Some families are sugar cookie families. My family — at least on my mom’s side — was all about the butter cookies.
My mom baked a double or triple batch every year before Christmas. It was a family project: She frosted the cooled cookies and my brother and I decorated them. After the icing hardened, they all got piled in a giant, yellow Tupperware container, where they lasted well into the New Year.
Even before we kids were in the picture, mom baked butter cookies for Christmas. One of the photo albums we found after Mom and Dad died included pictures of the kitchen table of their house in Albion laden with red-, green- and white-iced cookies. (They lived there before I was born.)
I’ll never forget the year mom called me, excited because Kelly Ripa used “her” butter cookie recipe. I believe the word she used was “stole.” Well, mom probably did have it first. She got it from her mother, who got it from … I have no idea. Maybe it was on the back of a box of butter? If Kelly makes the same cookies, it’s clearly no family secret.
Now that mom’s gone, I try to carry on the tradition, making at least one batch of butter cookies every year. Christmas just doesn’t seem like Christmas when I don’t.
Of course they’re in no way low-carb or paleo-friendly — and they’ve resisted all attempts to health-ify them. (The one time I tried to make them with Splenda instead of real sugar, they turned out wrinkled instead of smooth.)
The recipe looks deceptively simple, but don’t let it fool you: It takes some real muscle to mix the last of three cups’ worth of flour into the dough. But with only 1/2 cup of sugar in the mix, the cookies come out just sweet enough.
- 1 cup soft butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 egg, unbeaten
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 3 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Mix together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla thoroughly. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add gradually to butter mixture. (I always take off my rings and mix in the last of the flour with my hands. Messy, but easier than trying to drag a fork/spoon through the dough.)
Wrap in wax paper (I use Saran Wrap) and chill an hour or longer.
Roll to 1/8-inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake at 400 degrees F about 8 minutes. (This year, I went with 7 minutes. The Boyfriend hates his cookies to be even the slightest bit brown.)
Cool and decorate as desired.
Now that I’m on my own, I’ve simplified the frosting/decorating process. I simply make an icing with powdered sugar, milk and vanilla. Then I divide it and add red/green food coloring.
Instead of icing each cookie individually, I drizzle icing over them and fling a few sprinkles. It’s a lot less work, and since I don’t have kids to help me decorate them, the less work, the better.
If I’m feeling particularly rushed (or lazy), I might even forego the icing altogether.
No kidding. I nibbled on a broken candy cane (or two) while baking this week, and found the naked cookies surprisingly delicious. Who needs the extra calories and carbs the icing would add?
Everyone knows you shouldn’t count calories at Christmastime, but if you’re watching your girlish figure, here’s a nutritional breakdown:
The recipe makes approximately 47 cookies, if you use small-ish cutters. In each one (before decorating), you get 74 calories, 4 grams of fat, 8.1 net carbs and 2 grams protein.