Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Best Cookie Recipe

Mom always said the best recipes in books had lots of stains next to them. If that's true, my favorite cookie recipe is one recipe you just have to make. I've hauled this recipe out every holiday season for over 40 years. Oh some years, I tweak it here and there, but for the most part, I love it as it is.

I discovered it in this Pillsbury Cookie Pamphlet that was shoved in the back of a cupboard. It was brand new then, but it's hard to recognize now. The pamphlet is like a well-used child's favorite blanket. The cover is gone, pages tattered and stained. It's followed me from Colorado, to Utah, to California, then Washington, Rhode Island and back to Washington.

When I first flipped through the book Ethel's Sugar Cookies immediately caught my eye. I was seven, and my favorite cookies were animal cookies. The first time I made them I added baking soda instead of baking powder. It was a bitter lesson, but my mistake didn't deter me. I made them again and again until they became holiday traditions.

When my daughter was young we used to decorate them with frosting. It was like a sacrilege because I secretly liked plain vanilla cookies best and scraped the frosting off before eating. Eventually I skipped the decorating, why not just skip to the good part?
This year I used Nash's whole wheat pastry flour, butter from Golden Glenn Creamery, and eggs from River Farm. The flavor of local flour really makes a difference in both taste and texture. More flour is needed or cookies seriously spread out more and some of the small trees and stars turned into blobs.

I'll add more flour next time to be more presentable for company, if they make it that long. Try them at your own risk--you may also decide a year just can't drift by without them.

This year in honor of my friend Kathy Gehrt's book Discover Cooking With Lavender, I added lavender to the mix. The result was heavenly.

Ethel's Sugar Cookies
These sugar cookies have a light butter flavor. Bet you can't eat just one. Watch the cooking time closely because they can go from golden to burned in a minute. Golden Glenn Creamery butter was salted and if you use salted butter, disregard the salt in the recipe.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried lavender buds (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Lay parchment paper on a baking sheet.

Mix together butter and sugar. Beat eggs and add with vanilla. In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix in lavender buds, if desired. Stir flour mixture into butter mixture, add more flour to make a very stiff dough.

Chill for at least one hour. When chilled, take half of the dough, form into a ball, flatten and gently, from the center to 1/8 inch thick on a floured board. Cut into desired shapes, and when you don't have enough to cut into shapes, gather that dough up and roll it out again. Place unbaked cookies on prepared baking sheet. Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until delicately golden.

Makes about 45 cookies

(Hints: Try to cut as many cookies as possible before gathering up the pieces to roll again. Each time you roll these cookies they become more flour filled and fragile. fragile. You can also make this dough chocolate by melting about 2 ounces of chocolate and stirring it into the mix.)

My Cooking Assistant is impressed. What's your long-time favorite cookie recipe?


Joan said...

wow that is one well used recipe! love it when you find a classic. Thanks for passing it along.

ddzeller said...

So funny when you finally notice how old something has gotten that you've treasured for years. If you can get freshly ground flour, it really adds to the flavor of these easy-to-make cookies.