Monday, December 20, 2010

Elaine's Sugar Cookies

I have been a bakin' foo' over the past few days.  I never, ever baked when the boys were little.  During room mother meetings when a bright-eyed mother of a first born said something crazy like, "Let's all bake cupcakes and ice them like little snowmen for the party," I would respond with a rowdy Bronx cheer followed by a bellowed "NO."  Why bake what you can buy at United?  Not me.  Nope.  In fact I would have chosen getting my teeth cleaned (which requires a generous dose of nitrous oxide to keep me from bolting from the building) over baking circle-shaped Slice and Bake sugar cookies iced white with canned vanilla icing.  Then, several years - and pounds - ago, a Cookie Fairy must have visited me in a dream and done a Sugar Plum dance in my head.  I now love mixing, baking and icing cookies all day long in my kitchen while watching old movies on TCM.  Lolly, lolly, la.  Go figure.

I am the messiest cook on the entire planet.  My Kitchenaide mixer has yet to teach me not to add too much flour at a time despite its repeated warnings sent in the form of clouds of white powder blown up into my face like some sort of culinary Bare Escentual matt finish foundation.  If there is an empty butter stick wrapper in my kitchen, you can be sure that it will end up on the floor - buttery side down.  Martha Stewart would have a complete and total panic attack if she saw my kitchen counters strewn with open containers of coloring paste, table knives coated with icing, sprinkle containers knocked over on their sides, and doughy mixer beaters carelessly cast aside.  My fingernails, rimmed underneath with green icing, would send her into a full-on hand-washing OCD rigor.  I scoff in the face of both Martha and the Health Department as I bake like a bakin' foo'.

These are my husband's all-time favorite cookies.  I got the recipe from a dear friend in Dallas, Elaine Carlton Harton, who made about 100 of these for a children’s Christmas cookie decorating party when our boys were preschoolers.  I never particularly liked sugar cookies until I sampled one of Elaine's.   They are a bit crispy on the outside and then chewy on the inside.  They kind of remind me of really good shortbread.  The dough is wonderful to work with.  Happy baking!!

Elaine’s Sugar Cookies

Preheat oven to 350.

Cream together:
1 lb butter
2 c. sugar
2 eggs

Then add and mix:
1-2 t. vanilla

In a separate bowl combine and mix:
5 c. flour
1/8 t. salt
1 t. soda

Slowly blend the dry ingredients into the butter mixture.  Add around 3 T. milk to make the dough smooth out a bit.  Chill dough for about 10 minutes.  Roll out to about 1/2” thick and cut with cookie cutters.  Place the cookies about 2” apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or a Silpat (keeps them light on the bottom).  Bake for 6 minutes, and then switch the cookie sheets around in the oven (top sheet to the bottom rack, bottom sheet to the top rack, and rotate each sheet so that the side that was facing the back of the oven is now facing the front…I know…I know…but it’s worth it).  Bake for about 4 minutes longer.  The cookies should be  very lightly browned around the edges.  For really crunchy, dark brown cookies, bake them for about 30-45 minutes longer…

Ice the cookies with butter frosting or royal icing.  I don’t measure anything when I make icing for cookies.  I used about 3-4 c. of powdered sugar, 2 t. vanilla, food coloring, and then added milk until the icing was thick but still a bit runny.  Truth be told, I generally use store bought buttercream frosting that I "hand color."

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