Very modest in ingredients, the humble sugar cookie has flour, butter, eggs, and sugar as its main components. Usually found on every cookie platter, in pretty much all occasions. Rich, buttery, ever so slightly crispy on the edges, perfect for the afternoon tea, or with a cup of strong espresso.
After many batches of cookies, I have found that my personal favourite is the chilled cookie dough. Chilled for 30 minutes, to be precise. Even though there is a debate whether cookie dough does require chilling or not, I found that chilling the dough before baking does make a difference in the finished cookie. If the dough is not chilled enough, it will spread more while baked; if the dough is chilled for too long, it will brown more during baking. Hence my middle ground is 30 minutes. After chilling, the dough should seem just ever so slightly tacky, but should not stick to your hands.
And on a final note, if you wish to make them in different colours, feel free to add any food colouring to the dough itself. And speaking of the colours and the icing, the strawberry liqueur in the icing will give them a faint strawberry flavour, but feel free to replace it with any liqueur of your choice. Or, if serving these to the little ones, replace the liqueur with strawberry cordial (squash).
For the cookies
250 grams plain flour, sifted
⅛ teaspoon baking powder
120 grams butter, softened
100 grams caster sugar
1 small egg, room temperature
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
½ teaspoon dark rum
For the icing
200 grams icing sugar, sifted twice
2 tablespoons strawberry liqueur
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
assorted food colouring and lustre dust, optional
Place the softened butter into a large bowl, and beat it for a minute or two with an electronic whisk on high, or until it becomes lighter in colour. Add in the caster sugar, and continue whisking on high until very light, fluffy, and creamy in texture; about 2-3 minutes should be enough. Add the room temperature egg, vanilla, and the dark rum, and blend very well. Sift the flour with the baking powder and add it to the butter batter in two additions, beating constantly on the lowest setting. The dough should be lovely and soft, but ever so slightly sticky. Wrap it tightly in cling film, and place it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
When ready to bake, transfer the chilled dough to a lightly floured surface, roll it out to 5 millimetres thickness and cut out the desired shapes. Gently transfer the cookies onto a large baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Gather the dough scraps, reroll them, and continue cutting out shapes until all the dough is used up. Bake the cookies in a preheated oven, at 180˚C (350˚F) for about 10 minutes, or until very lightly coloured around the edges. They will be very fragile once removed from the oven, so allow them to cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the icing, add the icing sugar into a medium bowl, and pour over the strawberry liqueur mixed well with the vanilla bean paste. Whisk this with a small wire whisk until well-combined. The icing should be quite thick, but still relatively pourable. Depending how fine your icing sugar is, you may need to add another teaspoon of strawberry liqueur (or water). But make sure you add any additional liquid slowly, to make it easy to decorate. Add in any food colouring, if you wish, along with the lustre dust, and decorate cooled cookies as desired. Yields 20 heart-shaped (7 cm) cookies.
By Tina Vesić