The Cookie Clause

David's Cookies (Fairfield Gourmet Foods Corporation)

Living Room

GUEST: Santa Claus

SANTA CLAUS: [evil laugh] Heeere's Santa! Ha, ha, ha, ha. [drops a store bought cookie onto AB's glasses]
AB: [wakes up from a nap on Christmas Eve, the book on his chest is "Food in Lore and Legend] What? What?
SC: Exactly! What, pray tell, are these? [he lets the other cookies slide off the plate onto AB's face]
AB: Ugh! I ... I dunno, cookies?
SC: [drops the plate on to AB]
AB: [catching the plate] Agh!
SC: I get out one night a year. One night to break free of the No-Carb Queen and bag some serious baked goodies. But what do I get? Crumb after crumb of the same mass-marketed cookie caca. Still, I held out hope. I thought for sure longtime believer Alton Brown would have baked some goodness!
AB: Well, I ... I do believe, but, you know, I ran out of time. I had those ...
SC: Argh! That makes it even worse! That, that's it! I, I quit!
AB: What? Y .. y ... you can't! What about all the good little boys and girls?
SC: I'll just email them and tell them I quit because of you.
AB: You ... you ... you couldn't! You wouldn't!
SC: Heh heh. Watch me. Heh heh.
AB: Well, wait, wait, wait. We can, we can make a deal! Oh, that's it! I'll teach you how to make your own Christmas cookies!
SC: What?
AB: Yeah! That way you can chow down anytime that, you know, the old ball-and- chain's not watching. And all the cookies we make here tonight you can take with you. You can eat dozens by dawn!
SC: Mm! [grabs AB's ear and pulls him up off the couch] All right. Santa's feeling merciful.
AB: That's nice!
SC: I'll give you exactly thirty minutes to produce some serious ...
AB & SC: [both look straight into the camera]

The Kitchen

SC: And don't try to pull any fast ones, Buster! Old Santa knows a good Christmas cookie when he sees one! Ohhh, lebkuchen and springerle from Germany, ha ha. Shortbread cookies, from Scotland. Oh, spritz cookies, from Sweden and Holland. Oh, Holland, now that's a country that knows from cookies!
AB: Uh, doesn't the word 'cookie' from the from the Dutch word, uh, some 'little cake,' something like that?
SC: Yes, yes, 'koekje'. The Dutch also introduced me to America, you know? Of course, back then I was known as 'Sinterklaas'.
AB: Sinterklaas? How come the change?
SC: [removes wig revealing a biker-style bandana] Marketing.
AB: Oh. Uh, well, let's, let's get started over here, okay?
SC: Oh!
AB: Hey, that's a ... that's a nice camera. Somebody's present?
SC: I'll re-wrap it later.
AB: Oh, well, that's nice of you. The thing about Christmas cookies is you want to come up with just one kind of batter that can make a whole bunch of cookies, okay?
SC: Ooh, yes, yes.
AB: That way you can roll 'em and cut 'em, or make little balls, drop cookies, icebox cookies, make 'em a log and then saw 'em into pieces. And the most versatile cookie dough I know of is sugar cookie dough.
SC: Swell, that's just what I was hoping for: more sugar-frosted cardboard.
AB: Now listen, store-bought cookies may be like that. But homemade sugar cookies are sublime!
SC: Well, I wouldn't know that, now would I?

    [sighs heavily] Gonna be a long night.

AB: All right, Santa.
SC: Mm-hmm?

