One cookie-making memory from childhood was my mom’s sugar cookies. Aunties and my grandma would make elaborate Italian cookies, and especially for special holidays like Easter and Christmas, but sugar cookies were my mom’s go-to cookie. Even though she did indulge in making some of the traditional Italian cookies at holiday time, she made these sugar cookies throughout the year and maybe that’s why they became my favorite.
Blast from the past memory:
We’re going to make sugar cookies today! The kitchen prepped, the flour and sugar are out of the cupboard, the colored sprinkles lined up, the cookie cutters stacked and ready for use. Anticipation is building in my eight-year-old self. Then the phone rings. Noooooo!
Back in the day you always answered the phone. You didn’t know who was calling, there was no caller ID, no answering machines, and generally people only called when there was some important news to share. Well, that is unless it was an Italian relative or a close neighbor.
Darn! I knew the cookie making would be delayed. I raced to the other room where she had answered the phone. “Could I just mix a few ingredients together?” I asked my mom. She was distracted and listening intently to the person on the other end of the telephone line. No response to my question so I took that as an opportunity to go ahead on my own. Back to the kitchen I went.
I had watched my mom make these cookies many times; surely I could do this myself. But I also knew that I couldn’t use the mixer because it would make too much noise so I would have to mix everything by hand. Okay, I can do this!
I crack the eggs (why I started with the eggs I’ll never know) and part of an eggshell landed in the bowl, so I had to fish it out with my fingers — mostly successful. Then I thought I’d better add the flour so you can’t see the bits of eggshell left in the bowl and that just made a sticky gooey mess. My eight-year-old brain was trying to think faster than my fingers. Maybe I’d better add sugar, yes, that will smooth out the batter. Well, no it didn’t.
A quick trip to the other room to check on mom. Yes she is still on the phone. Back to the cookie dough. Where did I leave off? Did I add the butter? Gosh the butter is hard. How will I ever get it mashed up? [Remember no microwaves in those days.] I’ll cut it up and mash it with a fork. Wait, mom doesn’t like me using knives. Oh a dinner knife will be okay I’m sure. Cut, cut, cut. Smash, smash, smash. Now it just looks like cut up smashed butter. Hmmmmm.
I’m not happy with where the cookie batter is at this point. I’m looking at a sticky, gooey mess mixed with hard smashed butter and I’m out of options with what to do next. I think I’ll go outside to play and wait for mom to get off the phone… which I do.
Quite some time passes and then I hear my name being called, maybe more like being shouted. My full entire name which mom only uses when I’m in trouble. Even my eight-year-old self understands that battle cry. Well at least mom’s off the phone and we’re… going… to… make… sugar… cookies???
Truthfully, the dough is simple and can be mixed up in a matter of a few minutes. After a short rest in the fridge to set the dough, and a quick roll out the cookies are ready to be cut out and baked!
All the cookies were cut out round today because this cookie occasion needed a batch of round uniform tasty morsels. However, cutting out these sugar cookies into festive shapes for special occasions can be fun, such as hearts for Valentine’s day, Easter bunnies and eggs in the spring, leaves in the fall, or bells, stars, and trees at Christmas time.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 eggs
- 1 lemon rind, grated
- Optional: colored sugars or decorative sugar sprinkles
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prep baking sheets with parchment paper, Silpat sheets or non-stick foil.
- Shift together dry ingredients: flour and baking powder. Set aside.
- Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
- Add in grated lemon rind, eggs, and vanilla.
- Stir in flour mixture. A soft dough will form. Put dough in the fridge for about 1 hour (or freezer for 15 minutes) to chill.
- Lightly flour your work surface, laying a chunk of the dough on it, and rolling out to a medium-thin cookie consistency. (Cookies will puff some during baking.)
- Cut cookies into desired shapes and lay onto baking sheets abut 1 1/2" apart. Sprinkle with sugar or decorative sprinkles.
- Bake for about 10 minutes - watching that cookies don't brown too much or they will be very crispy. If you want cookies softer, cook less than 10 minutes.
- This recipe has been updated from the 1960's when my mother used shortening. If you prefer to use it, then substitute 1/2 cup butter & 1/2 cup shortening for the 1 cup of butter listed above.