Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Cut-out cookies that taste as good as they look


When I was a little girl, I totally bought the fantasies of an old-fashioned Christmas. I wanted to go on sleigh rides and cut down our own Christmas tree. I wanted presents that looked like they were made by Santa's elves. I wanted to make sugar and gingerbread cut-out cookies and decorate them with all kind of fancy things.

But that was the 1960s and that stuff wasn't in vogue. Instead of sleigh rides, we took car rides around the neighborhood, admiring decorations that usually consisted of big fat Christmas lights and lit-up plastic Santas. Our tree was the same artificial one, year after year. My gifts, like the Barbies and the Easy Bake Oven and the Veronica doll with hair that grew, did not resemble anything elves could construct. And my mom made many different Christmas cookies, but cut-out cookies (either sugar or gingerbread) were way too much work for her.

As an adult I've tried out many of the old-fashioned traditions that I longed for as a child. Some I've adopted and others I've found to be vastly overrated. The real tree that we cut down last year, for example, aggravated my allergies and gave me a perpetual sinus headache (so it's back to an artificial tree, augmented by a reed diffuser that really smells pine-y).

But I do make cut-out cookies, even though I agree with my mom that they are a lot of work. I have tried out lots of cut-out cookie and icing recipes, and I've settled on a few favorites. This is one of my top two in terms of taste. Unfortunately they are a pain to make. You refrigerate the dough for three hours, and when you get it out of the fridge, you need to use some muscle to work with it. Then, once you've rolled it out once and cut out some shapes, it becomes too soft to work with and the dough has to go back into the fridge until it's harder. But the results are delicious.

Rich Rolled (Cinnamon) Cookies
(adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

1 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon (yes, tablespoon!) cinnamon

Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla.
Combine the flour, salt and cinnamon. Add to the butter mixture.
Chill dough 3-4 hours.
Preheat oven to 350. Grease cookie sheets.
Roll, somewhat thick, and cut with cutters.
Bake 8-10 minutes on greased cookie sheets, until slightly colored on the edges.

Sugar Cookie Frosting
(adapted from Allrecipes.com)

4 cups confectioners sugar
½ cup shortening
5 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
food coloring, if desired

Using an electric mixer, combine confectioners sugar and shortening. Mixture will look crumbly. Add milk and vanilla. Mix until smooth and stiff, about 5 minutes. Color with food coloring.

I'm contributing this to a food blog event at Foodblogga. For LOTS more Christmas cookies from food bloggers around the world, go here.

4 comments:

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I'm glad these cookies are a way for you to create pleasant holiday memories now, though I'm really sorry about the tree. I have always loved that smell. Cheers,Susan
ps-I think those 60's pink aluminum trees are staging a comeback!

Deborah said...

I agree - even though it's lots of work, you have to have rolled out cookies for Christmas!! And I feel for you that a real tree aggravates your allergies - I'm one of the few people I know that still gets a real tree every year!

Emiline said...

Wow, you are definitely busy with all of the holiday baking. These cookies look beautiful! I'll have to try the dough recipe some time. I think I'll run out of time to make these, before Christmas!

Gemma said...

Wow, great job decorating these cookies! I never have the patience and I am always so impressed when others do such nice work.

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