AB: The most important concept in all of baking is the creaming method, okay? When we're doing the creaming method, we're always going to have three teams of ingredients, okay? Here we've got the dry team: 3 cups of flour, a quarter teaspoon of salt, and three-quarter teaspoon of baking powder. 3 Cups AP Flour
1/4 tsp. Salt
3/4 tsp. Baking Powder
AB: The wet team: one egg ...
SC: A chicken egg?
AB: Yes, a chicken egg. And a tablespoon of milk.
1 Egg (chicken)
1 Tbs. Milk
AB: And over here, the fat team. The fat team is going to be played by two sticks, that's one cup, of butter, and one cup of sugar. Now, the goal here is to beat these together until they become nice and lightly colored. The whole reason for this is that we want to kind of like use the crystals to punch little bitty holes inside the butter. 2 Sticks (1 Cup) Butter
1 Cup Sugar

SC: Why bother?
AB: Well, here's the thing. If we just count on this chemical leavening to create all the bubbles inside of this batter, it's going to be a very kind of irregular, roughly textured kind of thing. What we want to do is use the little seed bubbles formed inside the butter and then just let the leavening blow that up. That way we'll have a very even texture. This was all in our muffin show. Didn't you see ...?
SC: I don't have cable.
AB: Bother. All right. I'm going to let this get a little bit lighter. In the meantime, I want you to go over there and sift those dry goods!
SC: Me?
AB: Yes.
SC: Sift?
AB: Yes!
SC: Don't you have elves to do this?
AB: No, I don't have elves. Just sift that right onto that mat.

German spice cookies sweetened with honey are the
ancestors of modern ginger bread.

AB: All right, you see how this is light now? It's almost white. Okay?
SC: Mm-hmm.
AB: Now we can add the wet works. Nice and slow.
SC: I'm done!
AB: Perfect. Time to add that to the mixer. We'll just turn this down to the lowest speed and very, very, very slowly add the flour.
SC: Well, why not just dump it in?
AB: Well, for a few reasons. One, the flour needs to soak up the moisture, and there's not a lot in here to soak. The other reason is that if we just dump this in all at once, we'd have a white Christmas for sure, if you know what I mean! [chuckle]
SC: Remind me to bring you a joke book next year.
AB: I don't know why I should. You never bring me what I ask for.
SC: Ohh!
AB: When it pulls away from the side, we are done.
SC: Well let's eat!
AB: Uh, slow down, Big Guy. We still have to, you know, bake the cookies. But before we can do that, we've got to refrigerate this. Firm it up in the fridge.

[SFX: clomping is heard above them]

SC: Reindeer games.


    Separating your dough into two separate slabs will make it a lot easier to handle on down the line. Just stash this in your chill chest for about two hours.

Split dough into two pieces and chill for two hours.

SC: Two hours? In two hours I'll be three time zones from here! I don't have that kind of time! [touches nose, thunder and lightning]
AB: What is that?
SC: Ha. Localized temporal displacement. Magic. It's now two hours later in your kitchen. Dough's ready!
AB: Is not! [gets readied dough] It is! Santa really is magic! [squeals joyously]

The U.S. Postal Service handles about a 1/2 million letters
to Santa each year, which costs about $185,000 in stamps.

The Kitchen

GUESTS: Alton Brown, Cook
             Santa Clause, Magical Delivery Man

AB: [sprinkling a white substance all over the kitchen counter]
SC: What is that? Flour?
AB: No, if we were to roll our cookies with flour, we might produce too much gluten. It might make the cookies tough. So I like to roll with powdered sugar.
SC: Ooh-hoo-hoo-hoo!
AB: All right, I'm just going to put this on here, and uh, and sprinkle a little bit right on top. You don't want to go overboard. And what we're looking for here, Santa, is quarter-inch thickness. [hands the rolling pin to Santa] And let me just give you a little advice. Don't think about rolling it out into a circle. Just try to keep it rectangular, okay?
SC: All right.
AB: Ready? You look good. Apron looks good.
SC: Oh, good. Thanks. Thank you.
AB: Okay? It's all yours.
SC: Here we go! [laughs heartily as he mashes the dough]
AB: Uh, you're a powerful man, there, Santa! Uh, okay. That's, that's good. Great technique for a beginner. Now let's get another piece of dough, and this time we'll try to apply a little of, well, my brand of magic, okay?
SC: Ooh, yes.
AB: [produces bag of spacers]
SC: Hmm!

