Chewy Christmas Tree Sugar Cookies

The holiday season is all about cookies!  To kick it off, I’m starting with this pretty simple challenge – the sugar cookie – and using the best cookie cutter shape of all (read: the only cookie cutter shape I have in my kitchen), the Christmas tree.

Yes, there is is only one cookie cutter shape in my entire kitchen, and it only emerges from the depths of my kitchen drawer once a year.  Or Arbor Day, but I always forget when that is.

Also, it’s always fun to make cookies with a friend –  that’s another special ingredient I had for this challenge!

I also admit that I didn’t put a lot of research time into finding this cookie.  This recipe comes from the Food Network website, which I consider pretty trustworthy.

This is what I needed:

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons buttermilk

This is how I feel when I see a recipe that asks for buttermilk:  there is no way that I’m going to buy an entire carton of buttermilk when I’m only going to use it one time for one recipe.  So I had to cheat, and I actually did the research on this:  instead of using buttermilk, I could mix a little bit of vinegar to regular milk.  That’s my buttermilk substitute and that’s what I’m going to do.

So what’s the difference between using buttermilk and regular milk?  I really wanted to know.  Buttermilk is more acidic than regular milk, which is neutral in pH, and the acid is what helps activate the baking soda.   To make the science happen, you’ve got to add a bit more baking soda when using buttermilk because baking powder requires a lower pH to work to it’s full power.  That’s why there’s more baking soda in this recipe!

tree buttermilk

So here we go.  What do I always do first?  Mix those dry ingredients together!  That means the flour, baking soda, and baking powder.

Then in another bowl, the butter and sugar were mixed, followed by the egg and vanilla.  Although I made a mistake here and went ahead and put in the buttermilk.  I hoped it wouldn’t make a difference (I was supposed to add it after the dough was made).  Then I added the dry ingredients.

There I am getting my hands dirty.  For some reason I prefer to mix cookie dough with my hands.  It feels right.  This recipe didn’t say I should chill the dough, but I really felt like this dough needed to stiffen a bit in order for it to be good for cookie-cutting.  So I made it hang out with the Haagen Dazs for about 30 minutes.

tree mix and freeze

After flouring a rolling pin, and the entire counter, I flattened out the dough.  My friend went to town with the cookie cutter.

tree cut outs

Then it was time to put it in the oven for about 10 minutes.

tree baked

This cracked me up.  The cookies grew and flattened out a bit, making it look like they were holding hands…or uncomfortably smooshed together.  This is a very friendly forest of trees.

My friend and I didn’t get a chance to decorate the cookies.  But if I had more time, I would have decorated them like so:

tree decorated

Something like this.  The silver tree needs some love, it looks like.

Even though they came out oddly-shaped, they actually came out chewy, just like the recipe title promised.  I was happy about this, because I’ve learned that recipes on the internet aren’t properly named most of the time.  I think they were in the oven for the perfect amount of time, too, because they didn’t come out super crispy on the edges and it had a nice golden color to them.  The milk and vinegar combo is a really good substitute for buttermilk.  The cookies came out just fine without the real stuff!

Presentation:  Good…if I meant to have fat trees.
Edibility:  Indeed!
Tastiness:  I’m not a huge sugar cookie fan, but these actually came out ok!
Rematch?:  I think so!

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