Except for the years we lived in Tokyo and didn’t have an oven, my Honey Girl and I have made these cookies together every year for each of her 19 years. The icing has become neater, and the faces more symmetrical over the years. And I sometimes miss those wonky cookies with their messy icing and their haphazard faces. The truth is, I miss my Honey Girl. She’s sleeping as I write, home from college for the weekend, which is rare, and it’s bittersweet having her home since I know she’ll have to leave again so soon. I miss her plopping down every day after school to talk through all the details of her day, miss making a pot of tea together and watching a bit of a Gilmore Girls or an Agatha Christie mystery together before she had to start her homework. I’ve adjusted, but I wish I could go back and start all over again, and when she turned 18 we could cycle back again in an endless loop. I feel the same way about my Sweet Boy. But we can’t, so today I’ll enjoy making these cookies together one more time.
This recipe was given to me by my sister, who got it from a friend. I don’t know who developed it, but if I did I would write that person a thank you note. It is a dream to work with. You can’t overwork it, it’s a breeze to roll out, it peels right off of your counter without changing shape, and it’s delicious, too. You can roll it very thin or as thick as ½“ for equally nice results. We use it many times each year—pumpkins for Halloween, hearts at Valentine’s Day, eggs and chicks at Easter, bells and angels for Christmas, and simple rounds for a tea snack. It couldn’t be easier. I used to cringe a bit at the thought of rollout cookies: time consuming, fussy. Now, I think of them as one of the quickest and most relaxing bakes in our repertoire. I just timed it: cookies out of the oven and kitchen clean in 45 minutes!
This recipe is quite flexible. If you mix it up as directed it produces a stable yet tender cookie which does not rise or spread. If you cut the flour called for in half it produces a more delicate cookie which spreads. I use the standard recipe for cutting out shapes and reduce the flour when I’m making a round cookie. Both are delicious.
Pumpkin-shaped Iced Sugar Cookies for Halloween
1 c. unsalted butter
¾ c. sugar
3 c. flour
a batch of confectioners’ sugar icing (recipe below)
candy for decoration (candy corn, black licorice, etc.)
- Preheat your oven: 350 degrees for convection ovens, 375 degrees for conventional ovens.
- In an electric mixer, beat together the butter and the sugar.
- Add the egg and beat well.
- Add the flour and beat well. The mixture will be rather dry.
- Remove from the mixer and give it a good knead on your counter.
- Roll the dough out to the desired thickness and cut into shapes using cookie cutters.
- Bake 8-20 minutes depending on the size of your shape and the thickness of the dough.
*I roll this dough up to ½” thick for large shapes and ¼ “ for small shapes. Cookies rolled 1/8” will work, but watch them carefully in the oven so that they do not become too dry.
*Set your timer for ten minutes and begin checking the cookies every couple of minutes. Thick cookies take a bit longer to bake.
*This dough does not brown in the oven. Look for a dry appearance. The cookie should be a bit firm to the touch when it is ready. I prefer a slightly under baked cookie, which remains tender.
*I always make two to four batches of this dough. A double batch yields a dozen enormous, thick pumpkin-shaped cookies.
Confectioners’ Sugar Icing
½ pound confectioners’ sugar
- Sift the powdered sugar into a large bowl.
- Add a few drops of food coloring.
- Add ¼ c. milk and begin stirring.
- Add milk 1 T. at a time until the icing reaches the consistency of Elmer’s glue.
- Allow the icing to rest until the air bubbles settle.
- To decorate the cookies, hold each cookie by its edges and dunk its top surface into the icing. Allow the excess to run off the cookie and back into the bowl.
- Rest the cookies on a baking rack set over a paper bag or waxed paper as you finish icing each one.
- While the icing is still wet, decorate the cookies with candy corn, black licorice, or other candy.
*Just about any liquid is suitable for this recipe. You may use skim, low fat, or full fat milk, or half and half, or heavy cream. Water also works in a pinch, though the flavor of the icing will lack depth.
*You may use extracts such as vanilla, almond, or peppermint to flavor this icing as the seasons and your preferences change. Plain is yummy, too.
*Use the back of your spoon to smooth out any lumps in the icing. You may also run the icing through a fine mesh strainer if you forgot to sift the confectioners’ sugar and you have a lot of lumps.
*You may also spread this icing. I just find dunking quick and easy.