Sunday, June 19, 2016

Circus Cookies

This post is dedicated to my Dad, the sugar cookie connoisseur of the family. To this day, my Dad can never get enough homemade sugar cookies. Dad, here's hoping that your day is better than expected, filled with lots of love and of course- many sugar cookies! Happy Father's day!

Making these little animals sure did transport me back to the days of childhood. The sweet, yet distinctive smell of homemade cookies filled the house while I peered over the counter to watch as my mom rolled out and cut the dough into different shapes. 

After the cookies came out of the oven, I was ready to eat. I was quickly told that they were not ready to eat. Disappointed, I thought that she made it up as a story to get me to go away, after all, the cookies were baked. Stubbornly, I sat and watched just to see what she was talking about.

Then my mom reached for a big white bag of powder and put several cups in a bowl. She added a few more ingredients and beat it all together. She moved to the cupboard, opened it and pulled out several containers. Some of the containers held brightly colored sugar and some had a rainbow of colored grain-like looking things in them. I curiously watched the artwork unfold as my mom iced and decorated the cookies.

This was the first indication to me that there was way more to baking than just making something that tastes good.

This particular recipe has its pros and cons in preparation, but these crisp little cookies have a almond-vanilla flavor that is unbeatable. Also, the almond bark coating is a must if you want the exact replica of the circus cookies that you find in the pink bag at the grocers. Note that the cookie dough must chill at least 8 hours, so allow for this time. The recipe makes about 4 dz little cookies. Be sure to read the tips at the end.

Circus Cookies
adapted from the Cooking Channel

1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup of butter
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 lb almond bark or white chocolate coverture
sprinkles for decorating

Start the night before (or 9 hours prior to baking) by making the dough. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside. Place the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat together until fluffy and light in color. Add the extracts and egg to the mixture and blend on low speed with the mixer. Stop in increments to scrape down the sides. Once all is blended, fold in the sifted ingredients.

Shape the dough into a flat disc and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough for at least 8 hours or overnight.

When the dough is done chilling, preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line 4 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the baking sheets in the refrigerator.  Prepare a flat surface by dusting with flour and dust a rolling pin as well.

Take a piece of dough (about 1/4 of the mass) and place on flat surface. Re-cover the remaining dough and place in freezer. Remove 1 baking sheet from refrigerator.

Roll out the dough on the flat surface to a 1/8 inch thickness. The dough will be very soft and has a tendency to stick. Be generous on the flour. If the dough sticks to the flat surface, dust the top of the dough and use a bench scraper to scrape off and flip the dough. Dust again and roll out to proper thickness. Dip the cutting part of the cookie cutter in flour and cut out one shape. Keeping the dough in the cutter, move the cutter over the baking sheet and lightly press dough out of the cutter onto the sheet. Repeat process until baking sheet is filled and put filled baking sheet in freezer.

Continue rolling and cutting the dough until all is formed into shapes and placed on a baking sheet. Remove one sheet from the freezer to the oven. Bake until cookies have golden edges. Cookies take about 12-13 minutes to bake. Remove from oven and let cool for about 2 minutes then transfer to rack to finish cooling. Bake the rest of the cookies as instructed above.

For the icing, melt the coverture or almond bark in a double boiler. Once melted, you can ice the cookies by using a knife or dipping them.  If you choose to dip them, make sure you have a sheet of wax paper on a flat surface in order to place the dipped cookie on. If you just choose to ice the top, they can be placed back on the cooling rack . After dipping or frosting about 4 of the cookies, decorate with sprinkles if desired. Continue with the process until all cookies are iced/dipped.

Before storing, make sure that icing has set/hardened on the cookies.

Tips and Notes:

1. The emphasis on the amount of flour when rolling and the butter to flour ratio in this recipe, had me concerned so I added 1/4 cup more of flour when making the dough.

2. The cookies came out thin and crisp, but the icing seemed to be too heavy for the cookie. If I made these again, I would adjust for a thicker cookie.

3. I like more cookie than icing, so I did not dip the whole cookie in the icing. The top or half dipped is fine for a good icing to cookie ratio.

4. I was expecting a thinner consistency of the almond bark, but remembered that it is considered as a candy coating rather than icing.

                                       **LAST YEAR: Pesto Potato Rolls**