Sugar Cookies: With this master recipe, you can make classic sugar cookie cutouts or create dazzling variations with a few simple techniques and additions. Find instructions for creating chocolate, colored, striped, and marbleized dough variations below.
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
- In a medium-size bowl, mix the flour and salt. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar, stir in the egg, then the corn syrup and vanilla extract. One third at a time, add the flour mixture until thoroughly mixed.
- Pat the dough into two disks, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, or until firm enough to roll. If it is too firm, soften at room temperature for 5 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll one disk of dough between two pieces of waxed paper or plastic wrap, 1/4 inch thick. Remove the top sheet and cut out the cookies with cookie cutters.
- Using a metal spatula, transfer the shapes to baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies start to brown lightly around the edges. Remove the baking sheet to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes.
- Using a metal spatula, transfer the cookies to racks and cool completely before frosting and decorating. Makes 12 to 50 cookies, depending on their size
- Chocolate Dough: After the last third of flour has been added to the dough, mix in 1 ounce melted, slightly cooled unsweetened chocolate. Use your hands to knead in the chocolate.
- Colored Dough: Divide the dough into portions and use a toothpick to add food coloring paste (available at party supply stores) to each one. Knead until the color is evenly distributed. For a flavor surprise, omit the vanilla extract and add 1 teaspoon of lemon extract to the yellow dough, mint extract to the green dough, and strawberry extract to the red dough.
- Striped Dough: This colorful dough is perfect for the Hat & Mittens cookies. Divide the cookie dough in half and tint each a different color. Pat each half into a rectangle, about 5 by 7 inches, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate or freeze until firm. Roll each piece between two sheets of waxed paper to form rectangles that measure 8 by 11 inches and are about 1/4 inch thick.
- Stack directly on top of each other. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into strips about 1/2 inch wide. Turn each strip on its side with the stripes facing up. Place one strip near the end of a large piece of waxed paper. Press the next strip of dough parallel to the first strip, alternating the color. Place a piece of waxed paper on top of the stripes and roll over the top to make them adhere. Remove the top piece of paper and cut out shapes as desired.
- Marbleized Dough: Lightly press together any scraps of the striped dough to achieve a marbleized look.
Tips: Instead of rolling out your dough on a floured surface, roll it out between waxed paper. The cookies will stay moist because extra flour is not incorporated during the rolling process.
Put your kids in charge of setting the holiday table with a sweet place card at every seat. The foundation of this recipe is the versatile dough that can be customized to create chocolate, colored, striped, or marbleized cookies.
- 3- by 4-inch rectangle baked cookies
- With a tube of frosting, pipe names and designs on the baked cookies. Place a cookie at each dinner setting.
These crispy confections are brimming with kid appeal, and they’re easy to make by the trayful for holiday parties.
- 2 egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Red colored sugar
- Heat the oven to 200º F. With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks start to form. Beating all the while, add the cream of tartar and vanilla extract, then slowly add the 1/2 cup of sugar. Continue to beat until the peaks stiffen.
- Spoon the meringue into a quart-size plastic bag. Snip off a corner and pipe 2 dozen 1 1/2-inch-tall Santa hat triangles onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (you should have about 1/4 of the meringue left).
- Sprinkle the triangles with the red sugar, then use the remaining meringue to give each one a pom-pom and trim. Bake the hats until they’re hard but not browned, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the hats in it for an hour to crisp before removing.
Hanging Bell Christmas Cookies
With a short length of shoestring licorice, this bell becomes an ornament for your tree; a longer length turns it into an edible necklace. Either way, it won’t hang around for too long. The foundation of this recipe is the versatile dough that can be customized to create chocolate, colored, striped, or marbleized cookies.
- Best-ever sugar cookie dough (Plain)
- Bell cookie cutter
- Drinking straw
- Egg paint
- Shoestring licorice
- Using the cookie cutter, cut out bells from the rolled-out cookie dough. Punch a hole at the top of each cookie with the straw. Decorate with Egg Paint, then bake as directed. tie a piece of licorice through the hole and hang on your tree or around your neck.
Repoke the holes immediately after baking to ensure that they are big enough for threading with string or licorice.
Instead of rolling out your dough on a floured surface, roll it out between waxed paper. The cookies will stay moist because extra flour is not incorporated during the rolling process.
You and your family can shed new light on a holiday baking tradition with this elegant gingerbread lantern.
- 1/3 cup butter, room temperature
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 4 teaspoons water
- 1/3 cup molasses
- 1 2/3 cups flour, plus extra for rolling
- 1 1/4 teaspoons ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- Hard candies, such as Jolly Rancher Hard Candies
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tablespoon meringue powder
- 2 to 3 tablespoons warm water
- To make the gingerbread, heat the oven to 350º. In a large bowl, beat the butter and the sugar with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for about 5 minutes. Stir the baking soda into the water to dissolve it, then add this to the butter mixture. Stir in the molasses. Combine the flour, ginger, allspice, and cinnamon in a medium bowl, then stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture a little at a time. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill it for 1 hour.
