Jimmy’s Pink Cookies

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Just in time for Valentine’s Day – barely! (and let’s not talk about how I didn’t post a single recipe all of January). I read about these cookies awhile ago, and have been patiently waiting for the right time to make them. And while one could argue that anytime is the right time for pink cookies, I think these are best saved for either a (baby girl) baby shower or Valentine’s Day. I made them for my sister-in-law’s baby shower a couple weeks ago, but of course didn’t think to take pictures, so I had to make them again this week for the blog (the sacrifices I make for you people!). They’re super easy, adorable, and delicious, so if you’re in need of a last minute treat for Saturday, I think these might be it.

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I read about these cookies in Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life. Molly Wizenberg of Orangette and Delancey, so if she’s writing about a sugar cookie you know it must be good.  I’m guessing Jimmy is her friend; she credits him with the recipe.  I make sugar cookies pretty frequently so I’m a little disenchanted with them, but something about these – be it the excessive amount of butter, the cream cheese frosting, the pink – really makes them extra special.  They might not be as fancy as my usual royal-icing holiday cookies, but they taste a lot yummier – and you can frost them in about one-fifth of the time.  Coming from someone who was up an extra three hours last night (and missed Scandal) outlining and flooding three dozen Valentine hearts, that’s worth a lot.

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Please note the cherry extract in the photo. The frosting calls for kirsch or cherry extract – per my Google research, kirsch is a cherry-flavored brandy, traditionally used in fondue (gross?). I couldn’t find it anywhere, although if I’m being honest I didn’t look that hard, because cherry extract sounded more like something that belongs in frosting. However, when I made these for my sister-in-law’s baby shower a couple weeks ago I couldn’t find the cherry extract either, and I actually DID look – at seven different stores.  SEVEN. Including a Wal-Mart, because when I Googled “cherry extract” Wal-Mart popped up. Again, the things I do for this blog – it takes a lot to get me into a Wal-Mart. But alas, they didn’t have it, nor did any of the other six places I tried – so I just used vanilla and the cookies were delicious. And then for purposes of blog accuracy I ordered cherry extract on Amazon and used it this time, and I have to admit I kind of liked it. But I have a weird palate for artificial fruit flavor I think – it smells just like cough syrup, which I also weirdly love.  All of this is to say, if you have kirsch on hand (or find yourself at a liquor store and feel like splurging on a bottle, even though you only need a teaspoon for this recipe), by all means please try it (you can always use the rest of the bottle for fondue, apparently). If you’re planning ahead and want to order cherry extract on Amazon, I definitely wouldn’t discourage you (you could also just borrow mine). But if both of those options sound stressful, you could definitely use vanilla – or almond – or any flavor you like – and your cookies will be just fine.

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Aren’t they so cute? My only regret is that I didn’t use more frosting – Molly tells you to spread it on thick but I was worried about running out so I scrimped a little, and then of course I had tons left over. The frosting really makes the cookie – I think it should be as thick as the cookie itself. Happy Valentine’s Day! (And incidentally, happy second birthday to B&B! Valentine’s Day Year One and Year Two, if you want to kill some time). XOXO.

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Jimmy’s Pink Cookies, from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

For the Cookies
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons (3 ounces, or 3/4 of one stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 1/4 teaspoons kirsch, or more to taste, or a capful of cherry extract
Red (or pink) food coloring

To make the cookies, combine the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat, first on low speed, and then slowly increasing to medium, until light and fluffy. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt and whisk well. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating until the flour is just absorbed. Add the vanilla and beat well to incorporate. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on a large, clean surface, and turn the dough out onto it. Gather the dough into a ball, press it into a thick disk, and wrap it well. Refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. On a clean, floured surface, roll the dough out to a thickness of 3/8 inch. (If you don’t have a lot of room, cut the disk of dough down the middle and work with only one half at a time, leaving the second half in the refrigerator until ready for use.) Using a cookie cutter, cut the dough into whatever shapes you like. Molly uses a 2 1/2 inch round cutter, which, once the cookies have puffed slightly during baking, yields a 2 3/4-to-3 inch cookie. Jimmy uses a much bigger cutter, often in the shape of a heart. I used small (2″) and medium (3″) hearts – the cookies are pretty rich so I opted not to use my large (4″) heart, but you definitely could just go for it and make them huge.

Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake them one sheet at a time, keeping the second sheet in the refrigerator or freezer until the first one is done, for 16-20 minutes, or until the cookies are pale golden at the edge. Do not allow them to brown (oops, some of mine did!). Transfer the pan to a wire rack, and cool the cookies completely on the pan.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and beat on low speed to fully incorporate, then raise the speed to medium or medium high and beat until there are no lumps, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the kirsch (or extract) and a couple drops of red (or pink) food coloring and beat well. The frosting should be a pretty shade of pale pink. Taste, and if you want more cherry flavor, beat in a bit more kirsch (or extract). Generously spread frosting onto fully cooled cookies. Decorate with sprinkles if you’re so inclined.

Stored in an airtight container, pink cookies will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days – and they’re delicious cold – or you can freeze them indefinitely.

