Monday, July 8, 2013

National Sugar Cookie Day: Battle of the Cookies

It's amazing what useless yet fun facts you can learn on Facebook.  July 9 is National Sugar Cookie Day.  Yes, it is.  No kidding.  I would not joke around about cookies.  When the Ex-Ex and I were in New York City in June, the first thing we did was to walk from our hotel to Times Square.  There are a lot of characters hanging around there on a Sunday afternoon.  I have always had a soft spot for Cookie Monster from Sesame Street.  So, I wanted to hug him and have my picture taken with him.

"Cookie, cookie.  Me want coooookie."
But then his "buddies" horned in on the action.  Elmo, okay.  Minnie and that pushy Tigger.  I don't think so.  I gave the Ex-Ex a $5 tip for Cookie, but Tigger grabbed it out of his hand.  I will never feel the same about Tigger again.
I digress.  Back to sugar cookies.  After discovering that tomorrow is the day to honor sugar cookies, I got the butter out to warm to room temperature and got busy.  I decided to go with my favorite sugar cookie recipe, Foolproof Chewy Sugar Cookies.  I have already blogged about these delicious cookies.  I found the recipe a while back in Cook's Illustrated, my favorite cooking magazine.  But why not a little taste test?  The Facebook post about NSC Day led me to a blog which led me to a recipe for Sistine Chapel Sugar Cookies.  The writer calls them "the sugar cookie to end all sugar cookies."  That's a serious challenge, n'est-ce pas?   The recipe calls for Crisco and I do not have any of that stuff in my house (yes, I can actually be a snob sometimes).  I went out and bought some.  Now I do have some of that stuff in my house.
I was up for the baking challenge.  The Ex-Ex has already given his opinion.  He ate about a half a dozen before dinner.  I am waiting for Son #2 to weigh in.  Tomorrow I will ask my dinner guests to tell me which one they prefer.  I hope the BFF, Ms. Sunshine, and Arles Lucy will be up for the task.

We will begin with Sistine Chapel.
The dough--

In a stack--

Top view--

Sistine Chapel Sugar Cookies

makes about 30 cookies

1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. Crisco
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
1/2 tsp. orange extract
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
Sugar for coating

Preheat oven to 350˚F.
Using a mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar, butter, and Crisco until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Add the vanilla, lemon extract, and orange extract.  Mix well.
In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar.  With mixer set to low, gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.
For each cookie, drop 2 Tbsp. of dough (I use a melon baller/scoop for mine) into a bowl of sugar and roll the ball to coat.  Place on a greased cookie sheet (I line mine with parchment paper and skip the greasing).  Before baking, sprinkle about 1 tsp. of sugar on top of each ball to cause crackled top.
Bake 14-17 minutes or until edges are light brown.  (My guys do not like "well done" cookies so I set the timer to 12 minutes and they were just right.)  Remove from baking sheet to cool on wire racks.

Now for Foolproof Chewy
The dough--

The stack--

Top view--

Foolproof Chewy Sugar Cookies
makes 2 dozen

2 1/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. table salt
1 1/2 c. sugar, plus 1/3 c. for rolling
2 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and still warm
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 Tbsp. milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350˚F.  Line 2 large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl.  Set aside.
Place 1 1/2 c. sugar and cream cheese in large bowl.  Place remaining 1/3 c. sugar  in shallow dish or pie plate and set aside.  Pour warm butter over sugar and cream cheese and whisk to combine (some small lumps of cream cheese will remain but will smooth out later).  Whisk in oil until incorporated.  Add egg, milk, and vanilla.  Continue to whisk until smooth.  Add flour mixture and mix with rubber spatula until soft homogeneous dough forms.
Divide dough into 24 equal pieces, about 2 Tbsp. each (or use #40 portion scoop).  Using hands, roll dough into balls. Working in batches, roll balls in reserved sugar to coat and evenly space on prepared baking sheet, 12 balls per sheet.  (Spread them out even if you have to use an extra sheet so that they have room to bake-- they do spread out when baking.)  Using bottom of a drinking glass, flatten dough balls until 2 inches in diameter.  Sprinkle tops evenly with the remaining sugar.
Bake, 1 tray at a time, until edges are set and just beginning to brown, 11-13 minutes, rotating tray after 7 minutes.  Cool cookies on baking sheets about 5 minutes.  Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.

Bon appétit and Happy National Sugar Cookie Day to all cookie monsters!

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