“Mini Chocolate Burgers”

January 13, 2010

I had my first—well, my first dozen—macrons in May and was instantly smitten with their taste and cute little design. Since that fateful encounter, I’ve toyed with the idea of making them, but their fragile nature proved too intimidating—until now. My mom’s book group is reading My Life in France (at my suggestion) and I thought that this Parisian cookie would the perfect little snack.

Before we go any further, I just want to make sure we’re all on the same page. We’re talking about macarons, not macaroons. The french cousin to the Macaroon, Macarons can have a variety of fillings and can be identified by their domed tops and tutu-esque ruffled circumference, known as the “foot.”

I decided to use David Lebovitz’s recipe for the French Chocolate Macarons, despite his claim that chocolate macarons are the most difficult ones to make. Go big or go home, that’s what I always say.The recipe called for powdered almonds, but there were none to be had in my local grocery store. I could’ve gone to a specialty shop, but collegiate laziness reared its ugly head—forcing me to buy sliced almonds (Diamond sells blanched, sliced almonds). I pulverized them in the food processor for a good minute. Then I added the powdered sugar and the cocoa, blended them for a good thirty seconds. When it came time to add this mixture to the meringue, I carefully sifted it for good measure.

As for the meringue, there’s a fair bit of debate about how long to age the egg whites before whipping them. Some people leave the whites out for a couple of hours while others swear that a full 24 hours is needed. I just left them in a covered bowl for four hours before whipping them. The main point is that the whites have to be at room temperature to achieve their maximum loft. After folding in the chocolate mixture, I just piped them out using a small plastic sandwich baggie. Yea, I could’ve used a pastry bag, but I didn’t have one. This works just as well and is way cheaper. Just snip off a quarter inch of the tip and you’ll be in business.

Either my oven’s on steroids or the cooking time is way off. My macarons were overcooked by at least five minutes. Next time I’ll put them in for 10 minutes and see what happens. Besides that, they turned out beautifully, complete with that distinctive little foot.

Since I made this first batch for a bunch of peers, I decided to go with chocolate ganache rather than the prescribed prune filling. My baking cohort, Jess, thought that the macarons looked exactly like “little chocolate burgers.” Which got me thinking, maybe White Castle should start offering macarons. After all, McDonalds has its signature McFlurries, and Wendy’s sells Shakes—shouldn’t White Castle get in the dessert game? A variety of Macarons would make the perfect companion to a crave case of those mini burgers, affectionately known as sliders. I’ll be sure to get in touch with the suits over there and let you guys know what ends up happening. Until then, bon appétit!

Chocolate Macrons (adapted from David Lebovitz)

Makes about twenty cookies
Macaron Batter
1 cup powdered sugar
2/3 cup blanched sliced almonds
3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 large egg whites, at room temperature (set them out in a covered bowl for three or four hours hours)
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
Chocolate Filling
2/3 cup heavy cream
1.5 teaspoons light corn syrup
3 ounces of semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (chocolate chips are great time saver)
2/3 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (180 degrees C).

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and have a pastry bag with a plain tip (about 1/2-inch, 2 cm) ready.

Pulverize the almonds in a food processor for a good minute with the pulse setting. Then add powdered sugar and cocoa and process for another thirty seconds.
Beat the egg whites with a mixer until they begin to rise and hold their shape. While whipping, beat in the granulated sugar until whites hold stiff peaks, about 2 minutes.

Sift in the dry ingredients, carefully folding them in with a flexible rubber spatula. Once the mixture in uniform in color and smooth in texture, then place it into a pastry bag or a little sandwich bag. David makes a great disaster-saving suggestion: stand your bag in a tall glass if you’re alone. I used a small bowl and it worked perfectly. With only two hands, we bakers can do only so much…
Pipe the batter on the parchment-lined baking sheets in 1-inch circles (about 1 tablespoon each of batter), evenly spaced one-inch apart. I found that making a swirled shape helped me keep perfect circles when piping out the batter.
Rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the counter top to flatten them, then bake them for 10 minutes. Once they’ve fully cooled, detach from baking sheet.
To make the chocolate filling:
Heat the cream in a small saucepan with the corn syrup. When the cream just begins to boil at the edges, remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let sit one minute, then stir until smooth. Stir in the pieces of butter. Let cool completely before using.
Assembly
Spread a bit of batter on the inside of the macarons then sandwich them together. (You can pipe the filling it, but I prefer to spread it by hand; it’s more fun, I think.)
I also tend to overfill them so you may or may not use all the filling.
Let them stand at least one day before serving, to meld the flavors.
Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or freeze. If you freeze them, defrost them in the unopened container, to avoid condensation which will make the macarons soggy.


