You might have noticed that we at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen like cookies. My philosophy is, you can’t have enough cookies—and they’re all wonderful.
We always made cookies for Christmas at my house—the same standard Fanny Farmer sugar cookie recipe, every year. Since then I’ve tried a variety of ginger cookie recipes, but I still haven’t gotten that recipe quite right. Never fear: I’ll keep trying.
I inherited most of my mother’s cookie cutters, and I keep adding to that collection because I can’t stop myself. I might have stopped, but not after I found Stock, the amazing cookware store in Dublin, where I keep picking up more. They’re unusual, well made, and easy to slip into a suitcase.
And there were always sprinkles.
Earlier this year I discovered that simple cookie recipe that has a bare minimum of ingredients (lots of butter, confectioner’s sugar, flour and vanilla) and that you roll it out in a plastic bag, which makes life so easy. I’ve already given it to you in both sweet and savory varieties. But now it’s the holidays, and I’ve been hoarding really cool sprinkles for the past year, and I have some new cookie cutters (again), and I really want to see if I can push the envelope with the recipe. Chocolate! Candy canes! Red and green coloring! And lots of sprinkles!!!
Remember the basic recipe?
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
Warning: the batter has to chill for at least two hours before you cut out the cookies, so either allow plenty of time, or refrigerate overnight.
With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium for about 3 minutes or until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and the salt and beat.
With the mixer on low, beat in the flour until it just disappears into the butter mixture (do not overbeat, or the cookies will be tough!).
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Cover your cookie sheets with parchment paper. Cut out your cookies (whatever shapes you choose) and place on the covered sheets. Decorate to your heart’s content, then bake for 18-20 minutes, turning the pan once so the cookies bake evenly. (They won’t brown.)
That’s the basic recipe. Then I started experimenting:
Peppermint Stockings: take maybe six small peppermint-flavored candy canes (I suppose you could use any other flavor, but I like tradition), break them into another handy plastic bag, and whack them until they’re reduced to small pieces—not powder, but if the pieces are too big they’re hard to cut out. Swap out the vanilla for peppermint extract, decorate as you like (look! I had candy cane sprinkles!) and bake as above.
Chocolate Snowflakes: Okay, I know it’s not logical that snowflakes be dark, but I wanted to show off the pretty snowflake sprinkles. For this recipe, I substituted 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa for the same amount of flour. You can use whatever cocoa you like, although I think this works best with the less sugary varieties. Then follow the rest of the recipe.
Green trees and red bells: I bought the tree cutters at Stock last month. I like them because they’re irregular, like a real tree. Plus I had these nice large multi-colored nonpareils (okay, big round sprinkles) that kind of look like tree ornaments. I added 1 Tblsp of green food coloring to the mix, and added a bit more flour (remember that the original recipe didn’t include any liquid, and I didn’t want them to be too gooey).
For the red bells, I used 1 Tblsp red food coloring instead of the green. [I had plenty of the red for Red Velvet Cake; why I have a pint bottle of green coloring mystifies me.] Then I added some mixed red and green sprinkles, and baked.
And there you have it! Three flavors, two different colors, and lots of decorations. Enjoy! And feel free to experiment yourselves—there are plenty of options to try.
To celebrate the holiday season, I’m holding a giveaway: a copy of A Gala Event, which includes a December wedding, plus a framed picture (not a print!) of (surprise) apples, in honor of the Orchard Mysteries. Just leave a comment—cookie- related if you like, but anything that says “Christmas” to you will be fine.
You’ll have until Sunday to respond (I know a lot of you wait until Saturday to look at the blog).