Sean, on the other hand, grew up with a very specific list of requisite holiday sweets. I remember him telling me in detail about his family's Christmas cookies when we were still living in Mongolia (then again, Peace Corps Volunteers in Mongolia often waxed poetic about good food from back home), and I remember very well the first Christmas that I spent with his family, trying all the cookies for the first time.
Given my previously noted wariness of baking, I have for many years been altogether reticent to attempt to make any of his family's Christmas cookies. What follows is Sean's favorite cookie recipe of all time, which Finn and I made this afternoon as a special treat to celebrate the beginning of his winter break. And if I might brag for a moment, we nailed it - they were perfect.
This is basically a sandwich cookie, with a powdered sugar/butter frosting wedged between two very flaky, buttery wafer cookies. The cookies themselves do not have any sugar in them but are dipped in granulated sugar prior to baking. This is very helpful in that you will not be tempted to eat any of the cookie dough. The resulting cookies are very light and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and the filling adds just a touch of super sweetness. You can tint the filling to match the holiday if so desired; because tinted cookies generally result in tinted kids around here, I chose to leave mine plain. Case in point:
This is a great recipe to make with little kids, because there are several steps that are just perfect for little fingers. Finn loved dipping the cookie rounds in the bowl of sugar and stabbing the cookies with a fork. This recipe makes about two and a half a dozen sandwich cookies.
For the cookies:
1 cup salted butter, softened
2 cups flour
1/3 cup whipping cream
granulated sugar, for dipping
For the filling:
1/4 cup softened butter
3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
food coloring, if desired
1. Beat butter, flour, and whipping cream until well mixed. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic, and chill for 1 hour.
2. After 1 hour, roll out as thinly as possible (I put the dough between sheets of waxed paper). Cut into 1 1/2" rounds (I used a shot glass). Dip both sides of rounds into granulated sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Prick 3-4 times with a fork.
3. Bake at 375 degrees for 7-9 minutes or until slightly puffy. Remove immediately from cookie sheet and transfer to cooling rack.
4. To make filling, beat butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Add water as needed to get a smooth consistency (I used about 4 tsp). Sandwich two cooled cookies together with filling in between.