Festive Sugar Cookie Bars

I hope everyone had a lovely Fourth of July celebration. ūüôā

We had a very low-key day followed by a delicious meal prepared on the grill, in Fourth of July fashion. This fun dessert was a festive way to end the day! The meringue icing was incredibly thick and fluffy; the pattern could be easily modified to decorate for any occasion.

This recipe is from Better Homes and Gardens. The cookies kept well for several days in the refrigerator.

Yield: 24 bars

For the Sugar Cookie Bars:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • Meringue Icing (recipe follows)
  • red and blue paste food colorings

For the Meringue Icing:

  • 3 cups Confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 T meringue powder
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  1. Preheat oven to 350¬įF, preferably on convection.
  2. Coat a half sheet pan (15√ó10-inch baking pan) with nonstick cooking spray, line with parchment paper, and coat the parchment with cooking spray.
  3. In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a large bowl beat butter with mixer on medium speed 30 seconds. Add sugars; beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  5. Beat in egg and vanilla bean paste.
  6. Beat in flour mixture. (Dough will be crumbly.)
  7. Pat dough firmly and evenly into prepared pan. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are light brown. Cool in pan on a wire rack.
  8. Meanwhile prepare Meringue Icing.¬†In a large bowl beat Confectioners’ sugar, ¬Ĺ cup water, the meringue powder, and cream of tartar with mixer on high 3 to 5 minutes or until thick and fluffy.
  9. Divide three 1/4-cup portions into small bowls. Cover remaining Meringue Icing to prevent drying out.
  10. Tint 1/4-cup portions with paste food coloring to make red, light blue, and dark blue. Transfer each to a small resealable (sandwich) plastic bag.
  11. Evenly spread remaining Meringue Icing onto cooled cookie.
  12. For firework “burst” design, snip a small corner from each pastry bag. Pipe concentric circles in different sizes with tinted colors. Pull a toothpick from center to outer edge to create the firework pattern; wipe or replace the toothpick between each pull. Repeat as desired.
  13. Chill, uncovered, 2 hours or until icing sets. To store, cover loosely with foil and chill up to 3 days.

 

Gingerbread Cookies with Royal Icing

IMG_6838

I know that my Christmas cookie posts are belated, but I am sure that someone is still baking! ūüôā I wish that I had more time to make so many new varieties of cookies but this was my only new cookie this year.

My daughter was begging for gingerbread girls and boys to be included in the Christmas cookie lineup! ūüôā They may have surpassed Raspberry Meringues as her favorite too. (She would have been in big trouble if she hadn’t loved them– they require quite a bit of work!) This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. They have a wonderful and deep gingerbread flavor from the addition of fresh ginger.

For the Cookies:

  • 3 1/2 cups (or 14.87 oz) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 T plus 1 tsp grated, peeled, fresh ginger
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
  • Royal Icing, for decorating (recipe below)

IMG_6822

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice, and cloves; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, both sugars, and fresh ginger on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Beat in egg and molasses to combine. With mixer on low-speed, gradually add the flour mixture, beating until just incorporated.
  4. Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface. Divide in half, and shape into flattened disks; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with the racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
  6. Remove dough from the refrigerator, and let stand until slightly softened. (This will help keep the dough from cracking when rolled.) On a large piece of parchment paper lightly dusted with flour- or between two large pieces of plastic wrap- roll out dough to about 1/4 inch thick. To prevent sticking while rolling on parchment, occasionally run a large offset spatula under dough, and add more flour. (I don’t find this necessary when using plastic wrap.) ¬†Stack cookie dough on a parchment lined cookie sheet covered with plastic wrap. Freeze until very firm, about 15 minutes.
  7. Remove dough from freezer; working quickly, cut out with cookie cutters. (If the dough begins to soften too much, return to the freezer for a few minutes.) Using a wide metal spatula, transfer cutouts to prepared baking sheets; chill until firm, about 15 minutes. (I stack the cut cookie dough on a plastic wrap lined baking sheet, placing plastic wrap between layers; chill 15 minutes to overnight.)
  8. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are crisp but not darkened, 7 to 8 minutes for small cutouts (on convection) and up to 15 minutes for large shapes. Transfer parchment and cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Decorate as desired with Royal Icing, if using. Cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

For the Royal Icing:

  • 1/4 ¬†pound confectioners sugar
  • 1 1/4 T meringue powder
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar, meringue powder, and a scant 2 T water on low-speed.  Beat until mixture is fluffy yet dense, 7 to 8 minutes.
  2. Pipe onto cookies. Icing can be thinned for flooding, adding 1 tsp water at a time, if desired.

Number Cookies

Before my daughter’s second birthday, my mom gave me alphabet and number cookie cutters. ¬†It started with pink “2” cookies and a new family tradition was born. ¬†I have made them annually ever since. ūüôā We put them in birthday party goodie bags, bring them into school to celebrate, and serve them at birthday parties. ¬†On my mom’s 75th birthday we served purple 75’s to her friends! Fun.

I use the sugar cookie and royal icing recipes from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. ¬†I weigh the flour and the dough is always perfect. ¬†I cut out the shapes, stack them with a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper between each layer, cover, and refrigerate overnight. I also briefly freeze the cut shapes just before baking. ¬†The shape seems to stay more intact.

For the Sugar Cookies:

  • 4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour (21.25 oz or 1 lb 5.25 oz)
  • colored sanding sugar, or royal icing
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add eggs, vanilla, and salt; mix on medium-high speed until combined.
  3. With mixer on low speed, add flour in two batches, mixing until just incorporated.
  4. Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface.  Divide in half, a pat into flattened rectangles; wrap each in plastic.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 1 week. (I have also had success rolling the warm dough 1/4-inch thick between plastic wrap and parchment prior to placing it in the refrigerator.)
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection, with racks in the upper and lower thirds.  Line large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. On a lightly floured work surface (or between layers of plastic wrap and/or parchment paper), roll out one rectangle of dough to approximately 1/4-inch thickness.
  7. Using cookie cutters, cut out shapes.  Using a small offset spatula, transfer shapes to prepared sheets, placing about 2 inches apart.
  8. Chill in freezer or refrigerator until firm, about 15 minutes (or overnight if in refrigerator).  Set scraps aside.  Repeat the process with remaining rectangle of dough.  Gather all the scraps, and roll out again.  Freeze for 15 minutes; cut out more shapes, and place on sheets.
  9. Decorate cookies with sanding sugar or sprinkles, if using, before baking.
  10. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are golden around the edges and slightly firm to the touch, about 9-12 minutes on convection.
  11. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.  Decorate with royal icing, if using. (recipe below)
  12. Top icing with sanding sugar or sprinkles, if using.

Note: Cookies can be kept in an airtight container, layered between sheets of waxed paper or parchment paper, at room temperature for up to 3 days.  Makes about 3 dozen.

For the Royal Icing:

  • 1 pound confectioners sugar
  • 5 T meringue powder
  • liquid or gel-paste food coloring
  • sanding sugar or sprinkles, as desired
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar, meringue powder, and a scant 1/2 cup water on low speed.  Beat until mixture is fluffy yet dense, 7 to 8 minutes.
  2. To thin the icing for flooding (filling in areas with additional icing), stir in additional water, 1 teaspoon at a time.  Test the consistency by lifting a spoonful of icing and letting it drip back into the bowl; a ribbon should remain on the surface for 5 to 7 seconds.
  3. To tint icing, dip a toothpick or wooden skewer into food coloring, and gradually mix it in until the desired shade is reached.
  4. Decorate with sanding sugar or sprinkles before the icing has set, if desired.

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