I owe a great deal of gratitude to these blogging women who are more than just words and pictures online, but real women more than willing to share what they know. When I was invited to join in on the celebration of Michael's milestone birthday, I panicked. How on earth could I live up to the standards of such talented blogging women? But then I thought, in the past three years I have read every one of Michael's eight books, devoured them, if you will, taking a particular liking to Teeny Templeton (Teeny Templeton Mysteries) and Honora DeChavannes (Mermaids in the Basement), whose quote, “I lacked the strength to host a parasite, much less a party” applies to me more often than I care to admit. Through the reading of her books, I learned a little something about finding my own voice. So, I decided that, in celebration of her sixtieth birthday, I would not only honor the woman, but her books.
Join me, will you, in a cup of tea, served from my treasured Mystery Writer's Teapot (in honor of Teeny and her mystery-solving skills), and sink your teeth into one of Michael's books. Literally.
About the cookies: I learned to step out of my realm, and push myself beyond what I ever thought I could do through reading blogs. A couple of years ago I saw cookies made with edible paper and have always wanted to try this. The truth is, until now, I never had the nerve. I cook, and sometimes bake, but decorated cookies are something I generally know better than to tackle. But knowing that I'd have to come up with something unique to celebrate Michael, I gave it a try. Michael, I do hope that you'll give me an “A” for effort. Obviously this was a bit too far out of my realm. Of course, a lot of the problem was my fault, and should not, in any way, deter you from trying these yourself. I should have made two batches of icing. One for outlining, the other to “flow” on. It was too stiff and did not “flow” at all, so I had to sand them down with a nail buffer. I should have checked my supply of piping bags BEFORE Michael's closed. I had to use a gallon size Ziploc freezer bag (after removing the celery, yes, I should have checked my supply of them too), to do the edging, that I punctured when I put the star tip in. Then the tip got clogged, I forced it, and the bag burst. Another lesson learned is to never wear your favorite tangerine linen shirt to pipe icing. Getting the picture?
The recipe (reprinted below for convenience) is from Martha Stewart. (It's delicious.) The edible book covers I custom ordered from Queen of Tarts (A lovely woman, who, I should mention, does not violate copyright with reckless abandon, I begged like a dog for these.). You can find a great tutorial by someone who really knows what she’s doing here. I bought the decorating tips and meringue power to make the royal icing from Michael's (appropriate, no?). The nerves of steel are my own. Oh, one more thing, a nearly new container of meringue powder is up for grabs, I am never doing this again! But, like I said, this should not deter you.
In her Inspector Sloane mysteries, Catherine Aird wrote, “If you can't be a good example, then you'll have to serve as a horrible warning.” I think I've done my part.
Martha Stewart’s Basic Sugar Cookies
Everyday Food, December 2003
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; beat until combined. Divide dough in half; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic; freeze until firm, at least 20 minutes, or place in a resealable plastic bag, and freeze up to 3 months (thaw in refrigerator overnight).
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment. Remove one dough disk; let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Roll out 1/8 inch thick between two sheets of floured parchment, dusting dough with flour as needed. Cut shapes with cookie cutters. Using a spatula, transfer to prepared baking sheets. (If dough gets soft, chill 10 minutes.) Reroll scraps; cut shapes. Repeat with remaining dough.
Bake, rotating halfway through, until edges are golden, 10 to 18 minutes (depending on size). Cool completely on wire racks. To ice cookies, spread with the back of a spoon. Let the icing harden, about 20 minutes. Decorate as desired.