holiday cheer: christmas sugar cookies

I'm not the only person who has fond memories of baking Christmas cookies with my family. My mom would let me and my siblings help roll out the dough, pick whatever shapes we wanted from our vast selection of cookie cutters, and of course, we each got to decorate our fair share of cookies after they were baked.

What I think of as my mom's recipe is actually my paternal grandmother's recipe and, I have to tell you, it's the best one out there. The cookies are chewy and the orange zest and extracts lend just enough citrus to make them taste light and fresh. They're also just slightly salty but the icing we use balances that out perfectly.

Do yourself a favor and make a batch of these cookies before your family gets together this week. They will thank you.

Christmas Sugar Cookies

1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. grated orange rind
1/4 tsp. lemon extract
1/4 tsp. orange extract
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder

Cream together shortening and sugar. Add beaten egg, orange rind, lemon and orange extracts. Add dry ingredients and beat until smooth. Chill until firm. 

Place dough on lightly floured board or between parchment or waxed paper and roll thin with a rolling pin. Cut with cutters.  Place cut cookies on greased cookie sheet and bake at 325 degrees for about 12 minutes.  Repeat with remaining dough until all is formed into darling sugar cookies to be.

To decorate: 

Mix 1 tablespoon milk with food coloring. Add powdered sugar by the tablespoon until mixture is  thick. Use this to hold on colored sugar, cinnamon red hots, chocolate ants, etc.

Year in and out I look forward to making these cookies and I can't wait until Elia is old enough to help decorate them with me. Let's hope her cookie decorating skills don't peak at age six like mine did.

Happy baking everyone!  

What is your favorite holiday baking recipe or memory? 

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