Sugar Cookies

March 5, 2010 at 11:53 pm 65 comments

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Sometimes, I really don’t feel like blogging.

I’ll be curled up in bed with a mug of warm cocoa, reading a magazine when I’ll realize it’s been a week. And that means it’s time for a new post. I won’t have any idea what to write about, won’t even feel like carefully crafting a sentence together in my head, but I’ll sit there and force my way through until I’ve produced a post. I tell myself it’s a commitment.

These days I can tell my parents get a little concerned about the stress the blog might be putting on me. My mom tells me that I should just blog as long as it makes me happy, and my dad inquires about the pressure I feel every week to maintain the blog. Sure, there is a bit of responsibility involved with 17 and Baking that wasn’t there back when I felt certain of its anonymity, but there definitely isn’t anxiety.

17 and Baking truly makes me happier than anything else, and it’s a commitment, but it’s one I struggle through with pleasure.

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So on those days when I’m not in the mood to be productive, I brainstorm. I look at the photographs I’ve taken and try to transport myself there, think about what made me smile and what made me pensive while I was baking. I think about what kind of message I want to be sending, what sort of ties this week’s adventures in the kitchen have with my life.

In the end I always pull through. I manage to come up with an idea, even if I’ve been sitting before an empty page for hours. Despite my longing to be lazy, I edit photographs until I’m satisfied. When the post finally comes together, the fulfillment that steeps through me makes the entire process so, so worth it.

At this point, knowing that I’m not alone and that 17 and Baking has become more than just an afterthought, it’s become a responsibility which I genuinely look forward to every week. These days I have so many more ridiculous, spontaneous bursts of happiness that can’t be properly explained, where I smile at everyone and feel in love with everything. Every post, no matter how much of a challenge it might be to get down, is so worth it in the end.

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A few weeks ago, I was approached to make 100 sugar cookies for a local art walk. The walk was meant to be a charity and most of the supplies and materials would be donated. Feeling generous, I agreed to make the cookies for 25% of what I would normally charge. I had no idea what I was getting into.

I made one batch of cookies, and was horrified to discover a couple things. The recipe only made 20 sugar cookies, so I would have to make it four more times, and I knew already that the cost of butter and sugar would far surpass the price I’d set. But even more frustrating was the fact that those 20 cookies had taken me forever to roll out. The dough oscillated between soft and sticky and frozen stiff.

I was going to lose money, I didn’t have time to do my homework, and I was angry at myself for offering the discount and agreeing to do the project in general. I wanted to quit, but of course, I couldn’t. I dreaded the next 80 cookies.

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The next day, I was in the kitchen longer than I was in school. I made batch after batch after batch and worked so smoothly I felt like a production line. Despite my annoyance, by the third batch I couldn’t help but notice that I was getting faster. I was starting to understand the way the dough worked, picking up tricks.

I discovered the perfect dusting of flour to keep the cookies soft without being sticky, and I learned the perfect temperature of butter to begin with. I’d roll out the cookies, put them in the freezer, and put them in just as another tray left the oven. It was the kind of efficiency that only time could arouse, and while the first few cookies hadn’t impressed me so much in the taste department, I found that each sheet produced more and more delicious cookies.

My mood couldn’t help but lighten a little. Even when I finished the fifth batch, only to discover I was 3 cookies short of the full 100, I didn’t grumble too much as I began the recipe for the sixth time. And when I was finally done, I packed them up and declared that I never wanted to make another sugar cookie again in my life. There was still a nearly-full batch of dough leftover, but I stuffed it into the freezer and forcibly ignored it.

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Sunday night, a week after the sugar cookie nightmare project, my parents and I were slowly ending dinner. I left and went to check on the blog, refreshing the page to read any new comments. That’s when I squealed so loudly that I halted the clink of spoons and dinner conversation from the dining room.

