Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Favorite Butter Cookies

My Favorite Butter Cookies... with assorted embellishments.

Similar in texture and flavor to English shortbreads, my favorite Butter Cookies will elicit plenty of oohs, aahs, and mmms out of their lucky consumers.  Don't be foolish enough to think one batch is enough.  This recipe will only make about 4 dozen cookies, but you can expect that people will take a cookie every time they pass them by... so make sure you have enough for about 5 or 6 cookies per guest at your holiday party.  When I made them yesterday, I made enough for 15 dozen cookies.
They're refrigerator cookies, so you make the dough ahead, then chill it before cutting them and baking.  As you can see, I've decorated mine with a variety of decorative sugar crystals and sprinkles that I bought over the last couple of years from a cake decorator supply store nearby.  You will be amazed at what they have.  I found beautiful prismatic silver sugar crystals, white snow flake sprinkles, multi-colored metallic dragees, and sugar in every color under the rainbow.  Most of what I used you can purchase in a local cake decorator supply store in your local town.  Just google "cake decorating supplies insert your home town here".    A good tip is to know that a little goes a long way with such decorations.  So you don't have to buy a bunch for the sake of making sure you have enough.  You buy according to how much variety you want.
You can make your dough up to 3 months in advance and store the "logs" in airtight freezer bags in the freezer.  They thaw enough to decorate and cut in about an hour.  So you can take these out anytime for a homemade version of instant cookies.  You can be your own Pilsbury maker!  (These taste better any way you cut it!)   You can also use these for cutout cookies by rolling the dough out on a well floured board to avoid sticking.  When I do cutout cookies, I use the glass table in our kitchen or the granite counter top, clearing a huge space, flouring it well,  and rolling out all of the dough at once if possible, then cutting out shapes with the 50 some-odd cookie cutters I have inherited from various relatives over the years.  For this holiday,  however, I've simply done this the easy way and made rolls of dough, chilled them, rolled them in decorative stuff, then sliced them into coin-like discs for baking.

THE PLAYERS: (your grocery list)
Unsalted Butter  1 cup  brought to room temperature (so that it's soft) Demerara Sugar 1 cup   Egg 1 brown egg... organic, from free range, vegetarian fed chickens Egg Yolk 1 egg yolk (these extra yolks will add some moisture and denseness to the cookie) Vanilla Extract 1 teaspoon Vanilla Bean you'll be making a slit with a knife down the length of the bean and then scraping the tiny grainy sticky seeds into your wet ingredients.  Sea Salt I add 1 teaspoon since we use unsalted butter, and the salt compliments the sweet and the fat well in this cookie.  you may use 1/2 teaspoon if you prefer... Unbleached All-Purpose Flour 2 1/2 cups.  I never buy bleached flour anymore.  I don't know what the point is with that... it's a leftover from the era of Wonder Bread and Twinkies.   Chopped Nuts, Shredded Coconut, Sprinkles, Colored Sugar, etc... for decorating.



In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar til fluffy and light, then add egg, egg yolk, vanilla, vanilla bean seeds, and salt and mix well.  
Gradually, with the mixer on low speed, add flour and mix until a smooth dough forms and sticks together.
Divide dough in half and shape into 2 logs about 2 inches in diameter.  Wrap in wax paper and if you plan to bake them today, put them in the freezer for about 2 hours or until they are firm to the touch.  

When you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375 farenheit. 
Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.   

Cut each of the 2 logs in half and roll them in whatever decorations you've chosen.  Use a little pressure while you roll the log if you find that the sugar or sprinkles or dragees are not adhering easily. 
Slice your logs into 1/4 inch slices and place the slices on your prepared baking sheet with at least 1/2 inch space between each cookie. 

Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until surfaces of cookies are dry and you see just a slight bit of golden toasty color appearing around the bottom edge of the cookies.  
Don't over-bake these or they will taste like burnt butter.  Trust me... I had to throw out a whole dozen in my first wave of making these.  Remove when done and cool completely on a wire rack.  Store in airtight containers until used.


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