The tree is up — so my boys want their Christmas cookies. We cut the tree down at a Christmas tree farm. You can take a hay ride while they secure the tree to the top of the car.
I have a recipe for sugar cookies I use every year. It is a combination of butter, sugar, vanilla, flour and eggs. The difference between using vanilla extract and real vanilla beans is noticeable. In a simple recipe, where there are a handful of ingredients, the beans add a pure vanilla flavor.
The vanilla beans I buy come in glass tubes with cork stoppers. The first time I found them in a store, my older son was a toddler. I was getting ready for a baking session when he wandered into the kitchen. “What are those sticks in the glass tube?” I removed the stopper and let him breathe in the scent of vanilla. “Wow, those sticks smell like cookies.”
There was a time when I didn’t know how to keep cookies from sticking to the tray when baking. A layer of parchment paper will do the trick. Or a Silpat liner. One batch of botched cookies teaches you that lesson fast. It was a Christmas baking session one year when I learned mine. The first chisel at the baked cookies, with a spatula, told me they were not a success. The cookies left behind rows, of the bottom layer of cookies, on the tray. I scraped and the cookies crumbled into pieces. Tasty pieces. Disaster batch of cookies became a new dessert.
I filled cocktail glasses with a layer of strawberries and blueberries. The Christmas cookie pieces got scattered over the fruit. Then, I mixed one of my favorite last-minute toppings. Sour cream, agave nectar, and honey make a fast, tangy and sweet sauce. A few leaves of mint on top and the cocktail glasses were done.
The result tasted like a shortcake in a glass. The crunchiness of the cookie “crumbles” mixed with the berries and the sweetened sour cream mixture. “Tonight guys, we are having Christmas Cookie Crumble Shortcake.” They grabbed their spoons and dug into their desserts.
When fixing a recipe, that didn’t go as planned, give it a fun name. Turn it into something else. Laugh. Pulling out a cocktail glass during the holidays can fix things in an instant — for the dessert crowd too.
Holiday Sugar Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen
1 cup softened butter
1 cup white sugar
1 vanilla bean split and scraped from pod
4 cups all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
Red and green colored sugars
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Cream butter and sugar together until the mixture is smooth. Add eggs and vanilla.
Sift flour, baking powder, and salt.
Add wet ingredients to dry and combine.
Form dough into a disk and cover with plastic wrap. Chill overnight.
Roll out dough, on a surface dusted with flour, to a thickness of about ¼ inch.
Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes
Place one inch apart, on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake for about 6 to eight minutes
Decorate with colored sugar