Holiday Cookies

Every holiday season I tell my husband, “I’m not baking cookies this year.  I don’t have time.  It’s too much work.”  He indulgently says nothing and basically accepts the plan.  Then December rolls along and there is a get- together or some such event, and I find myself making a batch, and then another.  And then another… you get the picture.

You see, I have this enormous collection of cookie recipes that I’ve been compiling over more than ten years.  There are some favorites I keep making year after year.  They are so easy to make, the ingredient lists are basic, and people enjoy them – and let’s face it:  I love to bake.  For some people de-stressing is a mani and pedi and a Cosmo. For me, it’s baking.

During the holidays I usually go a bit overboard and make about ten to twelve different varieties to give away and send to my family.  It’s hard to cut down because I have my annual favorites and I usually try a few new recipes as well.  Plus it’s an excuse to bake!

An illustrated snowball cookie recipe. Printable one below!

This year, I cut it down to six different kinds, which is a record for me.  Most of the recipes are originally from the December Gourmet issues over the years.  I’ve altered some of them and noted where I did so.

Do you have a favorite cookie you make year after year?

Hope everyone has a Happy Holiday Season!

Hidden Surprise Snowball Cookies

From Gourmet December 2002

4 oz. sweetened coconut

3 oz. unsweetened coconut

1/2  cup sugar (the original recipe calls for 2/3 cups sugar)

pinch of salt

5 tablespoons egg whites (the original recipe calls for two egg whites)

2 teaspoons water

large chocolate chips or chunk (the original recipe calls for 30 1/2” pieces of fine quality bittersweet chocolate)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

2.  Process  coconuts  with sugar and salt until sandy. Add egg whites

and water and pulse until mixture is moist.

3.  Take a teaspoon of mixture in your hand.  Put chocolate on top.

Cover with another teaspoon of mixture and form into a ball.

Repeat until coconut mixture is used up.

4.  Bake for 15-18 minutes on parchment lined baking sheet.

Remove parchment and cookies from sheet and let cool.

Peel off cookies when completely cooled.

(The original recipe has a last step of dusting snowballs with confectioner’s sugar — I think mainly to hide any browning from baking, but I think it is too sweet, so I don’t do this.)

Turtle Brownies

From Gourmet December 2001

Brownie Layer:

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped (I use chocolate chips)

1 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 cup packed brown sugar (I don’t pack it in and maybe use a little less — this   is a rich cookie!)

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs

For the caramel-pecan layer:

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup light corn syrup

3 tablespoons water

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups pecans (6 oz) (I always toast first to bring out the flavor)

Garnish:  Melted semisweet chocolate

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare a 9-inch square metal baking pan by lining it with two sheets of foil laid vertically and horizontally with excess foil hanging over edges.

2.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.  Set aside.

3.  Melt  chocolates and butter in a double boiler (or 2-quart heavy sauce pan over low heat), stirring until smooth, then remove from heat.  Cool to luke warm, then stir in brown sugar and vanilla.  Add eggs one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon after each addition until mixture is glossy and smooth.

4.  Add flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Spread batter evenly in baking pan and bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out clean, about 30 minutes.  Cool completely in pan on rack.

5.  Bring sugar, corn syrup, water, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then boil, without stirring, until mixture turns a golden caramel, about 7 minutes (the original recipe says 10 minutes, but I have burned the caramel at this length!  Watch it very closely!)

6.  Remove from heat and carefully add cream and vanilla (mixture will bubble and steam).  Stir in pecans and immediately pour over brownie layer, spreading evenly.  Cool completely in pan on rack.

7.  Melt semisweet chocolate and spoon into a ziploc bag.  Squeeze chocolate into 1 corner, then cut a tiny slice off corner to form a small hole.  Squeeze chocolate decoratively over brownies.

8. Chill brownies, loosely covered, until caramel and chocolate are firm, at least 4 hours.

9.  Remove whole thing from pan by lifting foil edges.  Cut into 64 squares.

(The original calls for buttering and dusting pan with flour, but I find it really difficult to remove and cut brownies this way!  Removing the whole thing with the foil and cutting it on a cutting board is so much easier.   I have also made these with roasted almonds instead of pecans, and it is delicious.  I used about 2 cups or so, which is more than what is called for with pecans.)

Chocolate Crackles

From Martha Stewart’s Cookies

(I halved the original recipe– it makes a ton of cookies!)

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

3/4 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), softened to room temperature

3/4 cups packed light brown sugar

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons milk

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

1.  Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring.  Set aside and let cool.   Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

2.  With an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.  Mix in eggs and vanilla, and then the melted chocolate.  Reduce speed to low; mix in flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the milk.  Divide dough into two equal pieces.  Wrap each in plastic; refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

3.  Preheat oven to 350  F.  Divide each piece into sixteen 1-inch balls.  Roll in granulated sugar to coat, then in confectioners’ sugar to coat.  Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper (I used a Silpat mat).
4.  Bake until surfaces crack, about 14 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.  Let cool on sheets on wire racks.  Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

Brown Sugar Ginger Crisps

From Gourmet December 2001

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger (3 oz)

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at moderate speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

3. Beat in yolk, vanilla, and gingers.  Add flour mixture nad mix at low speed until just combined.

4.  Drop heaping teaspoons of dough about 3 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets (I use Silpat mats) and bake in batches in middle of oven until golden, 13 to 14 minutes.  Cool cookies on sheets on racks 5 minutes, then transfer with a metal spatula to racks to cool completely.

Pistachio Orange Lace Cookies

From Gourmet December 2002

(I halved the original recipe.)

