Cookies Desserts

beach sugar cookies recipe

my beach ::::


I hate beaches. There, I said it. I hate the bright sun that makes me squint like a tiny-eyed mole. I hate the arresting heat. Salt water. Mostly, I hate the sand.


 In 1987, my family moved to Honolulu, Hawaii for a few months. We lived near the Diamond Head area, on Waioli Road. It was a modest neighborhood with cute bungalows and neatly manicured lawns. We lived in a house rented from another sabbatical family. There was a koi pond on the side of the house with copper-colored fish. Mismatched wallpaper decorated every bedroom, making me feel I was living in a circus. And the heat. It melted us, the humidity bearing down like a warm, wet blanket. I was a sweaty teenager and this just made it worse. Pit stains were not going to gain me friends. My body eventually acclimated, air conditioning like an effervescent drink, and I met new friends, ones who understood the importance of beach culture as a teen living in Hawaii.



It was the weekend I spent in my white bikini with friends, sitting on the beach laughing and talking as any 15-year-old girl would do, that I finally realized and admitted that I hated the beach. It was not the 15-year-old insecurity of my body, the finally sprouting breasts and thickening thighs. It was not the horrible sunburn I had that night. It was not that I got trapped in the riptide briefly, bikini top loosening and exposing my boob when jumping into the waves. It was the sand. It was the ubiquitous, grainy lie beneath my feet.


When one sits on a tropical sandy beach, waves lapping at feet and legs, sand ends up places you would never expect. I came home with sand in my bikini bottom: this was not unexpected. But it was when I was sitting in the bathtub realizing there was sand not just IN the bikini bottom but stuck to me deep in other places that I panicked. It took a warm bath and clawing at my skin in places where clawing should never take place, to rid myself of that sand.



Since then, I have kept covered up at the beach usually with shorts, barely touching the water, under an umbrella with a book or with an embarrassingly large-brimmed hat and rash guard shirt. Or I gravitate to the rocky, slick beaches of the north, where one is fully clothed to enjoy them.


These cookies are my sandy beach. A beach with facsimile sand, a golden sugar that could easily melt away in an ocean, rinsing away from any entrapment in, ahem, crevices. I would take a kitchen in a cave over a sandy beach. Anytime.


Enjoy a winter beach or your memories of summer. Without me. I am perfectly happy in the shade.



One year ago: lemon beebrush simple syrup

Two year ago: 6:46 minute caramels

Three years ago: white chocolate truffles and fennel and citrus salad with mint

Four years ago: baby bûche de noël cookies


beach sugar cookies recipe
Recipe type: dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • COOKIE DOUGH: 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Gold colored sugar, to make the sand
  • ROYAL ICING: I use sweet sugar belle's ( ):
  • 2 pounds {one bag} confectioner's sugar (907 grams)
  • 5 tablespoons meringue powder (45 grams, on my measure)
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons oil-free extract (I use vanilla)
  • ½ to ¾ cups warm water
  • food coloring: blue (for water and starfish), yellow/brown (for undercoat for sand and for starfish), pink (for starfish)
  1. TO MAKE THE COOKIES: Measure and sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl or in mixer bowl with paddle attachment, cream together the softened butter and the sugar. Once smooth, add the eggs, almond extract and combine well.
  3. Add the dry flour mixture to the butter / egg mixture, but by bit. Mix until the dough is smooth.It will be thick.
  4. Shape into a disk and cover with plastic wrap. Chill for at least an hour, though overnight works. You can freeze the dough here too (but thaw in the fridge before using).
  5. ROLLING: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. If you chilled the dough more than an hour, allow it to warm very slightly to encourage better roll out. Roll between long pieces of parchment, to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin and to obviate the need for any extra flour. Roll to between ⅛- to ¼-inch thickness. Cut out rectangles, circles, and starfish shapes and bake for about 8 minutes, or until tops are matte. Cool slightly before removing from pan and cooling on rack. Wait at least 2 days before icing the cookies. You can freeze them for months, thaw in the fridge, and then decorate.
  6. ICING: Find a tutorial on flood icing and piping icing consistencies. There is no one way to do this; you need to find your preferences. Piping icing needs to pretty thick for the starfish body dots. I use Sweet Sugar Belle's "20-second icing" to do the water, beach, and starfish colors.
  7. Whip up the icing: Begin by stirring the extract into half the water (start with ¼ cup).
  8. Using a paddle attachment, gently mix the sugar and meringue powder. No need to sift.
  9. Set the mixer on its lowest setting slowly and add the water/extract mix to the dry ingredients. The icing will become thick and lumpy as the water is added. Don't worry! It will become smooth.
  10. Continue to add the remaining water (this may or may not be the entire amount) until the mixture reaches a thick, honey-like consistency.
  11. Turn the mixer to medium speed and whip 2 to 4 minutes until the icing is thick and fluffy. You want a soft peak consistency.
  12. DECORATING: Divide up bowls to make up blue, yellow, pink, and any other color choices. Save some icing to not tint (for the starfish body dots). If you do not need to use all of the royal icing at once, it keeps well for about a week, untinted, at room temperature and well wrapped. Just remix it if the water starts to separate. Allow the undercoats on the starfish to dry before adding the body dots, to achieve the pointy, textured effect. Otherwise, the dotting icing will melt into the undercoat colored icing.
  13. For the beach cookies: Pipe on the blue water, allow to dry at least 30-45 minutes, then pipe on the yellow and immediately throw on the gold sugar for the sand effect. If the gold sugar sticks to the blue, you can gently brush it away with a small paint brush. Allow these to dry completely (overnight) before moving on to the next step.
  14. Pipe the fairly thick white icing (for sea foam and wave whitecaps) along the blue-sand border. Using a small paintbrush, swipe the white against the blue to achieve the foam look. Pipe more waves on the blue with a similar approach. Allow to dry overnight. If you want to emulate the original artist, check out her page for piping beach accessories, such as flip-flops, beach balls, and shells. I did not do this. Remember: I hate the beach. I want it unspoiled.
  15. These cookies keep for weeks in an airtight container, more for visual enjoyment (in other words, they will be stale and edible but pretty).


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