22 December 2011

Frosted Shortbread Cutout Cookies

It is a big year for the Bacalhau Chronicles, y'all.  This will be the first year Bacalhau Boy and I spend Christmas here in Lisbon.  Do you know what that means?

I am going to finally experience FIRST HAND that most holy of all bacalhau days-- Christmas Eve.

They call it vésperas here, as in "the night before", and indeed December 24th is the day when everything seems to happen-- food, family, gifts, the whole shebang.   My vivacious sister-in-law and her family are hosting this year, and I know that we will be eating well and laughing long into the night.  (Have I mentioned that her husband is a freaking amazing chef?  Seriously!  This is not American hyperbole-- click here to see for yourself.)

I plan on taking pics of the whole bacalhau-centered feast on Saturday night.  But until then, I have been filling my house with little holiday food traditions of my own.  For me that means lots of cookies, and I wanted to share my favorite with you.

May I present the most cozy of all cookies-- the frosted sugar cookie cut out:

The cookie itself is my mom's recipe, and it is PERFECT.  (Not that I am biased.)  Light and soft and chewy and not too sweet.  It is the perfect pillowy blank slate to carry a dollop of this fantastic icing.

This icing is a new one for me, and I absolutely love it.  It dries so shiny and hard, it makes the cookies look gorgeous and stay completely stackable.  While I would never monkey with my mom's cookie recipe, I think this icing might be a keeper!  Just look at the shine on these bad boys:

Mmmmm.  I will be sitting over here, eating these up with some tea.  In the meantime, I hope you and yours are keeping warm and filled with tasty food and friends and holiday cheer.

Feliz Natal!

Frosted Shortbread Cutout Cookies
makes about 3 dozen

1 cup butter or shortening
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp. milk
2 tsp. vanilla
2 2/3 cups flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1. Cream together the butter and the sugars at a high speed until creamy and smooth.  Add the egg yolks and milk and beat on a medium speed until it lightens up a bit in color.  (The more air you beat in now, the lighter the cookies will be!)

2. Mix together the dry ingredients, and add them to the butter mixture a cup at a time, stirring in to incorporate.  Try not to overmix at this point-- str it just until the flour has disappeared into the dough.  Let the dough chill for about one hour in the fridge.

3. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).  Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silpat, but do not grease it.

4. Take a ball of dough about the size of a grapefruit and roll it out on a well floured surface.  Roll it out to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness-- the thicker you leave it, the more chewy and pillowy the cookie will be. Use your favorite cutouts to make shapes, and transfer the cookie shapes to the cookie sheet.

5. Bake each batch for 6-8 minutes.  Remove from cookie sheet immediately and frost when completely cooled.

1 cup powdered sugar
3 tsp. milk
2 tsp. corn syrup or honey
1/2 tsp almond extract (vanilla is good too, but will color the icing a bit)

1. Stir together the sugar and milk into a thick ball of icing.  You can add more milk if you need, but just do it by half teaspoons-- at this point it should still be very thick!

2. Add the honey and beat until thick and shiny, but spreadable.  At this point, if it is too thick you can add more honey, by the half teaspoon.

3. Stir in the extract.  You can then separate this icing into smaller bowls and add food coloring as desired.

4. Decorate the cookies with a thin layer of the icing.  Let the frosted cookies sit out for 4-8 hours before stacking, so that they are completely dry and will not stick.


  1. Feliz Natal e um óptimo ano novo. All the best to you and your family! Cristina

  2. I absolutely love the colors you chose for your frosting! Vivid and festive, but hip. (Can cookie icing be hip? Yes. Yes it can.)

    Anyway, I just love these cookies and am so glad you were able to make them for your festivities!

    Love from Michigan.

  3. Thank you both! Hope you wonderful ladies are having a great new year. :)