Sunday, February 13, 2011

Love, cookies and simple things

I'm not a dozen roses, expensive chocolates or a fancy dinner kind of girl when it comes to Valentine's Day, but I do love the idea of simply celebrating love. Around our house, that means two things: handmade cards and home-baked cookies.

We spent the first part of our day enjoying our annual tradition of making simple cards for the kids' friends at school.

Then it was time to make the cookies. Like Mama Pea over at A Home Grown Journal, I have our own "special" sugar cookie recipe that we use for Valentine's Day, Halloween, Christmas, even birthdays -- really any occasion that calls for a fun, cut-out, decorative cookie.

While her secret ingredient is nutmeg, mine is ground cardamom. I don't know what it is about its resinous, aromatic, almost ginger-peppery flavour that makes these cookies so delicious, but I do know mine are the only sugar cookies my husband enjoys.

Here's the recipe:

• 3/4 cup softened butter
• 3/4 raw sugar
• 1 large egg
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 1 tsp cream of tartar
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 1/4 tsp ground cardamom

1.) Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add egg. Beat well. Add vanilla. Beat until smooth.

2.) Ask kids to clean up. Remark that this is the only time they're keen to do dishes.

3.) Combine remaining five dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add to butter mixture in two additions, mixing well after each addition.

4.) Divide dough into equal portions. Shape each portion into flattened disc, wrap in wax paper and chill. The recipe says to do this for at least six hours to make the dough more manageable, but I find that two hours is just fine. Or, maybe we're just impatient.

5.) Roll out dough onto a lightly floured surface to 1.25" thickness. Cut with lightly floured cutters.

6.) Place on a cookie pan about 2" apart. Roll out scraps to cut more shapes.

6.) Place in 350 degree F preheated oven for 10 minutes until cookies are puffy and edges are just golden.

7.) Enlist loyal watchdog to guard over cookies in case of siege by bandits.

8.) Remove and let cool completely. Chase away thieving children/husband/loyal watchdog.

9.) Mix royal icing. This is the recipe I use for our gingerbread house making.

• 1/3 cup meringue powder
• 1 cup icing sugar
• 45 ml hot water
• pinch of cream of tartar

i.) Blend meringue powder and water at low speed for one minute. Then blend for 4 to 7 minutes at high speed until thick, soft peaks form. Or not. Peaks never form for me.
ii.) Blend in icing sugar.
iii.) Decorate!

Mama's cookies

Ella's cookies for her Valentine's Day school party.
Jack decided to take plain cookies.
When I asked him why he said, "I'd like my teacher to have a good time at the party and not have to chase around a whole bunch of kids freaking out on sugar."
Evidently, Ella didn't have the same concern for her teacher.

Wishing you all a day filled with love, bliss and yummy cookies.


Cary Ann said...

Love the handmade cards and the cookies look delicious! I will have to try making them. Hope your kids have a great day at school tomorrow:)

Mama Pea said...

Golly, your homemade Valentine's Day cards look anything but simple -- how elegant! So great that you help the kids make their own rather than purchasing those awful commercial ones. :o\

Have to ask -- in your royal icing recipe -- what is "meringue" sugar and what is "icing" sugar?

Your decorated cookies are so much more professional looking than anything I can do. Ella's are very festive, and Jack has been trained well! said...

Thanks for stopping by, Cary Ann! As sugar cookies go, these ones are pretty yummy. I think my kids (and husband) get a kick out of the fact that they're unlike the usual treats I bake them -- the ones with whole grains/seeds/molasses, etc.! lol. said...

Hi Mama Pea -- we have a lot of fun making the cards. I guess they're simple in that they're just different kinds and colours of paper -- no ribbons/beads/sparkles/glitter glue, etc. You should see our Christmas cards!

Meringue powder is simply dried egg whites, with some other stuff. It acts as a stabilizer for icing. I get mine at the bulk food store -- go figure!

"Icing sugar" is also called confectioners sugar or powdered sugar -- it's simply a very fine sugar.

As for my cookies being "professional-looking" -- you're very kind, but I just kind of winged it this time! Yes, Ella is "festive" by nature and Jack is... well, he's like his mama. :)

Erin said...

Those cards are beautiful! I wish my kids were in Jack & Ella's classes - we did homemade cards last year and they came home upset since all the other kids had store bought cards with candy pre-attached to them, ugh! I was impressed however, that this year Finn was excited about making a special homemade card for his little "friend" Adelyn :)

Cookies look delicious!

Mr. H. said...

It looks like you have a very good team of helpers there.:) said...

Erin -- thanks! Yes, Jack & Ella get mostly store-bought cards, too, but I think the kids are so used to doing many things "differently" than their friends at school, that it doesn't phase them too much!

Thanks, Mr. H -- I'm very blessed, indeed.

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