The basic sugar cookie recipe was from a colleague who made hers first from a recipe on the back of some cookie mix or other. She brought some leftover cookies to work just before Christmas break last year, and they were SO delicious that I asked her for the recipe. I'm not really a cookie person - either eating or making - but her cookies really were incredibly moreish.
The first time I made the plain sugar cookies was last Saturday - they turned out really well, and Pete loved them. He insisted that we should take some to a friend's barbeque party. She had two types of desserts for the guests but her daughter decided that she was going to make herself a dessert with my cookies, layering them with strawberries that been macerated with sugar, and clotted cream (like an ersatz strawberry shortcake) and declared it a superhit.
In the meantime, my friend's husband was quietly putting away cookie after cookie, looking sheepish when he was rumbled, but not letting it stop him from taking a couple more. There must have been at least 40 cookies in the container, but by the end of the party they were all gone to the last crumb. That was definitely a pleasing result in my eyes, both because the cookies came out so well and because everyone liked them, from the 7-year-old granddaughter to the 70-year old neighbour!
All week since, Pete had been begging me to make some more. Yesterday I chose to make them but give it a citrusy twist, because I love citrus-flavoured things. Lime was my flavouring of choice. Again, the cookies turned out really well - which I guess convinced me that it wasn't a fluke the first time around (really, I'm not famous for baking cookies).
I liked these lime-flavoured cookies quite a lot myself, and so did Pete. And so did Pete's son and his girlfriend who dropped by. Like me, Andy is not really a cookie person, but he said "these are the best cookies I've ever eaten" and went on to prove it by eating half a dozen in quick succession. As for his girlfriend, she scarfed down a few, and then took charge of the bag containing the 2-3 dozen that I packed for them to take away. I'm not sure Andy will be seeing very much of them, unless he is V E R Y nice to her...
By the way, I got about 60 cookies from the amount of dough that this recipe makes - but mine were small, about the diameter of an Oreo. If you make bigger cookies, you will get fewer (yes, well, duh). I also toyed with the idea of icing them with a simple lemon icing (lemon juice + icing sugar mixed to a spreadable consistency) but laziness got the better of me. Besides, I didn't really think the icing was essential.
One last tip - the dough is best worked with when chilled.
Recipe for: Lime-vanilla sugar cookies
150gm softened unsalted butter
150gm caster (superfine) sugar
300gm plain (AP) flour
1.5 tsp best-quality vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pure lime oil (optional)
Zest of one lime
1 medium egg, beaten
1. Cream butter and sugar using a wooden spoon in a large mixing until light and fluffy (I did this by hand, takes about 7-8 minutes).
2. Add the beaten egg, the lime zest, lime oil and vanilla extract and beat it in.
3. Add the flour in 4-5 installments, mixing just until incorporated. When it comes together into a rough dough, dust your hands with some flour and form the dough into a ball. Place the ball on some clingfilm or a sheet of non-stick foil and flatten it evenly till about 1/2 inch thick. Cover completely and place in the refrigerator to chill for about an hour.
4. Scatter some flour on your working space. Turn out the chilled dough onto the floured space and gently roll the dough out until it is evenly 3-4mm thick. You may need to dip the rolling pin into flour now and then to stop the dough sticking. You can divide the dough into two before rolling out, to make it easier. Keep the other half chilled in the meantime.
5. Using a cookie cutter of choice, stamp out the cookies, dipping the cutter into flour each time. Re-roll the remaining dough and cut out until the dough is used up.
6. Transfer the cookies onto a sheet lined with non-stick foil or baking paper, leaving about an inch in between them as they will spread a little. Place the cookie sheet in the fridge again to chill for 15 minutes.
7. Preheat your oven to 180C/350F (mine is a fan-assisted oven) and bake the cookies for 10-11 minutes or until they are a pale golden brown. You can turn the sheet around after 5-6 minutes to let them brown evenly, if you like.
8. Let them cool on the sheet for a couple of minutes, then transfer carefully to a cooling rack until completely cool. Store in an airtight jar.