Crispy cookie connoisseurs
My daughter Hillery just called from Leadville to say that she has been baking nonstop for the past three days and is entirely surrounded by the cursed Christmas cookies, the recipe for which I ran last week. “I have over 1,200 cookies and I can’t STOP,” she cried.I’ve mentioned that Hillery rolls her cookies much thinner than I do – an eighth of an inch thick rather than my quarter-inch or more – and part of her present obsession is to make them even THINNER, less than 1/16th of an inch. “They cook in four minutes!”You can see at once how a compulsion for thinness compounds her obsessive baking problem. I might get 60 or 70 cookies out of a batch of dough but Hillery, who uses the full six cups of cake flour whereas my stirring arm usually gives out after four, gets 400! And then they all have to be iced! Hillery, being an artist, ices them beautifully, using a pastry bag with the tiniest tip, which gets clogged by the tiniest errant crumb from one of those 1,200 crispy thin cookies.And due to their thinness, she feels that giving a present of a dozen cookies is tantamount to a slap in the face, three dozen of hers being the equivalent of a half-dozen of mine. “Why are you doing this to yourself?” I asked in what I hoped was a kindly, neutral, motherly tone, picturing her rolling out and cookie-cutting mounds of that stiff six-cup dough and trays coming out of the oven every four minutes like a Charlie Chaplin conveyor belt movie. There is no question that Hillery’s Christmas cookies, which our family has been baking for several decades, are excellent. And in the course of our conversation she passed along some tips that might be useful to connoisseurs.One thing I’ve never mentioned is that there is a very small window of time between removing the cookies from the oven and scraping them off the cookie sheets. If you attack them with a spatula too soon they squash and if you wait too long they will be glued to the sheet and break.Hillery’s answer to that is parchment paper, something I never heard of but is available at City Market in the aluminum foil and Saran wrap section. Cut the parchment paper to fit your cookie sheets (very important: If they have creases, so will the cookies) and, best of all, the paper can be reused. When her four-minute cookies are taken out of the oven, she lets them sit until the next batch goes in, then slides the parchment onto a table and, when cool, ices them with artistic lacy squiggles and loops.Hillery’s way, she can pile parchment upon parchment of iced cookies (make sure the icing is set!) on top of each other, rather than covering every surface of the kitchen with cookies and having to pick up each one and slather icing on it with a pastry brush as I do, so I think she may have something here.A tip from her husband, Bruce, is to roll up all the scraps and put them in the microwave for 30 seconds. This could also be useful if you have refrigerated the dough days or weeks earlier. For the icing, she uses: 1 egg white, 2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and water until it is the consistency of honey.Su Lum is a longtime local who thought she was through with the cursed Christmas cookies for this year. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.