My grandmother made the world’s best sugar cookies. I’ve never tasted any like them, ever. Her cookies are soft, moist, and delicate. Because I grew up eating these, I have been spoiled and don’t care for the harder sugar cookies most people seem to make. The key ingredient is buttermilk, which makes for a soft dough, but is also responsible for the texture and flavor. Because of the soft texture, you need to make this dough, then freeze it completely before you attempt to roll it out and cut it out. There are many family stories about this. One year my aunt took the entire batch out to a table set up in the garage and rolled them out in the garage where the dough would stay cold. The first time I attempted it, I didn’t freeze it long enough and I ended up with a huge mess. The other trick is picking the right cut out shapes. The dough spreads and softens as it cooks, so many shapes become unrecognizable. I’ve found that stars work quite well. Candy canes also work. Santas, snowmen and trees tend to just blur and become blobs. My grandmother often just made these as circles.
As my Christmas gift to you, dear readers, I’m going to share this special family recipe.
Gai’s Sugar Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
2 cups buttermilk
4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla. Alternate adding dry ingredients with buttermilk. Freeze the dough for several hours. Roll the dough out using lots of flour on the counter and on the rolling pin because it will stick if you aren’t careful. Roll this out a bit thicker than you would with regular sugar cookies – you want it to be about a 1/2 inch thick. Flour the cookie cutters. Place on silpats in a oven preheated to 375 degrees. Bake for 10-12 minutes. You want to take them out when the bottoms are just beginning to brown. Don’t let the top of the cookie get brown or it will be too hard. Let them rest on the baking sheets until cool and then remove them.
I usually make a simple frosting of butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and milk (which you can color with food coloring if you want different colors) and then we decorate them with colored sugar. As you can see in the photo, my kids really get into it!