When Deborah Bryson, a music teacher in the North Kansas City school district, wanted to purchase ukuleles for her class, she turned her baking and artistic talents into a plan to encourage the needed donations.
Deborah, her husband, Kirk Bryson, and their two daughters live in Gladstone. This creative full-time music teacher has a heart of gold, baking and decorating cookies to thank the community for its support of the music program.
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Q: How did you use your baking skills as an incentive for raising the funds? Were you successful?
A: As a way to inspire their love of music I wanted the students at one of the elementary schools I teach at to learn the ukulele. Since there was no money in the budget for the instruments, I shared a posting on donorschoose.org, which is something like a GoFundMe page for teachers.
To thank local individuals for donating $34, the funds needed to purchase one instrument, I gave them a dozen homemade and decorated sugar cookies. It was successful, and we were able to buy a classroom set of 30 instruments in October.
While the cookies were limited to local donations, the final contribution came from an anonymous donor in Connecticut who said, “Start making music.”
Q: When did you start baking cookies?
A: I am self-taught and started about three years ago, making cookies for a fundraiser. It was a way to encourage the donations and show my gratitude to the donor.
Now my husband helps, mixing the dough and baking the cookies, and I decorate them. In addition to the fundraisers, I bake cookies for special events, holidays and birthday parties.
I love baking and decorating the cookies but appreciate that my husband is the main cook in the family.
Q: Your cookies are exquisite. What advice do you have for others?
A: I pay attention to the details. I found a butter-based sugar cookie recipe online at www.hanielas.com and like it because the cookies stay just soft enough to complement the firm royal icing. My number one flavor tip is to add lemon zest to the dough.
I roll the dough out between sheets of parchment paper, using a rolling pin with adjustable heights so it is even. I place the sheets of rolled dough in the freezer so they are well chilled before cutting them. This gives the cookies the crisp and clean edges I want.
Q: The decorations are beautiful and have such detail. How do you decorate the cookies?
A: I use Fresh Lemon Royal Icing, a recipe that is on the same website as the cookie recipe. I love the fresh lemon flavor in the icing. I color it with gel food colors so the icing is vibrantly colored. Before the icing firms and dries, I use a toothpick to swirl the icing or add details.
Roxanne Wyss and Kathy Moore are cookbook authors and food consultants that make up The Electrified Cooks. They have published over eleven cookbooks and thousands of recipes. They are members of Les Dames d’Escoffier and blog at pluggedintocooking.com . Email them at KCComeIntoMyKitchen@gmail.com
Sugar Cookie Recipe for Cut-Out Cookies
Makes about 2 1/2 to 3 dozen cookies (The yield will vary depending on the size of the cookie cutter.)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
In a small dish, whisk together egg and vanilla; set aside.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, beat together the butter and sugar 5 minutes. Scrape the bowl twice. The mixture should be light and fluffy.
Gradually add the vanilla-egg mixture and the lemon zest, beating 30 seconds to 1 minute, until well mixed.
Gradually, using low speed and making 3 additions, add the flour mixture. Scrape the bowl well after the last addition and beat just until the flour is combined.
Scrape the cookie dough together in the large bowl and, using your hands, knead the cookie dough about 30 to 60 seconds, until the dough comes together. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 8 hours.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a light-colored baking sheet with parchment paper.
Divide the cookie dough in half. Place one portion between sheets of parchment paper and roll out evenly until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Cut the cookies using the desired cutters and place on prepared baking sheet. Chill the dough about 15 minutes in the refrigerator or 8 minutes in the freezer. Bake 9 minutes, or until set, turning the baking sheet halfway through the baking time. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet 5 to 7 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.
Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks or freeze undecorated cookies between sheets of wax paper in a freezer container for up to 2 months. Decorate with Fresh Lemon Royal Icing or as desired.