2 3/4 oz salted shelled pistachios (about 3/4 cups)

1/3 cup sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 1/2 tablespoons melted butter, cooled slightly

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur

1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange zest

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

1.  Pulse pistachios and sugar together in a food processor until nuts are finely chopped but not ground (I think you have more control if you chop the nuts by hand.  This year, my cookies had a more greenish tinge because I accidentally got to the ground stage with my pistachios!)

2.  Stir together with remaining ingredients in a bowl.  Spread dough in a 6-inch long strip on large sheet of plastic wrap and, starting with a long side, roll up dough in plastic wrap (dough will be very soft).  Chill dough on a baking sheet until firm but still malleable, about 1 hour.

3.  Roll dough into a 8-inch by 1-inch log, using plastic wrap as an aid.  Chill wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 3 hours. (I’ve also just thrown the dough into the freezer and cut and baked later, without thawing.)

4.  Preheat oven to 325 F.

5.  Cut log crosswise into 1/8-inch thick slices with a serrated knife and arrange about 2 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Flatten each cookie into a 1 1/2 – inch round with the back of a spoon, dipping in water and shaking off excess for each cookie.

6.  Bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden, 8 to 10 minutes total.  Cool cookies on sheets 5 minutes. then transfer with a metal spatula to racks to cook completely.  Make more cookies with remaining dough on cooled baking sheets lined with parchment.

These are usually more tan, rather than green!

Stained Glass Trees (Originally called Stained-Glass Teardrops)

From Gourmet December 2002

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

6 – 8 oz individually wrapped assorted  fruit-flavored hard candies (I always use Jolly Ranchers.)

1.  Whisk together flour and salt in a small bowl.

2.  Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a standing mixer (preferably fitted with a paddle attachment) or 6 minutes with a handheld, then beat in egg and vanilla.  Add flour mixture and mix at low speed until just combined.

3.  Form dough into 3 (5-inch) disks and chill, each disk wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 2 hours.

4.  While dough chills, unwrap candies and separate by color in small heavy-duty sealable plastic bags.  Seal bags, forcing out air, then coarsely crush candies by wrapping each bag in a kitchen towel and pounding bags with a rolling pin (I also use a meat pounder.)

5.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

6.  Roll out 1 piece of dough into a 9-inch round (1/8 inch thick) on a well floured surface with floured rolling pin (keep remaining dough chilled).  Cut out as many cookies as possible from dough with a large cutter and transfer to a Silpat-lined baking sheet, arranging about 1 inch apart (you could also use parchment).

7.  Cut out centers from cookies with a small cutter and add to scraps (I just save these as small cookies and sprinkle with leftover hard candy dust in the bags.) Spoon 1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed candy (depending on size of cutout) in center of each cookie.  (If you want to use these cookies as tree ornaments, make a hole with a drinking straw in each for hanging.)

8.  Bake in middle of oven until edges are golden, 10 to 12 minutes, then cool cookies completely on baking sheet on a rack, about 10 minutes.  Transfer with a metal spatula to a plate or an airtight container.  Gather scraps and chill until firm enough to reroll, 10 to 15 minutes.  Make more cookies with remaining dough scraps (reroll once) in same manner on cooled baking sheet.

We used this technique for the windows in our Haunted Gingerbread House.


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15 Comments

Filed under Cookies, Desserts

15 responses to “Holiday Cookies

  1. Very ambitious! I know how you feel I said this year I won’t make cookies. I opted for fudge instead since I was seeing people through out the month However, I found myself yearning to make cookies this year…. I might have to try some of yours!

  2. These look so yummy! Holiday cookies are totally worth the time and calories. I just love them.

  3. Oh Melissa! What fabulous-looking cookies! I used to bake 5 to 6 different types of cookies each year and box them as gifts. Now, my family is lucky if I bake 1 or 2 for dessert when they come over on xmas! This year, I’m wondering if I could get away with not baking at all. I usually do the majority of our holiday cooking and since the baby, I just feel like I don’t have time! So kudos to you for all that you baked!!! Happy holidays! :)

  4. Thanks, ladies!
    As it turned out, I didn’t make enough and have run out of cookies. Can’t believe it as this has never happened before!
    I don’t have time (or energy) to make more, as I’ve promised Jamie a gingerbread house…

    Hope you all have a great holiday!

  5. Wow Melissa, all of these cookies look fantastic…Butterballs have always been my favorite, but I am the worst at baking cookies. I am however quite proficient at burning them :( Grely backs though, so I will have to share this list with him and see if he will indulge me :)
    Wishing you and your family a most lovely Holiday!

  6. Your cookies are beautiful! Baking really is therapeutic… but can be a bit time consuming baking so many different cookies. It’s difficult to find the time to enjoy baking during the holidays given the long to-do lists we all have this time of year! I’m happy you featured your cookies though- they look delicious! I’m especially in love with your turtle dove brownies!

  7. Joy

    All the recipes look wonderful.

  8. So how’s that gingerbread house coming along??? I’ll be waiting for photos :) We thought about buying one of the kits today but the store was completely out and I don’t think I have the patience to make one from scratch this season.

    I hope you all have a happy holiday!

  9. All of the choices you’ve shared with us look wonderful and I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite from among them. In my own kitchen I’d have to say Swedish rosettes are my favorite. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  10. This is a wonderful assortment of cookies. They all look wonderful and I’ll wager that family and friends are queuing up for their Christmas goodies. Have a wonderful holiday. Blessings…Mary

  11. I had to laugh because I do the same thing every year, annouce I am not baking and then I do. I have actually taken pictures of the process a few times because people have not believed me when I tell them how much cookie dough I make up some years ! I loved all your recipes and like you have many favorates too and always try something new !!! Thanks for sharing !!!

  12. Sofia R.

    love pistachios. will try to make those cookies.

  13. Pingback: White Chocolate Candy Cane Bark | The Hungry Artist

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