December 5, 2009

On pacing oneself: NaCoBakMo, Day 8.

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:27 pm by the Green-Eyed Siren

Channelling Cookie Monster. Gaaaah! Cooooookies! I bake coooookies! You give to Food Pantry, I give you cooooookies!

Day 7’s cookie/brownie was fussy, and the project extended unexpectedly into Day 8. Combined with the one-day posting delay I was starting to sweat, so for the official Day 8 cookie I thought I’d do something simple. A sugar cookie. No big deal, just mix up, roll out and cut. It seemed like a reasonable way to get caught up.

Of course, rolling and cutting is never that simple. First, you need to find acceptable cookie cutters. I’ve been collecting cookie cutters for, well, forever, so that shouldn’t have been a big problem. What I did not realize is that almost every cookie cutter I own falls into one of two categories: a) gigantic oversized Christmas-themed cookie cutters, such as those popularized by Martha Stewart and Williams-Sonoma for creating Perfect Oversized Holiday Memories for one’s children and b) spooky Halloween cookie cutters. The oversized cutters are really a pain to deal with and result in fundamentally unstable cookies unsuitable for shipping, so they were a no-go. I briefly considered the prospect of sending Nightmare Before Christmas-inspired holiday jack-o’-lanterns, but the children and I felt that perhaps that would not do. Fortunately I had one small angel cutter in the box, and we decided that the small heart cutout (one of three remaining from a set of four playing-card inspired cutters my mom had when I was a little girl) would be socially acceptable for Christmas. So that was settled.

Unfortunately those leftover Day 7 cookie issues were costly time-wise, so we weren’t rolling and cutting until about 7:45, which was way too late even for a Friday night. I let the kids stay up long enough to do much of the colored sugar sprinkling part, and they had a lovely time with it. But then we ran out of red sprinkles, and they were tired, and I was tired, and Mr. Unfocused (who arrived home around 8:15 in serious need of a scotch-and-soda, as his workday had begun with a 7 a.m. conference call) was tired, and we eventually gave up. Also discouraging was the fact that this was not the super-tastiest cookie ever. It’s fine, it holds up really well and should arrive at far-flung destinations intact, but it seems like a lot of trouble to do all that rolling and cutting for a cookie that’s not absolutely thrilling to eat.

So we baked up half of the double batch. It yielded probably about 60 or so cookies. I might finish baking the rest, or just figure I’ll spend my time making something tastier. It’s looking like I’ll still have plenty of cookies to go around.

This selection comes from another of my grandmother’s cookbooks, Ruth Berolzheimer’s The American Woman’s Cook Book, copyright 1941. The results were probably disappointing because the recipe calls for shortening instead of butter. I don’t think the choice of shortening was due to lack of butter’s availability or anything, because plenty of recipes in this substantial book call for piles of the stuff. Instead, I’m guessing the choice for shortening was about making the cookies more firm. But life is about tradeoffs, and I’m one who would rather have a delicious cookie show up broken on my doorstep than eat a ho-hum cookie that arrives all in one piece.

Still, I don’t mean to be unkind about them. They’re fine, and they’re festive. Nice to dress up the plate a bit.

Sugar Cookies

2/3 c shortening (but I’d try it with butter if I were doing it again)
1 c sugar
1/2 t vanilla
2 eggs
3 c flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/3 c milk

Cream shortening and sugar, add vanilla and beaten eggs, then the flour, baking powder and salt sifted together, alternating with the milk. Roll and cut in any desired shape. Sprinkle with sugar before baking. Bake in a moderate oven (350º-375º) for 10-12 minutes. Number of cookies depends on the size of the cutters.

TOMORROW: Breakfast with Santa cookies.

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9 Comments »

  1. harri3tspy said,

    Any cookie with cutters is never simple. I am heading to the store for ingredients for your peppermint drops, which I will take to a cookie exchange party later this week. I plan to include your web address and a short note on your fundraising project for the food pantry on the recipe I’ll also bring along. Here’s hoping it brings you a few more page views at least.

  2. […] $500 of donations. So donate today! Or don’t, and then there will be more for me! Check out the Siren’s latest NaCoBakMo update here. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Day 1 – Update, and Lessons […]

  3. harri3tspy said,

    Also, re shortening, I think it was the preferred fat in baking in the US from the 1940s-1960s. I believe it began as a cost savings measure, but I’m guessing it continued for other reasons. I’d actually like to know more about it. It never caught on in Europe in the same way.

  4. LSM said,

    We love making sugar cookies around here. I actually did Halloween ones this year and sometimes we make them at Easter too. I have to wait a bit before I make them at Christmas so that we have some to take along to the relatives. This recipe is both tasty and stable if you want to give sugar cookies another go. http://somewhereinthesuburbs.wordpress.com/2007/04/09/an-eggcellent-easter/

  5. Jeanne said,

    We have a tradition of making dinosaur sugar cookies, simply because when the kids were little those were the only cookie cutters I had. We put a lot more sugar on ours, to make the “long-necks” really green and the T Rexes very red.

  6. I love the idea of Christmas T-rexes.

  7. Thanks for the recipe link, LSM. Glad to have something different to try, especially one that holds up well without being blah.

  8. Thanks for helping to spread the word!

  9. harri3tspy said,

    I can put in a vote for LSM’s recipe. I made it this evening. The dough was tricky to work with. I had to use very short strokes with a greased rolling pin to roll it out or it would rip or crumble. But with some careful handling, we got over 4 dozen cookies out of a half batch of her recipe. And they have a delicious carmelly flavor and a nice texture — crispy on the outside, just soft enough on the inside.


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