What started as a conveniently timed experiment in making my own cookie cutter ended in a dizzying display of Texas pride- these sugar cookies may be slightly tacky, but they are thoroughly delicious.
A few days ago, after deciding not to spend three dollars on a set of fluted circular cookie cutters at HEB, I had an idea to make my own. So I rummaged through our recycling bin and found an empty Budweiser can that did not (yet) smell too much of rotten eggs, washed it out about seven times, and began my project.
I started by cutting off the ends of the can with a serrated knife and flattening out the aluminum center that remained. I cut the jagged ends (to avoid slicing a finger) and used a permanent marker to draw lines (about half an inch wide) lengthwise down the unprinted side of the can. Then I cut the strips, and waited to be inspired. I had many ideas of simple shapes I could draw without a visual aid – a rabbit, a banana, a flower – but none of these sparked my imagination. And then I noticed, staring back at me from the Budweiser can, a little navy blue outline of the Lone Star State. With my muse decided upon, I sketched out a blob that looked a little bit like Texas. Then I took a strip of aluminum, began at El Paso and worked my way northwest, strip by strip (attaching the strips with minimal pieces of waterproof tape) until I had a flimsy, slightly chubby outline of Texas. To reinforce the outline I took longer strips of tape and placed them halfway along the edge of the cutter, careful not to overlap the sharp aluminum side that would be needed to slice through the dough. And in only about thirty minutes, I had a one of a kind Texas cookie cutter (though I had no idea how it would stand up to some actual cookie cutting).
So the real experiment started this afternoon, when I whipped up some simple sugar cookies to test out my invention.
After cooling the dough for three hours, I rolled it out on my floured countertop and lightly pressed the cookie cutter through the dough. I was more delicate than usual with my hand-made cutter, but it held up surprisingly well through over a dozen pressings, being dropped on the floor, and taking an accidental bath when I knocked it into the sink with my elbow.
This sugar cookie recipe deserves a gold (Lone) star, as well, for simplicity as well as accuracy. These cookies were easy to roll out, hearty enough to withstand the transfer from the counter to the cookie sheet, and baked for exactly eight minutes. They also smelled so wonderful I ate two of them, seconds after taking them out of the oven.
While the little Texases cooled I decided upon a patriotic theme, but quickly discovered that I had no powdered sugar in the house to make my favorite glaze-like icing. Instead, I sleuthed through some really terrible internet icing recipes until I decided to just (try to) make my own.
So here it is: An Original, Cooked Buttercream Icing Recipe
Ingredients: 1 tablespoons flour, 1 cup cream, 3/4 cup butter, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon almond extract
Directions: Heat ¼ cup of cream in saucepan on low heat. Whisk in flour until incorporated, add remaining cream, remove from heat, and continue whisking until it thickens. Set aside to cool. Cream butter, sugar, salt and almond extract in electric mixer and add cooled cream/flour. Continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
This icing didn’t look like much at first (see above), but after icing all of the cookies I still had gobs of it left over. A little icing, I suppose, goes a long way.
I dyed about 1/5 of the icing red, 2/5 of the icing blue, and left the rest white (hoping that I wouldn’t run out of the colored icing and be forced to try to match the color with some crappy food dyes). I suppose I could have used more dye to achieve a more brilliant color, but, personally, I am sketched out by fake dyes so I settled for this pastel version of the Texas flag. And as far as icing a cookie, I would suggest starting with an uncomplicated design until you get the feel for the icing and how well it spreads. After about three Texases, I was on a roll and cranked the rest of these out with relative ease, though the process in total was a bit exhausting.
And finally, because I felt like over-doing it, I fashioned a pastry bag out of wax paper (more on that later) and piped little white stars on all my little Texas cookies, just like the real thing.