Saturday, December 19, 2015

One Dough , A Million Cookies = Well Almost

We're knee deep in the middle of Christmas cookie season. Family and friends demand a variety worthy of a top bakery. What happens if you don't have the time to get all those ingredients? Not to worry. There a wonder dough that can produce an array of fancy and delicious gems.

Basic cookie dough is a holiday baker's best friend.It's taking two sticks of softened unsalted butter,a cup of sugar, one egg and two teaspoons of vanilla extract. The dry ingredients are flour ,baking soda and salt. It's the usual creaming and beating the moist ingredients first and then adding the dry ingredients .If the dough is a little sticky add a bit more flour to keep it smooth. Form the dough into two balls, wrap each in plastic and refrigerate for two hours. Home bakers can also sub in whole wheat flour for the white for a slightly healthier treat/ Just be warned. The whole wheat cookie won't have the snap that the regular one will. It will be slightly more denser and a bit chewy..You may want to make the icing now too. Again it's a simple recipe of one cup of powdered sugar, two to three tablespoons of milk and one teaspoon vanilla.Combine all ingredients until smooth. There may be some powdered sugar  lumps but theses can be beaten out with a fork. Tint with food coloring or homemade natural food coloring.The last may take some time which is off putting  along with unusual ingredients such as squid ink(!) and matcha powder, also off putting.

After the dough has been thoroughly chilled for one hour it's now time to have fun. One of the prettiest cookies to bake is the stained glass one. Put  a handful of unwrapped Jolly Ranchers - one flavor at a time  - and put between two sheets of wax paper . Smash to bits with a mallet or rolling pin. Use large and smaller versions of a cookie cutter. Cut out the larger forms and then use the smaller ones to cut the middle on baking sheets covered with foil. Spoon the crushed candy in the middles and bake for four or five minutes, until candy centers melt and the cookies' edges brown. Candy cane cookies are another fun treat.It's simply tinting one dough ball pink  while leaving the other ball plain.Roll each color  into four inch ropes and twist to form spirals. Bend the top to resemble a cane and bake until set for nine minutes. Another fun cookie are the chocolate dipped ones. Roll dough into a log and then slice into rounds. After the cookies bake and cool down , either melt semisweet chocolate chips in a double boiler or in the microwave.(the double boiler is the better method.)Dip one end in and place on waxed paper to harden. For more festive treats, do a second dip in red and green sprinkles. These cookies can also be cut into shapes and decorated. Use flaked coconuts for snowmen and the fur on mittens and boots. You can also do a thin white layer of icing and dust with red  and green or silver and gold sanding sugar.

Don't fret if you don't have all the ingredients for cookie baking. Use the basic recipe and then let your creativity go wild. You'll have a variety of different cookies to show off to demanding friends and family.

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