These sweet little Christmas cookies are truly easy to make and easy to decorate using the brilliant line and flood technique.
When it comes to holiday baking, I’m all about the ratios — and I don’t mean ingredient ratios. I mean I’m looking for a very high ratio of cookie fabulousness to time, effort and skill level required. This used to mean I would shy away from cookie recipes that require rolling pins and icing technique. Not anymore.
While we were living in London, I accompanied our older daughter to a friend’s birthday party at Biscuiteers, where seven-year-old girls made beautiful, genuinely delicious cookies using the line and flood technique. Fact is, shortbread cookies made with quality ingredients are dead-simple and taste as good as any complicated cookies.
And decorating? It’s not hard. Truly. I’m pretty impatient and miz at this sort of thing, but I made those cookies up there for our school’s teacher cookie swap last year, and I survived. I even made them again the following week. I know they don’t look positively professional, but I like that they’re pretty and yet obviously homemade. It’s all about the attitude.
The line and flood method is exactly what it sounds like. Using one batch of royal icing, part of which you’ll thin slightly more than the rest, you’ll draw a line around the outside of each cookie and then flood the thinner icing inside the line to create a smooth surface. In the cookies above, the ornaments (shut up, you knew they were ornaments) used line and flood. The snowflakes simply used the thicker royal icing. You’ll find more detail in the recipes that follow.
But first, I insist you watch this cookie video from Biscuiteers’ Instagram feed. It’s the Britishest thing ever, and it’s very sweet. Not just because it’s made of cookies.
Happy baking! See you soon with some holiday gift recommendations.
P.S. The links to ingredients and supplies on Amazon below are affiliate links. If you click on them and buy something, I’ll earn a small percentage of the sale, which helps keep Umami Girl up and running. Thank you!
Easy Christmas Cookies
These simple shortbread cookies are quick to make, fun to bake and a little bit addictive. They're delicious just as they are, but if you want to dip them in dark chocolate or decorate them using store-bought icing or the slightly fancier flooding method below, don't let me stop you.
- 1 cup (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour*
- Preheat oven to 325°F with a rack in the center.
- Cut the butter into small pieces and place it in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) with the sugar. Beat on medium speed until lightened in color and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and beat to incorporate.
- Add the flour and stir in gently with a spatula or wooden spoon until incorporated. Gather dough into your hands and squeeze it together until it forms a cohesive dough. Shape into a ball.
- Dust work surface and rolling pin with flour and gently roll dough into a 1/4-inch thick disk. Cut into shapes using a cookie cutter. You can re-roll any scraps and use them to make a few more cookies.
- Transfer cookies to a cookie sheet lined with parchment and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes to help cookies retain their shape in the oven.
- Bake about 12 minutes, until very lightly golden.
- Remove from the oven and transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Decorate if you like.
* Measure the flour using the spoon and level method. Spoon flour gently from the container into the measuring cup without tamping it down at all. Then run the back of a knife across the top of the measuring cup to level it off. This prevents those of us who bake with volumetric measurements rather than kitchen scales from adding too much flour to our recipes. I'm not a big fan of "shoulds," but I'll make an exception here. This is how you should always measure your flour unless a recipe specifically states otherwise.
Biscuiteers Royal Icing
This is a fabulous all-purpose cookie icing that you'll use to both "line" and "flood" your cookies.
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 pound (4 cups) confectioner\'s sugar
- 3 tablespoons powdered egg whites (such as Wilton Color Flow Mix)
- A few drops of food coloring (such as Wilton)