Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas Cookies Make Me Smile!

Christmas cookies make me smile.  Not only are they delicious, but beautiful and colorful, too.  Call me corny, but there is nothing better than blaring some Christmas music and baking up a big batch of cookies.  It just makes me happy!  Some of my fondest memories involve baking Christmas cookies.  I used to make them with my Mama when I was a little girl.  When my kids were little, they loved helping me bake cookies (now they just want to eat them). They would help measure the ingredients (that's how I taught them about fractions) and then they would sprinkle the colored sugar onto the cookies before we baked them.  They also helped me bag them up in pretty cellophane bags.  We always gave Christmas cookies as gifts to their teachers, neighbors, family, etc.  Since December is right around the corner (and I had volunteered to send a snack to my son's school), I decided to put on some Christmas music and bake some cookies.

These are basic sugar cookies.  I like this recipe because I always have the ingredients on hand (nothing weird involved).  You can either sprinkle them with colored sugar before you bake them or "paint them" with an egg yolk cookie paint (recipe to follow).  I used colored sugar.  This recipe yields about 4 dozen (depending on the size of your cookie cutters).


2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature (leave it on the counter for about an hour)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  In the bowl of a mixer (if you don't have a big stand mixer, use a hand-held electric mixer) beat softened butter and sugar for 3 minutes (until fluffy and light).  Beat in egg.  Then, beat in vanilla.  Reduce the mixer speed to low (or you'll have flour everywhere, trust me) gradually add in the flour, a little at a time.  Mix just until incorporated.  Shape dough into 4 disks.  Put each disk between 2 pieces of wax paper.  At this point, you can stop and freeze the dough. (if you want to make them ahead to save time later on)   Just wrap each disk in wax paper then put in a freezer bag.  Freeze them until you need them.  Then, you can just take them out, let thaw, and follow the directions from here on out.

Roll each disk between 2 pieces of wax paper to 1/8 inch thick.  This makes clean up easier, plus you don't have to worry about flouring a board or your rolling pin.

After you roll them out, chill them in the fridge for 30 minutes (or freezer for 15).  THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!  If you try to cut the cookies out now, before chilling, the dough will be too sticky and you won't be able to get them off the wax paper.  It'll be a big ole mess!  Chill the dough!

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Using floured cookie cutters (I dip them in a bit of flour to keep them from sticking), cut out cookies.

Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet (you can line your cookie sheet with parchment paper if you like).  I like to use a nonstick cookie sheet.  These cookies don't spread too much, but don't crowd them.

The scraps that are left after you cut out the cookies can be gathered together and rolled out again(don't forget to chill the re-rolled dough).

Sprinkle each cookie with colored sugar.

 Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until very light golden on the edges.

Let cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

*Variation:  If you don't want to use colored sugar, you can make "cookie paint".  Separate an egg.  You just need the yolk.  Mix food coloring with the beaten yolk to get desired color.

Paint the cookies (with a pastry brush) before they go in the oven to bake.  This gives them a shiny, transparent look.

You could even do both.  Paint them and sprinkle sugar on them.  Have fun with it!

So, give yourself a shot of Christmas Spirit.  Blare some Christmas music and bake up these cookies.  Whether you give them away as gifts or eat them yourself, you're guaranteed a smile!

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