When it comes to rolled and decorated sugar cookies, Kathy Carr is an inspiration. She and her husband, Rob Carr, live in Lenexa. She works in learning and development for a telecommunications company and Rob is the pastor at North Oak Christian Church. They raised four children and have three grandchildren.
Q: How did you get started baking cookies?
A: I am not a cook and growing up, I didn’t learn to cook a lot of foods. My husband likes to cook, so he often cooks dinner for us, but I bake cookies. When my daughter was 3, I thought baking cookies would be something fun to do with her. I had received a basic Better Homes and Gardens cookbook as a wedding present years before she was born, found the cookie recipe in that book and started baking. I find joy in baking and decorating cookies.
Q: Do you bake cookies all year or just for holidays?
A: I bake and decorate cookies all year long, for every holiday, from the Super Bowl, through Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas. I don’t have to think twice about what to take to a potluck. I do not sell my cookies, but occasionally I have made them for friends and families.
When my children were growing up, I baked cookies for all of their events and clubs. When one of my children was a senior in high school, we counted all of the cookies I made that year and donated to school or club events. We hosted a contest, offering two dozen cookies to whoever guessed the number correctly. I baked 426 dozen cookies that year.
Because I bake so many cookies, I collect cookies cutters. I now have 550 cutters for every holiday, occasion or time of year. I also collect platters and serving trays to use when sharing or presenting the cookies.
Q: How did your cookie party get started and what is it like?
A: I first baked cookies for a holiday cookie exchange. Soon, others suggested that they wanted my cookies, so I started baking more cookies, then hosted a cookie party. This is my 18th year and the party is normally a couple of weeks before Christmas.
Typically, about 20 or 30 people are invited to the party and I bake two dozen cookies for each person. I start baking a day or two ahead of the event and last year I baked (480) cookies for the party. To add to the festivities, the guests bring snacks to share while they frost their cookies. I set up tables all over the house, set out frosting, sprinkles, and candies so everyone can decorate cookies. Each guest can then take home their cookies. It is always fun to see the creative ways people decorate cookies.
Q: Do you have tips for those beginning to bake the cookies?
A: I always say, if I can bake sugar cookies, anyone can. Since many families are spending a lot of time at home now, I suggest they bake cookies for Halloween, or plan ahead for holiday baking. It is fun and is a great family activity.
I rarely make just one batch of cookies and the recipe is easy to double or even triple. I make the dough one day, then refrigerate it overnight. The dough is easier to roll out and cut if well chilled. I like to bake the cookies one day, then frost and decorate them the next.
To ensure the cookies bake evenly, I arrange just one shape of cookie on each baking sheet. Since the cookies are the same size, all of the cookies on that sheet require the same baking time. I also only bake just one sheet at a time in my oven.
Some people freeze the cookies, but I typically don’t. If you freeze them, freeze the cookies before frosting.
Rolled Sugar Cookies
Makes 24 to 36 cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1/3 cup shortening
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl, beat butter and shortening, add the sugar and beat till fluffy. Add the egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Add the dry ingredients to mixture, beating until well combined. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours, or up to overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Working with a portion of dough at a time (softball size ball), on a lightly floured surface, roll to 1/8-inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to cut into desired shapes. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until done. Cool on wire rack.
1 pound powdered sugar
¼ cup milk
1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Beat with mixer until smooth and creamy. If the frosting is too stiff to spread easily, add a few drops of milk. If frosting is too thin, add more powdered sugar.
Tip: The frosting recipe makes about two to three times the frosting you need for one batch of cookies. You can either double or even triple the cookie recipe or reduce the frosting recipe.
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Roxanne Wyss and Kathy Moore are cookbook authors and food consultants that make up The Electrified Cooks. They have published over fourteen cookbooks and thousands of recipes. They are members of Les Dames d’Escoffier and blog at pluggedintocooking.com.