Some of my favorite first memories around food come from the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas when my sister and I would step into the kitchen with our mother to make plates of goodies for teachers, neighbors, friends and co-workers. We would bake and boil and cut and clean and about 8 hours later find ourselves covered in chocolate and sweetened condensed milk and powdered sugar.
I remember the small things, like how much of a pain it was to shape the pecan cookies into little moon shapes – my Type-A personality just hated that they weren’t always 100% identical. But then we would pull them out of the oven, let them cool and then absolutely cover them in powdered sugar. If one “accidentally” broke, well, of course we’d have to hide the evidence that it happened. I remember always claiming that I hated those cookies because I didn’t like pecans, but sure enough my stomach would be completely and totally filled with them by the end of the process.
We’d also make peanut brittle and magic bars and fudge, which all had to go into the garage on top of the deep freezer to cool since there were probably 8 pans of each and not nearly enough room to put them inside. I always thought it was so magical how the fudge would come together, and when we would add the baking soda to the brittle and it would bubble up like a great big golden brown sugary lava flow.
Every year we would carefully portion all of these little treats out onto red plastic plates, then cover them with plastic wrap and hand-curled ribbon. Every year we presented them to our teachers and my parents’ co-workers and our neighbors with such pride, although at the time our shyness always won out and we’d hide behind our parents during the thank-yous. Those plates were such a labor of love and so much fun to make as a family – something that I hope to do with our kids as they get older. I think there’s something irreversibly wonderful about teaching hospitality through food!
With all that baking and stirring and cooking you’d think we would tire of it by the time Thanksgiving or Christmas rolled around – but in fact we’d still all band together in the kitchen to make both pecan and pumpkin pies, all from scratch. And by we I mean my sister and I would sit in the kitchen while my mom make pie crust from scratch with a dough-cutter and her superhuman mom strength, whining about when we could open the can of pumpkin and who got to stir it all together. After the pie crusts were done par-baking and we were each stirring our respective pie filling, my mom would roll out the extra pie crust and then spread it with butter and cinnamon-sugar, then cut it into crazy shapes and bake it off as a treat for when the pies were in the oven.
I need to interject here – I’ve never really just loved pie crust per se; I like the part that the pie filling is touching, but I don’t usually eat the part that sticks up on top – the part that’s crimped and pretty and golden brown. But cover that stuff with butter and cinnamon sugar? I’m all over it – I’m sure there were a few tears shed when I would eat the last piece that wasn’t mine. Oops 😉
The other day I was working on a freelance recipe using store-bought crust and I figured why not bring tradition into this little house in Arkansas? Why not cover them with cinnamon sugar and bake them to golden perfection? So I did – except I was out of butter so I brushed a little milk on them instead. Just as good, and my tummy was just as happy!
CINNAMON SUGAR PIE CRUST COOKIES
- 1 store-bought pie crust
- 2 Tbsp milk or melted butter
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
So first things first, I had a little star-shaped cookie cutter that I wanted to play with, hence why mine are stars. If you have a cute little cookie cutter (about 1-inch in size) I say go for it. I’ve included two methods below; one if you’re feeling fancy and using a cutter, and another if you just want some cinnamon sugar cookies right away and can’t be bothered with cuteness (typically the latter is me)!
If you’re using a cookie cutter, first preheat your oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat and set aside. Unroll the dough; the great thing about this is it’s already rolled into a perfectly thin piece and so these first cutouts will be really pretty. Using the cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as you can from the first roll. Place them on the baking sheet – they won’t expand too much so you can get them pretty close together. Smush (technical term) the rest of the dough together, roll it out to a similar thinness, and repeat until you don’t have any dough left. In a bowl whisk together the sugar and cinnamon. Brush the cookies with milk and sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon sugar. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes until they’re golden brown. Let cool slightly before devouring!
If you’re using the easy method, first preheat your oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat and set aside. Unroll the dough and brush it with the milk. In a bowl whisk together the sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon sugar. Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife cut the dough into 1-inch pieces and place on the baking sheet about an inch apart. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes until they’re golden brown. Let cool slightly before devouring!