In honor of Halloween, I slaved away last night and made Halloween cookies. After I got started, I realized I only had three gel colors left… blue, purple and bright yellow. So they are not quite as colorful as I was planning, but there was just no way I was going to the store for food coloring.

Decorating cookies brought me back to when I worked as a Pastry Chef. It seemed there was always a reason to decorate cookies or cakes. Anyway, this is a really great cookie recipe. Its a bit soft when rolling out, so you must chill it well, but the flavor is very good. This recipe is adapted from Cookies Unlimited by Nick Malgieri.

Sour Cream Sugar Cookie Recipe

2 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
8 oz (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 c granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
1/2 c sour cream
granulated sugar for finishing (optional)

1. In a bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Stir well to mix. Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicon baking sheet. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until well mixed, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and egg and continue mixing until smooth. Stop mixer and scrape down the bowl and beater with a rubber spatula. On low speed, beat in half the flour mixture, then the sour cream. Stop mixer again, and scrape again. Beat in the remaining flour.

3. Scrape dough onto a floured work surface and pat it into a rectangle. The dough will be very soft. Cut the dough into four quarters and wrap them and chill for at least 1 hour, preferably longer. Roll out a piece of dough on a floured surface until it is about 1/8 inch thick. Cut the cookies with shaped cookie cutters that have been dipped in flour. As soon as the cookies are cut, place them on the prepared pan. Leave about an inch around each in all directions. Repeat with the remaining dough. Save, press together, chill and re-roll the scraps to make more cookies.

4. Bake the cookies about 15-20 minutes or until they become dull and dry looking and feel slightly firm when pressed with a fingertip. If you over-bake the cookies, they will be very dry. Slide the papers onto racks to cool.

5. When cooled completely, decorate with royal icing. Store the cooled cookies in a tin or a plastic container with a tight fitting cover.

Royal Icing Recipe

3 large egg whites
1 1-pound box confectioners sugar, about 4 cups
1/2 tsp lemon juice or distilled white vinegar.

1. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, combine the egg whites and confectioners sugar. Beat on the lowest speed until all the sugar is evenly moistened. Add the lemon juice, increase the speed to medium, and beat until the icing is light and fluffy, about 4 or 5 minutes.

2. Use immediately or scrape into a small bowl and place plastic wrap directly against the surface so a skin doesn’t form. Cover the plastic wrap with a few wet paper towels to prevent the icing from drying.

Note: If you do not wish to decorate, sprinkle the tops with a granulated sugar before baking.