Foolproof Holiday Cookies with Kids


Published November 1, 2011.  From Cook’s Illustrated.

These allow a lot of handling by small hands without getting too sticky.  Delicious with just sprinkles added right before baking or I like to use pre-made squeeze tubes of icing.  The Betty Crocker Cookie Icing (Randall’s/Wal-Mart) dries within one hour if you need to transport it to a school function but the Duff Cupcake Frosting (Michael’s) is the best tasting.  Both make for a great cookie party for the under 6 set.  I let my kids roll out and do the cookie cutters, then bake them off the day before.  That just helps lower the stakes for the hosting family so that they’re not too excited when friends arrive.  At the party, everyone can drizzle icing and sprinkle.  Target cheap-o sprinkles have the best tops for young kids to sprinkle. The Wilton ones may as well not have lid with the size of the holes.



Butter Cookie Dough

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (5 1/2 ounces) (or powdered sugar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into sixteen 1/2-inch pieces, at cool room temperature (about 65 degrees)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature


  • 1 tablespoon cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar (6 ounces)


  1. FOR THE COOKIES: In bowl of standing mixer fitted with flat beater, mix flour, sugar, and salt on low speed until combined, about 5 seconds. With mixer running on low, add butter 1 piece at a time; continue to mix until mixture looks crumbly and slightly wet, about 1 minute longer. Add vanilla and cream cheese and mix on low until dough just begins to form large clumps, about 30 seconds.
  2. Remove bowl from mixer; knead dough by hand in bowl for 2 to 3 turns to form large cohesive mass. Turn out dough onto countertop; divide in half, pat into two 4-inch disks, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate until they begin to firm up, 20 to 30 minutes. (Can be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen up to 2 weeks; defrost in refrigerator before using.)
  3.  Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out 1 dough disk to even 1/8-inch thickness between 2 large sheets parchment paper; slide rolled dough on parchment onto baking sheet and chill until firm, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, repeat with second disk.
  4. Working with first portion of rolled dough, cut into desired shapes using cookie cutter(s) and place shapes on parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until light golden brown, about 10 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking time. Repeat with second portion of rolled dough. (Dough scraps can be patted together, chilled, and re-rolled once.) Cool cookies on wire rack to room temperature.
  5. Optional GLAZE: Whisk cream cheese and 2 tablespoons milk in medium bowl until combined and no lumps remain. Whisk in confectioners’ sugar until smooth, adding remaining milk as needed until glaze is thin enough to spread easily. Drizzle or spread scant teaspoon glaze with back of spoon onto each cooled cookie, as desired.



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