Once a year, I turn up the Christmas music, clear off the counters, and devote an entire day to cookie-baking. Some years I bake with my best friend and her mom, some years we bake with multiple mother-daughter duos, and some years it’s just my mom and me. No matter how many people are there, or how many types of cookies/candy we make, the Christmas spirit always comes alive when I’m in the kitchen rolling out sugar cookies or stirring a pan of boiling fudge with the people I love.
It seems like the more people we get together with, the more treats are made. In the past we’ve tried our hands at taffy, peanut brittle, spritz cookies, peanut butter blossoms, and fudge, but the one type of cookie that is absolutely essential to our baking day is the classic roll-out sugar cookie. I’ve probably tried out a dozen different recipes for Christmas cookies over the years, ranging from Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix to delicate butter cookies to gluten-free sugar cookies. I have to say that my favorite recipe is from a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook that my parents bought me many years ago when I was just starting to bake on my own. The recipe is very simple, rolls out easily, and tastes delicious every time. I love that it includes a pinch of nutmeg in the dough, but you could just leave it out if you’re not a nutmeg fan (in which case I am so, so sorry for the deprivation your tastebuds must face).
In my opinion, when it comes to sugar cookies the quality of the cookie doesn’t matter so much…the main fun is decorating! I’m no food snob when it comes to these…canned frosting? Check. Myriad of sprinkles, colored sugar, edible pearls, chocolate chips, raisins, and whatever other mishmash of toppings I can find in the pantry? Check. Someone to decorate with? Christmas CDs in the stereo? My grandmother’s trusty old rolling pin? The ten thousand or so cookie cutters we’ve collected over the years? Check, check, check, check. The most fun of all is the throng of memories that come pouring in…sticky fingers stretching taffy with a group of giggling friends, a swell of pride from rolling out the dough all by myself, brow furrowed in concentration with the placement of tiny sprinkles as lights on my christmas tree cookie, stomach aches from eating too much frosting. I’m a sucker for traditions.
What are your favorite holiday traditions? Cookie baking? Christmas caroling? Movie watching? All of the above? Happy Holidays, everyone!
Classic Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
1/2 cup butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (optional)
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbs milk
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter until softened. Add in the granulated sugar, baking powder, and nutmeg; beat for 2-3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla, and milk, beating until well-combined. Mix in the flour until a dough forms.
Pat the dough into a ball, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Take half the dough out of the refrigerator and turn out onto a floured surface. With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a disc about 1/4″ thick. Cut out shapes as desired. Place cookies on lined cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart.
Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are golden-brown. Cool cookies completely before frosting.
(Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens: Junior Cookbook)