I had been so convinced that I didn’t stand a chance in this year’s Weblog Awards that I hadn’t bothered to learn when the winners would be announced. So in that unguarded moment, I found out through a scattering of congratulatory comments that left me overwhelmed. Best weblog written by a teen? I was so startled and caught off guard that all I could do was shriek incoherently.

The feeling was sort of like an intense magnification of what I feel after publishing a new blog post – accomplishment, cheeriness, and awestruck wonder at how lucky I’ve been. And the first thing I did, after my dad rushed in to drink in the moment with me, giving me a big hug and dabbing my burning eyes with his sweater, was go into the kitchen and bake up that last batch of wonderful, beautiful, fantastic sugar cookies.

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[PS: The second thing I did was send out emails thanking all the people I knew who had voted for me and spread the word - that includes you! Thank you so much for reading and for voting, I couldn't have done it without you!]

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I was a little skeptical with my first batch of cookies, but they really did get better and better each time I made them. And the best part? I’ll tell you everything I learned, so that you don’t have to make this recipe six times to get them right. The last ten cookies were soft and buttery, with slightly crisp edges. They’re sugary without being sugary-sweet, and the perfect canvas for your favorite frosting or glaze.

This dough comes together really easily, especially when the butter is slightly soft. I liked the cookies best rolled pretty thick, maybe 1/4″, as thicker cookies were easy to transfer onto a sheet and had a cakier texture. And while I needed a light dusting of flour to keep the dough from sticking, cookies rolled with less flour were more tender. Finally, to help the cookies keep their shape, I put ungreased trays of ready-to-bake cookies in the freezer for 15 minutes before baking.

I also tried making walnut sized balls of dough and baking them. They spread into neat little circles, and I topped them with a really simple, sweet frosting. The other cookies I iced with the easiest sugar cookie icing ever – it doesn’t contain light corn syrup, but it still dries hard and shiny.

Delicious Rolled Sugar Cookies
From RecipeZaar
Makes 20 3″ cookies

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract and the eggs one by one. Sift together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then gradually mix into the butter-sugar mixture until just blended. Flatten dough into a disk, cover in plastic wrap, and chill at least 30 minutes. The dough will also keep, frozen, for a week.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/4″ thickness. Cut with a cookie cutter dipped in flour and transfer to ungreased baking trays with a wide spatula. Freeze cookie shapes for 15 minutes before baking to prevent spreading, then bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are lightly golden. Cool on sheets for five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before frosting.

Sugar Cookie Frosting
From All Recipes

4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup shortening
5 tablespoons milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Food coloring

Cream the sugar and shortening until smooth and fluffy, then beat in the milk and vanilla until stiff, about 5 minutes. Color with food coloring if desired.

Sugar Cookie Icing

2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Food coloring, if desired

Stir sugar and milk together, adding food coloring if desired. Drizzle or pipe onto cookies.

Printer-Friendly Version – Delicious Rolled Sugar Cookies and Sugar Cookie Icing

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65 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Emma @ Poires au Chocolat  |  March 6, 2010 at 1:31 am

    Congratulations!

    I love the feeling of doing something over and over again until you reach something resembling perfection too. Great post.

    Reply
  • 2. linda  |  March 6, 2010 at 4:08 am

    kudos on your blog award…you truly deserved the honor!

    lovely post, it’s so great to be able to express yourself as you do…

    &…your dad…he is a treasure!

    Reply
  • 3. Wendy  |  March 6, 2010 at 4:13 am

    Congratulations Elissa! You’re the ambassador for teen food blogs! It’s been great to see another fellow teenage foodblog grow and shine – I’m sure your baking, writing and photography can only get better :)

    Reply
  • 4. Deborah Sacks  |  March 6, 2010 at 4:54 am

    Fantastic win! Well deserved and well done!

    Reply
  • 5. Warm Vanilla Sugar  |  March 6, 2010 at 4:59 am

    You deserve it! Your blog is so “sweet”…no pun intended ;)

    Reply
  • 6. Jill  |  March 6, 2010 at 7:15 am

    Congratulations on the award! You deserve it!

