hands cutting out sugar cookies

Making cut-out sugar cookies for Christmas has been a long-standing Button-family tradition.

I spent the long Thanksgiving weekend at my son and daughter-in-law’s, being entertained by — but mostly entertaining — my 16-month-old grandson, Guy.

Before heading east last Wednesday, I grabbed a few essentials for the Button family tradition of making cut-out Christmas cookies. While David and Casey had the essential ingredients for the cookies — flour, sugar, salt, eggs and milk, to be specific — they were lacking a few others. Like Crisco (Have you seen the price of a can lately? Wow!), powdered sugar, vanilla and baking and meringue powders. Oh yes, and by the way, no mixer of any kind, and no rolling pin and mat. Also, no colored sugars, sprinkles or food coloring. Sigh. What’s a mom/grandma to do … bag up half the pantry and hit the road?

The family cookie baking began the year my husband and I got married. We used a recipe a college friend had shared with me and gave the cookies to family members to enjoy. It expanded when we had our son. The first Christmas, at 6 weeks old, he sat in a baby carrier and watched. The next year he sat in his high chair and got into everything. Over the years, many people joined us, most notably, David’s high school football teammates.

This year was my grandson’s first session. He sat at the kitchen table and proudly added pre-measured ingredients into the bowl and helped with the stirring. He sampled the dough and shook the closed bottles of sprinkles like they were rattles, giggling all the time. He was the designated colored sugar and sprinkles chef — which lasted until he grabbed the first frosted cookie and devoted all his attention to eating it.

It was a fun afternoon and it was great to be baking with my family. Another generation enters the tradition.

I have shared this recipe for the cut-out cookies before, but not in many years. It is my go-to cut-out cookie recipe and well worth repeating.

CHRISTMAS SUGAR COOKIES

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1 egg

3 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

DIRECTIONS

Cream shortening and sugar. Add egg and beat well. Add milk and sifted dry ingredients alternately. Add vanilla. Mix well. (Add a bit more flour if needed.) Roll out a floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut with floured cookie cutters. Bake on greased cookie sheets at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes. The bottom of the cookies should be golden brown, the tops will still be white. Let cool before frosting.

ORNAMENTAL FROSTING

INGREDIENTS

3 tablespoons meringue powder

4 cups powdered sugar (about 1 pound)

6 tablespoons water (If using stand mixer or for stiffer frosting add 1 tablespoon less)

DIRECTIONS

Beat all ingredients at low speed 7 to 10 minutes (10-12 at high speed for small hand mixer) until icing forms peaks. Make about 3 cups. If desired, divide into small bowls and tint with food coloring.