Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Marjorie's Sugar Cookies - Christmas Cookies from Tupperware

This year I made our family Christmas cookie -- an unusual cutout sugar cookie -- for the first time in a long time. The recipe was a standby during my childhood and teen years, but I'd gotten out of the habit of making them. They are still, however, my favorite sugar cookie and are one of those tastes that says "Christmas" to me.

My mother spent a few years in the '70s as a Tupperware rep. She had two huge (and I mean huge) cardboard suitcases full of samples, and when she stopped repping, they were integrated into our kitchen. One other thing we had as a result of her Tupperware years was a cookbook. Naturally the recipes always featured using Tupperware products as equipment. Don't laugh -- Tupperware made (and makes) a LOT of products beyond storage bowls. We had Tupperware salt and pepper shakers, popsicle molds, and on and on. 

But I digress. The cookbook had two sugar cookie recipes, and the one titled Marjorie's Sugar Cookies were an instant hit in our household. They became the go-to cookie for Christmas -- cut out, of course, with Tupperware cookie cutters. The Christmas shapes included a Christmas Tree, a Santa Claus, and a Candy Cane. Not only did Mama make the cookies for us to have at home, but often made many batches to provide to our classrooms and to the fire station where Daddy worked. I often helped with the production, and even made them on my own as I got older. 

I'd gotten nostalgic for them and made a batch to share with friends and family. I'm very pleased to share them here.

These aren't like any sugar cookie you've had before. First, they are made with confectioner's sugar rather than granulated sugar. Second, They use a combination of cream of tartar and baking soda for leavening. Finally, they have just a little almond flavoring in addition to the usual vanilla. The texture is uniform and a little delicate, with some crispness around the edges.

The recipe includes an egg yolk paint. I'm including it, but these days most folks shy away from raw eggs unless they are pasteurized. Honestly, we rarely used it. We were more inclined to color the dough (!) or use an ordinary confectioner's sugar glaze. I don't have the patience for a lot of cookie decoration -- the most I'll do is sprinkle with colored sugar or sanding sugar, but I'm just as happy with plain cookies.

You can roll the dough to your desired thickness. The recommended baking time works well if you roll them a little thicker than a typical pie crust. If you roll thinner, watch them very carefully because they will cook quickly! The thicker cookie is a little crisp around the edges; the thinner they are, the more crisp they will be all the way through.

Marjorie's Sugar Cookies

adapted from the Tupperware Four Seasons Cookbook, 1969
1-1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 cup butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
2-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
Colored sprinkles, confectioner's glaze, or Egg Yolk Paint (recipe follows)

Cream sugar and butter with a mixer until fluffy.  Add egg and flavorings and mix well.
Sift dry ingredients together and stir into creamed mixture.  Cover in a Tupperware bowl and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours up to several days. (If refrigerating more than a few hours, wrap tightly in plastic wrap.

Divide dough in half.  Cover one half and return to the refrigerator. Roll out the other half on surface lightly dusted with confectioner's sugar. The dough will be very stiff; you can knead it for a minute by hand to loosen it up a little before you start rolling. Don't work it or let it warm up too much before rolling and cutting. Work quickly; if you are interrupted during this process, put the dough back in the fridge until you can continue.

Cut with cookie cutters and place on an ungreased cookie sheets covered with a silicone baking sheet or parchment paper.  Bake in a preheated 375F oven for 7 to 8 minutes, until cookies begin turning a light brown at the edges. They should not brown entirely, just get a little outline of browning at the edges. Slide the entire sheet of parchment to a cooling rack; the cookies will crisp as they cool. Decorate if desired. 

Repeat the above steps for the half of the dough in the refrigerator. Store finished cookies in a loosely covered (not airtight) container. 

Egg Yolk Paint
1 egg yolk, beaten
1/2 tsp water
Food coloring

Prepare one recipe of egg yolk paint for every 2 colors desired.  Combine egg yolk and water and mix well.  Divide into 2 small Tupperware containers, custard cups or paper cups.  Stir in food coloring.  Keep tightly covered until ready for use.  If paint thickens, add a few drops of water.   Paint as desired for a colored glaze, and add colored sprinkles.

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