Caribbean Sugar Cookies From the Kitchen Window column
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Caribbean Sugar Cookies

Mixed essence adds a tropical flavor to this simple sugar cookie dough. It is a flavoring that is used for baking in the Caribbean as Americans use vanilla extract. If you prefer to make your own, a recipe follows. This dough is the basis for a simple cookie or many variations. The dough can be made ahead and frozen for up to one month.

Makes 2 to 3 dozen cookies, depending on size of cookie cutter

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon mixed essence

Icing (optional), such as Simple Royal Icing (recipe below)

Sift together the flour and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale yellow and fluffy, about 6 minutes in a standing mixer or 10 minutes using a hand-held electric mixer.

Add the egg and mixed essence and beat until well combined, about 45 seconds.

Add the flour mixture in three equal batches, stirring well after each addition.

Divide the dough into two equal disks and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 1 hour or until firm. Dough will keep for up to three days refrigerated or may be wrapped tightly and frozen for up to one month.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

When dough is thoroughly chilled, flour a work surface lightly and roll each disk out to 1/4 inch thickness. Using cookie cutters, cut the dough into desired shapes.

Arrange the cookies on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and bake for 12 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool thoroughly before icing, if desired.

Simple Royal Icing

This icing is ideal for decorating cookies. I like to use food coloring to mix bright tropical colors like lime green, pink, light orange and turquoise.

Makes 2 cups

2 cups powdered sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons meringue powder (powdered egg whites)

1/4 teaspoon dark rum

1/4 to 1/2 cup warm water or as needed

Gel food coloring in various colors

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, combine the powdered sugar and meringue powder and whisk for 10 seconds to combine. Alternatively, combine the powdered sugar and meringue powder in a large bowl and whisk together using hand mixer or large whisk.

Add the rum to the mixture along with 1/4 cup of the water and whisk for 5 to 7 minutes using stand mixer, 8 to 10 minutes with hand mixer, or 12 minutes by hand adding more water as necessary to form a thick glossy icing.

Test the consistency by spooning up some of the icing and allowing it to drizzle back into the icing on the bowl; if it remains on the surface for a few seconds before being absorbed it is ready.

Divide the icing into smaller bowls and use the desired food colorings to achieve different hues. If not using the icing immediately, cover the bowls with plastic wrap, laying the plastic wrap right up against the surface of the icing so it does not form a skin.