35. Z’s Sugar Cookies

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Cookie dough!

Z and I worked together when I used to work for a summer camp – it was my last year working there and his first, and spending time with him and the other new counselors made me feel young and amused and happy that such jobs existed. There were very difficult things about working at camp that bonded all the workers together, and there were wonderful moments, like when Z’s friend P set up a telescope after the children went to bed and we all took turns looking at the moon.

When I started this blog, I asked for recipes from many friends, and Z surprised me by responding even though we haven’t seen each other in years. He’s making a name for himself as a musician, and it was so nice to hear about his childhood story (quoted here below) about making cookies and growing up.

I’m always looking for excuses to eat cookies, and I took these over to my friends J and E, where we ate them while passing around their little baby. I hope the story warms you the way eating cookies and cooing over a child warmed me up.

Mom’s Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ¾ cups flour

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add baking powder and flour, one cup at a time, mixing after each addition. The dough will be stiff, blend last flour in by hand. Do not chill dough. Divide dough into 2 balls. On a floured surface, roll each ball in a circle approx. 12” in diameter and ⅛” thick. Dip cutters in flour before each use. Bake cookies on ungreased cookie sheet on top rack of oven for 6-7 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned. (Mom recommends parchment paper on pans)

Icing (not mom’s recipe) made with 4 tsps. milk and 1 cup of powdered sugar.

“Here’s my mom’s sugar cookie recipe. My first memory of this recipe was when I was three or four. I was in the kitchen one day when my mom was about to start making a batch, and I begged her to let me help. I think this experience set my predilection for baking which I retain to this day. I learned how finicky eggs were to crack, how impossible it was to keep flour off of the counter and your clothes, and the difference between measuring cups and measuring spoons. I distinctly recall being unable to wrap my head around the concept of two and two-thirds cups (I was four, after all…). Regardless, I found a great joy in the mess that ensued when one endeavors to bake. I became acquainted with mom’s collection of old cookie cutters passed down from her grandparents. We rolled out the dough on the counter with my mom’s old rolling pin, which bore faint signatures of departed family members, and made great art with our array of cookie cutters: hearts, alligators, wolves, angels, dinosaurs, flags, trees.

“This recipe lives with me still, bearing a heartfull familiarity. I enjoying making them for friends who need a bit of warmth in their lives. After all, as Emma Thompson says in Stranger Than Fiction, “Sometimes, when we loves ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies.” Though this recipe isn’t necessarily Bavarian, the same sentiment applies. Curiously, I’ve found little to no success when I use any sugar cookie recipe other than my mom’s. You stick to what you know, I suppose. Or perhaps certain recipes are meant for certain people. Either way, this recipe is one of my most cherished, and I do hope you enjoy it”(Z’s words).

Do you have a favorite recipe that started you towards knowing how to cook? Feel free to share in the comments, and I’ll give it a shot.

Gingersnap Recipe

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Husband loves crispy, spicy gingersnaps – the thinner and snappier the better. I wanted to make them for him, so I added it to my pre-thanksgiving baking list, but as I was being overwhelmed with Blueberry Cream Cheese Muffins and having to get finished quickly before the trip, I ended up making another version of soft gingerbread cookies. What gives me hope is that the thinnest cookies were indeed quite crisp and delicious, and the thick ones were still yummy, just not snaps. I’d recommend experimenting with gingersnap recipes to find the consistency you like!

A Splurge: 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies

In our town, there is a push for more small businesses in downtown – one of the new small storefronts going in is a cookie store. Nothing feels more gloriously child-like than the idea of a store just for cookies and other baked goods – and sometimes we need a child-like wonder for the world, even if it only lasts until the cookie is finished.

One evening this past week, we’d finished our veggie-heavy dinner and I could tell that Husband would eat more if it was available, but there weren’t even leftovers! So I pulled out three simple ingredients: 1 cup of brown sugar, 1 cup of creamy peanut butter, and 1 egg. I mixed them all together, preheated the oven to 350 degrees, and dropped the wads of what just looked like peanut butter onto a greased cookie sheet. After 8 minutes in the oven, they had turned from wads of peanut butter into cookies – warm and crisp on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside.

I was happy with the recipe because it made enough cookies for a couple of days to have a cookie after a meal, but not enough to have cookies lingering around the house for days afterward, taunting me with their deliciousness. While the preparation is so short and fast that it fits into my crazy life pretty perfectly, it reminds me of more leisurely cookie-making experiences with my mom and sister when we were small, when I first realized that something admittedly yummy (cookie dough) could transform into something totally different after a stay in the oven. I think I will make these peanut butter beauties when I need a quick dessert for a peanut-friendly crowd, but I won’t trade the longer, more ingredient version when it comes to making holiday memories; it’s just too sweet and totally worth the time.

Gingerbread before Autumn Truly Arrives

I have so many good memories of gingerbread. I associate it most with a college friend, S; he was so quiet and shy but I got to know him through a church group and the one thing he wasn’t shy about were sweet, spicy, snappy gingerbread men that I’d bake in the dorm kitchen and bring to events. My recipe was legendary, with the secret ingredient being butterscotch instant pudding mix. Mmmmm.

