Friday, December 14, 2012

New and Improved Holiday Cookies

by Sheila Connolly

I love cookie cutters, as my overflowing boxful proves.  Some were my mother's, and I can remember making cookies with her when I was young.  Later, I coerced my not-yet-husband into participating (and I have the pictures to prove it!). Of course we had all the traditional shapes—stars, bells, pine trees, Santas and so on.

I know--not very tidy
As if that weren't enough, I collect cookie cutters.  I've bought themed cutters for various purposes, including promotion, which explains why I have apple cutters in different sizes, not to mention cactus cutters (for Sarah Atwell).  I "rescue" antique cutters from junk, er, antique stores and flea markets.  I even have a donkey and an elephant for Election Day events. 

When we were in Ireland, doing the tourist thing (Grafton Street, Saint Stephen's Green), the last thing on my mind was cookware, but then through the gathering dusk (at four o'clock in the afternoon) I spied a brilliantly lit store that called to me…it's called Stock Design Store, and it has everything you could want for your kitchen—including cookie cutters.

Just a small sample at Stock--I wanted
one of everything
Now, had I been there a week or two earlier, I could have come back with one of my heart's desires:  a skull cookie cutter with eyes and nose and ghoulish grin. I did find one demon, and I had to have the tractor.  I plan to start hounding the place in early October next year for the skull—I'll be happy to pay shipping.

And they did have lovely coated steel cutters, so I bought a shamrock (of course) and a spider and a snowflake. (For the full range of available shapes, see under Cookie Cutters.

I wrote about my all-time favorite go-to sugar cookie recipe here before, but like many mystery writers, I started thinking "what if…?"  What if I wanted to change it up a bit?  What if I swapped in some almond flour for the regular flour, and added a dash of almond extract to the vanilla?  Maybe even tossed in some finely ground almonds to give it a little texture?  Snowflakes can be a little crunchy, right?

So here's the result:  Holiday Snowflake Cookies

¾ cup butter
¾ cup solid shortening

Almond flour and ground
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. almond extract
2 Tblsp. whole milk

 cups sifted all-purpose flour + 1 cup almond flour
½ cup ground blanched almonds
3 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Cream the butter, shortening, sugar, eggs, vanilla and almond extract until light and fluffy. Stir in the milk. Sift together all the dry ingredients except the ground almonds (too coarse to go through the sifter!), and stir in the ground almonds. Add the dry ingredients and blend well. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or put in a plastic bag and refrigerate for at least one hour (this is important—it makes the dough much easier to handle when you roll it out). (This keeps well in the refrigerator, if you don't get around to rolling out all the cookies at once.)

Roll the chilled dough to ¼-inch thickness (this dough runs a little soft, so you can add flour liberally to keep it from sticking when you roll it). Cut with your favorite cookie cutters. If you wish, you may sprinkle the tops with granulated sugar, or any other decorative sprinkles you like. Place the cookies about 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. (You can combine the scraps and reroll the dough for more cookies.)


Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned (don’t overcook!). Remove from the pan and cool.

You can decorate before or after you bake the cookies, depending on what you like to use—sprinkles, frosting, or any combination!

These keep well in a closed container (I think the flavor actually improves after a couple of days—if they last that long!) Don’t ask me how many this makes—it’s a bunch, probably between three and four dozen, depending on how big you cut them.

You didn't really think I could leave this out,
did you?  And look at what kind of spider it is.
SOUR APPLES, August 2012 -- New York Times Paperback Bestseller
ONCE SHE KNEW, October 2012 -- Barnes & Noble Best Books of 2012 #90,
Barnes & Noble Best Nook Books of 2012 #11
BURIED IN A BOG, coming February 2013


  1. I love almond cookies...hides the taste of arsenic quite well. LOL. Just kidding, but I do love almond flavored things (I had an interesting almond wine once) plus it's perfect for mystery fans.

  2. I'm surprised that the almond flour doesn't leave the dough a little fragile. I've used it before in a cherry tart and it was delicious but a bit finicky to work with. I've enjoyed your pics and blogs from Ireland (and your books, of course!!)

  3. Ooh, Katreader, I hadn't even thought of that! Wonder how much cyanide you'd need...

    You're right, Sharon S. The package for the almond flour recommended using no more than 25% almond flour with regular flour, so I upped the regular flour amount in the recipe. The cookies were still a bit stickier than usual.

  4. Great post - and cookies. May I have one please! Seconding the pleasure of hearing about your trip across the pond, and props on the tarantula cookie, you wicked baker, you! (Did I get the spider right?)

    A sweet holiday to you and yours!
    ~ Cleo

    P.S. My cookie cutter stash is as organized as yours. Here's to happy chaos--of the mind, as well. Not always pretty, but a writer's best friend.

  5. Crunchy, nutty snowflakes. Sounds good to me and no one has to shovel them--except into their mouths!

  6. Cleo, note the carefully crafted red hourglass on the creature--it's a black widow! Hmm, cyanide in a black widow cookie...

    1. Ha!! Okay, now I see it. (And I think I'm a little bit afraid of you! :))

  7. I'm afraid too--where in world does a nice woman find black sprinkles? the snowflakes look delicious though...