by Susan J. Decuir
In the 1950s and early 60s, Mom’s kitchen in our North Dallas home transformed into a bakery the week before Christmas. Everything she made was mouth-watering delicious: fudge, orange balls, and butterballs rolled in powdered sugar. But nothing compared to her best-ever Christmas cookies.
Mom made the cookie dough a day ahead and refrigerated it overnight. In the morning, Mom set up her 50’s style yellow Formica kitchen table like an assembly line with her well-worn, yellowed pastry cloth, wooden rolling pin, and slightly dented aluminum Christmas cookie cutters. Where they hid the rest of the year, only Mom knew.
She took the dough out of the refrigerator to soften for an hour or less. Once softened, she cut the dough into quarters and placed one quarter of the dough onto her well-floured pastry cloth spread across the table. Mom let me roll out the dough until she determined that the thickness was just right. Mom preferred ¼ inch thick.
Under Mom’s watchful supervision, my brothers, Ray and Doug, and I gently (well, I was gentle) pressed the Christmas tree, star, bell, angel, candy cane, and gingerbread man shaped cookie cutters into the dough then placed them onto a cookie sheet without overlapping.
Mom placed the cookie sheet into the oven. While they baked, we rolled out and cut out the next batch of cookies. This process was repeated four times.
When the cookies were sufficiently cooled, the fun part began. Decorating!
Mom divided her homemade butter and powdered sugar icing evenly into four bowls. My brothers and I added red, green, and yellow food coloring into three bowls and left one white.
Wielding our butter knives, the three of us kids practiced our artistry by generously slathering the creamy icing onto one cookie at a time then sprinkling liberal amounts of red and green sugar sprinkles, silver balls, and red hots on top—transforming each cookie into a masterpiece. Transforming Mom’s once sparkling clean floor—crunching beneath our feet—into a masterpiece as well.
Afterward, we ate cookies and licked the icing bowls until our stomachs ached, or until Mom said, “No more. You’ll spoil your appetite for lunch.” Then, to our chagrin, the cookies mysteriously disappeared. With my insatiable sweet tooth, it wasn’t long before I found them—hidden inside a box tucked under Mom and Dad’s bed. But I didn’t dare take one. My brothers and I had a healthy fear and respect for our parents’ rules. Plus, I instinctively knew that a stolen cookie just wouldn’t taste as sweet.
Through the decades, I carried on Mom’s Christmas cookie tradition with my son and daughter and now with my grandchildren, Evan, Emma, and Ava. Somehow, those cookies never tasted as delicious as when I make them with those three energetic, fun, talented, and silly grandchildren—one of God’s greatest gifts in our senior years.
Cookie Ingredients and Directions
1 Cup Unsalted Butter
2/3 Cup Sugar
¾ Teaspoon Salt
2 Teaspoons Vanilla (I use Mexican Vanilla)
1/3 Cup Eggs (1 to 2) depends on size
3 Cups sifted all-purpose white flour
Place butter in a glass bowl to soften. Add sugar, salt, and vanilla and mix well. Beat eggs together, add to mixture and stir. Gradually add flour. Shape mixture into a ball. Cover dough tightly with parchment paper. Cover the bowl tightly with aluminum foil. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Take dough out of the refrigerator an hour or less to soften. It is easier to cut into quarters and roll out. Roll ¼ at a time on a well-floured bakery cloth. I also use a well-floured rolling pin pastry cloth. Cut ¼ inch or thicker if you prefer.
Place the cutout cookies onto a non-greased Teflon cookie sheet. Bake 350 degrees, 8 to 10 minutes. Cookies will be a little brown on the bottom.
Icing Ingredients and Directions
1 box (pound) powdered sugar
1 Stick butter (allow to soften), I use unsalted butter.
1 Teaspoon vanilla (I like Mexican vanilla)
Mix well using a few drops of milk as needed until you reach a spreadable consistency without being too watery.
Separate icing into several bowls and add desired food coloring. Now you are ready to ice your cookies and decorate with sprinkles. Enjoy!