Aren’t these beautiful cookies? They taste beautiful too, and of course if they don’t taste good, then they have no reason to exist – at least as far as I’m concerned.
I’m not the world’s best cookie decorator by a long shot, but I can appreciate what goes into creating beautiful cookies. Not long ago, I was at an event, and one of the featured refreshments were sugar cookies, amazingly decorated to match the theme. They took hours to make I am sure, but after taking one bite, I started looking for a handy flowerpot in which to stash the rest. It was just horrible – dry, tasteless and completely dull. Clearly, the baker who made them was into appearance far more then they were flavor.
There is no reason for this – you can make a nice, sturdy sugar cookie that will stand up very well to being decorated and still taste as good as they look. I came up with this recipe so that I would have sugar cookies I could bake and decorate with my grandchildren – which means they have to stand up to a bit of abuse. At the end of it though, we are going to eat them, so how they taste is more important than just how they look. In fact, if you are decorating with grandchildren, they may end up looking a little on the janky side, which is all the more reason for them to taste spectacular.
Enter cream cheese. Cream cheese gives these cookies a wonderfully delicate flavor and makes them seem even more buttery than they are, but it also gives them a sturdy texture that holds it’s shape in the oven, and comes out with nice, crisp, clean edges. They come through the experience of being picked up and slung about in glaze and sprinkles by tiny fingers with flying colors too. Quite literally in fact.
No little fingers were involved in the ones you see here – in fact, I wanted to go for a little more upscale appearance on most of these, and the little taste of chocolate in the drizzle goes really well with the orange flavor of the dough. I didn’t mention that before? Yep – these are suffused with a brilliant orange flavor from fresh zest. Lemon or lime or even grapefruit zest would work nicely too, I am sure.
- 1 cup softened butter
- 8 ounces softened cream cheese
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 & ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
- 5 cups all purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 & ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 2 cups confectionery sugar
- pinch salt
- 4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoon light corn syrup
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in other large mixing bowl if using a hand mixer, cream together the butter and cream cheese.
- Beat in the sugar until fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs, vanilla and orange zest.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder.
- Add the dry ingredients to the cream cheese mixture and beat until fully incorporated.
- Divide dough into 2 or 3 equal sized pieces, and form each into a flattened disk. Wrap the disks tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to a week. 24 hours is good for really letting the flavor develop.
- When ready to form the cookies, flour the counter generously, as well as the rolling pin. Working with one disk at a time, roll out to about ¼ inch thickness and cut into desired shapes with floured cutters. Try to work somewhat quickly as the dough does get a little soft as it warms up.
- Place the cut out cookies on heavy parchment paper lined baking sheets. leaving about 1 inch of space around each cookie.
- For the cleanest edges, place the sheets into the freezer for 10 minutes or so before baking, though for making cookies with kids, that is probably not necessary.
- Bake in a 350º preheated oven for about 12 minutes, turning sheets halfway through. Remove to a rack to cool completely before glazing.
- Combine all of the glaze ingredients in a 4 cup bowl, starting with 4 tablespoons of cream and adding more if needed. If the weather has been very dry, it may even take a bit more cream to get a glaze that is workable. You want it to be like a thin pancake batter. [if you should get it too thin, add more confectionery sugar]
- Hold the cookies by the edges and dip the tops into the glaze, shaking lightly to remove the excess. Allow them to dry on the cooling rack. If you want to use sprinkles on them, you should put those on right away. You can melt a couple of ounces of chocolate and drizzle it over the tops of the glazed cookies, once the glaze has set.
- Keep tightly sealed for up to a week, or longer in the refrigerator. The dough can be frozen - thaw completely before using.
Whether you make them by yourself, or have some little helpers, this is one cookie that will taste just as good as they look – for your Valentine, or for any time of year!