What does making cookies have to do with the tenuous work-life balance of a working mother? Well, other than we mommies often like to make, and are sometimes asked to make, cookies for the kiddos, not much. No feminist screed today, ladies and gents, just a photographic tour of my afternoon of cookie baking.
So, here's my attempt as some Independence Day, patriotic pinwheel sugar cookies:
First, make your favorite sugar cookie dough. (Or, hey, working lady, make it easy on yourself and go buy your favorite pre-made dough at the supermarket. I won't tell.) Divide into thirds. Leave one third alone. It's your white stripe.
With the other two thirds, dye one red and one blue with gel food coloring. (Gel food coloring will get you more vibrant colors. If you're fine with more pastel shades, the liquid kind is fine.) I found that the best way to get the color fully incorporated into the dough is to knead it in with your hands. I wear vinyl gloves to do this so I don't dye my hands. You can get the gloves in the paint section of your hardware store. (I like to keep such gloves in my kitchen for cutting up peppers so I don't accidentally wipe serrano juice into my eye an hour after I've cooked dinner.) Use a different pair of gloves for the red and for the blue, unless you want purple. In which case, carry on.
Once you have the color incorporated, form it into a round and place it between two pieces of parchment paper for rolling.
I sort of eye-balled it on the size of the cookie-dough pancake I wanted to roll. As you can probably see, the oils from the prior cookie dough rounds (I rolled white first, then blue) left an image of the size of the prior cookie-dough pancake, so I just made the subsequent pancakes fit the oil spot. If you want to measure yours out precisely, go for it, but who has time to find a ruler when they're baking and who, other than the people on America's Test Kitchen, keeps a cooking ruler in their kitchen? (But good for you if you do, friend, you are a better baker than I.)
So I rolled the white out and set it aside. Then I rolled the blue out and placed it on top of the white.
... so that I had a stack of three cookie-dough pancakes. Time to start rolling.
Use the parchment paper to help you roll your giant colorful pancake into a log.
By this time, your dough will have gotten pretty soft because, even though you're in an air conditioned house, it's hot as blazes outside and you've been working the heck out of that dough. So be patient and go slowly. (And rest comfortably in the knowledge that when you make red, white and green ones for Christmas later this year, the dough won't have gotten nearly as loose by this stage.)
Now, wrap the parchment around the log and use your hands to form it into a log shape (if yours, like mine, sort of started to go a little oblong on you).
I wrapped this parchment covered log of red, white and blue sugar-goo in a couple of layers of plastic wrap to help it keep its shape.
Next, I put my 4th o' July Log into the fridge and let it harden up for a few hours. I used the little wine caddy thing in my fridge to hold the cookie log to help keep its shape.
(If your wine caddy thing still has a wine bottle in it, maybe you want to have yourself a glass of wine while you wait for the log to firm up. Or fold laundry, like me. Whichever.)
Soooo . . . after a sufficient amount of time . . . probably several hours, depending on your dough, you should have a nice firm cookie-dough log like this:
Slice the log into approximately 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch (depending on how big you want your cookies) slices and bake according to your cookie dough recipe's directions (or, according to the package directions, if you took a short cut). My cookies needed about 12 minutes.
I recommend using a very sharp cooking knife to ensure that the cuts are clean. And you should rinse and wipe your knife several times during the process so it won't stick. Don't worry if your first few slices aren't super-swirly. Once you get into the middle of the log, you'll see nice swirls like this:
Also, you may want to toss your dough back into the fridge to keep it cool and, thus, firm enough to cut. Or you may want to do what I did, which is probably not as effective and putting it back in the fridge:
And, after 12 minutes, or however long you need, you've got your finished cookies! I let them cool on the pan several minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack to finish cooling. (I found that if I didn't let them cool awhile in the pan, they sort of fell apart on the transfer and became a red, white, and blue mess.)
When they're completely cool, transfer them into a storage container and get ready to wow your friends, neighbors, and countrymen with your fantastic patriotic pinwheel sugar cookies!
Or, maybe just go ahead and pour yourself a glass of milk and plate one up for yourself. Mmmm-mmmm, star-spangled goodness.
Happy Independence Day, Everybody!