I love me a Snow Day. Even though I first drove all the way to Philly, hiked through the streets in the near-blizzard, only to learn that they were closing the office- I’d do it again to be sitting here on the couch at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday. The snow is actually a perfect backdrop for today’s recipe.
Now what is the Holiday Season without Christmas cookies? Sweet, buttery, perfection. I initially saw these “Swirl Sugar Cookies” on Pinterest via blogger Amber of the Salt Tree. She created these funky blue and rainbow Swirl Sugar Cookies. They were so cute, so I figured, why not change them up and make them for Christmas? Easy, cute, and don’t the green one’s remind you of little Christmas Elf ears?
Elf ears got me thinking- since it is Christmas Season, the prime time for storytelling, what Holiday stories are there about elves? Figure, it’s been a while since I wrote about a book (cough cough, mom & dad, thanks for consistently reminding me of this, cough cough).
Nope, not doing the Elf of the Shelf or Elf a la Will Farrell. No, not something from your kids’ bookshelf. Two words: David Sedaris. He is one of my all-time favorite writers because he is dark, sarcastic, and witty. I was first introduced to Sedaris in my college Intro to Journalism class. It was right before we let out for winter break and my professor played for us Sedaris’ story, “Santaland Diaries” on NPR. As Sedaris read his short story about “Crumpet the Elf’s” traumatic experience during the Christmas Season working at the Macy’s on 5th Ave, NYC, I couldn’t help but appreciate his candid recollection of the REAL Christmas experience.
So whether this is Sedaris’ actual experience or someone else’s experience that he wrote about, it is still the best depiction of the Christmas season. It’s not all mistletoes and hot chocolate this time of year. Poor “Crumpet” has to endure weeks of “Elf Training” before the Holiday Season kicks off at Macy’s. Not just any Macy’s, the most pretentious Macy’s in the U.S.- Macy’s on 5th Avenue in Manhattan. There are different kinds of elves: Greeter Eleves, Helper Elves, Exist Elves, Photo Elves. But regardless of the kind of Elf they are, they all encounter the same Christmas offenders: the overwhelmed Christmas shopper. And “Crumpet” takes you on that Christmas adventure of what it’s like to work as an Elf in one of the busiest Department stores in the country, during the most expensive and hectic times of the year.
You know, all these Christmas stories are too sweet, too nice, and completely fake. Let’s be real. Christmas, though a lovely, joyous time of the year, is one of the most overwhelming times of the year. There’s anxiety, financial difficulties, high expectations, conflict with shoppers- don’t try and tell me during the Holiday season you never got out of your car when someone at the Mall stole your parking spot after you drove around for 45 minutes. Sedaris paints a real picture of what happens when your Holiday Spirit gets a little soiled.
I enjoy this sarcastic and dark sense of humor Sedaris has about Christmas, particularly Christmas shopping. Sometimes, your Holiday season isn’t going to be perfect. Sometimes, you’re just not going to get the latest IPad Air, despite how long you waited outside of Target on Thanksgiving. Your Christmas cookies are going to burn, maybe you’ll start a little grease fire cooking Christmas Eve dinner. And that’s fine. There’s a little “Crumpet the Elf” inside of all of us. And “Crumpet” (and Sedaris) reminds us that, it is just A-Okay to be a little bit of a Grinch or Mr. Scrooge. We all do it.
Christmas Swirl Sugar Cookies
3 Cups flour
3/4 Teaspoon baking powder
1/4 Teaspoon baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1 Cup butter, softened
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
2 Eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 Teaspoons vanilla extract
1 Teaspoon red gel food coloring, plus more for desired color
1 Teaspoon green gel food coloring, plus more for desired color
1/4 Tablespoon water
1/3 Cup Christmas non-peril sprinkes
1/3 Cup Christmas sugar sprinkles
1. In a mixer, beat together your butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes until fluffy. Then add in your eggs and vanilla extract and mix until combined.
2. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. On medium low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture.
3. Once the dough just comes together, remove and cut into four equal sized sections of dough. Place two sections of dough aside, as these will remain white.
4. Add one of the remaining section back to the mixer add your green dye. Add more until you’ve reached your desired color. The dough will be very gooey at this point, but remove it from the mixer and place aside. Clean the mixing bowl and paddle and do the same thing to the remaining dough section, but dye it red. Your will have this:
5. Wrap your sough in saran wrap and refrigerate for two hours. Any less time and your dough may be too soft to work with it. Then, remove from fridge and roll out one of the white dough balls on a floured surface until it is around 1/4 of an inch thick. Try to get it into the shape of a rectangle. Set this aside. Then, take one of your colored dough balls and roll it out of a flowered surface. Brush the colored dough surface carefully with a little bit of water. Then, take the white dough that has been rolled out, and place it on top of the colored dough. Cut off the rough edges to it makes a rectangle. It will look like this:
6. Gently brush the white dough surface with a very little but of water. Then jelly roll the dough until it looks like a long log. Repeat this for the other color dough.
7. Wrap in Saran wrap and refrigerate over night, or up to 24 hours. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Slice the cookies into equal slices, about 3/4 of an inch in thickness. I like mine a little thicker, but you can do it 1/2 an inch thick if you like. Then, take a paper towel and soak it in water. Gently moisten the edges of the cookies in water and then roll the edges into the sprinkles. The water will help the sprinkles stick to the cookies.
Tip: Make sure you are always working with cold dough when you bake sugar cookies. When the dough is soft, or room temperature, it will cause the cookies to overly spread and become thin when they bake in the oven. If you put cold dough in the oven, it will ensure that the cookies hold their shape. So remember, while your cookies are baking in the oven, always refrigerate the uncooked dough.
8. Bake the cookies on a buttered cookie sheet for 12-15 minutes until cooked. Let cool. Serve to santa with a glass of milk.