Friday, December 10, 2010

A Fresh Coat of Paint

It's the most wonderful time of the year. . . .

That song has been swimming around in my head since early this morning when I played hooky from work and baked cookies. That's right, in addition to December being an awesome month, it's also the cookie time of year.

While I'd never call myself a baker, I'm happy to wear that hat when the holidays roll around. I'm sure it's because I remember fondly decorating Christmas cookies with my mom and brother when we were little (and not so little). As a massive Dallas Cowboys fan, my brother gravitated to the star-shaped sugar cookies and was a little heavy handed on the silver sprinkles, if I do say so.

Anyway, since my family is now 3,000 miles away, I think I enjoy baking cookies during the holidays as some type of culinary bridge to help decrease the distance. Even though I love classics, I think I really love updated classics. You know, a little somethin' somethin' for my traditional cookie. I found it in a recent recipe for the beloved sugar cookie — but adorned with candied ginger and orange zest. It's what a sugar cookie would look like if it was dressed up for a fancy night out on the town.

Whereas my mom was an icing expert, it just seems too complicated to me. OK, that sounds dumb because icing has got to be one of the easiest things to make — ever. I think my real issue is that I'm just not a fan of icing, so it seems like such a bother. I'd rather forego all the confectioners sugar and food coloring and invest my energy in the foundation of the cookie. Therefore, no Plain Jane sugar cookie would cut it, and this recipe seemed like it could definitely stand on its own.

These beauties are, well, beautiful. I was quickly charmed by their lovely pale gold color studded with tiny bits of crystalized ginger that almost look like stained glass and freckles of vibrant orange zest. It's your favorite sugar cookie but with a fresh coat of paint.

You definitely take note of these cookies. And you definitely can't stop eating them. Maybe it's the ginger that hooks you. . . or the delicate buttery base . . . or perhaps the perfectly crumbly texture that melts in your mouth.

I feel no need to solve that mystery, only to enjoy them and this truly magical time of year.

Wishing y'all the happiest of holidays!

Ginger-Studded Sugar Cookies
from Food and Wine

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp crystallized ginger
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp orange zest, finely grated

1. With an electric mixer, beat butter with the flour and salt at low speed until smooth. Add the confectioners sugar, ginger, vanilla, and orange zest and beat at low speed until smooth. Divid the dough in half and form two logs. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.
2. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Working in batches if necessary, slice 1/4 inch thick rounds from the dough logs and arrange on cookie sheets 1 inch apart. Bake until lightly golden, approximately 14 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.
Yields: 3 dozen cookies.

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