October 22 2017 By Michelle Smith

Like a lot of other bakers, my first memories of baking involve my mother and my grandmother. When I was young I spent countless hours watching them create the most amazing cookies, cakes, pies and squares. It always felt like a special treat when I was allowed to help by stirring cake batter or adding chocolate chips to some cookie dough.

Fast forward to a year or two ago when I decided to take a 4 week cake decorating course. My plan was to learn to decorate birthday cakes for my niece and nephew, but didn’t take long for me to discover that baking also brought back a lot of truly great memories. I felt a a real sense of satisfaction whenever I finished a batch of cupcakes or a cake and I realized that I wanted to keep baking.

So, when my classes were finished I started watching cake decorating tutorials on YouTube. And when I ran out of cake tutorials, I decided to watch cookie decorating tutorials, too. At first I doubted that I’d ever be able to create anything nearly as beautiful as the cookies in the videos I watched, but eventually I decided to give it a try. And as it turns out, I enjoyed cookie decorating even more than cake decorating!

My first few attempts didn’t go very smoothly, but every time I screwed up my icing consistency or had a batch of cookies that spread into shapeless blobs I was determined to figure out what I’d done wrong. Bakers are a supportive bunch and there are a ton of resources online where amateurs like myself can get advice. My mistakes turned into learning experiences and, slowly but surely, I started to master the basics and look for new challenges.

Today my friends and family know that I can be counted on to bake and decorate cookies for every holiday. And at work there isn’t a baby shower or bake sale that I won’t contribute to! I’m not done learning, but I feel confident enough that I’m starting to dabble with some more advanced techniques. Best of all, I’ve discovered a hobby that helps me deal with stress and brings me a lot of joy.

my go-to cookie recipe:

Vanilla Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 ¾ to 3 cups all purpose flour

Cream together butter and sugar in stand mixer or with hand mixer until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the first two cups of flour a cup at a time, mixing between each cup.  Add another ¾ cup of flour and mix. If the dough is still too sticky, add the last ¼ cup. (I don’t usually need to add this last bit of flour). The dough should be just slightly crumbly. Divide the dough in two and chill for an hour. Then roll the dough out to desired thickness, cut out your cookies and bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. The thicker the cookies, the longer they’ll take to bake.

Recipe yield depends on size and thickness of cookies, but I usually get 15 to 20.

Note: I like my cookies to be soft and almost cake-like in texture, so I roll my dough out to no less than ¼ inch thickness and remove the cookies from the oven when they’re just turning golden. If you want a crunchier cookie you should roll the dough out thinner and bake slightly longer. Also, you may want add ½ baking powder to lighten the texture.

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