I was watching Ina Garten on TV the other day. She was putting a five-egg/one-pan French country omelet in the oven, happily pointing out that it was a two-person dish. She muttered about making individual omelets, “It’s like having to stand at the stove making pancakes for everyone on the weekend. Ugh.” I smiled knowingly at my kitchen sistah.
It might have been when Mr. Forte and I got married and I made the overnight transition from cooking for two (me and my daughter Amy) to cooking for a battalion – birthday dinners for 25 at least once a month – that I became a big-dish cook. Food in our house is served piled on platters or in big wooden bowls or deep ceramic crocks. “Rustic” shoved “precise” down the garbage disposal ages ago. Desserts are crisps and crostinis, nothing more elegant than a big cake or more individual than a bunch of brownies. Cookies – those time-sucking batches in and out of the oven that I had always made, even when Amy was little, with my teeth clenched – have been stricken from the list. Anyone could tell just by looking at me that I am a pushover for a quick run to Maggie Moo’s for a scoop of rocky road on a sugar cone, but no one calls me Cookie Nana.
Except at Christmas. And now I’ve whittled even that to the truly essential: that crisp, thin cookie that tastes like sugar-sprinkled December, the best rolled sugar cookie in the universe, inspired by Martha Stewart. Her current recipe is called “Ideal Sugar Cookies,” but I’ve been making them from the recipe in her “Martha Stewart’s Christmas” book, published by Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. in 1989.
My Christmas cookies have evolved, a good sport might say. As Martha writes, I too once had a drawer full of cutters – Santas and Christmas trees, geese and snowmen – and the cookies were carefully iced, though not as carefully as Martha’s (if I had plipped all those perfect yellow icing dots on a sheep cookie with a Barbie doll’s eyedropper and someone had then picked it up and aimed it at his mouth … ) . But the biggest fans of my long-ago iced cookies would lift through the tins to find the naked ones that had been in the oven a few minutes too long (Martha shuddered) and gotten brown and (Amy’s word) shattery. Hmmm.
Any recipe for a rolled butter-based cookie will tell you the scraps may be rerolled only twice. That seemed like a waste of dough I was already wishing I hadn’t made in the first place. My cookie-eaters loved to eat the cookies, not look at them, so I tossed the cute cutters for a sharp knife and traded traditional for avant-garde. We now have West Edge Nana MOMA Christmas Cookies: barely decorated, they are the deconstructed essence of the holiday that snap between your teeth and smell of brandy and vanilla sugar. Since life has a way of raining surprises down on your head, last year’s batch inadvertently included a geography lesson. Below is a pictorial rendering of the 2011 Mother of Invention Holiday Bakefest.
Ready to rock and roll
A careful observer will see Delaware, Maryland, Colorado, Wyoming and a miniature Tennessee
Sierra Nevada Mountains – Lake Tahoe
The Hawaiian island chain (not to scale) (and no counting)
California with major population centers in green sugar – San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco
Puzzle for next season’s Survivor Immunity Challenge
LZ (landing zone)
Cinnamon red hots for me, not the cookies
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Once the cookies had arrived (chauffeur-driven) in San Francisco, they were taste-tested by Simone, who reported on the rules and results of the recent dreidel contest while eating California.
Posted in: casa de swell, children and grands, human beans, in the kitchen, laughs
Tags: adobe soup, baking, butter cookies, candace mann, christmas, cinnamon red hots, cookies, cooking for an army, dreidel, food, kitchen, martha stewart, san francisco, sugar cookies, sugar sprinkles
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