There is no doubt that the best part of the Christmas season is celebrating the birth of Jesus. We have an advent blog series to help prepare us for that. The much tougher question would be, what is the second best part of the Christmas season? Presents, reading by the fire, Christmas music, and Hallmark Christmas movies all have a claim on this second spot. Let's be honest those are great, but one tradition rises above the rest, baking Christmas cookies.
Growing up Christmas cookies were a huge part of my childhood. I can remember mixing cinnamon applesauce ornaments with my hands, (not a cookie, but a dough is involved so I'm counting it), cutting out sugar cookies with my mom, and frosting Santa cookies with my siblings. Now, I will say I have always had a soft spot for desserts, especially cookies, but that isn't what made Christmas cookies so special. What made it special was the time spent with my family mixing, baking, decorating, laughing, and yes, eating.
Through our summer camp experiences, we at Heartland have learned that the one thing you can't replace in building relationships is time. Here are three recipes you can use to mix, bake, decorate and bond and make memories with your children. Don't worry, we made them so all ages can enjoy.
Recipe #1: Classic sugar roll-out cookies with royal icing
Chef: Vicki Walter, Cornerstone Intern
I have always loved baking and decorating desserts. So much so that I got a certificate in pastry and baking from Le Cordon Bleu and worked in restaurants as a professional baker. Even as I pursue a career into camp ministry, I still love to bake and this is a simple recipe I love.
My family had a tradition around Christmas where we would decorate sugar cookies and then watch White Christmas. Even as a kid I loved to get super detailed with my designs, the more icing the better! My mom would make a large batch of white icing and then split it into little cups and from there we would use food coloring to mix and create a plethora of colors. Toothpicks and plastic knives work really well for spreading the icing.
Classic Sugar Roll-Out Cookies
- Margarine ¾ cup
- Sugar 1 ½ cup
- Eggs 1
- Milk ¼ cup
- Vanilla 2 teaspoons
- Baking Powder 1 tablespoon
- Salt ¼ teaspoon
- Flour 3 ¼ cup
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
2 tablespoons water (more may be needed)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or flavor of your choice)
a few drops of food coloring
- Mix the powdered sugar along with corn syrup and water and extract until it's smooth and creamy.
- Extract and food coloring are both in liquid/gel form, so adjust accordingly if you add more, you may need more powdered sugar.
- This recipe is very easy to manipulate, if it is too runny, add more powdered sugar, too stiff add a few drops of water.
- Let the cookies dry on wax paper, if you wish to stack them, let them dry for 12 hours.
Chill dough for 30 minutes. Flour your work surface and roll dough to about ¼” and cut.
Bake 8 minutes 350°
*Pro Tip- Every time you roll out the dough, the final cookie will be tougher than the one before. Try to get as many cookies as possible out of each roll out.
Recipe #2: Stained Glass Cookies
Chef: Jared Briscoe, Program Director
Now I may not have the same formal training as my fellow staff members, but I learned how to bake Christmas cookies from my mom so I am feeling confident in this recipe.
This cookie is great because it allows for lots of creativity for your younger children. These cookies are made by cutting out both an outer and an inner shape and then filling it with the crushed hard candy of your choice. This allows for lots of mixing an matching of shapes as well as the all important decision of which candy goes in the center (my family always used Jolly Ranchers). From crushing the candy to cutting out the cookie shapes, baking this cookie is a great way to get the whole family involved this Christmas.
Prepare Vicki's sugar cookies from recipe one.
While dough is chilling, group candies by color and place in separate heavy-duty self-sealing plastic bags. Place 1 bag on towel-covered work surface. With meat mallet or rolling pin, lightly crush candy into small pieces, being careful not to crush until fine and powdery. Repeat with remaining candy.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll and cut dough into shapes, place cutout cookies on large cookie sheet lined with foil.
With mini cookie cutters, canapé cutters, or knife, cut 1 or more small shapes from each large cookie; remove small cutout pieces and reserve for rerolling. Place some crushed candy in cutouts of each cookie. Sprinkle sugar on the cookies before baking.
Bake cookies 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool cookies completely on cookie sheet. With pancake turner, remove cookies. Repeat with remaining dough and trimmings.
*Do not use red-and-white-swirled peppermint candies -- they won't melt in the oven.
Recipe #3: White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies
Chef: Nicole Baker, Kitchen Manager
Nicole has been Heartland's Kitchen Manager for over a year, a fact that all of our staff and campers are extremely grateful for. She has a culinary degree and has worked in restaurants all across the Kansas City. She is also a fantastic baker as my waistline can attest (her sweet potato biscuits are exceptional). If you don't believe me, give here s'mores cookies a try.
- 1 Egg
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
- 1 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Use parchment to line cookie sheets for best results
In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg. Combine the flour and baking soda; stir into the sugar mixture. Mix in the white chocolate chips and cranberries. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. For best results, take them out while they are still doughy. Allow cookies to cool for 1 minute on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
From the Heartland Family to yours we hope you enjoy these cookies, and more importantly enjoy getting to make them together. Happy Baking!
Written By: Jared Briscoe