Well, "healthy" may be a stretch. But healthier, absolutely. My family always made a huge batch of sugar cookies a week or so before Christmas, followed by an entire afternoon of frosting and decorating. I revived the tradition a few years back; if you are feeling Grinch-y, baking and frosting butter cookies, with Christmas carols blasting in the background, will lift your spirits.
I've enlightened these by replacing all-purpose flour with a mix of 1/2 white whole wheat flour and 1/2 cake flour; the latter makes these extra-tender. I've also cut back on the butter, just a bit, and replaced it with a tablespoon of canola oil.
The big flavor boost comes from browning the butter. It only takes a minute to swirl the butter in the pan until nutty brown, and what a difference it makes. It's the something-something that everyone will notice, but few will be able to identify. Be prepared for plenty of "wows". A double-dose of vanilla further bolsters the perfection factor. Enjoy!
Browned Butter Rolled Christmas Cookies
These are perfect for decorating, but also yummy straight up. You can make them now, and roll them later, too. Prepare the dough up to the point of shaping into disks, then tightly wrap in plastic. Place in zipper top bag and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 1 month. If you freeze the dough, return to room temperature before rolling out. Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze for longer storage.
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (e.g., King Arthur Brand)
3/4 cup unsifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Adjust the oven rack to the upper third of the oven. Preheat to 350°F.
In a medium bowl whisk the flours, baking powder and salt.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook about 1 minutes, swirling the pan, until the butter turns a nutty brown. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add the sugar and oil. Beat with an electric mixer 1 minute on medium speed. Add the egg and vanilla; beat 2 minutes on medium-high speed. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Divide the dough in half and press each piece into a disk.
Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Working with one disk at a time, roll dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Cut out cookies with small (about 2- to 2 1/2-inch) cookie cutters. Place the cookies about 1/2 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.
Bake the cookies in the upper third of the oven, 1 sheet at a time, 5-7 minutes until slightly golden on the edges (do not overbake). Let rest on cookies sheets 1 minute, then transfer with spatula to wire racks. Cool completely.
Nutrition per Serving (1 cookie):
Calories 54; Fat 2.2g (poly .4g, mono .5g, sat 1.3g); Protein 1g; Fiber: 0.4 g; Cholesterol 11mg; Carbohydrate 8g.