Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dear Holiday Cookies

Dear Holiday Cookies,

I love eating you.  I like baking you.  I like decorating you.  I don't like cleaning up.  I hate the time pressure.

Last year, we made holiday cookies for the kids' teachers.  The kiddos helped with decorating them, and I was surprised at how good they were at it.  It went over so well that I decided to do it again this year.  However, my list of recipients nearly doubled!  We have music teachers, music class friends, school teachers and aids, special teachers and nurse, bus drivers, Chinese school teachers, and a couple of cookie lovers at home.  I've finished one batch so far, yielding 80 cookies.  I still need to bake another batch for the cookies to be gifted on Friday.  There might be a few late nights.  Good thing the kiddos already fulfilled their desire to decorate the cookies.  Now they're good with just eating them while I slave over the next batch.

I've used this particular sugar cookie recipe for years.  After all, it is called 'No Fail Sugar Cookies'.  Here is the link to the sugar cookie recipe, and here is the link to the Royal icing recipe.  But I do have several notes to add to these recipes.

Sugar Cookies:
  • This is a recipe that makes 5 dozen cookies, so it makes a double batch.  It can easily be halved if you don't need so many cookies.
  • I use less sugar (1 3/4 cup instead of 2 cups) because I am about to put Royal icing on it.  It will be sweet enough.
  • I highly recommend using a KitchenAid stand mixer for this recipe.  Scrape down the bowl often, especially toward the end of the 6 cups of flour, to make sure the dough is well mixed.   The dough often tries to squeeze out the sides of the bowl since it's a double recipe, so push it back down if it happens.
  • See "Hint" at the end of the recipe: roll out the dough between waxed paper (or parchment paper), refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes and cookie dough is ready (or see previous post - Dear Pie Crust).  Cut with cookie cutters, collect leftover dough, re-roll between wax paper, and refrigerate again if necessary before cutting it.
  • Try to roll dough out to same thickness, about 1/8 inch.  If I skimp on the thickness, I can get 80 cookies out of this recipe.
Royal icing:
  • I use pasteurized egg whites in powder form that comes in a can (Deb El Just Whites).  Use the chart to make 1/4 cup volume of egg whites, which is 2 egg whites.  Whisk powder in warm water for several minutes until foamy and well-dissolved.  
  • I added closer to 3 tablespoons of water.  Perhaps it's dry here.  But I do the ribbon test.  When the icing stops ribboning at 5 seconds, stop adding water.  There should be a nice shine to the icing after mixing it on low speed for at least 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Spoon white icing into small bowls.  Color icing separately.  
  • Pipe icing around the edge of the cookie first.  Then fill the inside of the piping with a dollop of icing and spread it evenly with a toothpick.  Let dry completely.
  • I use wax paper (disposable) to pipe the icing (pastry bags and tips are hard to clean).  Tear out a square sheet of wax paper, cut it in two rectangular halves.  Roll one into a cone with the long side of the rectangle turning into the tip of the cone.  Fill the cone with icing, then snip the tip to the diameter for piping.  
  • Royal icing gives a beautiful sheen to the decorated cookies once dry.  

I truly do enjoy doing all this (as do the kiddos), even though baking and decorating 5 or 6 dozen cookies is very tiring.  But having to do it under time pressure is even worse.  I made the second batch of cookie dough last night, and the dough "patties" chilled in the fridge overnight.  Today, I must bake the cookies in the morning, decorate them in the afternoon, and package them at night.  This is all during a day where I must pick up my holiday photo cards from Costco, go to DS' preschool to prepare Healthy Snacks, go to DD's school to watch a holiday performance once in the afternoon and once in the evening.

Let's just say my house is a mess, my kitchen is a mess, I'm swimming in holiday cookies, and I can't quite see the light at the end of the tunnel yet. 

So as much as I love you, holiday cookies, you've turned my weekly routine upside down.  I've put many things on hold this week for you, and I'll end up cleaning the house all of next week.  But I suppose I'd still rather have you than not, as the holidays would just be missing something if you weren't around.  Besides, you are really-very-super-pretty-and-yummy.  And my kiddos would agree, whole-heartedly.  Now, I'll turn my attention back to you, and go preheat the oven,...



  1. Oh I feel for you! I have the two schools and two offices and two sets of music teachers and all the like. Last year, I was good. I gave something to everyone in the school for Christmas and the end of the year. This year, I just don't have it in me, and I feel sort of guilty. Mister Man's school is taken care of with cash donations to two people who took care of the whole school, but ... it's just not me. I'm SO impressed with those cookies. I do the taste good but don't look pretty kind. You do a great job, and now I feel guilty. I sense presents coming in January now! :)

  2. I worked a night shift last night and this morning as I stumbled to my car, I had one thought on my my reward for my hard work, Sandra's Chrismtas Cookies were waiting for me in the car, perfectly decorated, delicious and subsequently devoured by one hungry and tired nurse!!! THank you soooo much for that treat! You are the best.

  3. Michelle, I'm so glad all this is behind me now. I can live without making cookies for a LONG time. Don't feel guilty! You see, I do the use-other-people's-recipes-and-do-a-good-job kind, but not your be-creative-and-make-up-my-own-recipe one. Your Tasty Tuesday recipes are one-of-a-kind and pretty awesome to me!

    Helen, I am so glad you liked them! That was probably one of the best and most rewarding thank-you notes I've received. (And I'm secretly glad you didn't share them with anyone! Haha!)

  4. Sandra, I wanted to comment that you are an inspiration, even to me, a consummate baker.

    I am starting my cookies today, with few new ones to try. I am really late, but I know from the feedback that people love them so I HAVE to make them.

    BTW, I always tell people not to share them with others, by the time they try them they realize how good they are, do they should eat them all.

  5. Laura, Thank you! I remember your cookies, and they ARE delicious! Holiday cookies are the best! It's never too late to make them. Good luck! Look forward to your cookies post!