Butter Wreaths: It's not often a recipe I've made for the first time (whether from the Recipe Box or elsewhere) completely blows me away, but this recipe did. Here are all the pros of this recipe, listed in the chronological order in which I discovered them:
It's a start-and-stop recipe, which means if, halfway through making it you need to walk the dog, it's easy to pause and pick it back up in 10 minutes or an hour or even the next day.
THE DOUGH HOLDS ITS SHAPE AFTER BEING BAKED!
The cookies, whether rolled out thin into almost wafer-like proportions or kept thick for a softer, cake-like finished product, are delicious.
One more time for the people in the back: THE DOUGH FLAWLESSLY HOLDS ITS SHAPE EVEN AFTER BAKING.
While the recipe is for butter wreaths and thus demands that you cut the rolled-out dough into doughnut shapes before baking, having seen how perfectly the dough held its shape, this is my new go-to sugar cookie recipe for any time I want pristine finished shapes. I tested a small amount of the dough by cutting it with my insanely detailed snowflake cookie cutters, and they came out so pretty and accurate I wanted to hang them in the window. Seriously, the dough doesn't budge in the oven, which is super important if you're trying to create wreath-shaped cookies.
Now let's talk flavour: these butter wreath cookies come from a tiny recipe card labelled 'A Christmas Recipe for Butter Wreaths from Bill'. The card comes from a set of several, including the Dusen Stars from last week and a Lemon Snowflake recipe I haven't had a chance to post yet, and I think it must be from a holiday party recipe swap since I recognise most of the names on the cards (though not Bill, which is a shame because I'd like to shake his hand). These cookies are so good that even I, with my frosting obsession, would (read: did) eat these straight out of the oven, without frosting or decorations. This is my new go-to for sugar cookies, and I really hope you'll give them a try.
A final note on the decoration: I had to special-order angelica for the butter wreaths. Do you know what angelica is? I didn't. Turns out it's a plant that's a member of the parsley family, also known as wild celery, and was super common as a decoration on desserts in the 1940s-60s, both in the US and the UK. It's no longer sold in any supermarket I've ever been to, so I ordered it from a baking supply store online. It looks like long, bright green pieces of, well, flattened celery, but I was disappointed to find that since it's candied, it just tastes like sugar. It's a bit of a faff to cut it into tiny pieces to adhere to the finished, frosted biscuits, and honestly if I was doing it again for myself and not for this blog, I'd probably just use green frosting instead. If you don't want to order yourself a packet of angelica, you can either use green frosting to frost your cookies, or frost them white and use green frosting to make a few holly leaves on each cookie. Either way, just make them soon!
Coconut Wreaths: I should first say that I sent the coconut wreaths to work with Judson on the day the new Star Wars film was released, so he put them in the break room at his job and labelled them 'Sarlacc Sandpits,' after the creature from the original films. Although Judson has made sure that I've seen those original films no less than twice each, I still have no idea what this is in reference to, but... I'd have to agree that the coconut wreaths did in fact taste a bit like sandpits. I blame the coconut, which, instead of coming from a can as the recipe requested (because canned coconut is not a thing that exists, in any country), was the desiccated kind sold here in the UK. I hate this kind of coconut. It has the exact texture of pencil shavings and almost as much flavour as them, but I had no choice, so I used it. The overall 'wreaths' looked more like the tiny clay thumb pots we used to make in primary school, and even the addition of jam filling in the middle didn't help to really give them much flavour or nuance.
The butter wreaths:
5 spoons out of five. These are, without a doubt, the best sugar cookies I've ever made.
the coconut wreaths:
2 spoons out of five. They still got eaten when they were put out in the breakroom at Judson's office, but... they just weren't that exciting.
Cream butter until very light and fluffy.
Beat in sugar, mixing well.
Add yolks, one at a time, mixing well and scraping sides after each addition.
Add flour and vanilla and mix on low speed until dough forms.
Turn the dough out onto parchment paper, lay another piece of parchment paper on top, and roll out thin (I preferred the cookies rolled to ¼-inch, but if you want a thinner, more wafer-like cookie, roll to 1/8-inch).
Pop in the fridge for half an hour or the freezer for 15 minutes.
Once dough is well-chilled, preheat oven to 175C/350F and remove top layer of parchment from rolled dough.
Working quickly, use a 2 ½-inch doughnut cutter or two other round things of various sizes to cut wreaths from the dough and place on a cookie sheet (I used a small Pyrex measuring cup and a pineapple corer, but I also freehanded it on a few and it worked nearly as well).
Bake 10-12 minutes until just golden around the edges.
Cool, then frost and decorate with red and green frosting or candies and angelica to resemble holly leaves and berries.
1 c butter
1 c sugar
3 egg yolks
2 ½ c flour, sifted
1 tsp vanilla
Frosting: I used this recipe for vanilla buttercream
Cinnamon candies and angelica (or additional red and green frosting)
Preheat oven to 175C/350F.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Blend in almond extract, vanilla and flour, and mix until well-blended.
Stir in coconut and nuts, form into a loose ball and chill for at least one hour or up to overnight.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place on cookie sheet.
Using the handle of a wooden spoon or the tip of a measuring spoon, make a 3/4-inch depression in the centre of each ball.
Bake 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.
Remove from cookie sheet immediately and place on cooling rack.
When cool, fill each cookie with red jam.
1 c butter
½ c sugar
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
Scant ½ c coconut (flaked, shredded or desiccated)
½ c pecans or pistachios, chopped fine
Red jam (I used raspberry)