I think about my mother a lot during the holidays because there’s a lot to remember and a lot to miss. My mother was not only “the queen of good-byes,” she was the “queen of the holidays.” If you are missing a loved one this holiday season, too, you might be interested in reading an earlier post with twelve tips for getting through the holidays. Here’s the link.
As I’ve written about before, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Christmas comes in a close second.
My mother knew how to put on a good Thanksgiving. Her Christmases weren’t too shabby either. To this day, I marvel at how she made it all appear so easy.
One of the very first things to mark off her Christmas to do list was making her famous holiday-shaped, rolled-out sugar cookies. It was a production that took time, skill, patience, know-how, stamina and of course a secret family recipe. (Keep reading to grab it.) She insisted upon rolling out her sugar cookie dough as thinly as humanly possible.
“The thinner the better,” she’d always say. “The perfect sugar cookie must be thin, crisp and a delicate golden brown.”
Some of my friends’ mothers made thick, chewy sugar cookies, but I always knew they were not the “perfect” cookie.
Always, and only for Christmas, my mother made a double batch of her special rolled-out sugar cookies, and the kitchen counters and table would become a sea of fragile, golden cookies waiting for the finishing frosting process to begin.
My three siblings and I always helped with the frosting part. That was a painstakingly slow process that could not be hurried and seemed to take forever. Each cookie was gently and meticulously frosted (using not just one color, but several) with almost surgical skill and care so as not to break it (of course many were broken, but we got to eat those!) each one ending up being like a work of art. Well, almost.
Every year, after our assembly-line cookie production was finished, the cookies were stashed away in the basement freezer like hidden treasures. When the time finally arrived for them to be brought out, they would be displayed on crystal trays for all to admire, marvel at and, of course, indulge in. Mother carefully rationed them out to last as long as possible, which usually meant until my older sister’s birthday on January 2nd.
I’ve continued making my mother’s rolled-out, frosted sugar cookies every single year since I left home. I don’t particularly enjoy making them. Too much work. I don’t even really like eating them all that much. Too sweet and no chocolate. Plus, I got sick on the dough one year after eating too much of it, so that’s likely the main reason they’ve not been my favorite since.
They might not be my favorite holiday cookie, but I make them because doing so is another way to remember my mother and a whole lot more. And my family loves them!
After all, baking holiday cookies isn’t just about the cookies.
Here’s my mother’s (which is really my grandmother’s) secret recipe for the best ever rolled-out sugar cookies.
The Best Ever Rolled-Out Sugar Cookies
Sift together: (true confessions – I don’t actually own a sifter, so I don’t sift…I just throw dry ingredients together in large bowl)
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
Cut in 1 cup soft (not melted) butter until particles are fine
Add 1 slightly beaten egg
Add 3 tbsp cream (sometimes I add a tad more, but just a tad)
1 tsp vanilla
Blend thoroughly (I use my hands. Kids love this part!)
Divide and form into three balls and flatten them a little for easier rolling out later
Refrigerate dough for a while
Roll out as thinly as you wish on floured board
Cut into desired shapes
Bake at 400 degrees for 4 min. & then start checking often. They brown quickly after 4 minutes!
Frost as desired (I mix together powdered sugar/cream/vanilla/food coloring to desired consistency)
What’s something you do during the holidays to carry on a tradition or memory of a loved one?
What’s your favorite holiday cookie to make or eat?
Just for fun, do you prefer thin and crispy sugar cookies or thick and chewy?