If I were to count the number of cookies I've baked for Christmas over the years, I'd be counting for a very long time. I started baking cookies when I was twelve years old and haven't stopped since.
When my husband and I got married, my Christmas cookie production really exploded. Partly, this was due to the fact that he had come to love an abundance of baked goods that reminded him of his childhood. Partly, it came out of a desire of mine to build new and palpable edible traditions to pass on to our young children.
I began baking them just for our family but gradually, it became a yearly obsession. Soon, every Christmas became an opportunity to give baked gifts to friends and family. When my children were little, we would lovingly wrap dozens of cookies to give away. We loved nothing more than to deliver them door to door until they were all gone. At one point, we were delivering more than 120 dozen cookies.
When it comes to Christmas cookies, variety rules in my kitchen. I relish on presenting platters filled with different shaped cookies of varying textures and flavors. Every year, I make sure to offer an assortment that includes as many categories as I can: chewy, crispy, nutty, chocolatey, lacey, sugary, sticky, bar, sliced, dropped, filled, rolled--you name it.
Years later, my family members each have their favorite cookies. Those are the ones that I must include. I can always digress and add more but only after I've made the ones they can't go without. They've come to look forward to the days when I crank both ovens, lay parchment paper-lined sheets all over the kitchen counters, and do nothing but bake, bake, and bake,while the stereo plays our favorite carols of the season. This cookie-baking marathon is what signals the start of the Christmas season in our home.
The manger is set, the tree decorated, the house dressed for the holidays, and the bushes covered in lights. However, our Christmas is not complete without our cookies. I wouldn't have it any other way.
In the spirit of giving, I offer you one of my favorite recipes for sugar cookies. I've been baking these for my girls for over two decades. I hope you'll include them in your repertoire too. As you can see from the photo, we have fun with the shapes of cookies we make each year. Our tradition for sugar cookies always includes angels and trees. We also throw in fun shapes such as jalapeno peppers as our way of spicing up our Christmas and keep things fun and witty.
Well, here is the recipe. Feliz Navidad, y'all!
Sandra's Sugar Cookies
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
2 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until it's creamy and fluffy, about 1 minute (use a hand-held or standing mixer). Add the egg, vanilla, and cream and beat until combined. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; add this to the butter mixture, while beating on low speed until the dough comes together. Roll the dough into a ball; chill for 3-6 hours. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 1/4 inch thickness and cut out shapes. Knead scraps together and chill for 20 minutes before re-rolling and cutting more shapes. Bake cookies for about 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden around the edges. Cool for 2 minutes on the sheets; transfer to cooling racks to cool completely. Decorate with store bought icing, royal icing, or candies.
Makes 30-36 cookies (depending on the size of your cutters).
Recipe Copyright Sandra A. Gutierrez, 2012. All Rights Reserved. No part of this post, photograph or recipe may be used without the author's permission.