Another trick in my mother’s arsenal of gift-giving strategies is the Christmas cookie/baked good as the ultimate affordable gift and party favor. This year, she is concocting a collection of mouth watering jellies (including an apple rosemary, yum), peppermint milk & white chocolate bark, biscotti and several cookies, which she will package into gift baskets and platters to give to friends and family. Alas, I am not as talented as she is in the art of the pastry, and more importantly, I’m lazy!
My go-to cookie is what my mother calls her “Vanilla Hearts,” and are in essence vanilla sugar cookies, covered in a powered sugar & milk icing. The hearts come from my mother’s cookie cutter of choice, but you can use any shape, which makes them perfect for year round celebration. The hearts are perfect for Valentine’s Day, you can make flags for 4th of July, pumpkins and ghosts for Halloween, turkeys
for Thanksgiving, and Christmas trees and other various shapes (I have a Hanukkah set from Crate and Barrel) for the winter holidays. They’re a big hit for parties, and fun to make. Here is the recipe, plus a photo of my holiday batch, and how I do the icing.
You will need:
For the dough
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) sweet butter, softened
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon milk
For the glaze
- confectioners sugar
For the dough
- Sift together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt onto a sheet of wax paper. Set aside.
- Cream butter until light, then add sugar to butter in four parts.
- Beat egg yolk into sugar & butter mixture, one at a time.
- Blend the vanilla extract and milk together, then beat into the mix.
- Add sifted flour mixture in three parts, beating after each addition just until the flour is absorbed. Wrap the dough, formed in a rough cake, in a sheet of waxed paper. Cover in foil and refrigerate for several hours or overnight (or up to two weeks).
- Roll dough scant 1/4 inch thick on lightly floured surface. Cut with cookie cutter and place on cookie sheet.
- Bake @ 375 for 8 minutes, or until a light golden color.
For the glaze
- Pour liberal amount of confectioners sugar into a bowl.
- Add small amount of milk.
- Stir together until glaze forms desired consistency. Add more milk and/or sugar as needed.
I like to do my icing Jackson Pollock style (see above) — free hand, with artistic dribbles and splatter, but if you make your icing firmer (more sugar, less milk) more conservative, detail-oriented design can be done.
Serves: 3-4 dozen
from Lisa Yockelson food section; Washington Star newspaper, March 9 1980.