My favorite Christmas tradition is decorating Christmas cookies. We've done this since I was a baby. My grandmother, Bobbie Lee, was the queen of making tea cakes. I have so many childhood memories of decorating cookies in her kitchen. Over the years, cookie decorating has turned into a competition to see who has the most dramatic design. My dad and brother use "tools" to help them achieve their desired look (their favorite seems to be a fork).
A copy of the recipe in my grandmother's handwriting
This dough is extremely finicky and you need to roll it thin (1/4-inch thick). The key is keeping the dough cold. I roll it out in batches. You may want to roll out the dough between parchment paper, chill, then cut out the cookies.
Bobbie Lee's Tea Cakes
Makes 18-24 cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 extra large eggs
2 tablespoons sweet milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4-inch cookie cutters
Colored sprinkles for decoration
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar. Add well-beaten eggs and combine. Sift together the flour and baking powder. With the mixer on low, add the flour to the butter mixture a little at a time. Add the milk. You may need to add more flour to make a stiffer dough (up to a 1/2 cup.) Cover dough and refrigerate 3-5 hours, preferably overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Roll out half the dough on a well-floured surface to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out cookies using assorted cookie cutters. (Flour the cookie cutters to ensure your dough doesn’t stick.) Place cookies on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with colored sugar. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Bake in the center of the oven for 10 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Repeat process with the rest of the dough.
Cook's Note: cookie cutters with less details tend to work better. Our favorites are snowmen, gingerbread men, Christmas trees, and candy canes. Red Hots are ideal for Rudolf's nose and add a touch of cinnamon flavor.
We traditionally decorate cookies on Chritsmas Eve once all the family gets into town. It's a festive activity that everyone can take part in. The dough can be made a few days ahead. Have a designated "cookie roller and cutter." Once a tray is filled with cutout cookies, everyone can start decorating.
What are some of your family's favorite traditions?
Thanks for reading!