Thursday, March 17, 2011

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies for St. Patrick’s Day

“Irish food,” so my 1979 book on Irish Cooking tells me, “tends to be high in caloric content and is intended to satisfy even the heartiest working man.” Indeed, I love to eat their traditional offerings at one of our many Irish pubs in San Francisco, but I just don’t cook like that at home. Oh sure, I can make a nice soda bread, and I do eat oatmeal every day for breakfast. But this year for St. Patrick’s Day, I’m off the hook anyhow: I’m going to a friend’s house – and he really knows how to make the stew, the corned beef, and the cabbage dishes that everyone expects. So my contribution will be some green sugar cookies. Green, see? Irish. There.

Not that I wasn’t tempted by plenty of the recipes in the book: “craibechan of the sea”, for example. (?) “Balnamoon skink” (??), or rabbit in stout (well, OK I do love stout, and rabbit can be tasty, but there is no WAY I am getting away with cooking that around my 6 year old!). I’ve also tried some of the baked items in the past, but plain old sugar cookies just seemed like a fun (and more familiar) thing for my daughter to help with, and BOY did she get a kick out of watching the dough turn green with each mighty little drop of food coloring.

The idea was to make lovely green shamrock cookies, but when I looked for the shamrock cookie cutter, alas: it was nowhere to be found. I have tons of cutters, though, so we selected the medium sized Adias symbol (thank you: that is the Adidas-symbol-as-cookie-cutter, a gift-with-purchase from trainers I paid way too much for at their boutique in Georgetown, not a pot leaf!) and it suited us just fine. (Note to self: the more detailed the cutter, the more of a pain in the neck it is to cut out the shapes! I must get rid of the “cute” shapes that are more trouble than worth, such as the tea pot, the high-heeled shoe, and the guitar. NOT WORTH IT!) We also made some plain sugar cookies, because there came a time in the evening when mommy had had JUST ABOUT ENOUGH of the rolling and cutting and rolling and cutting and rolling and cutting, and I made the executive decision to do the final third of the dough in balls rolled in green sugar. Aren’t cookie cutters cute? Isn’t it a pain to cut out 6 dozen cookies? This is exactly why I make so many recipes for drop cookies. Still, when I have the energy, these are just about the best. Not too sweet, with a hint of almond – perfect with tea or coffee. Or Guiness!

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

1 cup sugar
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 (3 oz) package cream cheese, softened
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. almond extract
½ tsp. vanilla
1 egg yolk
2 cups flour
3 Tbsp colored sugar, if desired

In large bowl, combine sugar, butter, cream cheese, salt, almond extract, vanilla and egg yolk; blend well. Lightly spoon flour into measuring up; level off. Stir in flour until well blended. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate 2 hours for easier handling.
Heat oven to 375F. On lightly floured surface, roll out dough 1/3 at a time to 1/8” thickness. (Keep remaining dough refrigerated.) Cut into desired shapes with lightly floured 2 ½” cookie cutters. Place 1” apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Leave cookies plain or, if desired, sprinkle with colored sugar.
Bake at 375F for 7 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheets; cool completely. If desired, frost and decorate plain cookies.
Yield: 6 dozen (2-inch) cookies

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