The Clara Project: Sugar cookies.

Two things: 1) It’s gorgeous outside, with lavish autumn leaves against an impossibly blue sky. 2) It’s baking weather.

Time for fall cutout sugar cookies, am I right?

This old-fashioned sugar cookie recipe comes from Clara Shenefelt’s recipe collection (see more about The Clara Project and other vintage recipes). I tinkered with the recipe a bit by adding almond extract, which I think takes an ordinary sugar cookie into the next stratosphere. These cookies bake up light and crispy.

To make the fall leaf cookies, mix together two different colored sugar blends: red, orange and yellow; and yellow and green. Sprinkle the decorative sugars liberally over the cookies before you bake them.

This cutout cookie recipe will serve you well again in December, when you’ll be decorating Santas and Christmas trees and snowflakes.

best old-fashioned sugar cookies

1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 egg white whisked with 1 teaspoon water for finishing
granulated or decorative sugar for finishing

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a bowl and using a hand mixer), cream together shortening and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the beaten egg and mix to combine; add the milk and extracts and stir to combine thoroughly. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and add to the mixing bowl; stir to combine well. Transfer the cookie dough to a sheet of waxed paper or plastic wrap, cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough in half and roll out one half to about 1/8-inch thick (keep the other refrigerated until ready to use). Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter dipped in flour; transfer cookies to the baking sheet about 1/2 inch apart. Brush the cookies lightly with egg white and sprinkle generously with granulated or decorative sugars. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until edges are very lightly brown. Remove baking sheet from the oven and let it sit for 1 minute before transferring cookies to a baking rack to cool.

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