Paintbrush Cookies Redux

October 27, 2011
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

  • Makes 30-60 cookies, depending on size
  • 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)
In This Recipe
  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.

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