Cookie Cutter Cookies

Christmas is approximately five minutes away. I know it’s getting to be late-ish December because I want to unsubscribe from everything ever. I’m beginning to think that I may be allergic to email altogether. Email is basically you asking me to do something. Beyond locating all of my favorite cookie cutters.

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I’m sorry, I’m busy re-creating my childhood and I actually might never check this inbox again doesn’t sound like a very responsible automated reply. This is good, that we recognize this. We may have eaten a very irresponsible amount of butter and sugar before turning on the oven, but we still have our heads on straight.

I know someone who is going to lose his head by the end of the day.

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Or actually maybe his leg. But he’s definitely related to someone who lost his head.

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We set up a little infirmary when we make these cookies. They’re wafer-thin and impossibly fragile. Every year, we start out very carefully. Transferring sweet little shapes from cutting boards to cookie sheets to cooling racks to not-enough-tins.

But as the day goes on, we always become a little more reckless. Oh! Snowman lost his hat. We can’t have a snowman without a hat — I guess we’d better eat him. And the undisputed reply: Oh yes, we must. We generally also agree on a quick break before we start decorating. To remind ourselves what vegetables taste like.

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I won’t sugarcoat this: these cookies are a daylong affair. But they’re so worth it. Even unfrosted, even once they’ve had time to cool. And how can I say this gently? They are the reason why I don’t want to try your cutout cookies. No matter how cute they are.

Ours call for a roll of paper towels and every spatula you’ve got and ten trillion knives and all of the small bowls.

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They call for Christmas CDs (even if just yesterday you declared you were so sick of them) and many helping hands. They call for more sprinkles and lots of frosting-glue and the wax paper you always, always forget. They call for a tiny tin you know you’ll never see again and a big, beautiful bow.

They are…very homemade.

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They are, quite simply, Christmas.

Annie Hall’s Butter Cookies, from Christmas From the Heart of the Home by Susan Branch

This recipe makes a perfectly enormous batch: between 6-8 dozen cookies.

What you need:

2 cups butter, softened

1 ½ cups sugar

4 egg yolks

2 tsp. vanilla extract (we use Penzey’s Double-Strength)

4 ½ cups unbleached flour

½ tsp. salt

What to do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. With an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Add egg yolks and vanilla and mix well. Sift flour and salt together and beat into butter mixture until well mixed. Chill dough. Roll out onto lightly floured board to ½ inch thickness. (We divide the dough in four and work on a quarter at a time.) Cut with cookie cutters and place cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, but don’t brown them. Remove cookies from cookie sheet while still warm and cool on sheets of waxed paper.

Mom’s Vanilla Butter Frosting

What you need:

¼ cup softened butter

4 cups confectionary sugar

3 tbsp. skim milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

What to do:

With an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Add milk and vanilla and mix well. Divide into different bowls and add food coloring if desired. (You desire.) And if your red doesn’t turn out to be pink…you’re more of a pro than this girl.

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