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Get creative with sugar cookies

The lovely people at The Model Bakery shared a delicious gingerbread house recipe in issue 11, and, knowing how us Brits love a good brew, have also given us this sugar cookie how-to so our cuppas will never be sans-biscuit again.

  • Get creative with sugar cookies
You’ll Need:
    • 725g unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the sough
    • 1tsp fine sea salt
    • 455g unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 300g sugar
    • 2 large egge, beaten, at room temperature
    • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
    • 1 recipe Shiny Cookie Icing (see below)
    • 1 recipe Royal Icing (see below)
ROYAL ICING
    • 910g icing sugar
    • 180ml water
    • 4tbsp dried egg white powder
    • 2tsp fresh lemon juice
    • Cereal boxes (to prop up walls)
    • Cakeboard, 33cm x 48cm
SHINY COOKIE ICING
    • 920g icing sugar
    • 115 unsalted butter
    • 120ml whole milk, plus more as needed
    • 2 tbsp light corn syrup
SUGAR COOKIES

    “At every major holiday (and even some not so major, like Bastille Day) we roll, cut and decorate thousands of gorgeous sugar cookies, which taste as good as they look. (We do not exaggerate – we dold more than ten thousand cookies last December.) Our dough is easy to handle, crisp yet tender, and, of course, tasty. The cookies are dupped in our signature shiny icing to give them a smooth surface, which can be left plain or be further embellished with royal icing or other frosting. A disposable plastic pastry bag, with the tip snipped off, makes the perfect tool for piping. For the simplest decorations, apply holiday candies, coloured sugars or sprinkle to iced cookies. Let your imagination go.” – The Model Bakery

    1. Sift the flour and salt together into a medium bowl. Beat the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer set on high speed until the butter is smooth, about 1 minute. Gradually beat in the sugar and continue beating until light in colour and texture, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, about 2 minutes. (Or cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl with a wooden spoon until light in colour, about 8 minutes.

    2. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition to be sure they are thoroughly absorbed into the butter into the butter mixture. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Gradually mix in the flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the dough comes together.

    3. Gather up the dough and divide it into thirds. Wrap each portion in parchment paper or plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled and firm, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days. (The dough can be frozen, wrapped in plastic wrap and an overwrap of aluminium foil for up to 1 month. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight.)

    4. Position racks in the top third and centre of the oven and preheat to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper.

    5. Let the dough stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes to soften slightly without losing its chill. Working with one portion of dough at a time, place the unwrapped dough on a lightly floured work surface and dust the top of the dough with flour. Roll out the dough until 6mm thick. (If the dough is thinner than this, it tends to leave crumbs in the icing during glazing.) Using cookie cutters, cut out the shapes of your choice. Arrange the cookies 2.5cm apart on the leind pans. Scraps can be gathered up and gently kneaded together, then rolled and cut out until the dough is used up.

    6. Bake, switching the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking, until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire cooling racks and let cool completely. (The undecorated cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 2 days.)

    7. Line at least one half-sheet pan with parchment or waxed paper. Set a large wire cooling rack in the pan.

    8. Pour the shiny cookie icing into a small deep heat-proof bowl. Holding a cookie smooth-side down (that is, with the side that touched the baking sheet facing up). dip just the cookies’ ‘face’ onto the surface of the icing to coat it. Let the excess icing drip back into the bowl and clean the sides of the cookie with your forefinger. Place on the cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining cookies and icing. (If the icing firms up or forms a crust, place the bowl in a skillet of gently simmering water and stir the icing until it is fluid again, taking care not to splash water into the icing.) Let the cookies stand until the icing is completely set.

    9. Put the royal icing in a small disposable plastic pastry bag, squeezing the icing into the tip of the bag. Using scissors, snip of the tip to make a 2mm opening in the tip of the bag. Pipe line decorations as desired onto the glazed cookies. Let stand until the decorations are firm. The cookies can be stored, stacked and separated with parchment or wax paper, in airtight containers at room temperature for up to five days.

ROYAL ICING
    1. Use the online templates to create stencils out of thin cardboard. To make your gingerbread dough, sift the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and salt together in a large bowl. Cream the butter and brown sugar together until combined, then gradually add the molasses. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Gradually add the dry ingredients until both mixtures are fully combined. Divide your dough into four equal portions, wrap in cling film and chill for at least 4 hours.

    2. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 4. Line two flat half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Working with one portion at a time, remove your dough from the fridge and allow to stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Place on a lightly floured surface and roll out until 6mm thick.

SHINY COOKIE ICING
    1. Put the icing sugar in a large bowl. Heat the butter and milk together in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the milk is hot and steaming (the butter does not have to be completely melted). Using an electric mixer set on low speed, gradually beat the hot milk mixture into the icing sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl often.

    2. Continue mixing until smooth. Add the corn syrup and beat until smooth and shiny. If necessary, add more milk, 1 tsp at a time, until the icing has the consistency of housepaint. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap until ready to use. The icing can be made up to 5 days ahead. Store, covered, in a refrigerator.

    3. To use, transfer the icing to a heat-proof bowl, preferably stainless steel. Place the bowl in a skillet of gently simmering water, stirring the icing occasionally and taking care not to splash water into the icing, just until warmed and fluid enough for dipping.

    For more delicious artisan baked goods, get your copy of The Model Bakery Cookbook (£21.99, Chronicle Books)