Yield: 20-24 (3-inch) cookies (I yielded 15 3″ hearts and 15 2″ hearts)

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Friday Faves

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{last of the babies from my grandpa’s garden}

Happy last weekend of summer! Are you sad to see it end or soooooo ready for fall? I’m a little of the former but more of the latter – but I’m going to make a pitcher of this and just try to just appreciate the sunny weather while it lasts. I hope everyone has something fun on their agenda for the weekend.  I’m a little emotionally drained from the Mariners’ wildcard race (especially last night’s game!) and my fantasy loss on Monday night, but looking forward to some good baseball and football this weekend all the same. Some fun links and pics to get you through the work day:

  • Loving all of this career advice from some of my favorite people
  • Who doesn’t need more chocolate cake in their life?
  • And then an apple and fennel salad to offset it.
  • So much about Sex and The City I didn’t know!
  • I know this video came out awhile ago, but I saw it for the first time yesterday and it’s exactly how I feel about my little baby nephew (sob).

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{sugar cookies for baby cousin piper’s first birthday}

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{definitely the best way to be asked to be a bridesmaid!}

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{cold brew at home}

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{love this little guy and his funny sleep positions so much}

How To: Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with frosted sugar cookies over the past few years – I think they are the sweetest, most adorable cookies when they look good, but try as I might, I’ve never been able to perfect those perfectly straight borders and smooth finishes. I’ve spent many a Sunday afternoon frosting pink and red Valentines Day hearts, green St. Patty’s Day shamrocks, pink and blue onesies for baby showers, and countless Christmas designs – and they never seem to turn out quite as well as I’d hoped.  Some of my prior attempts, and cookie inspirations, below:

Top to bottom, left: pink onesies for my friend Heather’s baby shower a couple years ago, cacti and chili peppers for my friend Karrie’s “fiesta” themed baby shower last summer, life preservers for my friend Courteney’s nautical themed baby shower last fall. Top right: the way I want my cookies to look someday – hippos for my friend Lindsay’s baby shower, made by the oh-so-talented Yoona Park; bottom right: when I just gave up and ordered cookies off of Etsy (link here – I would completely recommend this woman) for my friend Amanda’s shower (also nautical themed).  On a related note – I’m starting to think I need to come up with a new baby shower favor idea.  Also, one reason I can never quit social media, no matter how often I’m tempted – I was able to dig up all of these pics, which have long been deleted from my phone.

So, when my friend Kristen told me she had taken a sugar cookie decorating class, of course I begged her to come over and share some (all) of her secrets. Not realizing it would be over ninety degrees this weekend, we made plans to get together for a cookie decorating party/tutorial session on Sunday afternoon.  Kristen picked out two designs she thought would be good basics, and despite the sweltering heat, we got to work.

The most important part of a perfect sugar cookie (I’m going to go ahead and use the word perfect, although mine still have a ways to go, but “perfect” meaning what we’re all aspiring towards) is the consistency of the icing. The first time I used meringue powder (essentially dried egg whites in powdered form, it’s what makes the frosting dry solid), I followed the recipe on the tub, which makes a pretty thick frosting – and then assumed there was something wrong with the way I frosted.  As it turns out, it was the recipe’s fault, not mine – I just needed to add more water.  I used to always ask Yoona (of the perfect hippos, above) what her secret was, and when she told me to thin the frosting with water I assumed she was just trying to hide her actual secrets from me. Turns out she was telling the truth – that’s really all you have to do. 

There’s some debate about whether it’s best to use a thicker frosting to outline your cookies, and then a thinner frosting to flood, or rather to just use a medium-thick consistency for both.  There are a number of tutorials online that can explain the frosting better than I can – I like this one (I also used her cookie recipe) and this one. For the squares, we ended up with a consistency that was thick enough to hold a line when you outlined the shape of the cookie, but thin enough that it would “flood” the outline and spread into a smooth surface once flooded.

To do the pinwheel design, we thinned the frosting even more, so that the colors would bleed into the white and dry as one smooth finish. We outlined with the thicker white so that the circle would hold its shape, and then flooded the circle with the thinned white and immediately piped on the colored circles using thinned red and blue icing and with a size #2 tip on the pastry bag. I should have taken more pictures, but we were just so engrossed in our decorating that I forgot.  As soon as you’ve piped the colors on, use a toothpick to create a pinwheel, spiderweb, or “firework” shape. A better tutorial can be found here.

Kristen found this design online as well; for these, we just waited for the white to dry, and then with a thickened icing (just add more powdered sugar) and a #1 tip we drew the design on (Kristen, ever the perfectionist, used a stencil; I “freehanded” mine so they’re a little less uniform). Although my sprinkles look yellow, they are technically “gold” and were the best that I could find (shouldn’t one be able to find gold sprinkles when it’s fireworks season?!?) – I applied an edible gel with a toothpick (should have used a small paintbrush) once the red and blue frosting were dry, and then sprinkled the gold on top for a little added sparkle.

Thanks to Kristen, I have a whole new level of confidence in my royal icing skills, and thus a newfound enthusiasm for the next baby shower I get to host. I hope everyone has a safe and happy Fourth of July – and if you want to hire Kristen for your next party, let me know – she does amazing cakes and cupcakes too!