    Reply
  • 7. nutmegnanny  |  March 6, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Congratulations! Your blog is awesome so your deserve it :) The sugar cookies look great too…yum!

    Reply
  • 8. Annie  |  March 6, 2010 at 8:02 am

    Congrats! Quick question – did you use that same frosting recipe for the cookies in the first picture (with the blue frosting)? I just saw some like that at a bakery and wanted to make some. Thanks!

    Reply
    • 9. Elissa  |  March 6, 2010 at 10:15 am

      Annie – Gah! I was in such a hurry last night to get posted that I totally forgot to include the recipe for the frosting. I’m adding that back into the post now. Thanks!

  • 10. Katy  |  March 6, 2010 at 8:23 am

    Yet another fantastic post! No wonder you won Best Teen Weblog! Congrats, you definitely deserve it! :)

    Reply
  • 11. Bob  |  March 6, 2010 at 8:25 am

    Congrats! You definitely deserve the award.

    Reply
  • 12. Cookin' Canuck  |  March 6, 2010 at 8:26 am

    Elissa, you have put into words what so many bloggers feel. Sometimes we just don’t feel like writing a post, but once the process has started, it’s so gratifying.

    Congratulations on your Weblog award. You truly deserve it!

    Reply
  • 13. Good girl gone blog  |  March 6, 2010 at 9:00 am

    You never cease to amaze me, love. Congratulations…not just for your amazing award, but for making all 100 cookies. I probably would not have had your dedication and would have just given them the 97. You’re truly an inspiration.

    Reply
  • 14. Kim, Rambling Family Manager  |  March 6, 2010 at 9:07 am

    Congrats on the Bloggie! :)

    Reply
  • 15. Jo  |  March 6, 2010 at 9:10 am

    Not only is this great blog totally deserving of Best Teen Blog, but YOU are completely deserving of the title Best Teen Blogger. You won for a reason. You are immensely talented. You’ve earned the respect of someone your same age (I’m 17, too), and I am inspired by your honesty, attitude and achievements. Your writing is open and easy to understand and connect with and it will take you places, believe me. Keep baking and doing what you love! <3

    Reply
  • 16. Just a happy person (:  |  March 6, 2010 at 9:17 am

    Hi Elissa.
    I’m 15 and absolutely adore your blogging and recipes.
    I cannot believe how talented you are. To be writing a blog worthy of an amazing award, with brilliant photography and amazingly delicious recipes.
    It may sound silly, but you have become one of my role-models.
    You just seem to be a happy person from your blogging and your writing makes me want to feel happy :)
    Thankyou for being so great!
    x

    Reply
  • 17. Sue  |  March 6, 2010 at 9:26 am

    Congratulations!!

    (Sugar cookies are the bane of my existence. They are too much work and not enough reward. LOL. Yours are beautiful!)

    Reply
  • 18. Fran  |  March 6, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Congratulations! You deserve it :)
    and thank you so much for the recipe and tricks, will try them out!

    Reply
  • 19. Valérie  |  March 6, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Congratulations!

    Sounds like these cookies were quite the learning experience! But sometimes, repetition and practice is the only way to perfect technique. And the cookies look fantastic!

    Reply
  • 20. Jill  |  March 6, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Oooh, congratulations on your award! Your blog really is exemplary. I love the arc of this blog post especially — how you started out with an honest statement that sometimes you don’t feel like blogging (I’m sure a lot of us can relate to that!) and took us through all the things that make it worthwhile. Well done, as usual!

