Today’s recipe consists of my Grandpa’s Shortbread Christmas Cookies. This is one which my Grandfather Mother made him as a child, and then my Grandmother adopted the recipe and every year since I could form memories, these cookies have been a holiday staple for the entire family. They were special because they are a family recipe, and because they were only made during the holiday season. A box of these cookies would go home with everyone after thanksgiving and it never felt like enough! They are basic, buttery shortbread with basic icing on top. The icing is set to harden on top of the cookie, which creates this wonderful crispness to them as you take a bite. Then they immediately melt in your mouth and the process repeats itself.
My grandmother is one of the most remarkable women I have had the pleasure of knowing. She could cook the pants off of anyone, no matter the recipe. She could craft and sew, and make just about anything she set her mind too. These cookies, along with a few other recipes you will see me post in the future, were amongst her repertoire that no one can mimic.
This year I am making these cookies myself, and I hope to do justice by her. I'm pretty sure I won’t be able to quite live up to her expertise, but I can sure try. These cookies, despite being a family recipe, are so easy. The cookies themselves are only three ingredients and the icing includes only three more. They are shortbread cookies, rolled out and cut in the shapes of bells, stars, and Christmas trees. She always decorated them with mint-green and baby-pink colored icing so we are sticking with that tradition here, although you can add whatever food coloring you’d like. I unfortunately was a little overzealous with the food coloring so my first attempt was closer to lime green and hot pink... Oh well!
Christmas was one of my grandmother’s favorite times of the year. She would listed to Christmas music beginning in September and whistle to herself a holiday tune as she cooked through the kitchen, to sewing in her craft room. Maybe she loved Christmas so much because of the music, maybe the decorations. Maybe it was just the excuse to spend time with family.
No one can predict the future and I know I cannot hold onto saddness for something that I cannot change.. Its difficult to cary on a tradition which is so closely associated with someone who I miss so much.
These cookies are truly spectacular, for how simple they are. I truly hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do and maybe they will become a holiday tradition for you too.
Grandpa’s Shortbread Cookies + Icing
3/4 Cup Butter
1/4 Cup Sugar
2 Cups Flour
2 Cups Powdered Sugar
2 Tbsp + 1 Tsp Milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cream butter and sugar.
Work in flour until combined
Roll out dough on a floured work service to roughly 1/4 inch thick. Err on the side of a thicker cookie as they will hold up better while baking and frosting.
Cut out shapes with cookie cutter and place on a parchment lined baking sheet* Keep scrap dough to roll out and cut additional cookies with.
Bake cookies for 13/14 minutes7
Place on cooling rack and cool completely before icing.
While cookies cool combine powdered sugar and milk until completely combined.
Divide icing mixture into separate containers, as many as there are colors you would like to use.
Add as much food coloring as you desire. I use a very little of red for the pink icing and a teeny bit of green to make a mint color.
Place icing into pastry bags** and snip the tip, create perimeter around edge of cookie and then fill in. Use the back of a spoon or butter knife to smooth out the icing completely.
Let icing set and harden completely before eating. Even letting them sit for several hours or over night to obtain maximum icing-crispness. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week!
*These cookies will not inflate/rise so much so while they shouldn’t to be touching, don’t worry about them being too close to one another
** Or use a ziplock bag and snip the very end of the corner of the bag. Works just as well! Also this video is a great resource for cookie decorating if you want to get creative!