Friday, December 18, 2015

And More Christmas Cookies

by Sheila Connolly

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).


  1. The cookies look amazing (I think the snowflakes are my favorite)! Thank you for the recipe.
    myrifraf (at) gmail (dot) com

  2. I too love the snowflakes! Please feel free to send tins of them to all your readers. :). (Said with a big smile and a hungry tummy as I sit down to my morning cup of coffee)

    Merry Christmas!

  3. Merry Christmas!

    I agree--the cookies look wonderful! But my favorite is the Christmas tree--it reminds me of the cookies my mother baked in my childhood.

    Peaceful Yuletide

  4. I like the chocolate snowflakes. Too bad you can't mail some of those.
    sgiden at verizon(.)net

  5. Beautiful! I like the idea of a single batter for holiday baking. Thanks!

  6. Those cookies look very festive. I love family get-togethers. Thanks.

  7. Such pretty cookies! Thanks for sharing your recipe! I have also found that the simplest recipes are the best - Merry Christmas! Nicole

  8. My husband does the baking, I'm going to ask him to make these!

  9. I've started going to Christmas bake sales and getting a large variety of cookies, rather than doing a lot of baking. Thanks for the contest.

  10. Extra fun b/c you get the color without icing. (Yes, icing is wonderful, but a bit too sweet for me.)

  11. Loving the colors! Merry Christmas! cynthiast.amand at yahoo dot com

  12. Beautiful Christmas cookies. Love the delightful and delectable variety. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  13. They all look soooooo good! Merry Christmas!

  14. To those of you who like the snowflakes, I should add that this dough stands up well to complicated cookie cutters, which is a plus (I hate having to pry a cookie out of the cutter, and then it ends up a mess).

  15. Your cookie iterations are wonderful. Picture perfect.

  16. You know if you make them too pretty, people won't want to eat them. Well, maybe they'll eat them slower. They sound delicious.

  17. So special and lovely. What talent. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  18. Your recipes appeal to the cookie monster in me. Thanks for the giveaway. elainehroberson at

  19. I'm looking forward to trying the peppermint stockings -- I had a great peppermint cookie recipe, but I have lost it. This recipe will be perfect! Thanks!

  20. I think we might have a cookie-making blitz this weekend. Appointments and other things have interfered and so far all I've managed to do it take out the butter and cream cheese to soften, realize I'm not making anything and put it away, and then repeat. But we are down to the wire now and time to start baking. I agree, Christmas cookies are a must! Thanks for the recipes and giveaway.

  21. Pat ( 18, 2015 at 1:13 PM

    Hard to beat sugar cookies. Unless it's ginger or shortbread or praline or.....

  22. The selection of Christmas cookies around me this time of year is one of the reasons that I love Christmas season so much!
    little lamb lst at yahoo dot com

  23. Awesome Christmas giveaway!

  24. Just love the platter of cookies that were made I love all kinds of cookies but my fav is what my grandma and i used to make are spritz cookies. I have a spritzer but have to make them with someone as i am severely disabled but someday i hope to make one of my grandchildren a memory with it.

    1. I have my Swedish step-grandmother's spritz maker too (she was a real cookie whiz), and I use it occasionally.

  25. Really like the sugar cookies. I usually make Pecan Crescent cookies. I don't have good luck making sugar cookies. Great giveaway! Merry Christmas.

  26. Beautiful cookies for Christmas giving! Thanks for the chance to win.

  27. Beautiful cookies. My favorites this time of year are traditional, ethnic and no bake.

  28. I haven't had the time or energy to bake this year. Perhaps I'll make some Easter cookies-I may be ready by then...or not. Sigh.

    cozyupwithkathy @ gmail dot com

  29. Baking christmas cookies next weekend. I can't wait!

  30. Very pretty cookies! And I really enjoyed A Gala Event!

  31. Cookies are the best around Christmas and especially the dough that comes out of the cookie cutter well...Thank you for the recipe they look lovely on your tray.