Please welcome Mary Angela, author of the Professor Prather academic mysteries! The third book in the series, A VERY MERRY MURDER, is out this month.
Sugar Cookie Countdown
Sugar cookies grace the covers of every supermarket magazine during the holidays. Stars, bells, trees—shapes we mastered in kindergarten. No wonder we fool ourselves into thinking they’re simple. But let’s admit it: sugar cookies, like all good traditions, are a test of patience and endurance.
In A Very Merry Murder, Em describes her cookies as “wrinkled Michelin men.” I can totally relate. The kids and I have made our fair share of man blobs, one-winged angels, and headless Santas. Over the years, I’ve found a couple of solutions to the renegade rollout: refrigerating the dough—regardless of what the recipe says—and using smaller cookie cutters. These changes have fixed fifty percent of my cookie conundrums.
The other fifty percent would take a Spartan soldier to solve. Think about it. By the time you’re ready to decorate, you’ve already made, refrigerated, rolled, and baked the dough. If you’re like me, you’re starting to wonder if you shouldn’t swap out the Christmas CD for the Rocky soundtrack. The kids, who graciously allow me to make the last ten or twelve trays of cookies by myself, usually rejoin me in the kitchen at this point and are ready to help.
Any good holiday cookbook will show you what to do next. Pipe icing for hats and hair. Use chocolate chips for buttons, licorice for scarves, M&M’s for eyes, Skittles for noses, Red Hots for mouths. What could be easier? Anything. In theory, a handful of candy fixes most problems, but it can’t replace skilled bakers and photographers. I came to terms with this reality early on in my cookie-making career. It’s the same lesson my daughter Maisie learned at the age of two.
Most years, gifts at my house are small but plentiful. One year, though, I decided to go for the big gift. Maisie had seen a Cinderella vanity advertised on TV and adored it. Every time it came on, she grabbed me to watch it with her. In the commercial, a girl opens a pumpkin on the vanity. A ring, shaped like a glass slipper, waits inside. When the girl slips it on her finger, voilà. She turns into Cinderella. Magic!
I shouldn’t have been surprised when Maisie thought she would turn into Cinderella when she put on the ring, but I was. I was shocked she actually believed she could become someone else. I realize now I made the same mistake when I rolled my first batch of sugar cookies. I thought if I followed the directions my cookies would look like the cookies in the magazines. But it would have taken a fairy godmother to produce those kinds of results.
We’ve all heard the saying life’s about the journey, not the destination. I think the same could be said about baking. It’s not about the cookie; it’s about the time that goes into making it. So sit back, give the kids those sprinkles, and enjoy the season!
Mary Angela is the author of the Professor Prather academic mystery series, which has been called “enjoyable” and “clever” by Publishers Weekly. She is also an educator and has taught English and humanities at South Dakota’s public and private universities for over ten years. When Mary isn’t writing or teaching, she enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. For more information about Mary or the series, go to MaryAngelaBooks.com.