- Prepare the by rolling out the chilled dough to a 1/4-inch thickness on a large piece of parchment paper, sprinkling on some flour if the dough sticks. Then, using a 4- by 7-inch piece of cardboard as a template, cut 4 rectangles from the dough, removing any scraps. Transfer the gingerbread pieces to a cookie sheet by topping them first with a piece of parchment paper the size of the cookie sheet, then with the inverted cookie sheet itself. Quickly flip everything over, then remove the top piece of parchment paper.
- To install the windows, use cookie cutters dipped in flour to cut and remove a few shapes from each gingerbread piece. Unwrap candies in similar colors (you’ll need about 2 to 3 for each 21/2-inch cutout) and place them in doubled freezer bags. Hit them gently with a hammer to crush them, then generously fill each cutout with crushed candy. Bake the gingerbread for 12 minutes, then let it cool for at least 1 hour. (The candy windows will be extremely hot! Do not touch them until they have cooled completely.)
- Finally, construct the lantern by beating together all of the icing ingredients in a small bowl with an electric mixer on low speed until blended, then increase the speed to high and beat for 4 to 5 minutes or until stiff peaks form. Using a pastry bag or a plastic bag with 1 corner cut off, pipe icing along the long edges of 2 of the walls. Assemble all 4 walls vertically on a platter or a piece of foil-covered cardboard, filling in any gaps and decorating the edges with more icing. Allow the icing to dry overnight. Set the lantern in a safe spot, then place a small candle inside and light the wick (parents only).
These buttery wreaths are often called spritz cookies because they are squirted through a cookie press. If you don’t own a cookie press, use a pastry bag fitted with a star-shaped tip (bags and tips are available at kitchen and party supply stores).
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- Green sprinkles
- Red hots
- Heat the oven to 375. In a large mixing bowl, use a wooden spoon to cream the butter and sugar together until smooth.
- Stir in the egg yolks and almond extract. Gradually stir in the flour.
- Assemble the cookie press and fit it with the star-shaped plate. Alternatively, fit a pastry bag with a star tip.
- Spoon the prepared dough into the press or bag and check the consistency of the dough with a test squeeze. If the dough is too soft, place the press or bag and remaining dough in the refrigerator to make it firmer. (Keep in mind that the consistency of the dough as it is squeezed through the press affects the look of the wreaths. If it is firmer, it is a little more difficult to press but gives a more jagged, leafy look to the wreaths. If the dough is warmer and softer, you will create smoother ridges.)
- Working on an ungreased baking sheet, pipe the dough into circles to make wreaths, leaving 1 inch between the cookies. Decorate the cookies with green sprinkles and garnish each one with 3 red hots (you can use the candies to cover up the spot where the circle joins). Bake the cookies for 7 to 9 minutes or until lightly browned
- Cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes. Using a metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat until all the dough is used. Makes about 4 dozen Holiday Wreaths.
- KIDS’ STEPS: Kids can mix up the dough, squirt it out onto a baking sheet, and decorate the baked cookies to look like holiday wreaths.
Presented in decorative tins, these sparkly meringues are satisfying both to make and to give. And you don’t have to stick to the snowflake design; the meringue can be piped into snowmen, wreaths, Christmas trees, or just about any shape you like. Tip: For the best results, avoid making them on a humid day.
- 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon flavored extract, such as lemon, peppermint, orange, or almond
- 2 tablespoons colored sugar or edible glitter
- Heat the oven to 200º. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy, about 3 minutes. Set the mixer speed to high and beat another 3 minutes or so until the eggs whites are fluffy.
- Add the confectioner’s sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue beating until the egg whites are stiff and glossy, about 5 minutes. Then beat in the extract.
- Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a pencil to draw snowflake patterns on the paper. The meringues will not spread, so they can be drawn fairly close together. Turn the papers printed-side down and stick them to the baking sheets by dabbing a little meringue in each corner.
- Spoon the meringue into a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch round tip and pipe it, erring on the thick side so the snowflakes will be less fragile, onto the paper-lined sheets following the patterns. Sprinkle the meringues with colored sugar or edible glitter
- Bake the snowflakes until dry but not browned, about 1 hour. Carefully slide the parchment paper from the baking sheets to wire racks and let the meringues cool completely.
- Using scissors, cut the paper between the meringues to separate them. Then gently peel away the paper from each one, keeping one hand under the snowflake to support the edges. The meringues will stay crisp for up to 2 weeks if stored in an airtight container at room temperature (do not refrigerate them). Makes about 20.