AB: Watch. [puts spacers on rolling pin] There, I think these spacers will help you control your roll. Oh, a little more dusting of sugar here, just a little. And there we go. Now remember, square. Start with light pressure in the middle, moving both directions. There you go. Just take it easy, take it easy.

Rolling pin spaces
are available
at most kitchen stores.

SC: Oh yes! That's very nice!
AB: Okay, now let's turn it.
SC: All right.
AB: And turn it over and go again. Let's just add a little more pressure each time. Little more pressure.
SC: Oh, ho ho!
AB: Well look, you jolly old elf! You've done it!
SC: Ho ho ho ho ho!
AB: But, we can't cut that yet.
SC: No? Why not?

AB: Because during the rolling we've generated some heat in the dough. And warm dough does not punch well, which is what cookie cutters do. So we've got an ice-cold aluminum pan here. Since it's cold and aluminum, it is going to suck any heat out of that dough lickety-spit. [sic]

Chill Dough 10 mins.
Before Cutting

SC: How long?
AB: Not long. Ten minutes.
SC: Heh. [touches nose, thunder and lightning again]
AB: Lemme guess, I need to get the cookie cutters.
SC: [Santa pours glass from jug labeled "High Octane Egg Nog, Drink at your own risk!"]
AB: Now, cookie cutting may look like child's play, but there are some rules for having success. For one, you want to keep your cookies very simple in design, okay? I mean, take this reindeer, for instance. I mean, sure, this is really pretty, but believe me, there's no sugar dough on Earth that's going to tolerate being cut into those little shapes. And even if we could cut one out, by the time it baked, it would just run to together and look like, I dunno, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Protozoan.
SC: Who's not very Christmassy!
AB: No, I should say not.
SC: Now's a good time to give you your present!
AB: [excitedly] Yeah?
SC: [laughs and produces a bunch of metal cookie cutters tied with ribbon]
AB: [disappointed] Oh. Metal cookie cutters. Well, that's nice. You know, one of the reasons that I own plastic cookie cutters, and have never once asked for metal cookie cutters for Christmas, is because plastic is very, very durable. They're very, very reliable. They never rustthese [metal ones] rust at the drop of a hatand of course, these [plastic ones] never bend, whereas these [metal ones] bend very easily. [crushes metal angel-shaped cutter with ease]
SC: [sighs angrily]
AB: So, you know, I think we'll just stick with these plastic ones for now.
SC: Nothing but coal for you.

AB: Okay, lesson two. The more we roll the cookies, the tougher they're going to be. So we want to be very efficient and get the most out of the first cut as possible, okay? So, that means pre-positioning all of our cookie cutters, and kind of making sure we're getting the most out of them, okay? I'm just going to kind of spread them out here. And we should be able to get a lot of cookies out of this. Hard to believe, I know.

If possible, pre-position cookie cutters before cutting cookies.

SC: [chuckles]
[AB finds ghost-shaped cutter]
SC: Ooh, look.
AB: Oh, sorry, wrong holiday. But, uh, hey, you're kind of ghost ...
SC: Wrong story.
AB: That looks about right. We've got very, very little waste there. So now, just reach over and use your weight and uh ...
SC: All right.
AB: Press those all out.
SC: All of my weight?
AB: No, part of your weight. Straight down. No scooting, no twisting. And I'll get another pan, here, okay?
SC: No scooting, no twisting. [presses down on cutters]
AB: Straight down, okay? Here's another little trick. We're going to use a spatula to move the cookies to the pan. We're not going to take off the cutter until we get it there, okay? So, you pressed down good, right?
SC: Yes.

