Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Cookies - December 23, 2011

Happy Festivus, Dinner Clubbers! Let the airing of grievances commence!

In addition to Festivus, today is "prepare-for-holiday-travels" day in the Hartman house, which included assembling cookie tins to bring our family and friends. I've been baking cookies and treats all December and stashing them in the freezer. I've rather enjoyed playing around in the kitchen and am grateful for the excuse to try out new sweet treats!

Almost every recipe this year was a new one, with the exception of the sugar cookie cutouts and the toffee bars I made on the last minute since I realized there was no chocolate represented among the selection. The sugar cookies and frosting are my sister's recipe and I make them every year without any modification. I'm pretty sure she got the recipe from someone else, but in her binder of recipes it doesn't indicate the source so I'm now going to give her credit. I love how the directions are so streamlined and assume this all pretty much common sense!

Lisa's Traditional Sugar Cookies

3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Mix thoroughly, cover and chill for 1 hour. Roll dough 1/8 inch thick, cut into shapes. Bake for 6-8 minutes at 400 degrees.

Lisa's Vanilla Butter Frosting

1/3 cup unsalted butter (soft)
3 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk

Blend butter and sugar. Stir in vanilla and milk. Beat until frosting is smooth. Color as desired.

The other cookie recipes came primarily from two sources: the cookie spread in our Washington Post food section a few weeks ago and the cool cookie Advent calendar on Saveur's website. All were good, some outstanding!

Coconut Cookies (modified to use coconut oil instead of butter)
Cardamom Scented Spritz Cookies (recipe from cookie press manual)
Toffee Bars (recipe from old Betty Crocker Cookbook)

A note for making cookies corn-free: Traditional baking powder and powdered sugar contain corn starch to keep everything from clumping, but corn-free varieties do exist. The organic powdered sugar from Whole Foods uses tapioca starch instead (you can also get some at Trader Joe's, but it is a seasonal item for them). The only baking powder without corn starch on the market is Hain's Featherweight. You can also get that at Whole Foods and other health food stores.

Other ingredients that can be problematic for someone who needs to avoid corn include the vanilla, butter, flour, and even the milk. Vanilla extract contains alcohol, which may or may not be made from corn. There is no way of knowing because they aren't required to list that on the label. To be safe, I make my own vanilla extract by seeping whole vanilla beans in potato vodka. Butter is tricky because some contain "natural flavors" which may or may not be derived from corn and sometimes lactic acid which is commonly derived from corn. I actually haven't had any problem with regular butters, but to be safe I use Trader Joe's (regular, not organic) unsalted butter which is the only one I've found that just has one ingredient: Grade A cream.

For the flour I use King Arthur All-Purpose Unbleached White Flour. I'm told bleached flour can be contaminated, but I never buy that anyway. Some people also have problems with the enrichments that they add to flour and to milk, but I seem to be fine with them. If you do want un-enriched flour and milk, look for organic flour and find a source for raw milk directly from a farm (unfortunately, not an option in Virginia as raw milk is illegal here). 

Hope everyone has a very happy holiday, whatever you celebrate, and a happy, healthy, and delicious 2012!

1 comment:

Jess said...

Merry Christmas Jaime! I love your 'corn-free Christmas cookies.' Thanks for all the helpful information on baking ingredients and where to find them. Travel safely!


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