This time of year, colors are everywhere. Bright crocuses peep from the soil, birds dot the sky and grass, and the shedding of dull winter coats reveal actual clothing not made to withstand Arctic winds.
I worked on Easter, thus missing the boat on candy, cookies, chocolate, ham, and more eatables. It didn't seem right to let my Easter basket sit empty, so I made some cookies to fill it up, providing the table with some much-needed color.
I initially thought about making homemade pierogies or ravioli - ambitious enough - but with the first week of nice weather upon us (hopefully for good), something more cheerful won out. Not that pierogies aren't cheerful - they are shaped like little smiles, after all.
As always, a recipe where I already have all the stuff is welcome. Sugar cookies and icing need the basic staples: sugar, eggs, flour, butter, milk, vanilla. But while looking for icing recipes, I took a detour to other homemade frostings and found one for strawberry buttercream. Wouldn't ya know it, I had strawberries - cue fanfare - so I added it to the game plan.
I received a nice new rolling pin via my Coca-Cola bottlecap rewards. The rolling pin is hollow and filled with cookie cutters, some of which were springy shapes - a flower, duck, bunny, and butterfly.
Making the dough was easy. I had a kitchen towel I got for Christmas that had a recipe for sugar cookies printed on it, but I found another basic recipe online in case the towel was mistaken.
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely. Makes 5 dozen.
Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
1 cup fresh strawberries
1 cup butter
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted, divided
Place strawberries in a blender; puree until smooth.
Transfer strawberry puree to a saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil, stirring often, until puree is reduced by at least half, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely.
Beat butter with an electric mixer in a bowl until light and fluffy. Beat 1 cup confectioners' sugar into butter until just blended. Beat 2 tablespoons strawberry puree and vanilla extract into butter mixture until just blended. Repeat with 1 cup confectioners' sugar, followed by 2 tablespoons strawberry puree two more times. Beat last 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar into mixture until just blended. Spread over cookies, cupcakes or angel food cake.
Sugar Cookie Icing
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons milk
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
In a small bowl, stir together confectioners' sugar and milk until smooth. Beat in corn syrup and almond extract until icing is smooth and glossy. If icing is too thick, add more corn syrup. Divide into separate bowls, and add food colorings to each to desired intensity. Dip cookies, or paint them with a brush or toothpick.
The chilled dough cut away easy from the cookie cutters, and there was enough dough to make plenty of cookies. In case of any decorating mistakes, burnt batches or dough munchies, there will be plenty left for the cookie basket.
The icing is where it gets really interesting. The confectioner's sugar glaze is thin enough to allow you to almost paint the icing onto the cookie. With a set of food coloring, you can create many colors of spring - yellow, red, orange, pink, purple, blue, green. A butterfly cookie can be painted with bright icing and dotted with sprinkles or other toppings. I used a toothpick to add swirls and other details.
For the strawberry buttercream (which exploded with strawberry scent after it was blended), I used my flower-shaped cookies. I topped them with a generous dollop of frosting, then added a slice of strawberry for garnish. They can also be made into sandwich cookies.
I wish I had more time to play with the colored icing. You can really get creative with the decorating, and there are plenty of tutorials online for making cookies as bright as a stained-glass window. Some of mine came out very pretty, and it was almost a shame to eat them.
A batch of colored sugar cookies are a welcome splash of color to any spring day - and don't forget the milk.