I am a baker at heart.
I loved the days as a teenager when I baked sweets for my brothers and the neighborhood kids, and then, as a mother, when I rolled out cookies with my sons.
When it comes to making dough suitable for cutting out cookies, there is one recipe I have used for the last thirty years, Bee’s Mother’s Butter Cookies. I laugh when I look at the recipe in my old cooking diary because it reminds me that at one time I thought I could save a few calories by cutting out a third of the butter. As if.
What is the difference between cookie doughs designed for rolling out versus drop cookies? You won’t see baking powder or baking soda in the list of ingredients. Those ingredients, both leavening agents, are added to make baked goods rise, spread, and become airy. Rollout cookie dough should not spread in the pan. We want sharp, crisp edges and tender centers.
What I especially like about Bee’s recipe is it is not too sweet, it has a lovely buttery flavor, and a hint of lemon. Texture-wise, if I roll the dough out to a quarter-inch thickness, the cookies have just the right amount of chewiness for my liking. My new adjustable rolling pin assures a uniform thickness.
Even as a seasoned baker, I sometimes mess up on how long I bake cookies. I want them light in color, but if they are not cooked enough, the taste can be off from not cooking the flour long enough. If they are too dark, they are not as pretty as they could be. Cook them until the edges just start to brown. Having said all that, for whatever reason, the cookies always taste better the day after you frost them.
A few words on measuring flour:
The proper way to measure flour is to lightly spoon it into a dry measuring cup and then use the flat edge of a knife to level it. If weighed, one cup should equal 4.25 ounces.
Yield: 75 ¼-inch thick cookies
6 sticks (1½ pounds) butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 large grated lemon rind
8 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and then leveled in a dry measuring cup
Measure flour into a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
Zest one lemon. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar for two minutes on medium speed. Add eggs, one at a time, vanilla, salt, and lemon zest. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Be sure to scrape down dough on sides and bottom of bowl.
Add flour and mix slowly. Once it is all incorporated into the dough, mix medium-slow speed for one minute, scraping sides and bottom of bowl as you go. Cover dough and place in refrigerator to chill for two hours or up to two days.
Remove dough from refrigerator and cut into portion sizes suitable for rolling. Allow to soften for 20 minutes before rolling. Dough should be softened and still cool.
When ready to roll dough, preheat oven to 350º.
Place a segment of cool dough on a sheet of parchment paper. Lightly flour the rolling pin, the cookie cutters, and the top of the dough. The trick to creating a nicely flavored, tender cookie is to use as little extra flour as possible and to not keep reworking the dough.
Using cookie cutters, cut the shapes as close to one another as possible.
Remove the scraps and put them in a pile. After you have rolled out all the dough once, take the scraps, knead them together, chill, and roll out again.
Place cookies on a parchment-lined (or ungreased) cookie sheet. They can be arranged close together because they will not spread. I like to get all the cookies rolled out first and then cook them.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until edges just start to brown. Shift pans around in the oven midway through the cooking time for more even browning. Always remember, the back two corners of an oven are the hottest.
Cool cookies on a wire rack. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
To learn how to make and decorate with Royal Icing, please look at this post.
Sometimes, I thin the icing, brush it on the cookies, and then immediately add the sprinkles so they stick as the glaze cools.
Allow cookies to dry for two hours before stacking and storing.
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