Forgive my sugar indulgence today, but a friend of mine has been going through a rough patch and she loves sugar cookies so I made a batch to take to her. I have to admit to having a very active sweet tooth and sugar always makes me feel better.
I got this recipe from my grandmother, but as with all recipes you have no idea where they originated from. A couple of years ago I was reading Nancy Baggett’s, The All American Cookie Book, which had an almost identical recipe with just slightly less vanilla. First off Nancy’s book is a real favorite of mine and if you do not have a copy you should get one in our store. I have to say I really love how she has traced the history of the recipe.
In her book Nancy attributes the recipe to a liniment maker and travelling salesman Joseph R. Watkins. She says, “I discovered this exceptionally tasty version in the Watkins Cook Book, an influential product promotion cookbook first published in 1936 by the Minnesota-based J. R. Watkins Company. The company was founded in 1868 by liniment maker and traveling salesman Joseph R. Watkins. By the 1930s, the firm had become the nation’s largest food and medicinals distributor, with 10,000 “dealers” selling more than 300 products door-to-door.” The original recipe called for Watkins Vanilla which they sold.
While these make a great decorated Christmas cookie, they also make a great everyday indulgence cookie as well. Since it is an indulgence that I usually make to give away, I make them into large cookies stamped out with the bottom of a sugared glass for a little extra sweetness on top, not that they in any way needed any more sugar.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose white flour, sifted after measuring
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
Generous pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, this is where we differed as we had 2 1/2 for a more vanilla flavor
Sugar to decorate
Pre heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease several baking sheets or coat with non stick spray.
In a large bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour and baking powder and set it aside. In another large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed. beat together the butter and sugar until well blended and fluffy.
Beat in the egg yolk . then the salt and vanilla, until evenly incorporated. Gradually beat or stir in the flour mixture to form a smooth dough.
Just making large sugar cookies
Roll pieces of the dough into 1″ balls. Place on the cookie sheet leaving plenty of room for the cookies to expand as they are mashed out. Place a thin layer of water in a bowl. Place a thin layer of sugar in another bowl. Dip the glass bottom in the water and then in the sugar to coat the bottom of the glass. Use the glass bottom to mash the balls out to a round shape to a little over 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick depending on how thick and crunchy that you like them. Place in the center rack in the oven and bake until the edges of the cookies are a golden brown about 8-11 minutes.
If you are going to cut into shapes and decorate
Divide the dough in half and place each portion between two large sheets of wax paper. Roll out each portion until it is 1/8 inch thick. Be sure to check both sides and smooth out any wrinkles that form. Stack the rolled portions (paper still attached) on a baking sheet and refrigerate until cold and firm about 30 minutes. If you are in a rush you can freeze the dough for about 15 minutes to speed up the process.
Remove one of the portions from the refrigerator and leave the other one cold and chilling. Peel away both pieces of waxed paper. Place the dough back on one of the sheets and cut with your cookie cutters to the desired shapes. If the dough softens too much place it on a baking sheet and put back in the refrigerator or freezer until firm again. Using a spatula, carefully transfer the cookies to the baking sheets, spacing about 1 inches apart. Re-roll any dough scraps. Continue cutting out the cookies until all the dough is used. Decorate the cookies with anything that you wish.
Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, in the upper third of the oven for 8 – 11 minutes, or until lightly colored on top and slightly darker at the edges. Cool the cookies on a rack.