America's Test Kitchen's latest book The Perfect Cookie: Your Ultimate Guide to Foolproof Cookies, Brownies & Bars ($23) includes a recipe for Foolproof Holiday Cookies. How did ATK achieve such a feat? Well, it starts with a "Reverse-Creaming Method" (explained down below) and a key secret ingredient: cream cheese. This recipe and its unique, somewhat backward way of doing things will blow away new and experienced bakers alike. Topped with a homemade glaze and colored sanding sugar, these cookies may look like you spent hours in the kitchen, but in reality, they are a cinch to bake and decorate.
— Additional reporting by Anna Monette Roberts
Making holiday cookies — the rolled, cutout, and glazed butter-cookie variety — is everyone's favorite Fall baking activity. Unfortunately, these cookies either look good but taste like cardboard or have buttery, rich flavor but lack visual appeal. We wanted a simple recipe that would produce cookies sturdy enough to decorate yet tender enough to be worth eating. Superfine sugar helped to achieve a delicate texture, and using the reverse-creaming method — beating the butter into the flour-sugar mixture — prevented the formation of air pockets and produced flat cookies that were easy to decorate. Looking to make our dough a bit more workable without adding more butter — at 16 tablespoons, we'd maxed out — we landed on the addition of a little cream cheese, which made the dough easy to roll but not too soft. Baking the butter cookies one sheet at a time ensured that they baked evenly. Do not reroll the scraps more than once; it will cause the cookies to be tough. This recipe can easily be doubled. You can decorate the cooled cookies with Easy All-Purpose Glaze for a sweet, festive touch.
- For the cookies:
- 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) superfine sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and softened
- 1 ounce cream cheese, softened
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- For the easy all-purpose glaze:
- 2 cups (8 ounces) confectioners' sugar
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1 ounce cream cheese, softened
- Food coloring (optional)
- Colored sanding sugar, for decoration, optional
- To make the cookies: Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, mix flour, sugar, and salt on low speed until combined. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, and mix until dough looks crumbly and slightly wet, 1 to 2 minutes. Add cream cheese and vanilla and beat until dough just begins to form large clumps, about 30 seconds.
- Transfer dough to counter; knead just until it forms cohesive mass and divide in half. Form each half into disk, wrap disks tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days. (Wrapped dough can be frozen for up to 2 weeks. Let dough thaw completely in refrigerator before rolling.)
- Working with 1 disk of dough at a time, roll dough 1/8 inch thick between 2 large sheets of parchment paper. Slide dough, still between parchment, onto baking sheet and refrigerate until firm, about 10 minutes.
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Working with 1 sheet of dough at a time, remove top piece of parchment and cut dough into shapes with cookie cutters. Using thin offset spatula, transfer shapes to prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1-inch apart.
- Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until light golden brown, about 10 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Let cookies cool on sheet for 3 minutes, then transfer to wire rack. Let cookies cool completely before serving.
- To make glaze: Mix ingredients together. Coloring the glaze is optional.
- Editor's note: To each completely cooled cookie, apply a small dollop of glaze and spread out into a thin layer with the back of a spoon or offset spatula, careful not to spill over the edges. While glaze is still wet, add sprinkles. Allow to dry before serving.
Reprinted from The Perfect Cookie. Copyright © 2017 by America's Test Kitchen. Published by Penguin Random House Publisher Services.
- Desserts, Cookies
- 36 cookies
- Cook Time
- 10 minutes