My Terrible Kitchen Challenge: Utah Jell-O Cookies

Reading Time: 6 minutes
c. S.W. Sondheimer
Toats bought that Jell-O with my own $

… and we’re back!

My intention was to go in alphabetical order through the Good Housekeeping 50 Most Delicious Cookies by State list, however, when it came time for challenge #2, my intrepid assistant requested we skip ahead to the Utah Jell-O Cookies because she liked the colors. I mean, seriously, could you say no to this kid?

c. S.W. Sondheimer

Yeah, me either. Jell-O cookies it was.

As a refresher, this is where I’m working and what I’m working with:

c. S.W. Sondheimer

This week’s recipe comes from Just Helen:

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 3 oz pkg Jell-O – my favorites are raspberry, lime, lemon, or orange
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Directions

  • Cream the butter, shortening, sugar, and Jell-O. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat on medium speed until well mixed. Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder. On slow speed, add the dry mixture, adding a little at a time. Mix well.
    The dough will be fairly soft but not sticky. You don’t need to refrigerate the dough before rolling. I like to use a scoop to make my cookies more uniform in size.
  • Pre-heat oven to 400°. Roll dough into 1″ to 1 1/4″ balls, and then roll in a bowl with about 1/2 cup of granulated sugar in it, completely covering the exterior of the dough ball. Place on the pan about 2″ apart. Using a flat-bottomed glass (or bowl), press the dough to about a 3/8″ thickness.
  • Sprinkle the top with colored, chunky sugar. Mine all matched the different colors of dough, but you could contrast the colors if you like. Take the bowl (or flat-bottomed glass) and very lightly tap the chunky sugar into the cookie.
    Bake the cookies for 6–8 minutes. Those 6 minutes are plenty long enough unless you like your cookies crisp! Cool on a rack. It takes about an hour, start to finish. If you get one batch in and start rolling the next, it will go fast enough that you can start working on the next flavor/color before you finish the first. Store in a air-tight container.

Yield 30 – 36 cookies

I found the article vs. recipe instructions a bit confusing for the following reason: the author mentions her three favorite flavored concoctions, but the recipe only calls for one box of powder per batch. If you actually want to make three differently flavored/colored cookies, you’ll have to triple the recipe (if you break one batch into thirds, the Jell-O flavor in each is overpowering). The good news? Playing with a recipe is a fantastic, fun, and real-life applicable way for any young’uns who might be participating to practice adding and/or multiplying fractions (also a good refresher for grown-ups who will likely have to assist with math homework at some point in the future). It also results in a massive batch of cookies, so if you’re going multi-hued, this might be a good recipe to hold for a potluck, office party, or cookie exchange.

The only special equipment I recommend for the Jell-O cookies is a mixer of some sort because the batter is really thick to begin with and continues to thicken with the addition of even the small packet of colored sugar gelatin. You can mix by hand, but I imagine the attempt will result in sore arms and wrists and more of a marbled color effect than a through and through distribution (which, now that I’m thinking about it, would look really cool but also result in pockets of potentially too-strong flavor). A hand mixer should be sufficient for a single batch, but a stand mixer is best if you’re planning on going big.

Full disclosure: I have a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. It is one of the only really quality tools I have and it has paid for itself a thousand times over. I have, however, had this particular mixer for ten years (hubs and I bought it with a gift certificate we received for our wedding) and it is not pristine. Good news: it doesn’t have to be. All I need it to do is mix, which it continues to do quite admirably. Most of the time.

c. S.W. Sondheimer
I don’t even know how that knob came off.

 

The other nice thing about a stand mixer is that it’s much easier for the kiddos to operate than a hand mixer, which has to be wrestled with brute force and requires an ability to coordinate each hand toward a different task: one to steady the bowl and one to guide/control the mixer.

I let the seven-year-old help with hand-mixer whipped cream once, on a day I decided I didn’t feel like washing the Kitchen Aid bowl. Sufficed to say, washing the bowl would have been much faster than mopping the cream off the floor, the wall, and the chairs.

c. S.W. Sondheimer

The danger of the stand mixer is its power and the tendency of small people to have to lean hard on the knob to get it to move, resulting in the thing going from zero to a million in two seconds. The beauty of having a terrible kitchen? You don’t care when the floor ends up looking like this:

c. S.W. Sondheimer

I have a cookie scoop I usually use to make sure each unit is roughly the same size to ensure even baking. The girl and I tried the scoop with this dough and it was a giant fail; the gelatin in the powder makes the dough super sticky and gums up the scoop’s mechanism. Our alternative was to roll the dough into balls with our hands and then flatten them a bit prior to baking. Your hands will probably turn colors. As we say in my house, “You know it’s a good day when you’re dirty or colorful at the end.”

c. S.W. Sondheimer

I am an innate perfectionist and everything in me screams to make my baked goods as perfect and uniform as possible. Newsflash: not gonna happen when you’re cooking with a kid unless you correct their every attempt, which isn’t going to bolster her confidence in her abilities, and, since the whole point of this exercise on this day was for her and me to do chill together, I let it go. Which is a good exercise for me. A really, really difficult and wholly positive exercise.

c. S.W. Sondheimer

If I’m being totally honest, I thought this particular cookie was going to end up being sort of… well, gross. Jell-O isn’t terrible, but it’s always been one of those things I ate when I was sick or didn’t want to offend a host, and, for the most part, I think it tastes like chemicals. Fruity chemicals but chemicals nonetheless. Well, mea culpa, I’m pleasantly surprised with the results of this experiment. The cookies are soft and chewy and, because there are so many other delicious ingredients (it is a truth universally known that butter creamed with sugar is one of the absolute best-tasting things in all the world), you get a faint hint of fruit without that strong, pucker-inducing artificial aftertaste.

Family favorite results poll: one in favor of raspberry, two in favor of lemon, and one in favor of lime. The girl’s stuffed animals are evenly split.

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