I was going to write some things about Mardi Gras and how you should go and how it’s cool, but instead I’ll just show you some pictures. You see, last year for Mardi Gras, I was in New Orleans. It was a black & gold Mardi Gras, seeing as it was right after the Saints won the Superbowl.
It was epic.
It was crowded.
It was star-studded. (New Orleans stars anyways.)
It was chilly. We kept our shirts on. But we still got beads!
Some were better prepared than others.
It was glowing.
All in all, it was a good time. DUH. It was Mardi Gras. It takes a special kind of person to go to the biggest party ever and not have fun. The best throw I caught last year was a huge black and gold fleur de lis. (I wear it with my Saints jersey during football games.) I cheated to get these beads. There was a traffic jam during Endymion, and I wandered over to a float that had been stuck in the same place for a long time. This means that all the men on the float had just been sitting around drinking with nothing to do. So when I went over there, I just stood there looking up at them, pointing at the beads I wanted and saying pretty please with a charming smile.
Cheap, I know. But I do love those beads.
In other news, I found the best recipe for cut-out sugar cookies ever, using a recipe from Big Fat Cookies by Elinor Klivans, my wonderful new cookbook. And I just so happen to have a huge copper fleur de lis cookie cutter. It was pretty obvious what I needed to do today.
They didn’t spread at ALL in the oven, and they baked up thick and tender. I think this was due to both the shortening (things with a lot of butter tend to spread more) and the cornstarch. I don’t really question these things when they turn out so well, I just go with it. Sometimes when things look really nice they don’t taste as nice, and what good is a pretty cookie if it tastes like sawdust? No good. But these actually taste fantastic. They’re rich and smooth tasting, and not too sweet. The only change I made to the recipe was to up the almond extract because I love me some almond flavor. Next time I’ll probably add some orange or lemon zest because I love citrus sugar cookies.
Ok ok, here we go.
Perfect Cut-Out Sugar Cookies (“Celebration Sugar Cookies”)
Makes 12 GIANT cookies (like mine), 24 large cookies, or more depending on the cookie cutter size
2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup (= 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (you could use butter flavor if you want, but I like the clean taste of regular)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 cups powdered sugar
3 TBS buttermilk (or regular milk)
1. For cookies – In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, shortening, and sugar using an electric mixer at medium speed (or you can do this all by hand), until fluffy and pale, about 1-2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the egg and both extracts until combined. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat on low speed (or with a rubber spatula) just until incorporated. Dough should be soft and pillowy and smooth.
3. Divide the dough into 2 balls and form each into a disk about 6 inches in diameter. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm and chilled, about 1 hour. You can refrigerate it for longer, but let it sit at room temperature for a bit until you can work with it.
4. Preheat the oven to 350ºF with a rack in the middle position. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, or just lightly grease them. When the dough is chilled, unwrap one disk at a time, leaving the other in the fridge. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the disk to a circle about 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick, depending on personal preference. (I like thick, soft sugar cookies.) Using a floured cookie cutter, cut out cookies, getting as many as possible from each rolling. Use a thin metal spatula to transfer cut outs to baking sheets, placing about 1 inch apart. Re-roll scraps and repeat cutting out cookies. When the baking sheet is full, go ahead and put it in the oven for 11-13 minutes, until cookies are lightly browned on the edges. (You can roll out the second disk, in the same way as the first, while the first batch is baking.) Let baked cookies cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to let cool completely. If a cookie happens to break during transfer from sheet to rack, you can eat it.
5. For icing – While cookies are cooling, make the icing. Combine powdered sugar and buttermilk in a medium bowl and mix until completely combined. If you want thicker icing, add more powdered sugar. If you want thinner icing, add more buttermilk.
6. When cookies are completely cool, frost them as desired.
Recipe adapted from Big Fat Cookies by Elinor Klivans, page 75
I realize I could have frosted these a little neater, using icing tips and pastry bags and flooding and such. But it’s Monday night. Let’s get real. Either way they look like Mardi Gras and they taste like awesome!
Do you have a go-to sugar cookie recipe? Any Mardi Gras plans? Thanks for reading, and happy baking!