Monday, March 29, 2010

Hand Decorated Sugar Cookies - Part One

My love of hand decorated sugar cookies started when I took a cookie decorating class with Toba Garrett at the International Center for Culinary Education (ICE) in NYC fourteen years ago.  Toba is the  Master Chef- Instructor of Cake Decorating and Design at ICE and she has written three books dedicated to the art of cookie and cake decorating.  I was fortunate to take 5 series of classes with her.  She is an exacting task master but once you have done the cookies this way you will never use any other technique.

These are the cookies that I sold at Dean and DeLuca, Balducci's and Fresh Direct in NYC.  I taught the cookie decorating class at Williams-Sonoma on 86th and Madison for several years using these recipes.   The classes were always sold out.

Toba's book is " Creative Cookies" and this is the recipe that I use:

Sugar Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour

Have all ingredients at room temperature.  Sift the dry ingredients.  In a stand mixer cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy using paddle attachment.  This should take about two minutes - scrape the bowl and beat for an additional two minutes.  Beat in the egg and vanilla extract until incorporated.  Lower the speed on the mixer to the lowest speed possible and add the flour mixture slowly.  The dough will be very stiff.  Do not over beat.

Divide the dough into two discs and wrap in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for at least two hours and for up to two weeks.   (I doubled the recipe so I divided it into four discs.)

When you are ready to use the dough divide each of the discs in half and roll out.  I do not use flour when I roll cookies out as this adds to the dryness of the dough - I place the dough on a piece of plastic wrap and use a rolling pin with a washable cheese cloth sleeve.  By not using additional flour you can re-roll the scraps of dough and make many more cookies.  At this point I have all my cookie cutters ready and after I cut the cookies out I put the dough back into the fridge to get cold again.  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Place cookies on the sheets and put in oven for 6 to 8 minutes.  They are ready when the edges of the cookies just start to turn brown.  Do not overbake as they will continue to bake on the cookie sheet  when they come out of the oven.  When cool remove to a cookie rack and rest until ready to decorate.  If you are not ready to immediately decorate you can leave them on the cookie rack covered with a linen kitchen towel for 24 hours.

Cookies baked waiting for decorating


  1. Suzanne, I've been baking ALL kinds of cookies for years (as you know) and your hints are the difference between really good cookies and GREAT, PROFESSIONAL style cookies! I never thought to put my dough back in the fridge after cutting them, makes perfect sense! Thanks for the hints... Keep up the good work! Linda

  2. I discovered this blog through a link from Wendy Baker, and it is FABULOUS! I, like you, have taken many classes, and have been a cookie baker since I was a child as well. I have dreams of opening a bakery or cookie store, but for now, my friends and family's enjoyment will have to do. Thanks for all your postings; I look forward to following more! Betsi

  3. Iam so Proud of you Suzanne.... Dreams do come true ..... love ya Andy

  4. Stumbled across this while trying to find a recipe close to the one used for Dean & Deluca's cookies....Oh my goodness. These turned out amazing. Your tips make all the difference, thanks for an amazing recipe!!