If you're around my age (29… eeek!) or older, you remember the first time you used the Internet. And the day you got your very own email address. I was in 8th grade and my dad helped to hook me up with a Hotmail address. It was around that time that I started AIMing like crazy, too. I'd stay up late chatting with my friends on AIM, marveling at the fact I could talk to everyone at once, unlike on the phone. Times, they were a'changing. And they were pretty sweet.
I also spent a lot of time filling out email chain letters. Not the kind that are "pass this on to 8 friends or you'll get bad luck and drop dead immediately." But the kind that required a bit more effort. There were countless "About Me" threads, in which I would sit down and spend hours thinking of the most clever answers to "who are you best friends?" to "what did you have for breakfast today?" I'd carefully fill out each answer and then send it along to all my friends, asking that they do the same. Yes, totally pointless, but so very important to me at that point in my life.
But my favorite email chains were the ones that required me to list all of the things that made me happy. I literally spent hours on these things, determined not to leave anything out. I listed everything from gummy frogs to Ricky Martin to field hockey to passing notes in Spanish class. I had a lot of things that made me happy and I wanted the world to know… Or at least my closest friends. And, you know, though in a sense it sounds like a major time waster, I think we were actually on to something. How often do we sit down and write about what makes us happy these days? Probably not nearly enough. It's something I'd really like to do a bit more. It could be the small things, like having it still be slightly light out when I get out of work or getting a seat on the T on the way to work to the larger things like having the most amazing family in the world.
In a sad turn of events, all of my Hotmail emails were deleted, which is a shame, really, as I'm sure there were some real gems in there. I'm sure there were also a whole lot of inside jokes and language that I would have no understanding of whatsoever these days. Much like my senior bio. But I'd still enjoy reading back on those things that made me happy back when I was 14 years old.
One thing I KNOW always makes me happy is sugar cookies. For some totally strange reason, I've never made my own sugar cookies before. So, I figured I needed to give it a go. As someone who is generally a huge failure at decorating any baked goods, I decided to attempt to go all out and decorate the cookies using royal icing. They came out a bit better than I expected, though I know I still have a whole lot to learn. I will definitely be making more cookies with royal icing in the future. This time, I used Martha Stewart's sugar cookie recipe because I trust her. And because she wanted me to add brandy to it.
- 2 C all-purpose flour
- ¼ t salt
- ½ t baking powder
- ½ C (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 C sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 2 T cognac (fine, or milk)
- Royal Icing (see below)
(pre-heat oven to 350 degrees)
The cookies are pretty simple to make. And totally worth it! Start by whisking together the flour, salt, and baking powder.
Then, in a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer) blend together the butter and sugar, until light and fluffy.
Mix in egg, vanilla, and cognac to the mixture. Sure, you can use milk, but Ms. Martha Stewart recommended brandy and I trust her, so I complied.
Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in. Mix until JUST blended, being careful not to over-mix.
Divide dough into two and flatten each half into a disk.
Wrap in plastic wrap and stick in the fridge for at least an hour.
Once the dough is chilled, you're ready to roll it out. On a floured surface, roll the dough to ⅛-inch thickness.
Cut whatever shape you desire with a cookie cutter and set onto parchment covered cookie pan. You can re-roll the dough out to form more cookies if you'd like. At this point, I might stick the cookie tray into the fridge or freezer for another couple minutes. A cool cookie always bakes better.
Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees, until lightly golden.
Move to wire rack to cool. Remember, you can't ice or frost the cookies until they're totally cooled!
Since I used Sweetopia's royal icing recipe without any adaptation, I'll send you along to her website for that. I didn't want to change a thing since her cookies are amazing and it was my first time attempting royal icing. I studied up on the icing a lot and learned about many different techniques. Sweetopia's seemed to be the simplest, especially if using multiple colors. She lines her cookies and floods them with icing of the same consistency, which means you don't need to have multiple bowls with different colors and consistencies of icing.
The recipe calls for meringue powder, which I got at my local party supply store. I loved the way this icing came out, so I definitely recommend getting some meringue powder for your royal icing.
Me and pastry bags don't get along too well, so I bought an icing squeeze bottle from Cuisipro and enjoyed using it much more than a pastry bag.
I used a number 2 pastry tip and followed Sweetopia's instructions. Watch her video if you really want to understand… It's pretty awesome. I held the tip away from the cookie to outline it (it feels like you'll be out of control holding it far away, but you're actually more in control) and then I filled the cookie in by bringing the pastry tip closer to the cookie; shook the cookie to fill the icing in; and used a toothpick to touch things up.
Because the icing I used to flood (fill in the outline) wasn't super liquidy, it definitely took a bit longer to fill the cookie with icing than I think it normally would. But I trucked on and ended up frosting all 24 cookies.
Though they're certainly not perfect and could definitely be cleaned up a bit, overall, I was pretty happy with how my first batch of sugar cookies with royal icing came out. Plus? They tasted pretty fantastic; just like the sugar cookies of my childhood. Perfectly sweet and just a little chewy.
Yes, these cookies are definitely on my new list of things that make me happy.
I served these at a little gathering I had at my apartment on Sunday, during which all my bridesmaids got together and helped me with a wedding craft. My friends (and glitter!) are also on my happy list.
As are you! Our most excellent readers.
Thank you for always supporting us and for reading our little blog all these years (we totally forgot to bring up our 4-year anniversary back in January, but yes, it's been 4 years! And I'm only just making sugar cookies…). I can't wait to see where we are in just another year from now!
Happy Valentine's Day!! No matter what your plans are, I hope you manage to make your own little happy list.
Do you take the time to reflect on what makes you happy?