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Sugar and Cutout Cookies
Notes:  There are sugar cookies, then there are sugar cookies.  

Some can be laced with spices, (cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg), rolled inlemon or lime 
zest,or mixed with dried fruit, nuts, crystallized ginger. Others can be used for cutout cookies.

Pam Anderson uses 2 sticks of butter and no baking powder, Martha Stewart uses 1 stick butter and
 a little baking powder. Better Homes and Gardens advises against substituting cooking oil for
 margarine.  

The American heart association recommends as a substitute for butter, an "acceptable margarine."
Acceptable means it should list liquid vegetable oil, e.g., corn oil, as the first ingredient and
 should contain no more than 2 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon.  They do not
mention solid shortenings like Crisco, so it must be "acceptable."  
    
Most recipes recommend chilling the dough-- if necessary for 3 hours. If making cutouts, chilling
for at least an hour is necessary, as my daughter learned!   Epicurious.com says you can chill it
in the frig for up to 5 days; or, 1 month in the freezer, if wrapped in a double layer of plastic
wrap.

We tried the first, an old  Better Homes and Gardens recipe, because it uses less
butter.

Beware the slipperiness of parchment paper when it's time to transfer the cookies! 

1. Sugar Cookies, low-fat version

1/3 cp butter or margarine
1/3 cp shortening
3/4 cp sugar
1 ` t baking powder
1 egg
1 t vanilla
2 cp flour
1. Soften butter at room temperature, then beat at medium speed.  Add sugar, baking powder, and a dash
 of salt, beating till well blended.
2. Beat in egg and vanilla.  Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer, then stir in 
remaining flour.
3. Chill dough.
4. Divide dough in half and roll out to 1/8" thickness.  Using a cookie cutter, cut into desired 
shapes, dipping cutter's edge into flour to prevent sticking.
5. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 375( for 7-8 minutes) or till edges are firm and bottoms 
are very lightly browned.
6. Cool on rack and frost with icing below.

Powdered Sugar Icing

Note:  We picked this icing from several choices, because it does not require cooking and uses no eggs,
 butter, or shortening.  We debated using rum or brandy in place of the milk or orange juice, but 
decided in favor of fresh squeezed lemon juice and a tad of grated lemon peel.

1	cp sifted powdered sugar
1/4	t vanilla
1	T milk or orange juice
food coloring if necessary

Combine all ingredients and blend we.. till it reaches drizzling consistency.  Add more liquid if
 necessary.

2. Sugar Cutouts

Note:  This recipe combines elements from Bon Appetit (December 2003) and Betty Crocker's
Holiday Cookies (December 2005).  Finally found a cutout cookie dough I can work with AND tastes 
great (December 2008).  Notes for next time: remember whether I used a sugar substititue or not; try 
freezing some of the dough.  

You can use an electric mixer to cut the butter into the sugar.  There must be a reason why I stuck
with using two knives to blend the two . . .
3    cps flour
1    t baking powder
1/2  t salt
1    cp (two sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1    cp sugar
1    large egg
2    T sour cream
1    t vanilla extract

additional sugar
1.  Sift dry ingredients into a bowl.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2.  Cut or mix butter and sugar.  
3.  Add egg, vanilla, and sour cream.  
4.  Add the dry ingredients in batches.
5.  Divide the dough in half, flatten and chill for at least 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
6.  Roll out from the center till the dough is 1/4" thick.
7.  Place each cutout 1" apart.
8.  Experiment with baking time. A suggested range is 12 to 15 minutes.

Icing

2   cps powdered sugar
1/4 cp cream cheese, softened
3   T milk
1   t vanilla
sprinkles, food coloring, other decors

Mix all ingredients together.  Adjust thickness for spreading by adding more milk or powdered sugar.
Several of my cutouts (reindeer, moose, loon) are so fragile, I set aside some for thinning to
dribbling consistency so I don't break their legs or beaks!

Use some smaller bowls for icing that will be colored.

The sky is the limit in decorating.