Christmas Cookies: Grandma Vera’s Sugar Cookies

Traditional Christmas cookies

Traditional Christmas cookies

Finally, we get to the quintessential Christmas cookie.  Yes, there are worthwhile traditions and delicious reasons to make all those other cookies, but the cookie that really means Christmas is the cut-out, frosted, sugar cookie.

In our family, that means Grandma Vera Anderson’s Sugar Cookie recipe. It also means help from whatever youngsters are around for some creative decorating.  I love the traditional Santa Claus and Christmas tree cookies, but gather a bunch of 3 to13-year-olds around colored icing and bottles of sprinkles and you never can tell what the final product will be.   A blue Santa. A Christmas tree with tiny dinosaurs and stars?

Creative Christmas Cookies

Creative Christmas Cookies

This is  the recipe that is so similar to the sugar cookie that Brette Sember told us about — the one that originated in her family with her great-grandmother.  As Brette explained, the dough is difficult to handle and the full recipe makes way too many cookies, but the taste and texture are unique and it is all totally worth it when you bite into Grandma’s sugar cookies.

I usually make these with sour cream, but this year went back to souring milk with a little vinegar the way that Grandma did.  I also used Crisco, since that was what I remember her using in her cookies.  Although I usually use butter,  they do not taste all that different.

Christmas sugar Cookies

Cookie decorating station

Finally, don’t worry if you have to add flour. It’s a sticky dough and I probably use another two cups of flour by the time I’m through–on the cloth I roll them out on, on the rolling pin sleeve, and on the dough itself.  It is a delicate balance, because too much flour and you wind up with a cardboardy cookie instead of the crisp on the outside, soft on the inside texture you want.

Andrew decorating Christmas sugar cookies.

Andrew decorating Christmas sugar cookies.

This time around, the recipe made 8 dozen sugar cookies–and that includes some large Santas and Christmas trees as well as small bells and stars.

Although I did not include a frosting recipe, I use a simple one– two cups of confectioner sugar to 1/4 cup butter, with a couple spoonfuls of milk and a dash of vanilla. I probably made four times that much for this batch of cookies. Kids slather the frosting on more thickly than you might, so take that into consideration.

Grandchildren and Christmas Sugar Cookies

Rachael is wearing her great-great-grandmother Vera’s apron, and Andrew his grandmother’s apron.

Plus you need to have separate dishes of red, green, gold–and, yes, blue besides leaving some white. Make the cookie dough two days before decorating and store in fridge.  Bake a day before so the kids won’t have to wait impatiently for cookies to dress up. Then all hands put on their aprons and away they go.

Grandma Vera’s Sugar Cookies

Serves 8 doz.
Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup lard, Veg. shortening or butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour milk
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 1/2-4 cups flour

Directions

1. Sift together dry ingredients
2. Cream butter and sugars
3. Add eggs, sour milk and dry ingredients to butter/sugar. Mix. Chill
4. Roll out to 1/8" thick and cut with cookie cutters.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes

Note

Our ancestors might leave out their milk to sour, but ours is pasteurized and will spoil rather than sour, but  you have options.  I use sour cream.  You can also use buttermilk. Or, you can create sour milk by adding 1 Tbls. vinegar to 1 C. fresh whole milk and letting it sit for five minutes. (My grandmother taught me that trick.)

I use butter instead of lard or vegetable shortening because I like the buttery taste, but to be completely authentic, lard would be best.

The amount of flour I use seems to vary from year to year.  Grandma's recipe calls for 3 1/2 cups, but I seldom can get a solid dough and have to add another 1/2 cup, plus very liberally flouring the surface on which I'm rolling out the dough.  At any rate, it will be a very soft dough.

You do want the raw cookies to be as thin as 1/4 inch or less because these cookies puff up, and you'll lose sight of the shape you are trying to create if you make them any thicker.

Because they are so thin and so delicate, be sure to keep a close eye on the oven while you are baking.  I find that the first tray may take a little longer to bake than subsequent ones. Whether you are using dark or shiny pans will change the equation.  Just keep an eye on them. They need to come out when they are showing a hint of brown around the edges.  They will still feel puffy-soft when you gently touch the center, but because they are thin, they will finish baking on the cooling rack.

If you don't want to bother with frosting, you can sprinkle the tops with sugar--white or colored--before baking.

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