In 2011, we moved to Fruit Heights, Utah onto a lovely cul-de-sac, at the base of the Wasatch mountains. Such a contrast to our neighborhood in California where we backed up to a 6-lane street and hospital! Instead of drifting off to the sounds of sirens and screeching brakes, we were serenaded by crickets. It took some getting used to, but almost 6 years later, I’ll take crickets over sirens and life-flight helicopters any day of the week!
A few days before Christmas, we started to notice a trend…first a knock at the door and then a wonderful surprise was presented…homemade – jam, bread, goodies, a hand-crafted wooden toy, a small holly bush – good old fashioned heartfelt offerings. These ‘neighbor gifts’ are a local tradition here at Christmas-time.
One of our favorite treats was the plate of Santa cookies, from the Bates’ family across the street. That first year I remember how excited we each were to bite into our own Santa cookie complete with red hat, white fur and chocolate chip eyes. I was surprised by the detail of each cookie and the time Becky and her family took to decorate them. I was even more surprised that a plate of those Santa cookies has arrived every Christmas since!
Curiosity led me to drop in on Becky and find out the secrets to her ‘at-home cookie factory’. This is a perfect Family Food Roots story-a simple recipe and tradition passed down from mother to daughter, made with love and shared with friends and family…
Becky was 7 years old when she and her family lived in Connecticut back in the early 70’s. One of the women in their church congregation brought Santa cookies for refreshments. Inspired by the offering, Becky’s mother bought a Santa cookie cutter and started making them every year for her neighbors, even after they moved from Connecticut to Utah.
Twenty-three years ago, Becky decided to continue the tradition her mother started back in Connecticut. She does it just like mom did, using the tried and true Better Crocker recipe called “Mary’s Sugar Cookies” and the accompanying butter cream frosting.
Becky says “I love making these cookies. It’s just fun. I can’t paint and I’m not a good creator, but I can make Santa cookies.” For her father’s birthday last year, Becky threw a party and brought a cookie cutter and recipe for each member of the family so they could carry on the tradition with their families. Thanks Becky for sharing your cookie-making talent and tradition with all of us!
~ The Bates’ cookie factory, Christmas 2016 ~
Mary’s Sugar Cookies
- 1 1/2 cups (163g) powdered sugar
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring
- 2 1/2 cups (330g) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
For the frosting:
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 4 cups (454g) powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 4-5 tablespoons milk
- Optional garnish – sprinkles
Mix together sugar and butter. Add egg, vanilla, and almond extract; mix well. Blend in flour, baking soda and cream of tartar. Cover and chill for 2 to 3 hours. Heat oven to 375 F.
Divide dough in half. Roll each half 3/16 inch thick on lightly floured cloth-covered board. Cut into desired shapes; sprinkle with granulated sugar. Place on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake 7 to 8 minutes or until light brown on edges. When cool, decorate with icing, as desired.
This recipe was originally printed in Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book, 1963. Used versions of the cookbook are available through various sellers on the internet. Here’s a link to Amazon. But you can also get a brand-new, authentic facsimile of the original here at Target. With more than 450 recipes including a holiday cookie section, it’s a Betty Crocker classic!