Saturday, December 25, 2010

Snow cookies

I know that Christmas day is, for many, a hectic day. For me, it is usually the first quiet day in the whole month of December. T.'s agency's big fundraiser is the first weekend of December, and the rest of the month is generally busy with school work, grading, and getting prepared for the new group of students starting in January.

Our family celebrations take place the few days before Christmas and go through the morning, then DS and DD head off to celebrate with the other side of their family.

So...I finally made Christmas cookies. Just one batch. But this one batch is all we need. These are from the cookbook Roast Figs, Sugar Snow: Winter Food to Warm the Soul, by Diana Henry, whom I heard on The Splendid Table. (I've only made a few things from this cookbook, which I got from the library before I decide to purchase, but so far, they've been amazing.)

Here's the idea: Beat 1 stick butter, 1/2 c. confectioners sugar, 1/3 t. salt together until combined. Mix in 1 egg yolk. Mix in 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour by hand and bring the dough together in a ball, kneading lightly.

At this point my dough was still way too dry, so I added some canola oil until it just held together. (I have found this to be a common problem with the recipes in this cookbook. It was published in England, so I'm not sure if there's some difference in ingredients?) Anyway, use your common sense and add enough oil until it looks like a fairly stiff cookie dough.

Refrigerate for about 8 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Let the dough warm just a bit (Henry doesn't recommend this, but I found it helpful), then roll the dough out to 1/8 inch (3mm) thick. Cut out cookies and put on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes. (I think mine were thicker than 1/8 inch, and they took about 12-14 minutes.) Let cool.

They were very buttery and good without the frosting, so I may not do it next time, but if you want to frost them, mix 1 c. sifted confectioners sugar with enough water (or vodka, Henry suggests) and lemon juice to make a drizzly frosting. If you scoop some up on the tines of a fork and it drops in a slow but steady stream, it's the right consistency. (I think mine was a bit thick, as evidenced by my rather globular frosting job.) Drizzle onto the cookies. Henry recommends sprinkling on some edible gold powder when the frosting is nearly set, but I didn't happen to have any gold fairy dust around.

Speaking of common sense and cooking, one of my favorite gifts this year is a book called Cooking for Geeks, which takes a hacker's approach to cooking, giving you just enough scientific information to help you understand how various ingredients work, with a healthy dose of encouragement of innovation and experimentation.

That approach worked great with these cookies, which are buttery rich and small enough to be slightly addictive.

Happy whatever-you-celebrate!

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