by Sarah Reyes
For backstory’s sake, I had been watching a lot of Nailed It! Holiday edition and binging Tasty’s Holiday Cookie Countdown on YouTube when I started thinking about my only attempt at making cookies from scratch. When I was in high school, a few friends and I decided to take a college cooking course for an elective and one of the first assignments was making chocolate chip cookies.
Mine were awful.
It was enough to stave me off a second attempt for a decade. But ya girl was feeling overconfident after a few episodes of Nailed It! and a few successful attempts at desserts for the family and I decided, it was time to make my triumphant return to cookies by baking and decorating sugar cookies, completely from scratch as our only dessert for Christmas. (insert upside down smiling emoji here)
What really sealed the deal for me was this video by Tasty. It promised to load me with everything I needed to know to make the best sugar cookies this Christmas. So with this 10 minute long video in my tool belt, I embarked on my quest to put homemade sugar cookies on our table. First stop: Target.
I found everything I needed readily available except for Cream of Tartar (which I ended up just skipping altogether) and cookie cutters (which I found for 75% off at Michael’s later that day). But by the time I got home, it was getting late and I didn’t want to bake in front of my family.
Since we celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, that meant I only had the weekend to prepare myself since I didn’t want to get in my mom’s hair while she was working on our grand feast.
The Big Day
It was Sunday night and I couldn’t put it off any longer, I had to get to it. Following the Tasty recipe, I started making my dough by closely following the tips. I added my special ingredients: almond extract and cream cheese, and slowly but surely the dough was coming together into a mass that was exciting me. I quickly shoved the balled up concoction into the fridge and poured some extra flour into a bowl. After cooling my dough for two hours, I cut the dough in two, putting the unused half in the fridge and pushing the rest of the dough out before completely rolling it out with my floured up rolling pin. After the mass was spread to about ¼ inch thick all around (roughly the height of a bottle cap), it was time to lay my floured cookie cutters on the flattened dough.
Since one of the key components to this recipe is keeping your dough as cold as possible at all times, it’s integral to let your cut cookies chill for about 20 minutes before baking. If the dough gets too warm before baking, it won’t hold its shape and you’ll end up with blobs. So while some cookies were chilling, I had to cut more and put some in the oven for ~12 minutes at a time at 350 degrees and honestly, it was a quick and hectic process that left my kitchen messy as HECK, but let me tell you, watching all those cookies come out of the oven looking exactly like they were supposed to filled me with a strange sense of hope and accomplishment.
But the cookies weren’t done yet. I needed to decorate them and enlisted a bit of help from my mom. Making the royal icing was an absolute cinch. You basically just mix egg whites, food coloring and powdered sugar (unless you want the icing a little runny, then add water) and you’re done! And it was while mixing the first batch of icing that all the power on the entire block went out, leaving us to decorate in the dark. My dad set up a battery powered light for my mom and I and we got to decorating. It was honestly such a genuinely wholesome experience.
We’ve never really done anything like it before and I’m legitimately quite thankful that the power went out, because on December 22nd, the night before my grand cookie adventure, my aunt (my mother’s sister) lost her battle with cancer. It was my first experience with death, but for my mother, it was another devastating blow to her dwindling family. It was a rough night and subsequent morning but when the power went out while I was baking cookies, it pushed my parents and I together into one room, decorating homemade sugar cookies that I made, all by candlelight and for the first time since before we got the call to go to the hospital, I saw my mom smile. And you know what? The cookies didn’t come out too bad at all.
When I unveiled my plates of cookies around the table for my family to see, I was met with so much praise about how great they looked and tasted, about how they didn’t believe it, they looked store-bought and I just couldn’t help but feel surrounded by love and happiness and a family that has stuck by my side through thick and thin, sweet and salty.