DIY Braided Challah Sugar Cookies
i wish this post had some lovely, long, inspired backstory. i wish i’d had a fever dream in which the idea of a challah-shaped cookie came to me in the night, epiphany-style. i wish i’d sat up straight in bed and said, “THAT’S IT. that’s why i was born. a challah-shaped cookie.”
alas, the story of how these cookies really came to be is a bit less climactic. i was scrolling through etsy, i spied these fondant cutters, and the rest is soft, sugary history.
no, really. i just saw the cutters and thought, “challah cookies would be cute.” and guess what? i was right! they’re super cute. so cute, in fact, that i think these little guys would make the most spectacular dessert or hostess gifts for pretty much any jewish holiday (save, um, passover and yom kippur).
my favorite part: the areas in between the “braiding” indentations actually puffed up a little in the oven, just like a challah would. so in person, they’re even more pillowy and mountainous and bread-like than they look in the photos.
i’ve included the recipe below, but it’s really very simple and comes down to these cutters, as i mentioned. i hope you’ll support au bon cake, who manufactures them by hand in pennsylvania, by checking out her shop!
Hanukkah Pun Cookies
recipe adapted from Lovely Indeed!
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Star of David cookie cutters
Using a hand mixer, cream together the sugar, buter, and cream cheese in a large mixing bowl. Once the mixture is light and fluffy, mix in the egg and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients. Slowly incorporate them into the butter mixture until they’re thoroughly combined.
Once your dough is made, separate it into as many sections as you’d like different colors of cookie (I made two different blue hues using the blue and purple coloring—more info on that later in this step!). Drop a very, very, very small amount of color into the dough ball, then knead it together until the color is evenly spread throughout. I suggest doing this incrementally, as the colors tend to build up much faster than you’d think they would. Another color tip: You’ll notice that the colors aren’t quite appearing “as advertised” since your dough has quite a bit of yellow in it already. This means that you’re essentially already working with a yellow and blue combo—which creates green! To counter that greenish effect, I added a tiny, tiny bit (pinprick amount!) of purple as well, which helped the “blue” realy shine through. Color each different section of cookie with some food coloring.
Once the colors are mixed into your balls of dough, flatten each one until it’s about an inch think, then wrap it (individually!) in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight. While the dough is chilling, prepare your letters into sections so that you don’t have to take too much time when you’re ready to bake.
About 10 minutes before you plan on using it, remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to soften. Prep your baking pans with nonstick spray or parchment paper, then set your oven to 350. Flour your surface generously, then roll out your dough, one color at a time, until it’s about ¼” thick.
Cut out shapes using the cutters, then place the cookies on the baking sheet *before adding the indentations.* Don’t press all the way through the cookies—you want the dough to remain intact with no holes—but don’t be shy about it either! Gentle but firm. No more than what feels natural.
Once your messages are stamped, bake your cookies for 5-6 minutes, being sure not to leave them for longer than that. They’ll burn quickly! Then serve, wrap, gift, eat, and enjoy!