Holiday Sugar Cookies

Our finest Christmas masterpieces on display.

Our finest Christmas masterpieces

I love decorating cookies.

So far this season I believe I have baked at least 96. And as a child I especially loved the dough. As in, I would sneak it from the round ball on the cutting board into the sides of my cheeks, hoping that no one would notice. My sweet mom would then ask me how the cookie-cutting was going, and the dough would fall gracefully from underneath my tongue onto the counter. I know, I was pretty cool at a young age.

Paula and Kellen's children are much cooler than I was at their age.

Paula and Kellen’s children are much cooler and creative than I was.

There is an art to holiday sugar cookie dough. Unless you have a great foundation, a cookie won’t hold up under mountains of icing and sprinkles. Too soft, and your cookies will pillow up in the oven like an overstuffed Santa. Too hard, and biting into them is about as pleasant as eating stale crackers.

And one of the most fun things about holiday cookies is who you decorate them with. This brings us to my amazing, talented friend Paula Coldiron from Two Ellie blog, who volunteered both her talent and her sweet children to decorate cookies together.

The best use of green icing and milk chocolate balls I have ever seen.

The best use of green icing and milk chocolate balls I have ever seen.

twoellie&luvcooks.12 (44 of 61)

Paula has an incredible gift for interiors- she can make the most generic of spaces light up with style like a Christmas tree- and she also has a way with a camera. So, if you are looking at this post and thinking, “Wow; her food photos look fantastic! Better than they ever have!” It’s because Paula took them. Her and her husband Kellen also have a wedding and lifestyle photography business.

I was beyond excited and thrilled to partner with Two Ellie for this post. Check out all of Paula and her impeccable style, holiday and otherwise, here. She also has a fantastic shop for anyone looking for last-minute holiday gifts.

This dough below is one I modified a bit to make it taste more holiday-esque, but it rolls out beautifully and responds well to hefty cookie cutters. Go ahead and roll the dough out to 1/8 inch; that will give you the perfect weight and density for your cookie.

Half of these cookies are glazed to make the icing colors pop.

Half of these cookies are glazed to make the icing colors pop.

And don’t forget to add something special to every cookie you make. I’ve learned this year that it’s not always what you bake- it’s who you decorate it with.

I wish you and your loved ones a very merry-and sweet-Christmas season.

The mini-decorator at work.

The mini-decorator at work.

Holiday Sugar Cookies (this recipe has been adapted from Bon Appetit via Epicurious.com)

What You Will Need:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • freshly grated nutmeg

What You Will Do:

1. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla.

2. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a bowl. Add the dry mixture from the bowl slowly to the mixer until fully incorporated; it took me about three big pours.

3. Turn the dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead it gently for one minute. You will know it’s ready when it feels elastic and warm in your hands.

4. Shape the dough into a 1/2-inch-thick rectangle. Cut it into 4 equal mini-rectangles. Wrap each rectangle in plastic wrap and the original recipe said to refrigerate them for at least 3 hours and up to 1 day.  Honestly, you can just roll this dough on out, but it does make life easier if you refrigerate it first. If you have time to refrigerate it, let the dough soften slightly at room temperature before rolling it out.

5. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 350°F. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray, or use a Silpat. Working with one dough piece at a time, roll out dough with a floured rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness, lifting and turning dough often and dusting surface very lightly with flour to prevent sticking.

6. Use your most celebratory Christmas cookie cutters to cut the dough; I highly recommend Santas, snowmen, angels, stars, candy canes, and hearts. Pull away excess dough from around cookies, then transfer the cookies to a prepared baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart (cookies will not spread). Gently reroll dough scraps; cut out more cookies. Transfer them to the same sheet.

7. Bake cookies until light brown, about 11 minutes. It is always better to take them out earlier rather than later; if you bake them too long the cookie edges will get crispy and might burn on the bottom.

8. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the sheet. Transfer the cookies to a rack; cool.

9. Repeat this process with the remaining dough pieces, baking one sheet of cookies at a time. Cool baking sheet completely and butter the sheet lightly between batches.

10. Finally, decorate until you can decorate no more. For this shoot I used green fluffy icing, red and white sparkle gel icing, Christmas sprinkles, milk chocolate balls, and edible silver balls.

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