Sunflower Cookies

While on our way to storytime at the downtown library last Wednesday, we stopped into our favorite place to buy bread in Nashville. After picking up our sourdough boule (unsliced, please), we were on our way upstairs to see the Professor and Mary Mary.

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Or so I thought. My 4 year old had spied sugar cookies decorated like sunflowers. Just like the ones in our garden. She asked if we could buy some. She even included the magic word. On her own – without my prompting.

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My response? I said no. No to the polite angel smiling up at me. No to the colorful cookies staring at me. No, because storytime was about to begin, and the puppets wait for no one. As a way to soften the “no”, I explained that while we wouldn’t buy any, we would make some for our Fun Friday baking project.

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And so 48 hours later we did, and what a Fun Friday it was! We mixed, chilled, rolled, rechilled, cut out, and baked cookies all morning long. After letting them cool during lunch, the real fun began – the decorating!

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While I’m not usually a big fan of rolled out cookies, I must admit these actually taste as good as they look. The inclusion of cream cheese in the dough and glaze gives the cookies some much needed “oomph!” to accompany the “awes” inspired by my preschooler’s “painting” and sprinkling skills. Look out Monet – there’s a new sunflower artist in town!

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So, when she asked for one for dessert on Friday night, I said – wait for it – yes! Turns out that she liked them all the more after waiting and then making them herself. This all goes to show that sometimes when you say “please” you don’t get what you ask for. Sometimes you get something even better.

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Sunflower Cookies (Glazed Butter Cookies)

adapted from The New Best Recipe by Cook’s Illustrated

makes about 38 2-inch cookies

Cookie Dough

* 2½ cups (12½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
* ¾ cup (5½ ounces) superfine sugar*
* ½ teaspoon salt
* 16 tablespoons (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into sixteen pieces, slightly softened
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 2 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature

Glaze and Decorations

* 1 tablespoon cream cheese, at room temperature
* 3 tablespoons milk, divided
* 1½ cups (6 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
* pinch of salt
* yellow and red food coloring
* 2 ounces milk chocolate or chocolate chips
* 1 cup chocolate chips
* coarse sugar, such as turbinado or sugar in the raw

*Since I was too lazy to go to the store for superfine sugar, I processed an equal amount of granulated sugar in the food processor for 30 seconds. Worked just fine.

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For Cookies:

Mix: Using a stand mixer on low speed, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Add butter 1 piece at a time; continue to mix until mixture looks crumbly and slightly wet. Add vanilla and cream cheese and continue to mix on low until dough just begins to form large clumps.

Chill: Knead dough by hand in bowl for 2-3 turns to form large cohesive mass. Divide dough in half, flatten into disks, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate until they begin to firm up, 20-30 minutes. (Can be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen up to 2 weeks; defrost in refrigerator before using.)

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Roll and Rechill: Preheat oven to 375°F. Place one dough disk onto large piece of parchment paper. Roll out to even thickness, about 1/8-¼ inch thick. Place rolled dough (still on parchment) onto baking sheet and chill until firm, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, repeat with second disk.

Cut Out: Working with first portion of rolled dough, cut out sunflowers using cookie cutter and place cookies on parchment-lined baking sheet. If needed, return to refrigerator to chill dough again or briefly pop into freezer.

Bake: Bake until light golden brown, about 10 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking time. Repeat with second portion of rolled dough. (Dough scraps can be patted together, chilled, and re-rolled once.) Cool cookies on wire rack to room temperature.

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For Decorating:

Whisk cream cheese and 2 tablespoons milk until it’s lump free. Whisk in confectioners’ sugar and salt until smooth, adding remaining milk as needed until glaze is thin enough to spread easily. Add several drops of yellow food coloring and one drop of red until desired color is achieved (remember it will dry lighter).

Place plain cookies on rack set into sheet pan so that excess glaze, sugar, and chocolate from decorating will fall between wires onto sheet pan below. Using small silicone basting brush, “paint” sunflower petals with glaze. Immediately sprinkle with coarse sugar.

While glaze is drying, melt milk chocolate. Spoon dollop of chocolate into center of sunflower and spread with back of spoon to fill in center circle. Add chocolate chips to represent sunflower seeds. Let dry and then enjoy!

Variations:

* Add lemon or orange zest to the dough.
* Add or substitute almond extract.

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