Posted by: A Part of the Solution | December 9, 2010

Petticoat Tails, another Holiday Cookie

Petticoat Tails? Petticoat Tails!?! What the pea-picker are Petticoat Tails? Well, they’re little butter cookies. And they’re super easy. And they’re really tasty. And the name is (so I have read, and so I repeat) a corruption of the French. The original name was Petits Gateaux Tailles–Little Cakes Cut Off. Hence, Petticoat Tails.

These are traditional in my family. These are delicate, simple, easily decorated cookies which are tasty to children and adults alike. The cookie dough has only five ingredients. The petticoat tails also have a chill time factor in the recipe–but it doesn’t have to be overnight. Equally, you can make the dough well ahead, wrap it tightly in wax paper and then in foil or plastic wrap and freeze it for up to 5 weeks (after that the dough begins to taste mostly of freezer, no matter how carefully you may have wrapped it).

When it comes to decorating them, a few jimmies, or dragées, or chopped nuts, or mini chips of whatever flavor you desire, or a tiny splash of glaze, or crushed peppermints, or sugar crystals or even poppy seeds does the trick. But you don’t have to decorate them. They are perfectly delicious in all their simplicity–so no pressure to gild the lily anymore than you feel you have the time or inclination so to do.

My aunt’s notes say, “The original recipe calls for any of these flavorings: vanilla, almond, wintergreen or rose.” But her notes also point out that this recipe came from France to Scotland with Mary, Queen of Scots. So if you decide on lemon, orange, coconut or peppermint (as we usually have them in my family), more power to you.

Petticoat Tails

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar (so sift first, and then measure–a sheet of wax paper is handy for this operation, both to sift onto and to use to slide the sugar into a measuring cup)

1 tsp peppermint flavoring (peppermint is very strong in flavor, with almond you would use the same amount, with anything else you might double it)

2 1/2 cups sifted flour, again sift before measuring for this recipe

1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 400°. Cream the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the flavoring of your choice and get it well mixed in. Sift the flour and the salt together. Stir the dry ingredients into the creamed butter-sugar mixture. Mix very thoroughly. Press and mold and roll the dough into a long snake about 1 1/2″ in diameter. Wrap in wax paper and chill until stiff through, about 2 hours–but you can leave the dough chilled in the fridge for up to four days (after that it begins to pick up ‘off’ flavors from the fridge).

With a sharp slicing knife, cut the dough into thin slices (less than 1/4″, just over 1/8″). Place the slices a little apart on an ungreased baking sheet. If you’re using decorations, press a few gently into the top of each cookie now. Bake until the cookies are lightly browned: 8-10 minutes. Makes about 8 dozen cookies. These keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.


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