Saturday, November 26, 2005

You Are My Sunshine

Though the temperature is climbing slowly, the sun has slipped behind the clouds again, returning us to the dreary skies all too common to late fall around here.

Because of this, I decided to postpone starting the first batch of biscotti in order to try a new recipe I've been pondering: sugar cookies with a sunny burst of fresh orange and candied ginger.

That's right: sunshine cookies.

I generally don't make cut-out sugar cookies for Christmas because I never had the right recipe or the inclination. (I've got plenty of cookie cutters, but I've never cared as much for rolled cookies.) But I came across one of my favorite childhood recipes earlier this year (for candy cane cookies) and thought I could adapt it to my purpose.

My adaptations ranged from using my usual half-and-half blend of unbleached and whole wheat pastry flour to substituting maple sugar for the confectioners' sugar listed in the recipe, not to mention the addition of freshly grated orange peel and mini diced ginger (as well as the obvious omission of the crushed candy cane topping).

I rolled out the lightly speckled dough and cut out fluted circles that could pass for stylized suns and sprinkled them with an orange-infused sugar before moving them to the cookie sheets.

Minutes later, I had a few dozen buttery little suns, crisp and twinkling and brightly flavored -- the perfect accompaniment to afternoon tea.

Is it any wonder that I called up a friend and offered to bring her a little sunshine on a gray day? And would you be surprised to learn that we shared a cup of tea along with the cookies and a good two hours' worth of conversation?

It's true that I haven't wanted to fuss much with cut-out cookies for the holidays, but I may make an exception for this recipe and add it to my traditional holiday baking repertoire. After all, Christmas and Hanukkah both appropriate the ancient traditions of celebrating the light at the darkest time of the year (the winter Solstice) and holding on to hope for better days and the renewal of the world.

So it's not too farfetched, I think, to bake a little extra sunshine to get us through the depths of winter.

Sunshine Cookies

Based on the recipe for candy cane cookies from the Gold Medal Century of Success Cookbook, these cookies will bring a smile to any kid’s face, no matter how young or old. Make them extra special by using a sun or flower shaped cookie cutter and sprinkling the orange-infused sugar on top.

1/2 c maple sugar
1/2 c organic cane juice crystals (or granulated sugar)
1/2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c shortening (there IS non-hydrogenated shortening; look for it!)
1 T freshly grated orange peel
1 egg
1 tsp almond extract (can be omitted, but I like it)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c unbleached flour
1 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 c mini diced crystallized ginger
1/4 c organic cane juice crystals
1 tsp freshly grated orange peel

Preheat oven to 375 F. Set out cookie sheets; they do NOT need to be greased!

In large bowl, cream together maple sugar, cane juice crystals, butter, and shortening. Add orange peel, egg, and extracts, and mix until well blended. Stir in flours and salt, then work in diced ginger. You may want to finish working the dough together with your hands.

Grind together the remaining cane juice crystals and orange peel. Set aside.

On a lightly floured counter, roll out the dough to 1/4" to 1/8" thickness. Cut out cookies using a sun, flower, circle, or star cookie cutter. Sprinkle cookies with orange-infused sugar before setting them on cookie sheets. Gather dough scraps, work together, roll out, and continue cutting out cookies until dough is used up.

Bake cookies until set and very light brown, 8-10 minutes. Cool slightly, then remove to wire cooling rack. Store in airtight container.

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen


At 11/29/2005 5:51 PM, Blogger Tina said...

The sunshine cookies sound great! My great-grandma's sugar-cookie recipe is similar, but with lemon peel instead of orange, and no diced ginger. You'll get to taste those when I send you your cookie box.:-)

I have some of the non-hydrogenated shortening as well. The brand I have is Smart Balance. (For anyone who wants to look for it.)

At 11/30/2005 7:40 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Mmmm, I look forward to those, then! I like to eat sugar cookies... just not to make them myself most of the time!

The brand of shortening I found is Spectrum... works well, though my kitchen is a little cool right now for the shortening to be appropriately supple. But I might still have to make some pies sometime soon, now that I have it. :)


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