AB: All right. So we're just going to slide under, get hold of the cookie, pull it away. The scrap will come off. And we just move it over, and there you go, okay?
SC: Ha ha!
Move cookies to baking pan before removing cutter.
AB: Now, here's another rule. What is this? Number three, I think. We want to make sure there is at least an inch of free space around each cookie, okay? That way they won't crash together in the oven, and it'll also promote browning, okay? Maintain 1" Separation Between Cookies

SC: Well, this looks like enough for me! What are you going to eat? [chuckles]
AB: [chuckles lightly] All right, I tell you what. You finish this up, okay? And I'll roll out that other dough. But pay attention to what you're doing, all right?
SC: Don't worry. I'll keep my mind on my cookies. And my cookies on my mind. [chuckles]

AB: I like to do my baking right on the parchment, but some folks like using those new, reusable mats they're making.


SC: Silicone and fiberglass, no greasing necessary, can withstand temperatures in excess of 450 degrees!
AB: Wow, I'm impressed.
SC: Julia Child asked for a baker's dozen.
AB: Oh, so Julia gets what Julia asks for, huh?
SC: [chuckles uncomfortably]

AB: Just save it. Save it. We will come back and rotate these in about four minutes.

Rotate After 4 mins.

SC: Oh! [prepares to touch nose]
AB: Ah-dih-dih-dih! [stops him] We need the time to make the frosting.
SC: Oh, frosting! I like frosting!

The first cookie cutters were actually wooden molds.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Santa Claus, Jolly Ole Elf
            Alton Brown, Tired Cook

SC: [on phone] Yes, yes, Dear! No, no we're not in Kansas anymore! Oh, that noise? Uh, it's a low-flying Cessna, yes. Well, I've got to run now. We're going to start making some icing! Uh, I mean, the um, the sled is starting to ice! [imitates static] Interference! Lost cell ... ! [disconnects, laughs, sips egg nog]

AB: What? How do you sleep at night? Jeepers. We're making a royal icing for our cookies, okay? It starts with four egg whites, beaten with one teaspoon of vanilla. Beat those to kind of a foamy froth.

4 Egg Whites (large)
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

SC: Wait a minute! You're using raw eggs! What are you trying to do, kill Santa?
AB: [points to Santa's egg nog] What do you think you've been drinking there all night?
SC: Oh, heh heh.
AB: Look, don't worry. I'm actually using pasteurized eggs. You could also use three ounces of the pasteurized egg whites that come in cartons in the grocery store.
THING: [ hands Santa carton of egg whites]
SC: Oh, Thing! Thing! [hands Thing a nice watch] Merry Christmas! It's accurate in three time zones!
T: [ takes watch and leaves]
AB: [ looks sadly at his own bare wrist]
SC: Oh, uh, what's up with the cup?

AB: Oh, it's my invention! You know, it's really hard to sift confectioner's sugar into a mixer. And we need to work 4 cups into here. That's a whole pound, you know. And so I put a cup that I cut the bottom out of up into the bottom of my sifter. I think it would make a great stocking stuffer!

4 Cups Confectioners' Sugar

SC: Not really.

Confectioners' sugar contains small amounts of corn starch
which prevents clumping by absorbing moisture.

AB: How you rotate depends a lot on your oven. Now some folks don't have to rotate at all, but I do. And I like to go top to bottom, bottom to top, front to back, and back to front. Got it?

SC: Uh, uh, sure.

AB: Great. Now we're going to give these four to five more minutes.

4-5 More Minutes

SC: And then we eat!
AB: No, then we cool them. But, hey, listen, we've got to go finish up the frosting. I was thinking of making it red, in honor of you.
SC: I hate red.
AB: Huh?
SC: Marketing!
AB: Oh. Okay, Santa. There are four different kinds of food coloring, okay? You've got ...

[reindeer are heard clomping on the roof again]

AB: Up on the rooftop ...
SC: Click, click, click.


