Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Countdown - Dec 4

With inspiration from Here Come the Girls and The Crafty Crow, I'm trying to offer Starboy some seasonal fun to (dangerously) build up excitement for the big family day. I've done next to no planning on this, so I'm scrambling for books as well as activities. Ideally, I'd like the book and activity to match, with a big reveal at some point during the day through some sort of crafty homemade advent / countdown calendars. I'm not sure I'll get to that this year.

Today's book:

Little Snow Bear
Little Snow Bear
by Hazel Lincoln

A cute story about a bear looking for the sun during winter at the North Pole. We read this one at school.

It would have been perfect to do a matching sun activity, but I went for the snow instead, and we made snowflake cookies.

I probably haven't made traditional Christmas cookies in about, oh, 20 or 30 years. How hard could it be? Great fun with the kiddos. Hah.

I started with The Optimist's failsafe family recipe, which she gave me about 15 years ago, and has raved about for as long as I've known her (since 9th grade--and no I will not do any math on that for you).

The Optimist's Family Christmas Cookies
Cream together:
1 c. butter
2 c. sugar
3 well-beaten eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 Tbsp sour cream

1 tsp baking soda
1/4 teas salt
~4 c. flour (I used 3 c. AP + 1 c. white whole wheat)

Chill dough. Roll out thinly. Use cutters. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350˚ until done.

Some questions came up: How long do you chill the dough? How thin is "thinly"? How long is "until done"? How many fibers are intertwined in a shredded wheat biscuit?

And, what about icing?

At this point I remember being in Michael's two days ago and wondering why on earth I may have needed meringue powder, and since I couldn't think of a reason, I didn't pick any up. Insert light bulb and facepalm here, in that order. Bad Martha. No perfect cookie. At least I'd picked up some of that crunchy sugar.

So, I whip up the dough and a powdered sugar glaze while Starboy is napping (very small time window here), and throw the mixing bowl into the freezer.

The experience is slightly disastrous. The dough is too warm, and is sticking to everything. It won't roll. If it rolls you can't get the cut cookie up. It's all gummy. Starboy really wants to help sprinkle the flour on everything, so he dumps the rest of the jar out onto the counter (luckily there was only about 3/4 cup in there, but sheesh).

I get a few mutant snowflakes onto the baking sheet with my ill-fitting Silpat (really Williams-Sonoma, you can't sell a Silpat to fit the jellyroll pans you sell?!). They are obviously too thick. They get puffy when they bake.

Starboy loses interest and turns the cookie cutter into a train, complete with high-pitched "whoo whoo" sounds. The only truly bright step I've taken in this whole process was to wait to wash the already filthy floor later on.

Then I discover that the glaze hardens so quickly that the crunchy sparkle sugar won't stick to it. You have to put the sugar on immediately after the frosting.

At this point I give up, roll the rest of the dough into logs, cut off slices and roll them into balls to pat flat. I'd planned to make some small fairy cookies along the way any how, so that's worth a shot.

This entire tray got blackened in the oven when I forgot them as we delivered cookies to the neighbors. Poor Starboy asked: "Was that because I pressed them too thin on the edges?" I guess I over-coached him on that. I explained that no cookie is going to live to tell about a 30-40 minute baking time.

And it turns out the recipe makes about a jillion cookies. In the end I decide, screw the snowflakes, we'll have snowball cookies.

And then my Ziploc faux pastry bag explodes.

I decide to put at least three trays of baked cookies into the freezer to decorate later.

At least a few of them turned out pretty! And tasty, too. I decided I like the crunch of the sparkling sugar, and it goes well with the icing. So that's something like three or four layers of different sugars. Got milk?

We delivered some to new and old neighbors. Well. One family didn't get theirs. We ate them.

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