The easiest sugar cookies (anytime)

December 1, 2007

It’s well known in our neighborhood that we’re cookie-givers. Do us the smallest favor — cookies. Have us over for a meal — cookies. Show up to a community event — cookies. What can I say? We love to bake, and if I kept all the goodies I’d weigh 400 pounds. As the holidays approach, we’re in the kitchen whipping up a batch of something every few days, especially as an after-school activity. It’s funny — many adults think that because kids love to eat cookies, they’ll automatically love to make them. In fact, baking is pretty regimented and slow-moving, so kids need to be conditioned to stick with the whole project. In my previous job editing at a food publication, we often tried to run articles about strategies for getting kids to help out in food preparation, but it really boils down to simple repetition. M. started off by helping measure. Then he’d run away from the sound of the mixer. Eventually he got curious and came back, but he’d lose interest when the dough-shaping task began. Now he’s to the point of hanging around throughout the entire process, as long as it’s kept to under an hour. He’s good at a lot of types of cookies, too: cut-out sugar cookies, spritz cookies formed with a “gun,” ball-shaped and fork-flattened peanut butter cookies, sliced-from-a-log icebox cookies. Even the baby, S., is getting into the act. Right now he play a lot with the cups and spoons, but he knows the dough tastes yummy!

This recipe came from a friend in Pennsylvania a few years ago. She cooked with her Sicilian grandmother, and this is one of the family’s traditional holiday recipes. I like it as a kids’ project for several reasons: Although it’s a sugar cookie dough, it doesn’t need refrigeration; the quantity is about enough to fill three baking sheets (a do-able amount for beginning bakers whose interest wanes quickly); and the resulting cookies take well to either a pre-bake sprinkle of colored sugar or a post-bake dollop of frosting.

Grandmom Lionti’s Cookies

1/2 c. butter, softened

1/2 c. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. baking powder

2 eggs

Pinch of salt

2 c. flour, plus more for rolling out

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla, eggs, baking powder and salt and beat well, then mix in flour until the dough sticks together. Shape the dough by hand into thick fingers, circles, Ss or candy canes, or roll it out (to about 1/4 inch thickness) and cut with cookie cutters. Place 1 inch apart and, if desired, sprinkle the tops with colored sugar. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven until the bottoms barely start to brown, about 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

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