When we were kids, my artistic mom (who graduated from ACAD when I was in high school) would mix up a batch of sugar cookie dough and let my sisters and I paint them at the dining room table. It was brilliant, really – not only did we have more control with a paintbrush than with an icing bag, the egg yolk-based paint baked on smooth and shiny – not sticky – and permanent, so none of our artwork would get ruined.
Painted sugar cookies are perfect for packaging to give and for hanging on the tree – we always bake at least a batch during the holiday season, and my son likes to have friends over to gather around the kitchen table and paint. I’m far more inclined to oblige when it means I don’t need to stock up on decorating candies they’ll eat most of, or scrape icing off every kitchen surface when they’re done.
This recipe is easily doubled if you need more cookies – the dough freezes well, or can be shaped into logs, wrapped in parchment, then sliced and baked.
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg yolk
a few drops red food colouring
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and light; add the egg and vanilla and beat for a minute, until smooth and well blended.
In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the sugar mixture and stir by hand or beat on low speed just until you have a soft dough. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for half an hour.
When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out about 1/8-inch thick. Cut cookies into card shapes – or, flowers, hearts, spades, or a combination of shapes – and place an inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
In a small dish, add a few drops of food colouring to the egg yolk and mix with a fork until well-blended. Use a paintbrush to paint the unbaked cookies with the red “paint”.
Bake for 12-14 minutes, until the cookies are pale golden around the edges and the paint is dry and glossy. Using a thin spatula, transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Makes 2-3 dozen cookies.