Sugar Cookies

Everyone loves a good sugar cookie.  They’re really amazing for decorating, because you can put candy or coloured sugar or even a paint on them, and you can use cookie cutters or a knife to create different shapes.

sugar cookies

Sugar Cookies
5 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 c (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 c sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract or 2 tsp fresh lemon juice and zest of 2 lemons
Coloured/coarse sugar (optional)

1.    In a large bowl, sift together flour and salt.  Set aside.
2.    Use an electric mixer on medium-high speed to cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, vanilla, and salt.  Continue to mix on medium-high speed until just combined.
3.    With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour.  Mix until just combined.  Remove the dough, shape into 2 discs, and wrap in parchment paper.  Refrigerate 2 hours.
4.    Preheat oven to 350oF. On a floured surface, roll dough to 1/4 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes (scraps can be balled up, refrigerated, and used again). Transfer to ungreased baking sheets lined with parchment paper; refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. Remove from refrigerator, and decorate with sanding sugar, if desired. Bake until edges just start to brown, about 15 minutes. Cool on wire racks. May be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Makes about 30 2 1/2 inch cookies

Spicy Chocolate Cookies

Back when the Mayans used to prepare chocolate, they would mix peppers in to give it a little kick.? These cookies take a leaf from their book and use a similar technique, including a bit of cayenne!

spicy chocolate cookies

Spicy Chocolate Cookies
1½ c all-purpose flour
¾ c unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ c (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 c brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix thoroughly with a whisk and set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar until creamy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat on high until fluffy, about 1 minute.? Gradually stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture until the butter is just incorporated.
2. Turn the dough out onto wax paper.? Use the paper to shape and roll the dough into a cylinder about 10 in. long and 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Wrap tightly in more wax paper, folding or twisting the ends to seal. Chill for at least 45 minutes or freeze until needed (up to 3 months).
3. Before baking, preheat oven to 375o
4. Let cool until the cookies are firm enough to be moved. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies

Russian Tea Cakes

There are many different names and varieties of these cookies – “Mexican wedding cakes” is a pretty common one, as are “Kouranbiedes” and “Snowballs”.  However, the one thing they all have in common is a powdered sugar base with nuts, which creates a melt-in-your-mouth sensation.

russian tea cakes

Russian Tea Cakes

2 c all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 c pecan halves
2 c confectioners’ sugar

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350oF. Line a rimless baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Combine the pecans with 1/4 c. confectioners’ sugar in a food processor. Pulse until nuts are finely ground. In a large bowl, whisk together with the flour and salt.
3. In a large bowl, combine the butter with 3/4 c. confectioners’ sugar. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. Beat on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Slowly add the flour mixture and beat until soft dough comes together in large clumps.
4. To form each cookie, roll a level tablespoon of dough between your palms into a 3/5-inch ball. Place the balls 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. Make sure to set them firmly onto the baking sheet so they stay in place.
5. Bake the cookies until the bottoms are light brown and the tops are lightly coloured, 10-12 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
6. Sift the remaining confectioners’ sugar into a bowl and roll the cookies in it, coating evenly.  You will not use all of the sugar.

Makes about 6 dozen cookies

Orange-Ginger Rounds

Orange and ginger are quite complementary – a combination of tart, spicy and sweet, which is quite lovely.  They’re really easy to make, since they are log cookies an you refrigerate them and then slice them

orange ginger rounds

Orange Ginger Rounds

1 1/4 c whole blanched almonds
1 c confectioners’ sugar
3/4 c (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
3 tbs finely grated orange zest (2 to 3 oranges)
1 large egg
1 tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
6 oz. crystallized ginger, finely chopped (about 1 c)

1.    Place almonds and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, and set aside.
2.    Place butter and orange zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until white and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. On low speed, add the almond mixture, and beat until combined, 10 to 15 seconds. Add egg and lemon juice, and combine. Add flour, and beat until combined. Wrap in plastic; store, refrigerated, up to 1 week, or freeze up to 3 months.
3.    Place two 12-by-16-inch pieces of parchment on a work surface. Divide dough in half; form each half into a rough log on parchment. Fold parchment over dough; using a ruler, roll and press dough into a 1 1/2-inch cylinder. Wrap. Chill at least 3 hours.
4.    Heat oven to 350oF. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Spread crystallized ginger on a work surface. Unwrap logs; roll in ginger to coat. Cut logs into 1/4-inch-thick rounds; place on sheets, spaced 2 inches apart. Bake until edges turn slightly golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Bake or freeze remaining dough. Store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.

Makes about 5 dozen, depending on size

Ginger-Molasses Cookies

I suppose any form of cookie with both ginger and molasses could be considered a gingerbread type cookie but, you know, it’s weird to have identically named entries.  These are big and chewy and really lovely.

ginger molasses cookies

Ginger-Molasses Cookies

3/4 c unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg
1/3 cup molasses (not robust)
2 c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350oF.  Line 2 rimless baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until creamy.  Add the egg and molasses and beat until smooth.
3. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and allspice.  Add the dry ingredient to the low ingredient and mix until blended.
4. Drop tablespoonfuls of the dough onto the prepared sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart.  Bake about 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are browned and firm to the touch.  Let cool on the baking sheets on wire racks for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 40 cookies