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Holidays and baking go hand in hand and Christmas cookies top the list of traditional must-haves. These merry displays of delectable treats often require colorful sugars, fanciful shapes, and sweet-flavored frostings. Everyone has their own favorite cookie rituals but if you’re thinking of adding something new to your family traditions and celebrations, find inspiration in the recipes and decorating tips below
These tasty cookies have a soft bite and hold their cookie cutter shape. Don’t shy away from the flavor pairing of almond and banana, which makes it a truly delicious and stand-out cookie! Be careful not to overbake, as bottoms should be just barely beginning to brown. These cookies freeze nicely and travel well.
4 cups flour, plus additional for rolling out
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons shortening
1 ½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 cup sour cream
Makes 4 to 5 dozen cookies depending on shape and size.
The addition of banana flavoring to this basic frosting recipe may have you scratching your head, but it turns the cookie and frosting combination into something really special and distinctive. You’ll get lots of requests for this recipe at the cookie exchange!
3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 or 4 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon banana flavoring
In a small mixing bowl, combine powdered sugar, butter, milk, and banana flavoring. Adjust powdered sugar or milk for thicker or thinner frosting. Divide and color with food coloring as desired. Frost cookies and decorate with colored sugars, sprinkles, or small candies.
To make your own colored sugars, you need food coloring—either liquid or gel—and your choice of sugar. Fine granulated sugar (what you probably have in your pantry) works, as does raw sugar, sanding sugar, or other larger crystal sugars, they tend to have more sparkle.
Measure out a portion of sugar in small bowls or resealable plastic bags. Add a drop or two of coloring to the sugar then stir with a small fork or toothpick to distribute the color. Keep stirring until the sugar is evenly covered with color. If using plastic bags, seal and gently massage the color through. If the gel color is too thick, thin with a small drop of water before adding to sugar. Add more coloring for a deeper color or mix colors to make desired shades. Once you achieve the desired colors, spread sugar out on a piece of wax paper to dry. When dry, return to containers and break up any clumps with a fork. Store in an airtight container or small jar.
Painting cookies is a fun way to decorate cut-out cookies and an easy way to involve any artists in the family. Kids especially will enjoy eating and sharing their artistic creations. Use your favorite cut-out cookie recipe, or if the holidays have you short on time, use a package of refrigerated sugar cookie dough found in your local IGA grocer's refrigerated section.
Even the youngest of bakers can join in making these colorful cookies for a festive platter of treats. The added bonus: no time spent on messy frosting clean up.
Note: Cookies are painted before they are baked.
To make the cookie paint, whisk together 2 egg yolks and ½ teaspoon of water. Divide equally for the desired number of colors. A muffin pan or small custard cups work well. Add a few drops of food coloring to create desired colors. Thin with water if the “paint” becomes too thick.
Place unbaked cookies on cookie sheet. Using a new set of paint brushes (an inexpensive child’s set works great), paint your unbaked cookies. Have fun with this! Cut out only a few cookies at a time so unbaked cookies will not dry out. Bake as directed.
TIP: Store-bought cookie dough tends to spread when baking, so consider rolling dough thinner than instructed and add more flour than directions indicate. You can also place the tray of unbaked cookies in the refrigerator for 5 minutes before baking to help cookies keep their shape.
This recipe makes a thin, crisp cookie that is sure to appeal to your sweetest tooth. Decorate with your own custom-colored sugars to match your holiday theme and get creative for gift-giving and cookie swaps. When finishing cookies, use custom-colored sugars made with fine granulated sugar, as it works best for these delicate cookies.
4 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
Make 6 to 7 dozen cookies.
Let these ideas inspire you to create traditions that will become part of your treasured and most flavorful holiday memories. Gather the family, crank up your favorite holiday tunes, and whip up a batch or two of these festive cookies to enjoy and share. Don’t forget to pick out a favorite cookie for Santa!