My mom was the one who called me last week with the news. I was working with a friend and totally unprepared for the message my mom had to deliver. “Did you hear who died?” “Yes,” I said, “Farrah Fawcett.” “No,” she said. “Did you hear who else?” “No, who?” I ran through possible celebrity deaths in my head. Or was it someone we knew? “Michael Jackson,” said mom.
Almost instantly I repeated those words: “Michael Jackson.” And my friend’s wife yelled out from the other room: “Michael Jackson died?” It was the kind of sentence you don’t expect to say and then when you do say it, or when you hear it, you liked it better when that sentence didn’t exist. Such was the case with those awful words, “Michael Jackson died.”
Michael Jackson became a superstar just when I was growing up. So his fame directly overlapped my childhood, and the other day I was at Taro Sushi in Park Slope and a jazz record was playing and one of the songs on it sounded awfully familiar. Like the kind of song that makes you tingle because it reminds you of something personal, something from your childhood. When I realized what it was I ran home (well, first I paid) and loaded it up on YouTube. Do you remember this? Michael Jackson and Roberta Flack singing “When We Grow Up” from “Free To Be You and Me”:
This was the soundtrack to my childhood and as I got older, Michael Jackson got older too. I vividly remember seeing the “Beat It” video for the first time, and owning the vinyl version of “Thriller. I remember when Michael Jackson’s hair caught on fire shooting that Pepsi commercial and I remember when “Dangerous” came out, I was in high school. Michael Jackson’s existence was just something I took for granted, and now that he’s gone I’m realizing how much I liked knowing he was alive.
So here’s my attempt at a tribute: a cookie based on that most iconic Michael Jackson symbol, his white glove.
They’re pretty simple to make: all you need is a shortbread recipe. I used one from The Barefoot Contessa, cutting it in half (which yielded about 8 cookies). Take 1 1/2 sticks of butter (at room temperature: that’s important) and put it in a mixer with 1/2 cup of sugar.
Mix that with the paddle attachment just until combined (about 20 seconds). Add 1 tsp vanilla (I didn’t have vanilla, so I used almond extract which worked nicely). Beat that in and then sift 1 3/4 cups of flour with 1/8 tsp salt (just a pinch) into the mixer. Beat just until the dough comes together:
Now flour a cutting board, plop the dough on it and form a disc.
Wrap the disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, print this image:
(Right-click and open in a new window if you want to print it without all this surrounding text.)
Cut out the glove:
Strangely, while I was doing all this, Craig was watching a Michael Jackson tribute concert from about 10 years ago and during his rendition of “Billy Jean,” he opened a briefcase and pulled out his jacket, his hat, and–of course–his glove, which he slipped on as all the fans went crazy. (Here’s a picture I snapped, to prove this really happened while I was making these cookies!)
Ok, now you’re ready to roll. Preheat the oven to 350. Take the dough out of the fridge, place it on the floured board, flour the top of it (lightly) and flour your rolling pin. Now roll it out, pushing out from the middle and moving the dough around as you go so it doesn’t stick. This part is tricky and as you can see, I’m not quite an expert yet.
Once it’s rolled out, place the glove on top:
Use a paring knife, and trace around the glove. Just like this, see?
Continue doing this with the rest of the dough:
Clear away the surrounding dough with your hands, and use a spatula to carefully lift the gloves on to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. You can re-roll the remaining dough and cut out more gloves if you’d like. Here they are before they go into the oven:
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or just until the edges turn brown (this happened faster for me, so make sure to check).
Now let them cool completely and, once they do, place them on a rack above a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil.
Mix together 1 cup of powdered sugar with just enough water to make a runny mixture. If it’s too thick, you’ll lose definition in the fingers and they won’t look like Michael’s glove: they’ll look like weird oven mitts.
Now here’s my main regret–I couldn’t find silver glittery cookie sprinkles, only white glittery cookie sprinkles:
So if you can find silver sprinkles, take pictures of your cookies and put the link in the comments!
As for mine, I used a pastry brush and brushed the icing on to each cookie (I found if I used a spoon, the cookie got too coated and, again, you couldn’t see the definition in the fingers). I just put a light coat of icing on and then sprinkled the cookie with the white glittery sprinkles. See?
And that’s how you make Michael Jackson Tribute Cookies. Please let me know if you give them a whirl or if you improve on them somehow. (I think, besides glittery sprinkles, using a hand cut-out with spaces between the fingers would probably be smarter: then you could use a thicker white icing and the glove would look more like Michael’s). Please link your version in the comments!
Anyway, this was just my humble attempt to tip my hat to a man who provided much of the soundtrack to my childhood. Watching him tonight in that concert from just 10 years ago, I’m pretty convinced–like many others are out there too–that we won’t see another talent like his in our lifetimes. Here’s to you, Michael Jackson. We’ll miss you.