Shortbread

Shortbread is an odd little cookie if you ask me. It is not sweet, much, and can be a bit difficult to work with, but I am a fan. Although it is not the first thing I would go for in the baking/cookie department. I think is pretty much amazing with tea though, I guess that is because it is a Scottish biscuit in origin. And I have to say, I do sort of mess with the general idea of shortbread – see: vanilla and sanding sugar.dd_1583

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted*
1/2 -3/4 tsp vanilla (optional, well, not really)
Sanding sugar (optional, nope, not really)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter until slightly lighter in color and smooth. Sift confectioners’ sugar and salt over a piece of waxed paper. Beat with butter until light, fluffy, and smooth. Add a bit of vanilla if preferred.

Sift flour over waxed paper. Add flour and mix until just incorporated. Scrape soft dough onto plastic wrap. Cover with more plastic wrap and pat until a bit thin. Rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour – it needs to be firm to the touch.**

Using flour, roll out shortbread dough until it is 1/4 inch thick. Use your favorite cookie cutters (my mom’s) or a biscuit cutter and put the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cool the cookies in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Sprinkle with sanding sugar or whatever sugar you feel inclined to use.

Bake until the tops are golden, about 12-14 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet and then move to a wire rack to cool completely.

* confectioners’ sugar always needs to be sifted. It is just a given.

** I chilled overnight because I am kind of lazy that way. Well, not really. Here’s the deal – I make a dough one night and bake it later, usually the next day. It works because I can do each step – make and then bake the next day – because during the week my baking occurs after work. I also justify this by the fact that I have read that cookie dough gets better with a bit of time in the fridge. Sure – that works for me – after all I’m making cookies during the week, not just on the weekend.

I have had this recipe in my cookie binder, yes, I have that, for a long time and I think trying to find the source of this recipe when the title is only “shortbread” is nigh on impossible. So I won’t but will thank the gods that be for a pretty good recipe that I messed with just enough to make be really happy.

 

Cookie Cutters

I do not have a lot of things from my mother, but these she gave me these cookie cutters years ago. I do remember them from when I was a kid. They are cookie cutters in the shapes of suits of cards – heart, diamond, club, and my favorite, a spade.

My aunt was just two years older than my mother and the third to the last girl born – there were eleven children in the family – my mom was the last single girl born at my grandmother’s age of 41 – yes, that wasn’t really a sentence in the proper sense of things. So, my aunt was born when my grandmother was 39 and we won’t even mention the twins that were born after my mom when my grandmother was 44.  I just do not understand being married at 16 and having kids into your 40s. That was a very different time – I get it, but that just seems wrong.

Either way, my aunt and my mother would love to play cards – gin rummy. My aunt would come down from North Carolina and there were cards or scrabble every night at the kitchen table in our little house. They tried to include me, but I just do not have the brains for cards. I wish I did, but …. I did love to sit there and listen to the two sisters talking.  They were so much alike, but I am so glad that my mother left North Carolina. It made our lives so much easier growing up in Florida away from such a rural situation in North Carolina. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy visiting North Carolina. I did, especially when we would bring home a full cooler of Revels BBQ – the stuff that heaven is made of. No, I am not exaggerating.

As we enter the beginning of sugar cookie season –  yes, it is a real season in my mind anyway, I thought I would share my cookie cutters. I have no idea how old these are, but they have been in my life as long as I can recall – that means they must be pushing an age I would rather not say.  I have other cookie cutters that I have purchased, but these are a sentimental favorite of mine. They remind me of my mom and my aunt and gin rummy and my inability to play cards.

dd_1560

 

 

 

Mardi Gras Sugar Cookies

D&D_1180These really are the simplest and best sugar cookies. The Boy and I made them for Christmas Eve (my favorite Christmas Holiday, perhaps my favorite holiday, period) but a few years ago I had so much to make at Christmas that I put these off until January and then it fell into Carnival season.* It worked on so many different levels.

So this year I finally decided to order Mardi Gras cookie cutters, because, well, it is a thing for me now. So I did it – I ordered special cookie cutters for this “holiday.” King Arthur Flour had the cutest set. There are two crowns, a mask, a music note, and the most important one, in my opinion is, a fleur de lis. Carnival season is a big thing here in the Gulf Coast.

* The season is Carnival, the last day is Mardi Gras – Fat Tuesday. Please do not confuse the two. After Mardi Gras comes Lent. I really think next year I need to do crepes for pancake Tuesday (Mardi Gras by a less interesting name) but I will probably make potato pancakes (latkes) because I just love to mix up religions and traditions. It’s me.

But for now it’s just really pretty sugar cookies. Purple, Gold, and Green.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Over a sheet of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Sift in flour, a cup at a time. Blend until just mixed. Pour onto a surface and mix til it just comes together. Press into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 3 – 4 hours or up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough to about an 1/8 inch and cut with cookie cutters. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle with colored sugar. Bake for 10 minutes, turning the pan half way through. Let rest on baking sheet for a minute and then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Best Sugar Cookies

D&D_1165

Sugar Cookies

Remember when I was “devastated” over a lost sugar cookie recipe? I really did look everywhere, which to me meant I looked in binder after binder and I decided one thing – I’m bloody terrible at keeping up with recipes. Once I pull them out of the binder everything pretty much goes to hell. I finally found this recipe on the back side of another cookie recipe that I had been planning to make for a few weeks – duh, turn things over. This is not the first time this has happened. Sad.

That said, I’ve been making this sugar cookie recipe for about ever – over ten years now. Originally, I made this for Christmas – Christmas Eve in particular, but with so much other stuff going on, I kind of pushed these into the new year and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. A few years back I started making these for Mardi Gras. I had the colored sugars for it, but that was about it.

The cookie cutters I used for a few year are those of my mom. She had a set of card suits cookie cutters – spade, heart, diamond, club – which is kind of strange to be honest, but she was a great card player, especially with her sister. I never could get the hang of gin rummy. But I am happy to have these cookie cutters – along with a couple of others. They have been around as long as I can remember.

I do like to order weird colors of sanding sugars (those are usually the ones on sale), so one year I got a dark purple and a pale green – both from William-Sonoma. When you mix the pale green with a Christmas green, it works. Kind of like when you mix orange and yellow together you get the gold that you’re looking for  – the Mardi Gras colors.

Truth be told, I have ordered Mardi Gras cookie cutters for our pot luck at work. This makes me happy. I guess it’s just the simple things – or maybe I’m just a bit simple.

So here’s the recipe from the Food Network Kitchens – at least I think that’s where it is from. Again – me a keeping up with recipes – ugh.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Over a piece of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer,  cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time and then the vanilla. Sift flour into butter mixture, 1 cup at a time until just combined. Dump out onto plastic wrap and shape into a disk. Cover with plastic and chill 3 to 4 hours.*

Roll out dough until 1/4 inch and cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Brush and sprinkle with colored sugars. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 8 – 10 minutes until edges are slightly golden. Remove cookies to a rack to cool completely.

December 2002 – best sugar cookies ever
January 2003 – bake on parchment, spilled sugar comes off easier than a Silpat – for cast boy – granulated sugar is pretty too.
24 December 2003 – 8 minutes, to D&S for Christmas Eve
24 December 2004 – vvg as always
24 December 2006
December 2007
December 2008
February 2012 – Mardi Gras
28 January 2014
19 January 2016 – Mardi Gras practice

*Or overnight. This dough keeps pretty damn well for a few days as long as it is properly wrapped.