Nightmare Before Christmas Sugar Cookies

Difficulty3
This *might* be due to patience required for optimal icing.

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
What’s this?
Baking smells in the air
What’s this?
A table laid with cookies
There’s so much icing
Get this black goop out of my hair!
What’s this?

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:

COOKIES:

  • 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.

ICING:

  • 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.

Nightmare Before Christmas Sguar Cookies Ingredients
Sans bloopers for once. Good job.

Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Set aside.

*I did not sift this. I regret nothing.
*I did not sift this. I regret nothing.

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.

Seriously though, really important for the butter to be unsalted. Made that mistake with the Super Star cookies, and these taste better.
Seriously though, really important for the butter to be unsalted. Made that mistake with the Super Star cookies, and these taste better.

Add vanilla and egg and beat until fully combined.

Quantity of eggs that almost fell off counter: 1
Quantity of eggs that almost fell off counter: 1

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.

That's even, right? Sure it is.
That’s even, right? Sure it is.

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.

Success!
Success!

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.

I had a ton of issues with this cracking apart due to cold tension, but a few deft rolls will fix that.
I had a ton of issues with this cracking apart due to cold tension, but a few deft rolls will fix that.

Cut first portion of dough into circles. Because I somehow don’t have round or square cookie cutters, I used a cup.

How big are the cookies? Cup size.
How big are the cookies? Cup size.

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:

Can you guess the blooper? This one's tricky.
Can you guess the blooper? This one’s tricky.

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.

Frothy whites in a you-really-have-no-clue-how-big-this-bowl-is bowl.
Frothy whites in a you-really-have-no-clue-how-big-this-bowl-is bowl.

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:

See? Literally the biggest bowl.
See? Literally the biggest bowl.

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.

We pretend to have a professional setup here.
We pretend to have a professional setup here.

Pipe a white border on the round cookies:

Yeah. See? Bit too thick of a line. Really use that #3 if you've got it.
Yeah. See? Bit too thick of a line. Really use that #3 if you’ve got it.

Flood the center with white flooding icing:

Something like that, or a bit more.
Something like that, or a bit more.

Evenly distribute the icing with a toothpick or skewer. Don’t smear or spread; a gentle circular scribbling motion will do.

Gorgeous.
Gorgeous.

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:

Upper cliff curve.
Upper cliff curve.

Using flooding icing is easiest for this bit to allow room for error.

Lower cliff curve and some filler.
Lower cliff curve and some filler.

Add toothpick detail for the finer bits:

Detailed cliff with stick figure Jack.
Detailed cliff with stick figure Jack.

Using black border icing, make a dot border around the entire cookie:

Only the slightest amount of pressure necessary to get the little dots.
Only the slightest amount of pressure necessary to get the little dots.

I preferred the look of a connected border, so I lightly dragged my toothpick through the dots for this final look:

So. Shiny.
So. Shiny.

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.

In my opinion, the best looking cookies I've ever made from scratch.
In my opinion, the best looking cookies I’ve ever made from scratch.
Square Zero cookies and round nightscape cookies.
Square Zero cookies and round nightscape cookies.

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

Cheers,

Leisel

Remember, cooking IRL doesn’t have to be a Feat of Strength!

Entry for #WeeklyChallenge for #FoodBloggers

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65 thoughts on “Nightmare Before Christmas Sugar Cookies”

  1. Lovely…my mouth is watering lookibg at ur cookies…superb….Dear Liesel..needed a help from you.Where can I learn more on adding widgets and putting themes to my site.please guide me..Thanks

    Like

  2. Such a skillful decorator! I’m loving these designs, especially Zero. πŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by and sharing this recipe on Five Friday Finds! I’m looking forward checking out your recipe this week. πŸ™‚

    Like

  3. Well they look great despite the icing sugar in your hair! I can identify with you. At the moment I’m icing a minion birthday cake for our grandson. I have yellow and blue icing everywhere! Thanks for sharing with us at #anythinggoes.

    Like

      1. I usually do fondant cakes which are mostly for aesthetics, but my true love (more like soul mate) are cookies. Not everything I was planning was geeky, but your page is giving me inspiration!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hahaha! We’ve all had those days! I’m sorry, I’ve cursed fondant out many times. We have a love/hate relationship.

        Like

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