I did not grow up in a household that baked endless rounds of holiday cookies. In my family, if it wasn't death–by–chocolate cake, it wasn't considered a real dessert. I've been making up for lost cookie–making madness for many years now, and recently I have taken to sporting a variety of confections on my head and over my heart. Perhaps a stylish (and tasty) addition to your holiday–party ensemble? Sugar cookies make great ornaments and table–setting; you could even include them atop a gift, incorporated into an artful wrapping job. They don't last long, in these alternative scenarios, but they do get a laugh and are sure to delight.
In this necklace and hair–accessory incarnation, the cookies make quite a statement. I did hearts and lobsters (don't ask me why I have a lobster cookie cutter, I just had to have it!), glazed with a simple royal icing in pink, yellow and white and finished with bright green paper ribbon as the thread. The necklaces survived for about an hour before being devoured by fellow party–goers. They were a lot of fun, prompting many photos and bizarre 60s modeling poses.
The variations on this idea are endless. I could see a beautiful necklace of snowflakes, stars, diamonds or little dinosaurs, for that matter. Stringing letters that spell out the name of a special birthday girl or boy would be darling. A crown of cookies might be the tops in terms of edible fashions. Who wouldn't want to feast on something so sweet, literally!
For this batch, I used my trusted sugar cookie recipe, adapted from Alton Brown. It is crisp and full of buttery richness, with a hint of almond flavor. You could use any favorite icebox or sugar cookie recipe, however, and be fine to string it into something fabulous. Just make sure the cookies are no thinner than a quarter of an inch thick, so they will withstand movement (maybe dancing!). And be sure to poke out two holes onto the top of each cookie.
Basic Sugar Cookies
adapted from Alton Brown
makes about two–dozen cookies, depending on size and shape of cookie cutter
3 cups all–purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk or cream
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together softened butter and sugar until fully incorporated. Add egg, milk, vanilla and almond extract until combined. In a seperate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Pour the dry ingredients into the butter–sugar mixture, mixing until just combined. Shape dough into two balls, wrap with saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, up to two or three days (if you leave the dough for a few days, be sure to bring it to room temperature, or else it won't roll out well).
On a well–floured surface, roll dough about 1/2–inches thick. Poke out holes with the tip of a knife or any small circular object you have in the kitchen, I used the top half of a wine–bottle opener. Cut out cookies as desired. Bake for approximately 10 minutes, until just turning golden. Dry on a rack until cooled, before icing.
2 cups powdered sugar
2 egg whites
pinch of salt
food coloring, if desired
Whisk egg white into powdered sugar until there are no lumps. Glaze cookies and decorate with extra sanding sugars or assorted frosting. Allow frosting to set before stringing onto the necklace, about two hours.
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross, special thanks to Ashley and Andrew who graciously posed in the photo booth)