Fall and the holidays just seems to put me in a baking mood. I wouldn't call myself a baker by any stretch of the imagination. I am a much better cook, but every now and then, especially around this time I get excited about baking. Baking for friends and family and filling the kitchen with the sweet smell of butter and sugar; not holding back or counting calories. Paula Deen tends to become my roll model around this time of the year, and that's probably why on January 1st one resolution of mine is always exercising with some weight-loss goal in mind.
Trying not to think about how many miles I will need to run, I set in motion towards my mixer and oven.....I have decided to make sugar cookies. Yep, good ole fashion, straight-forward, sugar-cookies. Inexpensive and usually with staples I already have on hand. My son, Simms, is ever so thankful when this baking mood comes upon me. He is glued to my side with every ingredient measured, poured, and mixed. He sings as we bake (thanks to Mrs. Sandy who teaches his Kindermusik class), "Cookies from scratch. Cookies from scratch. We'll make a big batch of cookies from scratch!" This song echoes through the kitchen continuously until he starts seeing some action take place.
So I get started making the dough and Simms is standing anxiously with the pumpkin cookie cutter in hand like he's getting ready to go into battle. I roll out the dough and, all of a sudden, before we even start cutting out shapes Simms begins to pinch off some dough to "test-taste" what he has been waiting for so intently. Then I hear, "Mmmmmm Momma, that's good." So warning to those that have a helper, watch them closely; you may end up with less cookies to bake then you thought! Next, Simms begins to cut out the cookies with a delicious-madness in his eyes. Some pumpkins look like they have been accosted and some look like they belong to Cinderella. Eventually we use up all the dough and have cookies spread out on the baking sheet. Yummy, yummy, yummy!
Once the cookies have been cut and are baking this is a perfect time to let your little helper, or yourself, lick the paddle and spatula. Have fun, relax, and enjoy the entire baking process; flour flying all over your kitchen and all. I think Cookie Monster would be so proud!
Basic Sugar-Cookie Dough *
Makes 4 dozen cookies @ about $0.15 per cookie
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons salt
5 cups all-purpose flour
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, vanilla, and salt; mix on medium speed until combined. With mixer on low speed, add flour in 2 batches, mixing just until incorporated.
Divide dough into 4 equal portions. Place each on a piece of plastic wrap; flatten into disks. Wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours or up to 1 week. I always freeze my dough for up to 3 months. It is perfect to have on hand for guest, gatherings, or unexpected cravings!
When ready to bake set dough out to thaw for just a bit, whether it's been in the refrigerator or freezer, one section of dough should make about a dozen cookies. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray and line cookie sheet with wax paper; the spray will help the paper to stay in place. Dust surface with good amount of flour and dust rolling pin as well. Kneed the dough until just soft enough to cut shapes. The more the dough is worked with the softer it becomes; you may need to place dough back in the refrigerator for a few minutes till it is firm enough to work with again. Cut or decorate to your hearts desire and place cookies on the baking sheet and in oven for 12-15 minutes. Keep an eye on them for desired consistency. I prefer soft and chewy so I pull the cookies out at about 12 minutes. Place on cookie wrack for 5 minutes to cool and try to resist taking a bite. Good luck with that!
*Cookie dough from www.marthastewart.com; baking directions from The Pennyless Cook