Devotees of Aunt Chick’s are the most dedicated cookie decorators around. It takes four days for Jodi Stone, a stepmother of one from Los Angeles, to finish her Aunt Chick’s Santa cookies. After they cool, she paints on his rosy cheeks with a mixture of Karo syrup and egg whites tinted with Red Hots; the next day, she adds the deep red of his hat; then, Stone pipes snowy white icing onto his eyebrows and beard; and finally, she adds the finishing touches: coconut shavings for his beard and tiny raisins or chocolate chips for his eyes.
Stone makes up to 150 Santa cookies every year — no small undertaking, but a shadow of the 250 that her mother, Bettie Styles, once made. After forty years of use — and at least 13,750 cookies — Styles’s Santa cutter has retired, as has its owner. “I’m carrying on a tradition in her honor,” Stone said, as tears caught in her throat. And then she laughed. “Oh, I’m such a sap! I mean, they’re only cookies, but they just mean so much to me.”
For the cookie decorating novice, Stone has simple advice: “Crank up the Christmas tunes, pour yourself a big glass of wine, put on your apron and have a blast! And if they turn out ugly, so what? You’re gonna eat ‘em anyway!”
In this spirit, why not get creative this year? Try…
Aunt Chick’s No-Fail Cookies
If the dough sticks to the cutters, add a little more flour and mix until blended. To make colored cookies, knead in a few drops of food coloring before wrapping in waxed paper to ensure that the cookies retain their color.
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract or 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and set aside.
2. In another large bowl, beat the shortening and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the vanilla and lemon extract or almond extract. In 2 or 3 additions, stir in the flour, stirring until well blended.
3. Divide dough into 3 pieces, wrap in waxed paper or plastic and chill for at least 1 hour.
4. On a pastry cloth or lightly floured surface, roll dough out to a thickness of about 1/6 inch. Cut out with cookie cutters.
5. Transfer cookies to greased baking sheets and bake until very lightly browned around the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Decorate or frost if desired.
Makes about 100 cookies.
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