Coloured Cookies (ECC)

Eat Christmas Cookies (ECC)

(click on image for larger view and more photos)

cookie cutters Once upon a time, when our nieces and nephews were little, my sister and I made special tiny coloured Christmas cookies for them. On the same day, we would make Ví­narterta AND crescents. Yes, we were mad. It was always fun but always completely and entirely exhausting. Especially the coloured cookie part…

T and I now have a two year old niece, who is at just the right age for these tiny Christmas cookies. And I decided that she really should get to have her very own coloured cookies at least once.

But how to get my sister to agree to help me make them….

I introduced the subject when we were making Ví­narterta last month – we have finally realized that Christmas baking can be done on more than one day. (Remind me to post about the Ví­narterta day!!)

Here’s how the conversation went as we were putting the Ví­narterta layers together:

me: Can you believe that we used to make Ví­narterta, crescents AND coloured cookies all on the same day?!

she: Unbelievable!! What were we thinking?

me: No kidding!! How crazy were we?! (casually adding as a sidenote) I think I might make coloured cookies this year….

she: Coloured cookies! I LOVE making coloured cookies!

me: You do?! (pause) Do you want to help make them? Even though it’s not your niece?

she: Yes!!! I was hoping you’d say that!

cookie making So, yesterday, my sister arrived at 9:00am and she and I spent the day making many many little coloured cookies…

I must say, it takes quite a long time to get through all the dough. We didn’t even have time to play Scrabble! But it was fun. Even T came in at one point and constructed about 10 cookies! Still, we could easily have cut the recipe in half and made half the cookies. (Make a note, E!!!)

The coloured dough eliminates the need for icing as decoration. In the long run, it’s a lot less messy! But because the colouring is done in the dough itself, preparation of the dough is a bit finicky and does require a bit of patience. (In the end, it’s worth the effort!) Before adding all the flour, the dough is divided evenly into 5 bowls. And the food colouring is added to each bowl. Bear in mind that the colours fade somewhat in the cooking as well as that flour will be added afterwards – so the colours can be quite garish. Also, we’ve found that we use much less blue than we do white so after dividing the dough into 5 and before adding the colouring, we take half out of the “blue” bowl and add the extra dough to the “white” bowl. (Did that make sense?!)

cookies After the flour has been mixed in, it’s a good idea to chill the dough for about half an hour before cutting and decorating the shapes. We use the cutters as is or do patchworks with various cutters. I used the “dog” cutter to make rocking horses and to start the elephant. My sister used the “dog” cutter to make the most wonderful pigs. But I think my favourite cookies are the Christmas dinner plates that my sister cuts out free form. I can’t stop laughing when I see them!

cookie cutters Many many thanks to my sister for helping to make the cookies! (I have a sneaking suspicion that she made most of them… I’m VERY slow….)

Here is the recipe we use:

Note that we used lemon zest instead of orange zest. It didn’t seem to make any difference.

One of these days, I really should make these cookies without food colouring and with butter rather than shortening* to see if they taste better.

Children don’t seem to notice the slightly inferior flavour of these cookies. They not only love eating them but they love making them too. (But it is probably a good idea to go with larger cookie cutters when smaller children are helping.)

* About the shortening… neither my sister nor I are keen to use vegetable shortening any more. (Transfat!!) I consulted the internet about substitutions for shortening:

excerpt from Cook’s Thesaurus…

General notes: Reducing fat will give baked goods a denser texture; to correct for this, try increasing the sugar in the recipe and/or beating the egg whites and folding them into the batter. Also try using a softer flour, like pastry or cake flour. […]
Avoid substituting oils for solid fats when baking cookies, cakes, and pastries; it will make the dish greasy and dense. If you must do so, substitute 3 parts oil for every 4 parts solid fat and consider increasing the amount of sugar and eggs in the recipe.[…]
1 cup shortening = 1 cup + 2 tablespoons margarine

excerpt from Canola Harvest …

Can I substitute oil for solid fat such as butter, shortening or margarine?

Yes. Follow the chart below for substitution quantities.

Solid Fat
250 mL (1 Cup)
Canola Harvest® Canola Oil
175 mL (3/4 Cup)

As well as consulting with my sister on this, I emailed both Brilynn (Jumbo Empanadas) and David Lebovitz to see if they had any experience with substituting vegetable oil for shortening. (Many thanks to them for their prompt replies!)

