat and square-ish so it's ready to roll out.
These get put into the fridge overnight.
When it's time to roll out the dough, I use my rolling pin and knit sleeve.
I know, the first time I heard of a rolling pin cover, I thought it was pretty crazy, too. But the dough never sticks and you don't have to use all that flour all over your counter (which can also toughen up your dough).
And ya gotta love that crazy woven look it leaves on your dough!
Anyway, roll your dough a good 1/4 inch thick right on parchment paper cut to the size of your cookie sheets. I keep the dough thick because I like my cookies soft and chewy. Today I am making circles and doughnut shapes.
Peel the dough away from between the shapes. I don't move my cookies - just the dough in between.
Then just put the parchment right onto your cookie sheet. What did we ever do before Airbake? If you have taken a while to roll and cut out your dough and it is no longer cold, just pop the cookie sheet back into the fridge for a few minutes. Bake for 10 minutes at 375. Since I'm not a crispy cookie gal, I don't like to see browning on the edges.
I usually just slide the whole parchment off the cookie sheet and onto the counter for cooling. When cooled, the cookies come off the parchment super easy. This recipe made 68 cookies which measure 3" across.
Now it's time to decorate. Of course your imagination is the limit when it comes to decorating cookies. You can do a royal icing border and flood the cookie with glaze for a real designer look. Heck, once I made some ridiculously intricate pierced and decorated cookies that I'd seen in a Victoria magazine. They were museum pieces when they were finished. They should have been coated with polyurethane and hung by a ribbon. Nah, life is too short. These cookies are for eating and for my money, the best frosting for eating enjoyment is a good old butter cream. So, for this recipe I will use my sister Barb's butter cream frosting... because she is the best cook I know.
2 cups butter
1 cup shortening
2 tsp. vanilla
2 lbs. powdered sugar
3 TBs. milk or cream
pinch of salt (I do 5 shakes)
There is no mystery to the making of this frosting. Just put all the ingredients into your mixer and blast away for 10 minutes on high. This makes a lot of frosting, so you might want to halve it. I divided it up into five bowls and randomly chose turquoise, yellow, peachy pink, purple and brown. I think I saw a fabric earlier in the day with those colors and the combo stuck in my mind.
Using a standard decorating bag and round tube, I piped loops and zig-zags onto my cookies.
Let the frosting set and dry for an hour or two and you are good to go. You won't want to stack them because the butter cream will smoosh, but you will be able to gently lean them on each other with parchment or waxed paper in between. YUM! Enjoy your chewy, soft, buttery sugar cookies!