Sugar cookies are a versatile type of cookie which can be cut into a variety of shapes and sizes. Basic sugar cookie recipes are also easy to modify to change the flavor, texture and appearance of the cookie so that they are suitable for any holiday or occasion.
Cutout sugar cookies are made of a dough which is thick enough to roll out onto a floured counter. The dough can then be cut with cookie cutters to create various shapes of cookies. A basic recipe for cutout sugar cookie dough is as follows: 1/2 cup shortening, 1 cup sugar, 2 eggs, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 2 1/4 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1 tablespoon milk. Cream together the shortening and sugar in a bowl and then mix in the eggs and vanilla. Mix the flour and baking powder together in a separate bowl and add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture gradually. Stir in the milk last. Roll the dough out onto a well floured surface and cut with cookie cutters. Bake the cookies in a 350-degree oven for 8 to 12 minutes or until the bottoms are golden.
Drop sugar cookies are quick and easy to make because you can simply drop the dough onto a greased cookie sheet with no rolling or cutting necessary. The following recipe creates soft, round sugar cookies: 1 cup butter, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon cream of tartar, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Cream together the butter and sugar, then stir in the eggs and vanilla. Mix the flour, cream of tartar, and baking soda in a separate bowl and then add the dry ingredients gradually to the creamed mixture. Drop the dough by heaping teaspoons 2 inches apart onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until the bottoms are golden.
Many varieties of sugar cookies can be created by substituting a few ingredients. These modifications can be applied to both the cutout and drop sugar cookie recipes in this article. Replace the vanilla extract with any flavor extract such as almond, coconut, orange or lemon for flavored sugar cookies. In order to create chocolate sugar cookies, stir in 2 oz. of melted chocolate to the creamed sugar mixture. Replacing the white sugar with brown sugar will significantly change the flavor of the finished cookie. Spice sugar cookies are made by adding 1/4 teaspoon each of cinnamon, allspice, and cloves to the dry ingredients. Other possible additions include 1/3 cup shredded coconut, 1/2 cup any variety of chopped nuts, or 1/2 cup chopped dried fruit. Cookies can also be brushed with egg white and sprinkled with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar before baking.
Sugar cookies can be decorated to suit any occasion or party by frosting them with colored icing. Two commonly used sugar cookie frostings are buttercream and poured icing. Buttercream icing is made by creaming together 1/2 cup shortening, 1/2 cup of butter and 4 cups of sifted confectioners' sugar. Milk can be added, 1/2 tablespoon at a time up to 2 tablespoons, to achieve the desired consistency. This frosting can then be tinted with liquid food coloring and applied to the cookies with a knife. Buttercream frosting has a fluffy texture and appearance. Poured icing creates a shiny and hard surface on the cookie. This icing is created by mixing 1 cup confectioners' sugar with 2 teaspoons of milk. Then 2 teaspoons of corn syrup are added along with a few drops of liquid food coloring. The icing will be much thinner than traditional frosting and can be poured over the cookies and allowed to dry until set.
Any variety or flavor of sugar cookie can become a filled cookie. Fillings can consist of jams and jellies or canned pie filling. In order to create filled sugar cookies, there are two basic methods. One is to cut out a cookie and apply a small amount of filling to the center of the unbaked cookie. The cookie is then folded in half and the edges pressed together or the edges of the cookie are brought to the middle and pressed together on top of the filling. The other method consists of cutting two cookies using the same cookie cutter. Filling is placed in the center of one cookie and the second cookie is placed on top and the edges are gently crimped together with a fork. Sometimes, a smaller cookie cutter will be used to cut a design out of the top cookie before they are pressed together to display the filling for decorative purposes.