Cookie Cat

When The Kid was away at college, my mom sent our little scholar a box of her famous frosted sugar cookies.  My generous child offered them to friends, but there were no takers—it was culinary school, and these were just boring sugar cookies from some random grandmother in North Carolina.NECI on Main, Montpelier, VermontEventually, one person had one.  Then another person, then word got out about these amazing cookies.  Long after they were nothing but a memory, chef-instructors would approach The Kid, and ask if there any cookies left.

“No?  Any idea if you might get some more?  And when they might arrive?  Lemme give you my cell number…and my home number…wait, here’s my address.  Any time at all, just gimme a yell.”

Like my own mom, another mom I know makes an epic frosted sugar cookie.  My mom’s cookies are shockingly delicious, but definitely not fancy.  Mama Cat’s are crispy, delicate, and also, shockingly delicious, but they are kind of fancy.Her son Chef Chrissie, makes them for very special dates.  He also must use them in some type business negotiations, because he calls them his “never-fail deal closers”.

If they were shoes, Mom’s would be a classic pair of Doc Martin boots; good-looking, super comfortable classics that you could wear every day, all day.  Mama Cat’s would be Christian Louboutin’s; elegant, exquisite, and for very special occasions.

As good as the cookie is, the frosting, this wonderful vanilla fudge, is almost better.  And, if you let the frosting boil for about five minutes before adding the confectioner’s sugar, it will set up much thicker, and can be placed into mini muffin papers, with a light sprinkling of jimmies. They transform into addictive little vanilla-fudge candies. The secret to these cookies is the dough and how it’s rolled.  If the dough gets warm, they won’t work, so unless you work really, really, fast, you will need to refrigerate it every so often while working with it, and before baking.  And these need to be rolled super thin—like 1/8-inch thin.  Don’t get lazy here, thinness makes a huge difference.  You want the finished product thin and crispy as a cracker.

These cookies are the perfect accompaniment for tea with the mother-in-law or to grease any particularly squeaky wheels you might have in your life.  They are chic little treats that would look appropriate at a patisserie in Paris, but also just right for eating in your pajamas while watching one of those “real” housewives shows.

Mama Cat’s Elegant Sugar Cookiesmama cat's cookies1 cup butter, softened

1 & 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 & 1/2 cups sifted flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients.  Split dough into two disks and refrigerate for at least one hour.  Roll cookie dough out very thin and cut into shapes. Bake on parchment lined baking sheet at 400 degrees for about six minutes.  Cool on racks until completely cool.

Makes 3-4 dozen cookies, depending on size and shape.

Vanilla Icingvanilla fudge1/2 cup butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup milk

Heat ingredients in a saucepan until it boils.  Let it cool slightly, and mix in 1 & 3/4 -2 cups of sifted powdered sugar, a pinch of salt and 2 teaspoons vanilla.

Spread a thin layer of the warm icing on cookies and let cool and set.soft maple sugar cookiesIf you take your time, and use care, you’ll have an elegant, delicious confection to impress.  They’re great to have in your back pocket (but not literally—they’d crumble and stain your drawers).

Stained drawers.  See what I did there?

Thanks for your time.

A Christmas Miracle

Half the family thinks she puts crack in them.cookie-dustThe other half, a wide-eyed, innocent, ‘Happily ever after’ bunch if there ever was one, thinks it’s probably fairy dust.

I’m talking about my mother’s Christmas cookies.  They’re a simple sugar cookie, generously slathered with the frosting she learned to make when she took a cake decorating class in Puerto Rico, back in the 1970’s.

Each year she makes 8-10 dozen.  Then one day, a week or so before Christmas, she invites/conscripts a confectionary army to frost them.  After icing, each cookie is sprinkled with holiday-hued sugar, or jimmies, or nonpareils from her vast collection.  As each cookie is festively decked out it’s laid on the dining room table for the frosting to set.But the thing is; these are stealth cookies.

On the surface, they are the same boring sugar cookie everybody on the planet has eaten.

But take just one bite, and you get it.  Forget Helen, this cookie is so good it could launch ten thousand ships.  Both flavor and texture are perfectly balanced.  They are insanely delicious.

One of my favorite things is to watch a neophyte take their very first bite.  I’ll explain how awesome they are, and the newbie will smile politely, all the while thinking I need to get out more and taste a cookie or two.Then, they sink their teeth in and taste it.  Their eyes get real big and their faces light up.  “Oh my Gosh!  I get it.  What’s in these things?  They’re the best cookie I’ve ever eaten.  What the heck?”

Mom’s Christmas Cookies

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Ingredients:moms-cookies1½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ cup sugar

½ cup butter flavored Crisco

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk (whole or 2%)

1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift dry ingredients into bowl.  With mixer, cut in shortening until it resembles coarse meal.  Blend in egg, milk, and vanilla.

Roll out to 1/8 inch, and cut into shapes. 

Bake on parchment lined cookie sheet for 6-8 minutes or until golden.  Remove to cooling rack.

