December is National Sugar Cookie Month.
Not really. But it should be. In my childhood nothing said Christmas quite as loudly as the circa 1950s tinsel tree and Mary's Sugar Cookies from the old Betty Crocker Cooky Book. I remember running as fast as my boot laden feet could carry me up and over snowdrifts all the way home as soon as the last bell before Christmas break rang.
First stop home. Drop books and bags and hurry to Ma's house to put up her tinsel tree. Hang ornaments. Plug in revolving color wheel. Return home. Mix up Mary's Sugar Cookies. Life is nothing but a long list of delights when you are 6 and Santa Claus is coming to town.
The one painful part of this Christmas Must Do list is waiting for the sugar cookie dough to chill before rolling, cutting, and baking. The dough needs to chill at least one hour before rolling out and cutting into shapes but is better if chilled overnight. It wasn't until after I turned 50 that I discovered that an overnight chill is better. No one still in the throes of their wild youth can endure a prolonged chill time. One hour is top wait. Those of us who are over 50, however, are exhausted after mixing the cookies; we feel the need to rest overnight right along with the cookie dough.
Cookie decorating can be as simple or complex as you care to make it. Some people create extravagant works of art on every cookie. I prefer to get out my fondant and piping bag and meringue powder and glitter and allow myself a few hours of play time. It is something like pulling out my box of 64 crayons and a big stack of blank paper. All the world comes to peaceful rest while my creative spirit spreads its wings and takes me away into Cookie Land.
Mary's Sugar Cookies are simply the best. The addition of cream of tartar gives them a special tang that most sugar cookies do not have. Your choice of decorations is up to you. Sprinkle them with colored sugar. Pipe royal icing in elaborate designs or create your own fondant designs or whip up a bowl of powdered sugar icing and hand it to a child to spread over the cookie. Whatever you choose to do don't forget the sprinkles! Who doesn't love sprinkles?
Mary's Sugar Cookies
1 cup butter, softened 1½ cups powdered sugar 1 large egg 1 teaspoon vanilla ½ teaspoon almond extract 2½ cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon cream of tartar Icing for decoration (optional)
Mix together sugar and butter. Add egg, vanilla, and almond extract; mix well.
In a separate bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar.
Gently mix in flour, baking soda and cream of tartar just until incorporated.
Cover and chill for 2 to 3 hours.
Heat oven to 375 F. Prepare pans for baking by lining with silicon baking mats or parchment paper.
Divide dough in half. Roll each half ¼ inch thick on lightly floured cloth-covered board. Cut into desired shapes.
Place cut cookies on lightly greased baking sheet, leaving space between them. Place baking sheet in the freezer (or refrigerator if freezer is not available) for at least 30 minutes. Baking cookies after chilling will help them retain their shape a bit better.
Bake cookies for 7 to 8 minutes or until light brown on edges. Let cool completely before decorating as desired.
Stayed tuned for decorating ideas. Some simple. Some not so simple. In the meantime, try baking Mary's Sugar Cookies. They are beautiful and delicious sprinkled with colored sugar.