Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sugar High

The Husband and I are staying in PGH for Christmas. He has to work in the Cardio-Thorasic ICU and our families have too many moving parts to be able to get out to us. So, since we weren't celebrating with family and we were in a totally new place, I decided that I was going to make this the most Christmasy-Christmas yet.

Living in a one bedroom loft in Chicago, we didn't have space for a Christmas Tree. However, now that we live in a house, we do. So while The Husband was working one of his many, many, many long days, I went out and picked us a tree. Our car isn't the most reliable, so he requested no farms out in the country since he worried that the combination of the tree of top of the car and the mountains in this weather wouldn't be the safest for me. Begrudgingly, I agreed. And as it turns out, I got lucky and while I went to a place in the city, it did snow a fair amount while I was picking the tree. So that made up for the lack of farms and hot chocolate.

We decorated the tree, we put stocking up over the fireplace. I put a wreath in front of our house (another first). And while the decorations and lights and delicious smell of a live tree is intoxicating, I decided it wasn't enough. we needed Christmas cookies. Growing up, The Mom wasn't really a baker until I got into high school, and then she made pastry chef level things like dacquoise avec chocolate ganache and tiramisu with home-made lady fingers.  The Big-G (my grandma) had always been a big baker. Every holiday season she would spend days baking Chocolate Chip cookies, Oatmeal cookies and Peanut Butter cookies and then put them in this HUGE white bowl and decorate the bowl with Christmas Candy. It was magical.

 She is really the one who got me into cooking and baking. Even now when I speak with her she asks me what I'm making and then tells me "AL! You're making like a mad chemist!" And it's really true. I got my whole, "I don't follow recipes and make everything by the seat of my pants" from her.

The one thing that we never did was make Sugar Cookies. So, I decided this year that it was time to make some  and try my hand at possibly decorating them. I can tell you that at this moment, they have not been decorated. BUT honestly, they taste really good and I worry that putting frosting on them, may ruin the delicate flavor. I should add that I'm not the biggest lover of frosting on cookies.

I am going to try frosting them over the next few evenings and I will let you know how it goes. But in the mean time, I thought I'd share the recipe. The cookies are lovely, they're not overly buttery (also not a fan of butter) and they're just the right level of chewy. I'm also not a fan of cookies that have a snap to them. I feel like they should melt in your mouth, not cause you to see a dentist. The Husband seems to enjoy them as they are. And they smell fantastic.

There are two keys to this recipe. First, letting the dough cool. We have a mudroom that doesn't have heat, I covered the bowl and placed the dough out there for a few hours. Normal people would probably put it in the refrigerator. I never said I was normal.

The second key is the dusting. The dough is going to be sticky when you roll it out. Instead of using flour, keep dusting your work surface with sugar. I went through two additional cups of sugar while making these, but it makes the world of difference.


1 Stick of Unsalted Sweet Cream Butter, Softened
2 Cups White Sugar (and 2  more for dusting)
4 Eggs
1 TSP Vanilla
5 Cups Flour
2 TSP Baking Powder
1 TSP Salt

In a mixer (or large bowl) cream butter and sugar until it's smooth. Slowly beat in the eggs and vanilla and mix until creamy, about 3 minutes.

Slowly stir in the remaining dry ingredients. Cool dough for at least one hour or overnight.

When you're ready to bake, put the oven to 400 degrees.

Roll out the dough on a smooth, clean, flat surface. I used a Silpat mat, it's thin and made of silicon, so things have a harder time sticking to it. Remember to cover your work surface in sugar. As you roll out the dough, keep checking to see if it's sticking to your surface, if it starts to, add more sugar.

Roll your dough out to about 1/4 to 1/2 in thick, depending on how thick you like your cookies. And cut the shapes. Roll the scraps in sugar and start the process over again.

Place your cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet. On a personal note, I always bake cookies on a pizza stone, I like how evenly it bakes the cookies. Also, they help season the stone. Place in the oven
and bake for 9 minutes.

Remove and place on cooling rack.  When you get around to it, ice!

They may not be iced, but they smell and taste heavenly

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