Cute sheep sugar cookies are extra sweet and so easy to decorate. Nonpareils give them a ‘wooly’ appearance and add sugary crunch.
The faces and legs need to dry before adding their wooly coats. It will take at least and hour for the icing to form a crust, and it’s best to wait a couple of hours until it is completely set.
When the grey icing is set, add the white royal icing to the centers of half of the cookies. I like to use a scribe to push the icing into place (see the video) but a toothpick also makes a good scribe tool.
Immediately and liberally pour on the sprinkles. (Whee! This is the fun part!) The wet frosting does a good job of catching them all, and the dry areas (face, legs) repel the sprinkles. Honestly it’s some of the easiest cookie decorating you can do!
I think the black sheep were my favorite. The other half of the cookies were frosted black and sprinkled with with black nonpareils. When all of the cookies were dry, I packaged one of each color sheep in cellophane bags and tied them with bright grass green ribbon. So very cute!
The simplicity of the decoration means that the task goes rather quickly. If you ever needed to crank out a whole bunch of these, then you could do so without much trouble.
Hurry up spring!
Fluffy Sheep Sugar Cookies
Yields about 3 dozen
Sugar cookie dough
1/2 lb. (two US sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225g) granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups (380g) all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugar together until just incorporated. Do not over-mix at this stage, or the cookies may spread while baking. Add the egg and vanilla extract. Mix again on low speed, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl intermittently as needed.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add to the butter and egg mixture. Mix on low speed until a dough is formed and there are no longer any streaks of butter in the mixing bowl. The dough will often clump around the paddle attachment while being mixed. This is normal and a good sign that your dough is the right consistency. If your mixture does not come together and is crumbly, add ice cold water 1 tbsp. at a time until the dough clumps.
Roll the dough flat between sheets of parchment paper and chill until ready for use, at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Use a 4-inch lamb or sheep motif cookie cutter to stamp shapes from the dough and transfer them to the prepared pans. Chill the shapes in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Bake cookies for 12-15 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly brown on the edges. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Re-roll scraps and repeat process.
Royal Icing and décors
Note: Not all meringue powder is the same. Be sure to read the directions on the back of the meringue powder container for suggested amounts.
4 cups (16 oz.) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons meringue powder
1/2 cup warm water, plus additional for thinning
1 teaspoon clear lemon extract
Black gel food color
Black sugar pearls
6 oz. white nonpareils
6 oz. black nonpareils
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, stir the confectioners’ sugar and meringue powder on low speed until combined. Add the water and beat on medium-high speed until thickened. Mix in the flavoring. Scrape down the bowl and beat again. Divide the frosting into three bowls and cover them with damp paper towels. Tint one bowl with a tiny drop of black gel food color and mix until a medium grey color is achieved. Stir a larger amount of black into another bowl and mix until deep black color is achieved. Leave one bowl untinted. Mix in drops of water to each bowl and stir well, repeating this process until the icing thins to flood consistency. It should be thick and pourable like a milkshake. Run a spatula through the icing to check; the indention should disappear by the count of 10.
Transfer the three flood frostings to disposable piping bags and close the ends with rubber bands. Use the grey icing to pipe the faces and legs onto the cookies. While the icing is still wet, place a black sugar pearl on each of the faces near the center. Let dry completely, about 2 hours.
When the icing is set, flood half of the cookies with the white royal icing, piping the white icing well within the cookie’s edges and use a toothpick or a scribe to push the icing nearer to the edge (this prevents the flood icing from overflowing the sides). Immediately after piping one cookie, sprinkle generously with nonpareils while the frosting is still wet. Gently shake off the excess sprinkles and move to a cooling rack to dry. Repeat with the remaining cookies, black royal icing, and black nonpareils. Allow the cookies to dry uncovered at least 4 hours, but overnight is better.
When the cookies are completely dry and firm, package them in cellophane bags for gifting, or store airtight.