The holiday season just wouldn’t be the same without lots of delicious baked goods and cookies. These festive sugar cookies are easy to make and are perfect for baking with children.
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My kids love to help out in the kitchen, but many holiday cookie recipes contain steps that are not so easy for kids to actually do by themselves. This simple recipe allows kids, (even young ones), to participate in all the recipe steps.
From mixing the dough to decorating the cookies, all the steps are very easy and can be done by kids ages 2 and up, though some steps (such as rolling out the dough), may require a little help from a parent or other adult.
Are These True Sugar Cookies?
Technically no. We simply made a few adjustments to our traditional shortbread cookie recipe, such as swapping out the white sugar for brown sugar and adding an egg yolk for richness.
We liked the soft crumbly nature of the shortbread though and wanted to keep that texture with these cookies so we kept the fat content fairly high.
The recipe can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge until you are ready to bake!
Easy Cookies To Bake With Kids
If you have kids at home you’ll know that while they love to bake, it is often a messy undertaking and many steps can be too complicated for kids to easily do.
These sugar cookies are perfect for making with kids because none of the steps are overly hard to do, and everything can be done by hand.
Even the decorating only requires dipping the cookies into coloured sugar, though you can decorate these any way you like of course. I made these with my two and four year old.
Our Festive Sugar Cookie Recipe
As mentioned above, this recipe is a variation on our traditional shortbread cookies with just a few added ingredients, mainly egg yolk and brown sugar.
If you don’t have butter you can substitute shortening or a butter alternative (such as a coconut-based butter alternative). The key is that the fat is solid so you can crumble it into the flour with your fingers.
Ingredients You’ll need:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup un-salted butter – room temperature
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 pinch of salt
- 2 cups white sugar
- various colours of food colouring
- cookie icing – any homemade icing or storebought variety will do here
Start by measuring out the flour into a large mixing bowl. Bigger is better here especially when baking with kids!
Measure out the room temperature butter, and cut the butter into cubes. Kids can do this with a dull butter knife, or have an adult help. Don’t worry they don’t need to be perfect squares.
Add the cubed butter to the flour, and using your hands break up the butter chunks, making sure to periodically mix everything back into the flour. The butter will start breaking up into smaller and smaller pieces. Keep doing this until the butter is almost fully mixed into the flour.
Mix the brown sugar, egg yolk and salt into the flour/butter mixture. You can begin to almost knead the cookie dough when it starts clumping together.
Once you can easily form a round ball, remove the dough from the bowl and knead it 5 or 6 times to smooth it out. Form the dough into a ball, then wrap it or place it in a food-safe container, and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
As the cookie dough chills in the fridge, measure out 1/3 cup of white sugar into six little dishes or bowls. Add one drop of food colouring to each dish and use the back of a spoon to fully mix it into the sugar. Be careful not to add too much food colouring as the sugar will start to clump. Set the coloured sugar aside for decorating later.
Pre-heat the oven to 400F, and remove the chilled cookie dough from the fridge. Gently dust a clean countertop with flour and roll out the dough until it is about a quarter inch thick.
Use holiday themed cookie cutters to cut out various cookie shapes. Any leftover dough can be balled up again, kneaded to make a smooth ball, and re-rolled out. Place the cut cookies on a non-stick cookie sheet or parchment-lined sheet pan.
Bake the cut cookies for 10 minutes or until the edges start to turn golden brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and use a spatula to move the cookies to a wire rack to cool.
Once the cookies are fully cooled, spread a little icing on each cookie, and then dip it into the coloured sugar to make pastel coloured cookies!
Tips, Tricks, & Other Notes
The beauty of these festive sugar cookies is that they are very easy to make with very few ingredients. Here are a few tips and tricks we thought might make your life easier:
- If you don’t have butter at home, any kind of solid fat can be used, though it will of course affect the flavour of the baked cookies.
- Just as the type of fat can be substituted, you can easily swap out white sugar for the brown sugar in this recipe.
- The cookie dough itself can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge for 2-3 days before rolling out and baking cookies.
- Avoid rolling out the cookie dough to thin, or the cookies will burn in the oven. If the cookies are too thick, they will need to bake for more than 10 minutes before the edges start to turn golden brown.
- Once baked and cooled the cookies can be frozen quite well in a Tupperware container. We suggest doing any decorating after thawing the cookies again.
- When making these cookies with kids, use a large mixing bowl to prevent accidental spills. Kids love getting their hands dirty and this recipe is great because the dough is completely mixed by hand!
- Any kind of icing can be used to decorate these cookies, we just liked the simplicity of the pastel sugar dipped look (it was also the easiest for my two-year-old to do himself!)
Festive Pastel-Colored Sugar Cookies (Great For Making With Kids)
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 whole egg yolk
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp cold water
- 1 pinch salt
For The Decoration
- 2 cups white sugar
- 1 drop each of various food coloring
- 1 cup sugar cookie icing
- Measure out the flour and place it in a large mixing bowl. Measure out the butter, and cut it into rough cubes. Add the cubed butter to the flour, and then crumble it in with your fingers until almost fully incorporated.
- Measure out the brown sugar, egg yolk, water, and salt, and mix them into the flour/butter mixture. When the cookie dough starts to clump, remove it from the bowl and knead five or six times until you can form a smooth ball.
- Wrap the ball of cookie dough and chill it in the fridge for 20 minutes.
- As the cookie dough chills pre-heat your oven to 400F. Then separate the 2 cups of white sugar into six separate dishes. Add one drop of food colouring to each bowl and use the back of a spoon to fully mix it in. Set the pastel-coloured sugar aside, until ready to use. If making your own sugar cookie icing, do so now.
- Once the cookie dough has chilled, remove it from the fridge. Lightly dust a clean countertop with flour, and then flatten the dough. Roll out the cookie dough until it is roughly 1/4 inch thick. If the dough sticks to the rolling pin, lighlty dust the dough with flour.
- Cut out various festive cookie shapes with cookie cutters, and place them on a non-stick cookie sheet or parchment-lined sheet pan.
- Bake the cookies for 10 minutes or until the edges start to turn golden brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and use a spatula to move the hot cookies to a wire rack to cool.
- Once fully cooled, spread a little cookie icing on each cookie, and then dip the cookies, icing side down, in the various pastel coloured dishes of sugar. Let the icing set for a few minutes and then enjoy!