Put a little sugar in these cookies

They’re naked. I know. These sugar cookies went fast. And smelled so good (vanilla with a touch of fresh lemon) right out of the oven that they didn’t last long around here. And now I get to make more.

I don’t know about you, but growing up, sugar cookies came once a year in the shape of Santas, Christmas trees and bells and were covered in red and green sprinkles. Sure, cut-out cookies take a little more effort than dropping your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe by scoopfuls onto a baking sheet, but you can avoid rolling out sugar cookie dough by simply forming it into a log and slicing into rounds.  When something tastes this good, why not consider bringing it to the family table more than once a year? At the very least you and your loved ones deserve to enjoy these cookies throughout the many months and moods of winter.

I have found an excellent sugar cookie recipe and have used it as the inspiration for my own buttery-sugary cookies. I’ve made it several times as Santas and bells, snowflakes and flowers. It’s Dorie Greenspan’s grandmother’s and it’s very good and if it comes from anyone’s beloved grandmother, than it is good enough for me. What’s more, it seems to take very well to a heart-shaped cookie cutter.

Dorie Greenspan’s Grandma’s All-Occasion Sugar Cookies (as spied on The Splendid Table)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest (from a large lemon)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking powder together and set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed for a minute until smooth. Next beat in the sugar until light and fluffy and pale yellow in color. Beat in the lemon zest.

In a small bowl, gently beat the egg and egg yolk. Add the eggs one tablespoon (eye-ball it) at a time until fully incorporated. Beat in the vanilla.

In three batches add in the flour mixture, mixing on low to incorporate. After the third addition, mix only until it all comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut in half and roll each half, one at a time, between two sheets of parchment to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Place both sheets of cookie dough onto a cookie sheet and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Returning to a lightly floured surface, and working with one sheet at a time (leaving the other in the fridge until you’re ready to work with it) carefully peel back the top sheet of parchment. And gently place it back on the rolled out dough. Now flip the dough over and pull back the bottom (which is now the top) sheet of parchment and set aside. Cut out cookies and place them on the parchment-lined baking sheet. You can re-roll the scraps–using as much of the dough as possible–between the same two pieces of parchment. You may have to put the dough back in the fridge for a few minutes if it becomes too soft to work with.

Repeat with the second batch of dough.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until they begin to take on a slight golden brown color around the edges.

Share these with the ones you love.



Sunday’s Caramel Tart

This morning I’m up at 5 to see the husband and Auggie off on a long drive north for a day of championship mountain bike racing. As soon as I hear the truck pull out of the driveway, I pour a cup of coffee and take the caramel tart I made yesterday out of the refrigerator.

It was late last night (know that these days “late” for me means somewhere around 9 pm) when the tart had cooled enough to be put in the fridge for at least a 2-hour chill. By that time I was tucked in and fast asleep.

When the Hubs saw the pre-baked tart shell he said, “Is that for apples?” When I answered No, that it would be filled with caramel. He whined, “Caramel?”

Yes Dear. Caramel. Dorie Greenspan’s from her book, Baking Chez Moi. And with that, he was back in the living room watching the Badger football game. He was going to be okay.

So this morning, alone, hours from daylight, I peel back the layers of Saran wrap, quietly cut a slice and enjoy every smooth mouthful all along considering this a very good first breakfast (no need to set a good example–there no signs of Fritz or Harriet stirring in their beds at this point).

It tastes as it should (I am encouraged), a rich caramel filling uncomplicated in its most basic buttery-ness. The shortbread crust is pleasantly sweet with good crunch and somewhat forgiving in that, by choosing to piece the dough together in the pan rather than rolling it out, I’m sure I overworked it a bit.

The first time I made the caramel for this dessert, I forgot to add the warm cream at the end. This soon became a clumpy mess (alarmingly so) when I attempted to add the caramel mixture (minus the cream) to the bowl of creamed-together sugar and eggs. I had to start over which wasn’t too bad–well having to get dried caramel off of the pan, and off the spatula and whisk was a pain in the ass–but then it was only a matter of boiling sugar, water and a few drops of lemon juice to get things rolling again.

One more misstep ensued. In my haste to get this into the oven and get dinner started, I forgot that this recipe calls for a 9-inch tart pan and I have an 8-inch. Because I overfilled the pan, the baking time increased by almost twice as much,  which resulted in a slightly browned top (not the autumnal sunset color I was hoping for). At least I remembered to place the tart on a parchment-lined baking sheet otherwise I’d be subjecting my family to the assaulting stink of burnt sugar for a long, long time.

Still Dorie’s caramel tart, of which I adapted not a single thing, tastes divine as it should. A dollop of chantilly cream and a few shavings of bittersweet chocolate on top solves the less-than-perfect aesthetic issue. I would serve this smoldering dessert to dinner guests without apology.

If you’d like the recipe, feel free to leave me a message in the comments. I’d love to share it with you.

Epicuriously yours,