Paintbrush Cookies Redux

October 27, 2011
4 Ratings
  • Cook time 3 hours
  • Makes 30-60 cookies, depending on size
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. The cookies were decorated 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

What You'll Need
  • For the Cookies
  • 1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • calendargirl
  • Greenstuff
  • Louisa
  • SKK
  • Amy Doyle
    Amy Doyle

26 Reviews

pagegostling1 December 21, 2022
I did not mean to rate because I haven’t made yet, but can’t figure out how to delete my rating!

Have always loved making paint brush cookies—a lifelong Christmas tradition—but never been excited about eating them (not sweet enough for me!), Very curious to see if these are more to my liking!
Georgiaa November 27, 2020
Hello. I was wondering how long the egg paint stays fresh once baked please?
calendargirl November 27, 2020
Hello Georgiaa,
I would say that as long as your cookies are fresh, the egg paint is too. Because the paint is baked along with the cookies, if stored in an air-tight container, the decorated cookies should be fine for at least 4-6 days. We usually gobble them up or give them away as gifts.
plumjas November 26, 2020
So happy to find this most interesting paint and glaze technic. Thanks for all the personal tips. I wish I could submit my picture but I made mini leaf cut-outs with the usual autumn colors. Love it!
calendargirl November 26, 2020
Mini leaf cut-outs sound perfect, plumjas. Happy Thanksgiving!
calendargirl December 12, 2014
The "glaze" is the egg yolk "paint." I painted some of the cookies with yellow over the entire surface, and let them dry a bit before painting on top with more egg yolk paint in other colors. Have fun!
barb48 December 11, 2014
In the photo, some of. the cookies lokk like they have a glaze. Did you glaze some before painting?
Greenstuff November 29, 2012
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.
calendargirl November 29, 2012
Sounds like it will be a terrific time, Greenstuff! Take a picture and post it if you can.
Gustave November 16, 2012
That cookbook got me thru one boring 7th grade summer. Still have it. Remember tuna burgers?
calendargirl November 29, 2012
I still have my copy too, Gustave. The drum cake was an obsession of mine, too.
Louisa December 4, 2011
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!
calendargirl December 4, 2011
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.
GiGi26 December 4, 2011
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
calendargirl December 4, 2011
What a great story, GiGi26! Thanks so much for sharing.
calendargirl November 2, 2011
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.
SKK October 29, 2011
These are so beautiful! Great photography also.
Greenstuff October 29, 2011
I had that cookbook too! Loved those pictures, and your rooster really inspires me. Thanks!
madebylis October 28, 2011
How lovely! As a baker and crafter, this recipe is calling my name. I will definitely give them a try for the holidays.
calendargirl October 29, 2011
Thanks madebylis, hope you like them.
Amy D. October 28, 2011
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...
calendargirl October 28, 2011
Thank you, let me know how it goes, Louisa.
calendargirl October 28, 2011
Thanks so much, Bevi! Hope you'll give them a try.
boulangere October 28, 2011
Beautiful! Edible works of art!
Louisa October 28, 2011
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!
Bevi October 28, 2011
These are so stunning!