Saturday, January 12, 2013

"Crack" Cookies Recipe

By sharing this recipe with you, I may, inadvertently, be killing all hopes of a social life. I can't tell you the number of times I've been invited to a party and the host on the phone says, "Oh and you'll bring the cookies, right?" I got this recipe from my mom, who got it from her friend Elaine. So the proper name for these guys is" "Elaine's Sugar Cookie Cutouts," but friends have given them the nickname of "crack" cookies and it stuck. I love making them because they are the most decadent, easy to make, and down right addictive morsels you will ever sample. They are essentially a rich buttery almond-flavored shortbread and their nickname comes from the fact that they are very delicate and break easily- also they are made with an obscene amount of powdered sugar. Let's begin, shall we?

THE INGREDIENTS (AKA "Usual Suspects")
  • 3 cups sifted confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) salted or unsalted butter @ room temperature -> many bakers argue that you've got to use unsalted...but I'm a rebel by nature 
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 5 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 2 eggs
I've actually given you the ingredient list for a double batch (which will make around 3 dozen cookies). My motto is "GO BIG OR GO HOME," but usually I just do both!
I just need to take a moment and say that I am in love with almond extract. It might be my most favorite of extracts, right next to vanilla, of course :) It gives the cookies that special punch and people always think I spent a fortune on almond paste and I smile and say, "it's just the good ol' almond extract..." Hey, that could be a ol' timey song title: "In the Good Ol' Almond Extract"...sorry the "crack" cookies make me go all whimsical.


  • Beat butter and powdered sugar until well blended
  • Add eggs, vanilla and almond extracts, beat until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes) -> see picture above :)
  • Combine dry ingredients and add to batter, stir to blend
  • Divide dough into 4 balls and put each between waxpaper and roll to flatten
  • Refrigerate about three hours to overnight (yes, you can freeze the dough and use it later)
***here's a tip...if you plan on leaving these in the fridge overnight, you may want to also put them in a ziplock bag. One time I didn't and there were onions in the fridge and I ended up with onion/almond flavored cookies...they were not so good...I still ate them...

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Take out the dough when you are ready to roll (you want it to be as cool as possible when it goes into the oven) -> warning you will want to eat all of the dough because it tastes like heaven
  • To avoid eating all the dough, you can make a pig man face out of the leftovers and tell yourself, "You cannot eat the pig man. He has feelings. He has a nose. He is the pig man." But you will eat the pig man and you will feel very little remorse about it.
  • Roll on lightly floured surface (the wax paper if you want to skip on clean up) to 1/8" thickness...sometimes if it's been a rough day I make it a 1/4" and go to town!
  • Dip cookie cutter in flour and cut into shapes -> generally I just use a 2 inch circle shape because these cookies don't always take so well to the fancy shapes
  • Bake at 375 F for 7-8 minutes on lightly greased cookie sheets 
  • Watch the cookies like a pastry hawk because you must take them out of the oven at the first sight of golden-ness!


  • 2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract (yum!)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • food coloring (if you're feeling fancy)
This icing can tend to be a bit thin, so feel free to add more powdered sugar until you get your desired consistency. 

Some plain janes
Some mellow yellows
Some Ghostbuster Greens
You can even go crazy and do red. Warning: you will feel like you are in a Scorcese film...
You can even go completely beserk and make a "Twister" board like I did for a recent game night. Right hand- blue!

So, there you have it. The most insanely addictive cookies you will ever try. But, don't take my word for it :) 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Post Christmas Post: Donuts & Capra

Happy post Holiday post, everyone! This holiday season was delightful and weird (I broke my cellphone, got in a car crash, and caught a terrible cold all in the same week). But, did I let that hold me back? I think not! Ever walk into a Krispy Kreme's and said, "I need 13 dozen, please"? I highly recommend it.
My family's annual caroling party calls for lots of donuts and sausages (my parents don't get symbolism)...but they do get the holiday spirit :)
 Best part about the holidays is getting to reconnect with friends and family. KGB made it back from NYC in time for the party! Love this lady!
More of my favorite peeples. Right after this photo was taken, we had our "indoor" caroling which culminates in a rousing rendition of the 12 days of Christmas (complete with interpretive dance)
KD was able to make it this year for the first time! We were pretty excited about it.
 Schmitzie & Andrew: they have the best smiles :) 
The evening would not be complete without a late night conversation about t.v. shows & ghost stories. Do not read about the haunted ebay painting or will never sleep again (sorry Marcos!)
And now for Christmas Eve! For the last five years, we've been going up to see It's a Wonderful Life at the Stanford Theatre- it's so magical & I lurve it. Before the movie, we eat at the Peninsula Creamery (a Palo Alto landmark). My grandparents actually used to go there after school & get milkshakes, so it's full of great memories.
Here we are: Gramps & Lo & Stephen, Hayley!
Nothing says Joyeux Noel like a tuna melt, nothing!
Fierce cousins (ok Lo is fierce & I am quizzical)
Movie time! You know the story behind It's a Wonderful Life, right? It was directed by the brilliant Frank Capra and released in 1946, but it bombed. Like big time bombed because everyone came in expecting a light frothy comedy & instead they got well, kind of a dark & deep existential crisis about a man contemplating suicide. It wasn't until years later that the film started being shown on television (because it was dirt cheap to get the rights to) & people realized just how brilliant and special a movie it truly is. The Stanford Theatre has been showing it on Christmas Eve for years & it's become a tradition for many Bay Area families. We always tell people we attend the Church of Capra on Christmas Eve because there is this really amazing vibe in the audience- it feels like a small town of sentimental movie lovers :)
People start lining up hours before hand, so Hayley made a huge pan of butterscotch blondies & passed them out to the crowd. They were still warm (the blondies, not the crowd- we were freezing).
The Stanford Theatre might just be one of the most magical places in the world & on Christmas Eve it doesn't hold back. For $7 a ticket, you get to see It's a Wonderful Life & have all the free popcorn and soda you want!!! That's the spirit- atta boy, Clarence!
They even have a giant tree in the lobby covered with "stars" of the silver screen :)
The Stanford Theatre has an organ complete with organist who comes out and plays before the show. Here are Schmitzie, Hayley, Ang & me rocking out to his hip tunes-
 Stephen & Sahar- aka the adorable couple
Can you get over how gorgeous this space is? Then the movie starts...
 By the end of the movie, I am always a sobbing mess. I just start hugging everyone around me. They show this cool movie ad from 1937, thanking the patrons for their business & wishing them continued movie fun in the coming year. I think it's just an excuse to give us all time to compose ourselves post Frank Capra induced emotional melt down. I hope you all had a magical, memorable holiday season & "Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends."