The Yuletide has hit our home in all of its German, American and Italian glory!
The Christmas season was always a big deal in my family growing up but one thing we never did was bake cookies. Decorating cookies with my kids was something I already imagined as a child and after buying conspicuous amounts of cookie decorations the last time we were in South Tyrol and a dozen Christmas cookie cutters at Villeroy and Boch last month I had no excuse.
Nigella's recipe (from How to Be a Domestic Goddess) is fool proof, all you need is time on your hands because there are various phases involved: preparing the dough, chilling it, rolling it out and cutting out the shapes, baking, cooling and decorating. However, if you decide you are not in a decorating mood, these are great plain too!
This project morphed into a whole family activity, with the big guy of the family discovering unknown decorating abilities, the little one happily muching on the plain cookies and us girls having a ball. Friends came over for tea and the kids went on to create little works of art (before the sugar high hit that is - I think there were more silver balls going into their mouths than on the cookies!). I recommend all of you who haven't delighted in this activity yet, to try it and become children again! After all, isn't that what Christmas is all about?
Ingredients (for 40 or more cookies)
175gr soft butter
1tsp vanilla extract
400gr flour (preferably Italian 00) + more if needed
1tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
300 gr icing/confectioner's sugar (I used 250gr)
a couple of tbsp very hot water (I used about 4)
Cream the butter and sugar and then beat in the eggs and the vanilla extract. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in another bowl and then add the dry ingredients into the butter and egg mixture, mixing gently but thoroughly. If the dough is too sticky to roll out, add some flour but do so sparingly, otherwise the dough will become tough. Halve the dough into two discs, wrap them in saran wrap and store in fridge for minimum one hour (it keeps up to a couple of days). When you are ready to roll out the dough, preheat your oven to 180°C and take out one disk at a time. Flour the surface you will be using and sprinkle the top of the dough with a little more flour. Roll out to about 1/2 cm. Cut the shapes, dipping the cutters into flour and place the cookies onto a lined baking tray, leaving a little space between them. Bake for approximately 8-12 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Let cool on a rack. While your first batch is baking, start working on the second one. I was able to make a third batch from the scraps (and I could've made more, but the dough was getting a little tough and a little girl I know kept insisting to play with it).
When you are ready to decorate, sieve your confectioners' sugar into a bowl and add a few tablespoons of water that has just stopped boiling, until you get the right consistency (thick but soft enough to spread over the cookies).