It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well, aside from football season, and Halloween. But I just can’t pass up an excuse to get a Christmas picture of my fur son.
Since becoming a stay-at-home-mom/dog mom, I’ve had more time on my hands to do things that I enjoy but never really got to do. It’s been wonderful. Something I’ve been working on lately is practicing my skills in the kitchen. While cooking can still be daunting for me, baking is something I’ve always loved. I like to follow a precise recipe. No guessing and tasting, just follow the directions and your reward is a beautiful baked good. This year for Christmas, I decided to try my hand at a recipe from the mother of all things homemade and crafty: Martha Stewart. Think what you want of her, but there is no denying she is a master of homemaking, and I wanted to see if my baking skills could hold up to a Martha Steward recipe.
While I do enjoy baking, I was still a bit intimidated to conquer a more complex recipe entirely from scratch. I read it several times and planned it out before I even attempted to start baking. So I’m going to post Martha’s recipe here, and break it down by showing you just how I did it, including pictures for those who (like me) are more visual learners. It’s really much less difficult than I thought, and they make very impressive (and delicious!) Christmas cookies!
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon packed finely grated Meyer-lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons fresh juice (from 2 lemons)
- 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
GLAZE AND DECORATIONS
- 60 sprigs (each about 1 inch long) fresh thyme or rosemary, or a combination
- 1 large egg white, beaten
- Granulated sugar, for sprinkling
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- 3 tablespoons fresh Meyer-lemon juice
- Small red, white, and green candies, such as nonpareils and pearls
1. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter with zest on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. I zested the lemon right into a large bowl. I microwaved two sticks of butter for 10 seconds to soften them up a bit.
2. Beat in confectioners’ sugar until pale and fluffy, about 1 minute more.
3. Reduce speed to low. Beat in lemon juice and salt, then flour, until combined. I don’t have a blender that is attached to a rotating bowl, so I just used my handheld one and it worked just fine. I added the flour slowly and used a spatula to make sure it was all mixed up.
4. Divide dough in half, transfer each to plastic wrap, pat into disks, wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours and up to 3 days (or freeze up to 1 month; thaw in refrigerator before using). This part was a bit confusing for me and I wished I had pictures. I divided the dough onto two separate pieces of plastic wrap. Then I wrapped each ball of dough fairly tightly so there were no air bubbles. Then I shaped them into two flattened balls and put them in the fridge. I made these about 2 days before I actually baked them.
5. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 325°F. Working with one disk at a time, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a scant 1/4 inch thick. Stamp out rounds with a 3-inch cutter, preferably fluted. Transfer to prepared sheets, 1 inch apart. Use a 1- to 1 1/4-inch plain round cutter to stamp out centers of 3-inch rounds. Gather scraps; roll out again, stamping out more wreaths. Repeat with remaining disk. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. I poured out a couple handfuls of flour on the counter that I kept spreading onto my rolling area. I also put some flour on the rolling pin. It’s hardest to roll the out right at first because the disk is still kind of hard from the fridge. As you can see, my cookies aren’t fluted like my cookie cutter. I ordered my cookie cutter from Etsy and it didn’t get here in time for me to make the cookies for my cookie exchange so I had to make do with what I had. If you are in a similar situation, I used the top to a drink mixer and a metal shot glass to cut out my wreaths. You definitely need to cut the wreaths first, put them on the parchment paper, THEN cut the center out. The dough gets easier to roll the more you’ve been working with it. I got about 10 cookies from each disk.
6. Bake, rotating sheets and rack positions halfway through, until set and pale golden on bottoms, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool on sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week before decorating. I only had one baking sheet so I just used that 2-3 times. Just make sure that you let the sheet cool completely before you put a new batch on it. I set the timer for 10 minutes, then rotated the sheet 180º so that the cookies could bake evenly. I cooked the first batch for 25 minutes, and the second batch for 25 minutes, however, I burned the second batch. So then I just set a timer for 10 minutes, rotated the cookies, and then kept an eye on them. Some of them I had rolled too thin so they looked golden brown before the other ones and so I just took them out early.
7. Brush herbs with egg white; sprinkle with granulated sugar. Transfer to wire rack; let stand until stiff and dry, at least 1 hour or, loosely covered, up to 1 day. I set the rosemary an hour before I baked the cookies so they would be ready to go once the cookies were done baking and cooling. I had a small brush I used to brush on the egg white, but you can also probably just dip it in to make sure it’s fully coated before sprinkling on the sugar. Make sure you coat the the front and back of the rosemary.
8. In a small bowl, whisk together confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice until smooth. One at a time, dip cookie tops in glaze; lift and tilt slightly for a few seconds, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. I just dipped the whole top of the cookie in the glaze, dripped the excess off, and then placed it back on the rack. SO much easier than trying to spread it with a knife.
9. Transfer to wire rack; decorate with sugared herbs and candies. Let stand until set, about 2 hours. Store in an airtight container at room temperature, between sheets of parchment, up to 2 days. Put some aluminum foil, parchment paper, anything, underneath the wire rack after you’ve glazed your cookies so that when the glaze drips down you’ll have an easy clean up!
Overall, the whole cookie-making process took me about 2-3 days. I did it in shifts because I really wanted to have the dough firm up in the fridge, and having a 4 month old makes extended time in the kitchen much more difficult. The only extra tip I would add is just to be really careful with the lemon glaze because it drips everywhere and can be kind of a hassle to clean up. The aluminum foil under the rack was very helpful, but unfortunately I didn’t think to do it until my last batch so clean up was still a bit rough.
These cookies are delicious and taste light and fresh! They really aren’t as hard to make as they look and they certainly look impressive and delicious. I hope I’ve inspired you to channel your inner Martha and tackle these holiday cookies in time for Christmas!