Thumbprint, gumdrop oatmeal, rocky road, chocolate chip, sugar, lemon bars, the six kinds of cookies that are embedded in my family holiday tradition. Every year a whole day would be dedicated to painstakingly measuring, cutting, rolling, baking, decorating, cooling, and packing these six cookies. As a kid this was all so much fun! I got to do everything fun and didn’t worry too much about the mess that was being made or the dishes that needed to be washed. As I grew older I started adding more complicated cookies to the basic six we always made but still didn’t fully understand the amount of work involved because mother was always there to wash the pile of dishes I left behind. This year the tables have turned as I finally experience making cookies with a child. Every week I do a cooking project with my client’s four-year old child. We have made everything from truffles to apple turkeys. This week, because of the nostalgia I’ve been feeling, I decided to make sugar cookies with her. This turned out to be a somewhat beautiful disaster. Disaster, only in my mind, because of the mess that was made and my overestimation of the attention span of a child; beautiful because of the meaningful experience I created for her and of course the tasty end product.
These days you can just buy sugar cookie pre made dough, but trust me it is so not as good, plus it has all kinds of weird preservatives that could not be good for you. Sugar cookies are simple enough to make from scratch.
What you Need:
1 C butter (softened)
1 C sugar
1 egg beaten (at room temperature)
3 C flour (gluten free flours are tricky with this recipe, the brand Glutino worked best for me but still was a bit crumbly)
¾ t baking powder
lemon zest/vanilla optional but makes for tastier cookies
Mixer helpful but not necessary
What You Do:
Mix the butter and sugar together until it resembles wet sand, add in vanilla, lemon zest, and egg. Combine all the dry ingredients. Pour the dry into the wet and stir until just combined. Add drops of milk if mixture is too dry, the dough should look and feel like slightly sticky play dough. If it is your first time making these cookies, a drier dough is much easier to work with, so the less milk the better. Every recipe says to refrigerate this dough for two hours, two hours seems like an eternity to a kid so just throw it in the freezer for about twenty.
While the dough is refrigerating, set up your rolling area. You need to dust a smooth flat service with powdered sugar and have the cookie cutters, spatula, cookie sheets and rolling pin ready. Once you start rolling and cutting your hand are going to be a mess and you need to have everything there. During this time if you have space you can also set up your decorating area and make the frosting. To make frosting simply mix powdered sugar with drops (literally drops!) of water until it is a thick paste that is like glue. Dye with desired colors. Kids of all ages love doing this.
When the dough is cold enough it won’t be a sticky mess, and should roll with little effort. Take small chunks from the dough to work with at a time, leave the rest in the fridge. Using the powdered sugar, roll it out with the pin until it is about ¼ inch thick, then cut out shapes. If you have no cookie cutters a glass works well. Place them on a cookie sheet and cook in a 375 degree oven for 8-10 minutes.
I have found letting the cookies sit on the hot pan for a minute or two makes it much easier to remove them from the sheets without breaking. Let the cookies cool thoroughly, then go wild with your imagination and the decorations!
So as you can see this is a very long process, but kids really love it. The age of the kid determines which part they should join in. Kids five and under really don’t care too much for anything but decorating, the lesson I learned the hard way yesterday, so just mix and bake the cookies yourself and set up a decorating area for them. Kids 5-10 may take some joy in cutting and baking, so you can prepare the dough and guide them through the process. Kids 10 and over can probably appreciate the entire process. Now be prepared for it to be a big mess, its just something you cannot avoid. Luckily messes can always be cleaned up!
I really can’t believe my mother had the patience to make six different cookies with me and my sister every year, I wanted to pull my hair out after this one kind. I was so stressed I was sweating because powdered sugar was everywhere and my cookies were crumbling. Yet somehow the stress and mess is worth it, the kid didn’t even notice. Spreading the joy of baking is very fulfilling, tis Christmas time after all.
Below enjoy the photos of the cookie making mess, I mean fun.