Monday night I hosted my book club discussion of Truman Capote's Breakfast At Tiffany's and other short stories. It's been years since I read Breakfast At Tiffany's and In Cold Blood. I enjoyed reading those books immensely, but the passage of time had blurred my memory of his work. So it was a pleasure to read his short stories and rediscover the way Capote tells a story.
As the book club meeting was the night before Valentine's Day, I incorporated that into the food I served. In particular, I made my first dipped sugar cookies. I know that's old hat to most people, but I've never been one to decorate my cookies beyond sprinkling some finishing sugar over them. Armed with my Martha Stewart recipe for sugar cookies and my new Wilton decorating kit, I entered the fray.
I've never enjoyed rolling out cookies. Usually the dough sticks to the counter surface or falls apart when I try to move the freshly cut cookie dough to the baking sheets. This time I used a nearly foolproof recipe from Martha Stewart, which made rolling out the dough a snap.
Oh, I had plans. Big plans. In my mind, I saw platters of my cookies, shaped into cupids, doves, lips pursed to kiss, and hearts. However, once I finally got to the cutting out part my plans seemed a little grandiose, and given the time, impractical. I limited myself to hearts.
Martha Stewart recommended royal icing, which I detest. It's only good for making gingerbread houses, or re-paving a driveway. Instead I turned to my friend Glenna, a master cake and cookie decorator, who gave me a simple icing that dries to a shiny finish, but doesn't crack your teeth when you eat the cookie.
The first thing I learned is that you should never spill red paste food coloring, because your kitchen winds up looking like a scene from CSI Crime Investigation. But, I eventually managed to dip the top of my cookies into the icing and let them dry. They certainly aren't works of art, but they fit the occasion.
After making the cookies I started hollowing out tiny pattypan squash, which took a considerable amount of time. The picture shows only a fraction of the little buggers. I blame my mom for this kind of behavior. She once made stuffed snow peas and I'm clearly modeling her behavior.
Martha Stewart Sugar Cookies
Makes about 16 large cookies or thirty 2 1/2-inch cookies
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla
1. In a large bowl, sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
2. Use an electric mixer to cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs.
3. Add flour mixture, and mix on low speed until thoroughly combined. Stir in vanilla. Split dough in half and wrap each in plastic; chill for about 30 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 325°. On a floured surface, roll dough out on floured parchment paper to 1/4 inch thick. Put the dough in the freezer for 10 minutes, them remove and cut into desired shapes. Transfer to ungreased baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake until edges just start to brown, 12-15 minutes. Cool on wire racks. May be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
Glenna's Poured Cookie Icing (Wilton)
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
Add all ingredients to mixer bowl. Beat until smooth. Alternate tbsps of
milk and corn syrup until thin enough to invert cookies into icing, let
excess run off, lightly scrape edge where icing is running off against edge
of bowl and lay out flat to dry. Will dry to a hard shiny finish within a
Baby Squash Stuffed With Spinach and Cheese (Williams-Sonoma)
!/4 lb frozen thawed spinach squeezed dry and chopped fine
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 eggs, beaten
2 heaping tablespoons fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup shredded Mahon or Gouda cheese
1/4 teaspoon each salt and ground black pepper
30 baby pattypan squash, about 1 inch in diameter
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with greased foil.
2. Heat olive oil in a skillet and saute onion until lightly browned, about 10 minutes
3. Combine remaining ingredients, except squash, in a bowl and mix well
4. Slice off the stem of each squash, so that it can sit upright. Using a small spoon or melon baller, hollow out each squash.
5, Stuff each squash with about 1/2-1 teaspoon of the stuffing, mounding it slightly on top. Bake until squash is bubbling and slightly browned--about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.