CULINARY ARTS PROJECT-A Hard Day’s Night

I have something I need to confess. Please don’t judge me or take this the wrong way.

deep breath

I had never made sugar cookies before. Well, not from scratch anyway. Every Christmas my mom buys that ready-made mix, which doesn’t count in my book. Neither do all those slice and-bakes she would buy when I was a kid (but boy, were those good. I remember around holidays they would sell those tubes filled of processed goodness with a cool design in the middle of the dough. Pumpkins and ghosts for Halloween and green shamrocks for St. Pattie’s Day. Mmmmmm…

Back to the issue at hand! 24 hours ago, I was in the throes of making a plethora of sugar cookies from a recipe I didn’t test out beforehand. Here’s a basic timeline:

7:00pm—I’m ready to start my baking!

MAKING THE COOKIESA spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down

I made the first batch of cookies according to the recipe. The only difference was the amount of vanilla extract (I doubled it to 2 tsp). I found the dough to be salty. Really salty. Perhaps the salt didn’t get well incorporated since it was added after all the flour…

The second batch had slightly less salt (maybe ¾ tsp) and the zest of half a lemon. I took one reviewer’s suggestion and replaced one of the cups of granulated sugar with confectioners sugar to give it a little more sweetness. When mixing the ingredients, I added the salt when I added the eggs and vanilla, to make sure it got fully blended in. This dough was good, but perhaps a little to lemony, so I zested only a quarter of the lemon for the third batch. No other changes were made. So, like Goldilocks, it took three tries to get it just right.

Mission Accomplished ...sort of

9:30pm—The dough has been made, but not and not one cookie had been baked. The dough needed at least one hour of alone time in the refridge to firm up, which is perfect really since the frosting still had to be made.

MAKING THE FROSTING

So I decided I’d make a simple vanilla buttercream and use a mash up of the two recipes I had found—the one in the joy of cooking and the one from online. I used a couple of sticks of butter and just sifted in sugar to taste. After about four or so cups, I threw in some vanilla and some whipping cream. I tripled this recipe and then began to color the icing using those congealed food dyes. Despite my best efforts, the frosting never managed to move out of the pastel color set and into the bolder color range. I ended up with a pinkish red, yellow, green, and a monstrous, cement-like gray. My intentions were pure; I just wanted to make a small batch of purple by mixing the red and the blue colors. Instead, this attempt yielded a rather unappetizing shade of brown. Since I had only a small amount of this frosting, I thought that enough white frosting and blue coloring would cover it up and turn it into a dark blue. Well, at least three of my colors look good. Four if you include the white.

Frosting

Buttercream Close-up

11:00pm—The kitchen looks like a coke house from all this damned confectioners sugar. A speck of dough is clinging to the window screen. I’ve got some serious cleaning to do. But first, I’ve gotta start baking these cookies.


BAKING THE COOKIESBaked Cookies

I needed big cookies so the kids could decorate them, so I could only fit 6 or so on each sheet. I sprinkled some sugar on top of the cookies before throwing them in the oven.

The cookies cooked for about 10 minutes or so at 400ºF. Our oven is probably off, so I’d check them frequently, as an undercooked cookie is infinitely better tasting (and easier to remedy) than a burnt one. Make sure to take them off the sheet soon after taking them out of the oven, otherwise they might stick.

On that note, the original recipe claimed that your cookie sheets don’t need to be greased. LIES! Maybe it had something to do with the fact that my sheets were being reused over and over (leading to rogue crumbs), but I had several cookies over the course of my night that just wouldn’t come off without a fight. Save yourself the trouble and grease it up. Or use parchment paper. Whatevs. I ended up greasing mine with some veggie shortening and had no more problems.

3:16am—ALL THE COOKIES HAVE BEEN BAKED! ALL THE FROSTING HAS BEEN MADE! YAYY!!! Now I just need to clean up…

4:00am—Bedtime.

7:20am—My alarm goes off.

8:20am—I get out of my bed after my mom—noticing that the car is still parked in the driveway— prods me into consciousness.

9:00am—I arrive at camp thirty minutes late without a voice (somehow I lost it over the course of the evening).

CULINARY ARTS DAY BEGINS!Kiddies Decorating Cookies

By 10:00 I reached a startling conclusion—I was going to run out of the buttercream. I had severely underestimated a child’s love for the sugary schmear. I sat there horrorstruck, watching kids smother their cookies, drowing them in copious amounts of frosting. By 10:30 the frosting was virtually gone. A couple of other counselors ran out to buy some Betty Crocker from the local market. Crisis averted!

Note the "cement" gray hidden in the back

By noon, we had gone through all the cookies and sprinkles and chocolate chips. The only leftover was frosting—how fitting. All of the kids seemed to enjoy themselves over the course of the day. People seemed to enjoy the taste of the cookies and the frosting. I thought the cookies were a little crunch. I was never into crunchy cookies. I like ‘em nice and soft. So the next time I make sugar cookies, I I’ll try to locate one that yields a softer result. Assuming there is a next time. Right now, I’m a little sugar-cookied out. Now if you excuse me, I’m headed to bed.

The Cookie Decoration Sensation!

SUGAR COOKIES
Adapted from Jill Saunders at allrecipes.com

1½ cups butter, softened
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup confectioners sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
zest of ¼ lemon

1.   In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs, salt and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Roll out dough on sugared surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
ALTERNATE METHOD: Place heaping spoonful of dough on sheet and use a flat surface (like the bottom of a cup) to spread out the dough. Sprinkle sugar on top of dough before flattening.
3. Bake approx. 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool on rack.

NOTE ON SERVING SIZES: According to author, it makes 60. I got around 40, but mine were pretty big.


BASIC BUTTERCREAM
(Good for frosting 40 or 50 cookies (or 20 or 30 if it’s for kids…) Probably makes enough for a nine inch layer cake.)
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

2 sticks of butter
4 ½ cups of confectioners sugar (sifted)
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Then add whipping cream and vanilla. If the frosting is too stiff, add more cream. If too soft, add more sugar.

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