Last weekend — what with it being December — I thought it was a good time to order Christmas cards, which meant we were in need of a new family photo. Because, let’s be honest, we have maybe one fairly good photo from the past year with all four of us in it. And there’s something about putting a beach photo on a Christmas card that just feels weird to me.
So we set about DIYing a family photo shoot and to make it as easy as possible (no posing), we decided on a lifestyle type shot while making cookies. For real, of course. And for a holiday family cookie-baking photo shoot, there’s no better cookie recipe than St. Nicholas cookies.
St. Nicholas cookies, as the name implies, was the Christmas cookie of choice when I was a kid and I still look forward to a plate of them from my mom at Christmastime. This vegan version — modified with dairy-free margarine and applesauce instead of egg — is just as good as the original. This cookie is neither buttery nor sugary, but spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. I love them plain or simply adorned with sugar sprinkles. And they’re absolutely best when shared with somebody special over a morning coffee or sippy cup of warm milk.
St. Nicholas Cookies
(Makes approx. 36-48 (2-3″) cookies)
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups dairy-free margarine, softened
1/4 cup sugar-free applesauce
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1. Combine brown sugar, granulated sugar and margarine in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until sugars and margarine are combined and the mixture looks light and fluffy.
2. Add applesauce and vanilla extract to sugar mixture. Mix well.
3. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
4. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture one-third at a time, mixing on low after each addition until flour is well incorporated. Dough should be very soft.
5. Divide dough in half and form each half into balls. Lay out two sheets of plastic wrap and put one ball of dough on each. Pat out each ball until dough is about 1/2 inch thick. Wrap tightly with plastic, keeping dough in 1/2 inch thick sheets. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
7. Remove one of the dough halves from the refrigerator and unwrap. Place on a floured surface and roll dough 1/4 inch thick. Cut into shapes of choice and arrange on a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet, leaving at least 1/2 inch between cookies. Gather dough scraps into a ball, re-roll and cut. Repeat with other half of dough.
8. Bake cookies for 10-15 minutes. Immediately transfer cookies to cooling rack.