    Reply
  • 21. cupcakeswin=]  |  March 6, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    yumm

    CONGRATZ TO YOU MERF!

    btw merf is a ninja so don’t ask

    Reply
  • 22. Alyssa  |  March 6, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Oooh! Congrats! Glad to see my vote counted. I love how you include your family in your posts. I feel like I could spot you on the street–sign of an excellent writer. Of course, the cooking and photos are fantastic, too. Keep it up!! :]

    Reply
  • 23. Alex  |  March 6, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    I love sugar cookies. I have this mennonite cookbook with a sugar cookie recipe in it (also used by my grandma) and they turned out perfect the first time I made them. I love it when recipes do that. It saves so much time! Congrats on your blog.

    Reply
  • 24. fulltimefoodie  |  March 6, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    The most important thing is that you stick to blogging, just like you did with those sugar cookies. Somedays I just want to curl up on the couch and eat the entire batch of delicious cookies I baked, without having to photograph and fuss about them. But as I eat another (and another) cookie I realize how amazing they are and I remember the purpose of my blogging – to share my food adventures and discoveries with people who understand. I love reading your blog because I can sympathize with so much you say.

    Happy blogging and happy baking!

    Reply
  • 25. Bethann  |  March 6, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    I’m new to your blog, and I just enjoy it so much. I’ve been trying to expand my baking horizons as well and you make such fun looking treats. Your writing is so fresh and fun as well. Thanks for sharing the good and not so good with all of us.

    PS My 8 year old son gave up cookies for Lent, and after seeing the pictures of these, he wants me to make them for Easter for him.

    Reply
  • 26. Danielle  |  March 6, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    Congratulations on winning the Weblog Award!

    Loved the nightmare transforming into a “project”.

    Reply
  • 27. Isabel  |  March 6, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    Wow…congrats on the Weblog Award! I saw that you won and i was so thrilled for you!

    I love your sugar cookies…..they are really pretty and best of all? They look yummy!! I’ll have to try these for my little daughter…i can’t wait till she’s old enough to help in the kitchen! Emma just turned three, so i’m hoping that we will do the baking cookie thing soon!

    Reply
  • 28. Sue  |  March 6, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    Congratulations on your well-deserved award! I would have loved to have a blog when I was 17- oh, SO long ago:) Continue on with a sense of accomplishment, but for heaven’s sake-Have FUN:)

    Reply
  • 29. Sue  |  March 6, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    P.S. Oh yes, I almost forgot…making/baking /decorating sugar cookies is my favorite baking endeavor!

    Reply
  • 30. breeeatschicago  |  March 6, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    These sugar cookies look perfect and delicious – my sugar cookies always turn out too crispy or with crazy ugly icing designs! Good job!

    Reply
  • 31. Margarita  |  March 7, 2010 at 12:57 am

    Congratulations!!!!!!!!!! Oh, I’m so pleased that you won, as you should have. It really couldn’t have gone any other way. :-) Fabulous cookies, fabulous pastel colors, inviting spring. I can see it coming.

    Your “bursts of happiness, wanting to smile at everyone”, is contagious. These are good times. Spring is indeed on its way. Enjoy!!<3

    Reply
  • 32. Carolyn  |  March 7, 2010 at 7:39 am

    Congratulations! You are obviously so talented. Keep believing in yourself and doing what you love. Your photos in this post are especially beautiful and inspiring.

    Reply
  • 33. Annie  |  March 7, 2010 at 8:32 am

    Thanks for the frosting recipe – I’ll be making those for my coworkers this week!

    Reply
  • 34. tlm24x  |  March 7, 2010 at 8:53 am

    Congratulations!
    That icing looks delicious…
    Your blog is truly an inspiration!

    Reply
  • 35. Pearl Joy  |  March 7, 2010 at 8:58 am

    yummy :) i bet those are tasty!

    Reply
  • 36. Jenny  |  March 7, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    As always, great job! I baked 46 varieties of cookies over the course of a couple of months, often 4 – 5 at a time, and there was usually 6 – 10 dozen in the house on those days. You are completely right – you get better and better with the practice. Even something seemingly simple like sugar cookies can be vexing.

    Congrats on the great news about the bloggies!!

