Cookies are an essential part of the holidays. After all, you don’t want Santa to leave your home without a snack! They’re also the best treat to have when opening gifts or to bring over for dinner with the family.
So, what do you need to make Christmas cookies?
Surprisingly, Christmas cookies don’t need any fancy ingredients. While you can make any type of cookie you prefer, like gingerbread or peanut butter blossoms, traditional Christmas cookies are plain sugar cookies. This means you only need sugar, flour, and butter.
Do you want to find out more? In this article, you’ll find everything you need about the holiday stables and how to make them with ingredients already in your pantry. Let’s dive in.
Modern Christmas cookies come in various shapes depicting holiday elements, such as reindeer, snowmen, and of course, the Christmas tree.
Christmas cookies have been around for centuries. The classic treats come all the way from Middle Age Germany.
Though, they didn’t have the sweet taste we all know and love. Instead,
The most popular Christmas cookies were lebkuchen, a form of honey-flavored bread.
With the introduction of spices into Europe, gingerbread rose to prominence. Then, it was Queen Victoria who included these cookies in Christmas traditions.
Since refined sugar was a luxury, Christmas was also the time to indulge in tasty sugar cookies, among other varieties.
Nowadays, you can’t celebrate Christmas without cookies. Whether you’re leaving chocolate chip cookies for Santa, making gingerbread houses, or decorating festive sugar cookies, you have to try making the cookies at home.
You can’t go wrong with any type of cookies for Christmas. If you have a family recipe for Snickerdoodle or oatmeal raisin cookies, then that’s definitely what you should make.
Still, there are a few reasons why I particularly love sugar cookies. First, there’s no way you can mess this up, even if it’s your first time using an oven.
Second, decorating sugar cookies is one of the most fun holiday activities. The entire family can join in, or you can relax while practicing your decorating skills.
Well-decorated sugar cookies are pretty impressive. Your guests might not even want to touch your gorgeous art pieces!
As if that wasn’t enough, you might not even need to go shopping to make sugar Christmas cookies. The ingredients are straightforward and available in almost every pantry.
You probably have all the main ingredients of sugar cookie dough, which are the following:
- Vanilla extract
- Baking powder
If you find yourself in a pinch, you’re in luck. Sugar cookies are incredibly versatile. In fact, you can make these sweet treats with only three ingredients: flour, sugar, and butter.
Here’s a breakdown of each ingredient in sugar cookies and what you can use instead:
To make sugar Christmas cookies, you need plain, all-purpose flour. Yet, if all you have in your pantry is cake, pastry, or bread flour, you can still bake delicious cookies. However, expect the texture to be slightly different.
The most crucial ingredient in cookies is butter. Sugar cookies, in particular, don’t have plenty of flavor. This is where butter comes in handy. Additionally, butter is the reason behind sugar cookies’ classic texture.
Accordingly, while you can get away with replacing butter in cakes, even using melted butter instead of softened will impact the final texture of your dessert.
That said, just because you don’t have butter doesn’t mean you can’t have tasty cookies. You can use ¾ cup of vegetable oil in place of butter. Keep in mind that the resulting cookies will be flat and crisp, not fluffy or flaky.
Indulging during Christmas doesn’t mean you should risk your health. Refined sugar is far from the healthy option.
Fortunately, if you’re suffering from a health problem, you can still enjoy the Christmas staples. For example, reducing the amount of sugar in the cookies is a simple way to eat the same treats at half the calories.
There are many sugar substitutes available, starting with honey and maple syrup. These will give your cookies extra flavorings, yet they’re still unsuitable for people with health conditions.
In this case, you can use any type of sweetener you usually use. Stevia is an ideal choice, as it has the exact taste with zero calories. Additionally, it doesn’t affect the texture of the baked goods.
Whether you’re a vegan, have an egg allergy, or you just can’t buy pricey eggs, you can still make Christmas cookies.
Eggs aren’t really an important ingredient for sugar cookies. They’re mainly for binding the ingredients together and enhancing the texture.
Bakers can use numerous egg substitutes, such as:
- Mashed banana
- Nut butter
- Extra baking powder
Baking powder is responsible for the baked goods’ fluffiness. So, if you don’t use this leavening agent, the cookies will turn out flat.
Fortunately, if you’re out of baking powder, you might have other leavening agents in your pantry without even knowing.
For starters, ⅓ of a teaspoon of baking soda equals one teaspoon of baking powder. Buttermilk, lemon, and cream of tartar are also exceptional leavening agents.
You can also add air into the dough mechanically by whisking the ingredients together at high speed.
Without their signature shapes, Christmas cookies are just plain sugar cookies. Well, that’s why cookie cutters exist!
Cookie cutters are one of those items you forget about until the last minute. While you can freehand the cookie shapes with a knife, there’s another way to get the perfect shapes without the cutting tool.
All you need is cardboard paper and a pen. Trace your favorite festive shapes onto the paper and cut with scissors.
You can then use the holiday cutouts as a guide, helping you cut your cookies with a small knife. Alternatively, you might use a printer to print out the shapes.
Icing is one of the easiest and most fun parts of baking. It only needs sugar, butter, milk, and food coloring. After mixing the festive colors, which are probably red and green, you add them to the piping bags and decorate!
Every icing ingredient is replaceable. So, don’t worry if you’ve used up all the sugar and butter making your cookies.
Any sweetener can work in place of sugar. As for the butter, you can substitute it for coconut oil or margarine or even make a buttercream frosting.
Many people stay as far away from food coloring as possible. Though you’ll only use a couple of drops for an entire batch of cookies, there are still natural food colorings.
Concentrated beet juice is an incredibly popular red food color. You might also go for cranberries, keeping it festive.
For the green, process a small amount of cooked spinach in a food processor until liquid, and sieve it into your icing.
Lastly, plain plastic bags are the perfect substitute for piping bags.
Now that you know all the ingredients you need to make Christmas cookies, baking these treats is as simple as it gets.
That said, the holidays aren’t the time for burnt cookies or chunky icing. So, here’s the recipe for the perfect sugar Christmas cookies:
- 3 cups flour
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 1 cup softened, unsalted butter
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Food coloring
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
- First, preheat the oven to 350℉.
- In a large bowl, mix your ingredients, starting with the butter and sugar, then add the egg and vanilla.
- Next, add the baking soda and the flour one cup at a time, slowly mixing it into the batter. The dough should be dry and clumpy.
- Then, dust your work surface with flour, and roll the dough into a ⅛” sheet.
- Using a knife or cookie cutter, cut your cookies and transfer them onto a lined baking tray.
- Bake the cookies for 10 minutes or until golden.
- Lastly, combine all the icing ingredients and transfer them into a piping bag. Let the cookies cool down completely before decorating.
What do you need to make Christmas cookies?
There are numerous types of Christmas cookies out there. Yet, what first comes to mind when thinking about the holidays are the cheery decorated sugar cookies.
Fortunately, you can make these cookies in seconds, as long as you have flour, butter, and sugar. Even these ingredients might be substituted!
The best part about baking sugar cookies, in my opinion, is getting to decorate them. To make things even easier, store-bought icing works just fine.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.