If you ask anyone for the smells of Christmas, vanilla's bound to come up in the top ten, alongside the more popular pine and cinammon. It's common knowledge -- at least in these parts -- that Christmas cookies are an imperative addition to any holiday season. It's like a Christmas tree without a star, a door without a wreath. Where's the fun in that?
I started out by experimenting. About a minute into the recipe, I discovered I was missing a stick of butter -- no doubt my parents had used it for some other recipe I was unaware of. Plus, the butter we did have was partially used, from other experiments with baking and stuff. I made do with my 2.9 sticks of butter, compensating by removing an entire cup of flour. I'd read someplace that more flour makes for crispier (aka dry and hard) cookies while less flour makes for more moist cookies. Not that I'd want shortbread, of course, but I figured that if anything was right, it was the word of the Martha Stewart commenters.
Another thing: the dough. It was painful to watch, my whisking the dough so amateurishly. First were chips, then they slowly, slowly, slowly clumped together. I started feeling some impatience when they were still barely coming together and I'd been kneading it for almost half an hour. After sometime, and a bit of heat, it came together and was ready to roll out into the awkward mats of doughy goodness that is the birthplace of Christmas cookie heaven.
My first batch of cutouts was pretty awkward -- and not too pretty to look at. I didn't want to take a picture, to spare your eyes, but the dough had been rolled pretty unevenly - and a few of the tender candy canes broke at the curve. That's something I'll keep in mind -- make your candy cane cookies thicker, or else they'll snap in half at the slightest movement!
Afterwards, I lightly decorated them. No need to be too fancy on my first batch after all. They were perfect in my opinion -- almost the same flavor as chocolate chip cookie dough minus the chocolate chips. A bit bland to European standards, but what do they care anyway? I'll be giving some away this holiday for sure!
Yields about 50 cookies (depending on cookie cutters)
- 2 cups butter (about 4 regular sticks)
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 4 cups flour (plus extra for rolling out the dough)
- Cream the butter and sugar.
- Add egg and vanilla.
- Mix all dry ingredients and slowly add to butter cream mixture until incorporated.
- On lightly floured board or table, roll out to desired thickness.
- Cutout even shaped cookies and bake at 400 degrees F for 7-10 minutes.
- The bottoms should be slightly browning and the cookies should be light in color.
Thicker dough tends to make softer cookies, while the thinner dough makes crispier ones. Whatever you do, make sure all of the cookies in your batch are the same thickness!