Ok, it's probably not fair to call them Christmas cookies, since I make them for Valentines, Easter, and every other holiday that requires cookies, but that's what they're called. It's my grandmother's recipe and my Mom made tons of 'em every year (twelve batches, usually, for xmas). I started making batches even before I had kids, but it sort of amped up when they came along, and then, when Mom died, I inherited some of her cookie people, so now I'm making twelve batches. When you make this many cookies, you collect a LOT of cookie cutters. A LOT. Stars, hearts, conifers (what people who do not run tree lots probably think of as pine trees, when, of course, they're usually fir trees), alphabets, dinosaurs, chickens, eggs, cats, guitars, Texas, musical notes and probably some more that I can't remember without going and looking at 'em all... The Christmas batch has always been: stars, hearts, conifers, and Texas, with occasionally some cats thrown in.
This year, when I was at the hand surgeon's, I saw one of those women's family magazines and it had polar bear cookies on the cover. Polar bears! I've never seen polar bear cookie cutters, but immediately went on a hunt, right after the doctor's appointment, mostly 'cos I was up near Williams Sonoma/Crate & Barrel/Whole Foods. None of 'em had polar bears.
So I went online. The Cookie Cutter Shop online had the best deal between prices and shipping. Unfortunately they also have 700 cookie cutters, so I didn't just get a polar bear. No! I got a lovely penguin and a beautiful cardinal, as well...
Sorry, all the penguins have left the building...
Making twelve batches of cookies requires that you have a cookie decorating party. You mix up a shitload of the 'frosting' (powdered sugar, salt, vanilla and water), get out your food coloring (I use the concentrated ones from Michael's as well as the ol' regular ones from the grocery store), a bunch of small containers and spoons and invite your kids, grandkids, and friends over. You cover your table top with plastic, put the cookies on wire racks and go to town. In our case, eggnog and Maker's Mark are involved for non-pregnant adults. It still takes hours... But it's hours of fun. You have to have non-sweet things to eat, too.
Then all you have to package everything up and start sending it off.
Here's the cookie recipe.
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 1/2 cups flour (low protein)
Now, just a word about baking cookies for those of you who haven't taken chemistry or didn't have a grandmother who baked. You want your butter at about 65 degrees, so you take it out of the fridge and let it approach room temp but not quite get there. You cream it with the beater attachment after cutting it into 1/2 inch squares. Add the sugar and beat, scraping the sides of the bowl. You're incorporating air into the butter. Add the vanilla, and beat. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat. By now it should be a light and fluffy mixture. Then start adding in the flour. Low protein flour is good for cookies and pie crusts; high protein flour is good for bread. If you only have high protein flour, you can substitute a half cup of corn starch for a half cup of flour. Use the dough attachment to incorporate the flour. Beat until just incorporated. Get out a sheet of wax paper about 15 inches long and put the dough on it in a long roll and refrigerate overnight. Roll out to 1/4 inch thick, cut with your fabulous cookie cutters, and bake in a pre-heated 375 oven until they just start to brown on ungreased cookie sheets. Allow to cool and frost.
The Maker's Mark helps.