Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Houses of Hope Cookies

ZTA and Little Pink Houses of Hope 

This Sunday, ZTA hosted our first ever Little Pink Houses of Hop tailgate to raise money for Breast Cancer Education and Awareness. I decided to bake my favorite sugar cookies in the shape of little pink houses! Clever right? (not really) I couldn't for the life of me find a house shaped cookie cutter though so I had to free hand every single one (which took for ev er). The good thing about not having one boring shaped cookie cutter though is that I was able to make all kinds of different houses like shotguns, mansions, average-joes, apartments, houses with shingles, houses without singles, door on the side houses, door in the middle houses, trailers (that one was probably my fav) yadda yadda.

I just forgot that every other time I made these cookies in the past it was over a major holiday…when I didn't have any school or work...and not to mention a plethora of counter space. YIKES! But as stressful as they were, I still had fun making them. And when you see the finished products assembled on a plate, all that hard work becomes worthwhile - and the most important part, it was for a good cause! 

I've been using this recipe for sugar cookies since I was 14, and I have yet to find one as delicious. It's a recipe from the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook my dad gave me for my 14th Birthday and of course it has been my favorite cookbook ever since (but y'all already knew that). 

4 sticks of unsalted butter

3 cups of sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoon salt 

5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

royal icing

1.      Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla and salt; mix on medium high speed until combined. With the mixer on low speed so the flour doesn't fly all over the place, add the flour in two (I do 3) batches until just incorporated. 

2. Divide the dough in half, past into a round and cover in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour or 2, or up to 2 weeks (but I bet it can last longer. I tend to push the limit on that short of thing….)

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to about ¼ of an inch thickness (but this is really up to you. The thickness of your cookies will obviously determine how chewy your cookie will be, how long it will take to bake and how many cookies you will be able to produce). With a cookie cutter (or sharp knife) cut out your shapes and carefully place them on your silpat or cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. The good thing about these cookies is that if they don’t look perfect when you pick them up with your spatula, you can always fix them on the parchment or silpat. They bake almost exactly the way they look when you pop them in the oven.  

4. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for at least 15 minutes before baking. When the cookies have become hard, bake in the oven for about 8 or 9 minutes – NUT NO MORE! I know they will seem undercooked, but give them 15 minutes and they might as well be rocks (but not, because you didn’t over bake them!)

5. Let the cookies cool completely before decorating. (decorating usually takes several hours or days depending on how you manage your time – just don’t expect them to get them all finished in one sitting, because that’s basically impossible!)

Royal Icing Recipe

I got this recipe from a blog called Glorious Treats. The site is actually really helpful and gives very easy to follow tips and tricks for decorating professional looking sugar cookies.

4 tablespoons Meringue Powder

4 cups powdered sugar

4 tablespoons warm water (or more. I personally start with the four and gradually add more until I get my desired consistency.)

I also like to add about a teaspoon of almond extract. It’s not totally necessary and you can also add whatever kind of extract you like, as long as it’s clear. Otherwise your white won’t be as white (aka if you use vanilla, you’re gonna get more of a light tan than pure white)

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