These cut out cookies bring back memories of when I was still living at home. No Christmas from as far back as I can remember ever went by without my Mom making these cookies sometime during the season. There was of course a time when I thought helping to make them was the greatest thing, and later as I became older I felt more content just simply eating them. ☺ That's right, when I was a teenager. I guess now I make them for our children to experience as a way of passing on something that became dear to me. At this point I have two children that enjoy helping and two that enjoy just simply eating them ☺
They do take a little longer because of the rolling out and the cutting and then icing them and also some time in the fridge to firm things up, but they are definitely worth it. And if you have little helpers it might even take longer, but let them help anyway, they will remember the time spent with Mom making a special Christmas treat long after you have forgotten that it took heaps of patience and have the mess all cleaned up.
One of the bonuses of this recipe is that the ingredients are those that are usually in your cupboard anyway. No special trip to the store.
1½ cups white sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 teaspoons soda
4 cups all-purpose flour (Gold Medal)
½ cup butter, softened
3½ cups powdered sugar
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
For the cookies:
Put eggs into mixer bowl
and beat until fluffy. Add white sugar and mix well. Add soft butter;
and mix again. Add the milk;
and mix till combined the best you can. It ends up looking kind of curdly and not mixed very well but it's okay.
Next add the vanilla, baking powder, cream of tartar, and baking soda.
Mix. Then add the flour 1 cup at a time.
Mix well after each addition.
It will still appear as though it needs more flour but don't put more in, the cookies will be too dry if you do. Just cover it tightly with Saran Wrap or put into an airtight container with a lid and pop it into the fridge for several hours (mine was in there for 2 days till I had time to bake them) until the dough is thoroughly chilled.
When you are ready to roll out the cookie dough, preheat the oven to 350°.
Lightly flour your work surface and divide the dough into three equal portions.
Form into a neat ball, rolling it around on the floured surface so it won't just stick to your hands.
Add a little more flour to the work surface to keep the dough from sticking after you've rolled it flat.
Flatten the dough with a rolling pin until it is about ¼ inch in thickness.
Here is where the little helpers want to be hands on. Using cookie cutters, cut into desired shapes wasting as little dough space as possible.
Have a cookie sheet ready. Sometimes the dough stays in the cookie cutter and makes it easy to transfer to the sheet and sometimes it doesn't. Use a sharp metal spatula to transfer them if this happens. Make sure the metal spatula and the cookie cutters are dipped in flour between each cookie.
Leave a good space in between the cookies on the baking sheet because they do get bigger as they bake and if they are too close they are hard to remove from the pan without breaking them.
When that turning is completed, gather the remains and roll them out again.
Do this with each dough portion until it is all on a baking sheet before starting with the other two portions. I like to keep the dough portions that I am not working with in the fridge so that it stays firm and easy to handle. If you leave it out at room temperature it gets warm and sticky and needs more time in the fridge.
Bake them between 10-12 minutes. This will depend on your oven. They should look puffy and set. When you lightly touch the top center of the cookie your finger should not leave a dent in the cookie.
Let them set on the pan for barely a minute and then remove to a wire rack or at least loosen them with a sharp metal spatula and just leave them on the pan.
Let cool completely before putting icing and decorations on them. These freeze well.
For the icing:
Put all ingredients into mixer bowl except 1 cup of powdered sugar.
Mix well and add remaining sugar as needed. I like to then whip it for a while, scraping sides of bowl a few times, till it is nice and fluffy.
If you have an icing bag and decorating tip it is a lot easier to apply the icing this way.
It's not as time consuming and theres less handling, therefore less breaking, of the cookies.
Sprinkle with colored sugars or whatever decorations you desire. I just left them on the baking pans to do this to avoid a lot of cleanup.
This is the other step that the littles love to help with. ☺ Here she is decorating "the cookie for Dad, and no one else may eat it!"
We only spilled one container of sprinkles. ☺