- The Washington Times - Monday, October 6, 2003

Here’s your chance to play Mother Nature. Transform a classic sugar-cookie dough into tinted, edible autumn leaves. All it takes is a little artsy-craftsy handiwork. Depending on the enthusiasm of the bakers and helpers, make cookies plain, sugar-topped or decorated with sprinkles and colored icings.

It’s easy. Make up the dough, divide it into three parts and tint each part a seasonal color: yellow, orange and green. The multiple colors in the finished cookies occur when bits of different colored doughs are randomly dropped onto waxed paper before rolling into flat sheets. The waxed paper makes for easy handling and even rolling, and, for once, accidental overbaking only adds to the theme — browned edges look authentic.

Be sure to clear a flat place in the refrigerator so the sheets of dough will be flat. After the dough is chilled, the waxed paper is removed and the dough floured and cut into shapes with a leafy cutter. The unpredictable pattern of colors is delightful. Just before baking, add a sprinkle of colored sugar for a bit of sparkle.

Cut out and keep this recipe with your cookie collection because this is a crisp sugar cookie that is perfect for cutouts in any season. Just omit the food coloring to tailor the recipe to other occasions.

Fall cookies

2 cups flour, plus flour for dusting

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

teaspoon baking soda

teaspoon salt

cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

teaspoon vanilla

Food coloring

Nonstick cooking spray, optional

1 egg white, beaten until foamy

Sugar sprinkles for topping, optional

In a medium bowl, stir together 2 cups flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric beater, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Using a wooden spoon, add the dry ingredients and mix until a dough is formed.

Divide dough into 3 parts and place each part in a separate small bowl. Add a few drops of food coloring (not too much to start) to each bowl: yellow in bowl one, yellow and red to make orange in bowl two and green in bowl three. Mix the dough in each bowl until colors are evenly distributed.

Before you begin, clear a flat space in the refrigerator. Cut 3 sheets of waxed paper and place on a work surface. Using a tablespoon, drop blobs of different colored dough onto the waxed paper in a random way until the three colors of dough are evenly distributed between the 3 sheets and all the colors have been used. Push the different colored doughs close together but not touching. They need room to spread. Top each dough collection with another sheet of waxed paper.

Using a rolling pin, flatten all three dough packages and roll them out to an even thickness, about ⅛ inch. Place the dough packages in the refrigerator. (Dough may be refrigerated for up to 2 days before baking.)

To bake, remove one dough package from refrigerator. Peel off the top sheet of waxed paper, but do not discard. Lightly dust the surface of the dough with flour, patting it on the whole surface with the palm of your hand. Replace the top sheet of waxed paper loosely and flip the package over. Peel off the second sheet of waxed paper and discard it. Dust the exposed dough lightly with flour. (Leave the bottom sheet of waxed paper in place.) Repeat with other dough packages.

Cut shapes with a floured cookie cutter and place them on cookie sheets that have been covered with parchment paper or spritzed with nonstick baking spray, if desired. Lightly brush cookies with beaten egg white and sprinkle with a light coating of sugar, if desired. The cookies may also be left plain or decorated after baking.

Bake in 350-degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until set and lightly browned. Allow cookies to rest on the tray for 2 minutes before using a metal spatula to transfer to racks to cool. The cookies will keep several weeks when stored in the refrigerator in airtight containers. Keep in the freezer for longer storage. Makes about 4 dozen cookies, depending on thickness and size of the cutter.

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