Recipe excerpted from:
Gale Gand's Just a Bite
125 Luscious Little Desserts
Reprinted with permission.
My fantasy of the perfect life includes occasional weekends with no one around but my girlfriends, and nothing to do but play games and bake treats for one another. Friday night would definitely be devoted to playing mah-jongg. Two of my pals have taken up this Asian game in the past few years, rounding up other women whose mothers and aunts used to play.
Part of the appeal of mah-jongg is certainly the beautiful tiles and racks, often made of Bakelite (mah-jongg was big in the 1950s). These cookies, made from my mother's favorite sugar cookie dough and decorated to resemble the tiles, look great arranged on the colorful racks! And if the cookies make you want to play, you can find intact sets at Internet shopping sites or at flea markets. The National Mahjongg League will be happy to send you the simple rules.
A straightedge or ruler
Two cookie sheets, well greased or lined with parchment paper or with nonstick baking mats (see page 16); or nonstick cookie sheets
A few mah-jongg tiles, to copy
Tubes of black, red, and green icing with small tips for piping (you can buy these at most supermarkets and all baking supply stores)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cool unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Cream the butter until smooth and fluffy in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the sugar and mix until smooth. Add the egg, milk, and vanilla and mix. Sift 1 cup of the flour with the baking powder, add to the mixer, and combine. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour and mix just until combined. Form the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
Lightly flour a work surface. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Using a clean straightedge as a guide, with a sharp knife or pizza cutter cut the dough on a grid into rectangles, about 1 3 1 1/2 inches each. Transfer to the cookie sheets and bake until very light golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the pan. Then apply the colored icings.
The three suits are: "craks," Chinese characters drawn in thin red lines; "dots," black circles with red centers; and "bams," short lengths of green bamboo.
Excerpted from Gale Gand's Just a Bite by Gale Gand and Julia Moskin Copyright 2001 by Gale Gand and Julia Moskin. Excerpted by permission of Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.