Since my son and I had great success making creme puffs on Thanksgiving, I was inspired to bake some ‘good sugar cookies’ for the coming holidays. The holidays brings much creative inspiration as people everywhere turn to thoughts of delicious and beautiful with family and friends. Decorative sugar cookies are always a great canvas, particularly for henna artists as we can utilize the same tools bakeries use for piping. Seeing as the Fall and Winter for this henna artist is low on ladies’ hands, I cut out my sugar cookies with a hamsa cookie cutter. How much do I love this nifty little tool? Probably abit too much, it’s the little things that can make one happy.
I believe pretty cookies should also taste pretty fantastic. I have eaten my share of uninspiring cookies that looked great and tasted bland. Through trial and error I came upon my very favorite sugar cookie recipe, I’m not sure where I found it originally. The inside of a cabinet door holds my go to taste tested recipes and there is a slip of paper which reads only “good sugar cookies”. I’ll take my word for it and share it with you.
good sugar cookies:
2 sticks butter
2/3 cup of powdered sugar
2 egg yolks, save your egg whites for royal icing
vanilla, I really like using vanilla beans, as the speckles from them are so enchanting
2 cups flour
I tend to add zest of whatever citrus is in season, this batch had mandarin zest
I also tend to add one or all of the following: nutmeg, cardamom, or anise. Just a pinch will go a long way.
Mix, pat onto plastic or a flour cloth and refrigerate for ease of rolling and cutting
Roll rather thickly for generous cookies
I baked mine a 375 for around 8 minutes in my toaster/convection oven.
Remember those egg yolks you used in the cookie dough? The egg whites remaining are a main ingredient for Royal Icing, a perfect match for decorative cookies.
2 egg whites
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
squeeze of lemon
whip your egg whites until stiff
add powdered sugar until you get the consistency you like.
For cookie flooding I suggest a thinner icing. For decorative line work a much stiffer icing is necessary.
Please note: The use of raw egg whites may be problematic for pregnant women, babies, young children, or anyone whose health is compromised. A good alternative for raw egg whites is 5 tablespoons meringue powder and 1/3 cup water, mix royal icing as usual with 4 cups powdered sugar.
Now you’re ready! I love the look of icing flooding as a base, so I added some blue food coloring gel. After the base coat dried I went to work with my pastry tube of the stiffer white royal icing. Since my cookie are shaped as hamsas I knew I wanted to do some Moroccan styled designs. I ‘m not sure why, but I tend to gravitate towards Moroccan style decorations during the holidays.
Wondering what a Hamsa is? According to Wiki: palm-shaped amulet popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Depicting the open right hand, an image recognized and used as a sign of protection in many societies throughout history, the hamsa is believed to provide defense against the evil eye. I love them and should use them more often in my work, I see some design study in my future. The Moroccan designs I used are inspired greatly by the henna pattern book “Moor: A Henna Atlas of Morocco” by Lisa Butterworth and Nic Tharpa Cartier. I highly suggest this book for anyone fascinated by Moroccan art, henna artist or not, you will love this book full of information and design.
I had entirely so much fun making these cookies, I have become inspired to create a gingerbread house next. These cookies were enjoyed by some nice, patient boys who like tea with their cookies.
Happy Holiday dreaming and creating!