Alaska: Earl Grey Cookies (two delicious versions)

earlgreycookiestackIn The Yule Log 365’s year-long quest to make one popular cookie from each of the 50 states, I drew ALASKA from the jar of the 50 possibilities.  Hallelujah!  I was excited to make Earl Grey Tea Cookies, first suggested by my dear friend, Lauren Vint.  I found a recipe on “Alaska from Scratch,” and the same recipe was published on Alaska Dispatch News.  I served the cookies with tea to my mother, my dad, and my sister.  The vote was three thumbs up.

One stumbling block was the scraped vanilla bean.  I admit that I thought a vanilla bean was like a coffee bean, and I would need to use a grater, like a coffee grinder.  After research and a YouTube video, I figured out that a coffee bean is an elongated, thin pod that must be cut and scraped. The flavor beats vanilla extract. Mel’s Kitchen Cafe posted a YouTube video with simple instructions for scraping the pod. Amazing!  (Obviously, my experience level is basic.)vanillabean

We rolled the cookies in tablespoon-sized balls dipped in Turbinado sugar.  The resulting butter cookie with a light tea flavor was amazing.  We used the same dough, refrigerated and rolled with flour to 1/4 inch think, for a lemon frosted cookie.  Both had delicious flavor, and the taste of each was distinct.  I tested them on Jeremy, Roger, Lauren, and a few random students–all agreed that eating just one or two is impossible.

We are sure to add them to our Christmas cookie plan next year.lemonfrosted

The 50-state Christmas Cookie Challenge: Chicago Public Schools Butter Cookie Recipe

butter-cookie-finalAfter five years of Merry Christmas partnership, Jeremy and I decided we needed something to inspire us to revitalize The Yule Log 365.  Jeremy saw a list of 50 Christmas cookies unique to the 50 states and sent it to me through Facebook. It was an interesting list, and it gave us the idea that we should launch a challenge for ourselves–50 weeks of cookies, state by state.

Here’s our plan.  Every two weeks, Jeremy and I will draw two states from a reindeer-decorated jar.  Each of us will research and bake a Christmas cookie, connected to that state, in the 14-day window.  Then, individually, we will post our results and the recipes, offering a review of the cookies and their potential for being added to your favorites for Christmas 2017.

I pulled Illinois.  To be honest, I was thinking of a state a little more exotic–Alaska, Hawaii, Alabama.  A search of Illinois cookies revealed multiple hits for “Chicago Public Schools Butter Cookie Recipe.”  That intrigued me because I am a public school teacher, and I love the cookies our cafeteria employees bake.  Many people referenced the nostalgia of the smell and taste of these cookies.  I found a video on YouTube that illustrates the very simple steps.

To celebrate Illinois and my cookie choice, I invited my dear friend Lauren Vint to bake our recipe.  The ingredients are simple–deceptively simple for a Christmas cookie.

Chicago Public Schools Butter Cookie ingredients.

Chicago Public Schools Butter Cookie ingredients.

We used the KitchenAid mixer, which is an excellent mixer, but I don’t know if we got “cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy” to the degree that it should have been creamed. I remember my grandmother describing the creaming process as key to success, and often she used her hands to incorporate and melt the sugar and butter. I think the batter was a little sticky, and pressing the cookies down with a glass dipped in sugar was challenging.

The baking time was exact, and the cookies were a beautiful golden brown around the edges.  Plain, but pretty.  The taste was satisfying, but not spectacular.  These are good butter cookies, but I wonder if I should have used salted butter, rather than  unsalted.  The taste was a not quite as rich as I had expected, and the aftertaste was not memorable.

I think the cookie would be more excellent if it was frosted–more like a sugar cookie.  Maybe I just like more sweet than the simple cookie delivers. Maybe I need to be the student product of Chicago Public Schools?  I am saving some butter cookies for Jeremy to taste and pronounce his judgement.

I’m looking forward to 49 more weeks of cookie adventure.  Does anyone have any experience with this recipe?  Tell us what you think.