AB: That wasn't a click.
SC: I better shinny on up and check my ride.
AB: Yeah, I should say so!
SC: Oh, and by the way, you need to get yourself a new ladder! Someone could get hurt on that thing!
AB: Well, let's see. I did ask for one, uh, what was that, three Christmases ago?
SC: [scoffs]
AB: Besides, I thought you shinnied up the chimney!
SC: Ha! My marketing department was right! You people will buy anything! Ho ho ho ho! Chimney! Ho ho ho ho. [exits]

    I'm going to wake up any minute now and everything will be fine. In the meantime we'll talk about food colorings.

    There are four types. You've got your liquids, your gels, your pastes and your dry.


    Now the liquids are certainly the most popular, but they're also the least effective, okay? They're weak, pigment-wise, they're hard to blend, and because they're in liquid, it's very easy for them to throw off a recipe, okay?


Readily Available
Weak Pigments
Moisture Can Throw Off Recipe

    Now, gels and pastes are a lot more concentrated, and therefore a lot more easy to work with. But they still have funky bases-- Things like glycerin and sugar, which can go bad. That means they have to have preservatives added to them. I don't like that! Come to think of it, I'm not crazy about any of these. [clears cabinet shelf]


Require Preservatives

    What I do like are dry food colors. Dry food pigments, okay? There's nothing in there but color. No glycerin, no preservatives, no nothing. They will not throw off the texture or the flavor of your baked good. And as long as you keep them sealed up, they'll last forever. And best of all, unlike glycerin-based food colorings, these will not make your royal icing crack. And that's a very good thing.


Contains No Liquid Or Preservatives
Won't Throw Off Recipe
Last Forever (practically)

SC: [chuckles] Just a little indigestion. We changed their chow a couple of weeks ago.
AB: Oh, you don't say.
SC: Don't worry, it'll rain in a day or two.
AB: [looks up and understands] Oh.
SC: Oh! [reaches for cookie]

AB: Ah-dih-dih-dih! [stops him] Not until we've got them all frosted, okay? Now there are some rules to frosting, just like anything else, okay? Number one: Always remember that the frosting is going to get darker in 24 hours, okay? So you either want to make your frosting a little bit lighter than you actually want it, or you should put it in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, for a day before frosting. Then you can lighten it up with some white frosting, if you want to.

Frosting Will Darken Within 24 hrs.
SC: Uh, but, but ...
AB: Also, you need to remember to work with very small amounts. I mean, look. I made this green here, and I've probably got enough for an entire forest of trees.
Mix small amounts of colored frosting... a little goes a long way.
SC: [chuckles] How, how ...
AB: Oh, oh, and remember, if everything goes bad on youif you make a real mess out of thingsjust mix in some cocoa powder and you can call it chocolate! [laughs]
If you colorizing goes bad, add cocoa powder and call it chocolate.
SC: Cocoa powder, hmm. Well, how many colors do you really need?
AB: Well, to tell you the truth, you only really need three. I mean, you can make every color out of the rainbow with yellow, red and blue.

Yellow + Red = Orange
Red + Blue = Purple
Blue + Yellow = Green

SC: Yeah? How?
AB: Well, a color wheel helps. You can get these are your local art supply store. You just put one color up there, line it up with the next color underneath, and it shows you what color you make. Simple.
T: [pulls out a huge color wheel]
SC: That would make a great stocking stuffer!
AB: How would that go in a st... You're Santa.
SC: Hmm-hm!

The first cookies were probably made in 7th century
Persia and flavored with herbs and rose water.

The Kitchen

In England, cookies are called biscuits which comes
from the French word for "twice baked."



    [AB VO] Having split a shiny new batch of sugar cookie dough in half, Santa and I set out to gather separate ingredients. 1/2 Batch Sugar Cookie Dough 1/2 Batch Sugar Cookie Dough
    I returned with one teaspoon of vanilla extract, which I added to my dough, while Santa came back with a teaspoon of peppermint extract. But of course, that wasn't enough. 1 tsp. Peppermint Extract 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

    Santa then went out to gather up a few candy canes, which he had on hand, enough to make half a cup of crushed pieces.

