Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Excellent Cookies to Make for Family and Friends

By Brandi M. Seals

I love making cookies for Halloween, Christmas and Valentine's Day. Heck, I will make them any time of year when the mood hits. While the cookie shapes may change, the recipe never does. I got this cookie recipe from a previous roommate that loved to cook. It is pretty much the same as any other sugar cookie recipe out there. The only difference is an added touch of almond extract. Try it sometime even if you do not like almonds. You just might be surprised.

Sugar Cookie Recipe
2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract

Start by combining the butter and sugar. Mix until the butter becomes light and fluffy and the sugar is fully incorporated. This is the most important step in making the cookies. If the sugar is not fully incorporated, the cookies will be kind of gritty and the dough may even end up with sweeter spots.

Beat in the egg, vanilla and almond extract

Combine the flour and salt together and then beat it into the butter mixture.

After the dough is well mixed, divide it in two. Create two rounds, wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Once the dough has chilled, remove one round and roll it out on a flat, floured surface. Roll the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness. Use cookie cutters or a knife to cut out the desired cookie shapes.

If you want to make a specific shape but cannot find a cookie cutter in that shape, do not give up hope. Draw the shape you want or print off a picture of it. Cut the shape out and use that as a template. Place it over the rolled out dough. Using a sharp knife cut along the edge of the template until the shape is complete. Trim up the piece as best as possible.

Bake the cookies in a preheated, 350 degree oven. The cookies will take 10 to 12 minutes to bake. Take them out when the edges begin to turn brown.

Remove the cookies from the cookie sheet and let them cool on a wire rack. Allow them to cool completely before frosting them.

I like to make large cookies in the shape of a stocking at Christmas time. I try to make them about a foot long so that I can decorate them well. The use of frosting, sprinkles, dragees, or other candies can come in handy when decorating the cookies.

For the stockings, I like to personalize them. I start by frosting them in any design that suits my fancy, but one thing always remains the same. I keep the very top reserved from the design. I leave it a basic white. Then in the end, I will write the name of the person I am giving the stocking to in the white space I have reserved.

I use a basic butter cream frosting for my cookies. It is extremely easy to make and can be spread on the cookies with a knife or piped on in different designs.

Basic Frosting Recipe
1 cup (2 sticks) of butter at room temperature. If you need pure white icing, use vegetable shortening instead of butter.
1/2 cup of milk at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla or almond extract
2 pounds of confectioners' sugar (a bag of confectioners' sugar is generally 2 pounds)

Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and beat on low speed until it is smooth. You may find it beneficial to first sift the confectioners' sugar as you will avoid unwanted lumps.

This recipe makes plenty of frosting. You will be able to decorate to your heart's desire with this icing. Start by dividing up the frosting and color it as desired with food dye. Keep in mind that it is impossible to create black frosting. Try as I might one Halloween, I soon learned that it just cannot be done by mixing colors. I went online for help, but only found people saying the same thing. However, I did learn that there is black food coloring out there. So do not give up hope if you have your heart set on making some black bats this Halloween.

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