Today is Little Christmas Eve. At least that’s what my mom always called this day when we were growing up. Some people call it Christmas Eve Eve, or the day before Christmas Eve, or just December 23rd, I guess.
During my childhood Little Christmas Eve was often the day we baked Christmas cookies, my Mom used to say it was a day for children. Maybe that was a German tradition she picked up when we lived there. Of course, when I was young my favorite cookie was the cut out cookie, festooned with frosting and sprinkles. Quite honestly, frosted sugar cookies are no longer my favorite, mostly because I don’t like overly sweet things. But of course, they’re still my children’s favorite and still a Christmas necessity. We’re not baking at our house today, because we’ve already baked hundreds of cookies this year.
My daughter Charlotte has started a tradition of having a holiday party on the last day of school before Christmas. This year there were 14 seventh graders gathered at our house. In the days leading up to the party Charlotte and I made about 200 cut-out cookies. Then I made a quadruple batch of buttercream frosting.
The evening of the party there was lots of singing, laughing and shrieking, especially after copious amounts of sugar were consumed in the name of decorating cookies.
The recipe for cut-out cookies that I adopted this year comes from, by way of a dear friend, a book published in 1979 called Christmas Cookies & Candies by Barbara Myers.
My friend has had this book for decades and swears by the cut-out cookie recipe. Even though I’ve heard her rave about it for years, this is the first time I’ve ever given it a go. Let me tell you, she’s right. Now that I’ve tried it, there’s no need to ever make another. The virtues of this cookie are many. The dough can be rolled and re-rolled and the quality of the cookie is not effected; it’s not too sweet, which may have something to do with the sturdiness of the dough; the cookies hold their shape well; and they’re delicious. So all in all, perfect.
For decorating you can go the buttercream frosting route, as I did the night of the kid party. Or you can make the perfectly simple, almost elegant icing that accompanies the cookie recipe. I made still more cookies yesterday to serve at our winery holiday breakfast this morning and I gave the Sugar Glaze a try. Happily, I can say it is another winner. I left it plain white and kept the cut outs simple. Just stars, moons and hearts – all graced with sparkly silver sprinkles.
The glaze does have a little bit of corn syrup in it, which is something I ordinarily avoid, but considering how rarely we might have these, I’m not too worried.
My daughter has also recently gone gluten free, to try to tackle some digestive issues she was having. Eliminating gluten has made a big difference for her, and we’re learning every day about the best ways to make substitutions. In this case I simply swapped all-purpose flour for a gluten free, one-for-one replacement flour that I buy a Costco. It worked!
So without further ado, I give you the recipe for Simply Perfect Cut-Out cookies. And I’m off to go wrap some presents. Enjoy the cookies and enjoy the holidays!
- 1/2 pound butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
- Food coloring (optional)
- Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Beat in the egg and the vanilla.
- Combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir into the butter mixture, blend well. Wrap in plastic wrap or parchment paper and chill thoroughly. (at least an hour)
- Roll out the dough to slightly less than 1/8 of an inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutters. Place on a lightly greased (or parchment lined) cookie sheet.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, or until delicately browned at the edges. Let cool completely before frosting.
- Combine the sugar, corn syrup, milk and vanilla. Blend well. Tint portions of the frosting with food coloring if desired.
- Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap until ready to use.
- Before the glaze hardens on the cookies, sprinkle with decorations if desired.