Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cut-out cookies

I hate to admit that I'm a snob about a lot of things. Even just typing that sentence makes me sigh and shake my head.

I'm a really. big. SNOB.

Ugh, there is so much stuff that annoys me to the point of eye-rolling ... but sometimes I really just can't help it.  I do try to be discreet, but sometimes it doesn't work out so well.  For example, I am a snob re: cut-out cookies.

I probably shouldn't even say this: Typically, if I'm out somewhere and I see a tray of cut-out cookies, I won't even bother trying them even though I'll eat anything with sugar at least once (twice, oftentimes, just for good measure).  I know in my heart and mind that they are not worth it.

Actually: Who am I kidding? It's worse than that. Sometimes I'll eat one of those cookies just to revel in how sub-par they really are.  I am a sick, sick, sick person. I know: It's bad.  I deserve to be struck by lightening. (I'm a VIRGO, God help me.  Read the books: Not even Sartre can argue with this one. And I will NOT be insulted by being labeled a determinist. It is SO MUCH MORE COMPLICATED than that!!)

BUT, I have good REASON for this (and I'll even share the reason, i.e., recipe, with you): I grew up eating Aunt Edna's cut-out cookies, and once you go Edna, you ain't never goin back.

First, these cookies are incredible because they are paper-thin.  Consequently, they are also anti-feminist because I haven't met a woman yet with sufficient upper-body strength to roll them out unassisted.  That's right: You literally need a man to help you make these. [Insert eye-rolling.] My grandmother is nearly 6' tall and nobody (NOBODY!) messes with her ... and my grandfather rolls these out for her each time.  So there's the downside.  But, that's it.  It's all downhill (i.e., "easier") from here.

Second, we don't bother icing these things. This fact may cause a fundamental disagreement between myself and others. For the record: I have only tasted one cut-out frosted cookie that was incredible.  Apparently, this person used Martha Stewart's recipe for both the (beyond paper-thin) cookie and the impossibly shiny, glossy royal icing.  It's important to note that the frosting was not gobbed in heaps on the cookie (a la' Wegmans) but spread perfectly, gorgeously, smooth on each tiny cookie surface.  They were not overly sweet; they were a sight to behold; finally, they tasted as good as they looked.

In this family, however, we just do an egg and water wash on each cookie with colored sugar on top.  I like to sprinkle on copious amounts of sugar so that it forms a fine crust (like the top of a creme brulee) while baking.  I really want to try my hand at Martha's famous royal icing one of these days, but 1) I'm deathly afraid of raw eggs and 2) powdered egg whites are so freakin expensive.  I can never actually convince myself to buy them because the sticker shock is always so bad.

We made these last night.  I won't lie: It wasn't the happiest "Look at us! We're the cutest couple ever baking cookies together" moment.  We were both pretty tired after dinner and I started freaking out when Ron kept touching stuff around the kitchen with raw egg, salmonella-y fingers. It was like a scene out of The Big Bang Theory, only I was Sheldon and Ron was Leonard and the audience was totally siding with Leonard.

The good news is that this recipe makes a big batch of cookies, so at least we felt like we had accomplished something at the end of the night. (Well ... I did, anyway.)

Edna Casey's Cut-Out Cookies

4 cups sifted AP flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup room temp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 room temp. eggs
4 tsp. milk

Sift first three ingredients together and set aside. Blend butter until soft and gradually blend in sugar.  Beat in vanilla, eggs, and milk. (If you want to color the dough, I would add food coloring at this point or after adding half of the dry ingredients.) Gradually add sifted dry ingredients.  Wrap up dough in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.  Roll out to 1/4 in. thickness on a floured surface.  Cut with cookie cutters.  Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and lightly brush on egg and water wash (i.e., beat one egg in a small bowl and add a few drops of water to thin it) and top with colored sugar.  Bake at 375F for 6-8 minutes depending on your oven. (For my kitchen, I've learned that it's 8 minutes in the top oven and absolutely not a second longer than 6 minutes in the bottom oven.) Cool on wire rack and store in an air tight container.

We have these year round at my grandmother's house (she's Edna's niece).  This doesn't make any sense, but the Easter ones are my favorite. (It's the same exact recipe ... only the cut-outs are bunnies, duckies, eggs--aka, ovals--and tulips.)

One more image to leave with you: Ron and Charlie.

Even though Charlie is a cockapoo, Ron came to the sad realization Sunday night that, yes, he IS Officially Allergic to Charlie.  To this I said, "Well, that does it: If you're allergic to poodle mixes, then you are allergic to DOGS. PERIOD."  Whereupon Ron countered (speaking as fast as he possibly could in one breath), "Yeah but I can get used to things like the cats I was allergic to the cats and now I hardly ever take Claritin ever because my body adjusted and it's not a big deal and I think I can still get a dog one day really I think I could."

Poor kid. I hope he's right.

Oh, and I'm not joking: Charlie POSES for photographs. Jess (Charlie's momma) held up her iPhone and called in her puppy voice, "Chaaaarleeee! Look at me!! Chaaarrleee! Good boy!!" and Charlie looked right at her, cocked his head to the side, and raised his eyebrows at her.  He did this twice in a row.  It's like he's rubbing it in: "Yeah, I AM this cute. Your eyes are working just fine."

Longest day of the week tomorrow: Nietzsche's relativism on deck.  We started this lesson on Monday, and when we reached the absolute darkest heart of the matter, one girl was literally staring right at me, nodding her head in this slow, knowing way, while grinning, smirking almost, as if to say, "YES. I am with you Nietzsche.  Here I am. I want to be Saved."  And I had one of those rare Teacher Moments: "One of these people gets it. Wow. My Life of Teaching Intro is NOT pointless."  Try to grasp the moment and hold on to it, and it runs through your fingers faster than water.


Gomez Family said...

Why, oh why, do I read your blog close to meal times? Now all I want for lunch is cookies...

They look great!

Jess said...

I know, I know, I'm late on reading this, BUT I'm so sorry to hear Ron is allergic to Charlie! Charlie loooves Ron and I feel like whenever you two are over, Charlie somehow finds a way to snuggle with him.