Buttermilk gives these sweet cookies a slight tang. If you choose to skip the icing, brush the tops of the cookies with a little buttermilk and sprinkle with raw organic sugar before baking.
Make Ahead: The dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 month. Cut frozen logs of dough into 1/2-inch-thick slices and bake the cookies straight away, allowing an additional minute or two in the oven. Baked undecorated cookies can be frozen for up to 1 month. Decorated cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Servings: 2.5 dozen large cookies
- For the cookies
- 4 to 4 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- Pinch salt
- 1 cup chilled butter-flavored vegetable shortening, such as Crisco brand
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
- For the icing (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons meringue powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 to 4 tablespoons water
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
For the cookies: Combine 4 cups of the flour, the baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt on a sheet of parchment paper or wax paper.
Combine the shortening and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer; beat on low speed to blend, then increase the speed to medium and beat for a few minutes, until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing to incorporate after each addition, and then the vanilla extract.
Reduce the speed to low; alternate additions of the flour mixture and the buttermilk, beating until well blended. Add as much of the remaining 1/2 cup of flour as needed to form a fairly soft dough.
Divide the dough in half; refrigerate one half until ready to use. Drop generous 2-tablespoon portions of dough for each cookie onto the baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Spray a rounded knife with nonstick cooking oil spray and use it to smooth the tops and edges; the cookies should look like biscuits, with a thickness of about 1/2 inch. Bake 1 sheet at a time for 12 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are set and the bottom edges are barely golden. Repeat to use all the dough.
Let cool on the baking sheet for 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.
While the cookies are baking and cooling, make the icing, if using: Combine the confectioners' sugar and meringue powder in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Add the vanilla extract and about 3 tablespoons of the water. Beat on low speed for about 3 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary to form a shiny, thick icing. Adjust the consistency by adding the remaining water in 1-teaspoon increments as needed. Cover the bowl with a damp towel until ready to use.
Use an offset spatula to spread icing on top of each cooled cookie. Let dry for at least 1 hour, or until set, before serving or storing.
Based on a recipe from AllRecipes.com.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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