Making Cookies with Mom: An Every-Holiday Ritual

Guest post by David Ort. David cooks, grows vegetables, eats out and writes about all of it for his fantastic food blog Food With Legs. You can also follow his insightful food missives on Twitter @ortdavid. We’re running this piece he wrote about his mom Nancy in the lead up Mother’s Day and the launch of the newest Apron Strings videos. Enjoy.

There are some mothers I know who really go all out with the Christmas baking. When I was a kid I definitely counted myself as a lucky seven-year old connoisseur of cookies because mine made ghosts for Hallowe’en, hearts for Valentine’s Day, shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day, eggs for Easter, and these St. Claus cookies that bear an uncanny resemblance to pink helicopters for Christmas.

The shapes and icing colours changed to suit the holiday but the dough recipe was always the same. In fact, I don’t really know what  to call them other than holiday cookies.

The ritual was also always the same. The whir of one of those old stand mixers where the bowl moves,  waxed paper to wrap the dough for the refrigerator, and my mother’s rolling pin with the permanently-floured cloth for the counter. These cookies fill the kitchen with the smell of vanilla and butter and taste great for days but what I really liked was eating the dough. And the best part is that that gets to happen both from the bowl (the best parts were those hardest-to-reach bits inside the wire tines of the stand mixer’s whisk and the grooves at the top of the bowl) and the scraps after it has been rolled out.

As they grew to understand that eating raw dough meant eating raw eggs my brothers started to shy away from it so that meant more for me. And, actually I’m still a big fan of raw dough. It’s no holiday cookie dough but every time I make bread I taste a bit of the dough to check for salt. The unspoken permission to spread out over the entire kitchen and make a bit of a mess is another memory that has stuck with me–to my mother’s chagrin whenever I cook in her kitchen. That being said, I always had a great time making these cookies with my mom and I value that for its own sake.

Holiday Sugar Cookies


  • 4 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 C granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs


  1. Mix flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl until evenly distributed and transfer dry ingredients to a flexible cutting board or large piece of waxed paper.
  2. Using the whisk attachment of your stand mixer and its medium speed, cream the butter and sugar together until the colour lightens and the bowl’s contents become fluffy.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.
  4. After reducing the mixer’s speed to low gradually add the dry ingredients to the bowl.
  5. Having divided the dough in half, wrapped it in waxed paper, and put it in the refrigerator take care to eat all of the dough left in the bowl and stuck to the mixer’s whisk.
  6. Once the dough has chilled for an hour preheat your oven to 325F. Unwrap the dough and roll it out to 1/4″ thickness.
  7. Use your collection of holiday-appropriate cookie cutters to cut holiday-appropriate shapes from the dough. Transfer to a silicone-mat lined cookie sheet. Repeat with scraps and then with remaining dough.
  8. Bake for about 16 minutes. Cookies will colour slightly on the bottom but remain quite pale on top.
  9. Cool on the cookie sheets set on wire racks. Once cool ice with an ad hoc mixture of icing sugar, warm water, food colouring, and holiday-appropriate flavouring extracts (peppermint works well for Christmas).

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