Holiday Butter Cookies
December 22, 2014 § 1 Comment
Every Christmas, I get excited about baking cookies, particularly these Holiday Butter Cookies, to give out to friends and family (and of course to eat some myself). Year after year, I turn to this recipe and make batches of cutout snowflakes, stars, candy canes, and all sorts of other seasonal shapes. I love searching for new holiday cookie recipes to try out for each Christmas but no matter what, these buttery, flaky, melt-in-the-mouth cookies are always on the list!
I don’t normally decorate Christmas cookies because I don’t consider myself very artistic so the whole process is more time consuming than it should be and there is always so much to do during the holidays. Plus, these cookies are still festive and absolutely delicious without icing and sprinkles.
Nevertheless this year, I decided that I would attempt to decorate my favorite holiday butter cookies since I had enough time on my hands and thought it would be fun to make these cookies look extra special for gifting. I repeatedly saw pictures of stunning snowflake cookies online, which inspired me to make some of my own, especially since I had a container of beautiful edible pearls sitting in my pantry, just waiting to be used.
I’m really happy with the way the cookies and their decorations turned out; they look just as great as they taste! Decorating did take a bit of time but your friends and family are sure to appreciate the work you put into making the cookies special, in addition to how delicious they are!
These buttery cookies, whether embellished or au naturel, are sure to become a holiday staple!
Holiday Butter Cookies
Yield: About 5 dozen three-inch cookies
Adapted from The Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book
- 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup (5 2/3 ounces) superfine sugar*
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 16 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and softened
- 2 tbsp cream cheese, softened
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Icing (recipe below) and decorations, if desired
*I’ve also made these cookies with regular granulated sugar and they still tasted great. However, if you are planning on decorating these cookies, I recommend using superfine sugar to yield a more even-surfaced cookie.
Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, sugar, and salt together on low speed. With the mixer running on low, gradually add the butter, piece by piece, until the mixture looks crumbly and slightly moist; this should take up to two minutes. Beat in cream cheese and vanilla until the dough begins to come together in large clumps.
In the bowl, use hands to form the dough into one cohesive ball. Divide the dough in half. Press each half into a 4-inch disk and wrap each disk tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough until it is firm but malleable, about 30 minutes. Dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks (defrost in the refrigerator before using).
Adjust oven rack to the middle-position and preheat oven to 375°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, roll it out to 1/8-inch thickness between 2 pieces of parchment paper. Keeping the dough on the parchment paper, refrigerate until firm, about 10 minutes. Working with 1 sheet of dough at a time, cut out dough in desired shapes and lay on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them 1 1/2 inches apart. Repeat the rolling and refrigerating process until the desired amount of dough is used.
Bake 1 baking sheet at a time until cookies are light golden brown, about 7-10 minutes and rotating halfway through baking time. Cool cookies on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring the cookies to cool to room temperature directly on a wire rack.
When cookies are completely cool, decorate with icing, sprinkles, or other embellishments, if desired.
Glossy Decorating Icing
Yield: 2 1/2 cups
Adapted from AllRecipes
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 tbsp light corn syrup (I used golden syrup)
- 1/4 tsp flavor extract, if desired
- 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
- Food coloring, if desired
Combine water, corn syrup, and extract (if using) in a small bowl. Put confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl and add liquid ingredients to it. Beat using an electric mixer on low speed until the mixture is smooth.
If desired, divide icing into separate bowls, add food coloring, and mix well.
As is, the icing is thick and best for outlining and detail work. If icing is too thin, add confectioners’ sugar until desired consistency. If icing is too thick, add a drop of water and beat to combine; repeat until icing is at desired consistency.
To use icing for flooding, or filling in an outline, the icing should not be too thick or too thin. To test for the right consistency, drag a knife through the flooding icing; when the surface of the icing smoothes over in about 10 seconds, it is ready to be used for flooding.