Thursday, July 3, 2014

Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies

The Fourth of July is tomorrow, and I'm actually not as excited as I should be.  Mother Nature has once again decided to turn things upside down, and we're in the middle of a tropical storm...?  This means that my plans to picnic and barbecue and grill hot dogs and toast marshmallows for s'mores has turned into an indoor potluck lunch with friends.  I'm sure it'll still be a fun time, and I'm making chocolate chip cookies, which always make my day better.  Regardless it's a bit of a bummer knowing that my favorite Fourth of July activities probably aren't going to be happening.  At least there will be cookies and potentially clear skies at night, so fireworks are still a possibility!  I'll be making the best of my rainy day Fourth of July (except that I'm switching my patriotism at 4 for the Colombia-Brazil game, because that's historic and too important to be missed), but that's not to say that I won't be crossing my fingers for nice weather until it's picnic time!

Hopefully where you live you'll be having a much nicer Fourth of July.  I hope your day is full of sunshine, zero humidity, and a cool breeze.  It's not too much to ask for, right?  It's just a little perfect barbecue weather.  I'm sure that you all have your Fourth of July barbecue menus planned out by now (or at least I hope you do), but like Mother Nature, I'm going to have to turn things upside down with some sugar cookies.  These soft sugar cookies with cream cheese frosting absolutely must become a late, last minute addition to your menu, because they're EASY to make, CUTE to look at, and DELICIOUS to eat.  Easy cute and delicious are the defining qualities of any last minute dessert addition, so these cookies are obviously a must.

I have yet to meet a single person who doesn't like soft sugar cookies.  Everyone ever loves the soft, perfectly round cookies with frosting and sprinkles that come in a plastic tray at the supermarket, and don't try to convince me that you don't.  While I will always prefer anything homemade to something from the supermarket, there's always a part of me that reluctantly feels the need to just buy those stupid sugar cookies and stop pretending like I have self control and just eat them all.  Thankfully, I always manage to convince myself not  to do that, but the secret desire for frosted cookies always remains.  That latent desire manifested itself last weekend, and I just had to have some soft sugar cookies.  I just couldn't hold out any more.

These sugar cookies exceeded my expectations.  The cookies were so simple and quick to make, and I loved that the recipe called to shape them with just a cookie scoop and a drinking glass.  So quick and effortless and with that homemade quality that we all just love. The sugar cookies only take a few quick moments to mix up, and don't need any chilling or resting time in the fridge.  The dough simply gets portioned out and then flattened with the bottom of a drinking glass that's been covered in sugar, and that's it!  The cream cheese frosting comes together just as quickly.  If you want to simply frost your cookies with an offset spatula, you can get away with making only half a batch of frosting.  The quantities listed below will yield a lot of frosting, which I recommend if you want to frost the cookies with a piping bag and tip.  

Since these cookies were such a breeze to assemble, I decided to make the frosting seem really special.  The idea of a red white and blue frosting swirl popped into my head for one reason or another, and after I thought of it, it just had to happen.  If you look closely, you'll notice that I frosted some of the cookies starting from the center, and others starting from the outside edges inward.  The cookies with the frosting originating in the center and then continuing outward are my favorites.  I just love the way the colorful swirls of frosting look!  However you decide to frost them, these cookies must must must be made as soon as possible.  They're too easy and too delicious to be forgotten, and when decorated with patriotic frosting, are perfect for the Fourth of July.  Enjoy!

Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies
recipe from The Faux Martha


For the Cookies

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, heaping
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar (plus extra for flattening)
1/4 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large egg, at room temperature

For the Frosting

8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon milk
splash clear vanilla extract
pinch of kosher salt


Begin by preheating the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silicone liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tarter.  Set aside. In the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in the oil and egg and continue to mix for about two minutes. The mixture will be pale in color.

Add the flour mixture to the mixer all at once and incorporate on low speed until just combined.  Using a cookie scoop, scoop out portions of dough and place them on the prepared baking sheets.  Pour some granulated sugar onto a plate.  Dip bottom of a glass cup that's been dipped in a tiny bit of water (so the sugar sticks), onto the plate of sugar, and then flatten out the scoops of cookie dough with the sugar covered glass. 

Bake the cookies for 9-11 minutes, until they're just barely golden; the cookies should remain fairly white!  Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  

While the cookies are cooling, prepare the frosting.  In the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy.  Mix in the powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, and kosher salt on low speed.  Once the sugar has been beaten in slightly (aka, when it won't land all over your kitchen anymore), increase the mixer speed to medium high and beat until the frosting is whipped and fluffy. Add more or less powdered sugar or cream depending on the consistency of the frosting. 

Once the cookies have cooled, it's time to frost them.  You can either frost them by simply spreading a layer of frosting on top, or by doing the red, white, and blue swirl.  To do the swirl, divide the frosting into three equal portions, and use food coloring to color one portion red, one portion blue, and leave the remaining portion uncolored.  Fill three small piping bags with the colored frostings (I like to use disposable piping bags) and flatten them out slightly, taking care that the frosting doesn't spill out over the top.  Take the three flattened pastry bags and lay them on top of each other, snip the tips, and then insert them into a larger disposable pastry bag that has been fitted with a large star tip (I used a Wilton 1M tip).  Now, simply pipe the frosting onto the cookies.  My favorite way to pipe the frosting was by beginning in the middle and piping outward; I thought this was the prettiest way to show off all three colors!  Decorate all the cookies, and enjoy!

Makes 1 1/2 dozen cookies

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