Sunday, December 05, 2010

Christmas Cookies

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We made and decorated Christmas sugar cookies tonight.

This was a big event for me. One of the things I was most looking forward to about starting a family was doing activities together, and carrying on family traditions. And decorating sugar cookies is one of my fondest memories of a family activity from my childhood. I've been waiting three Christmases for this night.

I wasn't sure whether Valerie would get into it or not, but we've been reading a story about Christmas cookies every night before bed, and she loves it, so I thought we would give it a try. A friend and her daughter came over, and we let the girls stir the ingredients while I measured them into the bowl. Valerie helped roll out the dough, and she helped press down the cookie cutters. Then she got a little too enthusiastic and started overlapping with the cookie cutter, making all kinds of strange and interesting shapes. I baked the wonky shapes anyhow, because they were part of the fun.

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Valerie put too many sprinkles on her cookies, and had a great time doing it. I just let her have her fun, and used a paper funnel to put the extra sprinkles back every time she emptied the shaker.

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Babies are great and all, but it sure is fun having a kid.

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Aunt Betty's Sugar Cookies

This is an inherited recipe from my mom's Aunt Betty. It is my all-time favorite sugar cookie recipe. The dough rolls out beautifully and, best of all, it doesn't require refrigeration.

Ingredients:
  • 4 cups flour

  • 1 tsp. baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp. salt

  • 1 cup shortening

  • 1 cup (heaping) sugar

  • 2 beaten eggs

  • 1 tsp. baking soda

  • 1/3 cup milk

  • 1 tsp. vanilla


Directions:
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375.

  2. Sift together first 3 ingredients.

  3. Cut shortening into dry ingredients (until mixture resembles small crumbs).

  4. In a separate bowl, beat eggs. Add sugar to eggs and mix well. Stir last three ingredients into the egg mixture. Add to dry ingredients and mix well.

  5. Roll the dough (half at a time) on a lightly floured surface, about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into shapes. Bake for 6-10 minutes until centre bounces back when gently touched (don't let them get brown!).

  6. Allow to cool completely before decorating. Decorate with Icing Sugar Icing, candies and sprinkles.


Icing Sugar Icing

(This recipe is so simple that I don't even have it written down anywhere. I hope it makes sense.) Fill a bowl with icing sugar. Add water, a dribble at a time, stirring after each addition, until the icing is a spreadable consistency. It doesn't take much water (something like a teaspoon per cup of icing sugar), so don't add a lot at once. Add food coloring if desired. This icing will dry fairly hard if you leave the cookies out overnight.


Window-Pane Cookies

stainedglasscookies

This is a surprisingly easy variation that works beautifully. Prepare the dough as directed above. Cut out fairly large cookies (I use a plastic cup or margarine container, or even just a knife, because I don't have any big cookie cutters). Now cut smaller holes out of the middle of the large cookies (4-5 cm diameter). Place the cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and place a hard candy in the center of each. (I also used broken candy cane pieces, and they worked well, too.) Bake as directed above. The candies will melt and spread to fill the holes during the baking time. Allow the cookies to cool completely on the parchment paper before attempting to move them, so the candy has time to harden.

4 comments:

nosce said...

I too am on my third year of waiting to start in on most holiday traditions. We got a tree for the first time last year, but the cookies have been waiting patiently. I'm going to try yours, they look very toddler friendly!
In my childhood home we used a Mirro cookie press and filled it with Norwegian and Danish cookie doughs- they're easy to make, fun to push out of the press, and bite-size. Those presses are readily available now at both thrift stores (for the old aluminum ones like I've got) or craft stores (for a plastic "gun" style model). I can pass on the recipe to you if you'd like.

Wow! Valerie is getting so big!

Trish said...

Finally...a recipe I don't have to refrigerate. The Irony of it all is that it's the recipe I had on our wedding favor recipe cards. Should have that one in my box of recipes somewhere :P

jd said...

I actually use milk instead of water and also add vanilla to the icing sugar. Incidentally, there's another "american" versus "canadian"....they call it confectioner's sugar. And way to go allowing Valerie to actually stir the dough and cut out the cookies...I didn't!!

Jule Ann said...

@Nosce: We actually had a press like that as a kid, but I don't remember being allowed to use it. My dad made the pressed cookies, and they didn't really get decorated except for using colored dough and adding the occasional candy ball bearing. (Looking back, as a parent, I bet they were the cookies he made when we needed cookies ASAP for an event or something.) They were also my least favorite Christmas cookie. I wonder if the "not getting to help" thing is why?

@Trish I thought that recipe was one of your wedding favors! I didn't mention it because I didn't want to make you feel silly. But half of my wedding is a blur, so I don't blame you for forgetting about it!

@jd The reason I don't use milk is because I leave the cookies out at room temperature, and the milk doesn't get cooked, so it seemed like a food safety risk. Not that we ever got sick from them growing up, but I use water just in case.

And I had forgotten that "icing sugar" was a Canadian term! No one ever questions me when I use it, so it must be a descriptive enough term to convey the meaning.