Cookies with Mr. T: Old-Fashioned Christmas Butter Cookies
Greetings, all! With the wedding over, I am back to baking cookies. We are now up to 1947, which brings us another Christmas cookie, one which Gourmet magazine referred to as the “pride of the thrifty housewife.” Wait, does this mean I’m a housewife? Anyway, this time I'm making old-fashioned Christmas butter cookies.
Ok, here is what you’ll need. As usual, I’m providing the amounts given, although I only used 1/3 of the ingredients because I didn’t want to make the 12 dozen(!) cookies that the recipe apparently produces.
3 hard-cooked yolks 1 pound (2 cups) sweet butter 2 1/2 cups sugar 6 cups sifted flour 3 raw yolks Rind of 1/2 a lemon or 2 teaspoons brandy Egg white 1 cup blanched almonds or walnuts, coarsely chopped
1. Put three hard-cooked yolks through a fine sieve. The editors provide some info on hard-cooking yolks, which is helpful because I had no idea how to do it. They say to put the yolks (do that whole transferring the yolk from one half of the shell to the other, or whatever method you prefer, to get rid of the rest of the egg) in a saucepan with cold water, partially cover it, and bring the water to a “rolling boil.” Then, reduce the heat to low and cook the egg yolks for 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and, covering it, let it sit for 15 minutes, and then run them under cold water for about 5 minutes. Now we come to the sieve, which I do not have. According to some people on the internet, you can use a tea strainer, and so that’s what I did. However, I could not strain the yolk, as it was cooked through. My assumption is that the yolk is not supposed to be fully cooked, but who knows?
2. Cream the butter and gradually add 1 1/2 cups sugar, mixing until light and fluffy. I wasn’t sure what sweet butter was, and so I looked it up online and found that it is merely unsalted butter. The editors point out that the butter should be softened, and so I took it out before I did all the business with the egg yolk, and so it was softened up by the time I got to this step. I just threw it in the stand mixer and slowly added the sugar. And, seriously, folks, go by a stand mixer if you want to bake. It makes things so much easier.
3. Add the strained yolks alternately with the sifted flour and raw yolks. Since I didn’t really have a strained yolk from step one, I just tossed in what I had, and then added some flour, a raw yolk, and the rest of the flour. I forgot to sift the flour, but it really didn’t matter. There must be some purpose to sifting one dry ingredient like flour, but I’m definitely too lazy to look it up right now. Do any of you know why?
4. Now, you need to knead this mixture with your hands until you have a smooth and easy-to-handle dough. Probably due to that egg debacle I had back in step one, my mixture at this point was too dry and mealy. However, I just tossed in another egg yolk, mixed it all some more, and then ended up with something more like dough. It was still a bit mealy, but totally workable. At this point, add your lemon rind or brandy (I went with brandy, because we have basically a lifetime’s supply left over from the wedding) and knead it some more. Now, put this in the fridge to chill for a few hours. I just left it overnight.
5. Go ahead and preheat your over to 350. Roll the dough out as thinly as possible. If the dough is cold, you may need to work it with your hands for a bit to get it ready to roll out. With big balls of dough I often break or cut it into smaller pieces and work them individually. Once you’ve rolled it out, use a cookie cutter(s) to cut out shapes. Since these are Christmas cookies, I used a Christmas tree, which felt weird to be doing in October, no doubt. Next, slightly beat an egg white and brush each cookie evenly with it. I don’t have a brush, so I just spread it with the bottom of a spoon. Then, stir the rest of your sugar and your walnuts or almonds together (pro tip: I used walnuts, and you don’t need to blanch them. Many people on the Googles said that it actually kills many of the nutrients in the nuts to do so anyhow). Sprinkle some of this mixture on each cookie.
6. Now, either flour a cookie sheet (which is what the original recipe calls for, but they also spell cookie as cooky, so who wants to listen to them?) or use parchment paper (which is what the editors suggest), put the cookies on there, and toss (and by toss I mean place carefully) it in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. I think I cooked them for about 13-15 minutes. The directions say to remove them when they become “delicately brown,” whatever that means. When they started browning and didn’t look all doughy I took them out.
These cookies were great. One trend I’ve noticed with these recipes so far is that none of the cookies are incredibly sweet or flavorful, and these are no exception. However, both Jess and I like them, they’re pretty easy to make and don’t involve a lot of ingredients, and would go great with a cup of tea or coffee.