As a child, one of my favorite holiday traditions was making sugar cookies with my mother. Some years we made cookies at Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter. She collected cookie cutters for the occasion, now I keep the bulk of her collection–along with my own cutters–displayed on my kitchen counter in a glass jar.
Her cookie recipe is adapted from the Deluxe Sugar Cookie (aka “Mary’s Sugar Cookies”) from the old Betty Crocker Cookbook. Our family prefers a leaner cookie, so Mom halved the soda. Because our child is peanut allergic, we steer clear of nuts and nut extract. Therefore, I’ve adapted the recipe by subbing lemon for the almond extract.
We’re also steering clear of food dyes, so this year we went with a lovely white granulated sugar that looks like snow.
Ours is a small family but with a big sweet tooth. To spread the recipe out, I divide the dough into four batches and freeze for use later. This is a nice way to keep cookies available year round. Also, if you work full time, you can mix the ingredients up at night and then freeze them for another evening or on the weekend. Spreading the steps out makes the process seem a little easier on busy schedules.
No cookie cutters on hand? Just roll the dough into cylinders before chilling and then slice, top with sugar, bake and serve.
Yield varies according to size and shape of cookie cutters, but count on about 4 to 5 dozen
1 cup softened local butter
1 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp. vanilla or vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
Granulated sugar (with which to decorate)
Combine butter through lemon extract. Mix well. In a separate bowl, combine flour, soda and cream of tartar. Add dry ingredient mix slowly to the butter mixture. Cover bowl and place in refrigerator for at least 3 hours. (It is at this point that you can divide the recipe for freezing. Well covered, it will keep in the freezer for up to three months.)
Preheat oven to 375. Cover pans with a sheet of parchment. Divide dough into fourths on a lightly floured sheet of wax paper or parchment. Place another piece of paper on top of the dough Roll the dough until it is between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Working with the cutters–but not yet cutting into the dough, arrange the shapes so as to maximize the coverage area. Cut into the dough and then remove each cookie carefully, placing them on the parchment covered pans. Sprinkle with sugar. When working with small children, excess sugar can be “swept” up from the pan using a small kitchen brush.
Bake approximately 8 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool a moment before moving the cookies to a rack.