Posts Tagged ‘baking’

Cutout Sugar Cookies

In Making Food on November 9, 2014 at 8:18 am

I read an article a while ago about a guy who used his computer password to reinforce intentions or resolutions. He had to type his password dozens of times a day, so figured he might as well make it something purposeful, meaningful. He started out with something like “forgive her,” as he was trying to work through a breakup, then moved to topics like exercise, save for travel, eat less, call mom.

This seemed like a good idea, but I didn’t have any reason to change my password. The one I’d been using since freshman year of college — skanking, a relic from my not-so-brief, all-too-intense rude girl phase of ska worship — had reliably proven hackproof since the mid-90s.

Then, like a week after reading the article, my email got hacked.

I was a glass or two into a bottle of wine when I discovered the breach, so promptly changed every single password to everything I could think of — Etsy, my bank account, Netflix, my email accounts, our iPass — picking memorable catchphrases and quips, mixed with meaningful numbers. None of which I could remember the next morning. So I changed everything again to something boring and memorable: my work address.

But typing that in to dozens of accounts, including my personal ones, rapidly wore thin. I hated thinking about work when I was trying to request a book on my library’s website, check my email, buy something on Amazon.

So I changed them all again, this time to something meaningful: Dig Deep.

I have (as those of you who know me personally can attest) a finite amount of patience. It’s a shallow pool, and it’s often dry. I’ve become much, much more patient since having a kid — but I know my limits, which is why we’re stopping at one.

So, when I feel the rage coursing through my veins at work (like when a vendor e-replies to a statement like “I can meet you at our corporate office on X day at X time; address is below my signature” with something like “great! when and where would you like to meet?”) or when I feel overwhelmed by daily-chore-despair (like when I can’t move a load from the washer to the dryer because I haven’t folded the dried clothes yet, and there’s also a huge pile of dry-but-unfolded clothes on the living room floor), I say to myself: Dig Deep.

Feel free to adopt this as your own. Because let me tell you: when baking with a toddler, you’re gonna need it as a mantra.

When your kid sticks her hand directly in the butter: dig deep.

When she dumps flour all over the counter instead of into the mixer: dig deep.

When she pours half a bottle of vanilla into the cookie dough: dig deep.

When you realize that the awesome cookie cutters the two of you picked out on vacation — an octopus! a unicorn! a flamingo! Wisconsin! — are actually too intricate and multifaceted to make actual, recognizable sugar cookies: dig deep.

When you have to explain, for the seventh time, which side of the cookie cutter to use: dig deep.

When you reach into the fridge to grab the eggs and knock over the poorly sealed tupperware of pancake batter: dig deep.

When you hear, from the bathroom (where you were foolishly counting on 30 seconds of peace), the sound of sprinkles being spilled all over the kitchen floor: dig deep.

When you emerge from the bathroom to find that the sprinkles are now commingled with the 10,000-piece Milton Bradley Cootie game your child dragged into the kitchen: dig deep.

When the oven timer starts going off as you’re sorting the Cooties from the sprinkles: dig deep

When the towel you use to pull the sheet pan out of the oven turns out to be wet: dig deep.

When, in your burned-hand haste, you set the pan on the counter and accidentally burn a hole in the ziploc bread bag: dig deep.

Because in parenting, as with life, for every one annoying thing that happens, approximately/at least ten more awesome things happen.

Like when your kid sees a sugar cookie removed from the cutter for the first time.

Or when she hears the opening strains of “Call Me” on Pandora and shrieks at the top of her lungs, “Mama! It’s Blondie!” then sprints out into the living room to dance.

Or when she makes small talk confessions — “One time, at school, someone bit me. Well, actually, it was me.” — while piling hot pink sprinkles on top of a cow-shaped cookie.

Or when she pokes her head into the bathroom, post-sprinkle-spilling, to annouce, “um, something terrible just happened in the kitchen.”

Or when you discover that she’s awesome at holding the dustpan while you sweep, and can actually dump it into the trashcan without spilling the contents everywhere.

Or when the two of you sit down, for the first time, to a snack of milk and homemade cookies.

Or when she suggests that, because the homemade sugar cookies are “so delectable,” that the two of you go door-to-door to sell them to the neighbors.

