I’ve just discovered a fascinating series by Joanne Fluke called the Hannah Swensen Mysteries. It is a series of books about a character, Hannah Swensen, who owns a bakery, solves mysteries, and balances a tangled love life at the same time. Each book also includes tons of recipes that are mentioned within the story. This series caught my attention. “What?!” I thought. “A series that combines stories with food in such a convenient and fun way? I have to post about it on the new food blog!” I must confess that I’ve never read any of the 13 books in the series. I have, however, skimmed one, called The Sugar Cookie Murder. From what I have read, the author’s voice is very entertaining, the main character is interesting, and the plots seem to plug along nicely. I can’t really recommend it, since I haven’t read much of it, but if you want to check out a good sampling, you can check it out here, on Google Books. Let me know what you think if you check it out, or if you have already read the series.
However, my concern isn’t really with Fluke’s work, but rather the subject of that particular book: sugar cookies. Maybe I’m weird, but I’ve never been very enthusiastic about sugar cookies. When I was little, my mom would make the hard flat kind around Christmastime, and we would decorate them with colored, drippy frosting, poke holes in the tops with paper clips, and hang them on our tree. They were lots of fun to make, but I didn’t really like eating them. They were crunchy and lacked chocolate, which put them pretty low on my Favorite Desserts list. But then my sister, Sarah, found an awesome recipe, and I loved it. This is not the recipe in Fluke’s book, but it makes the best homemade sugar cookies I’ve ever had. They’re soft and puffy and the frosting is so smooth and sweet.
Sour Cream Sugar Cookies
Makes 2 ½ dozen (30)
Bake at 350
1 cup sugar
½ cup shortening
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
½ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Cream sugar and shortening and then add eggs, sour cream, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Then add dry ingredients (flour, salt, soda, powder). Let stand in refrigerator for 1 hour. Add more flour when rolling out (soft and sticky is how is should be). Roll out to ¼ inch. Cut in shapes. Bake at 350º for 10-12 minutes (10 for optimum softness). These cookies should not get brown.
1 cube butter, softened (1/2 cup)
3 ¼ cup powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla
¼ cup milk
Beat butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla with hand-mixer. Add milk and beat until smooth. Add food coloring.
You can play with flavoring in these cookies if you’d like. Almond extract will complement the flavors well, and you can add a little to the dough, the frosting, or both. If you are feeling adventurous, you can try some peppermint or orange flavoring, but almond is probably your best bet.
I flew all the way from California to Michigan to visit Sarah and her family this last week. While I was there, we made Halloween sugar cookies. She didn’t have any Halloween cookie cutters, so I free-handed some bats, ghosts, cats, pieces of candy, and skulls. We used a cup to cut out simple circles for the rest. The dough is very easy to work with as long as you have plenty of flour around to dust with when it gets sticky (and it will). After the cookies were done baking, my nephew helped me frost them. Because of that some looked a little less appetizing than others, but they all tasted great!