Monday, December 21, 2009

Recipe for Butter Cookie Cut-Outs

You've been looking at this picture of my decorated cut-outs for the past two years now ... perhaps its about time I gave you the recipe.

These addictive little darlings are a Christmas tradition and a Diva family favorite. I've been baking them for as long as I can remember; first with Mama Diva, and now on my own for more years than I'd care to tally.

In our world, they're know quite simply as: Christmas Cookies, for it wouldn't be Christmas without them.

Mama Diva's Christmas Cookies:
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cups additional flour for beating, plus extra for rolling cookies
Cream together the butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Add vanilla and milk, and continue beating until light and fluffy. (Don't worry if the mixture looks a bit funny at this point - remain calm, all will be well!)

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder and whisk well to combine. Add this mixture, by thirds, to the butter/sugar mixture and beat until just incorporated. Dough will be somewhat wet at this point, so add up to another 1/2 to 3/4 cup of flour, a little at a time, until the dough stiffens slightly and comes together to form a ball.

Remove from mixer, shape into a ball, wrap well in plastic wrap a/0 foil and chill the dough in the fridge overnight. (Or for at least 2 hours if you're in a hurry.)

To Bake:

Cut the dough into 4 equal sections and, working with one section at a time, roll out on a floured surface (with a well-floured rolling pin) until roughly 1/4 inch thick. (Keep remaining quarters of dough chilled while you work.) Cut into various holiday shapes with cookie cutters, place on baking sheets and bake in the middle of a pre-heated 375F degree oven for 8 minutes, or until just beginning to turn light golden brown. Do not over bake. Remove to wire racks and cool cookies completely.

Gather up remaining bits of dough, re-roll, re-cut, continue to bake, ad infinitum, until your sanity has been compromised and or all of the dough has been baked ... whichever comes first.

Once the cookies have cooled, frost and decorate to your heart's desire, then go to town and scarf down the fruits of your labors. Remember to save one or two for Santa.

As written this recipe will make more cookies than you can possibly imagine. How many? I have no idea. So many that I had to call in reinforcements, in the form of my darling 9 year old niece, while I was frosting them yesterday!

Kidding aside, this recipe is for a double batch. You can easily halve the recipe and make a normal, sensible amount of cookies if you'd like to preserve your sanity.

Cooks Notes: I'm not going to lie, achieving right consistency of dough can be a bit tricky. It depends on the weather, the properties of the flour, the alignment of the planets, the vagaries of cross-continental drift, and who the hell knows what else! Use your best judgement. Typically, I end up adding slightly more than 1/2 cup of additional flour to the dough before chilling. Keep in mind that as you roll and re-roll the cookies, the dough will pick-up additional flour, so don't over-do it in the first instance.

Those of you who bake will know when its right; those of you who don't ... eh, what's the worst that could happen?

As for the frosting, I use a mixture of powdered sugar, milk and vanilla - then tint some of it green and some of it reddish-pink. Do as you see fit.

If you're snowed in and looking for an activity to keep the kids busy, I can't think of anything better. While these cookies take a bit of effort to be sure, the results are well worth it. There's nothing like a cheerful and delicious cut-out to put you in a festive mood!

Happy Baking!


Charmian @Christie's Corner said...

Love that you need to call in reinforcements.

I have sugar cookies in the freezer waiting to be iced. Your icing looks so smooth and perfect. Mine leaves waves and puckers. I want your icing recipe!!

The Diva on a Diet said...

Thanks, Charmian, I'm happy to have had the help! As for the icing recipe ... er ... it doesn't exist. I literally dump an entire box of confectioners sugar into a bowl, add a dash of vanilla extract and some milk. No measuring, I just add whisk in a little milk at a time until the consistency feels right.

If the icing starts to thicken as the hours progress, I add a couple of drops of water and re-whisk.

How do you make your icing?

Fresh Local and Best said...

You must be an expert baker to be able to throw together icing, and judge that a recipe is being impacted by the weather. I never would have thought about that factor. These cookies look wonderful!

Margaret aka: Fact Woman said...

These look so good. Yummy!

Catherine said...

Ooh, those look yummy! Hope you have a wonderful holiday and new year! :)

Krissy @ The Food Addicts said...

gosh, this recipe would've been perfect for our Foodbuzz 24 post! you have some great decorating skills. great job! let's swap cookies :)

The Diva on a Diet said...

FLB - All told, I probably have like 40 years experience in baking these cookies. Shsss, don't tell! ;)

The weather is def. a factor. Humidity in the air and a warm day (or warm kitchen) tend to affect the dough. That said, its really not a difficult recipe, just takes a bit of care.

Thanks, Margaret! :)

Catherine - thanks and I hope you have a great holiday season as well! :)

Krissy - I thought the same thing when I saw those cool chocolate pretzel trees you guys did. There's always next year, right?! ;)

pixelgal said...

Fortunately for me my Diva has taken over the total responsiblity for these lovely cookies which are indeed a tradition in our family...only now the frosting is so much prettier than the kind of free-form pink, white and green stuff with wierdo designs of yore. Same frosting recipe though. Thanks for the laugh, Diva dear. See you soon.

Anonymous said...

Your cookies look so beautiful, great icing decorations!

Heavenly Housewife said...

What lovely cookies, I love how you've decorated them. So cool of you to share your family's recipe with us.

Astra Libris said...

Oh, Diva, these cookies are positively gorgeous!! I'm so impressed with your flawless frosting and perfect shapes! Such a beautiful tradition...

I love the picture in your previous post! You're positively gorgeous, girl! :-)

stephchows said...

A good frosted sugar cookie can be hard to find... I have reason to believe yours would be AMAZING!!! Merry Christmas!!!

cookeaze said...

what a great quick Butter Cookie!! looks delish!happy new year!