Monday, November 7, 2011
Alabama Sugar Cookies: Roll Tide Elephants
The big Alabama vs. LSU 2011 game is now over and our football high has been deflated. We didn't have tickets but we went down to tailgate at a friend's engagement party. It was wonderful! We had sooooo much fun catching up with old friends and seeing the sights! I am more sad about forgetting my camera in the car than I am our football loss. I missed many great photograph opportunities. I made a batch of sugar cookies to take to the tailgate. They turned out pretty cute and tasted wonderful! I have bought Mary's Cakes and Pastries (Northport, AL) Alabama football themed cookies several times. They have really cute Saban Hats, Bear Bryant Hats, Elephant, and football sugar cookies where they flood the whole sugar cookies with icing. They look adorable, but they taste more like shortbread than traditional rolled sugar cookies. Here is my fail proof recipe for a very flavorful rolled sugar cookie that holds it's shape well. The almond flavoring doesn't really register as almond - it just gives the cookies a better overall taste.
CLASSIC ROLLED SUGAR COOKIES
3 sticks of softened butter ( 1 1/2 cups)
2 cups white sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond flavoring (imitation just makes this one taste better than natural for some reason)
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 to 2 tsp baking powder (if you have had your can for a while use 2 tsp)
1 tsp salt
Makes around 4 dozen cookies. Cut recipe in half if you are just making them for a few.
Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until very smooth. Next, beat in the eggs and vanilla and almond flavoring. Slowly mix in the flour baking powder and salt. Using a silicone spatula, turn out all of your dough onto press and seal, parchment, or wax paper and wrap up carefully. IMPORTANT PART: let refrigerate at least 4 hours. Your dough will be too sticky if you do not let the butter set back up. I let mine go 12-24 hours in the refrigerator usually. Cut dough into 4 pieces and work with one piece at a time to keep the rest of your dough cool. Roll out dough on a floured surface until the dough is about 1/3 inch thick. They make thickness rubber bands you slide on the ends of the rolling pin if you think you can't estimate well. You want your cookie to not turn out too crisp or too cake like. There is a perfect middle. I could go on and on about rolling pins. Right now I really like using a Wilton Teflon one, You don't need to add as much flour to the dough to keep it from sticking to the pin. Now for the baking instructions...... my oven is horrible so I bake mine on 350*F for about 8 minutes. You want them to come out before they are slightly brown. I use parchment paper or a silpat to bake them on. My handwritten instructions tell me 400*F for 6-8 minutes. You need to keep a close eye on them. Remove the cookies immediately and let cool completely on a cookie cooling rack.
I use a classic royal icing recipe. Some people are afraid of using raw egg whites for this. I think the dried meringue powder tastes funny so I make sure to buy fresh eggs and add lemon juice so that the citric acid also helps you avoid germs.
ROYAL ICING ALA ANNA
2 egg whites
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp almond extract
3-4 cups powdered sugar (see Note)
Whip together egg whites, lemon juice, and almond extract until you reach the soft peak stage. Mix in half the powdered sugar well and then mix the other half. Test thickness of icing against the side of the bowl. For all over cookie color you want a very loose icing, for piping designs and words you need your icing to be as thick as glue! It dries very hard and perfectly shiny. Let it dry for at least 4 hours, more if it is very humid. Adding your sugar in stages is very important. I never actually follow the sugar amounts for this I just keep testing the thickness because different brands of sugar, size of the egg whites, and the humidity around you really affect this. Separate icing blobs into separate small bowls and add Wilton gel food coloring to them, mix well, and use a piping bag and piping tips for your designs. Michaels has a great section for this.
If you are in the Huntsville area and are searching for that perfect cookie cutter for your special occasion, please go to Lynelle's Cake Decorating Shop in Huntsville, AL 3055 Leeman Ferry Road. I already had a football, pennant, jersey, and football helmet cookie cutter but I really wanted a cute little elephant. I called all around and they were the only place that had one. When I walked in, she pointed me to a back room that probably had over 100 different shaped cookie cutters! Best $1.50 purchase I have ever made! If you go there for the first time, make sure you tell them you heard about them on my blog.
I tried a few cookies with each of my cutters and the elephant cookies turned out the cutest by far. Next time I won't be bothering with the other 4 cutters, and I might try to flood the whole cookie with a thin gray icing before piping the white and crimson on.
Note: I haven't posted pictures of my kitchen yet, but you get a sneak peak of what it looks like..... snowflake style 60's counter-tops with chrome detailing. Oh yes, this girl is soon going to find as many HGTV, Martha Stewart, BHG kitchen contests as she can. My kitchen really needs some major renovations.