Oh hi there, dearest reader! It is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to my favorite cookie. I am so glad that you two can finally meet! You may have gotten a glimpse of each other over the holidays, but I am happy that we can take a few minutes to really sit down and have a chat.
The story begins many moons ago, when I was younger and could not participate in any of the holiday activities that are “shaken up and poured over ice” which meant that all I could really look forward to were my Aunt Carole’s Sugar Cookies.
These cookies are included in a small group of food memories that remain consistent year after year. I don’t know why fake grape flavor does not translate as an appealing taste when one enters into adulthood but rarely does your favorite childhood candy grow up with you. The good news of this phenomenon is that the pendulum swings in the other direction as well. Example: I used to hate beer.
For years I would just show up and eat these cookies but when I was asked to contribute my favorite holiday recipe to Saveur’s Cookie Advent Calendar, a loud booming voice came out of nowhere and shouted: HEY YOU! DON’T BE A SILLY! AUNT CAROLE’S COOKIES! Only then did I realize that I had never even considered an attempt to witness their creation.
And so I did – this summer while I was in Seattle – on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year, which meant temperatures rose into the triple digits, and everyone in Seattle was cranky because they didn’t know what to do without their fleece jackets and the drizzle.
We have science to thank for the fact that butter melts extremely easily when the ambient temperature is 115 degrees and the last thing either of us wanted to do was turn on the oven, but we pushed onwards and I quickly realized that I owe my aunt a whole lot of favors for her agreeing to the situation.
Because it was not a normal time of year to be making cookies, my aunt provided helpful commentary as to what I should expect from a more traditional cookie-making experience. Most of these statements began with “usually.” As in, “Usually…it is not as hot as the Devil’s tongue outside so I put my cookie sheets out on the deck to cool between batches…,” “Usually…this is the time when I realize that I haven’t wrapped any presents and your mom is calling to tell me that your family is headed over for Christmas dinner…,” “Usually…this is when I am on batch number six and about the time that I have a tiny holiday bourbon…,” “Usually…it is not this dang hot out…!”
The lesson here is that it doesn’t matter if it is sweltering in August or a frosty February afternoon that calls for a few dozen tiny hearts – this recipe is sugar cookie perfection.
But here is the deal: if you make these you must use margarine. I know. I was freaked out too when I found out that it was the sneaky ingredient in my beloved cookies. My aunt told me as nicely as possible that I could not substitute butter because it is what keeps the cookies soft and while I continued to whine, she busted out the Gold n’Soft. Also be sure to watch these cookies carefully and do not over bake them. The lemon extract and the almond extract are a bit of an investment but I promise they are worth it because the combo is what makes these cookies extra special. Another trick: my aunt frosts her cookies from a small bowl of frosting that has been heated in the microwave for 5 -7 seconds. Not only does the frosting go on extra smooth, as it hardens it creates a slightly crisp shell that is the perfect match for the soft cookie below.
And finally on to the real good stuff! You know that I have a lot of love for these cookies but I also have a lot of love you and I thought what better way to celebrate ALL THE LOVE (and Valentine’s Day) then with FREE STUFF THAT IS HEART SHAPED. [heart emoticon] [heart emoticon] [smiley face]
Happy Valentine’s Day y’all! The love-themed box includes:
- a Valentine’s Multipack from Tattly (or the most awesome temporary tattoos ever)
- twelve heart-shaped note cards (in blush pink!) + envelopes (for all your secret love note needs)
- an amazing selection of my new favorite chocolate from Videri Chocolate Factory (pink peppercorn chocolate anyone?)
- Meringue (which is a lovely cookbook dedicated to all things involving sugar and egg whites)
- The Best of Martha Stewart: Cakes and Cupcakes (this special issue is AMAZEBALLS. For serious.)
- one Best-Ever Cupcake Icing Kit™ + a HUGE selection of cupcake liners from Bake It Pretty (which is one of my favorite online destinations and will satisfy all your baking needs)
- your very own heart-shaped cookie cutter + tiny heart sprinkles (!!!!)
**All you have to do to enter the giveaway is leave a comment on this post.**
Let me know if you are baking for Valentine’s Day. Or what you are doing to celebrate. Or what you wish you were doing.
The comments will close on Friday, February 8th at 11:59 p.m. (EST). Good luck!
Soft Lemon Sugar Cookies with Almond Icing
Makes about 4 dozen
Adapted from my Aunt Carole via Saveur
For the lemon sugar cookies:
2 1/2 cups (312 grams) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick or 113 grams) butter, softened
1/2 cup (110 grams) soft margarine (my aunt uses Gold n’Soft)
1 1/2 cups (185 grams) powdered sugar, sifted
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
For the almond frosting:
5 tablespoons (70 grams) butter, very soft
2 tablespoons (30 ml) half and half or heavy cream, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups (220 grams) powdered sugar, sifted
Sprinkles and food coloring, for decorating
Make the dough: In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl use a hand mixer to beat together butter, margarine, and powdered sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add egg, yolk, and both extracts and beat until smooth. Add dry ingredients, and mix until just combined. Transfer the dough to a work surface and shape into two disks. Wrap each half in several layers of plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours or overnight.
When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to about 1/4-inch thick. Dip a 2-inch cookie cutter into flour and stamp out as many cookies as possible. Reroll the scraps as necessary. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes or until the edges are just barely golden. Do not over bake. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
Make the frosting and decorate the cookies: Combine butter, half and half (or cream), both extracts, and salt in a medium bowl, and beat until smooth, then add sugar and mix until smooth and spreadable. Generously spread each cookie with frosting and decorate with sprinkles.
To make the graduated colors: I first divided my cookies into four batches then frosted one quarter with plain white frosting. Then I dipped a toothpick into electric pink gel paste food coloring and added just the tiniest amount of pink (I am talking the smallest amount of color!) and frosted another quarter batch. Then – you get the idea – I added even a bit more color and frosted the third quarter. Finally, I added the MOST coloring and frosted the remaining cookies.
Nitty gritty. One winner will be selected. The giveaway is open to U.S. and International readers. Please leave a valid email address and I will contact the winner to coordinate shipping details. This giveaway has been generously sponsored by Videri Chocolate Factory, Gibbs Smith, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc., Bake It Pretty, and butter me up, Brooklyn!. One entry (comment) per person please. The comments will close on Friday, February 8th at 11:59 p.m. (EST). The winner will be contacted and announced on Saturday, February 9th by 11:59 p.m. (EST). The winner will be randomly selected through blog magic.