Paintbrush Cookies Redux

By • October 27, 2011 • 19 Comments

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Author Notes: It all started with the Betty Crocker Boys and Girls Cookbook, when I was in elementary school. There was a two-page photographic spread of one of the recipes, Paintbrush Cookies, which were unlike anything I had ever seen emerge from an oven. They were actually painted with egg yolk "paint", diluted a bit with water and colored with food coloring. And these cookies were decorated BEFORE they were put into the oven. The cookie dough itself was heavily flavored with honey, and rather unwieldy, so over the years I have played with various sugar cookie recipes, looking for a not-too sweet yet buttery taste and unfussy dough. This current version is a synthesis of a recipe from my great aunt Fran, and the Rich Roll Cookies in The Joy of Cooking (1964 edition) . The painting is great fun for adults and children alike,. calendargirl

Makes 30-60 cookies, depending on size

For the Cookies

  • 1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Paint

  • 4-6 egg yolks, preferably in white ramekins or small white or clear bowls
  • small pitcher water to dilute the yolks
  • food coloring
  • 4-6 small paint brushes (synthetic bristles work best)
  1. First make the cookie dough: Begin by mixing with a fork the flour, salt and baking powder in a medium-sized bowl, and set aside. .
  2. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until the mixture is pale and soft, This will take a minute or two on medium. Add the egg and beat for another minute, then add the vanilla and mix thoroughly.
  3. Reduce the speed to low and carefully add the flour mixture, mixing until just combined.
  4. Form the dough into a disc, flour lightly and wrap in waxed paper.
  5. Refrigerate the dough for 2-4 hours.
  6. Just before rolling and cutting out the cookies, make the egg yolk paint. Put yolks in small white or clear containers and add a few drops of water, until the consistency works with your brush. Add food coloring drop by drop until you like the color. Stir with a toothpick or small fork after each addition of food coloring. It takes only a drop or two for many of the colors! Each color should have its own brush.
  7. Remove dough from the refrigerator, cut off a chunk and roll out between sheets of waxed paper or on a lightly floured board to about 1/16 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes and place on cookie sheet.
  8. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees while you are painting the cookies. While the cookies are on the baking sheet and before you bake them, paint as desired with egg yolk paint.
  9. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees. Cookies should be lightly browned on the underside, but barely have any color on the top.

Comments (19) Questions (2)

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Chris_in_oslo

over 1 year ago Greenstuff

Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking

I'm also thinking of a little cookie painting activity this Christmas. Our age range will be 60-90, just a bit off from the recommended 9-12.

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over 1 year ago calendargirl

Sounds like it will be a terrific time, Greenstuff! Take a picture and post it if you can.

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over 1 year ago Gustave

That cookbook got me thru one boring 7th grade summer. Still have it. Remember tuna burgers?

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over 1 year ago calendargirl

I still have my copy too, Gustave. The drum cake was an obsession of mine, too.

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over 2 years ago Louisa

I did your recipe, using a turkey cutter, for our family Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone loved them, and they want to come over to paint Christmas cookies.
I did use my gel color and it worked great. Very bright!

2010-09-15_14.22.07

over 2 years ago calendargirl

Sounds terrific, Louisa! So glad the gel colors worked; they are so intense. Have fun painting for Christmas! And post a picture if you get the chance.

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over 2 years ago GiGi26

My very artistic 12 and 14 year old granddaughters and I made these today. They are absolutley beautiful! Thanks so much for posting your recipe and jogging my " Betty Crocker Kids Cookbook" memory! We had a wonderful Sunday afternoon

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over 2 years ago calendargirl

What a great story, GiGi26! Thanks so much for sharing.

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over 2 years ago calendargirl

Yikes, the site seems to freeze when I try to post responses to individual comments...
Boulangere -- Thank you so much!!
SKK -- You're most welcome, and thanks for your kind words.
Greenstuff -- Amazing how long those pictures in that long-ago book have stayed with us. Let me know if you try these.
Amy Doyle -- Hope you will try them and report back.

Buddhacat

over 2 years ago SKK

These are so beautiful! Great photography also.

Chris_in_oslo

over 2 years ago Greenstuff

Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking

I had that cookbook too! Loved those pictures, and your rooster really inspires me. Thanks!

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over 2 years ago madebylis

How lovely! As a baker and crafter, this recipe is calling my name. I will definitely give them a try for the holidays.

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over 2 years ago calendargirl

Thanks madebylis, hope you like them.

Flowers

over 2 years ago Amy Doyle

I'm excited to try these in anticipation of my annual family Christmas cookie party. Baking and decorating them is almost more fun than eating them. Almost...

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over 2 years ago calendargirl

Thank you, let me know how it goes, Louisa.

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over 2 years ago calendargirl

Thanks so much, Bevi! Hope you'll give them a try.

Dscn2212

over 2 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Beautiful! Edible works of art!

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over 2 years ago Louisa

We painted cookies with my mom when we were little---so much fun!. Your cookies are lovely, and they look delicious.
Thanks for jogging my memory--can't wait to try these!

Jampro

over 2 years ago Bevi

These are so stunning!