A Cut-Out Cookie Rescue
Tuesday, Noon PT: The skies in Seattle are steely gray, spitting out a mix of rain and snow, and I’m about to head to the airport to pick up my brother, Tim. The phone rings. It’s my Chicagoland friend, Nancy, whose name really should be Lucille (as in Ball).
I know that cry. It means my dear friend of 20 years, who is easily flummoxed in the kitchen, is in need of a recipe. Turns out her son’s fourth grade teacher decided at the last minute to reschedule the class Valentine’s party to Wednesday, which meant, for Nan, the designated cut-out cookie parent, to act pretty darn snappy.
I can tell she’s on the verge of hyperventilating, so I quickly rifle through a few baking books for a quick fix. “Okay, here’s one,” I say. “Got a pen?”
I assume she knows to bring the butter up to room temperature and to slice it into smaller pieces so the electric beater can go easy on the dough, so I omit that important little tidbit. Nonetheless, she’s breathing more regularly, and I can get on with my airport run.
Flash forward five or six hours, and the phone brrrrrings again.
“THE DOUGH IS COMPLETELY CRUMBLY! I CAN’T ROLL IT OUT!”
Houston, we’ve got a situation.
By now, it’s 8 p.m. in Chicago, and I know Nan is about to burst a blood vessel.
“I did everything you said,” she said, trying to sound convincing.
"So, tell me about the butter,” I say. “Did you warm it up?”
"No, it was frozen."
"And did you cut it up into smaller pieces before mixing?"
"Well, no," she says sheepishly. “I just let the beater do that.”
"NAN. Here’s what you’re going to do. Throw out the other dough. And I’ve got a new recipe for you to try. Start by taking out more butter to warm up, and slice it into several smaller pieces.”
And so we did another round of dictation, using a recipe from “Recipe of the Week: Cookies” by Sally Sampson, and I made sure my exasperated pal was equipped with all the necessary know-how and little tricks of the trade to make the second batch a delicious success.
Wednesday: 8 a.m. PT: I receive an e-mail with the subject line: “Sugar cookies.” Apparently, the heart-shaped beauties “turned out fabulous!” Whew.
I couldn’t resist testing a batch here at Casa Appetite, and sure enough, these cookies do the job. Of course, mine weren’t nearly as pretty as Nan’s (see photo, above), but I reckon we found ourselves a winner. Better still, I’ve got edible Valentines to deliver this weekend.
For those of you who just don't get all the hype about sugar cut outs, you've got company; Comedian Gary Gulman shares his thoughts on the sugary matter.
Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies
From “Recipe of the Week: Cookies” by Sally Sampson
KOD notes in parentheses
Instead of vanilla extract, Sampson uses an entire vanilla bean and pulverizes it in a food processor. I found it a tad gritty for my taste, so I scraped the insides of the bean instead to flavor my dough. You can forego the bean and use vanilla extract. Details on substitutions below.
1 vanilla bean, split down the middle lengthwise and coarsely chopped (Or a split bean, using a spoon to scrape insides, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
1 cup granulated sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into slices (I use half butter, half Earth Balance spread with good results)
1 whole egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
Place vanilla (whichever form you decide) and sugar in bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until mixture turns a very pale brown and vanilla is almost completely incorporated into the sugar, 3-5 minutes.
Transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (I kept everything in food processor and used “pulse” function; you could also use an electric mixer), add butter and mix until smooth and creamy. Scrape down sides of the bowl, add egg and egg yolk, one at a time, mixing well between additions. Scrape down sides of the bowl, and add flour, baking powder and salt. Mix until everything is well incorporated. (When it was time to add dry ingredients, I incorporated by hand, using a rubber spatula.)
Form dough into two balls. Place each ball into the center of a large resealable plastic bag. Place each bag on the counter, and using a rolling pin, roll dough from center toward edges until it is between 1/8 and ¼ inch thick. Refrigerate for at least one hour and up to two days.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Remove one sheet of dough from the refrigerator at a time. (If you have trouble pulling dough out of bag in one piece, place on lightly floured work surface, place bag on top of dough (which can be sticky) and roll dough out using bag as buffer. It works really well.)
Using any shape cookie cutter, punch out cookies and place two inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet (I used parchment to line pan.) Bake until cookies are just starting to turn golden brown on edges, 8-10 minutes.
Cool on cookie sheet. Transfer to a wire rack and repeat with remaining dough.
Makes 3-4 dozen cookies (depending on size of cutter).
By Kim ODonnel |
February 12, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
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