the nice list- christmas cookies

"christmas cookies" are my absolute favorite cookies to make during this frenzied baking season. in my opinion they are a little bit of a pain in the butt, (the baking, cooling, icing, and decorating is a several-hours-long affair) but the finished result is so quintessentially christmas-y i can't help but look forward to it each year. plus, they keep me on a few nice lists. ;)

i'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but i happened upon this recipe for perfect sugar cookies that hold their shape very much by mistake. i did your usual pinterest research for non-spreading cookies, found a winner, and then proceeded to screw it up...but in a good way. 

the original recipe calls for two cups (aka 4 whole sticks!) of butter. in my haste/absentmindedness/a moment of blonde confusion i made this recipe for the first time using two sticks (not 2 cups) of butter. other than it requiring some upper body strength to roll the dough out, the cookies came out perfectly- their taste, consistency, mistake cookies were everything i hoped they would be. i've been using my accidentally modified recipe ever since!

xmas cookies2.jpg

| ingredients |

2  sticks unsalted butter (at room temperature)
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
seeds from 1 vanilla bean (or 3 tsp vanilla)
5 cups flour
1 tsp salt

| method |

using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium-low until incorporated. (about one minute.)  scrape down the sides of the bowl with a plastic spatula and mix again for a few additional seconds. do not overmix!

add the eggs slowly and mix.  scrape down the bowl with your spatula and mix again. cut open your vanilla bean, scrape the seeds out and add to mixing bowl.  (or add the vanilla extract if using.) stir until incorporated.

in a large bowl, sift flour and salt together.

add your sifted dry mixture to the electric mixing bowl, and place a kitchen towel between the edge of the bowl and the electric mixer so that the flour won’t escape.  mix on low speed for 30 seconds.  remove the towel and watch as the dough comes together; when it clumps around the paddle attachment, it’s ready!  again, please do not overmix! this results in tough (not airy) cookies.

roll the dough out between 2 large pieces of parchment paper.  place on a baking sheet and chill in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour.

roll out the dough further if needed, and cut out cookie shapes using a lightly floured cookie cutter.  place the cut shapes on parchment paper-lined baking sheet, re-roll scraps and repeat.

place the cookie dough shapes back into the fridge for 10 minutes to 1 hour to chill again. (i sometimes cheat here and place them in the freezer while the oven is preheating for about 10 minutes.) this helps the cookies hold a more precise edge when baked.

preheat your oven to 350°f.

bake the cookies for 8-12 minutes, or until the edges become golden brown.  watch carefully as bake time varies depending on the thickness and size of your cookies.

let cookies cool completely to room temperature before decorating!

notes: you can find oodles of youtube videos and tutorials on the delicacies of royal icing. it's really not as hard as it looks but getting the icing to the correct consistency is key! i highly recommend watching some videos explaining the differences between piping icing and flooding icing before you begin.

royal icing

| ingredients |

3/4 cup of warm water
5 tablespoons meringue powder (you can order this off amazon or purchase at your local craft store)
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
2.25 lbs powdered sugar

| method |

in the bowl of an electric mixer, pour in the warm water and the meringue powder. mix it with a whisk by hand until it is frothy and thickened, about 30 seconds. add the cream of tartar and mix for 30 seconds more.

pour in all the icing sugar at once and place the bowl on the mixer. using the paddle attachment on the lowest speed, mix slowly for 10 minutes. 10 whole minutes, no cheating. the Icing will get thick and creamy.

cover the bowl with a clean, dampened kitchen towel to prevent crusting and drying of the icing.

tint with food coloring and/or thin the icing with small amounts of warm water to reach the desired consistency.

decorate and enjoy!

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