Start a new Christmas tradition with these delicious, whimsical old-fashioned light bulb cookies.They are a fun and easy project for the entire family.
Like most of us, I have many Christmas traditions and one of them is creating these delicious cookies. Back in the day I used to make around 12 - 15 batches (approximately 300 cookies) and package them up for family and friends as gifts. I would take an entire day off from work, put on old traditional Christmas music and bake away.
I had quite the assembly line going. I would make up all of the cookie dough (12 - 15 batches) and pop them into the refrigerator. After chilling for an hour I would remove one batch at a time and began the rolling process. Then I would cut out all of the cookies for that batch and placed them onto cookies sheets and bake them. During the baking process, I would take another batch of chilled dough and start the whole process over again until all of the cookies were baked.
While the cookies were still a bit warm, I carefully made a hole in the top of each cookie with a plastic straw. If you wait until the cookies are completely cool the cookies are too stiff to poke a hole in. This is a very important step for this hole will later be used to string the licorice.
After all of the cookies had cooled, I began the icing process. I usually made four different colors (red, blue, yellow and green) but you can choose any colors you like. With around 300 cookies and four colors I knew that I needed about 75 cookies per color. I made up a single batch of icing and colored the entire batch red. Using a sponge brush, I carefully iced (painted) 75 cookies and repeated the process for the remaining colors. I found that icing (painting) the cookies with a sponge brush was easier and faster than with a knife and it produces a much nicer finish. The icing needs to cure (harden) overnight, so when I was finished I had 300 cookies on waxed paper scattered throughout the kitchen.
The next day I would string all of the cookies with licorice and place them in boxes with red tissue paper, making sure there were six of each color per box.
I don't make 300 cookies at one time anymore, but a couple of dozen per year is still fun.
I'm now sharing this tradition with you so please enjoy and make sure to include the kids. Over the years, I have found that the kids enjoy this tradition more so then the adults. They love creating all kinds of crazy colors and they love to 'paint' the cookies with the brushes.
Step 1: What You Will Need
1) Light bulb cookie cutter (step 2)
2) Recipes (steps 3 and 4)
3) Plastic straws
4) Food coloring (liquid, gels or paste)
5) 2-inch sponge brushes
6) Licorice - I like using both red and black to simulate old-style twisted wire but black rope licorice is hard to find. Sometimes I splurge and order it off the internet
Step 2: Light Bulb Cookie Cutter
I have never found a light bulb cookie cutter that I liked so I designed my own. I was fortunate to have access to a machine shop so I had a several plastic cookie cutters made. But, if you like my design and you don't have access to the equipment to make one for yourself, you can make a template from the attached image and trace out each cookie with a knife. It's time consuming but it works for small batches.
OR you can find other light bulb cookie cutter designs online by typing in light bulb cookie cutters in one of the search engines. Several designs come up but the only one closest to mine is made by Wilton for about $1
Step 3: Cookie Dough Recipe
Preheat oven at 325°
3/4 cup butter softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 t baking soda
Cream butter and sugars in a large bowl until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, beating until smooth. In another bowl, sift together flour and baking soda. Stir flour mixture into cream mixture, mixing until a soft dough ball forms. Cover and chill for 1 hour. On a lightly floured surface, use a floured rolling pin to roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out cookies and place on an un-greased baking sheet. Bake for approximately 8 - 10 minutes
Step 4: While Cookies Are Still a Bit Warm
carefully poke a hole into the top of each cookie with a straw. Sometimes a twisting motion works best.
This hole will later be used to string the cookies with licorice ropes
Step 5: Icing Recipe
5 cups confectioners sugar
Approximately 1/2 cup whole milk
Gradually add milk to sugar until a thick gravy consistency forms (sometimes drop by drop)
Divide mixture into 4 equal parts and add food coloring (I like using red, green, yellow and blue) but feel free to use any colors you choose.
Don't forget the kids. They love this part.
Step 6: Finishing
Using a sponge brush, gently 'paint' each cookie with icing. You will likely break a few cookies until you get the hang of it. No worries, just eat the mistakes :)
Let icing cure (harden) overnight then string cookies with licorice rope and display
Step 7: Vuala . . . . . . and a Funny Story
I would like to share with you a funny story about these cookies that happen a long time ago. It wasn't funny at the time, but I now laugh about it every time I think of it.
When I first created these cookies many years ago, I was so proud of them and myself for coming up with the idea, so much so, that I decided to enter them into a Christmas Cookie contest held at the local craft store. I thought my light bulb cookies were so beautiful and clever that I was sure to win that $50 grand prize. The winning recipe would also be added to a local cookbook that got published every year.
I was so excited but nervous at the same time. I was a shy, inexperienced young baker and I started to question myself whether or not these cookies were good enough for an entry into the contest. But I arrived at the store and filled out the necessary paperwork anyway and set my beauties on the entry table. They weren't going announce the winners until later that afternoon so my sisters and I went shopping. We returned just in time to see the results.
To my horror, a large white tag with the letters D-I-S-Q-U-A-L-I-F-I-E-D written in deep red ink adorned my plate of beauties. There were about 200 people there to witness the award ceremony and I felt all 400 eyes on mine as I walked up to the table. One of the four judges stormed at me shaking her finger, telling me with a very loud voice that I was disqualified. "This contest is for amateurs and you Miss are clearly a professional", she shouted.
She nearly threw my plate of cookies at me as she ushered me out the door in disgust.
At first I was in shock, then I was mad, then . . . . SHE THOUGHT I WAS A PROFESSIONAL ? ? ?
Ha ha ha, I won that day after all . . . . .