I once interviewed the woman who runs OrganizedChristmas.com and she told me about making and freezing meals in November for busy December nights. She had entire pies, even, ready and frozen for the holiday. Like in October.
On Organized Christmas, she’s built a 6-week Christmas checklist plan that is so detailed that it even includes booking December babysitters the week before Thanksgiving. The mind reels.
I can’t imagine such calm preparedness, but this year I’m trying to greet December with less stress. My plan is simple, and I’ll share it here this week. Step one: Hire a housekeeper. (Yeah, yeah, but I’m so relieved. Merry Christmas to myself.) And mix all of the dough for your favorite Christmas cookies and stack a pile of it in the freezer.
Seeing this stack in the freezer is comforting. I may not have frozen meals, but we can have cookies anytime the mood for hot cocoa strikes. And I have a head start on the marathon baking session that strikes my fancy every year at the most inopportune times (say, Dec. 23).
My sugar cookie recipe is below.
Wrap it in parchment, and tie with twine if you’re worried about people taking tastes. (Or, ahem, trying to keep yourself out of the dough.)
These cookies are thick, soft and ruled by butter and vanilla. You don’t need icing, but cream cheese frosting and sanding sugar come with compliments implied.
From Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies
3 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon milk
additional granulated sugar (for topping)
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. (Note from Jaimee: I use Martha Stewart’s cheater sifting method. Dump everything into a bowl and whisk it to break up clumps and lighten.) In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter. Add the vanilla and sugar and beat well. Beat in eggs one at a time and then add milk. On low speed, gradually add the sifted dry ingredients, scraping the bowl as necessary with a rubber spatula and beating only until thoroughly mixed.
Divide the dough in tow and wrap each half in wax paper or Saran Wrap. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for three hours or longer if you wish.
Adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat to 400 degrees.
Place one piece of the dough on a lightly floured surface. With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough to desired thickness and cut into shapes.
Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with granulated sugar, if desired, and bake 8-9 minutes.
Let cool completely before frosting.
Notes from Jaimee: Do not overmix. Roll them out 1/2 inch thick. They can be hard to transfer to a baking sheet after they’re cut. Genius: my sister Kapri figured out that it’s much easier to roll the dough directly on a Silpat mat or parchment paper, cut out your cookie, and peel the excess dough off the mat. Also: underbake for the softest cookies. These snowflakes are the size of my outstretched hand and they baked for 8 minutes. You don’t actually want browned edges.
P.S. My favorite chocolate cookie recipe is here.