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Video: Santa will love these tasty Christmas cookies

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    >>> this morning in "today's holiday kitchen" christmas cookies . susan westmoreland executive editor for good housekeeping has three great cookie recipes from the test kitchen cookbook. this is going to put us in the mood.

    >> absolutely.

    >> tell us about the sugar cookie recipe. is it traditional?

    >> this is like everybody's christmas cookie. you decorate them, hang them on the tree. you just have platters that are so pretty and make you feel good. such a simple recipe. flour, sugar, butter, eggs, baking powder and vanilla. staples.

    >> roll it out.

    >> basically you want to roll in one direction and then keep the pastry moving so it won't stick. don't keep rolling it.

    >> did you put flour on the dough or the roller?

    >> both. you want to do that. then the other trick is when you're cutting you want to cut like really close together.

    >> i made this mistake last week.

    >> you don't want lots of scraps because every time you reroll they get tougher.

    >> do you put flour on your cookie cutters?

    >> these are so beautiful you don't really need to. these are some i've already cut out. i like to hang them on the tree. as you can see there. you just take a straw and you go in here and it just comes right out like this.

    >> cute.

    >> we'll do another one here.

    >> great.

    >> and then you take the straw again and make the hole look neat.

    >> these are obviously perfectly prepared. i tend to burn mine. let's be honest. how do you make sure you don't do that?

    >> you want to watch basically if they're really thin it's harder but just watch the oven. i usually do one or two minutes before the time range. just take a look. turn the oven light on. take a look.

    >> kind of go on the low end rather than over cook. okay.

    >> everybody is different.

    >> got you.

    >> here we have the frosting. and this is the professional's icing. confectioner's sugar, merangue powder and water and just those three ingredients.

    >> that's why it looks so fluffy.

    >> yes. in the old days before all the egg safety things it used to just be plain old egg whites but now we're safe and we do this.

    >> put it in a little dish.

    >> i'll ask you to color one and i'll color one.

    >> okay.

    >> then we'll do some decorating.

    >> great. so how much food coloring do we do?

    >> this is potent stuff. just try a few drops to start and then a little spatula there? yes. that's probably good.

    >> sorry. i might have a heavy touch. i can't do anything. this is green.

    >> this is pretty.

    >> if you don't have a fancy mixer like that is that okay?

    >> even a hand mixer -- you do want a hand mixer because you want to beat it for about five minutes.

    >> what consistency do you want?

    >> it gets really fluffy. see how this is? this is perfect for spreading. if we're going to pipe and i'll teach awe new word called flooding. you want to thin it out for flooding.

    >> what is flooding all about?

    >> take these over here.

    >> decorating. look who is here. okay. i'm a mess.

    >> beautiful.

    >> we have about a minute left. let's show some of your tricks.

    >> this is the beautiful snowflakes.

    >> gorgeous.

    >> i will flood this.

    >> okay. show us flooding.

    >> this is a thinner -- we'll go in here. if you want, you can take, here, let's just go --

    >> nice. it requires a little muscle.

    >> this does. this is beautiful. glad everybody is here. just take a toothpick and go in like see this beautiful stuff here? go in there like that and you get the really professional look.

    >> you want to let the outline dry first.

    >> yes.

    >> it becomes the reservoir. yes.

    >> these spice cookies smell fantastic.

    >> my gosh.

    >> i grew up with these. i love these cookies but also just yum cookies that don't have so much frosting. these are hermits and these are great to do with kids because little fingerprints are just right.

    >> i'm going online.

    >> thank you so much.

    >> they look great, too. hoda

TODAY recipes
updated 12/15/2011 9:29:12 AM ET 2011-12-15T14:29:12

Recipe: Classic sugar cookies

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened (do not use margarine)
  • 11/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Here's the perfect, all-purpose sugar cookie dough. If you want to add whole-grain goodness to your sugar cookies, replace half the flour with white whole-wheat flour.

In large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. In separate large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat butter and sugar until blended. Increase speed to high; beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low; beat in eggs and vanilla until mixed, then beat in flour mixture just until blended, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Divide dough into 4 equal pieces; flatten each into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F. On lightly floured surface, with floured rolling pin, roll 1 piece of dough until slightly less than ¼ inch thick; keep remaining dough refrigerated. With floured 3- to 4-inch cookie cutters, cut dough into as many cookies as possible; reserve trimmings. Place cookies, 1 inch apart, on 2 ungreased large cookie sheets.

