Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Cookies

Has any only else just looked at their calendars and realized it’s December 21th and Christmas is mere days away? How did that happen? And how does it happen every year? It’s just like, BAM, here!

One of my families Christmas traditions is making and decorating cookies, like many families out there. I’m not sure where we got the recipe for this cookie dough. I believe there is a Norwegian or Scandinavian history to the recipe, passed along from neighbor to neighbor and from mother to daughter. The cookie is like a cross between cake, a shortbread cookie, and sugar cookie. It’s chewy with a nice hint of nutmeg and is not overly sweet, giving plenty of room for the icing to stand on its own. These cookies are seriously good, perfect for gifting out, but even better hidden in the freezer whenever you happen to walk on by (which is often in my case).

The first step in this process is finding the actual recipe, which took me over an hour of looking through every possible recipe binder we had. When the first go around wasn’t successful I repeated this and started pulling anything that looking like it could be the recipe. This turned out to be successful, but the table was covered in recipe cards and books.

Now, I’ll warn you: This cookie dough is MESSY. Seriously messy. As in flour covering every surface possible and then some (like the ceiling. And no, don’t ask me how it got there!). Let’s take a look at this shall we?

Christmas Cookie Recipe:

3c All-purpose flour
1 tsp. Baking soda
1 tsp. Baking powder

1 tsp. Nutmeg
1 pinch of Salt
½ Tsp. Cream of Tartar

1 ½ c Granulated sugar

1c Butter (Room temp)

1c Sour cream
2 Eggs

1 tsp. Vanilla

On low speed mix the wet ingredients until smooth. In a separate bowl mix dry ingredients, if you are feeling especially motivated you could sift the dry ingredients. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. To be honest I’ve never really noticed a difference in the cookie, but like I said, if you’re up for it, go for it!

Keeping the mixer on low speed slowly add the dry ingredients until just combine. Scrap the sides of the bowl and the bottom to make sure everything is well incorporated. Place bowl in the fridge for an hour or so, until the dough is firm and can be rolled out. I’m usually too impatient to wait long enough and will attempt to roll the dough out and get frustrated and angrily shove the bowl back in the fridge. Don’t be like me, wait the hour, you’ll be happy you did.

Next comes the really messy part. Clean off a large section of counter with the flour container nearby. If you have a granite counter or a marble pastry board this is a great time to use them. Then dust the counter liberally with flour, if you think there’s enough flour, go ahead, sprinkle on a little more. Reach in the fridge and grab a cup or so of cookie dough. Leave the rest in the fridge. Roll the dough out to about 1/8 – 1/4 of an inch. This dough should be slightly thicker than a standard sugar cookie. Using your favorite cookie cutters stamp out whatever shapes you like. I’m a fan of trees, stars, bells, and wreaths. I can usually re-use the same dough 2-3 times before it needs to go back into the fridge and re-chill.

Turn on the oven to 300F and bake for 12-15m, until cookies are set and ever-so-slightly brown on the edges.

Repeat this process until the cookies are done. Then scrub your entire kitchen because there’s flour EVERYWHERE!

Once cookies are cool, the fun part starts.

Beat powdered sugar, room temp butter, a splash of milk, and a drop or two of vanilla on medium until a spreadable icing forms. I don’t have measurements because I just eyeball everything till it looks like icing. The icing may look like it wants to separate, but it won’t and will look fine when set. I sprinkle iced cookies with sprinkles and cinnamon red hots.

For storage I usually place them in an empty shoe box and put in the freezer. This is how we always store them and to me, they just don’t taste the same at room temperature. But that’s me and my strange ways. Now after all your hard work, just sit back and enjoy some tasty goodness!

Merry Christmas!  

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