While I feel that I am well versed in the world of parenting, I am relatively new to this whole Preschool gig. So, when I found out that one of my son’s school fundraisers was a cookie walk, and that parents could either bake cookies or choose to ‘buy out’, I of course thought it would be a great opportunity to get a head start on my holiday cookie baking. Then I found out that it was a minimum commitment of 9 dozen or so DECORATED holiday cookies. Awesome.
Well I accepted that challenge, as daunting as it sounded, and decided to do my research and make the best darn cookies that I possibly could. Seeing as I will likely be doing this for the next 4 or so years, I guess I should probably get good at it right? ‘Cause you know what’s going to happen next year? By then I will have forgotten how much work decorating over 100 cookies is and will only remember the joy in my children’s eyes when they saw the meticulously iced snowflakes and Christmas trees. Then I will probably make the same decision and painstakingly (and back-breakingly) do this all over again.
The good news is that cookies freeze beautifully, so I was able to make the dough with my boys one Friday after lunch (they really enjoy helping to measure everything out and watching the standing mixer spin), roll, cut and bake the cookies that night after dinner, and then freeze them all for a couple of weeks until it was time to decorate them. That was a bigger project that took me several hours after bedtime on a couple of different nights, but I finally got them all done!!!!
I have to say that there is something rewarding about producing an adorable treat, and my competitive streak definitely showed itself as I perused the thousands of cookies at the fundraiser (mine we among some of the best, I think). I’m not sure that I have the patience necessary to create some of the incredibly detailed cookies that more professional bakers are making these days, but I think with a little practice I might get pretty good at this. If you find yourself intimidated by the prospect of spending hours hunched over trays and covered powdered sugar and food coloring, start out with simple shapes that require minimal icing and only one or two colors. The gingerbread snowflakes were a pretty easy intro.
Here are the two recipes I used, and I decorated them with good old fashioned royal icing. Since these were being consumed mostly by families with small children, I used meringue powder for the icing (instead of raw egg whites). I got mine at Sur la Table, but you can find it at most baking or craft stores. Have fun!
Gingerbread Snowflakes (recipe adapted from Martha Stewart)
- 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
- 4 teaspoons ground ginger
- 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon finely ground pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup unsulfured molasses
- Royal Icing
- Fine sanding sugar, for sprinkling
- Sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl. Set aside.
- Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Divide dough into thirds; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/4-inch thick. Cut into snowflakes with a 7- inch snowflake-shape cookie cutter. Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
- Bake cookies until crisp but not dark, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.
- Put icing in a pastry bag fitted with a small plain round tip (such as Ateco #7). Pipe designs on snowflakes; immediately sprinkle with sanding sugar. Let stand 5 minutes; tap off excess sugar. Let icing set completely at room temperature, about 1 hour.
Sugar Cookies (recipe from Glorious Treats – she has good decorating tips too!
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
- Parchment paper
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder and set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the egg and vanilla.
- Add the flour mixture slowly until well incorporated.
- Take the dough out of the bowl and place it on a piece of parchment paper.
- Using your hands, knead the dough a few times.
- Place the dough in a large plastic (ziplock type) bag and refrigerate for about 2 hours. If you want to speed up the chilling process, place the bag of dough in the freezer for no more than 20-30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- When the dough has chilled and is firm, take out a portion of the dough and leave the rest in the refrigerator. I find it helpful to roll the dough out between 2 sheets of parchment or wax paper, otherwise you have to use flour so that the dough won’t stick. That’s fine for the 1st or 2nd rolling, but your scraps will quickly become too dry to roll nicely. If the dough is too cold, just give it a minute, working it with the rolling pin with soften it up quickly.
- Don’t roll the dough too thin or the cookies will be too crispy and brown along the edges. Just try to make it as even as possible, then cut into the desired shapes with a floured cookie cuter.
- Carefully place your cookies on a prepared cookie sheet. Either a silicone baking sheet or parchment paper works well. Wax paper will smoke.
- If you are worried about the cookies spreading or losing their shape, you can put the whole cookies sheet in the freezer for a few minutes before baking. This is easy to do if you’re making a large quantity of cookies, just pop them in while you roll out the next sheet’s worth.
- FINALLY, bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes. They should be done all the way through, and a little golden on the bottom but still pretty white on top.
- Cool the cookies completely before attempting any decoration. They’re pretty tasty as-is too!