So, you promised to make Christmas cookies with the kids, but you’re feeling rather Scrooge-like. Memories of prying petrified dough balls off the carpet and coaxing nonpareils out of the furniture really dampen your holiday spirit. Not to worry. A few time and mess-saving techniques will make your festive cookie baking child’s play.

First, choose a foolproof but fabulous sugar cookie recipe. An Internet search yields 340 recipes entitled, “The Best Sugar Cookie Ever.” They are all suspiciously similar. Narrow the pool a bit by eliminating any recipes that call for margarine or shortening in place of butter and those that don’t acknowledge the value of a dash of salt in baking. As the beauty of the sugar cookie is in its simplicity, it is especially important that only the best ingredients are used, including real butter and pure vanilla extract.

Recipe in hand, invest in a one-ounce ice cream scoop from a restaurant supply store (like our very own Cash and Carry). These handy tools are invaluable. In no time flat you can make perfect little scoops of dough (works great for meatballs too), skipping that sticky step of rolling balls in the palm of your hand. Also a time-consuming nuisance is rolling each little ball in sugar. Speed this up by covering the bottom of a cookie sheet with sugar, then, as you are scooping, toss your perfect rounds of dough on the sheet. Once the sheet is full, take a shaker or pitcher of sugar and pour over the balls. Pluck them out of the sugar, place on a cookie sheet and bake. Reuse the sugar for each batch.

Since your newly adopted time-saving techniques do not allow for messy rolling or shape cutting, inform the kids that you will only be making nice, round “ornament” shapes this year. No more crying jags when the reindeer cookie breaks a leg. Quell any rising disappointment with promises of lots of sparkly, delicious decorations.

The most important decoration is the icing. That old-fashioned egg white icing that hardens to a shell is pretty, but not delicious. The buttercream frosting recipe on the side of the Dominoes Confectioners Sugar box tastes great and is the perfect texture for little hands to spread. Tweak the recipe by adding a half stick more butter, an extra teaspoon of vanilla, and a 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Mix frosting with assorted food coloring, then scoop it into large zip-lock plastic bags. Snip a 1/2-inch piece off a corner, allowing your decorators to squeeze out just the right amount, sans mess.

Next, fill lots of little dishes with decorative sweets: M& M’s, mini chocolate chips, coconut, chopped nuts, sprinkles, raisins and so on. Then give each decorator a cookie sheet to act as a work space with an edge to catch errant candies.

The following recipe clipped from The Janesville Gazette over 25 years ago claims to be Amish in origin and is also the “best ever.”

 

1 cup butter

1 cup corn oil

1 cup sugar

1 cup confectioners sugar

2 eggs

1 Tablespoon vanilla

4 1/4 cups flour

1 1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Sugar for rolling

 

In large mixing bowl, beat butter, oil, sugars, eggs and vanilla until well-combined. In another bowl, stir together flour, salt, baking soda and cream of tartar. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture, beating until smooth. Refrigerate for an hour or so, then start scooping. Coat the balls of dough with a dusting of sugar, then bake at 350 degrees on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are turning light brown. Cool completely before decorating.

Cover the table with newspaper and let the festivities begin.