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Anti-Christmas Cookies – Lemon Sugar December 9, 2009

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Cooking Series, Food, Holidays Countdown.
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Now, I’m not saying I’m “anti” Christmas – of COURSE not!   That would be wrong.  But I am kind of “anti” Christmas cookies.

People knock themselves out to build trays and trays of beautiful cookies, that, nine times out of ten, don’t taste nearly as good as they look.  And on top of that, everyone else is doing the exact same thing!

Or even worse, what about using one cookie recipe to make 27 different cookies that all taste exactly the same even though they try to fool you into thinking they’re different?   Yeah, where’s the individuality in that?

Now before you start to think I’m bashing Christmas cookie baking (that is kind of what it sounded like, isn’t it?) let me assure you, I’m not.   Even though I’m not fond of baking cookies, even in the best of circumstances (I loathe cookie-baking), I do understand that there’s more to it than just the cookies themselves.

  • People get a chance to spend some quality time baking and decorating cookies together.
  • It’s a chance to indulge in some once-a-year treats before the New Year diet kicks in.
  • And a box or tin of special cookies is always a nice way to round out a Christmas gift, isn’t it?
  • Plus, they’re pretty, too.

This year, though, we’re going a little different direction.  We’re baking our cookies all right (how can I not?), but I’m not doing the same-old same-old.  No piles of spritz cookies this year.  No thumbprint cookies rolled in nuts (or not).  No frosted stars.  You can get all that stuff anywhere.

Nope, this year, the cookie portion of our Christmas giving will consist of real, old-fashioned cookies – the kind Grandma used to make.  Cookie jar staples.  Lunch box favorites.  Cookies that mean business!

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Don’t worry – I’m not spoiling any surprises or anything here.  No one in my family reads our blog anyway.

I decided to start with a cookie that has been a real challenge to me over the years – the sugar cookie.

All I want in a sugar cookie is for it to be nice and buttery, with a (big) hint of lemon, and soft and chewy, but a little crispy on the outside.

Is that too much to ask?

I can’t keep eating all these reject cookies!

And yes, I’ve read all the articles.  I know that bigger is better (do not say a word!) and that butter spreads.  I know that cold dough doesn’t get as flat as room-temperature dough (although it’s much harder to scoop!)

PhotobucketSo here’s what I ended up with.

First, I whisked together the following in a bowl:

  • 2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (13.75 ounces by weight)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • (scant) 1/4 tsp. table salt, and
  • the zest of one lemon

Then just set the bowl aside.

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Then, as much as I hated to do this, I used equal parts butter and vegetable shortening.

Remember the old days when shortening came in actual cans?  Metal cans?  That you needed a can opener for?  And when the can was empty, you’d fill it back up with hot grease?

Yeah, not anymore.  Man, I’m getting old.

You’ll probably want to preheat the oven now to 375°.   Place two oven racks in the  upper and lower middle positions.

So, where was I again?

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Butter and shortening, softened, half a cup (4 ounces) of each.   Beat until creamy.  Then add 1½ cups (10.5 ounces) of sugar and keep beating until it’s all smooth.

Now you’re going to add 1 egg and the juice of one lemon.  (I used lemon juice in place of vanilla – I wanted a clean lemon flavor!)

Now beat until those liquids are incorporated, then gradually add the flour mixture.  I like to lift the paddle from the bowl and add about a third at a time – mixing on low speed (duh!) until each flour addition is incorporated.  That helps keep the puffs of flour to a minimum.

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Once the oven comes up to temperature, it’s time to roll your cookie balls.  I used a #24 scoop, which is the perfect size for cookies, I think.

This isn’t rocket surgery – you scoop the dough, roll it into a ball, roll the ball in a bowl of sugar, then set it on a lined baking sheet.    I only put 6 on each sheet, though you might be able to squeeze 8 on.  But 6 is safer.

Just remember – you’re going to be putting sugar in the oven – you’re going to want to line each of your baking sheets with either parchment or a silicone mat.

If you’ve got it handy (or if you’re up for making a special trip to the store) I used turbinado sugar – raw cane sugar – for rolling the cookies in.  It does add that extra crispy sugary crunch that I wanted on the outside of the cookie.

Peeps says raw sugar is nasty in coffee, though.  I suppose you could use the rest of the box for, well, more cookies.  Or maybe a crème brûlée.

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Bake your cookies for 14 minutes  until the cookies are almost set in the middle and not yet browned on the edges.  Be sure to swap and turn the trays halfway through.  Of course.

OK, these cookies are good.  Very good.  They’re not the soft, cakey cookies I had in mind, but they’re delightfully chewy – and quite a handful!

One cookie down, 5 to go!

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Comments

1. Melinda - December 9, 2009

oh i might just have to add these to my plate that i etched for my neighbors i am making cake balls and mini banana bread cupcake things. i wonder if that would be an overload?

Nah – perish the thought! My feeling on cookie trays is that there’s always room for one more!

2. Tracie - December 10, 2009

These sound yummy. I just posted a unique recipe for potato candy here

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2477800/how_to_make_potato_candy_for_a_unique.html?cat=22

that might interest you. My hubby loves lemon treats and sugar cookies, so this sounds like a winning combo!

You know, it almost seems like I’ve heard of potato candy once, long ago, and I’d forgotten all about it before I ever got a chance to try it! This time, though, I’m not going to forget it – thanks so much, Tracie, for reminding me. 😉


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