‘Tis the Season to be Jolly!

Try visualizing a decorated pine-tree with presents lying underneath, a fireplace with stockings all over it and a really really old man dressed in red, clanging a big bell and crying out “Ho-ho-ho”. It isn’t too hard to guess that I’m talking about Christmas, the most anticipated and widely celebrated holiday among the Christian community. The big day is just around the corner and even though I don’t celebrate it, I appreciate the values it represents. It’s not just about giving out expensive gifts to your loved ones; it’s about sharing and caring for people who do not have the luxuries some of us have. For those who don’t understand the true spirit of Christmas, it’s just another uneventful day in the calendar.

Having lived outside of Pakistan for quite some time, I have had the chance to witness some really great Christmases. It’s always the same:

  • the adults constantly complaining about being short of cash during the last days of this season and maxing out all their credit cards
  • the children writing their innocent little letters to Santa and praying it won’t be too difficult for the man from the North Pole to give them all what they have requested (ergo, the broke Dad)
  • the malls setting up exciting discounts to clean out all their low-selling items and slightly perking up the prices on their best-sellers

Although I have never really attended a Christmas party, I know that home-cooked food plays a vital role in this celebration. A simple batch of customized sugar cookies is sure to perk up the mood in your household. The Royal icing recipe included in this post is quite simple, stays firm and will let you create elegant, colorful, matt-finish designs on the cookies. So get right into the kitchen with your kids and start baking!

Recipe: Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Ingredients for Cookies

  • 1¾ cup flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ½ cup (115 gm) unsalted butter [at room temperature]
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract/essence

Method for Cookies

  1. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside
  2. In another bowl, beat the butter and sugar using an electric beater until light and fluffy (for roughly 3 minutes)
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla essence to the butter mix until combined
  4. Now add the flour mix to the butter mix and beat until you have a smooth dough
  5. Put the dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour or until it is hard enough to roll
  6. Pre-heat oven to 180º C and lightly grease two non-stick baking sheets
  7. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to an even thickness of about ¼ inch; keep picking up the rolled dough so that it doesn’t stick on the surface
  8. Cut out the cookies using your favorite shapes and put them on the baking sheet
  9. Put the baking sheets with the cookies in the fridge for about 15 minutes to cool the dough, preventing the cookies to spread out and lose their shape during baking
  10. Bake these for about 10 minutes or until the edges start to turn brown
  11. Remove from oven and let the cookies cool to room temperature on the baking sheet

Ingredients for Royal Icing

  • 2¾ cups icing/confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2tsp lemon juice
  • Food colors

Method for Royal Icing

  1. Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined
  2. Sift the sugar to remove lumps and add to the  egg mix
  3. Beat on low setting using an electric beater until nice and smooth
  4. Put in separate bowls and add food colors to them. NOTE: this icing starts hardening very quickly so keep it in an airtight container or covered with plastic wrap when not in use
  5. Fill a piping bag with the icing and make your desired designs on the cookies

5 thoughts on “‘Tis the Season to be Jolly!

    • Dear Tes!

      Thanks for the appreciation. They turned out pretty good; actually better than I had expected. I’ll give you a secret tip though – when you make the icing, you can add a few drops of flavoring in each of the colors (green:lemon, red:strawberry, brown:chocolate) to give them an extra touch.

      Keep reading and take care!

  1. Yousuf, really nice blog!
    I was just going through the recipe of Mocha Java Cake that you posted on Express Tribune; just wanted to clarify one thing. You have mentioned to cut the sponge base horizontally and put it back in the pan, what about the remaining part of the sponge? Where do we put that?
    Anxiously waiting for your reply so that I can try out this recipe! 🙂

  2. Thanks for the prompt reply, Yousuf!I was just confused if you forgot to write about the remaining part of the cake or it really wont be used in the recipe!
    Will definitely try both recipes and let you know. 🙂

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