Bake until edges are golden, 12 to 15 minutes, rotating cookie sheets between upper and lower oven racks halfway through baking. With wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Decorate with ornamental frosting, if desired.

Repeat with remaining dough and trimmings.

Each cookie: About 60 calories | 1g protein | 8g carbohydrate | 3g total fat (2g saturated) | 0g fiber | 13mg cholesterol | 47mg sodium

Serving Size

Makes 76 cookies

Recipe: Ornamental cookie frosting

  • 1 package (16 ounces) confectioners
  • 3 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • Assorted food coloring (optional)

Like cheerfully wrapped packages, cutout cookies with bright trimmings are always inviting. A basic recipe for Ornamental Frosting follows, along with suggestions for tools to apply it. But if you don't have time to pipe on intricate designs, here are some other easy and fun techniques that work their magic in minutes.

This fluffy frosting is perfect for holiday cookies. The recipe originally called for three raw egg whites, and you can use them if pasteurized eggs are sold in your area. We prefer meringue powder, which is sterilized and now available at many supermarkets and baking supply stores.

In large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat confectioners' sugar, meringue powder, and water until mixture is stiff and knife drawn through leaves path, about 5 minutes.

If desired, tint frosting with food colorings. Keep tightly covered to prevent drying out. With small metal spatula, artist's paintbrushes, or decorating bags with small plain tips, decorate cookies with frosting. (You may need to thin frosting with a little warm water to obtain ideal spreading or piping consistency.)

Each tablespoon: about 40 calories | 0g protein | 10g carbohydrate | 0g total fat (0g saturated) | 0g fiber | 0mg cholesterol | 2mg sodium

Serving Size

Makes 3 cups

Recipe: Hermit bars

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine (1 stick), softened
  • 1/3 cup dark molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup dark seedless raisins
  • 1 cup pecans (4 ounces), toasted and coursely chopped (optional)

Originating in New England in clipper-ship days, these spicy fruit bars got their name because they keep so long. Sailors would stow them away "like hermits" for snacking on extended voyages.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease and flour 2 large cookie sheets.

In large bowl, with wire whisk, mix flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and cloves.

In separate large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat brown sugar and butter until light and fluffy.  Beat in molasses until well combined.  Beat in egg.  With mixer at low speed, beat in flour mixture just until blended, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula.  With spoon, stir in raisins and pecans, if using, just until combined.

Divide dough into quarters.  With lightly floured hands, shape each quarter into 12" by 1½" logs.  On each prepared cookie sheet, place 2 logs, leaving about 3 inches in between.

Bake until logs flatten and edges are firm, 13 to 15 minutes, rotating cookie sheets between upper and lower oven racks halfway through baking.  Cool logs on cookie sheets on wire racks 15 minutes.

Transfer logs to cutting board. Slice each log crosswise into 8 bars.  Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Each bar: about 105 calories | 1g protein | 19g carbohydrate | 3g total fat (2g saturated) | 1g fiber | 15mg cholesterol | 80mg sodium

Serving Size

Makes 32 bars

Recipe: Thumbprint cookies

  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup butter or margarine (11/2 sticks), softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 11/4 cups walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup favorite jam

We dolloped these cookies with homemade blueberry jam, but raspberry or strawberry would be equally good.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 2 large cookie sheets.

In large bowl, with fork, beat eggs lightly. Measure out 3 tablespoons beaten egg and transfer to small bowl for later use.

Add butter, sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, and salt to eggs in large bowl. With mixer at medium speed, beat until evenly mixed, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Add flour and stir just until blended.

Divide dough into 4 equal pieces. Divide each piece into 14 pieces and shape into balls. Spread walnuts on a sheet of waxed paper. Dip balls in reserved egg, then roll in walnuts, gently pressing nuts into dough.

Place balls, 2 inches apart, on prepared cookie sheets, rotating cookie sheets between upper and lower oven racks halfway through baking. With thumb, make small indentation in center of each ball. Bake until golden, 20 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack. Immediately fill each indentation with a rounded ½ teaspoon of jam. Cool cookies completely on wire rack.

Repeat with remaining balls and jam.

Each cookie: about 90 calories | 1g protein | 10g carbohydrate | 5g total fat (1g saturated) | 0.5g fiber | 9mg cholesterol | 55mg sodium

Serving Size

Makes 56 cookies

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