My Pops turned 89 this week. That’s a substantial birthday. But not to my father.
If you ask my father how was his day, he’ll say, “Just like any other.” Same is true for his birthday. It’s just another day to him. He could care less about a card. There’s no excitement at the sight of a birthday cake. And he has no desire to go out and celebrate the date he was born.
But the truth was revealed when he turned 80. We surprised him with a birthday party. I thought he would just brush it off when everyone yelled “SURPRISE”. But that’s not what happened.
When the doors opened, and everyone yelled the word, he was completely overcome with emotion. He turned and started to walk away, back hunched over and head down. When I saw his face, I thought he was going to have a heart attack. That’s when I knew…his birthday does matter.
This year, I planned to make a simple white cake with blue icing. Blue is his favorite color. One thing I will tell you about making a white cake: for purity, it’s best to use just egg whites. To me, even a little bit of yolk changes the hue of the batter, and ultimately, the cake.
So great. Now what to do with the yolks.
Cracked Sugar Cookies to the rescue.
Working at a cookware store can be a blessing. And a curse. I have a ton of cookbooks. And one of those books is Lee Bailey’s Country Desserts. When I was working at Williams-Sonoma years ago, I came across this cookbook. And it has a simple sugar cookie recipe that does NOT require rolling out the dough. You simply roll the dough between your hands to form dough balls.
When the cookies bake, they have a cracked surface on top. The texture is crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. And you can taste the vanilla and the butter. Do NOT try to make this cookie with margarine or some other faux fat. You need real fat for this cookie!
There are two distinctive details about this recipe.
1. Only yolks. There are no egg whites in this recipe. If you make this recipe, you’ll need to find another use for whites. You can make a soft egg white omelet. Or make some crisp meringues. Or make a white cake with blue icing.
2. Cream of tartar. It’s an acid created by the fermentation of grapes. When added to a recipe with baking soda, they both activate and create this wonderful texture, along with the butter and sugar.
I usually do nothing to these cookies…except eat them. But I have occassionally applied a thin layer of frosting on top. And I once made the mistake of making making a cookie sandwich. Waaaayyy too much sugar. Don’t attempt this even in your own home. Especially with unsupervised children. They will become sugar drunk within minutes.
Cracked Sugar Cookies
A tender, buttery sugar cookie that you don’t have to roll out.
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour
- Preheat oven to 350°. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Or lightly grease.
- Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg yolks and vanilla. Sift all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Or place them in a bowl and stir together to combine. Using a scoop or dry measuring cup, add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture until combined.
- Form dough into balls about the size of a walnut. Place on the cookie sheet at least 2 inches apart. Place the sheet in the oven and bake for about 5 minutes. Turn the sheet and bake for about 5 to 6 minutes more. The cookies should have a cracked surface on top and starting to brown around the edges. Allow to cook for 3 to 5 minutes before removing cookies and placing them on a rack to finish cooling.
- This recipe makes 40 – 48 cookies depending on the size of the dough balls.