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Food
Falling for leaves of sugar

Thursday, October 11, 2001

By Marlene Parrish, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Here's your chance to play Mother Nature. Transform a classic sugar cookie dough into tinted edible autumn leaves. All it takes is a little artsy-craftsy handiwork. Depending on the enthusiasm of bakers and helpers, make cookies plain, sugar-topped or decorated with sprinkles and colored icings.

It's easy. Make up the dough, divide it into three parts and tint each part a seasonal color -- yellow, red-orange and green. The multicolor in the finished cookies is obtained when blobs of dough are randomly dropped onto waxed paper before rolling into flat sheets. The waxed paper makes for easy handling and even rolling. For once, accidental overbaking only adds to the theme because browned edges look authentic.

Be sure to clear a flat place in the refrigerator so the dough sheets will lie flat. After the dough is chilled, the waxed paper is removed, the dough floured and cut into shapes with a leaf-shaped cutter. The unpredictable pattern of colors is delightful. Just before baking, add a sprinkle of colored sugar for a bit of sparkle.

Cut out and keep this recipe with your cookie cutter collection because this is the crisp sugar cookie you want for cut-outs in any season.

Autumn Leaves

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus flour for dusting
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Food coloring
1 egg white, beaten until foamy and mixed with 1 teaspoon water
Sugar sprinkles for topping

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric beater, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Using a wooden spoon, add the dry ingredients and mix until a dough is formed.

Divide the dough into 3 parts and place each part in a separate small bowl. Add a few drops of food coloring (not too much to start) to each bowl: yellow in bowl one, yellow and red to make orange in bowl two and green in bowl three. Mix the dough in each bowl until colors are evenly distributed.

Before you begin, clear a flat space in the refrigerator. Cut 3 sheets of waxed paper and place on a work surface. Using a tablespoon, drop blobs of dough onto the waxed paper in a random way until the dough is evenly distributed between the 3 sheets and all the colors have been used. Push the dough blobs rather close together but not touching. They need room to spread. Top with another sheet of waxed paper.

Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough and roll it out to an even thickness, about 1/8 inch. Place the sandwiched dough "package" in the refrigerator. Repeat with the other two pieces of dough, stacking the packages. The dough may be refrigerated for 2 days in advance of baking.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove one slab of dough from refrigerator. Peel off the top sheet of waxed paper, but do not discard. Lightly dust the surface of the dough with flour, patting it on the whole surface with the palm of your hand. Replace the top sheet of waxed paper loosely, and flip the "package" over. Peel off the second sheet of waxed paper and discard it. Dust the second side of dough lightly with flour with the palm of your hand. Just leave the bottom sheet of waxed paper in place.

Cut shapes with floured cookie cutter, and place them on cookie sheets that have been covered with parchment paper or spritzed with nonstick baking spray. Brush cookies with beaten egg white and sprinkle cookies with a light coating of sugar. The cookies may also be left plain or decorated after baking.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until set and lightly browned. Allow cookies to rest on the tray for 2 minutes before using a metal spatula to transfer to racks to cool. The cookies will keep several weeks when stored in airtight containers. Keep in the freezer for longer storage.

Makes about 4 dozen, depending on the thickness and the size of the cutter.

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