It’s finally December!!! And that means it’s time to whip out the cookie cutters and turn up the Christmas music. This is my favorite time of year for baking. It’a all warm and cozy inside which makes you want to curl up with a tasty dessert, plus there’s a lot of family coming over, parties, and get-togethers with friends.
These are the perfect cookies to make with friends. They’re fairly quick and easy and they taste so amazing! When I first saw this recipe, I noticed it has cream cheese, almond extract, and lemon zest, all of which I felt were a little odd for Christmas/sugar cookies. I was going to look for a different recipe, but it was from one of my most trusted recipe sources, and anyways I thought, “Why not?” I went ahead and made them with my friends, and the unique combination of all the flavors resulted in a delicious cookie. When you first bite into these, you immediately taste the almond; but then the lemon and the vanilla subtly peek through, giving a just-sweet-enough result. They are also the perfect consistency: not to hard, but also not to soft to decorate. They have a nice crispiness when you bite into them, but the insides are perfectly soft.
Cut-out cookie dough is often troublesome. It’s almost always too sticky and ends up sticking to your rolling pin, the counter, the cookie cutters, and maybe even your hands. When I made this recipe, we froze the dough for about 30 minutes, but it was still sticking to everything. I wanted so desperately to end up with some kind of cookies, that I just decided to add some flour until the dough was no longer sticky. I added about 1/2 cup, rerolled the dough, and cut out the shapes I wanted. I was so surprised that it worked! I adjusted the recipe below so it should have the right amount of flour.
Royal icing can also be hard to make and use. Do you use a recipe with real egg whites or meringue powder, or maybe use something other than royal icing? If you want your cookies to have a little more of a professional edge, use royal icing. But I would warn to stay away from egg whites because of the whole stomach sickness issue with eating raw eggs. Meringue powder does the trick perfectly! The recipe below was not only simple, but also tasty and even had a beautiful shine to it.
I had a lot of fun making these with friends! We didn’t really try to make them look too professional in case you were wondering; we were just having fun 😉 If you have been on the search for a Christmas cookie recipe, these would be perfect to make and decorate with friends, or to serve at your Christmas party! Enjoy!
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature for 1 hour
- 2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Place the softened butter, cream cheese, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a mixing bowl with a hand mixer). Beat together on medium until very light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beater.
- Add the egg to the mixing bowl and continue beating until it's fully incorporated and the batter is smooth again. Beat in the vanilla extract, almond extract, and lemon zest. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beater.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, beating on low speed until everything starts clumping together into a soft dough and the flour is nearly incorporated (the sides of the bowl will still look floury).
- Use a stiff spatula to incorporate the last of the flour and to make sure everything from the sides and bottom of the bowl have been worked in. The finished dough will be very soft and quite sticky.
- Divide the dough into two portions. Sandwich each half between wax paper and pat the dough into thick disks. Then use a rolling pin to roll each disk out to 1/4- to 1/8-inches thick.
- Transfer the rolled-out dough to a baking sheet, still sandwiched between wax paper, stacking them on top of each other. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour or for up to 5 days. (See Recipe Notes for freezing instructions.)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or a Silpat.
- Work with one portion of dough at a time, leaving the other in the refrigerator. Transfer the dough to your work surface and peel off the top layer of wax paper. (If you notice the dough is sticking too much, completely mix in a couple tablespoons of flour at a time until it's no longer sticky) You can cut out the cookies on the wax paper, or you can dust your work surface with flour, flip the dough over on top, and peel off the other piece of wax paper.
- Cut out cookie shapes and transfer to the prepared baking sheet with a spatula. (Do not bake the cookies on the wax paper; the wax will melt in the oven.) Repeat with the other portion of dough. Re-roll the dough scraps to cut out additional cookies.
- Bake the cookies until the edges are set and just barely starting to turn golden, 8 to 15 minutes depending on the size of your cookies.
- Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes — they are delicate when first out of the oven and can break if moved sooner. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely. If any cookies have baked together in the oven, use a sharp paring knife to gently cut them apart while the cookies are still warm.
- Once completely cool, the cookies can be frosted, glazed, or decorated.
- Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. They are best if eaten within 5 days.
- Recipe Notes
- The prepared dough can be frozen, either in a disk of dough or rolled out, for up to 3 months. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap before freezing. Thaw in the fridge overnight before cutting and baking the cookies.
- The unfrosted cookies can be frozen for up to 3 months in an airtight container.
- 2 tbsp meringue powder
- 1/4 cup water (plus more for thinning)
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together meringue powder and water until a slight foam forms. Add in powdered sugar and vanilla and mix until icing becomes light and airy, about 2 minutes. If the mixture is too thick and not mixing well, add more water, 1 tsp at a time. The icing should still be very thick at this point.
- Thin the icing using a teaspoon until it has reached the desired consistency. When ready to use separate into bowls and add coloring.
- - Piping consistency (used for lining) - add enough water where the icing will fall off a spoon into a mound that holds it's shape.
- - Piping consistency (used for flooding) - add enough water that when a toothpick or knife dragged across the surface, the icing comes back into a flat surface within 15 seconds.
- Put icing into a plastic sandwich bag, cut a very small hole in one of the edges, and decorate cookies as desired.
- Store unused icing in an airtight container covered with plastic wrap (plastic wrap should be touching the surface) in the fridge for up to a week. Makes enough to frost about 2 dozen cookies.
Do you enjoy making Christmas cookies? What’s your favorite Christmas tradition?