Friday, September 25, 2009
Betty Crocker's Cream Cheese Cookies
I grew up in the 1970s and '80s as the youngest of five children. Thanks to the spread in our ages, many of my siblings were already out of the house by the time I was a kid riding bikes, trading stickers and singing in the local elementary school pageant.
I loved listening to stories about my siblings and their adventures in the world, and longed to be as old as they were. I missed having them around. Being a youngest child with such a large age spread was a lot like being an only child - the house where I grew up was pretty quiet - and I looked forward more than anything to the holiday season when everyone would congregate back together in our parents' house to enjoy games, music, movies, laughter and lots (and lots, and lots) of food. And then there was the dessert... have I mentioned the dessert?
So many gorgeous, fabulous, decadent desserts graced our holiday table throughout the years. Of course we experimented with new recipes but certain sweet treats showed up annually by popular demand. These included sugar cookies, almond crescents (which would be fun to try making gluten free!) and our very favorite of all, Betty Crocker's cream cheese cookies.
My mom made most desserts from scratch and usually without a lot of sugar. In retrospect, that may have been part of the tantalizing allure of these fabled cream cheese cookies. Since they were made with yellow cake mix, the sugar had been pre-added by the cake company and mom couldn't tone it down or cut the proportions in half. The sweet result? A definite addiction to cream cheese cookies by all members of our family - most especially my dad :-)
Holiday meals and family gatherings have been a little more challenging to navigate since I first went gluten free two years ago. Food, usually such a uniting factor for my family, has been a sensitive topic. I get asked what people should cook, whether I will be able to eat the food they are bringing, and if not - why not.
I try in general just to enjoy whatever part of the meal that I can without putting anyone to extra trouble. This is rarely a problem as there are usually many tasty sides and vegetables that I can enjoy, and quite often the main course for holiday meals turns out to be fish. In a lasagna year, I bring along gluten free pasta or some kind of meat that has not been marinated.
The only real sense of loss that I have experienced in the last few years during the holidays has centered around the dessert table - so gorgeously piled with cakes, pies and cookies. None of which I can eat.
Which is why I absolutely FREAKED OUT when I read a few days ago that Betty Crocker is now making a gluten free yellow cake mix that can be purchased in major food chain stores all over the country. I was so excited that I did a happy dance AND called my mother to tell her that once again, I will be able to enjoy her famous cream cheese cookies at Christmas.
Of course I couldn't wait that long, since the holidays are still months away. I searched around my town until I found a grocery store that carried the magical goodies (Betty Crocker is also vending Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie mix, Brownie mix and Chocolate Cake mix). As soon as my husband returned home from work I handed him our three children and set forth to claim my Betty Crocker destiny.
So here it is... the famous Betty Crocker recipe for cream cheese cookies that my family has used for the last thirty years or so. I won't lie, the gluten free version doesn't taste exactly the same as they did when made with regular white flour - but they are still light, fluffy, moist and delicious. Your gluten free family will love them! Happy Holidays to you all three months early :-) and thank you Betty Crocker! for bringing gluten free goodness to the shelves of 'regular' grocery stores everywhere.
Betty Crocker's Cream Cheese Cookies
What You'll Need...
1/4 cup butter
8 oz cream cheese (or 1/3 less fat Neufchatel cream cheese)
1 egg yolk
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 pkg Betty Crocker yellow cake mix
1/2 C shredded coconut or nuts
How It Works...
Cream butter and cheese. Blend in egg yolk and vanilla. Add cake mix (1/2 at a time). Mix well. If you're using a mixer, add the last part of the cake mix by hand. (If you decide to opt for the coconut and/or nuts, now is the time to add those too.) Chill dough 30 minutes. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Either use a cookie press/ ungreased sheet/ 6-9 minutes or drop by scant tea onto an ungreased baking sheet and bake 8-10 minutes or until delicately brown.
Makes about 24 two-inch cookies.