Chewy Amaretti Cookies

November 11, 2009

Amaretti Cookies!

Ugh. My academic life resembles a sinusoidal graph. For those of you who have since forgotten your trigonometry (tisk-tisk), the graph of the sine curve is essentially a squiggly line. I’ll have a couple of weeks where nothing at all is due, and then I’ll have a 7 day period when I have absolutely no time to anything—party, flog, sleep, breath. Alas, I’m approaching one of those peaks. Think 2π. I’ve had virtually no time to recreationally cook for myself, let alone flog about it.
Dough
I did set aside some time on Saturday night to make some Amaretti cookies. They were absurdly easy to make, since all the mixing was done in the food processor. And while the original recipe calls for a pastry bag, you can totally snip the tip off of a zip lock baggie (insert immature circumcision joke here). That’s what I did.

Ziploc Baggy + Scissors = Pastry Bag

Ziploc Baggy + Scissors = Pastry Bag

They were a teensy bit bland on their own, so I would suggest pairing them up with something, like chocolate ganache (in between two of the cookies for the most amazing sandwich ever). I bet they’d be a great decoration on a plate of some other dessert. They were a little too chewy on the inside for my liking, but maybe that has something to do with my oven here and less with the recipe. I might cut back on the sugar just a tad as well. Try them out and let me know how they work for you.

I’m diving back down into the murky midterm waters. I’ll try to come up for air in the next week or so. Wish me luck and happy cooking!

Pre baked

Chewy Amaretti Cookies

Adapted from Lillian Chou in Gourmet, January 2009
Makes about 48 (1-inch) cookies

Ingredients
1 (7-ounce) tube pure almond paste (not marzipan; 3/4 cup)
1 cup sugar
2 large egg whites, at room temperature for 30 minutes
Instructions

Preheat oven to 300°F with racks in upper and lower thirds. Line 2 large cookie sheets  with parchment paper.

Pulse almond paste and sugar in a food processor until broken up, then add egg whites and pulse until mixture is smooth. Transfer to pastry bag and pipe 3/4-inch rounds (1/3 inch high) about an inch apart in pans. If you need to flatten any cookies, just dip a fingertip in water and gently tamp down any peaks.

Bake, rotating and switching position of pans halfway through, until golden and puffed, about 15 minutes.


Pumpkin White Chocolate Chip Cookies

October 31, 2009

Cookie

White Chocolate is pretty lame. If Chocolate were Vincent Chase, then white chocolate would be Johnny Drama. For those of you who don’t watch Entourage, I’ll make another comparison. If the Beatles were made of chocolate, then Ringo would be white chocolate. For the sake of completion, let’s say that John is unsweetened, George; semisweet, and Paul; milk chocolate.

White Chocolate

Let me put the pop culture references aside and examine the bastard child of the cacoa bean on a more basic level. Lacking any cocoa solids, white chocolate instead consists of sugar and cocoa butter—the fatty excess of the cocoa bean. You know how they say Dutch-process on some cocoa? Well, the “processing of cocoa” is essentially the removal of cocoa butter from the cocoa bean. The higher the concentration of cocoa solids, the more bitter the chocolate. Unsweetened baking chocolate is simply 100% cocoa solids. You should keep in mind that half of what you see in stores isn’t even true white chocolate. Look at the labels—Nestlé sells White Morsels, which lack the subtly chocolate flavor imparted by the cocoa butter. These chips are simply sugar and partially hydrogenated oils, no cocoa butter. These cheap imitations tarnish white chocolate’s already-low reputation.
So I’m not a big fan of white chocolate. But I realize that there are times when it can be put to some good use. This pumpkin cookie recipe is one of those times for white chocolate to shine.

Pumpkin

Much like bananas, pumpkin helps create a moist baked good. While there are plenty of spices that go with pumpkin–from nutmeg to ginger to allspice—this recipe boldly chooses to go with cardamom, which creates a more unique and full-bodied cookie. Oh, and who can forget the ever-dependable cinnamon! Cinnamon is one of those spices that goes well in virtually every autumnal dish.

