For as long as I can remember, my mom has been making the most amazing Christmas cookies every year. The funny thing is that I remember eating (lots) of them, but don't remember helping make them. Am I a terrible daughter? Have I been watching her bake and bake and bake, and just standing idly by, eating as she goes? I'm afraid so. Well not this year. I'm making my own cookies to distribute (how ever many escape their deaths in the pit of my stomach) and I'm also taking a day off of work to bake cookies with my mom! This year I'll be earning my cookies.
On Sunday morning I ran my butt off in anticipation of the cookies I'd be eating later. I made two kinds, old favorites of mine: gingerbread cookies and sugar cookies. I think I have an unhealthy obsession with sugar cookies, and have since learned that baking them at home can lead to disastrous consequences (i.e. eating way too many and then feeling guilty about the people that will now be missing out on my cookies). But my mission was a success...I made lots of cookies.
Part I: Making the Dough
Combine flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg in a bowl.
Combine butter, brown sugar and molasses in a large bowl.
Mix until combined.
Add egg; beat well.
Add flour mixture to sugar mixture, beat until well blended.
Separate dough in half; press dough balls into 4-inch circles on plastic wrap.
Wrap dough up and chill for 1 1/2 hours.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt; stir with a whisk.
Measure granulated sugar and butter into a large bowl.
Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Mix in vanilla and egg whites.
Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture; mix until just combined.
Divide dough in half. Form each portion of dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour.
Part II: Chilling the Dough
The gingerbread dough needed to chill for 1 1/2 hours, and the sugar dough needed to chill for 1 hour, then rolled and chilled for an additional half hour. While the dough chilled, I met Katie (who's been one of my best friends since 4th grade and is in town for a couple weeks) for margaritas and burritos at Border Cafe in Burlington.
Part III: Rolling the Dough, Cutting the Cookies, Baking the Cookies
Roll each portion of dough on a floured work surface into 1/8-inch thickness.
Cut dough with your favorite cookie cutters and place 1 inch apart on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes or until lightly browned.
Unwrap dough ball. Press dough into a 4 inch circle on the plastic wrap. Cover with additional plastic wrap and roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Chill dough for another 30 minutes. Yes, I know that's a giant beer bottle. I don't have a rolling pin!
After dough has chilled, remove from fridge and take off both pieces of plastic wrap. Roll out more if necessary.
Use your favorite cookie cutter to create cookies.
Place cookies 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
Table of cookies:
Part IV: Frosting the Cookies
Sift 1 cup of powdered sugar into a bowl (a fine sieve works well if you don't have a sifter).
Add 1 tablespoon of water to the sugar and stir until your frosting forms.
Spoon frosting into a Ziploc bag and cut a tiny hole in one corner to squeeze icing out.
Frost cookies as you like! Mine kind of look like a 5 year-old made them.
Combine 2 cups powdered sugar with 1/4 cup milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Mix until frosting forms.
Using a teaspoon, decorate the cookies with the icing (if you want to pipe the frosting like the gingerbread cookies, reduce milk to 2 tablespoons).
I also added some red and green sugar to the tops of some of the cookies.
Table of decorated cookies:
Part V: Eating the Cookies
And I did give some away...
A nice plate of cookies for Pat's boss
I made little take-out boxes with cookies for some co-workers
These boxes are cute, and only $1 at Michaels!
You may have noticed from my pictures that I'm missing a few cookie kitchen items. I don't have a electric mixer, I don't have wire cooling racks, and I don't have a rolling pin or sifter. All you really need is your ingredients, a whisk, a bowl, a cookie sheet, and an oven (and parchment paper is a big help too!). I'm happy working without these tools, but am secretly hoping that Santa will bring some of them for Christmas (maybe if I leave him lots of cookies on Christmas Eve!).
Cookie Recipes - I found both of these recipes in the online archives at Cooking Light, and both turned out to be wonderful! Though I can't quite say these are healthy, they are a lot better for you than some other versions of these holiday favorites, but taste just as rich.
Gingerbread - makes 4 dozen cookies
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 3 tbsp molasses
- 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp water
- To prepare cookies - combine flour, ginger, and next five ingredients (through nutmeg) in a bowl, stir with a whisk. Combine brown sugar, butter, and molasses in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 2 minutes. Add egg; beat well. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture; beat at low speed until well blended. Divide dough in half (dough will be sticky). Gently press dough into a 4-inch circle on plastic wrap. Cover with additional plastic wrap; chill 1 1/2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Roll each portion of dough to a 1/8-inch thickness on a floured work surface; cut with a 3-inch gingerbread man or woman cookie cutter (or any shape you like!). Place cookies 1 inch apart on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove cookies from baking sheet; cool completely on a wire rack.
- To prepare icing - combined sifted powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon water. Spoon the mixture into a Ziploc bag. Snip a small hole off the corner of the bag (I used a safety pin to create a very small hole). Pipe icing onto the cookies as desired.
Iced Sugar Cookies - makes 3 dozen cookies
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 10 tbsp butter, softened
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 large egg whites
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup 1% milk
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- To prepare cookies - combine flour, baking powder and salt, stirring well with a whisk. Place granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in 1 1/2 tsp vanilla and egg whites. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Divide dough in half. Shape each dough half into a ball; wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 1 hour.
- Unwrap one dough ball. Press dough into a 4-inch circle on plastic wrap. Cover with additional plastic wrap. Roll dough, still covered, to a 1/4-inch thickness. Repeat with remaining dough ball. Chill dough 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Remove dough from refrigerator. Remove top sheet of plastic wrap; turn dough over. Remove remaining plastic wrap. At this point I rolled the dough out a little more (without the plastic wrap on it) to thin in down to 1/4-inch. Using a 2 1/2 inch cutter, cut dough and place cookies 2 inches apart on baking sheets lines with parchment paper. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on pans 5 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks.
- To prepare icing - combine powdered sugar and remaining ingredients, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Spread about 1 tsp of icing over each cookie. Let stand on wire rack until set. (I varied the amount of icing on the cookies, some I iced heavily and others I just made very fine lines - everyone has their icing preferences, so I thought this way there would be a better variation. I also sprinkled some with red and green sugar).
Serving size: 1 cookie
We also finished decorating the Christmas tree!
A few of our other decorations:
I love nutcrackers!
An ornament I bought this year after running the Boston Marathon:
Some of my favorite ornaments (Christmas heels!):