With another holiday at hand, I found my thoughts drifting to my giant box of cookie cutters, contemplating the fact that I hadn't decorated a batch of sugar cookies since Easter. I knew I had a set of Halloween cutters that I had not yet had an opportunity to use, and I figured it was time to flex my icing skills before the Christmas rush. However, I did want to experiment at least a little bit, so I looked through my recipe inspiration archive and found a recipe for brown sugar spice cookies from another blogger who specializes in decorating cookies. I figured her recipe would be reliable, given the quantity of cookies she bakes, and it would provide a nice change of pace from the old Alton Brown sugar cookie recipe I've been using since college.
I actually rather liked the subtle hint of warm spices, and the slightly softer texture to the cookies afforded by the brown sugar. They were still firm enough to ice, but less tough than the cookies I usually bake for decorating purposes. Mom agreed with my assessment, and Justin responded favorably to them as well, but Dad gave the cookies a resounding, "Blech!" and demanded to know what I had done to the sugar cookies. Hence, even though I actually enjoyed these cookies more than my standard sugar cookies, I don't think I'll be including them in my Cookie Bonanza. I think it's just not good to mess with people's expectations that way, and I already have a solid spice cookie contender anyway.
However, the success of these cookies has emboldened me to try tweaking my sugar cookie recipe. The blog where I found this recipe has a plain recipe I think I'll try, since I liked how these cookies baked up. They were less lumpy and more crisply defined than my usual cookies, even without refrigerating the dough as I have done in the past. I still recommend these cookies without reservation -- I would definitely make them again, just not for my cookie giveaway.
For maximum efficiency, I stuck to two cookie shapes that could be decorated with the same two colors of icing: ghosts and bats. I was most pleased with how the ghosts turned out; I love their spooky little ghost faces. My original impulse with the bats was to pipe fangs on them, but it quickly became apparent that the fangs looked more like eyes, so I decided to leave them up to the consumer's interpretation. Also, as ever, I couldn't seem to get the black icing as dark as I would have preferred, but I guess there's nothing particularly bad about charcoal grey bats. Overall, I was quite pleased with how the cookies came out, especially given my strong preference for abstract and geometric-printed cookies.
Brown Sugar and Spice Cookies
3 c unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated, if possible)
1/8 tsp allspice
1/2 c granulated sugar (I use sugar that I've stored vanilla beans in)
1/2 c light brown sugar (packed)
2 sticks butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and spices, set aside.
Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg and extracts and mix until well-blended.
Gradually add the flour mixture and beat just until combined, scraping down the bowl, especially the bottom. (The dough will be quite thick...you may need to knead in stray bits of flour from the bottom of the bowl by hand.)
Roll on a floured surface and cut into shapes. Place on parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 9-12 minutes, depending on the size of your cutter. Let sit a few minutes on the sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack.
Decorate as desired.