Our contributor, Erin Sousa, is back to share a yummy recipe for festive Polar Bear Sugar Cookies! Find out how to make these equally adorable and delicious holiday treats below.
Tessa Sam, owner of Sweet Bake Shop, creates the most dreamy and pretty sweets. Whether it’s perfectly iced sugar cookies, cupcakes or macarons, you can find a dose of whimsical goodness on her Instagram. In honor of her first baking book set to release next year, Tessa offered to share her recipe and techniques for creating Polar Bear Sugar Cookies. A homemade batch makes for the perfect—and ultra-impressive—holiday gift!
*Makes about 25 medium-sized cookies; recipe adapted from Peggy Porschen
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 3 cups (375 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter, sugar and vanilla on medium speed until creamy. Add the egg and mix to incorporate. Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again until well-blended.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and the salt. Dump it all into the bowl of the mixer and mix on low speed to blend. Stop the mixer and scrape down the flour clinging to the sides of the bowl and mix again on low speed until incorporated.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into two balls. Place one ball on a sheet of parchment paper, flatten it slightly, place another sheet of parchment paper on top and roll out, using rolling sticks, if desired, for even thickness. Repeat with the other ball of dough. Flip a baking sheet upside-down and slide both sheets of dough onto it, then place the baking sheet in the fridge to chill the dough, about 25 to 30 minutes. While the dough is chilling, line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Once the dough is chilled, remove one of the sheets of dough and place it on the kitchen counter. Peel off the top sheet of parchment paper and cut out the dough using a polar bear cookie cutter, placing them on the prepared baking sheets. Repeat with other sheet of dough. This dough can be re-rolled without problems (yay!). The dough can spread ever-so-slightly during baking, so it’s always safe to space the cookies 1 to 2 inches apart. Once the cookies have all been cut, place the baking sheets with the cut cookies into the freezer for 25 to 30 minutes. Having very, very cold dough helps the cookies maintain their shapes while baking.
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Once the cut cookies are completely chilled, transfer to the oven and bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until cookies are just barely brown around the edges.
- Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies will keep for up to two weeks in an air-tight container.
- 1/4 cup white vinegar (to clean bowls and utensils)
- 4 cups / 500 grams icing sugar
- 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon meringue powder
- 1/2 cup water + more as needed
- You will create two consistencies of icing—one for piping the edge of the cookie and for decorating, and one for flooding the cookie with a coat of icing. Using a clean paper towel, thoroughly wipe down the inside of a stand mixer bowl, as well as the paddle attachment and any spoons or piping tips you’ll be using with the white vinegar. This removes any greasy residue (butter, oils, etc.) that can affect the drying process of your icing.
- In the prepared stand mixer bowl, add the icing sugar and the meringue powder and mix together on low speed using the paddle attachment. Add the water, a little at a time, until the mixture is moist, but not too thick, and mix on low speed for about 10 minutes. During this time, the mixture will thicken and should hold a soft peak. When piped, it should hold its shape without running. If your icing seems a little thick, add more water, a little at a time and if your icing seems thin, too much water has been added and you can add more icing sugar.
Decorating the Cookies
Once you achieve the perfect consistency, spoon about ½ cup of icing into a small bowl, cover the bowl with a damp paper towel and a cutting board or a plate, to prevent it from drying out, and set aside. This will be used for decorating later.
Spoon some of the soft-peak royal icing into a piping bag fitted with a plain piping tip (I use a #2 tip). Cover the bowl with the remaining icing with a damp paper towel to prevent it from drying out. With your prepared piping bag of icing, pipe a border around the edges. Repeat with all of the cookies.
Once all of the cookies are outlined, remove the paper towel from the main bowl of icing and add a little water, 1 teaspoon at a time, mixing on low speed until fully incorporated. The consistency should be more like a liquid, which is called “flooding consistency.” Dip a clean spoon into the icing and let it drizzle back into the bowl. The drizzle of icing should disappear and blend into the icing below in about 8 to 10 seconds. Any faster and the icing is too thin and could run over your piped borders on your cookies.
Fill a clean squeeze bottle, fitted with a plain piping tip, with the flood consistency icing and pipe the icing onto the cookies, being careful not to over-fill the cookies so that the icing doesn’t run over the borders.
Pop any air bubbles with a pin as you go. Repeat with all of the cookies, then allow them to dry for at least 5 hours before moving onto the next step.
Once the cookies are dry, it’s time to decorate them! Divide the remaining soft-peak icing into two bowls. Add a drop of black food color to one of the bowls and mix to blend. Add a drop of pink food color to the other bowl and mix to blend. Spoon the icings into two piping bags fitted with two different piping tips. The black icing requires a small, plain tip and the pink a basket-weave tip. Using the black icing, pipe a nose and eyelashes onto each of the polar bears. Using the pink icing, pipe a scarf onto each bear.
Once all of the cookies are iced, allow them to dry flat on a baking sheet or wire rack for an additional 5 hours or overnight. Decorated cookies will keep in little bags or an airtight container for up to two weeks!