Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tasting Christmas

What's a blog without recipes?

Eating and cooking spans politics, ethnicity, incomes, gender, and religious preferences.

I don't cook often these days. After 35 years of head cook at our house, my husband decided to take it on .... his reason ...
 I was hungry.

But the Christmas tradition of sugar cookies cut into shapes and decorated lies firmly within my territory.

My mother gave me this recipe for sugar cookies and I have not found one that is better. And many of my cookies cutters came from her. When the kids were little, her favorite activity with them was to make cookies ... the messier the better.
Sugar Cookies
1 ½ c. powdered sugar
1 c. butter
1 egg
2 ½ c. flour
¼ t. salt
1 t. soda
1 t. cream of tartar
1 t. vanilla or lemon or half & half

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla or lemon, mix well. Work in by hands sifted, dry ingredients. Chill 1 hour. Roll out ¼” thick to cut into shapes. Bake 7-10 minutes at 375 degrees . Times may vary, watch carefully. Frost or decorate.
I have found that one of the keys to successfully cutting out the cookies and transfering them to the cookies sheet is to make sure that the dough is cold. After chilling it, I usually divide the dough in half or less to roll it
out. After cutting one group of cookies out, I will make the dough into a ball again and roll it out again ONCE. After the rolling it out twice, the dough gets too warm; so I stick it back in the frig. Then after all the pieces of dough are chilled again, I will put them together in a ball and roll it out again.

After taking them out of the oven, I let them cool for two minutes, then take them off the cookies sheet and put them on a wire rack to cool. Usually, we end up decorating the cookies on a different day. Our grown-up daughter will still help decorate the cookies but doesn't take an interest in the rolling and cutting business .... too busy.

For little kids, they love getting their hands in the flour, eating some dough, and seeing the blob of dough transformed into shapes they recognize.

Many years ago, my mother saw a new product for cookie decorating in Southern Living magazine. The magazine showed gold and silver powder that could be used on the icing for a new look. Not being able to find that product locally, she called the person who had demonstrated the technique and talked to her personally about it and order some of those little jars.

The person she talked to ..... Martha Stewart, who was new on the cooking and decorating scene at that time. Those little jars were very valuable! It took some experimenting to learn how to use that powder, it's never as easy as it looks in a magazine or on TV. But I learned to mix the powder with regular, granulated sugar to get the desired outcome. Those little jars last a long time! Actually, I thought they were going to last through my lifetime.

But, this year, when we started to get out the ingredients for decorating, Jacquelyn warned me that we were out of the gold and silver. I almost had a meltdown. Since I recently lost my mother, this tradition was an emotional tie for me with her.

Rather than having a melt-down, we went to the internet. We found gold and silver sugar sprinkles online and available at a local retail store.

We don't decorate the cookies to compete in a contest....
We decorate to warm our hearts.
I always include hearts in our Christmas cookies .... what is Christmas without the heart of love?

The hearts and stars remind us why we celebrate the season.