The TMO editors have asked me to reprise my column on holiday cookies. This is actually a nefarious scheme on their part to get me to make a new batch of cookies so they can conduct "product tests." [Editor's note: NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM.]
Step back a few years. Someone at the TMO towers decided it would be cool if I published a column featuring cut out cookies for your holiday parties that featured designs similar to the Apple logo. "Just think what conversation starters they will be" they told me! The crux of the assignment was that the column had to feature my personal recipe for cut out cookies because they are particularly outstanding.
I'm not bragging here, just stating fact based on many years of feedback. So I made the cookies and wrote the column. Back then, I decorated the cookies with the old rainbow and double face designs. Those designs are way out of date now. Are you starting to get the whole plan here? They ask for a new column, they need an updated photo, they get more cookies. [Editor's note: NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM.]
On the other hand, when I get lost wandering around San Francisco at Macworld, one or the other of them will usually rescue me so I guess it is a fair trade off.
Apple Logo Shaped Cookies
Nancy's Iced Holiday Cookies
I make these cookies up ahead of time and freeze them without icing them. Then it is a quick process to ice and serve at a moment's notice. After many years I highly recommend that you use the butter and shortening as noted in the ingredients list. All butter makes them too hard and all shortening doesn't taste as good. Margarine? Please don't bother if you're going to try and use margarine.
1/2 cup shortening (such as Crisco) and 1/4 cup real butter (softened)
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
Note that you can double the recipe if you need a large quantity of cookies. A double recipe fits in standard mixer just fine.
Making the Cookies
Add baking powder and salt to flour and set aside. Mix butter, shortening, sugar, eggs, and vanilla, using an electric mixer. Mix well. Add flour mixture and continue mixing until all ingredients are well-mixed. Form dough into a ball and refrigerate at least one hour. I'll often leave the dough to chill overnight, because if the dough is not chilled it will not roll out properly and the cookies will not cut easily.
Roll the dough out until it is 1/8 inch thick on floured surface and cut into desired shapes. Dip cookie cutter in flour before cutting. Doing so helps release the dough from the cutter. You'll have left over dough that can be rerolled and recut -- continue until you finish the dough. Note that if you make a double batch, you will not be able to roll it all out at once. You'll instead want to divide it up as your work space allows.
Place cookies about 2 inches apart on pan so they will cook evenly. Cook on ungreased baking sheet at 400 degrees until delicately golden brown on edges - about 6 to 8 minutes. It's important to note that the top should still be very light in color, as the bottom and edges will darken -- that's the signal that your cookies are done.
Just prior to serving, ice with recipe below or other of your choice. To serve without icing, you can sprinkle sugar on top before baking. You can also add nuts to the dough before baking.
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla or other flavoring
A few tablespoons warm milk
Food coloring as desired
Making The Icing
This recipe makes enough to ice one batch of cookies, more or less.
Combine sugar, salt and flavoring. The secret to making good cookie icing is to control the consistency. The first secret is to put in the food coloring before you start adding the milk. Even a drop or two of liquid food coloring can change the consistency. The second is to control the temperature of the milk. Warm means warm, not hot. Hot milk will liquefy the sugar, while cold milk will make your icing too thin and much harder to have the icing set.
Another important note if you are new to world of icing is to make sure you add the milk a little bit at a time until you have the icing at a thickness you like. When I say "a little bit," I mean a very tiny little bit. A very small amount of milk is all you need for this recipe.
A note on cookie cutters
Apple shaped cookie cutters may be hard to find locally, particularly ones with the stem facing the right direction and ones similar in shape to the Apple logo. Chances are you may have to trim off a leaf to get the look you want. And, of course, you will have to cut out the "bite" from the right side after each cookie is cut (prior to baking). I found a couple of on-line resources. CookieCutter.com has several options for apple shaped cutters at various prices.
I found a single cutter for $5 at CountryPorch.com.
Try the cookies. They are worth the effort. I have this recipe on my personal Web page and a young girl of 14 wrote to me last year to tell me she made them and entered them in a baking contest and won first place.
And remember the number one rule of making cookies - he/she who makes the cookies gets to lick the icing bowl.