For whatever reason, winter seems to bring out the baker in me. Maybe it's the holiday spirit or maybe I just enjoy the warmth of the oven. Whichever it is, I spend a great deal of January and February hunched over the kitchen counter frosting cookies, stirring fudge and detailing pie crusts.
Now, I'm willing to pay a nominal amount for sugar and flour which generally go on sale at Safeway at least once a month and I almost always have spices, raisins and chocolate chips on hand, but at nearly four dollars per pound, butter is usually the limiting factor in my baking. The more butter a recipe calls for, the less likely it is to be made.
I'm a fiend for sugar cookies--the SUPER soft, frosted ones that can be found in the bakery section of the grocery store. They usually run around $3.99 for a dozen and if I have a dozen, I'll eat a dozen. I was breaking the bank on these, but when I made them at home I didn't save any money--the butter in the recipe was too costly.
This year, I decided I'd had enough of paying too much for cookies and too much for butter--on January first I stopped buying both. I bought a $2.30 vat of Country Crock and set to work developing recipes that feature spreadable butter substitute instead of butter. After a few tweaks, here's my Super Soft Sugar Cookie Recipe complete with home-made frosting:
Super Soft Sugar Cookies
Makes 32 cookies
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup Country Crock Spread (the kind that comes in tubs)
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract (I use imitation vanilla)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (I use unbleached) + some for dusting the cutting board
- 1 tsp cream of tartar**
- 1 tsp baking soda
Preparing the dough:
1. In medium mixing bowl, beat the egg with electric mixer on high speed until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and Country Crock and continue beating until batter is smooth.
2. Stir in vanilla, cream of tartar and baking soda, mix until well-blended.
3. Stir in flour one cup at a time. Mix dough until smooth. Dough will be very soft which is good--remember, we're baking cookies, not bread.
4. Spoon the dough onto plastic wrap and seal tightly or into a container with a tight-fitting lid and place in the refrigerator. Let chill 2-3 hours so dough will firm up.
5. While the dough is chilling, prepare the frosting.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
7. When dough has firmed, divide in half and roll out each half on floured cutting board to 1/4 inch thickness. Be sure to use lots of flour as the dough will absorb quite a bit as you work with it. Re-dust cutting board often and rub flour over the top of the dough as well.
8. Using cookie cutter, cut out cookies and place 1 inch apart on UN-GREASED aluminum cookie sheet. Bake 7-8 minutes or until just firm. The cookies should NOT be brown or golden at all for soft cookies. Golden cookies will be too dry, but still yummy so if they bake a little too long, adjust baking time for next sheet.
9. Remove cookie sheet from oven and let cool for 1-2 minutes before removing cookies to wire rack.
10. Let cookies cool completely before frosting. Let cookie sheet cool completely before baking next set of cookies.
**Cream of tartar keeps the egg nice and airy and gives these cookies their distinctive softness. Do not omit this ingredient! It can be found in the spice aisle of most grocery stores.
Sugar Cookie Frosting
Frosts 32 (2-inch) cookies
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract (I use imitation vanilla extract)
- 1/4 cup shortening (I use a generic version of not-butter-flavored Crisco)
- 3 tbsp milk
- food coloring
Preparing the frosting:
1. Using electric mixer, beat together powdered sugar and shortening. It will still look like just powdered sugar at this point.
2. Continue beating on low speed and add the milk 1 tbsp at a time.
3. Continue beating and add vanilla. Add food coloring (1-2 drops for pastel colored frosting, 4-5 for darker frosting). Beat on high speed for 30 seconds or until frosting is light and fluffy. If frosting is too runny, add more powdered sugar. If it's too thick to spread easily, add more milk. Cover and set aside until needed.
Chef's note: Too much food coloring will make the frosting separate. If this happens, add more powdered sugar, 1 tsp at a time while continuing to beat until the frosting re-combines.
Chef's note: This frosting is so good you may want to consider making twice the amount you need--the rest can be eaten with a spoon or saved in the refrigerator. Frosting will keep covered in the fridge for up to a week, but bring it to room temperature before using.