And we’re back with another installment of the Nightmare Before Christmas Tea Party series! This week we’re featuring a sugar cookie recipe with charmingly ornate royal icing Zero and nightscape designs. If these cookies make you half as happy as they make me, I’ve done my job. But why another Friday update? Allow me to answer you in verse:
What’s this? What’s this?
There’s flour everywhere
Baking smells in the air
A table laid with cookies
There’s so much icing
Get this black goop out of my hair!
Yes, I managed to get icing in my damn hair.
But seriously, these are quite possibly the best homemade sugar cookies you’ll ever make in the history of ever. Your little ones will love you, your demented teenager will come out of their room for five minutes, your Nightmare Before Christmas-loving significant other will make shrill happy sounds before tackling you, your coworkers will hail you as the food-bringing office hero.. it’s a win:win:win:win situation.
Ready? Let’s go.
Gamers, grab your mats:
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 sticks butter, unsalted
- 3/4 cup sugar
Adapted from Food Network.
- 2 egg whites, beaten
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- black gel or concentrated food coloring (not liquid)
- red gel or concentrated food coloring (not liquid)
- dash water
Recipe sort of adapted from Allrecipes.
Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Dump room temperature butter and sugar into a large bowl and beat on medium-high for about 5 minutes. Kind of looks like really good whipped mashed potatoes. Aaaaaaand now I want mashed potatoes.
Add vanilla and egg and beat until fully combined.
Reduce hand mixer to low and add in your flour mixture, one-half at a time until just combined. This feels like a strange process without a stand mixer. That I need. Ahem. Once that’s done, set out two pieces of plastic wrap and divide dough evenly between wrap. +5 difficulty points for having to use plastic wrap. I hate plastic wrap; it’s a pain in the ass.
Shape dough into disks and wrap tightly. Refrigerate for at least an hour, but let’s be honest… if you get caught up playing Skyrim it’ll be lucky to make it past that stage before bedtime.
Dust your work surface, rolling pin, dough, and armpits with flour. Why armpits? It’ll make its way up there eventually. Might as well just get that bit out of the way now. Working with one portion of dough at a time, roll out with dusted rolling pin (I was serious about that part) until dough is about 1/8″ thick.
Cut first portion of dough into circles. Because I somehow don’t have round or square cookie cutters, I used a cup.
Place cookies onto parchment paper lined baking trays and refrigerate for 30 minutes. You can re-roll your scraps to make more cookies, but pop it back in the fridge for 30 minutes if the dough gets too loose. For the square cookies I used the same round cup, then trimmed the edges with a sharp knife.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and arrange racks on the top and bottom third sections of the oven. Bake cookies for 13-15 minutes, or until lightly puffed and just turning golden, switching racks halfway through. Remove from oven and allow to cool on pans for five minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
While those are cooling, prep your royal icing:
Beat two egg whites in a large bowl until frothy. Do not shoot yourself in the foot by using literally the biggest bowl in the house because you can’t adult hard enough to wash dishes. Applaud yourself for catching egg yolks before they hit the floor because they slipped out of the shells.
Add powdered sugar and cream of tartar and beat until glossy and icing holds its shape. Despite measuring everything correctly, I ended up with this:
Icing should be thick, but not unworkable. Use a few drops of water as needed if you encounter this issue. I think I used about a tablespoon to make it work.
Divide icing into four bowls: 1/3 into one bowl, 1/3 into another, 1/6 into another, and 1/6 into the last. In order, this will be your border icing, flooding icing, black border icing, and black flooding icing. Mix black icing into latter two bowls. Thin both flooding icing bowls to about a syrup consistency.
Remove a small spoonful of white flooding icing into a shot glass, mix with red coloring for Zero’s nose and collar.
IMPORTANT: Cover any unused icing with a damp cloth to avoid having it dry out.
Transfer icing into piping bags. Sandwich baggies could be used, but piping bags are highly preferred for this for sturdiness and control. If you have them, fit with coupler and #3 metal tip. If not, cut a bit off from the tip and improvise. Apparently my #3 tip has gone AWOL so I used a #5 for the white border icing. Should have just snipped the tip of the bag. Oh well.
Pipe a white border on the round cookies:
Flood the center with white flooding icing:
Evenly distribute the icing with a toothpick or skewer. Don’t smear or spread; a gentle circular scribbling motion will do.
For the detail work you can either wait an hour for the icing to dry or do this immediately. I opted to get it all done in one go. This is about the time when pictures work best:
Using flooding icing is easiest for this bit to allow room for error.
Add toothpick detail for the finer bits:
Using black border icing, make a dot border around the entire cookie:
I preferred the look of a connected border, so I lightly dragged my toothpick through the dots for this final look:
For the square cookies, draw Zero with black flooding icing in the wet flooding icing. It won’t look quite right otherwise. Add a dot of red for the nose and a line for the collar.
You’re done! Personally, I think sugar cookies are one of the most perfect ‘tea party’ foods, but these are almost too pretty to eat! Decisions, decisions… Don’t forget- voting is still open for November’s Featured recipe! Get your clicker finger ready and vote!
Coming Up Next: Jack Skellington Whoopie Pies
Remember, cooking IRL doesn’t have to be a Feat of Strength!