Confession time: I have never been a big fan of the iced-and-decorated cut-out sugar cookie which is so synonymous with Christmas cookie baking. As far as I’m concerned, if you want a cut-out cookie, why not just go with gingerbread? Compared to a warm, spicy, chewy gingerbread boy, sugar cookies are a big snore.
My first thought after deciding to do this project was: “Oh, geez. I’m going to have to do a sugar cookie. You can’t set out to make the ultimate compendium of vegan Christmas cookies and leave out the sugar cookie.”
The only option, therefore, was to find a vegan sugar cookie recipe which I actually liked. Not just tolerated, but really liked, liked so much that I would be compelled to make them year after year.
The recipe below is the winner after several trials. I cobbled it together from several cutout cookie recipes, and truthfully, it’s more of a vanilla butter cookie than a sugar cookie, which makes me a cheater, but I’ll be the cheater sitting over here eating a cutout cookie which actually tastes good.
Cutout Sugar Cookies
makes 2-3 dozen, depending on cookie cutter size
3/4 cup non-hydrogenated margarine, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons soy or almond milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Using electric mixer, cream margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in milk and vanilla. Sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt into the bowl, then mix on lowest speed until flour is fully incorporated. Divide dough in half and flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic or parchment paper and chill until firm, at least two hours, or place in a plastic freezer bag, and freeze up to 3 months (thaw in refrigerator overnight).
Preheat oven to 325. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove one dough disk from refrigerator as needed and let stand 5 to 10 minutes or until the dough rolls out easily. Roll out to 1/8-1/4 inch thick on floured parchment, dusting dough and rolling pin with flour as needed. Cut shapes with cookie cutters. Transfer to prepared baking sheets, one inch apart.
Bake on center rack of the oven until edges are golden, 10 to 18 minutes (depending on size). Cool on baking sheet for five minutes before transferring to wire racks to finish cooling. Decorate when cookies are completely cool.
Chocolate dough: Substitute 1/3 quality unsweetened cocoa powder for 1/3 of the flour.
Cinnamon dough: After flour is fully incorporated, stir in 1/4 cup of crushed cinnamon red hot candies and red food coloring.
Peppermint dough: Substitute 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla with 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract. Add red or green food coloring at end.
Citrus dough: Substitute 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla with 1/2 teaspoon orange extract, triple sec, or other citrus-flavored liqeur. Add 1-2 finely teaspoons grated citrus zest to the dough.
Spice dough: Add 1-2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or desired spice combination) at the same time you add the flour.
Sandwich cookies: Roll out to 1/8 inch thick and use round cookie cutters. Spread a thin layer of frosting or jam on half the cookies and sandwich with the other half. For a linzer-style sandwich cookie, use a smaller cookie cutter to cut a hole in the center of half the cookies, use jam in the middle, and then dust the top of the cookies with powdered sugar.
This frosting was a happy accident. I wanted a frosting which looks like the classic royal icing recipe, which uses meringue powder and therefore isn’t vegan. This spreads easily and sets with a glossy sheen.
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons soy or almond milk
1 tablespoon margarine
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Beat together all frosting ingredients, adding food coloring at the end for desired color.