Welcome to the latest installment of TWD!  I’m doing my very best to keep on track with my TWD commitment despite the continuing holiday insanity.  This week Ulrike of Küchenlatein‘s selection is Grandma’s All Occassion Sugar Cookies.  At first glance I wasn’t too terribly excited about this recipe; just your basic sugar cookie.  But, the more I thought about it, the more excited I got.  The very simplicity of this recipe lends itself to so many variations.  Grandma’s All Occasion Sugar Cookie is the ultimate blank canvas of the cookie world!

The basic sugar cookie dough comes together very easily.

It starts with creaming butter and sugar together.  I decided I wanted to use vanilla beans in my variations so I added my vanilla (scraped the seeds from 1 vanilla bean for each full recipe) during the creaming process.  The abrasive quality of the sugar helped to separate and evenly distribute all the tiny flavorful seeds.

Then the eggs get added.  I always make sure to scrape down the bowl before adding the eggs so they get fully incorporated in the sugar and butter mixture.

And finally the dry ingredients.  Since Dorie specifically warned against over mixing this is what my dough looked like before taking the bowl off the stand mixer.

I finished mixing by hand with a rubber spatula and the finished dough was soft, creamy and very pliable – just as Dorie promised.

It is a good thing it was so easy to make this dough; all told I made 5 variations in the dough itself.  I achieved a sixth variant by creating a pinwheel effect with vanilla and chocolate dough.

I opted for the slice and bake method for my cookies.  Here you can see my 6 cookie dough logs ready to store in the refrigerator over night.  From the bottom we have:

  1. Vanilla: I used Dorie’s original recipe with vanilla bean added.
  2. Chocolate: I replaced 1/2 cup of the flour with cocoa powder to make a basic chocolate dough.
  3. Chocolate with white chocolate shavings: I used the basic chocolate dough for this. During the hand mixing I mixed in about 1/2 cup of white chocolate shavings.
  4. Caramel cream with dark chocolate shavings: I used the basic vanilla dough for this. In addition to the vanilla bean I use about a 1/4 tsp of caramel extract in the dough.  During the hand mixing I incorporated about 1/2 cup of dark chocolate shavings and a little bit of cinnamon.
  5. Orange spice: I used the basic vanilla dough for this. During the final hand mixing I added the zest of 1 orange, cinnamon, cloves and ginger to the dough.
  6. Vanilla and chocolate swirl: I took half the basic vanilla dough and half the basic chocolate dough and rolled each out to about 1/4 inch thick.  I then lay them on top of each other and rolled them up to form the log.  Slicing the log created cookies with a dramatic pinwheel pattern on them.

I wish I had more pictures to include the slicing and baking phases of these cookies but I needed to get the cookies in the oven and “Prince Charming” needed the camera for work so I’ll have to skip right to the finished product.  I will note that I baked my cookies for slightly less time than Dorie suggested, most trays were done in 8 minutes and none of them were in the oven for more than 9 minutes.  I love a nice soft chewy cookie so I wanted to make sure these didn’t get crisp on my.

finished cookies

Let me share a selection of my finished cookies with you.

Half of each cookie variant was frosted and the other half was rolled in decorators sugar prior to baking.  I made a total of 4 different glazes to suit the flavors of the cookies.  On the upper left portion of the plate are my Orange Spice cookies, I frosted half of them with an orange ginger glaze.  In the lower left portion of the plate are the chocolate cookies with white chocolate shavings; half of these I frosted with a spiced eggnog glaze.  In the bottom right are my caramel cream cookies with dark chocolate shavings, half of these also got the spiced eggnog glaze.  On the right side of the plate are the classic vanilla and chocolate sugar cookies with corresponding vanilla and chocolate icings and sprinkles.  Down the center are my pinwheel cookies; 1/3 of these were dipped in white chocolate, another 1/3 in dark chocolate and the last third left plain.

I had blast making these cookies and sharing them with my coworkers; they were a tremendous hit at the office.  I think the most popular flavor was the orange spice with the orange ginger glaze, they were certainly the first to disappear.  Personally, I absolutely loved the caramel cream with dark chocolate shavings and spiced eggnog glaze, but I enjoyed every one of my recipe tweaks.

Thank you so much, Ulrike, for selecting a recipe that allowed for such a out pouring of creativity.  For those of you looking for the recipe, please visit Ulrike’s site (Küchenlatein) or check out Dorie’s book.  Don’t forget to visit the TWD blogroll to see what my fellow bakers dreamed up for their sugar cookies.