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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies and the Joy of Christmas

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Christmas is upon us.  Big sales and even bigger lines.  Must-try peppermint flavored treats everywhere you look.  Non-stop Christmas music on the radio.  Magazine covers touting the best holiday decorating ideas.  But above all the activity, there is something magical about Christmas, something wonderful and joyful.  In those moments in between writing out the Christmas cards and wrapping the gifts, you can feel it.  That Christmas joy seeps into your soul even when stress is uppermost in your mind.

I think that’s why cookies are such an important part of Christmas.  They’re simple, sweet and joyful, just like Christmas is supposed to be.  They're little, tasty reminders that your first priority, no matter how many tasks are on your to-do list, is to feel the joy and be happy.  And these Soft Sugar Cookies are, without a doubt, the sweetest, happiest cookies you’ll taste yet.

Baking Christmas cookies is one of my favorite things of the season.  Just like Christmas, a cookie is a gift of pure happiness.  Christmas cookies, to me, symbolize the love, joy, and generosity that this season is all about.

And so, I’m going to let my every Christmas activity be a reminder of that Christmas joy.  I’ll try to let every sparkly decoration I see give me pause to feel the magic and love that is everywhere these days.  A special little baby is on his way, and it’s my job at Christmas to enjoy the excitement!

I found the recipe for these soft frosted sugar cookies–which were modeled after their grocery store bretheren–on Annie’s Eats.  I had never been drawn to those grocery store monstrosities.  Besides that, my family already has a frosted sugar cookie recipe, so there was no reason for me to make these.  And yet, they kept calling to me, so I finally gave in. 

After baking and frosting them, I tasted one…and good golly almighty!  It was amazing!  It was one of the most deliciously joyous cookie experiences I’ve ever had!  Biting into this little pillow of sweetness was like entering another dimension where joy is everything and stress is non-existent.  I definitely encourage you to make these.  You will not be disappointed!

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Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies

Yield: about 2 dozen large cookies

INGREDIENTS

Ingredients:
For the cookies:
4½ cups all-purpose flour
4½ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
3 large eggs
5 tsp. vanilla extract

For the frosting:
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/3 cup (5 1/3 tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
7-8 tbsp. milk (plus more, as needed)
Food coloring (optional)

DIRECTIONS

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt, and whisk together to blend.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat together on medium-high speed until soft and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed.  Blend in the vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients mixing just until incorporated and evenly mixed.  Cover and chill the dough for 1 hour.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.  Scoop a scant quarter cup of dough and roll into a ball. 

Flatten the ball slightly and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the cookies at least 2-3 inches apart.  Bake about 10-12 minutes or just until set.  (Do not overbake!  The edges should be no more than very lightly browned if at all.)  Let cool on the baking sheet for several minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To frost the cookies, place the confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl.  Add the melted butter, vanilla, and milk to the bowl and whisk until smooth.  Whisk in additional milk as necessary, 1 teaspoon at a time, until you reach your desired consistency.  Tint with food coloring if desired.  Use an offset spatula or spoon to frost the cooled cookies.  (If the frosting begins to thicken as you decorate, just continue to whisk in small amounts of milk to keep it workable.)  Top with sprinkles if desired.  Store in an airtight container.

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