Everything about Easter – especially if the displays the retailers put up are to be believed – should be cute cute, from the miniature candies to decorated eggs to the abundance of adorably fluffy bunnies everywhere. Bunnies are so popular at this time of year that you can not only find their images on packaging and stuffed animals in every store, but you can find their likeness on food, too. Especially if you use a bunny-shaped cookie cutter to make a batch of Easter cookies.
These Lemon Buttermilk Cutout Cookies are soft, but not cakelike, cookies with a hint of lemon, which adds a nice and springlike flavor to what would otherwise be a relatively plain cookie. The dough comes together very quickly and bakes up in only a few minutes, which means that it doesn’t take too long before you can get to the most important parts of cooking-making: decorating and eating.
As far as the icing goes, it is just a simple mixture of confectioners’ sugar, milk and flavoring. I used a little vanilla extract, but if you want to boost the relatively subtle lemon flavor of the cookies, just add a bit of lemon extract to the sugar mixture. I wouldn’t recommend using lemon zest unless you only intend to drizzle the icing over the cookies; zest will clog a piping bag. Since cookie-decorating in not an exact science, it is easiest to use a ziploc bag with a corner snipped off to do your decorating. The bags are easy to guide over the cookies and the ease of cleanup can’t be beat. The only thing that might take a little experimentation is the consistency of the icing. Thinner icings are easier to work with, but thicker icings will not spread as you pipe them onto the cookie. Adjust the consistency to whatever you feel most comfortable with.
In the instructions below, I noted that the cookie dough should be frozen before rolling it out. You can actually keep it in the fridge instead (I usually do), but because it is such a soft dough, it will warm up very quickly, so the freezer is the easier option unless you are quick about rolling and cutting.
Lemon Buttermilk Easter Cookies
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, very soft
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1 tbsp lemon zest (from one lemon)
1 tsp vanilla extract
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter. Beat in buttermilk, egg, zest and extract. Mixture may look a bit curdled if your buttermilk was cold. Don’t worry. With the mixer on low speed or by hand, add in the flour mixture, mixing just until no streaks of flour remain. Dough will be very soft.
Divide dough into two pieces. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, roll out to no more than 1/4-inch thick (slightly less than that is best) on a lightly floured surface and use a floured cookie cutter to make desired shapes. Transfer cookies to a parchment lined baking sheet. Reroll remaing dough, chilling for a few minutes if it becomes too warm to handle easily. Repeat with second piece of dough.
Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350F, until the edges are slightly firm to the touch but cookies are not browned (they may be slightly gold at the edges). If your cookies are smaller than the 2-3-inch size these bunnies were, you may have to decrease the baking time by a minute.
Cool for a few minutes on baking sheet, then cool completely on a wire rack before icing.
Makes 3 dozen fairly large cookies.
Simple Colored Icing
4 cups confectioners sugar, divided
2 tbsp milk or light cream per bowl
1/2 tsp vanilla extract per bowl
white, red, green and blue food coloring
Place 1 cup of sugar in each of 4 small bowls. Add 2 tbsp milk or light cream, 1/2 tsp vanilla and a few drops of your desired food color to each bowl. Mix thoroughly with a fork, until smooth and a good consistency: thin for filling in large spaces and thick for making clear lines. Add extra milk if necessary.
Scrape each color into a small zip-lock plastic bag.
Snip the corner of the bag to ice cookies.