Once upon a time, there was a brave and valiant little prince named Liam, and he was loved by millions of people (though some knew him only by proxy). He was a beautiful Prince, sweet as a garden pea and gentle as a spring day. But one sad, sad day, when he was just 2 1/2 years old, Prince Liam the Brave fell ill. As he fought with all his might against the Terrible Dragon Named Cancer, the little Prince endured days upon weeks of painful treatments with nary a complaint.
One day, while holding her sick child, Prince Liam’s mother realized there just had to be a cure for Prince Liam and for all the children in the land who were battling against the evil Dragon. And so it was that Prince Liam’s parents organized a giant bake sale. In just three weeks, supporters baked 96,000 cookies to raise money for research to find cures for pediatric cancers.
For the next four years, Liam’s parents and doctors and friends fought to help him get well. They baked cookies and more cookies and still more cookies, and raised millions of dollars for research. They formed an organization called Cookies for Kids Cancer; bake sales were held throughout the land, and all the money went to help find a way to make children well.
Sadly, Prince Liam left this world before his cure was found. On January 24th, 2011, at the age of 6 1/2, sweet, curious, and brave Liam could fight his Dragon no more. But he left behind a great legacy; he inspired a powerful organization of people who loved him and who will carry on the fight for a cure.
On February 11th, my colleague, Chef-Instructor Melanie Underwood, and I held a cookie baking and decorating class at ICE (Institute of Culinary Education) and were able to donate every penny of the proceeds to Cookies for Kids Cancer, thanks to the incredible generosity of ICE, which donated the valuable space, ingredients and support staff; and Anolon, who so kindly donated two 10-piece sets of their Nouvelle Copper cookware (each valued at nearly $400!) to raffle off as door prizes. OXO gave every participant a cookie spatula and donated a basket of OXO products as a door prize; and Uline gave us boxes, bags and tissue paper for all the take-home goodies. We had fun– participants learned to decorate, and everyone, simply by being there, was helping make sick children well.
The basic cookie dough we used makes buttery, crumbly cookies with a hefty presence and satisfying crunch. The dough can be made ahead, rolled into a log and refrigerated (for 3-4 days) or frozen (for several months). The log can be rolled in sprinkles to make simple blond cookies with a ring of sparkly color; or nuts, chips, dried fruit, and anything else you’d like to add can be mixed into the dough before rolling (I loved the chopped pistachios and tiny bits of chocolate pictured above!).
The base recipe is Dorie Greenspan’s Master Recipe for Sables. It is the one basic cookie recipe every baker should have and hold dear; from it can come as many variations as your imagination can conjure.
Chef Melanie turned this dough into divine Lemon Raspberry Cookies:
* Add the zest of two lemons to the cookie dough.
* Once the dough is rolled to a scant 1/4-inch thickness, use a 3-inch round cookie cutter to cut 25 cookies; use a 3-inch round fluted-edged cookie cutter to cut the remaining 25 cookies.
* Place the clean-edged cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment; gently spread with raspberry preserves.
* Use a 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch round cutter to cut a whole in the center of the fluted cookies; place on top of the raspberry preserves to form a sandwich.
Dorie Greenspan’s Master Recipe for Sables
Makes about 50 cookies
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter (preferably high-fat, like Plugra), softened at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted before measuring
1/2 teaspoon salt, preferably sea salt
2 large egg yolks, preferably at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
For the decoration (optional):
1 egg yolk
Crystal or dazzle sugar
1. Working in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until it is smooth and very creamy. Add the sugars and salt and continue to beat until smooth and velvety, not fluffy and airy, about 1 minute. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in 2 egg yolks, again beating until well blended.
2. Turn off the mixer, pour in the flour, drape a kitchen towel over the mixer and pulse the mixer about 5 times at low speed for 1 or 2 seconds each time. Take a peek; if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of more times; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, stir for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough and the dough looks uniformly moist. If you still have some flour on the bottom of the bowl, stop mixing and use a rubber spatula to work the rest of it into the dough. (The dough will not come together in a ball — and it shouldn’t. You want to work the dough as little as possible. What you’re aiming for is a soft, moist, clumpy dough. When pinched, it should feel a little like Play-Doh.)
3. Scrape the dough onto a work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each piece into a smooth log about 9 inches long (it’s easiest to work on a piece of plastic wrap and use the plastic to help form the log). Wrap the logs well and chill them for at least 2 hours. The dough may be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.
4. When ready to bake, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and keep it at the ready.
5. To decorate the edges of the sables, whisk the egg yolk until smooth. Place one log of chilled dough on a piece of waxed paper and brush it with yolk (the glue), and then sprinkle the entire surface of the log with sugar. Trim the ends of the roll if they are ragged and slice the log into 1/3-inch-thick cookies.
Or, roll the dough out to 1/8- 1/4-inch thickness and cut with biscuit or cookie cutters into desired size and shape.
6. Place the rounds on the baking sheet, leaving an inch of space between each cookie, and bake for 17 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet at the halfway point. When properly baked, the cookies will be light brown on the bottom, lightly golden around the edges and pale on top. Let the cookies rest 1 or 2 minutes before carefully lifting them onto a cooling rack with a wide metal spatula. Repeat with the remaining log of dough. (Make sure the sheet is cool before baking each batch.)
I will always love you, Little Liam
— Auntie Marge
Photos from our Cookies for Kids Cancer Fundraiser, Cookies for Love