In Ithaca Commons, there is a cooking store directly across from a used bookstore. As you can imagine, this is my favorite part of the pedestrian mall. Naturally, we stopped in at the cooking store while showing my mom around town this weekend.
The second I saw the adorable leaf and squirrel cookie cutters, I had a flash of inspiration. Why not shake up the typical sugar cookie recipe by adding a dash of rich maple flavor? And even better, why not form said maple sugar cookies into seasonally appropriate leaves and squirrels?
This cookie making became an all-day endeavor. The cookies themselves didn’t take long to bake, but this was also my first time decorating with royal icing, so I wasn’t very speedy with the finishing touches. Plus, I also made some green tea shortbread (recipe to come!) at the same time. The final products were definitely worth it, though!
This recipe was spot-on. The sweet maple is noticeable without being overwhelming. And while the bottoms of the cookies are crisp, the cookies are tender and chewy.
- 1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Beat the butter with the sugar until smooth and creamy. Add the egg, syrup and vanilla, and beat until well-mixed with the butter. Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt until the dough is smooth.
- Divide the dough in half. Place each half between two sheets of wax paper and roll out to 1/4" thick. Refrigerate for 30-45 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375F. Pull one dough sheet from the refrigerator and peel off the top sheet of wax paper. Cut into shapes using your favorite cookie cutters and space 1" apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake for 7-9 minutes at 375F until the edges start to brown. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
- Savvy Tip: Leave the other half of the dough refrigerated until you need it. As the dough warms up, it will not hold its shape as well and will stick to the wax paper more!
- When you can't get any more cookies out of your dough, mash the scraps together and roll the dough out once more. Cut out all the additional cookies you can, then do what my grandpa always did: piece together the scraps into random shapes and place them on the cookie sheets. Inspired by my grandpa, I created an acorn cookie to go with my leaves and squirrels!
- Savvy Tip: If you roll the dough out more than twice, the cookies will be tough. Use the 'random shapes' method for the scraps after the second rolling instead!
- The acorn was prized, while the really random shapes were great for 'taste testing' and practice decorating! ;)
- Allow the cookies to cool completely before decorating. To ice and embellish the cookies, follow the royal icing tutorial on Brown Eyed Baker. If you're new to decorating like me, she can tell you a lot better how to do it than I can!
Make Ahead and Storage
I love my fall-inspired sugar cookies, and think they can be easily adapted to fit into my holiday cookie selection as well. Maple snowflakes and evergreen trees? Sound good to me!