Christmas is on Wednesday. That's THREE DAYS from now! Can you believe it? I'm excited. I really am. My shopping is done, and I only have a few presents that need to be wrapped. I'm in the working stages of planning out my Christmas Day menu with my sister, and of course, the dessert end has pretty much been figured out already, while the actual dinner end still needs some tinkering with. I'm sure we'll figure it out though! My family that is spending the holidays with us has arrived, and I'm looking forward for all the Christmas activities we have planned out.
One of the things I'd been wanting to do for a really long time is make kid-friendly Christmas cookies. Since my 4-year old cousin, Emilia, is going to be at my house for the holidays, my mom said I just had to create a huge, photo-filled post and title it "Making Cookie for Santa," and she was right. The only thing better than making cookies with one 4-year old is making cookies with two 4-year olds, so I invited Madison, my cousin Gina's daughter, to come spend the afternoon at my house making cookies with Emilia. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to have two kids to make cookies with! My mom made the girls some simple aprons to wear while they rolled out their cookies, and I was in charge of the rest.
The idea of making cookies with little kids can be a bit daunting, but it doesn't need to be. Just use simple recipes that are tried and true and roll out easily. Below, I'm giving recipes for my favorite gingerbread and butter cookies. These are simple to work with and roll out beautifully, so you shouldn't have any trouble using these with kids. Planning things out in advance is key, so here's a few tricks I used to prepare things for my cookie afternoon (and a few that I learned along the way!). The most important thing you can do is to have EVERYTHING ready. The night before my cookie extravaganza was going to take place, I made all of the cookie dough and divided it up into manageable portions for the girls to work with (remember, they're only 4!), wrapped them in plastic wrap, and had them chilled and ready to go. I made a batch of royal icing and divided into two squeeze bottles to easily decorate the gingerbread cookies, and I had an assortment of sprinkles and colored sugars in paper cupcake liners so the girls would have easy access to them. Have baking sheets already lined with parchment paper and all your cookie cutters laid out. One thing I should have done was cut out a few cookies and baked them in advance, so that they had a few additional cookies to decorate with icing, because I think that was actually their favorite part of the cookie process! Most importantly though, be patient and know that there will be a mess. Just have fun with it and be willing to jump in when things get tough, or when you realize that they decided that one sugar cookie needs an entire can of sprinkles all for itself...
First, we started off by making some gingerbread cookies. Here's Emilia rolling out some gingerbread.
Madison decided to cut out some gingerbread people.
Both Emilia and Madison became obsessed with sprinkling flour onto everything...
And then, Madison decided she neeeeded to make a "flour tree"...
Once the gingerbread cookies were in the oven, we got started on the butter cookies!
Emilia looks super focused as she prepares to roll out her cookie dough.
Aren't these photos the most adorable things ever!?
Here's Madison getting started on her butter cookies.
I don't even know when this red sugar explosion happened.
While the butter cookies were cooling, we started decorating the gingerbread cookies with royal icing. The squeeze bottles made this step so easy! Here's my mom helping Madison with her very first royal icing decorations.
Emilia started off with some gingerbread candy canes.
Sprinkled-out gingerbread man design by Madison.
Madison made a beautiful and simple Christmas tree all by herself. The kid's got talent!
Emilia and Madison with their trays of cookies for Santa! I wish I could have coaxed some smiles out of them, but I'm a food photographer, not a children's photographer. Photographing kids is hard stuff! It's something to work on I guess.
This photo came out a little blurry, but I love it anyway. It's so cute!
And now, for the recipes!
Gingerbread Cookie Dough
recipe from Sweetapolita
7 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, cold
1 1/2 cups molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, salt, baking soda, cloves, and nutmeg. Set aside.
In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and both sugars on medium high speed until the butter is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed, and beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl after each addition. Beat in the molasses and vanilla until fully incorporated.
Reduce the mixer speed to low, and add the flour (you may need to do this in batches), mixing it in until fully combined. The dough will be soft, but not dry or crumbly. Remove the dough from the mixer and divide it in four, shaping each fourth into a round disc. Wrap the discs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Once the dough has chilled, remove the discs of dough from the fridge and let them sit at room temperature for a few minutes to soften slightly. On a floured surface, use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll out the dough so that it is 1/4" thick. Cut out cookies in your desired shapes, gather the scraps of dough, and roll out again to cut out more cookies. Repeat until all the dough has been used. Arrange the cookies on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone liners. Refrigerate the cookies for about 15 minutes so that they are firm and won't lose their shapes as they bake.
While the cookies are chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the cookies for 13 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for about ten minutes before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely.
recipe from Sweetapolita
3 3/4 cups confectioner's sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons meringue powder
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon water, plus more for thinning
Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix all the ingredients on low speed for about 10 minutes. Add additional water in small increments to thin out the icing to a desired piping consistency. Icing can be stored in the refrigerator until needed (simply cover it with plastic wrap, making sure that the plastic wrap is touching the entire surface of the icing).
Roll-Out Butter Cookies
recipe from Land O'Lakes
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
In the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar, and egg at medium speed. Beat in the orange juice and vanilla extract until well mixed. Add the flour and baking powder, beating at low speed until just incorporated.
Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a disc. Wrap the discs of dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.
Yield for each cookie recipe will vary on the size of the cookie cutters used