Rich Rolled Sugar Cookies (adapted* from The Joy of Cooking)

In a stand mixer, beat on medium speed until fluffy and well blended:

  • 1/2 pound (two sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar

Add and beat until well combined:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (or one-half bottle, if you’d like to replicate our variation) vanilla

Stir in until well blended and smooth:

  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

Divide the dough in half. Place each half between two large sheets of waxed or parchment paper, then roll out to 1/4-inch thickness**. Keeping the papers in place, stack the dough onto a cookie sheet and refrigerate until cold and firm, about 42 minutes or the length of two Yo Gabba Gabba! episodes.

Preheat the oven to 375, and line a couple of cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Working with one portion of dough at a time, carefully peel off one of the parchment sheets and replace with a new one. (This’ll make it easier to lift the cookies off.) Flip over, peel off the other piece, and start cutting out the cookies. Place them on the baking sheets about an inch apart, and continue cutting until the dough’s used up.***

Crucial decision point: you can either put these into the oven now, if you’re planning to ice-then-decorate them, or just put the sprinkles on directly and skip the icing step. I’d bought a jar of Amoretti neutral icing, but was already exhausted — and we’d already used up all the vanilla — so I just hid it in the cabinet and told The Burger to put the sprinkles on the unbaked cookies.

Bake for 6 minutes and check. The cookies should be lightly colored on top with just a hint of golden brown at the edges. You can keep baking, checking every two minutes, to the desired color/level of doneness.

Remove from the cookie sheet and let cool on a wire rack, but be sure to eat a couple while they’re still warm. Let your kid decide which shapes you both get to eat. The Burger chose a unicorn and a star for herself, and assigned me Wisconsin and a heart. She’s no dummy.

* Adapted mostly because I let a toddler do the measuring. This was a mistake. My suggestion would be to pre-measure the ingredients into small bowls, then just let your kid dump the bowls into the mixer.

**next time I’d do 1/2″, because I like them a little chewier, plus I think they’d be easier to work with.

*** You can gather up all the scraps and re-roll them, and go through the whole process all over again — or do what I did, which was smash them together into a ball, flatten it slightly, wrap it in parchment, put it in a labeled baggie, and shove it in the freezer for another day.



In Making Food on March 12, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Week 4

We had hummus. We had some amazing grass-fed lamb shoulder from our meat CSA that I’d two-day-marinated in olive oil, garlic, cumin, red onion and crushed red pepper. We had red onion, tomato, cucumber and lettuce. The only thing we didn’t have was pita. So, because I reeaaaallly did not feel like going to the store, Week 4’s project decided itself.

I checked out recipes from James Beard’s Beard on Bread and Paul Hollywood’s 100 Great Breads (prompting The Husband to ask, as he walked through the kitchen, who the f#%* Paul Hollywood was?), but even with those venerable sources, I was pretty sure the pitas wouldn’t puff; I figured we’d be rolling the lamb up in flatbreads rather than stuffing it into pita pockets. The Husband chided me for my pessimism then went back to googling Paul Hollywood; I started the pita dough.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 4 cups flour, 1 tablespoon salt, 1/4 cup sugar, and 2.5 teaspoons active dry yeast (or one envelope), then stir in 1 1/4 cup warm water and 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead until the dough is no longer sticky, about three to five minutes. Mist the bowl with non-stick cooking spray, return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for an hour.

Line two baking sheets with foil or parchment, place them in the oven, and preheat to 500 degrees.

Divide the dough into six equal-ish sized pieces, then roll or stretch each piece out to half-inch thickness. Let stand for five minutes, then place on the hot baking sheets and bake for 3-5 minutes. They’ll puff; they will. (I was skeptical. Somehow it just didn’t seem possible that they’d actually puff. But they did! They will!)

Cut in half and serve warm.

A couple of words from the sort-of-wise:

  • Take the time to let your oven get really, really hot for this recipe.
  • If your oven, like mine, doesn’t heat evenly, you might want to bake these one sheet at a time. The ones at the back of my oven got much puffier than those in the front.
  • Or you could set up your oven with quarry tiles a la Uptown Oven.
  • Don’t bake the pitas (pites, actually, but I thought you’d think it was a typo) longer than five minutes. If you do, the bottom half will be distractingly crunchy. (You can see, in the photo, how toasty mine got on the bottom.) Still delicious, but there’s a time and a place for pita chips. This is neither that time nor that place.
  • These are best on the day they’re made; just okay on the second day; and weirdly stale and kind of unpleasant by the third. You could no doubt freeze them, but with their quick baking time and wildly theatrical puffing, they’d be a fun addition to a dinner party. How badass would you look bringing a basket of warm puffy homemade pitas to the table? (Answer: pretty badass.)