Holiday Cookies (Sugar and Gingerbread)

“It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas…”

Despite the nearly 80 degree weather we’ve been having here in Austin, today felt as much like the holidays as ever. I spent the day in the kitchen with my mom and one one of my good friends over, baking these delicious gingerbread and sugar cookies.

We literally spent hours baking and frosting these, but let me just say it was worth it.

Just look how beautiful they are!
I was very pleased with how they came out and that’s saying a lot for me. I am my toughest critic, but I have to give myself a little credit for these. The imperfections really make these cookies all the more perfect.
 They are certainly are delicious as well, and the time and people I spent while making these were great. Quality time as girls baking for the holidays while listening to Christmas music, it doesn’t get much better than that.
These are the reasons I love the holidays.
Friends, family, and food. Everything you need in the world right here with you.

The sugar cookies are absolutely delicious, great for kids and adults alike. The gingerbread cookies are, in my opinion, wonderful. They are very spicy, so keep that in mind. They are more of an adult version of gingerbread cookies. Some people love them, and some don’t care for them as much. I would recommend at least trying them though, as they really are very good.

Sugar Cookies

(Recipe adapted from Sweetapolita)
6 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups(4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened for about 20 minutes at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs, cold
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure lemon extract
In large bowl, sift together flour and salt. Set aside.
In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until fluffy and pale, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs.
Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until thoroughly combined. Add vanilla and lemon extract and blend.
Remove 1/2 of dough from bowl, make a ball, and place on a large piece of plastic wrap on counter.Wrap the sides of wrap over the ball, then press down with the palm of your hand and make a disc about 2″ thick. Finish wrapping the disc with the plastic wrap. Repeat with 2nd half of dough. Chill both discs of dough for about 45 minutes.
Remove one disc and remove plastic wrap. Place on top of a large piece of parchment paper (I use a silicone rolling mat underneath to ensure it doesn’t slip while rolling, but you can even dampen counter so the parchment sticks a bit.), then place two 1/4″ wooden dowels on either side of your dough, then another sheet of parchment paper.
Roll dough (this will require a bit of elbow grease for the first few minutes until it softens up a bit) so it’s flush with dowels–they will ensure that your dough is even thickness.
Preheat your oven to 325° F. Slide your parchment paper and dough onto a board, then place in refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
Remove from fridge, and cut your shapes using the cutters of your choice, placing them on a baker’s half sheet lined with a silicone baking mat (or parchment), with 2″ clearance around each one and the edge of sheet. Place sheet with cookies into freezer for 15 minutes before baking. Bake 12-14 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.
Cool sheets on wire racks for 10 minutes, then gently remove cookies and place on wire racks to finish cooling.
(Notes: The key to perfect shaped cookies is to put the tray of cut out cookies in the freezer for at least 15 minutes before baking.)

Gingerbread Cookies

(Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart)
2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
1 large egg
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, spices, baking soda, and salt; set aside. With an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until smooth.
Beat in molasses and egg. With mixer on low, add dry ingredients; mix just until a dough forms. Place dough on floured plastic wrap; pat into an 8-inch square. Wrap well; chill until firm, 1 to 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Divide dough in half. Working with one half at a time (rewrap and refrigerate other half), place dough on floured parchment or waxed paper; roll out 1/8 inch thick, turning, lifting, and flouring dough (and rolling pin) as needed. Freeze dough until firm,
about 20 minutes.
Loosen dough from paper. Cut out shapes, and transfer to baking sheets. Decorate with sugar or sprinkles, as desired. After cutting and arranging cookies on cookie sheet place tray back in freezer and chill the cookies for about 15 minutes.
Bake until firm and edges just begin to darken, 10 to 18 minutes, depending on size. Cool completely
on baking sheets.
As much as I don’t like using anything in my cooking that isn’t homemade, the frosting did come from an instant package. We didn’t have the right ingredients or time, so we used what we had. Using food coloring make the frosting the color you desire.

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