Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Vanilla Butter Cookies

Christmas Vanilla Cookie Sq

I got a late start and it took me forever, but I am finished with all things Christmas!  It has been a crazy month.  I planned a gazillion blog posts, but for almost the whole month only published one.  That doesn't mean I haven't been baking and cooking.  There was a whirlwind of parties and potlucks to go to, and that doesn't sound like much work at all -- until you're up at ungodly hours making hand pies or decorating cookies with royal icing.  But you still haven't made the family cookies or mailed them out.  And your twin sister keeps asking you where her annual cookie shipment is.

new austen collage

But I did have fun at all the parties!  Especially this one -- doesn't my book club know how to do a party?

Linzers

These are the Linzer Cookies my sister must have every year, slaved over by yours truly.  Hazelnut cookies are sandwiched with raspberry jam, and dusted with snowy sugar.

Eggnog Marshmallows

And I included Eggnog Marshmallows in the cookie baskets this year.  I didn't even like this picture, so I made another batch and saved a few.  I tried to think quickly (while I was rushed) of a place they would be safe from the cats until I had time to photograph them.  I put them in the toaster oven, and took care of some other tasks.  You can guess how this ends, right?  Joe went to preheat the toaster oven for something, and I ended up with toasted marshmallows.  I guess it's a funny story (if you're not me).

Christmas Vanilla Cookies

And every year I attempt fancy decorated cookies with royal icing, trying to make them look like the showpieces you see in catalogs.  Well, I failed once again, but here are the best and the simplest of the bunch, decorated by Joe and I.  The hour was late, one of the cats somehow had edible glitter on his coat, and I was laughing deliriously at some of our attempted designs.  At least they taste good.  I'm not a fan of sugar cookies; I find them too sugary and not very flavorful.  These are simple but tasty: buttery with a hint of vanilla, a bit of salt tempering the sweet.

Now it's time to sit back and celebrate.  Especially since it's my (and my twin sister's) birthday tomorrow!  (No way am I baking a cake.)  Merry Christmas, everyone.

Christmas Butter Cookies
Photo added Dec. 2013
Update December 2013: These cookies are made using the same recipe, but decorated with melted white chocolate. Apply white chocolate using squeeze bottles or an offset spatula, then sprinkle with colored sanding sugar, nonpareils, or edible glitter.

Christmas Vanilla Butter Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living December 2010 issue's Cutout Cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Beat butter and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture, and beat until combined. Shape dough into 2 discs, and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Dough can be refrigerated overnight or frozen up to 1 month.

Roll out 1 disc on a lightly floured piece of parchment to ⅛-inch thickness.  Cut out desired shapes and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving room for just a little spread when baking. Repeat with remaining disc. Refrigerate shapes until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°. Bake until cookies are firm and lightly golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack before icing. Makes about 3 dozen, depending on size of cutouts.

Click here for the marshmallow recipe.  Skip the chocolate-covered stuff unless you want it, and add ¾ teaspoon of Eggnog Flavoring in the last minute of beating the marshmallows.  Proceed as written.

Royal Icing
Adapted from Baking 911

2½ tbs meringue powder (in the baking aisle, or at party or craft stores)
8 oz confectioners sugar
¼ cup lukewarm water

Mix for 10 minutes on high speed with the paddle attachment. Spoon out a third of the mixture into an airtight container -- this will be your portion for piping.

Turn the mixer back on and add 2 tablespoons of water. This will be your portion for flooding or spreading.  Scrape that into other airtight containers and stir in gel food coloring (it will take forever to dry with liquid food coloring, and the colors will change on you). If it's too stiff for your needs, add a tiny amount of water; if it's too runny, add confectioners sugar until it gets to the right consistency.

This icing dries fairly quickly, in an hour or two.  But it will take at least 4 hours to fully set.  It will dry to a nice hard finish, so you can stack cookies on top of each other.

8 comments:

  1. Really great cookies! They look so festive! Perfect For Christmas :)

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  2. I think the cookies look fabulous! And really, I don't like too much icing, so simple is much better--not as sugary sweet! I'm in awe of all the baking you did. Where's my shipment?! ;)

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    1. Thanks! I'm the same way, I don't like too much icing, but I figure sugar cookies are all about aesthetics. Outlining and flooding just aren't as easy as they look. I wish I had saved you some, with all your kitty troubles and missing out on Christmas!

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  3. Season's Greetings. Wow! Your kitchen looks like it was the place to be for Christmas so many goodies.

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    1. I felt like a cookie factory! There's a reason I only do this once a year. :)

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  4. Love these...so cute and you did a wonderful job decorating!

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