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When I was a kid, I loved making Christmas cut-out cookies. I loved helping my mom make the dough, the recipe we used came from the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook. I loved rolling out the dough and placing our small supply of holiday cookie cutters in exactly the right places to cut out the shapes. I loved decorating them -- either with icing or without. The only problem with those sugar cookies was that I did not like to eat them and neither did anyone else in my family. We ate them but we did not love them -- which might be why my mother did not let us make them every year.
When I had kids of my own, I bought a bunch of holiday cookie cutters and introduced them to the joys of the sugar cookie. Like me, they loved making the cookies but they did not like eating them. Still -- it was a tradition. It was something they really loved to do, so we kept making them.
Over the years, I made those sugar cookies with my kids, with neighbor kids, with Girl Scout troops and Cub Scout dens. I even took the pre-baked cookies into classrooms and we made fun cookie decorating messes in classrooms all over the world.
I thought I'd spend the rest of my life making Christmas sugar cookies that nobody liked. I had resigned myself to nibbling on cookies made by children, faking the joy until the child turned her back and I could toss the cookie into the trash... until that wonderful day, when a book changed my life.
I wish I remembered more about what led me to buy Leisure Arts' Christmas Gifts of Good Taste. I was probably looking for some new craft ideas for projects I could do with my Girl Scouts or with my kids. This was way back in 1991, before the internet made it so much easier to find new ideas -- back when you ordered books out of magazines or from book clubs and prayed the book had something in it you could use. This book has a beautiful cover, and I'm a sucker for good covers, so that's probably what pushed me into placing the order.
I do remember receiving the book and opening it for the first time. It was late fall in Northern California. The weather was glorious and we were beginning to think about the holidays. I was excited to try several of the recipes in the book and make a lot of the crafts. My kids and my next door neighbor (and her kids) were equally excited by the idea. Both households went to work -- the kids made felt Santa puppets, angel gift bags and Santa cookies (made out of Nutter Butters.) If you wander through my house, you might find some handwritten holiday recipe cards made that fall by my neighbor and her children. Every time I see those cards, I remember that time in our lives and I quietly celebrate the book that changed our lives because in that book is THE sugar cookie recipe.
I clearly remember looking at the recipe and wondering "Who puts mint in a sugar cookie?" I shrugged and headed off to the commissary because these cookies were so pretty that I had to make them.
I made the dough by myself, without the help of children. I cut the Christmas light pattern out of cardstock while the dough was chilling. I carefully cut the cookies, by this time the children were very interested in what I was doing. I sent them away and told them we'd make their sugar cookies next. When the cookies were cool, I iced them by myself with homemade red and green and blue icing -- and they were beautiful.
I never expected to love these cookies. I never expected the children to devour them. I really did not expect the neighbor children (or their mother) to return my plate, empty, within 15 minutes of having sent it over. I never in my wildest dreams imagined I'd be in the process of making a double batch of that recipe before I even cleaned up from the first batch. Those cookies... they were that good. I've never considered trying another recipe. Ever. There's no need, I've found perfection.
I've carried this recipe with me all over the country (and the world) and I've always had rave reviews -- even when the cookies were decorated by pre-schoolers with germy fingers. I've shared the recipes with friends online and always had rave reviews. Every fall, someone emails me or messages me asking me for the recipe. When I met TW's children, they'd never experienced the joy of the sugar cookie (TW is not a fan) and they were immediately converted to mint sugar cookie lovers. Our holiday would not be complete without this cookie -- it's not just the fun they have sitting around the table together, making anatomically correct snowmen and gingerbread girls. It's that they actually LIKE to eat them.
Mint Sugar Cookies
- 3/4 cup of butter (or margarine), softened
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon mint extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/3 cup finely ground walnuts (I leave these OUT)
- 5 cups confectioners sugar
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
- Paste food coloring
Icing (I rarely make icing anymore...)
For cookies, cream butter and sugars in a large bowl until fluffy. Add egg and mint, beating until smooth. In another bowl, sift flour and baking soda. Stir the flour (and nuts if you use them, yuk!) into the creamed mixture until soft dough forms. (And if I'm honest, I'll admit to quite often NOT sifting because who has time to sift when you have a zillion kids wanting to make cookies?? Hasn't ever hurt the cookies to not sift... just sayin'.) Cover and chill for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350. On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin (or the heels of your hand like I do, lol) to roll out the dough to 1/4" thickness. Use cookie cutters to cut cookies and back for 8-10 minutes or until light brown. Cool on a wire rack.
For icing, beat sugar and milk in a large bowl until smooth. Divide icing into small bowls and tint with food coloring. Spread icing on the cookies and allow the icing to harden (if your cookie eaters don't eat them first!)
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.
A sugar cookie everyone loves... who would have guessed it? (Oh. Wait. There is one hold out -- TW has still never tasted one of these cookies. She swears she won't like it. Her loss, more for us!) This is also the cookie that is causing my vegan child angst this year... so we're going to try a vegan version and see what happens -- fingers crossed!
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