Monday, December 12, 2011

Sugar Cookies (without tears)

I have a dear friend who has twin boys the same age as my eldest. We went through our first year hand in hand. I was determined to make everything as healthy as possible for my new tyke and she was determined to do the same AND take on the world. She would redo her garden beds, paint her downstairs, reorganize spaces in her home. I would look up recipes online. Ya. Yin and Yang.

Christmas time came and she busted out DOZENS of gorgeous sugar cookies. I had to do something. The heat was on (and bless those of you who are old enough to know the Glenn Fry reference).

I loathe enriched, bleached flours, High Fructose Syrup, canned goods, BPA and yes, my green flag is flying high at this point, but I was going to make pretty cookies for my son. With my toddler in hand (and under foot), I went to every store on the island that could potentially carry cookie cutters.  I came home with a traditional variety as well as some marine animals for flare. 

I found a great recipe and then I substituted in whole wheat flour and some apple sauce. Hmph. Are you groaning? You ought to be. I ended up with cookie carnage. Flippers, arms, heads, star points, legs and carapace pieces. Nightmare on Elm Street vs. Christmas on my kitchen counter.

Believe it or not, I couldn't figure out what had gone wrong. Refusing to be deterred, I rolled out the second ball of dough (there were four total- everyone was going to get some!) an created my lovely little cutouts again. Needless to say, the carnage pile grew.

Frustrated and with tears in my eyes, I called Super Friend. She was trying to help me troubleshoot and she knew me well enough to ask, "You followed the recipe, right?" Ya, well...No. "What did you do?" When told her, I could feel her grimace and heavy sigh through the phone. "Val, you don't FREESTYLE with Christmas cookies. They are CHRISTMAS COOKIES!" She was so right. The two remaining balls of dough were tossed in the trash. So sad. For this season, I was done with Christmas cookies. I picked up a flipper, gnawed on it, confirmed it tasted like it looked and chucked the mountain of carnage away. Bah humbug.

It has been 3 years, but I am ready to give it a go. For the years that spanned in between I have made every non-sugar cookie that I could find. Now it is time to revisit my dark past.

Yes, I will use organic sugar and butter and flour. I can't give that up, but the ingredient list will stay unchanged. I am going with Martha Stewart's Ideal Sugar Cookies. This recipe is adapted from "The Martha Stewart Living Christmas Cookbook" (Oxmoor House, 2003.) It just feels right. Martha. Christmas. Sugar cookies. Deep breath. 

I will not be busting out the crazy cookie cutters (they have been misplaced). Instead, I will use a mason jar to make easy peasy circles that the Little Man can cut out with me. 

Great advice that I received from a friend: make the dough a day ahead. Bring it out when you are going to roll and decorate and make that the cookie making process. Little minds might not want to wait 1-2 hours in between.


Simple Christmas Sugar Cookies
Martha Stewart's Ideal Sugar Cookies. This recipe is adapted from "The Martha Stewart Living Christmas Cookbook" (Oxmoor House, 2003).

Yield: Makes 2 dozen

                              2 cups organic all-purpose flour
                              1/4 teaspoon salt
                              1/2 teaspoon baking powder
                              1/2 cup (1 stick) organic unsalted butter
                              1 cup organic sugar
                              1 large organic egg, lightly beaten
                              2 tablespoons organic milk
                              1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar; mix until light and fluffy. With mixer running, add egg, milk, and vanilla; mix until well combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add reserved flour mixture. Mix until just combined.

 Transfer dough to a work surface. Shape into 2 discs, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
OXO Be a Good Cookie Spatula....more about this soon.
 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with nonstick baking mats or parchment paper; set aside.
Even my little helper could cut these out and place them on the tray!
 On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes, and transfer to prepared baking sheets, leaving an inch in between. Leftover dough can be rolled and cut once more. Bake until lightly golden, about 10 minutes; do not allow to brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Hint: take the "leftover" dough, roll it in a ball
and then roll it in sugar and cinnamon...
Easy for little hands.

Icing (my recipe, not Martha's):

1 cup confectioners sugar
3 tsps milk
2 tsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
Food coloring

Using a whisk, mix sugar and milk until no dry sugar remains. Add corn syrup, extract and food coloring and mix. Tah dah! You are ready to go.

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  1. You make me laugh! :)
    Some things just have to have the butter and sugar!
    My weakness is fudge made with that terrible marshmellow creme. I make one batch every year and eat it unitl I'm sick then I'm ok until next's a tradition.

  2. LOL...I love it! How can you have cookies without all that yummy, yet horribly bad for you, pure, white sugar?

    Is that your boy looking thru the oven window? To cute!!!!


  3. Great idea about keeping it in the fridge! Love that idea. I try to make everything healthier, too. Sometimes, you've just gotta go with the bad stuff!

  4. I can't wait to try this recipe! I have tried tweaking recipes as well and cutting the unhealthy stuff out, but a couple of times it has ended up just falling apart or frankly just having no taste. haha. I have your button featured on my blog! I greatly enjoyed yours!

  5. Yummy! They look amazing, and I'm sure they were devoured quickly. I tried making "my" version of a cookie once using applesauce, and it was a disaster as well. I think it works great as a sub with muffins though!

    Gina from vB

  6. This is the Christmas Cookie Sherriff speaking. So glad you came back around to the dark side, Val. Let's get together over the holidays to work on a healthy alternative to cotton time for the County Fair next fall! I love you and your crunchy ways! Repeat after me: there's everything else (which you can freely sub apple sauce and things with dietary fiber into), and then there are sugar cookes. Your little man and lady are so lucky to have such an awesome Mama who makes the best o' homemade treats. Love you tons! xoxoxo

  7. I Love this post since I've had the same experience sans the healthy recioe. I just had bad luck making these. They'd fall apart, or burn. This year, i refrigerated the dough all night and had no issues!

  8. To be honest, I dread making cookies because I am afraid they do not look perfect. I understand you totally. I love this recipe and I think I will use this for my kids this Christmas.


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