December 11, 2007

Sugar Cookies That Work, with Four Variations

Here is my mom's favorite sugar cookie recipe. If it's the one I think it is (and I'll tell you on Monday), it will make perfect cookie-cutter cookies. I needed this recipe badly, since my efforts have been less than stellar on the decorated Christmas sugar cookie front.

Yes, of course there is lots of Christmas cookie baking going on at the Waverly Place residence -- at least as much as the mandatory 60 hour work week I'm operating under in my day job allows (sorry, just had to add a little whine). I cannot say that I'm yet an expert cookie baker, but I'm learning. Last night a metrosexual man friend (and yes, I mean friend) came over and we played with making fun cookie glaze colors, painting the sugar cookies in all sorts of child-like, crazy ways, and generally discovering that our lack of talent was not a detriment to cookie decorating enjoyment. I'll take some pictures! I love most, I think, the red-headed angel I made for my red-headed daughter (see the picture? isn't it pretty?). Or, from my friend, the purple mane and tail he painted on my sky-blue pony.

But the trouble is finding exactly the right sugar cookie recipe. I've tried two in the last two days. One just wouldn't come together, so I added a whole egg to the one yolk it called for, and still the dough would not roll out, so I made little balls that I then pressed with a cookie form. They taste like rocks. The batch I made last night rolled great, tastes great, but the cookies puffed up upon baking a lot more than my mother's or Mamaw's ever did. I know this beyond a doubt, because I am using the cookie cutters that my mother used when we were growing up, and her angels and Santas and bells and stars and odd Celtic cross thingy were always quite well formed, almost identical to the mold, and mine came out looking like cloud forms that one, with enough leisure to stare at the sky, might imagine were angels and Santas and bells and stars and odd Celtic crosses.

Nicely, though, this morning I received an email from Aunt Janey sending me, at her request, my mother's favorite sugar cookie recipe. Thanks, Mom. You heard my plea. I thought at first this was the recipe from our childhood cookies, but here's what Aunt Janey says about it: "I believe the recipe came from the Midwest Living Magazine. I made them for the first time two years ago, took Christmas cut-out cookies to Salem, that was when your Mother first tasted them and said she liked them better. I don't decorate them at all - just don't take the time. Guess the cream cheese takes some of the sweet out and may be the reason I like them over the traditional sugar cookie. Mother's sugar cookies were always so delicious - sometimes my stuff doesn't turn out like hers."

I hope to make these this coming Sunday. Can you believe I have something booked every single night from now until Saturday? My God. Here's the cookie recipe. If you try it before I do I know we'd all love to hear and see your results!

4-in-One Cookie Dough

The cream cheese adds richness and flavor to this simple, versatile recipe.

1 pkg (8 oz) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
3/4 cup butter(1 1/2 sticks)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda

1. Beat cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended.

2. Add flour and baking soda, mix well.
3. Wrap and refrigerate for half an hour.

Proceed below to the variation of your choice. They look great on their own or together on a tray.

Pinwheel Cookies

1. Divide above dough in half.
2. Add 2 sq. melted Bakers Semi-sweet Baking Chocolate to one half of dough, mix until well blended.
3. Divide each half into 2 equal parts (you should have 2 white and 2 chocolate pieces).
4. Roll 1 of the white and 1 of the chocolate dough pieces each into a 10 x 8 inch rectangle on floured surface.

5. Place rolled out chocolate dough onto rolled out white dough and press gently to form even layer.
6. Starting from the short side, roll up dough tightly to form a log; wrap in plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining dough.
7. Refrigerate 1 hour.
8. Preheat oven to 350 F.

9. Cut dough into 1/4 inch thick slices; place on ungreased baking sheets.
10. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

Thumbprint Cookies

1. To the basic dough recipe above, add 1 cup finely chopped pecans.
2. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350.
4. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Place on ungreased baking sheets.
5. Indent centers.
6. Bake 10 minutes.
7. Fill each cookie with about 1 tsp. of your favorite preserves.
8. Continue baking 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Sugar Cookie Cut-Outs

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Roll basic dough recipe above to 1/8 inch thickness on lightly floured surface.
3. Cut into assorted shapes and place on greased baking sheets.
4. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until edges begin to brown.
5. Transfer cookies to wire tack.

You can frost these when they cool, or sprinkle with colored sugars before baking - use your imagination!

Pecan Bars

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Press dough firmly onto bottom of ungreased 15 x 10 x 1 inch baking pan (cookie sheet).
3. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
4. Meanwhile, combine until well blended:

2 eggs
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla

5. Stir in 3 cups chopped pecans.
6. Spread the egg/nut mixture evenly onto the warm crust.
7. Bake an additional 20 to 25 minutes or until the topping is firm around the edges and slightly soft in the center.
8. Cool and cut into 60 bars.

All this from one recipe! No wonder it's my mommy's favorite!

No comments: