Strange thing, how your hands in a bit of dough can soothe you.
After midnight, it was clear that I would not be sleeping. I uploaded all of my travel photos – Disneyland with my mom, but only 12 photos, since we spent most of the time walking and eating and eating and eating and my hands were mostly busy dispensing cash and transporting foodstuffs into my face … more on all of that later – and blog-stalked all my favourite imaginary people, who are all probably real but I can’t see them in real life, and then realized that Nick was asleep and I had no one to talk to and it’s dark and I was bored. And I’m an eater, more than anything else, so to busy myself: Cookies.
Nothing strange about how butter and sugar make everything better. A little lemon and good vanilla don’t hurt either. I tried to make these with a mixer, but it’s very quiet here, so I had to quit. I used my hands instead. Very rustic.
First, measure out half a cup of butter. Don’t use margarine. Margarine never made anything better, ever. Half a cup. It should be room temperature, which, if you’re like me and leave your groceries on the kitchen floor overnight because you’re forgetful, will be normal. The butter is only cold when Nick assists.
Whisk the butter. If it doesn’t whisk, you can cream it with an electric mixer, but work quickly, because it’s noisy and maybe you don’t want everyone in the building to know that you’ve got no will-power. Is it will-power or willpower? Whatever, I can make up words if I want to because it’s late and that’s how I roll.
Zest one lemon into the bowl. Squeeze the juice out into there as well, and then pour a half a cup of white sugar into the mix. Add a teaspoon and a half of good vanilla. The Barefoot Contessa is always talking about “good vanilla,” and I’m not entirely sure what that means. Around here, it’s vanilla from Mexico. Real vanilla, the kind that actually tastes like vanilla when you dab a little drop onto the middle of your tongue. Artificial vanilla extract is the kind of thing you use if you have to bake with margarine, and life is too short to eat weird chemicals unless you’re eating Cheetos or maybe drinking Cherry Coke. I don’t know if Ina Garten would qualify it as good vanilla, but the smell when anything’s baking around here reminds me of bakeries at 7:00 am, all warm and sweet, the kind of aroma that trickles into your nose and tricks your stomach into thinking you’re hungry.
Whisk again, blending everything together. Crack an egg into the bowl, and continue to whisk. Once you’ve got everything thoroughly combined, shake the whisk off and toss it into the sink. If you miss and it lands on the floor, shooting dough hunks everywhere, whatever. Maybe you’ll get mice or something and they’ll run across the floor right when a potential buyer visits to view the place, which your landlord has listed for sale and he’s very nice so you feel conflicted about thinking unkind things especially as the apartment is his and he can do whatever he wants with it, and they’ll be so grossed out that they won’t buy it and you’ll get to stay here forever. You can get an exterminator once it’s official that you’re staying. You can’t whisk dough, and dough is what happens next.
Measure out your flour, a cup and a half, and dump it into the bowl. Measure a quarter-teaspoon of baking soda and a half-teaspoon of salt and add both on top of the flour, and stir with your finger, or perhaps a wooden spoon, until the mix begins to form a ball. Knead it lightly with your hands. Press the soft dough between your fingers, watching as it crests your knuckles and absorbs your hands, like Play Doh, and be sure to taste it, which I also did with Play Doh and doesn’t that explain a lot.
Roll it into a log, about an inch and a half thick. Maybe two inches. The width of a piece of plastic wrap minus an inch on either side. That’s what you want. Roll it up like that, wrap it tightly in the plastic, and throw it into the fridge. If you doubled the batch for sharing, make two logs of equal size.
Turn on your oven, heating it to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour yourself a glass of wine. Maybe watch the last of America’s Got Talent and wonder why the guys who did the Power Rangers dance got roundly dissed by the judges when CLEARLY they were awesome and what does David Hasselhoff know anyway? Not enough to do up his shirt and cover his sparkly dog tag, which should be a secret, especially if it’s been designed for Walmart by Hannah Montana, which it probably was, so maybe I expect too much.
After 30 minutes, at least, you can take the log(s) out of the fridge. At this point, unwrap the dough. If you’d like, you can sprinkle the sides with sugar. I did. “No added sugar?” Not around here.
Using a sharp knife, slice the log into pieces approximately a half-inch thick. You should end up with twelve slices. If you have more, that’s okay. If you have less, that’s okay too, and it’s okay if you’re not good at math because they have apps now for your iPhone that’ll do it for you. There are also still calculators, which is nice.
Bake for ten to twelve minutes, unless you cut these thinner – then cook for six to eight minutes, or unless you cut them thicker, and then give them up to 15 minutes, until the sides and tops are golden and everywhere around you smells like good vanilla. Give them five to ten minutes to cool enough that they won’t burn you when you stuff that first one into your mouth.
The best thing about these cookies is that they pair excellently with a nice Riesling, preferably a French one, from Alsace. Something with a delicate hint of citrus, just enough to make the lemon sparkle. You could drink cold milk with these as well. I guess. You don’t drink wine and eat cookies at midnight on a Tuesday all by yourself? You’re missing out.
And it’s now after one o’clock, which means I have to be up in too few hours. Fortunately, there are cookies for breakfast, and if I’m responsible, maybe a little wine?
Here’s the roundup of ingredients and their measures, for good measure. In case you were paying as much attention to the details reading as I was to the writing …
Lemon Sugar Cookies
(Makes one dozen)
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- Zest and juice of one lemon
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
Bake at 375°F, for ten to 12 minutes.