Frost cookies when they are completely cooled.  Makes about 1 ½ dozen.

Mom’s Frostingmoms-frosting

1 pound box powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 scant teaspoon cream of tartar

1/3 cup butter-flavored Crisco

1 egg white

1/4 cup of water (or less)

1 tablespoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

For decorating: colored sugars and jimmies

Dump all ingredients, except water, into mixer. Beat ingredients at low until it starts to come together.  Put the water in at this point, so you can judge just how much to use. Beat until it is creamy and fluffy. We usually dye it festive colors.

A few notes about the recipes:

You might want to fanci-fy the ingredients or procedure.  Don’t do it!  The recipe is some kind of alchemy that only works if made as written.  I’ve tried, and was rewarded with mediocre cookies and regret.  If you have to change things, just make a different cookie.frosting-faceThe frosting is really good, and works on anything that needs frosting, and stuff that doesn’t.  My dad and I have been known to eat a bowl of it, on nothing more than a spoon.

And about the disagreement of what she puts in the cookies?

I’m pretty sure it’s not crack because mom herself is firmly in the wide-eyed camp.  She’s so sheltered she thinks crack is the thing you see when the plumber bends over too far.

So, it must be fairy dust.Thanks for your time.

General Delivery, North Pole

Dear Santa Claus,

I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve written to you.  I think the last thing I asked you for was a Donny Osmond cassette and a Malibu Skipper doll.

Skipper and Donny-it's Sophie's choice to pick only one.

Skipper and Donny-it’s Sophie’s choice to pick only one.

I decided to send you a letter this year because you’re magic.  And to happen, most of my list needs a healthy dose of magic.

Last year when Petey was in the hospital, I would often stop at Panera Bread for dinner.

The order always consisted of the same two items; broccoli cheddar soup, and their spinach power salad.  The super-delicious salad was baby spinach, marinated mushrooms, crispy onion rings, and hard-boiled egg.  It came with a Vidalia onion dressing, and an entire large salad was only about fourteen calories (I may be exaggerating a touch here).

But for some reason, this spring, they dropped it from the menu.

Santa, please make them bring it back.  I’ve written a few emails to the company, but they haven’t worked. So I’m turning to a higher authority; you, to make this happen.

Tanya, Konrad, and the folks at Daisy Cakes (401 Foster St, Durham) make the best whoopee pies I’ve ever eaten.  The first time I tried one, it was so good, I almost cried.  But, they don’t have them very often.  So I would like for the chocolate/salted caramel version to be waiting for me every time I visit.

After hoping and wishing for many years, Durham is getting a Krispy Kreme.  Thank you very much.  In addition to this cathedral of crullers, Durham desperately needs a Sonic drive-in.  And they should put their steak sandwich back on the menu.

I would really like it if you could make clementines available year-round and take all the calories out of brie.  Put a Nana Taco much closer to my house, and give Locopops an ice cream truck that comes to my neighborhood every day fully stocked with blueberry/buttermilk pops.

Vaguely Reminiscent (728 9th St, Durham) is one of my favorite stores.  Owner Carol Anderson stocks the perfect merchandise for our funky little Bull City, including lots of distinctive, uncommon kitchen gadgets.  And the clothes, shoes, and accessories are just my style.  So, I’d like a $10,000.00 gift certificate, and a social life befitting all the fashionable raiment I will them own.

When you visit my house you’ll notice I’ve left you saltines.  I’d like to give you some of my mom’s improbably scrumptious frosted sugar cookies, but I only have a very limited amount, so can’t (won’t) share.  But I will give you the recipe, because, as they say, “If you teach an enchanted, immortal holiday figure to fish…”

Mom’s Christmas cookies

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1 ½ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ cup sugar

½ cup butter flavored Crisco

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift dry ingredients into bowl.  With mixer, cut in shortening until it resembles coarse meal.  Blend in egg, milk, and vanilla.

Roll out to 1/8 inch, and cut into shapes.

Bake on parchment lined cookie sheet for 6-8 minutes or until golden.  Remove to cooling rack.

Frost cookies when they are completely cooled.  Makes about 1 ½ dozen.

Mom’s Frosting

1 box powdered sugar (equal to 3 ¾ cups unsifted)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 scant teaspoon cream of tartar

1/3 cup butter-flavored Crisco

1 egg white

1/4 cup of water (or less)

1 tablespoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

For decorating: colored sugars and jimmies

Dump all ingredients, except water, into mixer. Beat ingredients at low until it starts to come together.  Put the water in at this point, so you can judge just how much to use. Beat until it is creamy and fluffy. Dye it festive colors, and very heavily frost each cookie, then sprinkle with colored sugar or jimmies.

One last thing.  I’d love to win the lottery, but Petey says I can’t win it, if I’m not in it.  The whole thing is very confusing to me, and because of that, I don’t play.

So, I’d appreciate it if you could slip a winning ticket into my stocking.

Thanks for your time, Santa,

Love Debbie.