A very fluffy dough
The texture and flavor of these cookies make it one of my favorites. And it’s best with white chocolate. It complements the pumpkin and spices so well. Chocolate chips would overpower those subtler flavors, making this recipe one of those few times I’ll pick up whiteys. So without further ado…

Plated cookies

Pumpkin White Chocolate Chip Cookies (AKA The Pumpkin Blumpkin)
Makes around 36 2.5-inch cookies

Ingredients
2 cup regular flour
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks of salted butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
½ brown sugar, packed
1 cup of cooked pureed pumpkin, canned (unadulterated)
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 oz white chocolate chips
2/3 cup of chopped walnuts (OPTIONAL)

1.) Preheat oven to 350ºF.

2.) Combine flour, spices, and baking soda in medium bowl.

3.) In larger bowl, whip softened butter and both sugars until creamy

4.)Whip in pumpkin, egg, and vanilla extract until well mixed

5.) Gradually beat dry ingredients into the larger bowl

6.) Stir in nuts and chips

7.) Place golf-ball sized globs of dough on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten them slightly, as the dough won’t spread all too much on its own.

8.) Bake for 11-14 minutes, until sides are golden brown and center is soft. Let cool for two minutes before removing from cookie sheet.


Black and White Cookies, minus the black and the white

October 9, 2009
School Spirit, baked at 375º for 20 minutes

School Spirit, baked at 375º for 20 minutes

Those “Half Moon” cookies at Lyndell’s inspired me this past Sunday night. Since our room had to host “hall snacks,” I decided to make a Tufts-version of this New York dessert.

Tufts in a cookie

Tufts in a cookie

Let me explain the concept of hall snacks. In an effort to bring people together, the office of student life asks students to hold weekly get-togethers, when residents of the various dormitories can socialize and connect with those people who live near them. Each week, a different room hosts the get-together and provides the food, the universal college incentive. You want kids to show up at a general interest meeting? Offer free snacks. Anyways, Sunday was our night to host, so I decided to make the cookies, but with a distinct Tufts flair.
Brown and Blue
I colored the white icing blue and made the other side brown. I accomplished this by not going super dark on the chocolate. The original recipe calls for unsweetened chocolate, but I cut it with bittersweet (2oz unsweetened and 1oz bittersweet) and didn’t use any cocoa powder. The frosting bordered on a fudgy ganache, so I occasionally added a little extra hot water to keep it spreadable. The icing was a little too sugary for my taste, but so if I make it again, I might cut it ever so slightly with potato starch and throw in some vanilla extract for extra flavor.
Gotta Love the checkers table
My low inventory forced me to improvise a little bit. I replaced lemon extract with the zest of half a lemon without much of a problem. The cookies also called for cake flour, and I didn’t have any on hand. Cake flour has less protein or something in it, which creates a lighter cake. I used the conversion rate of 1-cup cake flour to 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons of All Purpose Flour. My cake was a little dense for my liking, but most people enjoyed it just fine. They kind of took on the texture of madelines.

I invited my friend Eugene over to inspect my cookies. Eugene hails from Manhattan, so I figured that he would make the best judge for authenticity. According to him, I passed the texture category with flying colors, thanks to the soft cookie’s crisp edges. He also found the white side to be a little too sugary. While they may not have been genuine New York-style Black and Whites, The fact that he went for thirds leads me to believe that they’re good enough. Either that or he has low standards (a common trait of the collegiate male).
Yumsies!

Black and White Cookies

Yield: About 45 4-inch cookies. Much like dogs, the smaller the cookie, the more dainty, but the more frustrating. You might want to sacrifice some cuteness for sanity on this one, but that’s just one lazy college student’s opinion…

COOKIE
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
2 sticks of unsalted butter softened at room temperature
4 large eggs
1 ½ cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of half a lemon of a lemon
2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

ICING
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup of water
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ounces very bitter or unsweetened chocolate
1 teaspoon light corn syrup.
1 to 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa (optional or a darker chocolate frosting)

COOKIES
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line with parchment paper or with a non-stick spray.

2. In large mixing bowl, combine sugar and butter. Mix with electric mixer for about five minutes, until fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, milk and vanilla extract and lemon zest, and mix until smooth.

