Last weekend, my kids' school held their annual auction fundraiser.
It was a huge success!
The party was held at the Lexus Club at PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The entertainment was the school's fabulous Jazz Ensemble.
Hence, the theme of the party : "Jazz in the Park"!
and tying ribbons...
271 times to be exact! Everyone loved the cookies and I am so grateful for all the great feedback!
But I guess it'd be OK if I don't see another sugar cookie... for a little while anyway!
These sugar cookies were some of the best I've ever made. They were the perfect balance between crisp and soft and the addition of almond extract gave them delicious flavor.
Note: This recipe is double the amounts in the cookbook with a couple of adjustments...I added a bit more flour and used almond extract...the key (in my opinion) to lovely tasting sugar cookies.
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 sticks butter, softened to cool room temperature
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, shortening, and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined, scraping the bowl as needed. Add the flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheet with Silpat mats or parchment paper.
Dust a work surface liberally with flour. Unwrap the chilled dough, sprinkle with more flour and roll with a rolling pin to 1/4 inch thick (or a little thinner). Lift the dough and add a bit more flour underneath and on top if the dough gets sticky. If the dough is too hard to work with and wants to crack, break the dough into tennis ball sized pieces and knead each piece briefly to make the dough pliable, then knead all the pieces together one or two times, then you can roll out to an even thickness with a rolling pin. Transfer the cookies to the cookie sheets with a thin metal spatula. Place the cookie sheets in the freezer for at least 15 minutes (this keeps the cookies from spreading during baking, then bake the cookies for about 12 minutes. I peek into the oven and give the cookies a quick touch with my finger. The cookies are done if they provide resistance to your fingertip. They are not quite done if your finger sinks into the cookie and leaves an impression. I set the timer for 12 minutes and check every minute after that if the cookies are not done. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
I've tried several recipe for royal icing and this is what I did this time - it was quick, easy, and hardened nicely. You can use fresh egg whites if you like, but I loved the convenience of the egg whites in the carton.
pasteurized egg whites, about 1/4 to 1/2 cup
powdered sugar - have about a pound or two on hand for this recipe
clear vanilla extract
food coloring if desired
I don't have exact measurements for this icing because I was making so many at a time, but here's the gist:
Pour a splash (1/4 to 1/2 cup) of pasteurized egg whites into a medium to large bowl. Whisk a bit to loosen up the mixture. Add flavoring if you like (clear vanilla extract if the icing will be white, lemon juice, real vanilla or almond extract). Using a mesh sieve, sift about a cup of powdered sugar into the egg white mixture (I use a large spoon to push the sugar through the sieve). Mix well with a whisk. Keep adding powdered sugar, a cup at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.
Using the 10-second rule, if you drag a spoon or knife through the icing, it should take about 10 seconds for the line to disappear completely. If it takes less than that, the icing is too thin and you should add more sifted powdered sugar. If it takes longer, add a little more egg white, about a teaspoon at a time until it's perfect. Add food coloring if desired. (I used Spectrum white for the background, and black and burgundy for the piping.)
Once you have the right consistency, slowly stir the icing with a spoon to break some of the air bubbles. Keep the icing covered airtight until ready to use. After icing, allow the cookies to dry for at least 24 hours before any additional decorating or packing.
What worked for me...
I did not use the pipe and flood technique to cover these cookies with white icing. That would have taken me forever! I simply used a spoon to place a good-sized dollop of icing on each cookie and then pushed the icing to the edges and then evened the icing out with the back of a spoon. If you have the right icing consistency, it will not drip over the edges of the cookie, and it is a LOT faster.