It’s always exciting to have a guest blogger stop by and today is no different. What a joy to have Jess from Floptimism stop by to share her food story with us regarding her journey to the perfect sugar cookie on National Sugar Cookie Day. I can’t wait for you guys to have the chance to read her story because I think any one of us could have written a similar story. In reality, we are all very lucky to have her as I’ve been trying to “low carb” a sugar cookie for a couple of weeks now and haven’t found the holy grail, yet. Jess said she found hers so let’s dive in and learn more …
Hello everyone, and a big thank you to C.J. for letting me share my food story with you on her blog! My name is Jess, and I’m a dietetic intern (“RD-To-Be”) slash food blogger over at Floptimism. I started food blogging back in 2009, never dreaming that 2 ½ years later I would not only still be writing, baking, and cooking, but that I would have learned so much about the nuances of food preparation and myself along the way. My food story is much like my own personality – that is, long winded and a little all over the place. When C.J. reached out to her fellow bloggers for their food stories, I thought it would be biting off more than I could chew. But then I scrolled down her post a little further and saw that July 9 th was National Sugar Cookie Day. And then, it clicked: my experience with sugar cookies is my food story. Or rather, it’s a pretty good representation of how far I’ve come in my culinary journey.
It all started New Year’s Eve 2010 when I decided that my resolution would be to devote 2011 to sugar cookies. I saw the breathtaking cookies posted on blogs I admired, like Annie’s Eats and Bake at 350, and I wanted to learn to embrace the creativity and skill that went into them. Going into it, I thought it would take some practice but ultimately wouldn’t be all that challenging. Little did I know!
The first step was just finding The Recipe – forget royal icing, food dye and piping bags. I tried whole wheat, I tried the recipe that Annie herself swears by, I tried a recipe with both “soft” and “chewy” in the name. And all I came up with was disappointment, self-imposed pressure, and more cookies than I knew what to do with. I was getting frustrated. I was guilting myself into baking when I wasn’t in the mood or didn’t really have the time. Before I knew it, 2010 was halfway over and not only were my decorating skills still sub-par, but that holy grail of recipes was nowhere to be found.
July 3rd 2011 was when it all came to a head. I was going to make cookies for the 4th to share with my family. I took the butter out of the freezer to soften, made a list of last-minute ingredients to pick up at the store, and took one last look at the designs I had chosen for the holiday before kicking L out of the house and telling him I was really sorry, but sugar cookies are a full-day endeavor and I didn’t think we’d be able to see much of each other that day. As I closed the door behind him, it hit me like a ton of bricks – I didn’t want to bake sugar cookies that day. I realized that I was pressuring myself to devote a huge amount of my already limited free time doing something that I just wasn’t in the mood to do, and for what? To put a check on my self-made check list of things to do that day, that month, that year. I’m driven, to a fault in fact, and if I create a goal for myself I put blinders on until I reach it. I lose sight of why I made the goal in the first place, and create almost a competition (in which I am the only contestant) to see how persistent and successful I can be. In the moment I took returning the butter to the freezer and placing the flour back on its shelf, I vowed not put myself through that again. I bake because I love it, because it brings me peace and others joy. Sometimes I forget that, but I try not to – not anymore, anyway.
It turns out that before July of that year was through, I found it – The Recipe, cookie perfection, divinity in sweet, buttery form. I read decorating advice and watched how-to videos. I took my time. And when the ball dropped signifying the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012 and I still wasn’t the Martha Stewart of sugar cookies, all I did was smile at how far I had come. I had found my recipe, the beginnings of what I hope will be a skill set upon which I will continue to improve, and – most importantly – my own place in the kitchen. I’m still working on my decorating skills. I still don’t get to practice as much as I probably should to really get better, but that’s ok. I’m done competing with myself. I will not let my food story by a race or a contest. It’s a long walk on a dirt road. It’s an impromptu extended cross-country road trip. It is what I want it to be, because it’s my story and I owe it to myself to write it well.
When I made that resolution back at the end of 2010, I didn’t have a clue of what it would lead to, but now that I do, I couldn’t be happier. Besides, if nothing else, I now have a killer recipe for sugar cookies – soft, buttery, sweet saucers of dessert bliss. I’ve made healthier substitutions to the recipe – white whole wheat flour for the regular all-purpose, a stevia baking blend instead of the white granulated sugar – and they go mostly unnoticed if you still flood them with regular royal icing. But if you want my real confession, the one that the future dietitian in me doesn’t always like to admit, I like them in their fully “sinful” form. They’re rich, but savor them slowly, enjoy each bite, and you won’t regret a single calorie, granule of sugar or gram of fat. These cookies, just like my journey to them, are about letting go of guilt and enjoying the freedom of listening to your body and mind, and living life to the fullest.
Jess – Floptimism
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 sticks salted butter
- 1 egg
- ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- Royal Icing, for decorating
- Preheat the oven to 350 and line several (ideally: not dark) cookie sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
- Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. While those ingredients are mixing, combine the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl and set aside. Once the butter and sugar is a pale yellow and fluffy (you may need to scrape down the bowl every so often), add the egg and extracts and mix to combine. Gradually, with the mixer set on low speed, mix in the flour until just combined. Take care to scrape down the bowl and bottom to make sure that the flour is all incorporated without over-mixing.
- Scoop it out of the bowl, kneading it together briefly as you go, and set on a floured surface for rolling. Roll the cookie out to about ¼-inch thickness and cut into the desired shapes. Place ½-inch apart (they don’t spread much at all) on the prepared baking sheets and freeze for 5 minutes. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, removing before the edges develop any golden-brown coloring; the centers of the cookies may still be soft, but will firm up out of the oven. Allow the baked cookies to sit on the sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.
Source: Bake at 350
Yield will vary based on the size of the cookies; most of mine were relatively small, so a full batch of a more typical, round cookie cutter may yield closer to 3 dozen. The thickness will also impact the yield, of course, but try to keep the cookies relatively thick.