When I was a little girl, my mother would take me across town, every couple of months, to what was inarguably the BEST bakery in town, Lake Forest Pastry Shop. It was always jammed, and my small self often got lost in the crowd of shirt-waist dresses and leather handbags, some of them bopping me in the face! I can still remember the black-and-white tiled floor, the icing-scented, hair-netted ladies behind the counter, and the heady aroma of freshly baked pastry when I walked in the door. As a child of eight, my line of sight was in perfect alignment with the pastries in the glass cases. I'd put my hands on the glass (I'll bet the shopkeepers just LOVED that!) and peer inside just longing for one of their very big, very delicious sugar cookies. My mother generally bought coffee cakes and stollens (Stollen?! I never did quite get that name as a child, I still don't.), but what I wanted most were the cookies. I wasn't deprived, she did get one for me on occasion, but generally my hands needed to be free for carrying one of the many white boxes tied with twine out to the car for the long drive home.
Ever since then I've been tampering with sugar cookie recipes in an attempt to recreate what I considered to be the Sistine Chapel of sugar cookies. Okay, as a kid, I did not know what the Sistine Chapel was, but you get the idea: the sugar cookie to end all sugar cookies. The cookie that took me back to that little bakeshop frequented in my youth.
A couple of years ago I did it, and I'm sharing this recipe with you. Crispy on the outside, puffed and tender on the inside, with a complex yet comforting light citrus and vanilla flavor, this is my "go to" cookie when I'm nostalgic for that sweet taste of my youth.
SISTINE CHAPEL SUGAR COOKIES
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup Crisco
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
Sugar for coating
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream together sugar, butter, and Crisco until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, add vanilla, lemon, and orange extracts. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar. With mixer set to low, gradually add dry mixture to wet ingredients. For each cookie drop two tablespoons of dough (I use a cookie scoop for this) into a bowl of sugar; roll to coat. Place cookies on a greased cookie sheet. Before baking sprinkle about a teaspoon of additional sugar on the top of each dough ball, this will cause the crackled top. Bake for 14-17 minutes or until the edges are light brown. Remove from cookie sheet to cool on wire racks. Makes approximately 30 4" cookies.
|The additional sugar on top is what gives them their crackled appearance.|