I apologize in advance, Seattle, for what I’m about to say. But someone has to say it. Otherwise, who’s going to teach you what real weather is?
You’re soft, city. Soft, and pathetic, and unprepared. Three inches of snow is no reason to cancel school. You want a snow emergency? Try 46 inches of snow in 48 hours. That’s a reason to change the bus routes. Or snow, followed by ice so thick it suffocates tree branches, weighs them down, and causes them to tumble into the road, snapping power to thousands of people for days on end. That’s a storm. Winter of ’05 on Cape Cod was a reason to cook on the wood stove:
But this? Hardly. Buck up, Seattle. Or at least save your skis for a teensy bit more snowfall.
I know, I know. A town with no snow removal infrastructure has no reason to be embarrassed for acting like this. It’s just the way things work here. And even though in my brain, I’m horrified to live in a city where no one knows how to drive on crispy, crunchy roads, my heart feels a little differently.
Funny thing, time. It’s only our third winter here, and somehow a few inches of white is now enough to bring on that snow day exuberance. What before I might have considered nothing more than a day’s forecast is now cause for celebration—baking, and extra cups of tea, and frequent calls to neighbors and friends. Can you believe this?, we ask. As if it’s some sort of record-breaker.
So yes, it’s pathetic. But it’s also kind of nice. The whole world seems to have banded together, as is usually the case with emergencies, only there’s no actual emergency.
A friend’s day care was canceled, and the friend had an appointment she couldn’t miss. I happened to have a recipe assignment for a kids’ magazine, and needed a tester. We decided I’d spend the morning cooking with Abi, who’s two.
We finished my assignment in about 20 minutes. We needed another project. I set out to make the ugly cookies I told you about—you know, the ones that mean well, and could never be confused with Christmas ornaments. Being totally cranky about holiday cookies doesn’t mean that you can’t make cookies at all, does it?
Well, really, I tried to make an ugly version of some very pretty cookies that caught my eye a few days ago, over at 101cookbooks.com. They were sugar cookies, basically, only made with part cream cheese instead of all butter, and spiked with rye flour, for a more Scandinavian flavor. Heidi cut hers into cute little wreaths, but I thought Abi and I could most certainly make something decidedly less adorable.
I changed a few things. I used all whole wheat pastry flour, instead of Heidi’s rye, to erase any real sense of the exotic. I dumped some cardamom in instead of the cinnamon Abi requested. Small things, but enough to make the recipe a bit more kid-friendly, I thought.
I also did as much incorrectly as I possibly could. Have you invited a toddler to hold your rolling pin recently? I hadn’t. They mash. They squish. They beat. But they do not roll.
I don’t often see cookie recipes that start the rolling out instructions with something like this: Place your gently refrigerated cookie dough on a clean counter. Instead of dusting the dough lightly with flour, pat flour in tablespoon-sized mounds into dough, until you’re certain you’ve ruined it and are positive the dough has warmed up enough to glue itself to the counter regardless of how much more flour you might add. Then find a heavy object (anything will do), and beat the dough into a bloody pulp, taking care that no two square inches of the dough have similar thicknesses. It’s best if you can create a sort of wavy, white cap-like texture, with dimples at the edges where you’ve used your fingers as part of the creative process.
But that’s just what we did. Then, to my surprise, after a few quick folds and rerolls, the dough sprung back into perfect shape while said toddler wrestled the sugar box open. No problem, I thought. I’ll let her cut the cookies out, and we’ll have delicious cardamom-scented dough scraps. Our cookies would still pass the ugly test.
But no matter how many times I turned my back, she made perfect little snowflakes with my dull cookie cutters. She severed a few in half, but was thrilled to discover that any imperfection could be smashed and rerolled, over and over again. And those cookies, they took a beating and just kept getting more beautiful.
I didn’t let the cookies cool before handing Abi the powdered sugar, either, so the magical dusting that drew me to the recipe in Heidi’s photos looked more like a dumping. (The kid wasn’t exactly light-handed with the sugar.)
But if you’re selling a toddler a cookie on the basis of the name “snow cookies,” and it’s snowing outside, clumpy is hardly an issue. And truthfully, they still looked great.
So much for the ugly. Will try harder next time.
Based on Heidi Swanson’s recipe for Swedish Rye Cookies, published on 101cookbooks.com, these cream cheese-and-butter cookies roll out beautifully, and hold up well to abuse by the most aggressive rolling pin. I used all whole wheat pastry flour, because with all that sugar on top, no one will notice if your cookies are ever so slightly more healthy (plus, the pastry flour makes them nice and delicate).
Of course, you can cut them into any shape you’d like, but on a snow day, ruffled edges and showers of sugar do a great job of mimicking what’s happening outside.
TIME: 25 minutes active time
MAKES: 3 dozen 2- to 3-inch cookies
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (4 ounces) regular cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
All-purpose flour, for rolling
Powdered sugar, for snow
Whisk the flour, cardamom, and salt together in a small bowl and set aside. In the work bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until light, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and whip another 2 minutes.
With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture a few scoops at a time, and mix until all the dry stuff at the bottom of the bowl is incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl a few times while mixing, if necessary. Using your hands, press the dough into a ball. Transfer it to a sheet of wax paper, flatten it into a disc, wrap the wax paper around the dough, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats, and set aside.
Lightly dust a clean work surface and a rolling pin with the all-purpose flour. Using only as much additional flour as is required to prevent the dough from sticking, roll the dough out to roughly 1/4” thickness. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters, transfer to the prepared sheets, and bake for about 8 minutes, until just tinged brown at the edges but not actually brown. (I was just able to start smelling the cardamom.) Cool 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks, and sift powdered sugar “snow” over the tops while cookies are still a bit warm. Allow cookies to cool completely.