Is it even Christmas without cookie decorating?
I know it’s not really a thing in Ireland. The Irish I’ve spoken to about this largely believe an iced sugar cookie, or even gingerbread cookie, is a bit too sweet. I wholeheartedly disagree with this.
In Ireland, kids leave Santa mince pies as a snack. Mince pies! I wholeheartedly disagree with this.
The longer I reside in Ireland, naturally, the more Irish I become in my through process. I’ve noticed this. But there are some things I’ll never let happen; Christmas is a nostalgic time of year. When you think of your happiest times as a child, it’s generally Christmas most of us think of. I definitely do.
When I was little, my brothers and I always went to Christmas Eve church service with our parents. Then we would go to our neighbour’s for a visit, then when I got a bit older I would go to spend time with my aunt and her family before heading home to my bed.
In the morning, as a kid, we could go down to see what Santa brought us but we were never, under any circumstances, allowed to touch the wrapped presents under the tree until my parents and my grandma, who was confined to a wheelchair, would get up and join us.
I think my favourite Christmas was the one where I got my cat, Belle. My dad brought her over to me after we had opened all of our gifts. I couldn’t figure out why there was a basket for a pet under the tree and assumed it was for our dog. When my dad went out Christmas morning and came back with a kitten, I was over the moon with happiness.
“Santa got caught in a storm last night and had to leave her at the Scherzinger’s,” he said.
Belle would go on to live for a whopping 22 years, despite (or maybe in spite of) my mother not being a cat person. She was a great cat.
It’s been hard to adapt to Irish Christmas traditions because my happy Christmas memories are all Canadian. But since my daughters have gotten a bit older, it’s gotten easier to adapt to Irish Christmas. I am at peace with having to make both turkey and ham for Christmas dinner (though I refuse to make Irish trifle, with canned fruit cocktail, jello and store-bought sponge cake). We have started our own Christmas traditions with the kids and it gets more fun every year.
This year, as always, we will be making loads of gingerbread and sugar cookies. We’ll invite a bunch of kids over to the house and let them go crazy with the royal icing and sprinkles. Their parents will hate me, but it’s all in good fun.
Here’s my recipe for the perfect sugar cookie. A good sugar cookie, in my opinion, should have defined edges, taste better with age (I even like them straight from the fridge or freezer) and it absolutely MUST BE ICED. If the cookie is too sweet, you’re doing it right.
Christmas is all about being too sweet.
Perfect Sugar Cookies
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter
A pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
- Whisk flour and baking powder together in a bowl. Add a pinch of salt.
- In a stand mixer (paddle attachment) or with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
- Add the egg and mix to combine. Add the vanilla and mix again.
- Add the flour mixture in by the cup, slowly, until everything is combined. Dough will be crumbly at first and then comes together.
- Gather the dough by hand. Knead a few times to smooth out the dough.
- Shape into two discs and wrap in plastic. Chill for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180˚C and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Roll out the dough to ¼ inch thickness, then cut into shapes.
- Transfer to the baking sheets and bake for 7-10 minutes (you don’t want them to brown too much around the edges – you still want them to be fairly white in colour).
- Cool and decorate with royal icing, sprinkles or piped buttercream.