Dear Santa

Hello. Hi. Howdy, Santa. It’s me, Heather. Remember?

Okay, maybe not. Although, it was only 27 years ago. I’m sorry we weren’t the best of friends then. I’m sorry my mom made me wear those pigtails – she was trying to make me look cute and innocent. But I probably still screamed and said that I didn’t like you. I definitely tried my best to get away from you but you held me in place with those, those, those huge hands of yours.

But look at us there. We were BFF. And I know you were diggin’ on my lilac jacket. And check out my color coordination – I was dressed. to. impress. I think that was our best year together. Me – stylish, you – new contacts and looser beard curls. It was all downhill from there, I’m afraid.

I’m sorry I let my mom give you those chips a-hoy cookies for all those years. I’m also sorry that sometimes I drank all of your milk before you got there, and I’m sorry that our fireplace was always really dirty. My dad really liked to build fires and he never would clean it for you, even though I told him to. You were still always very nice to me and you gave me the coolest gifts – that barbie bike rocked and I especially enjoyed  all those cabbage patch dolls. That easy bake oven? You always knew how to make me smile. And you always wrote me the nicest thank you letters, although I swear you had my dad write them for you. That’s ok, I know you were very busy.

I know I didn’t get to go visit you in the mall this year, or for that matter, the last …. 20 years. But to make up for it, I thought I would make you some tasty cookies. I hope you like clementines because they’re my favorite – so little and cute and extra juicy. And if you’re like me, cardamom might be one of your very favorite spices. I’m sure regular old sugar cookies or even oatmeal chocolate chip cookies would have been just fine and dandy, but I wanted to do something extra special so you’d remember me. I even made a special glaze on top – which kinda reminded me of the topping on those store-bought oatmeal cookies. It’s really yummy.

I hope you like these. I also made some ginger cookies, but I ate a lot of those and my husband took the rest to work to give to his friends. I would share homemade egg nog or spiced sangria with you, but that sleigh is hard enough to drive as is.

Thanks Santa, for everything. Tell Prancer hi.

Heather, your BFF

Cardamom-Clementine Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Bon Appetit, December 2009; makes ~55 cookies

these are extra special sugar cookies. and not just b/c of the extra flavors. the dough is extremely soft, even if refrigerated as suggested in the instructions. but even if you have to re-refrigerate them a few times between cutting the cookies, it’s well worth it.

printable recipe

2 1/2 c ap flour
1 1/4 t g cardamom
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 c (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
1 c + 2 T sugar
1 1/2 t finely grated clementine (or orange) peel
1/2 t vanilla extract
1 large egg, room temp
1/2 c powdered sugar (optional)
1 T milk (optional; may need a bit more)
icing dye for colored glaze (optional)

special instruments
cookie cutters
rolling pin

Whisk flour, cardamom, and 1/2 t salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric or stand mixer, beat butter in large bowl until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add 1 c plus 2 T sugar; beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in finely grated clementine peel and vanilla. Add egg; beat to blend. Add 1/3 of flour mixture; beat on low speed just to blend. Add remaining flour in 2 additions, beating on low speed just until blended. Refrigerate until firm enough to shape, about 1 hour.

Divide dough in half. Form each half into ball. Flatten into disks and wrap in plastic. Chill until firm enough to roll out, about 45 minutes. Keep refrigerated. Let chilled dough stand at room temperature until soft enough to roll out, about 15 minutes.

Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out 1 dough disk on lightly floured surface to generous 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out cookies using festive cookie cutters. Carefully transfer cookies to prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Gather dough scraps into ball. Flatten, cover, and freeze dough until firm enough to roll out again, about 10 minutes. (Note: this step may be repeated frequently, as the dough is very soft. If preferred, the dough can be rolled into a tube and cut into slices for baking, rather than cut using cookie cutters and rolled dough).

Bake cookies until light golden brown, about 12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking for even cooking. Carefully slide parchment paper with cookies onto racks to cool completely. Let baking sheets cool completely, then repeat process with remaining dough, lining sheets with fresh parchment between batches.

