In our last thrilling installment of The Simple Year, we magically turned cane and turbinado sugars into brown sugar and powdered sugar. I was excited that it worked, although I figured I couldn’t actually celebrate it as a true win until I used both in a recipe. If this is going to be something I keep up in the future, it’s gotta actually work as viable replacements for their packaged counterparts.
I had a few criteria to meet as I flipped through just about every cookbook I own, searching for something suitable: I wanted one recipe that would use both brown and powdered sugars, it had to use other ingredients I already had in the pantry, and it had to be something I could take to the Christmas party we’re attending on Saturday, but also something we could sample ahead of time to make sure it tasted okay. Um, and also so I could share the results here.
I finally settled on “Spiced Slices” from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook — which I purchased in 1995, the year Eric and I got married — because it looked like a holiday-esque kind of cookie that could be frosted. It wasn’t until I was up to my elbows in flour and sugar and eggs and the like that I realized I maybe should have tried a recipe I’d made before so I could compare tastes.
Well, what could happen?
1/2 cup butter — Amish butter wrapped in paper
1/2 cup shortening — plastic, yet recyclable, tub
2 1/4 cups flour — bulk
1/2 cup sugar — wrapped in paper
1/2 cup brown sugar — my boss homemade brown sugar!
1 egg — Beth’s chickens
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon — bulk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda — bulk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla — homemade
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg — bulk
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves — bulk
In an electric mixer, beat butter and shortening on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add flour, sugars, egg, cinnamon, soda, vanilla, nutmeg and cloves. Beat until thoroughly combined. Shape into two 7-inch rolls. Wrap and chill for 5 to 24 hours. Cut into 1/4-inch slices. Place 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 375º oven for about 8 minutes or until edges are golden. Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute; remove and cool on rack. Makes 60.
There are recipes out there, like THIS ONE from Better Homes and Gardens, but basically I just toss a few tablespoons of softened butter in a bowl, and a generous scoop of powdered sugar, and incorporate the two together. Then I add a splash/gush of milk and a glug of vanilla and mix until smooth, then keep adding powdered sugar until I get the consistency I want. I mean, we’re talking butter and sugar. It literally can’t taste bad no matter what you do to it.
TRISHA TRIES IT: First of all, my butter is wrapped in paper and not premeasured. So I eyeball it. I figure it’s probably going to work out, and it generally does. I don’t measure my vanilla either (it’s homemade, I have a quart of that stuff, I am not rationing). Also, I feel kind of bad about the plastic tub of shortening, but I use it so rarely that a tub lasts me a long time and at least it’s recyclable?
I was a tad surprised when I opened up the brown sugar jar and noticed that it was just as light and fluffy as it was the day I made it (which was, to be honest, just the day before). All those spices smelled great. The brown sugar also smelled great. The dough mixed up just fine and fairly quickly too.
The one part that made me scratch my head for a moment was the whole “wrap and chill” part. I thought about using my Silpat, but then decided to just sprinkle powdered sugar in a kitchen towel and call it a day. I read that tip somewhere — instead of dusting a surface with flour, use powdered sugar (although that’s only a good tip if you’re making something sweet). And because I only wanted to use one towel, I made one big ol’ log.
And then I let it chill in the fridge until the next evening. Fun fact: It was easy to slice the dough, but I ended up with 41 slices because math is hard.
Yadda yadda yadda, I made the frosting while the cookies baked. I didn’t think of this ahead of time, but because I’d used turbinado sugar, my icing ended up being tan-ish. I kind of like it. It tastes a little more … what? More caramel-y than my usual powdered sugar, but is slightly grainy. I could have sifted it again, I suppose, but in my defense, sifting is boring.
Once the cookies were cool, I took it upon myself to seek out a couple of rejects. This is a Walker tradition — you eat the ugly cookies first. And obviously I had to eat two, one with frosting and one without, because how else could I give an honest opinion?
Well, I ended up eating three because this is a job I take very seriously. The recipe didn’t call for frosting, mind you, I just liked how that sounded — and not to brag or anything about my ingenuity, but that was a good call. The cookies are fine by themselves, but really great with frosting, probably because of the increased sugar content. Anyway, Eric’s assessment was: “That’s awesome!” I worried they looked too plain for a party, and he suggested sprinkles. Um, those are not zero waste, darling, plus then I wouldn’t be able to eat them. (No artificial colors, flavors or preservatives for me if I want to live. And I do.) Plain isn’t so bad. Right?
I can’t detect any sort of difference with the brown sugar. The powdered sugar tastes a bit different and is a little grainy even in frosting, but still, I’m happy with these results. I think I just found my bulk sustainable option!
Next up: Plastic bag ban!