Growing up with varied interests has a lot to do with the kind of books one was exposed to as a child. The number of stories that I’ve read all through childhood of Christmas and the midnight chimney visitor is what I hold responsible for my fascination with Santa Claus and his favoured milk and cookies snack. That’s how the interest in baking came about. Mom had this lovely red cookbook at home that featured just cookies , especially the Christmas kind. Sugar cookies , peppermint candy canes , melt-in-the-mouths , cinnamon swirls and florentines all jumped up from the pages in vivid Technicolor.
I remember the sense of jubilation I felt when I first successfully baked a perfectly golden cookie with no burnt edges.
It’s great when you associate food with a certain time of the year. Those memories go a long way. That’s exactly why , come what may , the cookie cutters are brought out every December to make a batch or sometimes several batches of the simple Christmas cut out sugar cookies. To be very honest , cookies that need to be rolled and cut are not my favourite. I prefer the ones that can be dolloped or piped. The rest of the year I’m happy to relegate that activity to anyone else who offers to do so. But not during Christmas time. That’s because I have a particular affinity to my seasonal cutters. The Cancerian foodie in me gets sentimental about these things.
Friends and family know my love for cute baking paraphernalia . Those visiting during the winter holidays fill their bags with special knick knacks for me. So I have tiny star cutters of three kinds,the shooting star ,the five pointed star and the Bethlehem star. Added to that we have monster cookie cutters in the form of Santa’s hat , Rudolph the reindeer, Christmas tree, Snow man , rocking horse and lastly a bell. I love the Christmas tree cutter the most and so do all the children. They have no tiny corners that can break off and they are so easy to decorate.
Sugar cookies are made by mixing flour , butter and sugar with or without egg. Here at home we make both versions but the eggless one is quicker. The original recipe used all purpose flour with butter and sugar but I always prefer to use a whole meal flour or a millet flour along with my favourite aromatics. It doesn’t really change the taste of the cookie but it does make it a lot healthier. To get my cookies smelling delicious , I choose between real vanilla extract , cinnamon powder , citrus rind or rose water. There are so many variations that one can make with this simple sugar cookie batter. Whichever one you decide to go with , it will still taste just as delicious. The one thing that appeals to all are these simple Christmas cookies
If you’d rather not cut them into shapes these are just as nice when made into small discs. All you need to do is to pinch off small bits , roll them into a ball , place them on a sheet and flatten them slightly with the thumb. You can also make them more interesting by pressing an almond, walnut or pecan in the middle or by making a criss cross pattern with your fork. That looks really good , almost like it was bought at a store.
These cookies have a good quantity of butter so there’s no need to grease the cookie tray , they will just lift right off once baked and cooled. But they are a bit low on sugar , so they do need some sort of a glaze or sugar dusting.
The glaze is what makes for a fun activity for the kids. At Christmas last year , my long pine table was covered with newspapers and colourful mats. Each kid was given a small container with cookies , a wooden icecream stick and an apron. Bowls of coloured icing (green , red and white only) , plenty of seasonal sprinkles and a helping hand was all they needed to get started. Equal amounts of icing were smeared on the cookie as well as into the open mouth ! It was all I could do not to meet the gaze of the other anxious mommies. But ,oh what fun it was ! When I got a message some days ago that a friend’s 4 year old from Delhi wants to spread Christmas here with us , it just made all of the baking so worthwhile . Give it a try , spoil Father Christmas for a change !