This post is going to be a little different than the others I’ve published. For this particular post, I had the opportunity to visit an alternative school outside of Portland, Oregon to talk to some of the students about baking, blogging, and King Arthur Flour before they went on Winter Break.
Of course, when talking to kids about baking, you better show up with the goods – in this case, I figured I’d make some shortbread cookies. To make it even more interactive, I used a cookie cutter in the shape of a sweater so the kids could decorate them into “Ugly Holiday Sweater” cookies. I would definitely recommend giving it a try if you have some kids at home with a sweet tooth and a love of arts-and-crafts.
First, I’ll show you how I made the shortbread, then I’ll show you how our day went with decorating and learning about what I do.
As always, here’s the recipe from my copy of the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion:
- 1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup (5 and 1/4 ounces) sugar
- 2 cups (8 and 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
In a medium-sized bowl, cream the butter, salt, and sugar together with a mixer or by hand. Add the flour and blend until the mixture is cohesive. To shape, roll the dough into 1 and 1/2 inch balls, press with a cookie stamp (or the bottom of a glass, dipped in sugar to prevent it from sticking) and chill in the freezer for 30 minutes before baking. Or form the dough into a long roll, 1 and 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter, cover with parchment paper, and freeze until very firm. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’ve made a roll of dough, slice the roll into cookies no thinner than 1/4 inch and prick each cookie with a fork (or stamp with a stamp). You can also press the dough into a shortbread mold; no need to freeze it. Bake on ungreased baking sheets for about 20 minutes. Watch the cookies carefully – when the bottoms are a light sand color, remove them from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Store the cookies in tins lined with waxed or parchment paper. You’ll find that shortbread improves with a little age.
So, here’s how I did it:
I took the two sticks of room-temperature butter, the salt and the sugar, and threw them into the bowl of my Kitchen-Aid mixer.
I then beat them on medium for about 30 seconds.
Next, I dumped in the flour and mixed on medium-low until I had a nice cookie dough.
Next, I took the dough, rolled it into a ball, pressed it down with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar, and cut out my ugly sweater shapes.
So, before I go any further, I’d just like to say that I probably won’t be using a cookie cutter on shortbread again. When I baked the cut out dough, the cookies spread like crazy and didn’t look nearly as pretty as they did before I put them in the oven. That being said, I wanted a cookie recipe that was simple, tasty, and didn’t have any nuts or other potential allergens for the kids. Fortunately, these cookies were supposed to be “ugly” and the kids still had fun decorating and eating them.
Ok, so once I had all my sweater cut-outs, I froze them for 30 minutes. I then preheated the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Next, I arranged the frozen cookies on an ungreased baking pan.
I popped the cookies in the preheated oven and baked them for 20 minutes. After the timer went off, I took the cookies off the pan and set them on a baking rack to cool completely.
There you have it! It was another easy recipe and the cookies tasted incredible.
Here’s how they looked after the students “ugly-fied” them:
They all look like they’re ready for an Ugly Holiday Sweater party, right??? I want to give a special thanks to the students and the staff for letting me share a special morning with them.
Here are a few more photos from the day:
Thanks again for reading, and Happy Holidays!