Christmas cookies

Hard to believe that Christmas is on Saturday! I can’t wait to catch the red-eye on Wednesday to head home to Atlanta for a good long stretch. Somehow my parents’ house always feels so warm and cozy at Christmas.

My family has a ridiculously long list of Christmas traditions…some of them are sweet and meaningful, and some of them are pretty random–but most of them include the entire extended family. For example, we do all five of the Advent readings and candle lightings after Christmas Eve dinner. Sweet and meaningful, right? Then there’s the tradition of all of the first cousins going to Dairy Queen for lunch on Christmas Eve day. Random. And slightly redneck. Now we go to Rocco’s.

Before we left Atlanta for Mema and Papa’s house in Swainsboro every Christmas (and then to Winnie’s in Cordele on Christmas Day), we made batches of sugar cookies at home. It was usually an afternoon-long activity: making the dough, letting it rest in the refrigerator, rolling it out with heaps of flour scattering everywhere, eating the scrap dough, carefully transferring each cut-out cookie to the cookie sheet, waiting for them to cool after baking, and finally decorating them. The cookie cutters are as familiar to me as old friends…the gingerbread man, the bell, the angel, the big star and little star, the long candy cane.

Didn’t get any of my family’s old cookie cutters when I was home for Thanksgiving, so I had to buy a few new ones.

Those cookies were adorable, but hardly compared to my Aunt Mary’s masterpieces. Her sugar cookies, expertly frosted, are still one of the most sought-after things on the dessert table every Christmas. I prefer the snowmen because they have the most icing. But really, her cookies are legendary in our family, and I’m looking forward to having one in just a few days!

Though I didn’t decorate these cookies with the “paint” (an egg yolk beaten with food coloring) we used when I was a kid, the process was no less messy or time-consuming. The dough turned out to be delicious despite grabbing the wrong measuring cup to measure out the sugar…there’s supposed to be a whole cup in each batch, but I used only 3/4 cup! Whoops.

Sugar cookies

from Martha, naturally. Makes two dozen cookies.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp milk (I used half-and-half)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the icing, I used regular Duncan Hines white fluffy frosting from the grocery store. I also went all-out and bought some cute sprinkle-like decorations.

Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl, and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. While the mixer is running, add the egg, brandy, and vanilla and mix until well combined. Set the mixer to low, and slowy add in the flour mixture. Do not overmix, but mix until just combined.

Transfer the dough to a work surface and separate dough into two discs . (I just did two round lumps of dough and it was fine.) Cover with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for at least an hour. This dough freezes really well, too.

While I was waiting for the dough in the fridge, I made up all of the frosting I needed. I put the festive sprinkles in mugs, and crushed up some candy canes.

Frosting was separated into three bowls, stirred with spoons, and then gel food coloring was added (red and green). Because I don’t have any of the Betty Crocker frosting bags with a zillion different tips like my mom does, I put icing in a ziploc bag and then cut a tiny corner off…it’s the first time I’d tried that trick and it worked beautifully! Go ahead and preheat the oven to 350°.

When the dough is ready, liberally sprinkle flour on a work surface and also on your rolling pin. Doesn’t hurt to dust your cookie cutters, either.

Roll the dough out into 1/8-inch thickness, and use the cookie cutters to cut out the dough. With this recipe, you don’t have to leave tons of space between each cookie–they don’t puff up very much. Bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly golden…don’t let the cookies brown.

Let them cool completely before you frost them.


2 thoughts on “Christmas cookies

  1. Lizzie – like so many of your entries on this blog, the sugar cookie entry flooded me with many visual memories and emotion. I love to think about those wonderful days in the tiny kitchen on Hillside making a big mess with little hands. But TODAY I am mainly looking forward to all of you being home (Michael’s plane is over Sweden right now!) for all those traditions that me share and maybe some new ones this year. Hurry home. I love you

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