Sunday, January 13, 2008

My Most Requested Recipe: Party Cookies

Yep. I should be summarizing the legacy of Radway in terms of media feminist scholarship since 1984. I also should be writing down some of the thoughts I've had over the weekend about audience analysis, content analysis, and if the two will have a "happy marriage" in my dissertation (really funny for those of you who know my topic, huh). But, I'd honestly rather blog. One can only procrastinate on Facebook for so long, until another form of distraction becomes necessary. After a weekend of stress, Scrabble, thinking, and more stress, I'll for once and for all publish my hands down most requested recipe: party cookies.

I don't know the exact origins of this recipe, but I will tell you where I got it. When I was in the 7th grade, I went to help my mom on a teacher's workday in December. She was teaching K-2nd graders at Owens, where I (and she, and my dad, and my brother, and everyone else related to me) went to school. I expected to help her and my old favorite teachers if they needed me - Mrs. Abernathy, Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Green - but instead, I was assigned to the library under Mrs. Caudle's supervision for a school-wide, all-important task. I had to type, format, and copy the faculty Christmas cookbook. (Yes. Christmas. I think they even had a Christmas tree up in the hall. This is pre-war-on-Christmas times, people.)

That year, the faculty all brought in their favorite Christmas recipe to share along with a sample to taste for their final faculty meeting. Since they had free labor the next day, someone decided it was a great idea to combine all the recipes into one handy book. The perpetual teacher's pet, I was up for the challenge.

The book became a family favorite of mine, as it had some of the classics I still make today, like Mexican Pinwheels, Puppy Chow (aka Christmas Crack according to the Finch's), and party cookies. Party cookies came from my first grade teacher, Mrs. Jayne South. They were everyone's favorite at the faculty meeting, and they became one of my all-time favorites as well. I started making them on special occasions, and they became a staple at tailgates once I got to Auburn. They are buttery, creamy, goodness. They are versatile, as the frosting can be dyed with food coloring, making them a festive addition for baby showers, wedding showers, St. Patrick's Day parties, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Independence Day, Easter... need I go on? Every time I make them, someone wants the recipe. So, in honor of Mrs. South, the best first grade teacher of all time, and the teachers from Owens Elementary School, I present to you:

Party Cookies
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, divided
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup finely chopped pecans, optional

Buttercream Frosting
1 stick butter, softened to room temperature
1 lb. bag of powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
milk, if needed, for consistency

In small bowl, combine flour and salt, set aside. In large bowl, combine sugar and butter until well incorporated. Add in vanilla, and 2 egg yolks (one egg yolk at a time). Save the egg whites for a later use. Gradually add in flour/salt mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours. Then, preheat oven to 350. Roll dough in small, nickel sized balls. Dip balls into lightly beaten egg whites, then into pecans (if using). Place on nonstick cookie sheet. Press thumb in the middle of the cookies to make an indentation for the frosting. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting:
Place butter in medium-sized bowl. Add in about 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix with hand mixer until combined. Add in powdered sugar, no more than a 1-lb bag, until the mixture takes on a frosting-like consistency (or tastes sweet enough for you). If the frosting becomes too thick, add milk, 1 tsp at a time, to thin it out. If it becomes too sugary, add more butter. Add food coloring, if desired, after frosting is finished.

If you haven't been around the T.A. office long enough, or you don't even know me so I haven't made these for you, then try them. They are a simple, easy cookie that you will make all the time. This is one of the few cookies for which the finished product is better than the dough. Yes. I eat cookie dough, brownie dough, cake dough, cheesecake dough... what's the fun in baking if you don't eat the dough?! I have since I was old enough to get a spoon out of the drawer and stick it in the mix by myself. And until I get salmonella, I will continue to do so, thank you very much. Did I mention I have a stubborn streak? Anyway. I do love these cookies, and they are worth the effort. They do take a bit more time than some of my other recipes, with the mixing, chilling, rolling, coating, frosting and all, but wow are they worth it. If you don't screw them up, and don't eat all the dough yourself, I can guarantee they will be a hit at your next potluck, or faculty meeting.

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