One of my earliest memories is making these cookies with my mom. There was always a batch for Christmas, and I would spend hours and hours decorating them with different colored frosting, creating works of art that were always proclaimed “too pretty to eat.” But eat them we did. First we ate the “oops-es” and then the less perfect ones, and finally the rest. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without a day spent in the kitchen, covered with flour.
These cookies are also a really great excuse to collect cookie cutters. I have dozens, and am always looking for another good one. A good cutter has no narrow spots, where the cookies usually break. It isn’t so big that it swallows up all the dough. And it’s a fun shape for decorating. I even still have the original cutters I used as a preschool-aged child—the horse, rabbit, dog, fir tree, circle (with crinkle edges), star (also crinkled), bell, and especially the crescent moon, whose shape was perfect for fitting between all the other cutouts.
What about you? What are your favorite Christmas cookies? Is there a special recipe that your family always makes for the holidays?
Rolled Butter Cookies
Makes 5 dozen small cookies (unless you eat all the scraps, as I would)
1 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. cream
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
Combine the butter, sugar, egg, cream and vanilla in a large bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat until fluffy.
Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda. (If using unsalted butter, add ½ tsp. of salt as well.) Using a wooden spoon, a sturdy mixer, or your hands, mix until thoroughly blended, but no more than necessary. Overbeating results in tough cookies. Chill if necessary.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out on a smooth surface dusted with flour, until it’s about 3/16 inch thick. Cut with floured cookie cutters. Allowing space for the cookies to rise during baking, place cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Gather the scraps together, brush off any extra flour, and repeat until all the dough is used up.
Bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly browned. To prevent sticking, remove the cookies from the baking sheet while still a bit warm. Decorate with colored frosting and colored sugars when cool.
You can buy canned frosting, but it’s easier (and tastier) to make your own buttercream. Use a stick of softened butter, a one-pound box of powdered sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla, and just enough milk or cream to achieve a spreadable consistency. (It doesn’t take much!) Using an electric mixer, beat on high until smooth.
Separate frosting into bowls and add a drop or two of food coloring to make pretty colors for decorating.