A good sugar cookie is a must and should be under the belt of anyone who bakes. Contrary to popular belief that it’s old-fashioned and tacky, I beg to differ – I think it’s versatile and makes for a great gift. The decoration can be based on your preferences, the colours can be customised and, if you’re good at piping, little messages can be piped onto each cookie (or head online and invest in a food-grade writing pen).
This truly is a foolproof recipe, inspired by Nigella Lawson. These cookies can also be made without the festive cut-outs for buntings. Further, they can be baked at any time of the year and decorated according to the occasion. The ingredients are simple, and you might just have them in your kitchen cabinet. I have tried making these with the substitution of half rye flour and half plain flour, which turned out delicious. To make chocolate cut-out cookies, replace 3 tablespoons of the flour with good-quality, intense unsweetened cocoa powder.
You may not have novelty cookie cutters, but fear not – you can trace the desired shapes onto baking paper and cut out the cookies using the paper templates. You could also just use regular round and square shapes, but decorate them in a festive way. Speaking of decorating, I recommend buying a few sprinkles that are Christmas themed.
- 180g unsalted butter, softened
- 210g caster sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 400g plain flour
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
For the icing:
- 400g icing sugar, sifted
- 1 large egg white
- ½ tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- food colouring
- In a medium-sized bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until pale in colour and fluffy in texture. You can do this by hand using a wooden spoon and a lot of elbow grease or use an electric mixer instead.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well. Add the vanilla extract and beat again.
- Mix all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and sift together. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and fold together using a rubber spatula.
- Once a dough has formed, form into a ball, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge to chill for at least 20 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 170°C and roll out the dough between two sheets of baking paper. The dough should be ½ inch thick. Using festive cookie cutters, dunk them into some flour and then cut out the desired shapes.
- Using a knife or the point of a nozzle, make a hole in each cookie for the decoration string later on. Bake for 10–12 minutes, or until the sides are slightly coloured and the cookies are dry to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack and cool. If baking smaller cookies, it should take about 8 minutes.
- To make the icing, whisk the egg white until frothy. Add the icing sugar in two stages, whisking well to avoid any lumps. Add the lemon juice and vanilla and whisk once more. Colour the icing using different-coloured food colouring and transfer to piping bags. Get creative and start icing your cookies!
- Once the icing is dry, tie a decorative string on each and hang on your Christmas tree.
- You could spice up the flavour of the cookies with the addition of the zest of a clementine or some finely chopped dried cranberries.
- This recipe can easily be halved. Or the extra dough can be stored in the freezer for close to a month.
- The cookies need to cool down on a wire rack to ensure that the bottoms don’t become soggy.
- To make the icing, I recommend using a mixer or else your hands will hurt the next day. The icing itself is a royal icing, which means it sets hard once dry. This helps to give the cookies a better snap with every bite.
- To avoid anyone eating the buntings you’ve hung on the tree, use 1 tablespoon ground black pepper in the dough. But, if gifting them, please DO NOT add the pepper unless you don’t favour the person you are gifting to!
For Day 1’s pecan fudge recipe, click here