It’s Christmas time which means I’m baking sugar cookies! Sugar cookies are a tradition for us so this year I was on a mission to find a great recipe. We usually shape and cut them out and spend hours decorating them but this year I wanted to do something different. The timing couldn’t have worked out more perfectly and I was able to bring them to our couples bible study group to share so we weren’t stuck with a billion sugar cookies!
For me, they’ve always looked cute but the taste was just ok. Store bought sugar cookie mix and frosting just wasn’t appealing to me this year. I mean if I’m going to treat myself with a sugar cookie, I want it to be mouth watering amazing! So this year instead of fussing with the design and the look of the sugar cookies I wanted to focus on the taste of the sugar cookies even if that meant a little more time in the baking process.
Pinterest to the rescue! After searching and reading recipes I finally found a cookie recipe that looked great by Half Baked Harvest. When I read real vanilla beans in the recipe I knew it was going to be amazing. It also came with a buttercream frosting recipe, but in my experience buttercream is tricky and the ratios of butter and sugar really matter. My husband and I aren’t really fans of the pure buttercream recipes, so I opted to try a lighter buttercream recipe with meringue, and it is so good!
Now about the cutest Sprinkles EVER! I was introduced to Sweetapolita on Instagram and fell in love with her sprinkles! As soon as I landed on her website I knew I was in the right place for some Christmas sprinkles. I chose the Jingles of Joy Sprinkles for our sugar cookies because, um hello the colors!
There were just enough cookies to share with our group and to package up a couple for our neighbors using the FREE 2015 December Gift Tag Printable.
They are the best soft sugar cookies I’ve ever had and the sprinkles helped keep the festive feel of Christmas without having to spend hours decorating. It was definately worth waiting for the sprinkles to arrive on my door step, the butter to soften and the swiss meringue to reach stiff peaks!
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds removed (optional)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons homemade vanilla extract*
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)~
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 large egg whites
- 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 lb. (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 tsp. homemade vanilla extract*
- To make the cookies, cream the butter, sugar, vanilla bean, vanilla extract in a bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.
- Then turn the mixer on low and add the eggs and vanilla extract. Scrape the bowl.
- With the mixer on low, slowly add half of the flour mixture. Scrape the bowl and beat again for 30 seconds.
- Add the remaining flour and beat until the dough forms a ball.
- Place half the dough on a large piece of plastic wrap and shape into a 10-inch log. Repeat with the remaining dough. Try and make sure each log is pretty rounded**. Place the logs in the fridge for at least one hour*** or up to three days.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
- Remove one roll of dough at a time from the fridge. Unwrap the dough and slice crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, turning the dough a quarter turn after each slice to help keep the cookies round. Place 1/2 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. If your cookies aren’t as round as you want them to be, shape the dough with your fingers.
- Bake 8 minutes for soft cookies. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining roll of dough, if desired.
- To make the frosting, combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F and the sugar has dissolved****.
- Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8-10 minutes.
- Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated. If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (don't worry, it will come together) Stir in the vanilla extract and mix just until incorporated. Tint with gel icing color as desired.
- Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.
- Frost the cooled cookies and decorate as desired. Store cookies, covered for up to four days at room temperature.
- *To make homemade vanilla extract: Place 1-2 vanilla beens split in half with a knife, but not completely separated, inside an airtight sauce bottle and fill with vodka. Store in dark cabinet for about 2-3 months (gently shaking the bottle every 2 weeks) and the mixture has turn a deep golden color.
- **While the dough was in the fridge I checked on it a couple times and would roll it gently on the counter to prevent a straight edge.
- ***While dough is in the fridge setting up, use this time to make your frosting so it's ready to go for you.
- ****I used a digital thermometer set to 160 F so that it would alert me once it reached its proper temperature.
- ~For my cookies, I chose not to add the almond extract and I think they taste amazing. Everyone's taste buds are different! 🙂