You are one clever cookie. I don’t know about that, but I do enjoy making these cookies and sharing them with others. Decorating cookies is one of my creative outlets, and when I give someone a cookie, I love seeing them smile and not count calories. Decorated cookies spread happiness, but the secret is that they have to taste as good as they look.
So is food an art form to you? Food is definitely one of my creative outlets. I also paint and sketch, but I like making and decorating cookies, because I enjoy seeing people enjoy them. Like little pieces of artwork, people really take their time and savor these cookies. Many times, people say they’re too pretty to eat, but, inevitably, the cookies get eaten.
I actually like the whole process of making cookies and people consuming them — there’s no artwork that I have to store somewhere — and I can begin the process again with a clean slate, or cookie sheet.
It’s obvious you like making sweet treats, but do you also like to cook on the savory side as well? Since I retired, Mike and I have really enjoyed cooking together. It’s fun to read recipes and watch the cooking show “Cook’s Country” on PBS. We especially like this show because they really teach you how to cook by explaining what works and doesn’t work.
Some of our specialty dishes include Salmon Wellington, baked in a puff pastry; a pasta seafood dish that has a little Cajun kick to it; and beef with mushroom gravy.
Mike and I are also doing a fair bit of traveling. Our last big trip was to Australia, New Zealand and the Cook Islands. The year before, we had a wonderful time in South Africa.
Of course, we love eating different foods when we take trips, but I’ve started the tradition of buying seeds in the countries and communities we visit. I have a plot at the Lenexa community garden, and in it, I have Australian basil and African carrots growing. You don’t have to travel abroad to be able to do this, either. Seeds from a region can be a tangible memory of your travels. There’s something very intimate about having a seed that grows food from a place you’ve visited, and it sort of extends the experience.
Did you get this cookie recipe during your travels, as well? I received this recipe from a friend whose mother in Wisconsin used to make these cookies. They are tried and true.
I like to decorate cookies and am always searching the Internet for new ideas. Before decorating the cookies, an optional step is to glaze them before icing. You just brush the cooled cookies with a glaze made from 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon corn syrup and 2 tablespoons water, then let it set before icing and decorating.
Over Memorial Day weekend, we went to San Diego to see family and Mike was a docent on the USS Midway Museum. I made butterfly-shaped cookies with a patriotic theme, which were just perfect for the occasion and a huge hit.
But, I think my enjoyment surpassed the pleasure people expressed after eating the cookies. You just can’t be anything but happy around these cookies.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to nominate a cook.
Jane’s kitchen heats up with coolly decorated cookies. Her sweet signature is enjoyed by friends and family, including Mike Haynes, her husband of 44 years.
Occupation: Retired in 2012 from accounting profession
Special cooking interest: Creative cookies
Cutout Sugar Cookies
Makes 2 dozen, 3-inch cookies
For the cookie dough:
1 cup butter-flavored shortening
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
For the icing:
1 cup powered sugar
4 teaspoons milk
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
To make cookies: In a large mixing bowl, cream shortening and sugar together, using an electric mixer on medium speed. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until well combined after each addition. Stir in vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl, sift baking soda, salt and flour together. Slowly incorporate dry ingredients into creamed mixture to form a dough.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1/4 prepared dough to a 1/4-inch thickness. With 3-inch cookie cutters lightly dredged in flour, press out shapes. Place dough shapes on a nonstick baking sheet.
Bake for about 8 minutes, or until cookies are barely colored on edges. Carefully remove cookies from baking sheet and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Continue process until all dough is used and cookies are baked.
To make the icing: In a separate large, clean mixing bowl, combine powdered sugar, milk, corn syrup and almond extract using an electric mixer on medium speed.
Icing should be a spreadable consistency. If it is too thick, add more corn syrup, 1 teaspoon at a time. If icing is too thin, add more powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time.
To decorate: Divide icing into separate bowls and dye each with a different food coloring gel. Put each colored frosting into a separate piping bag and decorate cookies using a variety of pastry tips and frosting techniques. Fondant can be used to create three-dimensional decorations.
Per cookie: 137 calories (36 percent from fat), 7 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 9 milligrams cholesterol, 19 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 91 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.