T: [ gives Santa a mallet, shows off new watch]

[AB VO] Hey, nice watch!

1/2 Cup Crushed Candy Canes  
    Meanwhile, I melted 3 ounces of chocolate chunks in the microwave, for about a minute on high, and then let it cool for a couple of minutes.   3 oz. Unsweetened Chocolate, melted in microwave for 1 min.

    We both added these ingredients to our doughs, donned our protective gear, and mixed by hand. Sure you could do it with a spoon, but why bother?



    Oh, we added one egg yolk to his dough, just to make it a little more moist and plastic. Add 1 egg to the peppermint dough (for fat and moisture)  

    We then chilled our respective doughs for about five minutes.

SC: [ touches nose, lighting]

    [AB VO] Time flies when you're magic.

Chill Both Doughs For 5 mins.

    Now that our dough was nice and firm, we were ready to roll. Of course, using our spacers to ensure third of an inch to quarter of an inch sheets. We then moved his dough onto my dough, which was just a little bit longer and thinner. And then we carefully molded the two together. Well, he watched. I used my fingers to squeeze all the way around.

    Then used the lip of my floppy cutting board to slowly roll the dough onto itself, until I had something that looked, well, kind of like a log. This was wrapped and then refrigerated for two hours.

Refrigerate For At Least 2 Hours

SC: [touches nose, lighting]

    [AB VO] Okay, any other night, it would have been two hours.

    We then sawed this log into half-inch rounds and laid them out onto a, onto a pan ...

SC: [reaches for cookie, AB slaps his hand]

    [AB VO] Watch it, Buster! ... lined with parchment paper. Then ...

Slice Cookie "Log" Into 1/2 Thick Rounds

AB: ... into a 375 degree oven. Now these are going to cook for, eh, I'll say about twelve to thirteen minutes. And we'll rotate the pans once during that time. And then we'll rest them for two minutes before consuming. Cook 12-13 mins.
In A 375 Oven

SC: What are we going to do with this [dough log]?
AB: Oh, well, we can cut them and cook them. Or, you know what, we can just wrap that up and freeze it for six months.
SC: Uh, could I just bury that out in the snow?
AB: Boy, Mrs. Claus has really got you on a short leash, doesn't she?
SC: You don't know the fifth of it! [downs more egg nog]

    Whew! I sure hope the F.A.A. doesn't use breathalyzers!

SC: Ho ho ho ho! Seems like someone's been a good boy, after all! [takes a cookie from the plate] So Alton, what do you want for Christmas this year?
AB: Well Santa, what I was really hoping for is a, uh, a Cookie-Master 3000 Automated Dough Gun!
SC: [scoffs, mouth full] You'll shoot your eye out, kid! [laughs]
AB: I will not shoot my eye out!
SC: Yes you will!
AB: I'll be careful!
SC: [takes plate of cookies and dumps them into his bag] Give that to me.
AB: I'll practice! I'll use safety goggles!
SC: [laughs]
AB: This isn't over yet, old man! You just ... Wait ! I gotta ...
SC: [ leaves AB's sight, behind sofa]

    I hope the events of this long winter's night will serve as a wake-up call for those of you that think that store-bought baked goods will see you safely through to Christmas morning. The horror of this home invasion could have been avoided if I had only taken the time to make a simple sugar cookie dough a week, or even two weeks ago. Then I would have been able to quickly create a vast array of last-minute Christmas cookies, the reward for which would have been, at best, a Cookie-Master 3000 Automated Dough Gun, and at the very least, a peaceful night's sleep. Now, all I can say is ...

SC: [VO] Merry Christmas to all!
AB: And to all, some good eats. [finds cookie in sofa] Ho ho ho?

horizontal rule

Transcription by Electrowolf

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010