It matters little what else I bake at Christmas, as long as we have these cookies. Each year I ask my family, if they could only pick a couple of favorites, what would they be? Sugar cookies and poppy seed bread always top the list. Now there are other things we enjoy too, like chocolate chip peanut butter cup cookies, glazed lemon and molasses. Some of us like rocky road fudge. I'm usually tempted by a new recipe or two, which has led to adding cranberry bliss bars to the list. This can become a problem though, adding new recipes, while still trying to hold onto the tried and true favorites.
Each year I say I won't bake as much as I did the year before, and then I do. It's a hard habit to break.
I hope I will get to every yummy thing on the list, but if not, I have sugar cookies in the freezer waiting for Christmas Eve. This family favorite came from an old Betty Crocker cookbook, and the recipe is so good, I've never felt the need to search for another one.
Once the dough is mixed, it needs to be refrigerated for a couple of hours. Forming the dough into a disc and covering with plastic wrap, makes it easier to roll out later. I usually mix it up in the evening and then make the cookies the next day.
I let the dough soften for about fifteen minutes before rolling. Unpacking the cookie cutters and reminiscing about where they came from is part of the fun. I have some that belonged to my grandmother, as well as a few brand new ones I picked up on vacation this year.
Roll, cut and repeat.
I bake them for five to six minutes, watching really closely not to let them brown. If you see brown edges, you've let them go too far. They'll continue to set up as they cool. After a couple of minutes, move them to a wire rack. I do all the baking before I start decorating. If I'm going to freeze them for later use, I do it now, before the glazing process.
To make a glaze, I sift confectioners sugar and mix it with water to a consistency for dipping. I don't want it to be so thin it runs off, nor so thick that it sits stubbornly on top. It has to be just right...
I dip the top of the cookie in the glaze,
and scrape the excess off on the side of the bowl.
You have to work fast to get the sprinkles on before the glaze begins to harden. This is the messy part and of course the part that kids like the best. In our family, we have those who like the flat sprinkles, some who like the colored sugar, and others who want them naked, with no frosting or sprinkles at all!
Once the frosting is dry, they're ready to plate and enjoy, or give away to lucky people!
Christmas Sugar Cookies
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. almond extract
2 1/2 cups unbleached plain flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cream of tartar
Mix powdered sugar, butter, egg, vanilla and almond extract. Mix in
flour, baking soda and cream of tartar. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and
refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Let
dough soften a little and roll out onto floured surface. Cut into shapes.
Bake 5- 8 minutes.
Note: If you want to make your life a little easier, break up the process into a couple steps. Mix up the dough one day. It will be fine in the refrigerator for a week or so, if you wrap it well.
Bake the cookies on another day. I usually put them in the freezer at this point. Then a day before you want to serve them (or give them as a gift), thaw the baked cookies and decorate.
When approached this way, cut out sugar cookies are easy to make, especially if you're working with children. And don't we all think it's fun to choose a pretty Christmas shaped cookie from the cookie platter? Enjoy!