Tubs with various colors of frosting, large boxes of sugar cookies, candies for decorations, paper towels, a wash basin and decorating tips of all kinds were scattered about on the paper-covered table at the Rozsa Pavilion.
This was in anticipation of children and adults converting a delicious, plain sugar cookie into a smiley sunshine cookie, an Angry Bird and an almost authentic looking hamburger with all the trimmings - all as part of the Jefferson County Fair Cookie Decorating Contest.
The event has been sponsored by Wintersville Kroger for 20 years, and Linda Chivers, bakery and deli manager, has been the patient instructor throughout. It isn't always easy to get children to save the candy decorations doled out to them to place atop cookies, considering they like to sample a few first.
Linda Chivers, right, Wintersville Kroger bakery and deli manager, shows participants in the Jefferson County Fair Cookie Decorating Contest how to hold the frosting bag to make super decorations on sugar cookies while Betty Hasley, left, who helped get the contest started 20 years ago, observes.
-- Esther McCoy
Chivers also cautioned when the frosting tub and a spatula were passed around that there was to be no licking of the spatula or putting a finger into the frosting for a taste.
She passed around a bottle of hand sanitizer, telling the children that it was necessary to clean their hands before handling food.
The name of each child was given and then Chivers asked if anyone knew her name, as many were repeaters from previous years in the cookie decorating segment. More than half knew who she was - the famous cookie lady.
The wonderful thing about the contest is that each child left the pavilion with their two decorated cookies, a bag of chips and a soft drink. Coveted blue ribbons were presented to each contestant, and this writer took one away with pride - cookie decorating wasn't as hard as I had imagined it to be over the years. Chivers' persistence prevailed, and I decided to take the decorating plunge, with my grandchildren, Jessie and Matthew, and son, Jay, as supporters.
These two sugar cookie recipes are not ones from Chivers' recipe box but from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. One recipe is for rolled and cutout cookies, and the other is a drop cookie recipe.
This is a simple version of sugar cookies. Instead of rolling out the dough and cutting into shapes, the dough is formed into balls, rolled in sugar and popped into the oven, according to Better Homes and Gardens recipe authors.
Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies
1 cup butter softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 to 1/3 cups coarse sugar
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the 1 1/2 cups sugar, beat until combined. Beat in eggs, cream of tartar, baking soda, vanilla and salt until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the electric mixer. Stir in remaining flour and combine well. Cover and chill for 2 to 3 hours. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in coarse sugar to coat. Place cookie balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 9 to 12 minutes or until light brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Makes about 48 cookies.
The rolled and cutout cookie recipe has suggestions on how to achieve cookie perfection:
Work half of the dough at a time, keeping the other half in the refrigerator.
Cover the rolling pin with a fabric stockinette. Excess flour toughens dough, so use only the minimum amount.
Dip cookie cutter in flour each time it is used to prevent the dough from sticking.
Transfer cookies to a cookie sheet using a wide metal spatula.
Bake similar-size cookies together to prevent overbrowning of the smaller ones.
Here is the recipe for the crisp cookies that are good either iced or plain.
Sugar Cookie Cutouts
2/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in the egg, milk and vanilla. Beat in as much of the flour as possible with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. Divide dough in half. If necessary, cover and chill for about 30 minutes or until easy to handle. On a lightly floured surface, roll half the dough at a time until it reaches 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2-inch cookie cutter, cut dough into desired shapes. Place 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are barely light brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. If desired, frost with the following icing that has no butter or fat. Makes about 36 cutouts.
Powder Sugar Icing
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk or orange juice
In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, vanilla and 1 tablespoon milk. Stir in additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until icing reaches drizzling consistency. Use food coloring, if desired.
Note: To make candy windowpane cutouts, place dough cutouts on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Cut small shapes out of the cutout centers. Finely crush 3-ounces hard candy, about 1/2 cup. Lifesavers are good to use, only don't mix the flavors.
Fill each center with candy. Bake as directed. Cool on the foil and remove when the cookies are able to be handled. Store tightly covered as they can get sticky.
(McCoy can be contacted at email@example.com.)