I baked cookies for Chanukah on Monday, all by myself. It was odd to cut out cookies without my kids, but I missed nibbling on our traditional cookies when my husband and I lit our first Chanukah candle on Sunday. It has also felt weird to light the Chanukah candles without a child present. Alas, they have all flown the nest. Since Chanukah came early this year, they aren’t home yet for winter break from college. I did package some cookies and shipped them off to their college addresses as a treat. But I kept a stash for us to enjoy while we watch the candles burn each night.

My kids always loved cutting out cookies; my sons often came up with their own odd shapes. It is a great, albeit messy, activity! Following is the recipe I settled on over the years, courtesy of Martha Stewart. I make the lemony version because I like that mild contrast between sweet and sour. This recipe yields about three baking trays of cookies and is easily doubled.

Cut-Out Cookies

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup sugar

1 stick unsalted butter

1 large egg

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, or 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice and grated zest of one lemon

sprinkles or sanding sugar in blue and white (if desired)

  1. Set out butter to soften ahead of time.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. Use an electric mixer to cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg. Stir in vanilla or lemon juice and zest.
  4. Add flour mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined. Most likely the dough is crumbly at this point, so gather it with your hands and gently press it into a ball. Wrap dough ball in plastic and chill for about 30 minutes.
  5. On a floured surface, roll dough to 1/4 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes and transfer cookies to baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
  6. Refrigerate trays for about 15 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, heat oven to 325˚.
  8. Remove cookie trays from refrigerator. Decorate cookies with sprinkles if desired.
  9. Bake until the cookies’ edges are slightly brown, 10 – 15 minutes.
  10. Cool cookies on wire racks.

Cookies can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to two weeks. They taste great dipped into milk or hot tea! Enjoy!