3. In medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients (cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt) until mixed. Add dry mixture to the wet in batches, stirring (I used a wooden spoon) well after each addition. Place heaping spoonfuls of the dough 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. These cookies will spread, and they lose something when they aren’t circular, so make sure you give them some space. Bake until edges begin to brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool completely. Flip them over, so you frost the flat side.

FROSTING

4. In a small pot, boil the cup of water. Place the confectioners’ sugar in large, heat-safe mixing bowl. Gradually add boiling water and vanilla extract to the sugar making a thick, spreadable mixture, about a third of a cup. If for some reason you add too much water, just add some more confectioners’ sugar. Leave remaining boiling water in the pot on the stove.

5. Spread frosting on half of the flat side of each cookie. Once all cookie halves have been frosted, place the bowl of the remaining frosting over the pot of hot water and bring it back to a simmer, simulating a double-boiler. Stir in the chocolate until it has fully melted, and then add the corn syrup. At this point, depending on the chocolate you used and your preferences, you might find the chocolate color to be a little lighter than the “black” of a black-and-white cookie. If so, use that cocoa powder to darken the mixture.

6. Ice the remaining half of the cookies with the chocolate frosting. If the frosting gets too dry and fudgy, then add a teaspoon of the hot water from the pot to the chocolate. This should bring it back to its shiny, spreadable consistency.


The Ballad of the Black and White Cookie

September 29, 2009

Look at that layer of frosting!

This nasty Fall weather has me in a real slump. The rain really dampens my days, literally and figuratively. The fact that everyone on campus seems to have developed a case of the black lung this past week has me rather paranoid as well. All this ballyhoo over swine flu has me in quite the tizzy. So what are you suppose to do when the world is collapsing around you? Eat comfort food! For me, that means hearty soups and sweets. And since I don’t have a stockpot here at Tufts, I took the dessert route.

I made a plum upside down cake using recipe I provided for you earlier. It was decent, but the plums lacked flavor. I wanted peaches, but the grocery store (read: the cafeteria) didn’t have any.

Curse ye Dewick Hall for not having more flavorful fruit to steal!

Curse ye Dewick Hall for not having more flavorful fruit to steal!

I decided that a trip to a bakery would put some much-needed pep in my step. So on Sunday, I ventured over to Lyndell’s Bakery on Broadway. This shop has been around almost as long as Somerville itself. Since its opening in 1887, Lyndell’s has changed hands only 4 times. Pretty incredible. Lyndell’s still has that old school 1950s feel, which was a nice change from the hipster/gourmet vibe thrown off by so many other places these days. My trip to this venerable establishment proved to be quite successful. I ordered one black and white cookie and a cupcake.
The cupcake (chocolate with vanilla frosting) was a little dry for my liking, but at $1.25, it was hardly a financial fiasco. The buttercream frosting was quite nice. The real treasure was the Black and White cookie.

Inside of Lyndell's
I’ve never enjoyed B&W cookies (or half moon cookies, as they’re known to some), but that hasn’t stopped me from ordering one at every bakery I visit. Most often, the ratio of cookie to icing is disappointingly large. I’m a guy who needs his icing. The flavor of the icing is rarely suspect; it’s the cake gets fudged up. It should have the texture of a cake, but a lot of places ruin it by cookifying (yes, as in to cookify—make or become a cookie) the cake. Yes, it’s called a cookie, but that’s not the point! I’ve been places that flavor the cake—I’m looking at you Mike’s Pastries. Mike thought it would be a great idea to turn it into lemon cake. So lame, Mike. You’re lucky you make really freaking good canolis, or there’d be hell to pay. Maybe it has to do with region. After all, B&Ws started in New York.
This ain't yo daddy's fondant icing!
Well, Lyndell’s prides itself on its B&W cookies, so I figured I’d give ‘em a try. The first thing I noticed was the thick layer of frosting. Even without taking a bite, I knew this was gonna be tasty. After admiring the beauty of it for a good minute or so, I dove in mouth first, taking a bite right along the frosting meridian. The frosting was more of a buttercream than a traditional fondant. While this may not be wholly traditional, I didn’t take umbrage because the frosting was just so good. The cake, which was fluffy and moist, had had a sugar coating on the bottom. This crunchy layer texturally contrasted well with the rest of the cake. This small detail took the cookie to a whole different dimension.

