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Friday, December 18, 2009

A Holiday Cookie Recipe and How to Ship Baked Goods

Egads! The dilemma of the holiday season is upon us: what the heck to get everyone on your list. Well I have an answer for you…and it’s sweet and lovely and involves butter. Simply bake up some delicious goodies, package them ever so cutely, and…presto gifto!

To start you off right in your holiday bake-a-thon, I have a perfect holiday butter cookie recipe to share. This butter cookie is sturdy enough to hold up to extensive decorating and won’t turn to dust if jostled around a bit. It’s also so delicious that you’ll have a hard time giving these cookies away. Of course, if you “accidentally” break a few cookies…well then you’ll just HAVE to eat them yourself.

These cookies are also incredibly versatile. You can cut them out and decorate them with colored sugars, sprinkles and frostings. Or, you can turn them into thumbprint cookies with jam in the middle. Or perhaps you’d like to make them into sandwich cookies? Oh yes, you get to unleash your creative side with these babies.

After you’ve baked your storm of cookies, you can package them in a nice tin and hand them off to a friend that lives nearby. Or, for those people that don’t live so nearby, you can ship these cookies (another reason I love this recipe).

When shipping cookies, you should either wrap each individual cookie in plastic wrap or stack a few together before wrapping (sometimes I like putting the cookies into clear plastic bags instead and tying it with ribbon for a nice presentation). The cookies will need to be packaged together tightly. I like using tissue paper between each cookie/stack of cookies to insulate them.

It’s quite important to include two lines of defense when mailing cookies. You should not only have the box with the cookies inside of it, but also another shipping box. You will also need to pad the internal cookie box from the external one. I like using wadded up paper bags, but I’ve heard of people successfully using air-popped popcorn, bubble wrap or paper shreds as well.

Here’s to holiday gifts full of deliciousness!

Butter Cookies
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and at cool room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cream cheese, cool room temperature

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, sugar and salt on low speed until combined. With the mixer running, add the butter one piece at a time; continuing to mix until mixture looks crumbly and slightly wet, about 1 minute longer. Add vanilla and cream cheese and mix on low until dough just begins to form large clumps, about 30 seconds.

Remove dough from mixer and knead by hand in the bowl for 2 or 3 turns to form a cohesive mass. Turn out dough onto counter and divide in half, pat into two 4-inch disks and refrigerate for 20 -30 minutes.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out dough between parchment paper to 1/8 inch thick, chill for 10 minutes. Cut into desired shapes and place the cookies 1 ½ inches apart on parchment lined cookie sheets. Chill again for about 10 minutes. Bake until light brown, about 10 minutes. Decorate as desired.


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