I have blogged many times about my grandma’s cut-out cookie recipe. It’s one of my all-time favorites, both because of the great flavor and because it makes me so nostalgic. At Thanksgiving this year, my family reminisced about my grandmother and her annual cookie-making endeavor. She didn’t just make a few batches. She made HUNDREDS of cookies. Her house was like a military operation during the first week of December. She’d bring in her sister for help — and occasionally recruit my aunt and I to help decorate. My Omi took her cookies very seriously, as they were a reflection of herself and how much she loved to cook for people.
All of that nice nostalgia aside, my sweet grandmother would also morph into a bit of a dictator around cookie decorating time. She was German, which meant she had one hell of a stubborn streak in her. It was HER way or no one’s way when it came to decorating her sugar cookies. The bells HAD TO BE yellow. The stockings HAD TO BE red. The mittens HAD TO BE blue. And so on. There was no deviation from her norm. None. And if you did, she would remove the abnormal cookie (in this case, maybe a red bell) from the pile and refuse to give it away as a gift.
She was also a stickler about how much decorating sugar was used. You were to LIGHTLY dust the cookie with colored sugar. If you dipped the cookie into the sugar, you might as well have committed murder. She would always chide, “You’re using too much sugars! Too much!”
Why my aunt and I put up with this nit picky-ness, we’ll never know. But we did it because we loved her and if she wanted all of those mittens lightly dusted with blue (and only blue) sugar, OK then. The odd thing was, my grandma was only this stubborn and picky when it came to these cookies. What she cooked or baked was, in her mind, a direct reflection of herself — and she wanted those cookies to be the best that they could be.
Every year my aunt and I laugh about the cookie decorating experiences we had together at my grandma’s house. She and I are both troublemakers and boundary-pushers by nature, so we always had fun with it. One year we put brown jimmies near the butt of a reindeer cut-out – an act that nearly got us kicked out of the house.
This year I decided to make a big batch of Christmas cookies — and to decorate them as closely to what my grandmother would have done as I could remember. I did, however, break her rule regarding the amount of decorating sugar used. I coated those babies in sugar…. dipped ‘em right in! Because really, colorful cookies make better photos… and I like sugar.
Happy holidays, everyone!
Omi’s Sugar Cookies
2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoon nutmeg*
Beat butter and sugar. Add eggs, sour cream, and nutmeg. Add dry ingredients gradually. Chill the batter overnight or for at least 4 hours. Roll out dough and cut with cookie cutters. Bake at 350F until golden (in true fashion, my grandma didn’t give a specific baking time. I baked the cookies for about 8 minutes).
*The nutmeg definitely gives these cookies a distinct flavor. Many peoples’ comment after trying one was “wow, these are really good, but I can’t put my finger on what tastes different”. It’s the nutmeg. And you either love it or hate it. My mom is not a fan, so my grandma would always bake a separate batch of “Jeanne’s cookies” – sans nutmeg.
2 tablespoons shortening
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons scalded milk
3 cups (or more) powdered sugar
Beat all ingredients together besides the powdered sugar. Gradually add the powdered sugar until you get a smooth and creamy consistency.