For the party last weekend, I wanted a soft, cake-y gingerbread, something simple after 7 or 8 samplings of soups. I started with this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction: http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2015/12/01/my-favorite-gingerbread-men-recipe/ but I modified in a few ways: I had no molasses, so I subbed in more brown sugar and a bit of honey. I used pumpkin pie spice mix instead of the separate cloves-allspice-cinnamon, but I used the right amount of ginger! The one direction I recommend following: letting the cookie dough set in the fridge for 3 or 4 hours! I didn’t turn my cookies into gingerbread men, but they held up beautifully between fridge and oven.

I made the dough the morning of the party and baked them after running out to visit J and her rolly polly baby E; after lots of slobbering and toothless smiles, E went down for a nap and I came home and baked the cookies! They were high and puffy like I like, and though husband was disappointed because they weren’t ginger snaps (evidently I need a good recipe for those!), I thought they turned out wonderful. I’ve been eating the leftovers for days as little breakfast cookies with my coffee. They remind me of mornings in college when my church group friends would go on walks or evenings when we’d go out and watch meteors during the Perseids. A cookie companion makes cold weather more bearable, and even though Autumn hasn’t quite reared her head yet here, these cookies make me less worried about winter coming.

The Return of Pumpkin Spice: Squash Scones/Cookies

Sometimes, the way I choose my cooking plans is crazy. For instance, when I type “pumpkin cookie shortening” into google because 1. no one makes cookies out of butternut squash and 2. I am running low on inspiration for what to make out of all this squash and 3. somehow I am out of butter AND vegetable oil in my house. Sigh. I’m a mess.

But the internet rewarded me, in the form of this recipe – http://allrecipes.com/recipe/10671/pumpkin-cookies-iii/. It has a cute backstory about a simpler time, and with a couple substitutions (adding chocolate chips, swapping pumpkin puree for mashed roasted butternut squash), the cookies were all set to go.

I made them a little haphazardly big, and because they are so fluffy and cake-y when they come out, they remind me of scones. Everyone has some cookie memories, but I have some lovely scone memories: it was one of the first things I baked all by myself, and I loved the fact that the dough was almost savory and the chocolate chips I put in them made them into a sweet treat. My sister and mother and I once shared a wonderful afternoon at a tea room drinking herbal teas and eating scones with lemon curd… it’s just one of those simple-pleasure foods, something that isn’t necessary but is rather delightful.

So these cookies/scones came with me to a little backyard campfire across town that we attended over the weekend, and they have been my quick go-to breakfast for days, and they seem inexhaustible… much like the squash from which they came, I guess. Still, if you want a treat that reminds you that fall is coming, but don’t quite want to break out the pumpkin puree yet, this is a pretty great way to get your veggies; Vitamin A and C in a cookie!

35. Z’s Sugar Cookies

IMG_3978

Cookie dough!

Z and I worked together when I used to work for a summer camp – it was my last year working there and his first, and spending time with him and the other new counselors made me feel young and amused and happy that such jobs existed. There were very difficult things about working at camp that bonded all the workers together, and there were wonderful moments, like when Z’s friend P set up a telescope after the children went to bed and we all took turns looking at the moon.

When I started this blog, I asked for recipes from many friends, and Z surprised me by responding even though we haven’t seen each other in years. He’s making a name for himself as a musician, and it was so nice to hear about his childhood story (quoted here below) about making cookies and growing up.

I’m always looking for excuses to eat cookies, and I took these over to my friends J and E, where we ate them while passing around their little baby. I hope the story warms you the way eating cookies and cooing over a child warmed me up.

Mom’s Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ¾ cups flour

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add baking powder and flour, one cup at a time, mixing after each addition. The dough will be stiff, blend last flour in by hand. Do not chill dough. Divide dough into 2 balls. On a floured surface, roll each ball in a circle approx. 12” in diameter and ⅛” thick. Dip cutters in flour before each use. Bake cookies on ungreased cookie sheet on top rack of oven for 6-7 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned. (Mom recommends parchment paper on pans)

Icing (not mom’s recipe) made with 4 tsps. milk and 1 cup of powdered sugar.

“Here’s my mom’s sugar cookie recipe. My first memory of this recipe was when I was three or four. I was in the kitchen one day when my mom was about to start making a batch, and I begged her to let me help. I think this experience set my predilection for baking which I retain to this day. I learned how finicky eggs were to crack, how impossible it was to keep flour off of the counter and your clothes, and the difference between measuring cups and measuring spoons. I distinctly recall being unable to wrap my head around the concept of two and two-thirds cups (I was four, after all…). Regardless, I found a great joy in the mess that ensued when one endeavors to bake. I became acquainted with mom’s collection of old cookie cutters passed down from her grandparents. We rolled out the dough on the counter with my mom’s old rolling pin, which bore faint signatures of departed family members, and made great art with our array of cookie cutters: hearts, alligators, wolves, angels, dinosaurs, flags, trees.

“This recipe lives with me still, bearing a heartfull familiarity. I enjoying making them for friends who need a bit of warmth in their lives. After all, as Emma Thompson says in Stranger Than Fiction, “Sometimes, when we loves ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies.” Though this recipe isn’t necessarily Bavarian, the same sentiment applies. Curiously, I’ve found little to no success when I use any sugar cookie recipe other than my mom’s. You stick to what you know, I suppose. Or perhaps certain recipes are meant for certain people. Either way, this recipe is one of my most cherished, and I do hope you enjoy it”(Z’s words).

Do you have a favorite recipe that started you towards knowing how to cook? Feel free to share in the comments, and I’ll give it a shot.