Just over a week ago my new choir friends Terri and Rachel invited me over for a dinner party, which worked out nicely since John worked that night and I would have been sitting home alone otherwise. I didn't want to show up empty-handed even though I was assured that I didn't need to bring anything. I decided to make Snickerdoodles, because who doesn't love Snickerdoodles? They were the first cookie I made out of the Betty Crocker Cooky Book so I didn't have to worry about showing up with some cookie that might or might not be good. I baked half the batch (3 doz) and loaded up a plate. I didn't bring any home. Okay, so I did send my other new choir friend Renee home with a bunch for her fiancé and left the remainder with my hosts, all the while reminding them that I didn't need to eat them, I had the other half of the dough at home.
Next I wanted to try something new. I had been looking at icebox cookies in the both the Betty Crocker book and the ATK Family Baking Book. The ATK book suggesting saving the cardboard roll from a roll of paper towels in order to help maintain the shape of rolled, refrigerated dough and so I had managed to snag a couple of rolls before they went in the trash. I decided to make Vanilla Icebox Cookies, a recipe the book claimed was "Great for Beginners." I'm not exactly a cookie beginner, but I was intrigued by the suggestion of rolling the dough log in something else -- chopped nuts, colored sugar, sprinkles -- before baking to give it added texture. So then I looked up how to make colored sugar. Turns out, it's really really really easy. Take some sugar (I used 1/4C) and add a few drops of color and mix it in with a fork (or your fingers, if you're like that) until it's a uniform color. If you want a deeper color, add more drops and mix some more. I made three batches.
Rolling the cookies in the sugar was a bigger challenge than I expected, perhaps because the dough was chilled the sugar didn't want to adhere, but I spent several minutes rolling the dough back and forth in the sugar making sure every exposed bit of dough was covered in color. Then I made a mistake by slicing the dough while it was still in the sugar. If I didn't catch the cookie slice it would fall into the sugar, which meant I had to rub the top of the cookie all around in the sugar so it looked like I meant to cover it in sugar. When sliced properly, only the edges of the cookie were covered in sugar. The directions called for two pans to be cooked at once and they had to be swapped and rotated halfway through the baking time. I'm clumsy. I drop things. I roll little balls of dough off perfectly level cookie sheets onto the bottom of the oven. I couldn't pull out both pans at the same time, so I rested the first pan on top of the stove while I rearranged the second, and I cooked them the full 16 minutes due to the wonky oven.
As they cooled and I snacked on a blue cookie, I was disappointed. The color looked great, and the ones that had accidentally fallen into the sugar looked really pretty. But the cookie itself was underwhelming. It was hard and didn't seem to have much flavor. Lucky for me, Vanilla Icebox Cookies actually taste better after they've cooled completely. The cookie was still hard comparably, but it was an enjoyable hardness -- instead of crumbling in my mouth, it fought back and resisted -- and the vanilla flavor was so rich. They kept reminding me of another cookie I'd had before, and I finally placed it on the last day of their existence. My grandmother used to buy tins of cookies with stacks of cookies of varied shapes and sizes in paper cups, and I loved the flavor and texture. These cookies had just the same flavor and texture as the ones I'd loved as a child. These cookies will reappear, if only because I want to try rolling them in other mediums. Like chopped pecans. Or maybe little heart confetti for Valentine's Day. And of course I'll experiment with making other colored sugars. Someone's turning 40 this year so can't you just imagine vanilla cookies robed in black?!
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