Glenwood Baker Sarah Niebler Shares Christmas Cookies Straight From Her Family’s Own Recipe Box

“I’ve been baking with my mom, Jan, since I was two years old,” Sarah Niebler recalls. “She says I would whine until she let me help her bake, and only then I was happy.”

Fittingly, the toddler who cried in her mother’s kitchen years ago would eventually grow up to open her own bakery. Niebler can now make all the cakes, pies, breads, candies, and cookies she wants, and her customers are quite happy about it. As the owner of Sunshine & Moons in Glenwood Springs, Niebler has carved a niche for herself in the valley’s sweets scene by offering goods made with natural, organic, and specialty ingredients.

During the Christmas season, like many a talented and ambitious baker around the globe, she pulls out all the stops. Sunshine & Moons offers a special holiday menu of items that would make even Scrooge and the Grinch warm to the joys of the season.

“This year we’ll have homemade confections like toffee and peppermint bark, all sorts of Christmas cookies, traditional made-to-order pies that can be ready in three hours, plus some different items like gingerbread bundt cake and holiday pumpkin bread,” Niebler says.

Although her bakery produces a spectacle of treats for every taste each Christmas, when Niebler returns to her own home it’s the simple family cookie recipes that she holds closest to her heart.

“I grew up doing lots of cookie projects with my mom,” she remembers. “Those are such wonderful memories for me.”

Here Niebler shares three favorites from her family’s recipe box, which are all easy to make with children (ahem, overeager two-year-olds!) and require no professional experience—only a little love, butter, sugar, and flour.

 

Aunt Jackie and Grandma Win’s Pecan Bon Bons

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

1 cup butter

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

Combine the powdered sugar and butter in a mixer; then, mix in the egg and almond/vanilla extracts. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining three ingredients. Gradually add this flour mixture to the butter mixture. Chill dough for one hour in refrigerator. Roll into small balls about the size of a nickel, and place on a cookie sheet. Press a pecan half or favorite nutmeat on top of each cookie. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

 

Grandma Niebler and Aunt Jackie’s Cut-Out Christmas Cookies

Grandma’s Cookies:

1 cup butter (Grandma used lard and said ‘do not substitute,’ but we use butter at Sunshine & Moons)

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (Grandma used anise extract; we use vanilla instead)

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 cups flour

Pinch of salt

Jackie’s Sugar Cookie Frosting:

⅓ cup butter

2 cups powdered sugar

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

2-4 tablespoons hot water

Beat the butter and cream with the sugar in a mixer. Add the eggs and vanilla, and continue to beat. Combine the remaining dry ingredients in a separate bowl, and slowly add to the butter mixture. Chill dough one hour or overnight. Roll dough 1/8 to 3/16 inch thick. Cut with favorite cookie cutters. Bake at 350 degrees for eight to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make frosting: heat butter on low in a saucepan until melted. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Stir in one tablespoon of hot water at a time until desired consistency is reached. Add food coloring if wanted. When cookies have cooled, frost and decorate with colored sugars, sprinkles, nonpareil, jimmies, etc.

Mom Jan Niebler’s Peanut Butter Blossoms

1 3/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

2 teaspoons milk

48 milk chocolate candy Kisses (The shop instead makes an organic chocolate ganache, pictured)

Combine all ingredients except candy in large mixer bowl. Mix on lowest speed of mixer until dough forms. Shape dough into balls, using a rounded teaspoonful for each ball. Roll balls in sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Top each cookie immediately with candy Kiss. Press candy firmly so cookie cracks around the edges.