Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cookies for Breakfast

Those of you who know me will probably not be surprised to hear that when I was again up at the crack of dawn this morning, I decided to use my extra time before work to bake cookies.

Baking, though, was not my first activity of the morning. Inspired by my artistic friend, Stacey, I thought I would give decorating my house for Christmas a try (check her out here). First, I tried to creatively place strings of white Christmas lights on our new server. When numerous tries failed in every way, I moved onto finding inventive ways to use these beautiful circular ornaments that my best friend, Erica, gave me years ago. Again, futility prevailed.

Becoming frustrated, I stared down the lights and thought, “Why not leave this to the experts?” Design and decoration – they just aren’t my thing. Happily resigning our home décor to our conventional Christmas tree and a giant poinsettia (courtesy of my Momma), I put in my favorite Christmas tunes, turned up the volume, and turned on the oven.

The recipe of choice was butter cookies from my Grandma Kelley's kitchen. These cookies, along with delicious toffee cups, were always available at her house during the Christmas season. Not only are these cookies delicious, but they don't require a million ingredients and are easy to make! (They do, however, require a cookie press.)

Almond Butter Cookies
Betty Kelley [Grandma]

Preheat oven to 350º

In an electric mixing bowl, add:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar

Cream the butter and sugar until thoroughly mixed and smooth in consistency.

Mix in:
1 teaspoon almond extract

In a separate bowl, add:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

The real trick to these cookies is getting the butter-to-flour ratio right, which means that it is really important not to pack the flour into the measuring cup. There is nothing more frustrating than ending up with rock solid cookie dough! The easy remedy here is to use a spoon and scoop the flour into the measuring cup.
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture 3/4 cup at a time, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl down after each addition. If the dough looks too buttery, add up to 1/4 cup of flour.

[I added about a teaspoon of finely grated orange zest to these cookies for extra flavor. I've never altered this recipe, but it worked nicely.]
Grease cookie sheets.

Choose your design - I went with Christmas tree and poinsettia - and fill your cookie press with cookie dough. You can place these cookies close together, as they will not expand much when baking.

If you would like to decorate your cookies, you can lightly sprinkle colored sugar on the uncooked cookie. To make your own, add a drop or two of food coloring to a tablespoon of sugar. The back of a spoon works wonders in combining the two.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until cookies are golden brown. After removing from the oven, let sit on cookie sheets for 2-3 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

Eat up!

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