Friday, January 4, 2008

G.G. Cookies, for Christmas (or any time!)

Okay, so maybe I'm heinously late with this post about Christmas. The holiday (which, in our house, is a two-day affair that includes a seven-hour drive to St. Louis right in the middle of it), was a whirlwind. Also it was strangely anticlimactic, probably because my grandmother was in the hospital and all our preparations were kind of halfway completed at the last minute.

BUT, it all turned out well! We might not have put our decorations out until the last minute, and, yes, our tree might have been brittle with brown needles here and there because we bought it so late (and we may have only put up the few ornaments in our collection that the cat couldn't break) -- but in the end, none of that mattered.

We were still cozy and jolly:

And, a couple of days before Christmas, I still got to make G.G. Cookies -- the most important part of any holiday celebration. These are unbelievably delicious Christmas cookies that my great-grandmother (who we called G.G.) used to make for Christmas, Easter, birthdays, the Fourth of July... really any holiday with a color scheme that can be replicated in colored sugar. These are tiny, thin, crispy sugar cookies that are best eaten compulsively. The correct technique is to pop a cookie in your mouth whole, and kind of let it dissolve against the top of your mouth. Since G.G. died a few years ago (at the ripe old age of 97), I've made these in her stead. And now, since I'm divulging this super-secret (kind of) family recipe, you can too!

Of course, before I got down to the nitty-gritty of mixing up the cookies, I had to start my favorite Christmas movie, It's a Wonderful Life, playing. It just wouldn't be Christmas without Jimmy Stewart having a personal crisis while Donna Reed sings "Buffalo Gals" in a bathrobe!


1 stick butter
1/4 c. oil (I used Wesson vegetable oil)
1/2 c. granulated sugar (I used extrafine baking sugar)
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 egg
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla

My great-grandmother was obsessively organized (sound familiar?) and she kept a typed index-card index of every book she'd ever read. She also gave me this recipe on one of her signature manual-typewriter typed unlined index cards:

First, cream the sugars, oil, and margarine. (I did this in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment). Add the egg.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and cinnamon together and add the dry ingredients a little at a time to the creamed mixture. Add vanilla.

The final dough is very pale and smooth:

Refrigerate dough in a covered container. (G.G.'s recipe says to do this overnight. Yeah, right. I refrigerated it for about 30 minutes because I'm horribly impatient)

Next, make small balls -- about 1/2 tsp - 1 tsp of dough. They should be about the size of a large marble, or slightly less than an inch in diameter.

Next, if you're mildly obsessive-compulsive like me, you line the dough balls up in neatly staggared lines on a large cookie sheet (buttered, sprayed with Pam, or otherwise made non-stick), so as to fit as many cookies as possible.

Get out a glass with a smooth bottom and fill a bowl with sugar.

You're going to use the sugar-coated glass bottom to smash the dough balls into cookies! Now, you're not just slightly flattening them. You are smashing them utterly flat and thin, and then you're going to sprinkle them with festive colored sugar. I used red and green, but these can be adapted to any occasion by changing the colors.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. The long cooking time is essential, because it makes the cookies uniformly crispy and golden.

Aren't they beautiful! Make sure you let them cool for quite awhile, or they'll break when you try to remove them from the cookie sheet. Be careful, since they're quite delicate. And DELICIOUS.

Note: G.G. Cookies, though wonderful and amazing in every way, aren't safe for cats to consume!

Cheers Allison, and here's hoping that over winter break your cold cold heart has softened towards out feline friends.

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