    Reply
  • 37. SarahR  |  March 7, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Congratulations! I actually discovered your blog through the blog awards, I was checking out the categories, and I have been visiting ever since (and voted for you too of course), I’m not a teen, but I love the way you write, and well food is my thing, so your blog is one of my favourite on my homepage.

    Reply
  • 38. John Commeree  |  March 7, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    You are a gem. Your writing is personal and precise. You share your feelings, your joys and fears, and with them you touch my heart. Best of luck with your blog, your baking, and biology – with your great eye for photography – and with your life.

    Fellow blogger, john

    PS. I also use “Blix”

    Reply
  • 39. Baking Monster  |  March 7, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Yay congrats Elissa!!

    Reply
  • 40. Mrs Ergül  |  March 7, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    The award is well-deserved Elissa! But don’t let blogging take a toll on you. It is no fun when that happens. Blog as you like cuz your happiness is what matters most.

    Reply
  • 41. Roscoe  |  March 8, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Mmmmmm………..sugar cookies.

    Mmmmmm……….blog awards.

    Life is good.

    Reply
    • 42. jasmine marie  |  January 13, 2011 at 11:05 am

      yeah i know right life is good

  • 43. Mr. P  |  March 8, 2010 at 10:49 am

    They are all beautiful. Well done. Charity baking always seems like a good idea. Until you start doing it!

    Reply
  • 44. Erin  |  March 8, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    Congrats on the award! I haven’t found the perfect sugar cookie yet, so these are definitely going on my list to try!

    Reply
  • 45. Lilli  |  March 8, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Hi Elissa :)

    First of all, I adore your blog. It inspired me to start my own, i think the URL should show up next to my name, so check it out! I just wanted to tell you I especially loved your shortbread recipe from aways back, and that your creativity and gutsiness has really inspired me to create some of my best food.

    Thanks!!

    Reply
  • 46. Amalia  |  March 9, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Hi (: your blog is awesome! you totally deserve it! you were the reason I finally decided to have a blog. I cant believe you’re 17! I have so much to learn, thank you your recipes are incredible, I always come back for more!

    Reply
  • 47. katie  |  March 10, 2010 at 7:32 am

    congrats

    Reply
  • 48. Allison  |  March 10, 2010 at 8:25 am

    made these this morning! :D perfect and delicious! makes me sheepish to say that i’ve never used cream of tartar before! thank you verily much, kittay! i’m very glad i discovered your blog yesterday!

    sugar cookies for breakfast are very healthy!

    Reply
  • 49. The Fox Foodie  |  March 10, 2010 at 10:51 am

    The cookies look beautiful! I love using royal icing! This week I used royal icing to make little designs (maps of Bavaria, actually) to place on top of a cupcake! They are shown on my blog! Keep up the great baking, you are an inspiration to a new food blogger like me!

    Reply
  • 50. pity  |  March 11, 2010 at 4:20 am

    well done and congratulations! well deserved, your cookies are awesome! Cheers from london

    Reply
  • 51. Cousin Sharon  |  March 11, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Congratulations Elissa! I inherited a butter cokie recipe from a former coworker, and it took me several years of Christmas Cookie baking to figure out that the dough worked best when refrigerated overnight, and that I needed to alternate cookie sheets so that the pan was completely cooled before putting the new batch on it. Once I got that figured out they have been a big hit!

    Reply
  • 52. Ana  |  March 11, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    I love cookies… Love the blog!

    Reply

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Elissa Bernstein



I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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I want to read everything. #TheStrand Mmmmm... Green tea chocolate lava cake! #spotdessertbar Last night I sat in @StephenColbert's chair. My life is now complete. AHHHHHHHHH! #ColbertAudience Yay! Spontaneous mid afternoon macaron break. @bouchonbakeryrc Ohmygosh! Strawberry and tarragon gelato! FAO Schwartz is equal parts chaos, commercialization, and crazy happy joy About to eat my first Pink Lady apple! (More like Red Red Red Lady.)

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