♬ On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree…. ♬
You guys! 12 days until Christmas! It’s time to seriously get our holiday baking on. First up, a little twist on the classic sugar cookie: the hazelnut sugar cookie bar.
So, I was recently browsing cooking magazines at the grocery store, and ended up picking up a Better Homes and Gardens Specialty Interest Publication on Christmas Cookies (Dec. 2016 Issue). There were these geogorus water colored cookies on the front, and I just had to figure out how it was done. Turns out you can ‘water color paint’ over the top of royal icing using watered down food coloring and a clean artists paintbrush. AWESOME, right?
Even better, the magazine also suggested making sugar cookie bars, and frosting/painting them with this method. Sugar cookie.. bars?… total genius! I loved the idea of having a ole big cookie canvas to paint on. (Former art major right here folks.) Obviously, this was happening at my house ASAP.
But, I realized I also wanted to come up with my own sugar cookie bar recipe first. I was looking for something that still had some of that classic sugar cookie taste, but was just a little bit different to keep the flavors from being one quite so one note. So I got to work on that first. I eventually ended up adding hazelnut meal to my bars which hit that perfect balance I was looking for. From there it was all royal icing and fun decorating!
Quick notes about the frosting and decorating before we get to the recipe:
- This recipe makes a fairly small amount of royal icing, but it’s enough to cover the cookies with a thin coating of frosting. This ends up being enough of a good coat for painting on, but not so much frosting that it overwhelms the cookies.
- Use a rubber spatula to spread the icing smoothly to give yourself a smooth decorating surface. But work quickly became royal icing starts to harden quickly.
- Yet, strangely the royal icing needs to dry overnight before you paint on it to get the best effect.
- To paint: put a few drops of food coloring in a bowl, and a small splash of water in another bowl for dipping in. Using straight food coloring will produce the most instense colors. Adding water will dilute colors and make the food coloring behave like water color paints. Be careful though, because too much water will make the icing run, even if it has already fully dried.
- I found that some type of simple design or pattern that can be repeated worked really well for decorating. Also keep in mind where you’ll be be cutting the bars when painting you designs.
And that’s about it. Have fun and happy baking!
Hazelnut Sugar Cookie Bars- Yields 15-20 large bars, depending on how they are cut.
- 4 sticks salted butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 cup hazelnut meal*
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 5 cups flour
- Preheat oven to 350*. Use spray oil to liberally grease a 15.25 X 10.25 X .75 inch baking tray.
- Using a stand mixer or hand mixer cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until well blended.
- Mix together hazelnut meal and baking powder in the measuring cup. Add to the butter sugar mixture and mix until fully incorporated. Add the flour and mix until a sticky dough is formed.
- Use hands to press the dough into the prepared baking sheet. The dough should fill the sheet and come close to the top of the sheets edges. Pat so that the top is relatively flat and even.
- Bake the cookies at 350* for 25 to 28 minutes. The cookies will be light golden brown on top, a touch darker on the edges but still be soft in the center when touched.
- Allow the cookies to cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes. Turn the cookies out on to a sheet of parchment paper or foil to cool the rest of the way before decorating. Decorate if desired then slice in even squares when completely cooled and icing had dried.
*Note: Almond flour can be substituted for the hazelnut meal for a nice variation. To make the recipe nut free, omit the hazelnut meal and add an additional cup of flour.
Royal Icing– Adapted, barely, from King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook.
- 1 egg white
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
- Add all ingredients To a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until stiff glossy peaks are formed. Frost cookies immediately or store temporarily in a ziplock bag, removing all air before sealing (royal icing starts to dry really quickly). Allow icing to dry overnight for 8+ hours before painting.
- To decorate cookies in the water color style, put a few drops of food coloring in a bowl, and a small splash of water in another bowl for dipping in. Use a clean paintbrush and decorate with simple patterns and designs. Straight food coloring will produce the most instense colors. Adding water will dilute colors and make the food coloring behave like water color paints. Be careful though, because too much water will make the icing run, even if it has already fully dried.
For an eggless version of royal icing I also like the King Arthur Flour version.