Baking is a much-loved holiday tradition and something that can get the whole family into a festive spirit. Kids often love to bake and ice their own cookies and get creative with colours and toppings. It’s also a great activity to get them involved and keep them busy in the holidays.
This cookie dough is easy to work with, which is great for the kids. They can roll out the dough and cut it into any shape of they choice – there are so many different cookie cutters available now. Or roll into balls, place on a baking tray and flatten with a fork.
The combination of spices are delicious and the aromas of freshly baked cookies with the warm spices are reminiscent of the festive season. The lemon rind in the dough may not be a regular ingredient, but it gives these cookies a really special flavour. Use the cookies as decorations for a Christmas tree or festive table by threading ribbon through a hole made before baking them – a straw or very small cookie cutter works well. Or pack some in a jar and use as gifts for your colleagues, friends or family. Enjoy as treats to pack in as ‘padkos’ for the holiday journey or just yummy homemade bakes to have around the house.
Recipe adapted from Make five/Maak vyf
Makes about 50 small or 30 larger cookies
150 ml (150 g) soft butter
150 ml castor sugar
1 extra-large egg
5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla essence
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
500 ml (2 cups) cake flour
10 ml (2 tsp) each ground cinnamon and mixed spice
2,5 ml (½ tsp) ground ginger
125 ml (½ cup) icing sugar, sieved
10 ml (2 tsp) water or lemon juice
food colouring of your choice (optional)
silver balls and edible glitter to decorate
1. Preheat the oven to 180 °C. Line a large baking tray or two smaller trays with baking paper. It’s not necessary to grease the paper, as the dough contains enough butter.
2. Place butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric beater or mixer until creamy. Add egg, vanilla and lemon rind and beat until well blended.
3. Add the flour and spices; stir until it almost resembles a crumbly mixture. Gently mix with your hands or a wooden spoon to form a dough. For larger batches, the flour can be gently mixed into the butter mixture with an electric mixer.
4. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently roll out (about 3-4 mm thick) and cut with a cookie cutter in the shapes and sizes you prefer, like gingerbread men, stars or wreaths. Alternatively, roll small balls of dough, place on the baking tray and flatten with a fork.
5. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until light golden brown. The longer the cookies bake, the crunchier they become, so bake to your preference. Allow to cool on a cooling rack.
6. Icing: Mix icing sugar and water or lemon juice to form a smooth icing. If preferred, add a small amount of food colouring of your choice (use a few drops of liquid colouring or a pinch or two of the powdered colouring). Pour into a piping bag. A great tip is to use a small sandwich bag, tie it closed and carefully cut a small piece off one of the tips of the bag.
7. Pipe icing shapes, dots, faces or squiggles on the cookies. Sprinkle with silver balls and edible glitter, or any decorations you like. Allow the icing to set and store in an airtight container.
1. The dough keeps well in the fridge for a few days, so you could prepare the dough now and use it later. It also freezes well – roll into a sausage shape, wrap in cling wrap and freeze for up to 2 months. To use, cut slices of the frozen dough and bake or allow to thaw and roll out as described in the recipe. A super convenient way to have freshly baked cookies – perfect for when you have unexpected guests.