Best of all, the cookie cost me a mere $1.75. This is a full dollar cheaper than a Kickass Cupcake, and like three dollars less than a JP Licks ice cream, so it leaves your wallet and your belly full! So next time Fall–or anything really–has you down, just hit up 720 Broadway here in Somerville.

Falling leaves=trees on chemo. And where's the fun in that?

Falling leaves=trees on chemo. And where's the fun in that?


Tasty Styrofoam

September 25, 2009

MERINGUESMeringue, not to be confused with merengue

After all that nonfat frozen yogurt, I was ready to get back into the artery clogging ice cream so I unearthed Bertha (that’s my Cuisinart ice cream churner’s new name) for the first time since arriving at Tufts. I adapted a “Chocolate Supreme” recipe, turning it into a chocolate peanut butter ice cream. In all honesty, it was a little too rich for my liking, but maybe that’s because I was coming off a pretty intense fro-yo diet. I would’ve added a half cup of whole milk to the mixture. This also would’ve increased the amount of ice cream, which was nowhere near as much as the recipe’s supposed quart serving.

As sucked the last remnants of chocolate from my spoon, I found myself faced with a familiar problem… what am I gonna do with these egg whites? I had three perfectly good whites and no idea what to do with them. I thought of Mark Bittman, and decided to make meringues.

Yes, that is sugar dust emanating from the food processor

Yes, that is sugar dust emanating from the food processor

I’ve only attempted meringue cookies once before, and they didn’t turn out well. The issue then was my use of regular granulated sugar—you need to use superfine sugar. This type has smaller granules, thus it dissolves with more ease. If you ever look at sugar, the box sometimes says (10X or XXX). This is referring to the level of fineness, and isn’t denotative of pornography in any way, shape, or form.

I don’t own any superfine sugar, but I do have a food processor (currently unnamed) and granulated sugar. You don’t have to be a boy scout or an iron chef to figure this one out. I was amazed by the aroma given off by the pulverized sugar. You can easily describe a flavor as sweet, but a scent? And what does sugar smell like? Granted, I’ve been storing my vanilla beans in sugar, so that flavor probably contributed to the scent.

Yum

Meringues are easy to make as long as you know how to whip egg whites. If you’re new to this technique, check out these tips. I didn’t have any cream of tartar, so I used lemon juice to provide that acidic support. For flavoring, I just used vanilla extract. Once the whites reached soft peaks, I gradually added the sugar until I got stiff peaks. Baking meringues takes forever, so I don’t suggest putting them in the oven at midnight. Mine took two and a half hours. Once they were done, I turned off the oven and brought them upstairs for a late night snack. What I should of done: open the oven door a crack, and keep them inside the oven until the morning.

Post-baking Meringues

Post-baking Meringues

RECIPE

Meringues (makes about 3 dozen small (1-inch diameter) meringues

3 egg whites
¾ cup superfine sugar (see note below)
½ tablespoon vanilla extract or other flavoring
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar (or a squeeze of lemon juice or a few drops of white vinegar)
(optional) food coloring (My friend wants me to make them green next time, as they proved to be good luck token for Sunday’s Jets game.)
pinch of salt

1.)    Preheat oven to 200 degrees
2.)    Beat egg whites with flavoring, coloring, salt, and cream of tartar until you reach soft peaks
3.)    Gradually add the sugar until you have glossy stiff peaks.
4.)    Place a small amount of meringue in each corner of a cookie sheet. Then cover the cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper. This is done so the meringues don’t stick to the cookie sheet and so that the parchment paper doesn’t slide around.
5.)    Using either a pastry pag, plastic sandwich bag with a tip snipped off (no moil necessary), or simply a spoon, place a dollop on a parchment papered cookie sheet.
6.)    Bake for about 2 and half hours. The easiest way to tell if they are done is to see if they stick to the parchment paper. If they do, they aren’t done. If you can pluck them off without a problem, then turn off the oven, and let them sit for at least another hour or so.

NOTE: If you do not have any superfine sugar, just place the sugar in your food processor for about 30 seconds.

In case you didn't tell, I just plopped them on the cookie sheet

In case you didn't tell, I just plopped them on the cookie sheet


CULINARY ARTS PROJECT-A Hard Day’s Night

August 14, 2009

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.