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zonapellucida July 27th, 2004 11:24 AM

The holidays often bring to mind the image of baking sugar
cookies, cut into all sorts of holiday shapes, and decorated with
sprinkles. It's a fun holiday tradition you can start with your
preschoolers, or even your older children. They will have long
lasting memories of baking in the kitchen with you. So, put on
your aprons, and let's get started.

First you need a good sugar cookie recipe. Here is a favorite,
that works well with cookie cutters.

4 cups flour
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
3/4 t nutmeg
1 c butter, softened
1 1/2 c sugar
2 t vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 c sour cream

In a larger mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar together till
fluffy. Stir in vanilla and eggs. Combine flour, baking soda,
baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Add flour mixture gradually to
butter mixture, alternating with sour cream in portions. Blend
well. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, separate
cookie mixture into 4 portions, use one portion at a time to roll
out to 1/4" thickness and cut with cookie cutters. Keep remaining
portions refrigerated till ready to use one at a time. Place cut
out cookies on cookie sheets approximately 1" apart. Bake at 450
F for 4-6 minutes, or till edges become golden brown.

You can frost them, after cooling, with the basic frosting recipe
below. Just mix together all ingredients until smooth. Food
coloring can help you get a whole palette of colors to work with.

3/4 cup butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp. vanilla
food coloring (optional)

If you find that your cookies spread during baking, here are some
tips to help reduce it.

1. High sugar content increases spread. But since you are making
sugar cookies that really can't be helped. You should use fine or
confectioner's sugar in your recipe and that should help.

2. Cream butter and sugar just until it is a paste. If the
mixture becomes light and fluffy this will increase the spread.

3. Cook at a high temperature so that the cookies set up before
they have a chance to spread.

4. Use a high gluten or bread flour in your cookies.

5. Don't grease the pan that you bake the cookies on. This way
the grease won't spread the cookies out.

Starting holiday baking traditions is a great way to get your
younger children involved in the festivities of the season. Most
young children will be able to help with some part of baking
cookies whether it's helping with measuring and mixing or cutting
out the cookies and helping frost. Seeing their finished works
gives a wonderful sense of self accomplishment. It can also be a
learning experience, you can discuss measuring with your older
preschoolers, or even learning colors, while frosting, for the
youngest bakers.

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