First, thanks to all of you who entered the giveaway! I'm lucky to have such wonderful readers, and I so appreciated the things you said about me and about my blog. I wish I could give you all a prize ... some day, you will have to come over for tea and biscotti. But in the meantime, congratulations to Rebecca, who is the winner of the $25 gift certificate to King Arthur Flour! (Do go visit the site; they were nice enough to actually sponsor this giveaway, and they are a terrific company.) Rebecca was lucky number 15. You should all go read her blog ... she's an amazing woman and a powerful writer. After losing her precious daughter Lillian Grace at 22 weeks, she and her husband are now pursuing embryo adoption. You will read her story, shed tears with her, and be inspired by her ability to hold on to hope.
Each year I hold an open house for the students in my undergraduate research program. There are just shy of 200 of them in the academic year-long program, and by December, I'm usually pleased to see that they're really beginning to get it ... most of them are sophomores, and started out the program with little, if any, knowledge about research (and keep in mind that this encompasses all disciplines, from philosophy to aerospace engineering). As the program has grown, it's become harder and harder for me to get to know all of the students, so the open house is one of my rare opportunities to get feedback from them as a group, and to start feeling out prospective peer advisors for the following year's program.
For the past few years, I've been baking for this event, inspired by a colleague of mine who hosts a technology showcase in December and bakes literally thousands of cookies (what makes it even more incredible is that she's observant Jewish, and she does "Christmas" baking better than most Christmas-celebrating people I know). While I don't bake thousands of cookies, I do bake a few hundred, in about six different varieties.
These sugar cookies are always my first go-to cookie for the holiday season, because they're easy to make, freeze well, and are most popular with the undergrads. They're pretty adaptable for vegans, and if you don't have a rolling pin and cookie cutter, you could always just roll them into 1" balls and flatten them to about 1/4" discs, or roll them out and use a glass to cut them into circles. We usually make stars and trees, which seem fun and festive without being too "Christmassy," something I tend to be wary of, considering the vast diversity of ethnic and religious backgrounds my students represent. (One year I made cows and lobsters, but the students just thought that was too weird. I also have an umbrella cookie cutter, a lighthouse, a fire truck, and a U.S. map. Ian likes that one.)
What's in your oven?
3 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 c. butter or vegan margarine (in this case, lose the salt) or 2/3 c. canola oil
1 t. vanilla
1 slightly beaten egg or EnerG egg replacer
2 T. cream (vegans use coconut milk or vegan cream cheese thinned with just a little bit of water)
Preheat oven to 400.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt (a Cuisinart is great for this if you have one; if not, just use a large bowl and a whisk). Cut in butter, and add the remaining ingredients. Continue to mix until you have a big, fairly stiff ball. Roll out cookies as desired to about 1/4" thickness, cut and decorate with sprinkles if you want (you could also frost them afterward). Place cookies on a baking sheet and 5-8 minutes, or until the edges are just begining to turn brown. Let cool for a minute or two on the baking sheet, and gently remove with a spatula. Eat any of the ones that break as you're taking them off the sheet. It's OK; the calories all fell out of those ones.