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Super Versatile Chocolate & Vanilla Sugar Cookies

The holiday season has to have some pretty cookies! These cookies have become an annual tradition in my family.

Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Chilling Time 45 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 30 cookies (about)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup organic vegetable shortening (or vegan "butter")
  • 1/2 cup coconut cream *see note
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Optional:

  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder for chocolate dough (see note)
  • 2 tablespoons dry beet powder for red dough (see note)
  • 2 teaspoons a few drops of food coloring

Instructions

Dough:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Beat coconut cream, shortening, and sugar together until creamed (about 2 minutes). Mix in extracts and scrape the sides of bowl then sift in flour, cream of tartar, baking powder, and salt. Mix just until the flour is combined, trying not to overmix. Scrape the dough out of bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll into a ball and flatten into a disc then place it on a large plate and cover with plastic wrap to seal. Chill the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to make it easier to work with.

For Regular Cut-Outs:

  1. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a layer about 1/2 inch thick. Use a sharp knife or cookie cutters to cut into desired shapes.
  2. Place cookies at least 1-inch apart on a parchment lined baking tray and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until very lightly browned on edges. Remove from oven and cool completely. If desired, decorate with frosting and sprinkles. Store in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.

For Candy Cane Cookies:

  1. Divide the dough in half. Set aside one half and mix 1 tablespoon dry beet powder into the other half (you may want to add more until you get desired color). Take about 2 tablespoons of each color dough and roll each into a snake/rope about 1/4 inch in diameter. Twist the two ropes together and shape one end into a crook like a candy cane. Cut of extra dough on ends and press cookie down with a flat sided tool (like a fondant smoother or a book) to flatten slightly. Place cookies at least 1-inch apart on a parchment lined baking tray and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until very lightly browned on edges. Remove from oven and cool completely. Store in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.

For Slice and Bake Cookies:

  1. Divide the dough in half. Set aside one half and mix 1 tablespoon dry beet powder, 1/4 cup cocoa, or a few drops of desired color into the other half (you may want to add more until you get desired color). Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a layer about 1/2 inch thick. Choose a cookie cutter that is about 1 inch tall and wide and cut as many of that shape out of desired color dough as you can and carefully stack them together horizontally on a parchment lined plate to form a "log" of chosen shape. Cover carefully with plastic and freeze for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, roll a second color of dough into long snake/ropes about 1/4 inch in diameter and lay them side by side on your work surface. When your shape log is solid, remove from freezer and lay on top of dough ropes and lay some rope horizontally on top. Gently roll log back and forth to smooth and shape dough around frozen shape log evenly. You should have a long log of dough now. Wrap with plastic and chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 week.
  2. When ready to bake, use a sharp knife to cut 3/4 inch slices and Place them at least 1-inch apart on a parchment lined baking tray. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until very lightly browned on edges. Remove from oven and cool completely. Store in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.

For Checkerboard Cookies:

  1. Divide the dough in half. Set aside one half and mix 1/4 cup cocoa powder into the other half.
  2. Now you want to make 2 equal rectangles. Roll the vanilla dough into a rectangle about 3/8 inch thick and cut into an 8x12 inch rectangle with squared corners; repeat this step for chocolate dough as well. Stack them together and align edges evenly. Cut in half and carefully lift one half on top of other (make sure to alternate the colors) and, again, align corners.
  3. Now cut through top of your four-layer rectangle to make 3/8 slices with a sharp knife. Alternate colors and lay slices on their side in stacks of 4 and align edges. You should have about 5 logs of dough with checkered ends now. Place them on a parchment lined tray and wrap gently but tightly in plastic and place in fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes.
  4. When ready to bake, use a sharp knife to cut 3/4 inch slices and Place them at least 1-inch apart on a parchment lined baking tray. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until very lightly browned on edges. Remove from oven and cool completely. Store in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.

Recipe Notes

For colored dough this recipe uses 1/2 cocoa, 2 tablespoons red beet powder, or a few drops of desired food coloring. However, if making the chckerboards, candy canes, or slice and bakes, you will want to divide the dough into sections and only add a fraction of cocoa or coloring. You can do it by dividing the recipe or simply by eye. Feel free to leave a question in the comments.

*If you have trouble finding coconut cream at your local grocery store it's completely fine to use full-fat coconut milk and scrape the cream off of the top. Just be sure that it's cold enough to separate.