Making Ooey-Gooey Fudge is an annual tradition for Helen DeFrance and her son, Martin. "A plate of this delicious fudge is a popular gift for friends, neighbors, and teachers," says DeFrance, a cookbook author and kids-cooking guru. "Little hands are wonderful for greasing the baking dish and chopping pecans."
"Another favorite gift from our kitchen is the sugar cookie dough, wrapped in red or green food-safe cellophane and tied with holiday ribbon. Present it along with the icing recipe and a cookie cutter. I get a jump on the busy holiday season by starting to make my Christmas cookie dough right after Thanksgiving, as it freezes beautifully."
After making and rolling out the dough, DeFrance suggests leaving the cutting of the cookies to the kids. "While the kids have the cookie cutters out, let them make Ho Ho Sandwiches," she suggests in her new book At Home Cafe, Gatherings for Family and Friends (Rodale). “Have them cut out shapes from [the] sandwich bread of your choice with the holiday cookie cutters. Fill with fillings the kids and adults like and place the sandwiches on a platter for everyone to enjoy. They can save the crusts from the bread to feed the birds.
"When it was time to decorate the cookies when I was young, my mother would put the icing in a bowl and then put out small bowls of various sprinkles. She would leave the kitchen and let us use our imaginations and create the cookies of our dreams," DeFrance recalls.
DeFrance's Holiday Holly are vibrant green, and a favorite with the little ones. "Make sure to let an adult melt the marshmallows and the butter," she says. "If in a hurry, it can be done in the microwave. When stirring the cornflakes, which your grandkids can do, fold in gently."
For the cookies:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Colored or white sugar for sprinkling, optional
For the buttercream frosting
1-pound box confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Food coloring of your choice, optional
1. For the cookies: Cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Stir in eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Stir in flour and baking powder until well combined.
2. Place dough on a large piece of floured parchment paper and coat with flour. Enclose dough tightly in parchment and refrigerate until dough is quite firm, about 1 hour.
3. Now preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
4. On a lightly floured board, roll out about one-fourth of the dough at a time to about 1/8-inch thick. Do not overwork dough or it will stick to the board. Keep board lightly floured to roll the remaining dough.
5. Cut out cookies with holiday cookie cutters. Transfer shapes to prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle with colored or white sugar, if you like.
6. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned. Let cool slightly on the baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.
7. For the frosting: In a large bowl, beat together sugar, butter, milk, and vanilla until smooth.
8. If necessary, add more milk until frosting is of spreading consistency. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and stir to blend. Use to frost cookies.
Yield: Makes about 6 1/2 dozen cookies and 2 cups frosting.
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