I have always loved the magic that Christmas brings and the smell of butter cookies for Christmas in particular. That is why I decided to make them with my kids and share this simple Christmas butter cookie recipe with you.
Before I start cooking, I usually like to prepare all the ingredients to make the process as smooth as possible. This is especially practical when you are cooking with two kids beside you.
So let’s start!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 ½ cups of softened butter
- 1 ½ cups of white sugar
- 3 tbsp of cream cheese
- 3 eggs
- Vanilla extract
- Almond extract
- Kosher salt
- 3 ½ cups of all purpose flour
- ½ tbsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp cream of tartar
- 4 cups of sifted powdered sugar
- ½ tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp extract of choice
- ¼ cup pasteurized egg whites
- Food colors
- Sprinkles and other food decorations
- Ruler or rolling pin rings
- Cookie cutters
The Christmas butter cookie process starts with the dough, then cutting the shapes, baking, and finally decorating. It’s as simple as that! This is what I really love about the butter cookies: they make for a great family tradition even though these aren’t originally part of my nationality’s Christmas traditions.
Preparing the Dough
As with any butter cookies recipe, first we need to make the dough. Take the 1 ½ cups of room temperature softened butter, then add the 1 ½ cups of white sugar and the cream cheese. Whip that well for about 15 minutes until your sugar granules have blended together with the butter and the cream cheese.
You’ll know that the dough is good if you cannot feel granules on your fingers when you touch the dough. The dough should be soft and smooth on touch. Once you’re done whipping, don’t forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl and blend everything together.
Once you have creamed butter and sugar, add 1 whole egg into the dough and 2 egg yolks. At this point, you can add 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract and ½ tablespoon of almond extract. The almond extract has a pretty strong flavor so you don’t want to add too much of it.
Now whip the dough again to incorporate the liquids into the Christmas butter cookie dough. Next, add 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt (as a flavor enhancer), 3 ½ cups of all purpose flour, ½ tablespoon of baking powder and 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar. The cream of tartar will add a cool texture to the cookies and will prevent them from browning.
Before you use the beaters, it’s better to fold in the flour with the rest of the dough with a spatula to prevent making a huge mess. Then use the beaters to incorporate every ingredient well into the dough. If there are floury bits, don’t panic. That’s okay because you don’t want to overwork the dough. Finish mixing the dough with a spatula and you’re done with the dough.
To store the dough away in a fridge where you’ll need to keep it cold so that you can work with it later, use a clingfilm. Stretch it out onto your surface and lay the dough on it. Then use the clingfoam to make a nice smooth shape, wrap it up and put it away in the fridge.
It’s important to note that there’s a lot of butter in this Christmas butter cookie recipe, so if the dough is not cold enough, the butter will stick to the surface and to the rolling pin making it impossible to work with.
After 2 Hours in the Fridge
Get the dough out. Put some flour on the surface and on the rolling pin to prevent the dough from sticking to them. To measure the dough, it’s best if you have rolling pin rings to put on both ends of the rolling pin. If you’re making butter cookies for Christmas only and you don’t bake as often, alternatively you can use bottle caps which are also a ¼ inch – the exact thickness we want our dough to have when spread out.
Since we need to keep the dough super cold in order to work with it, it’s best to divide it in at least 2 parts. Use one for working and keep the other in the fridge in the meantime. Before you start rolling the dough, I recommend you press it a few times to get the most even thickness. Then roll out the dough nicely.
I had one of the pieces out before it was cold enough and when I tried to roll it, it was sticking to the rolling pin. So, I put it back in the fridge until it was cold enough.
The next time I got it out, it was much better.
To start making shapes, dip the cutters into the flour before you start cutting to avoid them sticking to the dough. If you have enough cutters, you can go ahead and stick them into the dough then collect the excess dough first and transfer the shapes onto the baking tray. If you don’t have enough cutters, like me, then just go ahead and cut the shapes into the dough then collect the excess then the shapes.
A thing to remember when transferring the shapes onto the baking tray is not to pull or tug the shapes because they will get distorted.
Once you’ve made the first round of cookies, collect the scraps of excess dough and put them back into a cohesive dough ball. Wrap it up into a clingfilm and put it back into the fridge. Repeat this process of the butter cookies recipe until you run out of dough.
Put the shapes into the fridge to cool down a bit before you put them in the oven so that they don’t swell too much during baking.
Bake these cookies in a preheated oven at 350℉ (180℃) for 15-20 minutes. Once baked, put them out and set them to cool on a drying rack.
Preparing the Royal Icing
Someone said that beauty is in simplicity and the royal icing is royal exactly because it’s so simple.
To make the royal icing of this Christmas butter cookie recipe, take 4 cups of sifted powdered sugar, add ½ tablespoon of Kosher salt, 1 tablespoon of vanilla or other extract of choice, and ¼ cup of pasteurized egg whites. Put these ingredients at one end of the powdered sugar. This way you’ll avoid making a mess when mixing the powdered sugar with the other ingredients. It’ll also help you avoid the lumps that may surface if you mix all the ingredients together at once.
In addition, what you need to know when making royal icing, it’s what consistency you want it to have. You can go for a thicker or thinner one. The thicker one is good for lining things out while the thinner one is good for filling in the cookies.
I suggest you start with a thicker one because you can always make it thinner later on. Once the royal icing is ready, you can divide it into several smaller bowls depending on how many colors you want to make. Then add a few drops of color into each bowl of royal icing and mix it well.
To decorate your butter cookies for Christmas, you can either dip them directly into the bowl of icing in the preferred color or fill a piping bag with royal icing and draw on the cookies. I honestly forgot to get some piping bags so we decorated the cookies with sprinkles (while the icing was still wet so that they could stick on it). They didn’t come out perfectly drawn but they were perfect to me because my kids decorated them without any help.
Now go ahead, and put some in your kids’ stockings! They are bound to love them!