Cookies & Brownies

Cookies for Jesus Christ (Superstar) and rehearsing life

Cross Cookies for Jesus Christ Superstar Benefit

Weeks like this I love my life so very much.  But weeks like this also wear me down to the point where I run to Starbucks (gasp) and order a caffeinated Americano (double gasp)!!!

I’m currently in rehearsals for two productions – a benefit of Jesus Christ Superstar that’s happening this Saturday benefiting Smith Street Stage and a play in the Hamptons I started on this week.  I also am running / ran to my family’s in CT to celebrate the Easter holiday and am covering some writing gigs / an interview for a new gig.

So obviously I had to spend one day in the kitchen cutting, baking, piping and flooding 75 cookies in the shape of crosses.  I mean, what else does a gal do when she’s got an insane week?

Oh, and I’m also returning to the city tonight to prep my gluten-free Portuguese masa bread dough to be baked Friday morning for Easter on Sunday and collecting ingredients to drive to the Lower East Side and make malasadas (Portuguese fried dough / donuts) for a party after the Superstar benefit Saturday eve.  That is, the dough will somehow be made between rehearsal and dressing for the event and they’ll be fried after… in a small black dress and very high shoes.

Like I said, love and coffee.

But for now I can take a deep breath and look out at the water from my view in this beautiful house I’m staying in while rehearsing out in Westhampton – my director’s house is really one of the most beautiful I’ve seen, with an overflowing vegetable garden, art from all over the world, old furniture and rugs and an incredible energy.  I can be thankful, and quiet for a bit, and reflect on how much fun it was to cut, pipe and flood all these cookies before sticking them into bags.  I didn’t get to letter them as I had wanted to, as I literally just ran out of time in my week.  But I’m satisfied.

No recipe to post today, just links and tips for cutout cookies.

Cross cookies bagged and ready to go

Cookie:

Classic Sugar Cookies Recipe from Saveur Magazine

Tips for successful cut-out sugar cookies:

  • Get your butter soft, but not completely at room temperature.  I usually microwave mine for about 30 seconds, turning halfway through, to get it soft.  Too warm and it will practically liquify.
  • Cream the butter and sugar until they are light and fluffy.  Not long enough and they won’t provide enough structure when baking.
  • Only mix dough until incorporated.
  • Refrigerate.  I know sometimes dough is firm enough that you could just roll and cut, but this will change the texture when baking and contribute to loss of shape.
  • After cutting, stick back into the fridge on cookie sheets and let sit until the oven is hot.  Continue rolling and fridging successive sheets – don’t let them sit at room temperature.  Keeping the butter in the cookies cold prevents spreading when they’re baking.
  • Make sure your sheets are cold between rounds: I wash and stick mine in the freezer for a few.
  • Refrigerate dough for a little bit before rolling again.  The Saveur recipe is great at having you split the dough up into four disks instead of two, so you can always have something chilling while rolling something else.
  • This recipe made me 80 cookies about 4 inches high!

Piping and flooding makes for a smooth and hard surface

Icing Tips

I used a basic royal icing recipe with Meringue powder.  If you haven’t used meringue powder or powdered egg whites before, I highly recommend them.  They make getting a stiff but workable icing so much easier, with greater room for dusty mistakes!

I used a classic proportion of 4 cups of powdered sugar per 3 tablespoons of meringue powder.  I whipped them in my standing mixer and then added about 6 tablespoons of warm water.  At about 6 tablespoons it was perfect for piping.

  • Keep the icing covered in a towel between separating / changing consistency
  • Don’t worry about over or under watering – add more sugar or water as necessary
  • Always mix this thoroughly – when it comes to stiff peaks and has a glossy shine, it’s ready.  For me this took about 7 minutes on medium/high speed.
  • I found my piping texture to be a little looser than recipes I looked at – loose enough that it flowed too much out of a pastry bag.  So I used a paintbrush with ease, glopping some on and then spreading it around.  It set and dried smoothly.

Gluten-Free Pressed Lemon Butter Cookies

Gluten-free pressed lemon butter cookies

Today I am thankful for my Bialetti coffee maker, my mother, and Jeanne from The Art of Gluten-Free Baking.  My coffee maker because it makes delicious espresso that I can sit with for a few minutes, pretending it’s caffeinated and will give me more energy when it’s really decaf and I just love the way it tastes.  My mother because she gave me a cookie press for Christmas a few years ago that only today saw the light of day (other than when it was moved to this, its third home).  And Jeanne because I just stumbled on her blog and love it!  I only slightly changed her Pressed Butter Cookie recipe, using my own gluten-free flour blend and adding a little lemon to make it more of a tart Spring cookie.  Her site is incredible and her directions are so clear and helpful.  Until I come up with my own tips and techniques I’m just gonna keep sending people to her.  And she has chickens!  If you read my posts with any sort of regularity, you’ll understand my delight with anyone who has chickens (I’m dying to make a little NYC rooftop garden and have a few of my own!).

Lots of cookies!

At this very moment my kitchen is a mess.  Gluten-full cookies in the shapes of crosses are ready to receive dark black royal icing and letters etched into them for a benefit I’m in on Saturday.  And now these little melt-in-your-mouth babies are cooling alongside to be tenderly packaged.  I’m covered in flour, there’s no surface not covered with something.  And I’m out the door in about 20 minutes!

Dusty, dusty, dusty!

I’ve just concluded that there’s no way I’m going to frost all these cookies before I go.  The boyfriend doesn’t know this, but he’s learning how to pour royal icing tonight and we’re getting take-out!

Dusty cookies!

Notes: Now, as you can see from these pictures these cookies are incredibly delicate – so, so delicate.  I found that my thick, industrial cookie sheets didn’t work well – the shape was perfect but they crumbled when I removed them.  Thinner pans gave the cookies more hold but because of that they were a tad brown on bottom. I’m not sure how I’m going to fix this next time.  Suggestions?

Also, they came out better when the dough was cooler.  My press recommended keeping them at room temp but once I stuck the dough in the fridge for a bit, they pressed better.  And then I stuck the prepared pans in the fridge until the oven was ready for them , and their shape held much better.

Suggestions?

Gluten-Free Pressed Lemon Butter Cookies

Adapted with thanks from Jeanne at The Art of Gluten-Free Baking

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks (I see macarons coming with the whites!)
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 1/4 cups gluten-free flour (I used my gluten-free cookie flour.  Make sure yours has xanthan gum in it, and if not add 1 tsp xanthan gum)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Make sure your flours are whisked / sifted well and add xanthan gum if not included.
  • In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter until fluffy, then add sugar and cream together.
  • Add egg yolks, one at a time, and beat to incorporate.
  • Add lemon zest, extract and juice and beat in.
  • Add flour and slowly beat in, then increase speed until incorporated.
  • Fill cookie press and press onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  • Bake one sheet at a time for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned.
  • Let cool on sheets completely before removing, gingerly, with a thin spatula.
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