I put out for Santa. I’m also fully supportive of his ‘cookie-only’ diet.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Christmas cookie season! I’ve waited 11 months for this. Diet starts January 1, right? So, you might as well enjoy the cookies. Lots and lots of cookies.
If you’re going to a cookie swap or a holiday party pot luck, looking for ‘sweet’ gifts, or just needing something to do while you watch Elf and Home Alone, try some of these recipes! Nothing will put you more in the holiday spirit like a little cookie decorating.
…Aren’t you feeling festive already!?
Before we get started, most of these recipes (and many cookie recipes) have some of the same, important instructions. Here’s a few tips to be sure you’re happy with your cookie results.
– Room Temperature Butter: What exactly IS room temperature butter? You probably see it on lots and lots of recipes, and here’s what you’re looking for: butter the consistency of mayonnaise or greek yogurt. You don’t have to leave sticks of butter out all day (though you certainly can), you can microwave it for 5-7 seconds at a time, until you start to get that texture.
– Creaming butter and sugar: It really does take 3-5 minutes, and can take even longer if you don’t have truly room temperature butter. You want the sugar to be really well dissolved into the butter, and the consistency of the mixture to be similar to pomade. (Weird analogy, but my chefs taught me that in pastry school and it’s true.)
– Overmixing: It’s so easy to overmix cookies, because you don’t mix them for long – mix the dough just until the dry ingredients are incorporated. If you continue to mix, too much gluten will develop and your cookies will be tough and chewy, and not crisp and delicate. So don’t go mixer-crazy.
– Chilled Dough: Once your dough has come together, it’s important the butter has time to firm back up before rolling or scooping your dough. This will prevent the dough from sticking to your counter, or your rolling pin, or your cookie cutters, and also helping them hold shape while they bake. I even tend to roll the dough to my desired thickness, and pop it in the freezer for a few minutes, just so when I’m ready to cut my shapes, the process is clean and quick.
– Royal Icing: Royal icing is egg whites, and powdered sugar. I can give you measurements, but truth be told, it will be different every time (depending on how many grams your egg white is, etc.) so, here’s what I do: Crack an egg white in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add powdered sugar gradually, one tablespoon at a time, until the icing is thick, but pipe-able. I do a piping test before I get started to be sure the icing is really thick, doesn’t run, and truly holds it’s shape. This is the icing you want to use for the border of your cookie. If you want to fill in your cookies, reserve some of the thick icing, and add water to it, until the consistency is much more liquid, and will easily ‘fill-in’ the inside of the cookie border. Once both are fully dried (this can take a few hours), you can use the thicker royal icing for any piping decorations on top. You can always add food coloring, sprinkles, or whatever else you’d like to use to decorate. Royal icing can dry out quickly, so be sure to cover your bowl with a wet paper towel while you’re working.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, time to bake!
First up: sugar cookies. They’re are easy, but they’re also easy to mess up – but don’t stress! You’ve got the helpful cookie hints above, and a full-proof recipe below. Your cookies will hold their shapes and be crisp and crumbly and icing-ready!
I made snowflakes, candy canes and christmas trees – but you can decorate any shape you like, or use any cookie cutters you have on hand.
Recipe: Sugar Cookies
(makes about 3 dozen)
227 g unsalted butter, room temperature
225 g sugar
375 g flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Royal Icing (recipe above)
1. Cream the butter and the sugar for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy in stand mixer with paddle attachment.
2. Add the egg, milk and vanilla and continue to mix until fully incorporated.
3. Add the dry ingredients, and mix until dough just comes together.
4. Form into a round disc, plastic wrap, and chill for 3-4 hours, or overnight.
5. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll dough to 3/8 inch thick, and cut into desired shapes. Bake 7-10 minutes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, until edges are very lightly browned. Cool completely before icing.
Next… you know Dasher, and Prancer, and Donner, and peanut butter – so you’ll love these reindeer cookies. Aren’t they cute?!
Recipe: Peanut Butter Reindeers
(makes about 2 dozen)
133 g creamy peanut butter (about 1/2 cup)
100 g light brown sugar
112 g sugar
114 g butter
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
166 g flour
extra sugar, as needed
semi sweet chocolate chips, red M&Ms and pretzels for reindeer decorations
1. Cream together the butter, peanut butter, and sugars in stand mixer with paddle attachment for 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy.
2. Add egg, and mix until fully incorporated.
3. Add dry ingredients, and mix just until dough comes together.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a mini scoop, roll dough into balls and place on parchment lined sheet pan. Sprinkle with sugar and bake 10-12 minutes, until edges are lightly golden brown.
5. While cookies are still hot, press pretzels into the cookies for the antlers. When cookies are slightly cooler, press chocolate chips for eyes and M&Ms for nose.
So, we’ve had sugar cookies, and peanut butter cookies… something chocolate is clearly necessary. And something peppermint, also necessary. I mean, really, the only good thing about the farewell of the caramel apple lollypop stock at Walgreen’s is the return of the candy cane mint candies. If you don’t like peppermint (…REALLY?!) you can always omit the peppermint extract and top them with a regular ole Hershey’s hug, or kiss.
Recipe: Peppermint Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
(makes about 2 dozen)
125 g flour
50 g baking cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
225 g granulated sugar
57 g butter, melted and cooled
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
powdered sugar, as needed
approx. 24 hershey’s candy cane mint candies
1. Combine the baking cocoa, baking powder and salt – set aside.
2. Cream together the melted butter and sugar in stand mixer with paddle attachment for 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy.
3. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until fully incorporated. Add the extracts.
4. Add the dry ingredients, and mix just until dough comes together. Chill 3 hours, or overnight, until dough can be formed into balls with a mini scoop.
5. Pre-heat oven to 350. Once dough is chilled, roll balls in powdered sugar, and bake on parchment lined sheet pan for 8-10 minutes, until cookies are crinkled and no longer look raw.
6. While still warm (but not warm enough to melt the chocolate), top with a hershey’s candy cane mint candy.
I saved the best for last: gingerbread cookies. Is ANYTHING more December-ish!? These are definitely my favorite. They’re soft, and spicy, and just taste like Christmas.
Recipe: Gingerbread Cookies
(makes about 25 large cookies)
500 g flour
1 1/2 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
114 g unsalted butter, room temperature
100 g brown sugar
170 g molasses
118 g water
Royal Icing (recipe above) & candies to decorate, as needed
1. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and spices – set aside.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar in stand mixer with paddle attachment for 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy.
3. Add water and molasses and continue to mix until emulsified.
4. Add the dry ingredients, and mix just until dough comes together. Form into a round disc, plastic wrap, and chill for 3-4 hours, or overnight.
5. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough to 3/8 inch thick, and cut into desired shapes. Bake 10-12 minutes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, until edges are very lightly browned. Cool completely before icing.
All I want for Christmas, is cookies. Of course these aren’t my only favorite Christmas cookies – but they’re definitely my top four favorite. There just might be more to come… after all, there’s still plenty of time until Christmas. (& Hanukah! Jelly donuts are on the to do list…)
Have a holly, jolly, cookie season,