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Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Tale of Two Sugar Cookies

Once in a while I would get the urge to make cookies. Not because I want to eat them, but just to make them. For some masochistic reason I thoroughly enjoy the mixing, rolling, cutting and baking of cookies. And once I've made them, I truly enjoy packing them up in jars or boxes or bags and giving them away. And then baking another batch.

The most recent cookie-baking urge was directed particularly at sugar cookies as I had never made any. One of the coffee shops I frequent - Bentley's has these cute star-shaped sugar cookies with powder sugar glaze and rainbow sprinkles, which inspired me to try and make something similar. The quest for a recipe led to the baking of three batches of cookies so far (and I think more will come in the near future).

First came the Jackson Pollock cookies. They are based on a Dutch Sugar Cookies recipe from Here is the recipe:

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (don't use regular sugar!)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
(+1/4 cup if the cutout cookies break when you try lifting them)
(+1/2 cup for dusting and keeping the dough together if the 1/4 cup above is not enough)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add egg, vanilla, baking powder, a pinch of salt and flour (in this order) and mix just to combine. Gather together but don't knead and form into a ball. Refridgerate the dough for a while so that it hardens a bit but not until it freezes because it wouldn't roll out well. Roll to 1/8 inch, cut in your favorite shapes, arrange on a parchment paper - lined cookie sheet and bake for 10-13 minutes in an oven preheated to 325F. 10-11 min will give softer, whiter cookies; at 13 min they are golden and a little harder. Cool. Repeat.

Once they cooled down, I melted some dark chocolate in an impromptu double boiler and drizzled it over the cookies as best as I could. The result was pretty artistic but had to be kept in the fridge because the chocolate melted otherwise. (Warning: The first batch came out a little salty owing probably to my use of salted instead of unsalted butter.) They were oh so tasty and delicate and not too sweet. The chocolate was actually adding to the sweetness instead of being overwhelming.

Then a few weeks later I came across these Brown Sugar Sandwich Cookies, which seemed a lot like the brunette version of the Dutch ones. The idea is very similar - flour, butter and sugar, but it uses brown sugar and whole wheat flour instead. Here's the spell:

2 1/2 C whole wheat (or white) pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
scant 1 tsp salt
2 Tbs + 1 tsp poppy seeds
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 C quality brown sugar (increase to 1 cup)
2 large egg yolks (or 1 egg)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 Tbs milk

1 tablespoon sugar for sprinkling
6-7 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

Mix them in the exact same way as the ones above. Roll them out as thin as possible (saltine thin), sprinkle with sugar and bake for 5-7 minutes. Once they are cooled, melt the chocolate in a double boiler and slightly cool and stick them together in pairs with 1/2 to 1 tsp of chocolate.

Honestly, I was not too impressed by them - I feel they bear some improvement. Sandwiching them with chocolate made them soft and fabulous with coffee. However, they were not sweet at all, so I would increase the sugar a little and avoid using 65% cocoa chocolate but go for something slightly sweeter next time. I would also try making them with white pastry flour - the whole wheat flour made them a little rough, or I might use a mixture of white and whole wheat flour. The poppy seeds were great and I might add some spices next time too - cinnamon, cardamon? I'll report on the results.

What have we learned? Sugar cookies are fun and easy to make. Mix up 1.5-2 sticks of butter with 1-1.5 cups of sugar, add 1 egg and some vanilla, a teaspoon of baking powder, a pinch of salt and 2.5 cup of flour and voila - you have a basic sugar cookie. Roll, bake, repeat. Varying the ingredients (flour, sugar), adding stuff (poppy seeds, sesame seeds, spices, vanilla specks) and post-processing (melted chocolate, glaze, sprinkles) can yield tasty and pretty variations. Let me know how you cookies turn out.

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