Daring Bakers September 2017: Sugar Cookies

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One thing I love most about the growing number of baking blogs is the variety of creations I get to read about. Each and every one of us has a way of using quality, unique ingredients to create amazing recipes. Sometimes traditional, other times innovative, but always enticing.
What happens when baking bloggers come together to make the same recipe?
I recently became a Daring Baker through The Daring Kitchen. Each month, one guest host reveals a baking recipe of their choice. The challenges are typically “outside the box” – thus the reason for the name daring bakers. As a daring baker, you have the entire month to create the recipe, share photos of your creation, and (if you wish) blog about it. I’m glad September was my first month – August’s challenge was baked alaska and ice cream petits fours!

This month’s daring recipe was a sugar cookie recipe using royal icing. No break-and-bake sugar cookies, no canned frosting. The real stuff. We all used the same sugar cookie and royal icing recipe. However, we were encouraged to flavor the cookies alternatively if we so pleased. We also had to follow a theme – fall. Our interpretations of fall, in a cookie. Whatever fall makes you think of. 🙂

For my cookies, I chose to add maple flavor instead of the traditional vanilla or almond. I also added pumpkin pie spice, since I can’t seem to get enough of the stuff this time of year. I loved the light brown color my cookies took on with these two additions. So much so that I opted not to completely cover the cookies in icing – they don’t need it!
I was thrilled to come across a New York state cookie cutter this past weekend in Wegmans. Yes, one more reason why Wegmans is in fact the best grocery store on earth – better than TJ’s, if you can imagine. While I may not be proud to call NY my home in the dead of winter, it’s a great place to be in September. Temperatures fluctuate between cool and warm, leaves are beginning to turn, and apples are aplenty.

I had to laugh when I cut the first cookie with the cookie cutter and Long Island fell off. See, even the cookies don’t want to be associated with Long Island!
In addition to my NY cookies, I ended up making some smaller cookies with my new mini fall-themed cookie cutters as well.
If you love to bake and are always up for a challenge, consider joining the Daring Bakers. You don’t even need to have a blog to join! I’m only one month in but I’m loving it already!
Basic Sugar Cookies (Gone Maple Spice!)

My adaptation from this recipe
Makes Approximately 36 4-inch cookies
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
3 cups + 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp. maple flavor
Cream together the butter, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and maple flavor. Beat until just becoming creamy in texture. Tip: Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during baking, losing their shape.

Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.

Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces. Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 1/5 inch . Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins. Tip: Recipes commonly just wrap the whole ball of dough in clingwrap and then refrigerate it for an hour or overnight, but by rolling the dough between parchment, this shortens the chilling time and then it’s also been rolled out while still soft making it easier and quicker.

Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife. Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour. Tip: It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.

Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies. Tip: Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in some cookies being baked before others are done.

Leave to cool on cooling racks. Once completely cooled, decorate as desired. Tip: If wrapped in tinfoil/cling wrap or kept in airtight containers in a cool place, un-decorated cookies can last up to a month.

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