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December 17, 2016

Christmas Light Cookies

I'm a little bitter right now. All my friends are posting pictures from back home or on vacation, and I literally just finished my first final (only 4 more to go before my 6am flight home in a week!). I suppose my consolation prize is the one night off I'm giving myself right now since I don't have another exam for 2 days. I figured I'd share an easy recipe for some festive cookies that make great gifts for your friends, coworkers, families, and, of course, Santa. I took my simple rolled sugar cookie dough (the one I used for linzer cookies) and added a bit of holiday flair. All it takes is a 2-minute glaze and a sprinkle of mini M&Ms or candy-coated sunflower seeds to turn these basic treats into something worth celebrating: gorgeous strands of Christmas lights criss-crossing stacks of sweet, buttery cookies.


As far as cookies go, this is about as simple as it gets. Just beat some softened butter and sugar together, add in the eggs and a hearty splash of vanilla, and stir in the dry ingredients. While these cookies aren't pure shortbread (there's an egg in there and it has more of a soft than a crumbly texture), you still want cookies that won't spread. The whole point of rolled sugar cookies is that they keep their shape, whether it's plain circles, pretty scalloped edges like I used here, or any fun cookie cutters you have on hand. That's why I use baking powder instead of baking soda in this recipe; there's no extra acid for baking soda to react with and baking powder gives it just a bit of lift without spreading.


I'm not really sure what would happen if you did big, thick drop cookies with this dough since I've only used it for rolled cookies. They keys to a successful rolled cookie are similar to those for making a pie crust: keep the dough cold and handle it minimally. This dough is a little on the softer side; it should be just firm enough to roll out with the help of some flour but not too tough that you have to hammer it out. I keep mine a little thicker than most recipes since I like soft cookies, but if you want a crunchy cookie just roll it thinner than my typical 3/8".


The cookies are done baking when they are set and just starting to become golden on the bottom/around the edges. I like a uniformly pale cookie for decoration purposes, but again if you're a crunchy cookie person leave it in for longer. I make a quick glaze to enhance the color of the lights and give them something to stick to. Just whisk some powdered sugar with some milk or cream until it's thick but easily spreadable. Swipe some onto each cookie, drizzle on some strings of melted chocolate (if you don't have a piping bag or a squeeze bottle just cut a small hole in a ziploc bag), and press in some mini M&Ms or those chocolate/candy-coated sunflower seeds (any small almond-shaped candy will work). The cookies do need some time to set so the decorations aren't nearly as delicate and the dairy in the glaze does make refrigeration necessary, but I'm sure Santa and any other taste-testers will appreciate the work. Now let's see if they work on my professors.


1 1/2 Sticks Butter, Softened
1 Cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
2 1/2 Cups Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
2 Cups Powdered Sugar, Sifted
3 T Milk or Cream
1 Cup Chocolate Chips, Melted
1 Cup Mini M&Ms or Candy-Coated Sunflower Seeds

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt, then gradually add it to the dough.

Split the dough in half and chill until firm, at least 90 minutes.

Heat oven to 375F and line cookie trays with parchment.

Roll the dough out to 3/8" thick and cut into desired shapes (for Christmas light cookies, cut ~3" circles). Place on the prepared trays and bake until just golden around the bottom, about 8 minutes.

Whisk the powdered sugar and milk/cream together until smooth. Spread onto the cooled cookies. Drizzle the melted chocolate in lines across the cookies, then press the candies on top. Refrigerate once set.

Makes 16
Recipe Adapted from Back to Her Roots

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