Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Rainbow Connection: Painting Cookies with the Kids
What’s cooking? Painted Roll-out Cookies

Today is National Cookie Day – a tidbit I received from a fellow blogger, Linda Anderson, who focuses on activities for kids. Who makes these things up? Not only do Cookie Monsters and bakers alike celebrate the one day, but apparently, the entire week is Cookie Cutter Week. So sharpen your sweet tooth, folks, and start baking/buying/eating.

The Kitchen Goddess, being naturally skeptical, is not one to let these morsels of information pass uninspected. So she went to Wikipedia – the source of all wacky and wonderful information – where she found that the celebration was started in 1987, by the Blue Chip Cookie Company in San Francisco. As reported in the LA Times back then, the president of the company, one Matt Nader, decided on this historic move because, “It’s just like having National Secretaries Day,” said Nader.

So let’s see, ... cookies versus secretaries, cookies versus secretaries... I don’t know – somehow, I don’t see them as being exactly alike. But we can’t argue with Mr. Nader, who died in 1997.

With or without Mr. Nader, the company is still in business, even though the headquarters has moved to Milford, Ohio. In fact, they claim 5 retail locations: 3 in Ohio, 1 in Kansas, and 1 in ... (wait for it) ... Bogota, Colombia. I kid you not. Now wasn’t this little journey worthwhile?

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As it happens, the Kitchen Goddess celebrated the first day of Cookie Week with her granddaughter, who was visiting from New Jersey. In the search for activities to amuse an almost-3-year-old, I came across a recipe for painting cookies. I didn’t know how well the idea would go, but in fact, it was a rousing success, and a lot less mess than icing and/or sprinkles.

It’s exactly what it sounds like, only the painting goes on raw dough. So, you make the dough. You roll out the dough and cut it into shapes. You paint the dough. You bake it. You eat the cookies. Nothing could be simpler or more fun.

Two-year-olds – even the ones who are almost three – have relatively short attention spans. So I accelerated the process by making a batch of my famous roll-out cookie dough the night before we baked. Other techniques to keeping the activity rolling along:

1. Before you start, separate one egg for each color you plan to use. Have ready several small bowls – I used Pyrex custard cups – and deposit one yolk in each. Reserve one egg white for securing the baker’s parchment on the pan. Add a teaspoon of water to each yolk and stir to mix well. Add food coloring to create the desired colors. (KG note: Because of the color in the yolk, it’s difficult if not impossible to create purple using standard food color. But purple is one of my granddaughter’s must-haves, so I used gel paste for the purple, which worked well.)

2. Prepare sheets of baker’s parchment to fit two large sheet pans. Baker’s parchment has a tendency to curl, so brush a bit of that reserved egg white at the corners of the sheet pans before you lay the parchment in. This will secure the parchment so that it lays flat and stays in place.

3. Remember, the painting takes place on raw dough. So you want to warn the child that the dough is VERY SOFT and mushy, which means that the painter needs a delicate hand. No pressing on the dough. No poking the paintbrush into the cookie. Also, I let my granddaughter know that the paint was NOT EDIBLE until it was cooked, and that the minute any paint went into her mouth, the entire activity would stop. She understood, and we had no problems.

4. Cut out only 6-7 cookies at one time. Lay the shapes on the sheet pan with plenty of space around them. Then while the child is painting the first sheet of cookies, you can be preparing a second sheet. While the second sheet is being painted, the first sheet can be baking. And on and on it goes. Baking parchment can be re-used over and over, so there’s no need to replace the sheets between batches.

Artists at work -- it's serious business.

So here are the recipes. I posted the cookie dough recipe in 2009, but will repeat it here for convenience.

Painted Cookies

The Dough: Lee’s Best Rollout Cookies

Makes about 6 dozen. (If you are making this for an activity with a child or children, I’d recommend using only half the dough and freezing the rest for another day.)

1 cup sugar
½ cup Crisco
½ stick unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 eggs
2½ cups flour (use the dipping method to measure)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400º. Prepare two large sheet pans with baker’s parchment.

Cream together sugar, Crisco, and butter, letting the mixer run for a couple of minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. (I know, Crisco is that bad kind of fat, but let’s remember, folks: these are cookies. And you need a fat with a higher melting point to keep the cookies from losing their shapes.)

Add eggs, mixing in one at a time, and vanilla and lemon juice. Sift together the dry ingredients and add them to the wet. Mix until the dry is completely incorporated, then wrap the dough in a sheet of wax paper and refrigerate at least a couple of hours. (I try to let this be overnight.)

The dough rolling part is what always put me off until my mother-in-law suggested I roll it between two layers of wax paper dusted with flour. What a difference. And the dough is more manageable if you divide it into two parts, refrigerating the scraps in between working with each half. I like my cookies crisp, so I roll the dough to a thickness of about one eighth of an inch, but you should experiment and see what works for you. For the painted cookies, I rolled the dough a bit thicker than usual. Bake painted cookies 8 minutes at 400º.

Rolling is easy if you have enough Play-Doh experience.

The Paint 

For each color, separate one egg, and save the white for another use. Add 1 teaspoon of water to the yolk, and stir until well combined and consistent color. Add food coloring to achieve the desired color and stir. Even the egg yolk “paint” isn’t thick, so painting a second coat on the cookies works well to get brighter baked color.

Also, while researching this activity, I found a recipe for painting dough that used a corn syrup-based paint. It sounded a little more carefree than the raw egg yolks, but the colors and finish didn’t emerge nearly as nicely from the oven. I recommend using the egg-based paint and just warning your child against eating it.

The samples got a bit overcooked. So it goes. Fish on the left got corn syrup-based paint.

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And now, the Kitchen Goddess moves on to decorating almost 200 roll-out cookies that she has baked for the neighborhood holiday party this weekend. Someone just shoot me.


  1. Well, now, this has been your very best blog......EVER!
    (and that's sayin' a lot...)
    Eileen in Atlanta
    (Per your request)!