Right up to the day before making the cookies, I was going to insist on making them with oil instead of shortening. And then at the last minute, I chickened out; I went ahead and bought the kind of vegetable shortening with as little transfat as possible. I decided against the organic palm version because personally, I hate the taste of coconut. Any reviews of it state that it does lend a coconut flavour. Using butter was pretty much out of the question because of the concern about all the handling that the dough gets before being baked.

Eat Christmas Cookies

Eat Christmas Cookies Susan (Food Blogga) is hosting a Christmas cookies party and is inviting food bloggers to join with her by posting their Christmas cookie recipes. She wrote:

Post about a Christmas cookie from now through December 24th. Please try to send them by December 17th because I will be posting your recipes as I receive them; the earlier you send them, the more likely someone else will see your recipe and try it before Christmas. You can send as many recipes as you like.

For complete information about how to participate, please read more here:


Eat Christmas Cookies:


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8 responses to “Coloured Cookies (ECC)

  1. Susan

    I love the pig, the elephant, the rocking horse, the diner plate… oh I just love them all. They are the most adorable cookies I’ve seen and your niece is a lucky girl!

  2. Susan from Food Blogga

    Colored dough–how ingenious! These cookies would be wonderful for so many different holidays and birthday parties too. They will be a delightful addition to Eat Christmas Cookies, Elizabeth. Thank you! -Susan

    Thank you for hosting the party! -ejm

  3. one of the sisters

    One of the major benefits of these cookies are that in addition to being hugely fun, they are “sturdy” and tiny. Thus, they mail well and there are lots! Also, the fact that they are fairly tough and are not the most wonderful-tasting cookies in the world means that kids don’t pig out on them. I have two adult children who used to love receiving these cookies in their Christmas parcels from their aunts. The cookies were rarely broken (since they are sturdy), so they were a delight to the child’s eye. And since they are tiny, children can have two or three or even more without mothers even noticing, let alone calling a halt to cookie-consumption. Several can be gobbled up at a time after being carefully chosen for their shapes and colours. Now don’t get me wrong… the cookies do taste just fine. It’s just that adults tend to go for the rum-filled fruitcake or the bigger and more delicate dainties in less interesting shapes. So they don’t pinch the tiny coloured cookies from the small children. Perfect for all concerned! I’m very pleased that new nieces and nephew are still receiving these delightful Christmas treats.

  4. ejm Post author

    Of course, you’re right, C. The cookies DO taste just fine. But they aren’t ginger shortbread or cheese biscuits….

    Thank you, Susans! I’m glad you like the cookies. (I must say that I have a slight horror of the dinner plates and yet I begged my sister to make at least one. The coloured cookie tray just wouldn’t be complete without a dinner….)

  5. ejm Post author

    Thank you, Brilynn, we are pretty pleased with ourselves. Although, I still think that we went a little overboard on the food colouring this year. But T says he thinks we should have used more….

    The phenomenon of just wanting to be done is exactly why it’s important to make these cookies with someone, Brilynn! And even so, it can be a somewhat daunting task. We tend to go into factory mode relatively early: punch out several trees and decorate them simply; punch out several tiny men and turn them into Santas; punch out several angels and stick choirbooks or instruments on them, etc. etc.

  6. Lisa Baker

    Hello there! I was searching online for any info on cookies just like yours! I had this “idea” today while playing with Playdough with my son that maybe I could construct the same thing with sugar cookie dough and make really cute colored cookies that don’t need icing! Great to see that it can be done! Do you think making the body of the cookie plain and just embelishing with the colors would improve the flavor, as I can imagine the food coloring does effect the flavor somewhat? I would like to make Easter egg shaped cookies and decorate them with the colors….

  7. ejm Post author

    Food colouring doesn’t seem to do anything to the flavour of the cookies – it certainly doesn’t improve the flavour…. We always leave some of the dough uncoloured – it’s nice to have “white”. From what I recall, I don’t notice any difference at all in the flavour of angels (mostly white dough) and Santa Clauses (mostly red dough). Great idea to make Easter egg shaped cookies, Lisa!


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