When we decided to exchange Christmas cookie recipes, I got excited by the endless possibilities.
Except… I don’t bake. Not anymore. A couple years back, I got on a baking kick, inspired by my abstinence from sugar. I poured through cookbooks, staring at pictures of cookies, dreaming of their taste. Then, a friend pointed out that cookbooks and pictures of food is essentially food porn for a compulsive overeater, similar to pornographic websites or magazines for sex addicts. Since then, I’d given up my obsessive reading of cookbooks and I don’t watch cooking shows. It seems silly, but it’s a slippery slope for an addict.
Instead, I thought about what cookies represent to me- warmth, family, and comfort. Memories of coming in from playing in the snow and discovering my Mom baked chocolate chip cookies (not sure if it’s a real memory or an invented one). For Purim, we bake Hamentashen with our children to represent the three-cornered hat of the villain of the Purim story, Haman. And of course, we make Christmas and Easter cookies.
Each type of cookie has a history, some with histories that go back as early as the 14th Century. For example, King Stanislas Leszcynski of Poland loved the madeleine cookie so much he named it for its baker.
There are drop cookies , rolled cookies, bar cookies, hand-formed cookies, piped and molded cookies, refrigerator cookies, filled and sandwich cookies and decorator cookies. Thousands and thousands of cookies!
I happen to think life is like a sugar cookie. It begins with simple ingredients, which you mold and shape into whatever you desire. You can go the easy route and make drop sugar cookies. But what’s the fun in that? Life isn’t easy- it’s what you make of it that counts. We’ve had the awesome gift of having our book published by Soul Mate Publishing. Now, we have the responsibility of promoting our book. We can sit back and hope people find their way to it or we can go out there and market it.
So in honor of all our hard work, I’m including my favorite sugar cookie recipe. May all of you find success and good health in the New Year!
Chanukah cut-out sugar cookies
2 c. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
1 stick plus 2 Tbsp. (10 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temp.)
1 c. sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Plain or colored sugar for dusting (optional)
Mix the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl.
In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (or a hand mixer in a large bowl), beat the butter at medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the egg and yolk and beat for another 1 minute. Beat in the vanilla for another 1 minute. Change speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture, mixing for 1 minute. If the dry ingredients aren’t incorporated by that time, use a rubber spatula to complete the mixing.
Place dough on clean counter and divide it in half. Shape each half into a disk and wrap in plastic. Chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.*
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out one packet of dough between wax paper to a thickness of ¼ inch, lifting the paper and turning the dough over to so that it rolls evenly. Lift off the top sheet of paper and cut out the cookies with 2 inch cookie cutters. Pull away excess dough, saving scraps for rerolling and carefully lift the rounds onto the baking sheets with a spatula, leaving about 1 ½ inches between the cookies. If the dough gets too sticky, refrigerate it for another 15 minutes and try again.
Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 9 to 11 minutes, rotating the sheets after the first 5 minutes. The cookies will not color much. Remove the pan from oven and dust cookies with sugar. Rest for 1 minute before carefully lifting them onto a rack to cool to room temperature.
Repeat with remaining dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.
Makes about 50 cookies. Cookies can be kept at room temperature in a tin for 1 week and wrapped well, can stay frozen for up to 2 months.
*dough will keep in the refrigerator for 3 days and frozen for up to 2 months.
Baking: From my home to yours
By Dorie Greenspan