Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Operation Cookie Drop - Part I (Cream Cheese)

A friend suggested I participate in Operation Cookie Drop, and so last night, I baked many dozen cookies for a soldier overseas. (After a frustrating experience with the nearest post office (it being cloesd until August 31)), I mailed them this afternoon and even had enough leftover for my Wonderful Love to have some :) Renee said she didn't save any for her boys, but I also couldn't fit anymore into the box :]
The idea was to make cookies from scratch that remind you of home, so that the soldier feels a little less far away. I decided I wanted to make three different kinds of cookies 1) so that I only had to do single batches and 2) for more variety for my soldier.
The first cookie that came to mind when I thought of home was cream cheese cookies! I don't think this is a very common cookie in most homes, but growing up, it was a staple for us.
[Momma made so many cookies every year before Christmas that, even being a big family that had lots of people over and gave away plates of cookies anytime we went somewhere, we still had plenty of cookies come Christmas day and the whole Christmas season. I think she got the recipe from her Mother, since these seemed to be a comfort treat for her, too.]
I think one of the reasone cream cheese cookies remind me of home is because Momma never let us use the cookie press (we probably would have messed them up anyway). We could help mixing up the dough, and we always got the lick the beaters :) She would also let us pick out the discs for the shape of cookie she was going to press.
[For my cookies, I picked a flower/wreath thingy. I figured it's good for any seasons.] So Momma would fit the disc in and screw that to the front of the cylinder. Then she'd fill it with dough (which, 'round Christmas, was usually colored--red, green, or blue (for snowflakes!)) and begin to press.
And we would sit and watch her press cookie after cookie after cookie. When she ran out of dough in the cylinder she would refill it, sometimes mixing colors of dough, sometimes changing the disc in the press. As she pressed the cookies out, she would let us sprinkle them with the decorations we had all picked out. Red Hots on green wreaths; silver dragees [we never called them that] on the red flowers and bee-hive type things, and for the eye of the camels; blue sprinkles on snowflakes; etc., etc.
[I used red, white, and blue sprinkles for mine, since they're July cookies.]
Cream cheese cookies were always nice to munch on because they weren't too big. Even for little kids (or big kids with tiny mouths), they're just the right size for popping the whole cookie in your mouth. I like the soft buttery crumble of the cookie and the crunch of the decorations. These are also nice cookies (especially for gifts and holidays) because they're pretty easy to make and the cookies (almost) always turn out so beautiful!
If you don't have a cookie press, cookie stamps work, too (that's what I used before I got this nifty press [just like Momma's!] on ebay several months ago). Just roll the cookie dough into 1" balls and press with the stamp (which you may have to oil to keep the cookie from sticking). If you don't have cookie stamps, you can use the bottom of a cup to press the ball down, and put colored sprinkles on them (or just white sugar, that's pretty, too).
Here's the recipe if you want to try it :)
1 c crisco (I used a nice shortening from Whole Foods that's "heart healthy" or whatever)
3 oz. cream cheese
1 c sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c flour
Cream shortening, sugar, and egg. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Place dough in cookie press and go to town!
Or: roll dough into 1" balls and place on cookie sheet. Press down with cookie stamps (such as these).
Or: roll dough into 1" balls and flatten with the bottom of a drinking glass brushed with oil and dipped in sugar
Bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Let cool before removing from cookie tray (the pieces of dough can fall apart if you're not careful). [If you put the cookies on parchment paper on the sheet, you can just slide the cookies onto a cooling rack and use the tray again.]

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