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Cookie vs. Cookie

Vader Cookie
Vader Cookie

When the holiday season rolls around, most people think of how much money they have to spend on presents or how much alcohol they’re going to drink when the semester ends. However, resting on the bedside table or in unread Facebook messages is a slew of, or at least a few, holiday party invites.

Everybody appreciates a plate of freshly baked goods, but what do you do when you’re no good at cooking? Or, what do you do if you’re looking for a way to spice up a holiday staple? Here you’ll find a way to revamp the most well-known cookie of the season, as well as how to cheat your way through baking a “homemade” cookie.

Baking cookies from scratch is a labor of love. For some, it’s more labor than love, but those people usually don’t like sweets, so it doesn’t count. There’s a sense of accomplishment to doing it all yourself, especially because you’re not mentally adding “with Betty Crocker’s help” at the end of “Yeah, I made these!”

Also, everything you do will automatically be more impressive, because everyone will talk about those cookies that you made that one time. Baking is a science and a lot of people screw it up.

If you are prone to screwing up in the kitchen, or you don’t know the difference between a measuring cup and the cup you drink out of, no fear! Try the doctored-up, dump-and-stir dough and tell me you can’t make your way out of a paper bag. Think of this as your “ace in the hole.”

Vanilla Ginger Sugar Cookies from Scratch


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Powdered sugar, for rolling out dough


  • In my opinion, this cookie is far superior. It’s easier to work with, holds its shape and tastes better. But you didn’t ask.
  • Sift together flour, baking powder, ginger and salt in a bowl large enough that you don’t get flour everywhere like I did the first time, and set aside.
  • Place butter, sugar and vanilla bean in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color. Add the egg and milk and beat to combine. I forgot this step and wondered why I had a bunch of floury pebbles in my stand mixer. So, don’t forget.
  • Put mixer on low, and gradually add flour. Beat until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl, then split in half, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for two whole hours.
  • After the excruciating wait, take your dough out of the fridge and preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Sprinkle your surface with powdered sugar (tastes better than flour). Working one half of the dough at a time, sprinkle rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll out to 1/4-inch thick. Move the dough around and check underneath often to prevent sticking.
  • Cut into shape of choice (I used these epic “Star Wars” cookie cutters), and put on greased baking sheet at least an inch apart. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, rotating cookie sheet halfway through baking, or until cookies are just beginning to brown around the edges.
  • Leave on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then move to wire rack to finish cooling. Eat as they are (much easier) or decorate with frosting and sprinkles (much more fun). They’ll last about a week in an airtight container. Makes three dozen cookies.


Vanilla Ginger Sugar Cookies – From a Mix


  • Packaged sugar cookie mix (I used Betty Crocker)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg

Those are per the directions on the package. To this, you will also add 1 vanilla bean, scraped and 1/2 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons ginger. That’s an obnoxious direction, I know, but it was just the right amount.

Already you’ll notice the similarities-butter, eggs and the stuff I added, vanilla and ginger. But, what about that extra tablespoon of flour?

The package gives two sets of instructions, and here I followed the instructions for roll-out cookies. The other instructions are for drop cookies, which means that you spoon out tablespoons of the dough onto a cookie sheet and they spread out into traditional, circular cookies.

I don’t know why they bothered, because they still spread and I couldn’t use my baller Star Wars cookie cutters because the dough is really sticky. Pick your battles, kids, and keep the cutters simple.


  • Follow the directions on the package. That’s easy, right? They say to stir the flour into the cookie mix first, then add the butter and egg and mix until your dough is combined but still soft.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F, just like the other cookies. The beauty of this mix is that, unlike the scratch-made cookies, the dough doesn’t have to be chilled. So, while your oven preheats, roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thick and cut into desired shapes.
  • Place cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 5 to 7 minutes until edges are lightly golden brown. Cool for a minute before removing from the sheet. Store cooled cookies in an airtight container, probably for a week like the other ones, but I don’t really know because the instructions don’t say. And really, how many times have cookies lasted more than a few days in anyone’s house?

Frosting Your Cookies

This is my favorite frosting. There’s something about the texture, the finish and the taste that I think works with just about every cookie. Like a lot of things, homemade frosting is worth the effort.

Royal Icing

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted (this is important; no one likes lumpy frosting!)


  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and lemon juice until combined, then add the sifted powdered sugar and beat on a low speed until incorporated and smooth. It should create a ribbon of icing that sits on the surface for a couple of seconds before evening out.
  • If you’re afraid of raw egg whites (which I’m not, because I eat my steak rare and eat raw cookie dough), you can substitute with 3 tablespoons of meringue powder. The amount of powdered sugar goes up to 4 cups, and instead of lemon juice, use 1/2-3/4 cup warm water to get the right consistency. You can also buy royal icing mix from Williams-Sonoma, to which you just add water.
  • Don’t want to make your own frosting? That’s fine. Get some jarred frosting and get to work. I’m preferential to the whipped frostings because they’re not as sweet as the thicker frostings, although still really sweet.
  • Can’t find whipped? Give the frosting a buzz with your mixer until it looks like it’s grown a little in volume so you know some air has incorporated.
  • Also, piping with pre-made icing isn’t easy (see photos for evidence) because it doesn’t flow as nicely as royal icing, so Jabba the Hutt might be easier to make than Boba Fett. Just saying.