Monday, February 25, 2013

Statues for the Big Night

I like to read about cooking as much as I like actually cooking. I find it inspiring, and often learn new tricks, techniques or food combinations through my research. As you are most likely aware, this weekend was the 85th Academy Awards. I use any excuse to cook up a glamorous multi-course meal and what better excuse than the Oscars. In the end, my beloved and I turned the meal into a "the Taste"-style contest, pitting our skills against each other, serving up only one tantalizing bite of each dish...but more on that later. During my research into Oscar-themed menus, I came across the lovely Bakerella's Oscar statue cookies, and felt they would be the perfect addition to our evening of celebrating good food and great movies.

It required a little more thinking and substitution, since I was working with a limited pantry. Tomorrow is grocery day, so the pantry is a little empty, and we challenged ourselves to create our menus using only what was in the house. It's a great way to use up leftover bits in the fridge, and discover foodstuffs long forgotten in the dark recesses of the cupboard. However, it meant I was missing key ingredients for Oscar sugar cookies, like eggs.  Nevertheless, I was determined to make the fancy little statues.
I used the template Bakerella provided, shrinking it to half its size, and transferred the image to a laminated bookmark I had on hand. After rolling out my sugar cookie dough, I used the bookmark shape and a sharp knife to cut out the cookie men. Who needs cookie cutters!?
Then I chose a round cutter larger than the statue's foot to cut out a base, and marked the opening using the template.
I cut a rectangle-shaped opening in each base. I figured this would help the statue sit in the base more solidly.
Before baking, I sprinkled the men with yellow decorating sugar. When it comes to frosting, I am horrible. My skills are nonexistent, probably from a lack of trying. Therefore, I cheat. I decided not to color the dough, so sugar was the next best thing. Plus, nothing makes sugar cookies better than more sugar!
Then I forgot to take the cookies out of the oven when the timer went, so my Oscars are a little sunburned. That's what I get for being distracted by pretty dresses. Toasty!
See those round bases? That's the color you cookies should be after baking. Not brown. Got it? Good.

I cooled the cookies, then got to work assembling. Again, too lazy for icing, but I decided the next best thing would be to glue the two pieces of the statue together with a generous layer of melted chocolate. Better than icing? I think so. Also, it makes a much better compliment to a cup of coffee at the end of the evening.
I made sure to fill the hole in the cookie with chocolate. Chances were that the cookies would not fit together perfectly, but the cooled chocolate would not only fill in the void, it would stick the statue onto base. I gently fit the two pieces together on a pan line with waxed paper and left them to set.
The result? A success, if you ask me. Sure, they aren't  perfect, but I have an idea how to fix that next time, and they were very tasty. Too bad we were so stuffed at the end of the night that we couldn't enjoy more!

(On a side note, I was very happy with the entire Academy Awards this year. All my favorite movies won in the categories they merited. Argo received top honors, which was well-deserved. And, Seth McFarlane wasn't half-bed, either, and that's saying a lot when you realize that I can't stand anything he's done.)

Eggless Sugar Cookies
(makes 10 complete Oscar statues)

1 2/3 c. flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. butter, softened
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla and milk. Slowly add in the flour, baking powder and salt. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, one piece twice as large as the other.

Place the larger piece of dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough to 1/4-inch thick. Remove the top sheet of waxed paper. Using the awards show statue template, cut out 10 statue tops and transfer them to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with yellow decorator's sugar, gently pressing the sugar into the surface of the dough with your fingers. Bake for 9-10 minutes, or until very lightly golden around the edges.

Roll out the smaller section of dough between the sheets of waxed paper and cut out 10 2-inch circles. Using the template, mark the center and width of the statue onto the base. Use a sharp knife to cut a 1/4-inch thick rectangle of dough out of each base. Place on a baking sheet and bake as above. Cool cookies on a wire rack.

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