The One Christmas Cookie You Must Bake This Season!

Camryn Elizabeth Photo

I used to day dream about these cookies.  They are that good. I used to dream about them because I'd only had them once and didn’t know how to describe them to someone in order to find a recipe.  I’d like to thank a girl named Alysha Kroeker whose family lived a few miles down the road from mine growing up and invited us over for lunch one day.  Alysha made and introduced me to one of my favourite cookies in the world. I can’t tell you what we had for lunch, but I can tell you about the cookies we had after. They were a sugar cookie that wasn’t overly sweet but was incredibly soft and cakey…and thick! It wasn’t until years later that I found out they were a cookie traditionally made in Mennonite families known simply as a white cookie or to everyone else, a Mennonite cookie.  I’ve tried variations of this recipe over the years but my favourite comes from the cookbook Mennonite Girls Can Cook. I usually use this recipe with cookie cutters because the dough holds up well and I finish them off with a royal icing. If you struggle as a baker, as I do, know that any sugar cookie can be saved with royal icing. It’ll make you look pro. More on how to ice your cookies after you make them.

1 cup shortening

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup buttermilk

4 cups flour

4 ½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

Cream shortening and sugar, add eggs, vanilla and beat well. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and stir in alternately with buttermilk into the creamed mixture until it forms a soft ball. Cover the bowl and let sit in the fridge for an hour or more.

Roll out to desired thickness, approx. 1/4”. Cut with cookie cutter and place on non-greased pans. Bake at 375 for 9 minutes. Makes approx. 5 dozen cookies. *They will puff up while baking, becoming almost comically large.  Place on wire racks to cool.

Royal Icing

Royal icing dries to a smooth, hard, matte finish and is used for frosting cakes and cookies. Any decoration you’ve ever wanted to pipe on a cookie or cake would be best done with royal icing. You can make the icing from scratch but I’ve never done it so I won’t include a recipe I’ve never used.  If you’re new to royal icing, do yourself a favour and buy meringue powder, it’s what gives the icing it’s firmness and it’s less mess than starting from scratch (I buy mine from Michael’s craft store, Wilton makes it).

You’ll need

Disposable decorating bags

A Wilton Tip #2 for pipping (or any size tip you prefer)

A few small bowls to mix up different coloured icing

3 tablespoons meringue powder

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

6 tablespoons of water

Gel food colour (gel wont dilute the icing like a liquid colour will – that’s important)

Beat all ingredients at low speed with a hand mixer 7-10 minutes until the icing becomes stiff. Makes about 3 cups icing, which is more than enough for your cookies.

*You’ll pipe an outline of icing around each cookie first – this will prevent the icing from dripping down the sides.  The icing should be stiff but should also move easily through your decorating bag. If you think you need to add water to your icing DO NOT ADD MORE THAN 1 TEASPOON AT A TIME. Very little water goes a long way in thinning this recipe and adding too much water could thin your whole batch.  Should that happen, you can thicken your icing by adding more icing sugar.

*Once you’ve outlined your cookies, you’ll want to slightly thin your icing to “flood” the cookie. You can add the icing onto your cookie by dropping it from a spoon and then pushing it to the edges of your piped border. I’ve found using a toothpick also helps in getting the icing right to the edges. You’ll want that to completely dry before adding any other decoration on top of what you’ve just done. Make sure your icing is completely dry before continuing.

*Your icing dries quickly, which means it dries quickly while sitting in the bowl.  Keep it covered with plastic wrap to avoid a crust forming.

*You’ll need to figure out the number of colours you’ll want to use to decorate with and split your white batch of icing into that many bowls. Start with smaller amounts in each bowl. You won’t need a lot of icing for each cookie. 

-Chrissy

Amber Saleem