First of all, I would like to wish you a happy Easter from The Kitchen. Second, you should know that these cookies are a family recipe handed down from generation to generation, and now I am exploiting that recipe for the sake of my blog. My grandmother, who’s first name is Luella (Erica is enthralled with it) is storied to have come up with the recipe “back in the day”.
I am not a huge fan of cookies, my favorite probably being my family’s Christmas sugar cookie recipe, but these are a close second – in fact, that’s not even fair. I would call it a clean tie. My family’s Christmas and Easter cookies are the best cookies in the world, just putting that out there. Enough rambling.
This recipe makes about 18-24 cookies, depending on how large you lay your eggs.
In a medium bowl, sift together:
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
Time out… What the hell is “cream of tartar”? It sounds pretty uppity to me. (I was just going to leave this statement as is and move on with the recipe, but now I’ve piqued my own interest… Damn I’m good.)
“Cream of tartar, more technically known as potassium hydrogen tartrate, is a fine white powder with many culinary applications. It is a byproduct of the winemaking process as the powder forms inside wine barrels during fermentation. It comes from tartaric acid, a naturally occurring substance in grapes and some other tart fruits that in the principle acid in winemaking. It helps to help control the pH of fermenting grape juice (wine) and that also acts as a preservative for the wine.
Tartaric acid has been used in winemaking for centuries (when separated from grapes and purified, it is a white powder that is similar to cream of tartar) and cream of tartar has been around just as long, put to use by creative cooks in a variety of culinary applications. It is an acid and it is often used as a major component in baking powder, combined with baking soda to react when the mixture is moistened to ensure that baked goods will rise well. Although it is an acid, the cream of tartar and the baking soda will not react when dry, so the entire reaction is saved for the mixing bowl and the oven. More visibly, since most of us do not mix our own baking powder, cream of tartar is used as a stabilizing agent and is added to beaten egg whites to increase their stability and volume.” (http://bakingbites.com/2008/07/what-is-cream-of-tartar/)
If you’re wondering if you really have to go out and buy cream of tartar for this recipe or if you can substitute something, allow me to save you some time:
“…there is not a good substitution (for cream of tartar). If cream of tartar is used along with baking soda in a cake or cookie recipe, omit both and use baking powder instead. If it calls for baking soda and cream of tarter, I would just use baking powder.
Normally, when cream of tartar is used in a cookie, it is used together with baking soda. The two of them combined work like double-acting baking powder. When substituting for cream of tartar, you must also substitute for the baking soda. If your recipe calls for baking soda and cream of tarter, I would just use baking powder.
One teaspoon baking powder is equivalent to 1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus 5/8 teaspoon cream of tartar. If there is additional baking soda that does not fit into the equation, simply add it to the batter.”(http://whatscookingamerica.net/Q-A/CreamTartar.htm)
In a bowl not ridiculously large but bigger than the medium bowl, cream:
3/4 cup butter
1 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
Beat into creamed mixture:
1 tsp vanilla paste
Blend the flour mixture into the butter mixture until smooth. Form a ball with the dough, wrap in plastic wrap and chill until firm.
At this point, you have a choice to make. Do not take it lightly. You can go down the path of my youth, shaping the cookies into eggs and icing them, or you can go down a new path that I have just foraged in 2011 – shape then into bird’s nests and fill the nest with a cream cheese mixture. EDIT: Apparently Alzheimer’s is setting in early, as my mother informed me today that she actually did make the nests for me when i was little. She filled them with green colored toasted coconut. Oops.
Have you decided yet? Irregardless, on we go.
If you wish to honor the traditions of my childhood, form 1 tbsp of dough into an egg shape by cupping in your hands and rolling.
If you wish to bastardize all that me and my lineage stand for, then by all means take 2 tbsp of dough and shape it into a bird’s nest (basically the shape of a small bowl).
Bake the cookies at 375° for 10-12 minutes. Let them cool for a few minutes on the pan, then remove them to a cooling rack.
If you decided to make egg-shaped cookies combine:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp light corn syrup
1 tbsp milk
1/4 tsp vanilla paste
2 drops food coloring
If it pleases you, combine all of the ingredients except the food coloring, divide the icing into 2 or 3 separate coffee cups, and color each cup a different color.
Drizzle as much icing as you can handle on the cookies – make sure you put something under them if they are on a cooling rack (is that what it’s called?) As the icing will drip off. The icing will dry hard.
For those of you that made bird nests:
I’m going to just kind of wing this, and you should too, with my guidance. I was kind of in the zone and neglected to note how much of everything I put in, but here goes a good guess. This and common sense will get you far, grasshopper. You want the consistency to be like cheesecake. In a medium bowl, blend:
1/2 package cream cheese
1 shot Chambord
1 tsp vanilla paste
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp orange zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
Now that should taste pretty damn delightful. If it doesn’t, add more of whatever you think it needs. Spoon it into the nests.
Eat them and know what a truly great cookie tastes like.
I really wish I could tell you how to store these cream cheese wonders, but unfortunately they were eaten too fast. Should you put them in the fridge? If you do, will the cookie get moist and gross? These are the scientific questions that must be answered – which is why I must make another batch before the Easter Bunny sees his shadow and goes back underground for another year.