There is a woman here in town who, I have no doubt, would defeat Bobby Flay in a Christmas-cookie throw down. Her name is Kelly, and I met her this past summer at a lawn-games Olympics party. After one bite of her legendary cookies, I immediately enlisted her to make a batch for a similarly themed neighborhood gathering. The cookies were the hit of the evening. (Sorry Simone.)
I’ve never asked Kelly for her recipe—I sense it’s treasured—but at one point while we were talking, she let on that cream cheese was the secret. In preparation for holiday cookie season, I did a teensy, teensy bit of research online and found this recipe, and while they’re not quite as delicious (or beautiful) as Kelly’s, they do the job—they hold their shape when baked, they’re sweet, tender, and tasty, and most important, the children love them.
More to the point, the children love making them, which I confess do not. Rolling out dough to a precise thickness, tinting icing to an un-garish hue, piping of any sort—it’s just not in my wheelhouse.
Alas. One day I hope to embrace the challenge of Christmas-cookie baking. For now, I’ll continue a newfound tradition, which requires a neighborhood child at least 9-years of age, preferably one named Jane with the most adorable freckles speckling her face. Last Thursday, I handed over the rolling and cutting and decorating reigns to Jane and did my best to stay out of the way.
There was flour everywhere. There were children sitting—standing!—on the table. Not a single cookie’s thickness matched another’s. It took every ounce of restraint not to intervene. I sipped my wine and occupied myself with the dishes and sweeping and tidying. Let it go, I kept telling myself, let it go. And I did. And the cookies—despite the varying thicknesses, the several decapitated snowmen, the many wingless angels—were delicious.
This dough, I find, is best divided into four portions. I let the children tackle three that evening, and during nap time today, I spent some time with the fourth. As noted, piping and tinting are not my thing, but I can handle a simple royal icing, and I do love festive, decorative sprinkles.
I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. I baked these cookies as part of a “calm and bright cookie night,” a virtual cookie exchange hosted by The Modern Proper. If you’re looking for some holiday cookie inspiration, look no further! Here are the other participants’ cookies:
The Modern Proper – Coconut Thumbprint Cookies with Salted Caramel
Wood and Spoon – Candied Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies
Floating Kitchen – Chocolate Peppermint Thumbprint Cookies
Brewing Happiness – Mint Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
The Vintage Mixer – Ginger Creams with Browned butter Icing
Wu Haus – Raw Vegan Gingerbread Cookie Sandwiches
The Almond Eater – Homemade Almond Biscotti
Chocolate + Marrow – Brown Butter Gingerbread Madeleines
Hungry Girl Por Vida – Lemon Pistachio Linzer Cookies
Honestly YUM – Ricciarelli (Italian Almond Cookies)
Husbands That Cook – Chocolate Sugar Cookies
The Judy Lab – Sea Salt Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Gather and Dine – Chocolate Almond Spelt Cookies
Betty S Liu- Cardamom Persimmon Cookies with Olive Oil Dark Chocolate Ganache
Harvest and Honey – Milk & Cookies
Bakerita – Chocolate Rugelach (gluten free + refined sugar free)
The Fauxmartha – Snowball cookies
The Kitchen Paper – Soft Toffee Cookies
Life Is But A Dish – Chocolate Peppermint Cream Cookies
Oh Honey Bakes – Pomegranate Pistachio and Almond Biscotti
The Brick Kitchen – Coconut Raspberry Wagon Wheels
Hello My Dumpling – Ginger Viennese Whirl Cookies with Matcha Passion Fruit Filling
Snixy Kitchen – Peppermint Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies
Tending the Table – Almond Macaroons with Satsuma Marmalade
Milly’s Kitchen – Grapefruit Fennel Shortbread Cookies
PDX Food Love – Chocolate Bourbon Swirl Meringues
Lasting Ingredient – Lemon Lime Shortbread
Heart Beet Kitchen – Chocolate Peppermint Crinkle Cookies
Carly Diaz – Dark Chocolate Pistachio Shortbread Cookie
Cloudy Kitchen – Early Grey Shortbread
Lena’s Kitchen Blog – Shortbread Cookies Three Ways
Classic Cream Cheese Cutouts
Yield 50 cookies
Recipe adapted from this one.
For the Cookies:
- 16 tablespoons (8 ounces) unsalted butter
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1½ cup (330 g) granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3½ (448 g) cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the icing/decoriating:
- 1 cup confectioner's sugar
- 1 - 3 tablespoons milk
- sprinkles of your liking
- Combine butter and cream cheese in the bowl and of a stand mixer and beat until fluffy. Add sugar; beat until even fluffier. Add egg and vanilla and mix well.
- In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add it to the butter and cream cheese mixture and beat until just combined. Transfer a quarter of the dough to the center of a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper. Pat into a disk, wrap tightly, and chill for at least an hour and up to three days.
- Preheat your oven to 325º F. Roll out our dough on a lightly floured surface or in between two sheets of parchment paper—I'm undecided on what method I prefer—to 1/2-inch thick. Cut out your cookies with cookie cutters of your choice—I like 2-inch circular cutters. Boring, I know. Gather scraps , re-roll, and repeat process.
- Bake on parchment-lined cookie sheets for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the edges just begin to turn golden—cookies will be very pale. Remove them from the pan and transfer to a wire rack. Cool completely. Note: I don't like baking more than one sheet of cookies at a time, but do as you like.
- Meanwhile make the frosting: Stir together the confectioner's sugar with 1 tablespoon of the milk. Add more milk a tablespoon at a time to achieve a thick but pourable consistency. Spoon icing onto cookie, spreading to cover. Shower with sprinkles.