A few years ago, my boys and I started a new tradition. Every Christmas Eve we make sugar cookies and decorate them for Santa. Granted, I end up decorating most of them since my boys get bored after two or three cookies. But it's now a must-do for our family.
When I was coming up with recipes that could be capsulized, this one was a no-brainer. What's more versatile than sugar cookies? As is, the basic recipe is hands down the best sugar cookie I've ever made. And it's all my own! I took a BUNCH of recipes from Pinterest and found the commonalities between them. This recipe is the result and dang, is it good!
My first time making this recipe, I actually messed up and forgot to add the baking powder. It was a case of serendipity. The cut-out cookies that resulted were perfectly shaped, even after baking, and still tasted amazing. They're soft and chewy, just like I like them. I may have eaten a dozen of them that first day. I'm not sure since I lost count. My kids weren't far behind on the cookie-binging which is crazy since we never eat a full recipe of cookies. I usually only bake up a tray or two before scooping out the dough onto cookie sheets and freezing it for later use. That was not the case this time.
The addition of the baking powder made for fluffier cookies, perfect for...everything. And with everything. And in place of everything. Including lunch one day. (Oops.)
|My kitchen counter after the baking frenzy ceased and before dipping ensued.|
I reached out to my friends to help coming up with variations and was bombarded with yummy goodness. No, seriously. This is going to be one HUGE post because of it. How can I keep any of this amazingly delectableness from you?
I can't. That would be selfish and wrong. That said, let the drool-fest commence!
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract (or flavor of choice)
2-1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, vanilla, and extract. Mix well.
|Smooth and creamy. So good...|
Add flour and baking powder gradually until dough is thick and malleable. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
Roll out to 1/4". Cut or shape as desired.
Place on ungreased baking sheet (or one lined with parchment). Bake for 9-11 minutes, longer if cookie is thicker than 1/4". Cookies will look slightly underdone, but not glossy. Let cool on cooling rack before decorating.
This is the fun part!!! I loved seeing all the different variations everyone came up with. Multiple batches of sugar cookies are in my future just so I can try them all out.
Kamber stayed fairly basic, tweaking the recipe just a bit. Her simple changes made a big difference, though. She added a box of vanilla pudding mix to the basic recipe to soften the cookies. The cookies were "super soft and full of flavor". They frosted them with green frosting and added sprinkles. I loved the pudding idea so much I stole it for one of my variations.
For Kamber's second variation, she added candy cane M&M's into the dough and scooped them out rather than shaped them. They turned out extremely festive with all those red and green dots.
|All three of Kamber's cookies (unfrosted). Looks like they're ready for Santa!|
Kamber's last variation was by far her family's favorite. She chopped up candy cane Hershey's Kisses and mixed them into the dough. These were drop cookies as well. The cookies had a strong minty flavor. Mmmm...minty....
Kaitlynn took it up a notch by substituting 1 teaspoon of vanilla with more almond extract. She topped the cookies with a chocolate cream cheese frosting and sprinkled them with toasted almonds. Oh, my goodness, do they sound good!
For her second variation, Kaitlynn topped a basic sugar cookie with Jello No-Bake Cheesecake and added a dollop of cherries. Cookies as a cheesecake crust? Yes, please!
Julie is back with more awesomeness! Chocolate peppermint dough marbled together with vanilla dough. She gave it a dark chocolate ganache bath with crushed candy cane topper. Sweet!
(No pictures for this one. Sorry!)
Nancy chose to go a totally different route than I would have even thought to go and I'm so glad she did. "I made a double batch, about 1/3 whole wheat flour. I added a couple tablespoons of rice vinegar, about 1/3 cup sesame oil, and about 1/2 cup sesame seeds. I rolled the whole thing into a cylinder, sliced it in 1/4 inch rounds, and cooked for 9 minutes."
Doesn't that sound amazing? I adore sesame seeds, so this one speaks to my heart. It's now on my (incredibly long) list of "to-makes".
I saved mine for last because I went cookie crazy. Oh, yeah. You heard me right. Triple batch, five different variations kind of crazy. Try to keep up because I'm going to go through them fairly quickly.
Sugar Cookie Biscotti (two kinds!)
Basic recipe - halve the butter, add an egg, and double the baking powder. You can add 1/4 cup cocoa powder or any flavor pudding mix. This could almost be a capsule by itself!
|Try to keep the top as flat as you can. |
Especially if you're planning on dipping the bottoms in chocolate.
That will save you a LOT of grief!
Shape into 2 10"x2" loaves and bake on an ungreased baking sheet at 350 degrees for 22-25 minutes. Let cool.
|This photo turned out so well. I'm exceptionally proud of it.|
Slice into 1/2" slices and baked on ungreased baking sheets at 300 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn over and bake for another 15 minutes.
Dip in melted chocolate and top with sprinkles.
Pinwheel Sugar Cookies
I doubled the batch and added a package of chocolate instant pudding mix to half.
|I couldn't lift the chocolate dough in one piece, so it got cut into more manageable sizes.|
Then I rolled both halves out, placed the chocolate one on top of the regular one and rolled them into a long log.
|Slide the floss under the log, wrap it gently around and pull. |
The floss applies equal pressure and gives you a lovely non-squished cookie shape.
This trick works well for cinnamon rolls, too!
I used dental floss to slice them into 1/4" slices.
I baked the resulting cookies as per the basic recipe. These had to be my favorite. I love the swirl!
Caramel Thumbprint Cookies
These were simple cut-out cookies. I pressed my thumb into the center of the unbaked cookies and filled the depression with caramel sauce. My 6yo can't get enough of this variation!
Reeses Peanut Butter Cup Sugar Cookies
These are simply two circles mashed around a miniature Reeses Peanut Butter Cup. I'm not going to lie - these didn't turn out like I hoped. They ended up being giant cookies with a small bit of chocolate and peanut butter in the middle. My kids weren't thrilled with them. If I were to do it again, I would crush the peanut butter cup and sprinkle it between two circles of dough. That way you get the chocolate goodness throughout.
What kinds of variations can you come up with? Go wild and crazy with this one. The possibilities are endless!
Next week I'll tell the true story of Santa Claus. And show off my elf costume I made for an assembly at my kid's school. I mean...I'll share pictures of Holly Bell the elf. She's coming all the way from the North Pole to talk to the kids and hand out something special. I can't wait!