While cookies are baking, combine powdered sugar and milk to make glaze. Once cookies are cooled, paint with glaze and let sit at room temp to dry. Wet glaze can be sprinkled with raw or decorating sugar, if desired. 

Pour Some Sugar On Me

giant sugar cookie stack
Think you know a lot about food? The Chicago Tribune challenges you to test your foodie IQ. Go ahead – try it and see if you can beat my score. I dare you. Click and take the quiz. Put your score in the comments and I’ll tell you mine afterwards. Dont be scurred – you may know more than you think 🙂

In other cool news, I’ve been meaning to post this little blog award I received a few weeks ago from these bloggers. According to “blog award rules”, you’re supposed to pass it on to a few other fellow bloggers, chain-letter fashion in hopes of continuing the award-giving process. Easy enough! So without further adieu, I’m passing it on to: The Kitchen Table, The View from the 32nd Floor, The Whole Kitchen, Scrumpy in the City, Chow & Chatter, & Confessions of a Wishful Slacker.

sugar cookie batter

Alright, now let’s get to business.

We made another Saturday trip out to Arlington Park this weekend to bet on some horsies and thus collect our loads of winnings to pay for our roof repairs. The horse races are our new favorite weekend adventure – a great way to sit out in the sun, hang with friends, and enjoy cold beverages and tasty food. Oh, and hopefully end the day with more cash than you started with, although that rarely happens. And so after dinner Friday night I realized I hadn’t thought about the food for the day – and of course I’ll take any opportunity to make my own than to buy their cold, stale, lifeless blobs of barely edibles that is exactly like the fare at concerts and baseball games (minus the hotdogs at the ballparks – those are the exception to tasty treats at those events) – and so, for dessert, to Joy the Baker’s blog I went to find a quick, simple cookie recipe.

cookie blobs

I must confess that I’ve actually never before made sugar cookies. Well, not from scratch. I have bought plenty of those Pillsbury rolls, having eaten half of the roll prior to managing to make a few cookies. The raw dough just makes you feel so mischievious when you eat it. I remember the days I used to hand pick the cookie dough out of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. It felt so good to be so bad – ya know?! And something about the dough in the ice cream container – it tasted so much better than anything else.

piles of cookies

I could easily do the same to this dough if given the opportunity. In fact, I was, and I did, as did Chris, and he did more than I. Now, that’s a lot of doin’. Equally as tasty, heck – a buttload tastier, than the store-bought. And I’m confident there is a way to make it a little lower in fat, but I needed a quick go-to cookie recipe that wouldn’t fail me and I didn’t have the time to play around with any substitutes. And quite frankly – some recipes just can’t and shouldn’t be altered. Maybe sugar cookies are one of them.

nice crumb

These cookies are a perfect recipe for a last minute gathering. The use of one bowl also makes for quick clean up. And the taste – just what you’re looking for – a little crunchy, a tad bit chewy, simple but decadent, and finished with that sugar crystal texture on top that every sugar cookie requires. Perfect. Want to make more than one batch? Go right ahead – it doubles easily. Shoot – you could even double it, split it in half, and roll one batch of dough right on into the ol’ icebox.

Giant Vanilla Sugar Cookies
From Joy the Baker, who credited The Pastry Queen; makes 1 dozen 4-inch cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup canola oil or other vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus additional for topping
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter in a large bowl on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add the oil (not to worry if it doesn’t fully incorporate – promise). Add the granulated sugar, powdered sugar, egg and vanilla, beating on medium speed until each ingredient is completely incorporated.
Stir in the flour, baking soda and salt all at once using a wooden spoon or the mixer set on low.

The dough will be soft.

Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour or freeze for 15 minutes just so it’s easier to handle. Preheat the oven to 350 F prior to taking the dough out. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.

Dollop 2 Tablespoons of cookie dough onto the cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. For smaller cookies use 1 Tablespoon for each cookie. Press the dough evenly with your fingers or palm to 1/4-inch thickness. Generously sprinkle sugar on top of the cookie dough.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes for larger cookies or 8 to 10 minutes for smaller cookies. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for at least 10 minutes before transferring to racks to cool completely. The cookies will keep for up to 3 days if stored in an airtight container.