Short cut sugar cookies
Halloween may offer more opportunity to create magical dishes out of everyday recipes than any other holiday. Perusing the web lately, I’ve seen witch finger cookies, devil’s eyeballs and worm covered rotten apple bars. Even over at my other site, I’m hoping to devote the entire day of Halloween to recipes and posts from bloggers around the world.
However, for those of us pressed for time, or simply uninterested in grossing ourselves out with our thematic creations, I suggest to you: sugar cookies.
Yes, sugar cookies may be a bit pedestrian. They lack the blood and guts of, say, a jelly-filled mummy cupcake, and they aren’t quite as ghoulish as a hairy spider layer cake, but they are tasty and offer an opportunity to ease yourself into the Halloween spirit, if brains in a punch bowl just aren’t your thing!
And here is my tip for you. This idea comes from Nancy Baggett in her wonderful book, The All-American Cookie Book. First, begin with a sugar cookie recipe that you would normally roll out and cut into shapes. Assemble the dough, and place it in a ball in the fridge, covered, for about thirty minutes. After it has firmed up a bit, take it out and place in manageable portions between sheets of waxed paper. “Manageable portions” means about 1/2 pound or so. Flatten the dough a bit with your hands if necessary, then start rolling out, using a rolling pin. Keep the wax paper between your pin and dough, and you’ll go a long way toward keeping extra flour out of the mix. If the paper starts to wrinkle, gently peel it away from the dough and replace, smoothing out the wrinkles. Roll until the dough is even and about 1/4-1/2 inch thick (your preference).
Place the rolled out dough (still between waxed paper) on a cookie sheet or flat surface and into the fridge if you are going to cut out cookies within a few days. (Place in a bag and seal if you are concerned about the dough picking up “off” flavors from the contents of your fridge. You can also bag and freeze for use further down the road.)
When the dough is chilled and quite firm (at least 30 minutes, or until it stands stiff like a plank!), have your oven preheated and take one sheet of dough (with paper) out of the fridge. Place on flat surface, with a little flour handy for your cutters. (You may find that you don’t even need the extra flour. My dough usually comes out in the cutter, making it handy to transfer right to the baking tray. Because the dough is so stiff, it simply pops out of the cutter when gently coaxed.) Peel back the top layer of waxed paper. (I leave the bottom layer there for easy clean-up. Just work gently.) Start cutting out shapes from your already-rolled dough, place on baking sheet and repeat until the you have no more usable dough.
Place cookies in oven for recommended cooking time given in recipe, and return to cookie dough scraps. Simple pile/push together and repeat rolling out between wax paper. While that firms up in the fridge, pull out another sheet of already rolled and chilled dough and repeat (or wait until the first batch comes out of the oven.)
The key is to keep your dough rolled out, then chilled until firm, before beginning to cut. It will make your experience with cutting cookies much, much easier. So easy, in fact, that you will welcome help from your children because the hard and boring part (the rolling out) is already done, so they can enjoy the fun part (cutting the cookies, eating the scraps).
One final word of caution: last year I tried to roll my mother’s sugar cookie dough out in this fashion. It is a dough that she has been making for years, but she has altered the recipe to work with a cookie shooter. Hence, the dough is quite soft and no amount of time in the fridge helped it firm up adequately. So, we resorted to freezing the dough in rolled-out batches and struggled through, but it wasn’t pretty. Make sure the recipe you use for sugar cookies is one that you would normally roll out and cut.
You can purchase kitchen witch sugar cookie dough and pecan brown sugar cookie dough at RegionalBest.com. Thanks!