This year, my friend and I will be volunteering at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre’s upcoming Christmas dinner, where they will be expecting to serve 500-600 women and children who live in the area. I was so excited (not sure if that’s the right word) about this that I thought in addition to volunteering, maybe I would also bake some cookies for the event. But then I did some quick math in my head and realized that’s 50 dozen cookies! The idea vanished almost as quickly as it had materialized. Maybe I should start small and bake cookies for our neighbours instead. Yes, that seems more do-able.
We don’t know our neighbours very well, where they come from, what they do and for most of them, not even their names. We do live in a high-rise and not on Wisteria Lane after all. There are no weekly poker nights or neighbourhood BBQs to be had here. Everyone seems to want to keep to themselves for the most part. The brief encounters we’ve had with our neighbours involve the exchange of a nod or smile and an occassional “Hi, how are you?” in the elevator or parkade. Hopefully these cookies will be the first step towards a less superficial relationship with our neighbours. And come on? Who could resist these cookies in the cute little reindeer treat bags?!?
Now that this is done, maybe it’s time we put up the tree and start Christmas shopping. Nah…there’s still 2 weeks left. Plenty of time! =D
Recipes (adapted from Martha Stewart):
Sugar cookies (these cookies are awesome!)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- assorted candies, sprinkles, or colored sugars, for decorating (optional)
- In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt.
- With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3-5 minutes on medium).
- Beat in egg and vanilla.
- With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; beat until combined.
- Divide dough in half; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic; freeze until firm, at least 20 minutes, or place in a resealable plastic bag, and freeze up to 3 months (thaw in refrigerator overnight).
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment.
- Remove one dough disk; let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Roll out 1/8 inch thick between two sheets of floured parchment, dusting dough with flour as needed.
- Cut shapes with cookie cutters. Using a spatula (or fingers), transfer to prepared baking sheets. (If dough gets soft, chill 10 minutes.)
- Re-roll scraps; cut shapes. Repeat with remaining dough.
- Bake, rotating halfway through, until edges are golden, 10 to 18 minutes (depending on size).
- Cool completely on wire racks.
- To ice cookies, spread with the back of a spoon or food only paint brush. Let the icing harden, about 20 minutes. Decorate as desired.Note: Use flour on utensils to keep dough from sticking: Dip the cookie cutters, and dust the spatula before transferring uncooked dough to a sheet. Rolling dough between two sheets of floured parchment will keep it from sticking to the rolling pin.Icing
- Sift 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl.
- Whisk in 3 to 4 tablespoons milk, water, or lemon juice, 1 tablespoon at a time, until smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If too thin, whisk in more sugar; if too thick, add more liquid.
- 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
- 1 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup ground cinnamon
- 3 sticks unsalted butter
- 2 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Sift flour, cocoa, cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp salt into a large bowl.
- Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy (about 3-5 minutes).
- Beat in eggs and vanilla.
- Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture, and beat until combined.
- Divide dough in half, and wrap each in plastic wrap. Put in freezer for at least 20 minutes or in refrigerator for at least 60 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out cookies in desired shapes using cookie cutters, and transfer to baking sheets.
- Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
- Bake until crisp, but not dark, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Transfer cookies to wire racks, and let cool completely.
- Decorate according to above for sugar cookies.
Notes and Tips
For the icing, I didn’t want to use a lot on the cookies, so I halved the recipe and that was more than enough for all the sugar cookies and half of the chocolate cookies. I made the icing just thick enough so that I could pick it up with a paint brush since I only wanted a thin layer of icing and I made it with skim milk. Since I used very small decorations, I find it easier for them to stick if I decorated right after icing the cookies instead of waiting for the icing to dry for 20 minutes first.