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Christmas Wreath Butter Cookies

Christmas Wreath Butter Cookies

Christmas is only a few days away, and that means it’s time to get baking! Christmas cookies are one of the most beloved and popular holiday traditions in many parts of the world, and America is certainly no exception. While the cookies come in many different shapes and sizes, one thing they seem to have in common is the sense of community they carry with them. Different generations of a family will come together and bake dozens, if not hundreds of cookies so they can share them with friends and loved ones. Cookie swaps are arranged so that favorite recipes can be exchanged. Office break rooms are suddenly full of colorful trays lined with even more colorful treats. This recipe for Christmas Wreath Butter Cookies will help you share a little joy of your own this holiday season.

The tradition of baking and sharing Christmas cookies dates back to the Middle Ages. Spices that we now associate with the holidays, such as nutmeg and cinnamon, were just starting to become commonplace. These spices, along with ingredients such as butter and sugar, were quite expensive at the time, meaning most families could only afford to buy them on rare occasions, with Christmas being the most special of all. Unlike many other baked goods like pies and cakes, cookies could be easily baked in large quantities and stored for a relatively long period of time. In fact, the earliest known American cookbook, published in 1796, contained a recipe for Christmas cookies which explicitly called for them to be stored for a few months before eating; otherwise, they would be too hard.

In the centuries since, the ready availability of ingredients and development of mass-produced cookie cutters has made the tradition of Christmas cookies even more popular. While they can be made in any number of fun, festive shapes, for this recipe we’re keeping things simple and making wreaths. You can either use fluted cookie cutters to get a full wreath shape or look for a specialized cutter with a notch that allows the cookies to fit on the rim of a mug (they’re perfect for dunking in hot cocoa or coffee). As for the dough, we like to use a basic butter cookie base and take it up a level by adding the seeds from a real Madagascar Bourbon vanilla bean. Top with a colorful sanding sugar of your choice, and you’ve got some Christmas cheer to share this year.

Christmas Wreath Butter Cookie Recipe

Yields 12 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup salted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean, (split and scraped)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more to work with
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups red and gold sanding sugar (or sanding sugar of choice)
  • One 3-inch-diameter and one 1½-inch-diameter fluted cookie cutter or a specialty cookie cutter with mug cutout.


Directions:

In a large bowl, combine granulated sugar and butter. Add the vanilla bean scrapings. Beat on high speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in 1 egg. Reduce speed to low and gradually mix in flour. Form the dough into a disk that is about ¾"-thick. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for about 2 hours, or until dough is firm.

Position oven racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350°. Remove dough from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper, sprinkling with flour as needed to keep from sticking, until it is about ¼" thick.

Use the large cookie cutter to cut out basic wreath shapes, then use the smaller cutter to cut out the centers. Place the cookies on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, leaving about 1 ½ inches between them. Take any remaining scraps of dough and press into a ¾ inch disk. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Add the remaining egg to a small bowl with 1 tsp. water and whisk to combine. Brush the cookies with this egg wash, then sprinkle with sanding sugar. Place in freezer for 10 minutes, to help keep dough from spreading when cooked. Bake until edges are golden brown, 10–15 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through. Move cookies to wire racks and cool completely. Repeat process with scraps and remaining egg wash and sanding sugar.

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