Thanksgiving is (almost) over! For those of us relaxing while our family sleeps off their turkey-coma, it is hard not to start thinking about the holidays. Many of our fondest childhood memories consist of spending time with friends and family, baking delicious holiday cookies and eyeing the beautifully wrapped presents under the tree.
Embrace nostalgia and create the perfect holiday cookie that tastes delicious and is easy to decorate. Instead of displaying a gingerbread house, cut sugar cookies using some snowman, tree and star cookie cutters to set up a festive and tasty holiday scene. Scatter some coconut shavings or crinkled strips of paper for snow and place holiday candies behind the cookies, so they stand up all night long.
When making holiday cookies, remember to:
* Cream the butter and vanilla together. Doing this beforehand will encapsulate the vanilla and prevent flavor loss.
* Chill the dough in the fridge before shaping it. This will make for a softer, moister cookie that is less likely to spread when baking.
* Remove cookies from the oven a few minutes early, as they will continue to cook on the sheet.
* Let the cookies cool completely before you begin to ice them.
Try this recipe to make three dozen perfect holiday cookies, using vanilla and peppermint extracts to provide a completely unique flavor your entire family will enjoy.
Classic Holiday Sugar Cookies
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup superfine sugar (purchase at store or process granulated sugar for about 20 seconds in a food processor)
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
3 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar (for dusting work surface)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (for dusting work surface)
Position oven rack in the center of oven and preheat to 350 F. Line two large, heavy light-colored baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt until blended; set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, add butter, sugar, cream, vanilla and peppermint extracts; beat with a handheld mixer on medium speed until fluffy, which should take about two minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce speed to medium-low; add eggs one at a time and beat after each addition. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the dry ingredients one half at a time.
Divide dough into two even pieces, then press each piece into a disk shape. Wrap them tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour. Dough should be cool and firm but easy to work with.
In a small bowl, whisk confectioners’ sugar and flour until blended; set aside. Working with one piece of dough at a time, place on a clean, dusted surface. Roll dough to about 1/8-inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to cut shapes and transfer with a thin offset metal spatula to prepared cookie sheets. For even baking, do not overcrowd cookies. Gather remaining dough, cover with plastic and chill. Continue with second chilled dough.
For best results, bake one sheet pan at a time until done, which should take about 10 minutes; remove and place cookies on wire racks to cool. Decorate and store in an airtight container.
Peppermint Glaze and Peppermint Piping Icing
1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon meringue powder
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Pure Peppermint Extract (may substitute with Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract)
Variety gel food colors
In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and meringue powder. Add water and peppermint extract, stir until smooth. Glaze cookies in desired colors and set aside to dry before piping. For the piping icing, remake the glaze recipe and add additional confectioners’ sugar, one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. Divide icing into small bowls; add desired gel colors. Select pastry tips, prepare pastry bags and creatively pipe icing onto glazed cookies.