This recipe is a slightly adapted version of the “Christmas Cookie” recipe from one of my favorite books, namely The Australian Women’s Weekly, Cook: “How to Cook Absolutely Everything.” The joy of baking these cookies and the amazing fragrance they fill your house with is simply heartwarming. Then comes the joy of decorating them and if you have kids, please do involve them in that process. Even if they overdo the decoration with the icing and even if they don’t turn out perfect, they will be the best tasting cookies both you and your kid(s) ever ate. Nothing beats homemade! You can keep these cookies in an airtight container for up to a week. So here’s how it goes…
(yields about 34-36 medium sized cookies, using ca. 8 cm cookie cutters)
For cookie dough you will need
- 250 gr butter, softened at room temperature
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ¾ cup (165 gr) confectioner’s sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp water
- Pinch of salt
- 3 cups (400-450 gr) plain flour, approximately
- 250 gr icing sugar
- 1 egg white (from a large fresh egg)
- Few drops of fresh lemon juice
- Few drops of vanilla extract
- Food coloring (optional)
Step by step method
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- Beat butter, sugar, vanilla extract, pinch of salt, water and egg with electric mixer just until smooth (do not overbeat).
- Stir in sifted flour in 2-3 batches. Knead dough on floured surface until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour to hold the dough but careful not to overdo it. The dough should be soft and smooth but not sticky. Cover dough with plastic wrap or place it in an airtight plastic bag and refrigerate at least 1-2 hours, possibly even more.
- When ready to make cookies, take dough out of the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes (the longer you keep your dough in the refrigerator the longer it will need to rest at room temperature). In the meantime preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F (Please remember that this will vary among different ovens, so take care to adjust oven temperature accordingly).
- Roll dough on floured surface to about 4-5 mm thick (I use a silpat). Cut shapes with cookie cutters and place on trays lined with baking paper (I prefer to use a wide offset spatula to lift the cookies and place them on the trays instead of doing this difficult task with my hands) . Repeat for remaining pieces of dough but careful not to overwork the dough and use only a light dusting of extra flour needed to roll out the dough.
- Bake about 10-15 minutes. The baking time will vary depending on size of cookies as well as your oven’s performance. Transfer cookies to cooling rack a couple of minutes after you take them out of the oven.
- Note that using the same recipe, you can omit the vanilla and add 1-2 tsp cinnamon, 1-2 tsp ginger, ½ tsp ground cloves and a little bit of nutmeg into the flour and obtain ginger cookies instead!
To make royal icing, lightly beat egg white in a bowl with a whisk until frothy.
- Add icing sugar in several small batches (1-2 tbsp at a time) whisking well to combine with each addition. You may not need to use all 250 gr of icing sugar. You may need a little less depending on the egg white you’re using and the consistency you wish to obtain.
- Add few drops of lemon juice and vanilla extract (optional) and combine.
- If you’re going to use food coloring, take a few tablespoons of icing into separate small bowls and add a few drops of liquid or gel coloring as required. Icing will dry out and form a thin crust on top if you leave it in contact with air. So you should place some plastic wrap directly on top of icing if you’re not going to use it right away.
- If you don’t have any fancy gear such as icing nozzles and piping bags you can just use a few zip-lock plastic bags to pour icing in and make a very small cut at one corner of the bag to pipe as you wish. I do it all the time, it works perfectly fine!
- The icing will dry out quite quickly so if you want to make any additional ornaments on your cookies such as sticking some candies or sprinkles or dusting with edible glitter etc. you should do it swiftly.