Last Minute Gifts: Geeky Cutout Cookies

If you all haven’t noticed, December is flying by. Whatever major holiday you celebrate here in December, the big day is just days away! Holy mistletoe, Batman, we’re running out of time to get presents for everyone! Don’t worry, though – if you’ve got an afternoon free in the next couple weeks, you’ve got time to make awesome gifts for everyone on your list, in the form of some geeky cutout cookies!

The wonderful folks at ThinkGeek have some fabulous cookie cutters available, from Gingerdead Men to Pac Man, and Williams-Sonoma (I know, right?) has several sets of Star Wars cookie cutters. Time is running a little short to get any of these cool cutters in time to bake for this year, but with some creative frosting skillz, you can turn regular gingerbread men, snowmen, reindeer, and Santas into little zombies, or Cylons, or whatever. And hey, what geek is going to turn down cookies in any shape, even if they are just plain old snowflakes?

Now all you need is a cookie recipe or two, right? This week I am happy to share with you two of my favorites, one for gingerbread and one for sugar cookies. I typically mix up all my cookie dough in the evening after I get home from work, put it in the fridge to chill, then bake all the cookies in a marathon session the next day – it’s really nice to get up in the morning and have all the dough waiting for you. When it comes to frosting, I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of frosted cookies – I just decorate mine with colored sugar – so my advice if you don’t have a tried and true frosting recipe of your own is to buy frosting at the store.

Old-Fashioned Gingerbread Cookies

My parents don’t care for gingerbread, so my mom never made gingerbread cookies when I was growing up. I had to find my own way as an adult. This recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, Sei Unser Gast (Be our Guest) by the North Star Chapter of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia. And yes, those are ginger-buffalo in the picture.

5 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt*

1 cup lard, butter, or vegetable shortening (I use butter! *If you use salted butter you don’t need to add any additional salt)

1 cup white sugar

1 cup molasses

2 eggs

Melt whatever fat you’re using and pour into a mixing bowl. Beat in the sugar and molasses, then the eggs. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and spices. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until the dough forms (it will be kind of messy/crumbly). Pack the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic or put in a plastic bag and chill for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one-third of the dough at a time, leaving the rest in the fridge (if it’s too sticky to roll, chill it longer; if it’s too stiff to roll, it got too cold – leave it out on the counter to warm up for a little while). Roll to 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick, depending on how thick you like your cookies. Cut out cookies and place on parchment lined (or lightly greased) cookie sheets. Bake about 10 minutes or until cookies are rather firm to the touch and starting to crisp around the edges (bake a couple minutes less if you like softer cookies, a couple minutes more if you prefer them crisp). Remove to either cooling racks or spread out newspapers/paper sacks to cool. Makes at least 4 dozen, depending on the size of your cutters.

German Cutout Sugar Cookies

This is my mom’s cutout sugar cookie recipe. What makes it “German”? I really have no idea, but that’s what was written on her recipe card, so that’s what I keep calling it. Unlike a lot of cutout sugar cookies I’ve had before, these taste absolutely fabulous even without frosting.

1 cup butter, softened

2/3 cup white sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 eggs

4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt (If you use salted butter you don’t need to add any additional salt)

Mix the first five ingredients at medium speed until smooth and fluffy. Gradually add in the flour (and salt, if needed) and mix until the dough forms. Pack the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic or put in a plastic bag and chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one-third of the dough at a time, leaving the rest in the fridge (if it’s too sticky to roll, chill it longer; if it’s too stiff to roll, it got too cold – leave it out on the counter to warm up for a little while). Roll to 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick, depending on how thick you like your cookies. Cut out cookies and place on parchment lined (or lightly greased) cookie sheets; sprinkle with colored sugar or leave them plain if you want to frost them. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until cookies are just starting to turn golden brown around the edges around the edges (bake a couple minutes less if you like softer cookies, a couple minutes more if you prefer them crisp). Remove to either cooling racks or spread out newspapers/paper sacks to cool. Makes at least 4 dozen, depending on the size of your cutters.

The Finishing Touches

Regardless of which recipe you use, make sure all your cookies are completely cool before frosting them. Decorating can be time consuming, so make sure you have a comfy chair and a couple hours to spare. Let the frosting set (overnight if you can) before you pack up goodie trays for everyone. I’ve learned that while a pretty presentation is nice, most people don’t care if those cookies come to them in a fancy tin or on a paper plate, so do whatever works for you.

It doesn’t take much to make a fun handmade gift – with these recipes and a little time and effort, you’ll be able to give all your friends and family a gift they’ll love and always remember. Just be warned – they’ll probably want more cookies next year!

Have you made geeky cutout cookies before?

About c

By day, Connie Thomson (aka Ariel Manx) is a mild-mannered shoe salesgirl, geeking out about insoles, outsoles, and shanks. But when night falls, she takes her turn at the helm of 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming, where she writes, edits, and does layout for table-top RPG products. Regardless of her persona, C is always a fangirl, bookworm, and craft diva. (Email C or follow @arielmanx on Twitter.)

Speak Your Mind

*