Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Delicious, Year 4

I think everyone has something that makes the holidays the holidays. For me, it's my great-grandmother's sugar cookies. They're a huge pain in the ass and it takes two days and makes my back hurt, but (1) they are SO good, I find many sugar cookies bland, but these have flavor apart from the frosting, and (2) they make Christmas HAPPEN. Even when it's like 70 degrees outside and feels nothing like the holidays at all.


I realized tonight that despite writing about this magical tradition several times, I've never shared the recipe. So here it is, my holiday gift to you, from me and my Great-Grandma Esther, for delicious delicious sugar cookies:

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter (you can do all butter, but half and half is the original)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, well-beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

(I usually triple the above and that yields about 8-9 dozen good sized cut-out cookies, and also nearly breaks my KitchenAid)



1. Cream shortening, butter.
2. Add sugar, eggs, extracts.
3. Add dry ingredients.
4. Chill dough (at least 6 hours or overnight).
5. Roll out dough and cut shapes.
6. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes.


The directions do not tell you that you will use another 2-3 (or 5) full cups of flour rolling out the dough and trying to keep it from sticking on your rolling pin, cutting board, cookie cutters, and/or your own hands as you carefully and prayerfully transfer each painstakenly cut shape to your waiting baking tray. If it's a humid day, or if it's taking a while to roll and cut, you'll need to put the dough back in the fridge between rolling/cutting intervals. And you'll need even more flour.


It is a labor of love. This time I split the prep into thirds: making the dough early Saturday morning; rolling, cutting, and baking the dough on Saturday afternoon while the kids napped; and decorating and icing the cookies on Sunday. I'll probably do it that way again if I can.


JP was sous chef. I've never had a sous chef before, and except for the time he burnt TWO FULL TRAYS of beautiful beautiful cut-out cookies, he was a big help. Washing off my sticky floured hands every 7 minutes to rotate trays around in the oven is usually a huge hassle.


We took a short break for my boss's holiday party Saturday night. Landon took the photo. A little blurry and not the best angle, but I think he has promise. As did the party- my AD's wife is a gourmet home cook and wine connoisseur. There was much indulging.


Sunday at noon: back on track for family holiday fun. My decorating team.


(Side note: I make the frosting by dumping a bunch of powdered sugar into a bowl, adding milk until it has a runny yet thickish consistency, adding in some vanilla to taste, and then pouring into separate mugs to add in the food coloring. The frosting should be thin enough that you can drizzle it, but thick enough that you can spread it over a cookie and it stays generally in place. It will harden more as it dries, gluing down the toppings.)


Landon graduated to serious sugar artist this year, but Claire focused mainly on taste testing.


(and found she did not like red hots, my very very favorite)


Landon gazed with pride at his creations.


I decorated in bulk.


Claire, having been denied access to additional cookies after inhaling her first three, began mainlining sprinkles. She was then hosed off and banned from the table. Note the frosting on her chin; an early sign of an addict.


JP contributed, appearing to put real effort into his decor, raising my hopes that I could actually use some of his cookies in our teacher gifts.


And yet no, Frosty the Blue-Balled Snowman mocks my sacred family tradition.


Landon was a big helper and decorated to the end when all we had left was yellow frosting and a few red hots. JP stuck with abstract snowflake art and I mass produced reindeer and non-anatomically correct snowmen. Claire ran around in princess panties and hosted a tea party with her animals while carrying on running conversations with all three of us from a room over. Trans-Siberian Orchestra boomed from the kitchen speakers. And after 2 hours or so, we had 72 beautiful cookies and a very dirty table and floor.


The kids, quite literally high on sugar, asked to run laps around the pool. I should have joined them.


Hours later, post-cleaning and vacuuming and nap time, we ate a sugar-free dinner and closed out the weekend with some Christmas stories in Landon's bed:

(appropriately, that book is Christmas Delicious, a family favorite)

I really really love this time of year.


  1. Yum! Living vicariously through these pictures as I have been thinking about sugar cookies non-stop for at least a week.

  2. You are awesome. That is all :-)

  3. I do a rolled cookie (a Romanian/Hungarian kifli) that is incredibly ridiculously sticky -- a few years ago a baker friend recommended the Norpro pastry mat and my life was transformed. I havent' looked back.

    I have never done sugar cookies because I don't like to eat them, but I may have to try that recipe next year because my kiddos like sugar cookies. Thanks for you sharing your recipe!!

    1. Ooh thanks for the link Kelli! That might need to be a Christmas present for myself next year.

      And you should definitely try the cookies- they have way more flavor than the average sugar cookie and the kids have so much fun with them. If you get tired of the icing artistry (or if you're like my mom and don't like foods to be super sweet), you can just pour on sprinkles and red hots before baking. They'll bake into the dough and look very festive without the frosting step. My mom does about half her cookies that way and then eats them for breakfast with coffee :). Enjoy and Happy Holidays to you and Team Chaos!

  4. Can you use this recipe and do drop cookies instead of rolling them out and cutting them?

    Sounds delicious!


    1. I'm sure you could, though you might want to add in a bit more flour (it'll be really sticky and I know I add at least 1/2 cup per original recipe measurements while I'm rolling out the dough).

  5. Bahaha, I love JP's snowman :)

    Thank you for sharing the recipe. I haven't made sugar cookies since I was a child and have been looking for a decent recipe.

    Happy holidays!

  6. I grew up doing cookie decorating with peparkakor and I love the red hots too!

  7. Thanks for sharing the recipe! I am intrigued to compare them to boring regular sugar cookie recipes! :)