6 holiday cookie recipes perfect for sharing
Growing up, I’d anxiously wait for the tin of goodies to arrive from my Aunt Sarah every year. She treated holiday baking as part sport, part opera, pushing herself, her oven and her girls to the limit every December. My cousins keep her tradition alive with their own bake-apalooza, and I still wait for that tin filled with spritz cookies, Italian wedding cookies and thumbprints every year.
When it’s time to plan your holiday platter or tin, select recipes that are different from each other with regards to shape, flavor, texture and color. I have two nonnegotiables: The treats need to be easy enough to make in big batches and sturdy enough to travel to many a party because, as my Aunt Sarah taught us, giving them to friends and family is the best part.
Peppermint-Kissed Sandwich Cookies
Peppermint is a staple flavor of the season. These crisp, bittersweet chocolate cookies are stuffed with a fluffy peppermint buttercream and coated in crunchy candy cane pieces.
About 24 cookies
1 cup sugar
½ cup room-temperature salted butter
½ cup room-temperature whole milk
1 room-temperature large egg
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup dark cocoa powder
1¼ tsp. baking powder
Peppermint frosting, for filling (recipe follows)
12 mini candy canes, crushed
• Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
• In a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter with a mixer on medium-high speed until smooth. Add the milk and egg and mix until well combined.
• In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa and baking powder, then add to the wet ingredients and mix on medium speed until combined.
• Drop level tablespoons of cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheets, then bake until the edges are set and centers look mostly done, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets 2 to 3 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
• Assemble the cookie sandwiches by spreading or piping the frosting to the edges of the bottom of a cookie, then sandwiching with another cookie.
• Place crushed candy canes on a plate and roll cookie sandwiches so candy canes stick to frosting. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.
About 3 cups
1 cup room-temperature butter
1 7-oz. jar marshmallow creme
2 cups powdered sugar, plus 1 cup more if piping
2 to 3 Tbsp. whole milk
1¼ tsp. vanilla extract
1¼ tsp. peppermint extract
• Beat the butter with a mixer on medium-high speed until lighter in color, about 1 minute. Add the marshmallow creme and continue to beat 2 minutes. Add the powdered sugar and beat 2 minutes. Add the milk and vanilla and peppermint extracts and beat 1 additional minute. Add additional powdered sugar, if desired.
Chewy, soft, melty and a perfect balance of spicy and sweet, this Jewish cookie typically served during Hanukkah is an absolute must when it comes to holiday baking.
About 30 cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cubed
8 oz. room-temperature cream cheese
2/3 cup plus 3 Tbsp. sugar, divided
¼ tsp. fine salt
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup dried apricots
½ cup water
¼ cup brandy
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 large egg, lightly beaten
• Line 2 baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
• In a food processor, blend the butter, cream cheese, 3 tablespoons sugar and salt until combined.
• Add the flour and pulse until dough forms. Divide the dough in half, flatten into discs and tightly wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours or overnight. Set aside.
• In a small pot, bring the apricots, water, brandy and cinnamon to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 7 minutes.
• Transfer to a clean food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Stir in the walnuts and remaining 2/3 cup sugar. Let cool, then fold in the chocolate chips.
• Working with 1 disc at a time on a floured surface, roll the dough into a 12-inch circle. Spread with half the filling, leaving a 1-inch border.
• Cut into 16 wedges. Starting from the outside edge, tightly roll each wedge; place on the baking sheets, seam side down. Lightly brush with the egg. Freeze 30 minutes.
• Preheat the oven to 325 degrees with the racks in upper and lower thirds. Bake until golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes, rotating halfway through. Transfer to wire racks and let cool completely.
Gingerbread-White Chocolate Blondies
About 4 dozen 2-inch squares
2¾ cups plus 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1¼ tsp. baking soda
1¼ tsp. kosher salt
1¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground cloves
1¼ cups (2½ sticks) room-temperature butter
1¼ cups light brown sugar, packed
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
1/3 cup mild molasses
1¼ tsp. vanilla extract
10 oz. white chocolate, coarsely chopped
• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 17-by-12-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray, then line the bottom with parchment and coat the parchment.
• In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Set aside.
• Beat the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs and yolk 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the molasses and vanilla, then gradually add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Stir in the white chocolate.
• Spread the batter into the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the edges are golden, about 25 minutes.
• Let cool completely on the sheet on a wire rack. Cut into 2-inch squares or use a cookie cutter to cut into shapes.
Italian Wedding Cookies
Consisting mostly of ground almonds, these delicate, crumbly cookies were a staple in my Aunt Sarah’s cookie tin. A healthy dusting of powdered sugar adds just enough sweetness without overwhelming the neutral nutty flavor.
About 30 cookies
1½ cups room-temperature butter
¾ cup powdered sugar, sifted, plus more for dusting
¾ tsp. kosher salt
1½ cups finely ground almonds
4 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
Powdered sugar, for dusting
• Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
• In a mixing bowl, beat the butter on medium-high until light and fluffy. Decrease the speed to medium or medium-low and slowly add the powdered sugar and salt and mix until combined. Add the almonds and vanilla extract, mixing until combined. Then slowly add the flour and mix until combined. (Use a spatula to scrape the sides and bottom, if needed.)
• Using a cookie scoop, shape the batter into balls and place on the baking sheet. Space them close together, but don’t let them touch.
• Bake until just lightly browned (not golden brown), 22 to 25 minutes. Let cool and evenly dust with the powdered sugar.
These golden, buttery numbers are a Bosnian favorite. A cross between a biscuit and a little cake, they can come in various shapes, sizes and flavor styles. This version is fairly simple and incorporates orange zest for a citrus kick and semolina for extra texture.
About 30 biscuits
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
4 cups granulated sugar
4 cups water
8 whole cloves
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
Juice of 1 lemon
¾ cup caster sugar
½ cup plus 2¾ tsp. room-temperature butter
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ cup fine semolina
• Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush 2 baking sheets lightly with the vegetable oil.
• In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the granulated sugar, water, cloves, vanilla bean paste and lemon juice until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat as low as possible while maintaining a simmer, and simmer gently until the syrup thickens and reduces to about 3 cups, about 35 minutes. Keep warm.
• Meanwhile, beat the caster sugar, butter and orange zest with a mixer on medium-high until pale and creamy. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition until well combined and smooth.
• In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder, then stir in the semolina.
• Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and use a wooden spoon and then your hands to mix into a soft, but not sticky, dough.
• Roll about 1 tablespoon dough into a log about 1 inch wide and 2½ inches long. Press the log lightly onto the small hole side of a box grater to flatten slightly, forming a shape about 1½ inches wide by 3 inches long and about ¾-inch thick, or use a fork to create a pattern on the surface and press into the same shape.
• Gently peel the dough away from the grater, and use your hands to round the ends to form an oval, if needed. Place on the greased baking tray. Repeat with the remaining dough, placing about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 20 minutes.
• Pour the hot syrup over the hot biscuits and let rest until the biscuits soak up most of the syrup, about 30 minutes.
Marcona almonds are the game changer in this toffee. They are tender and toasty, never hard and dry like most almonds.
About 1 pound
1¼ cup (2½ sticks) butter
1¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp. bourbon
½ tsp. vanilla extract
Kosher salt, to taste
2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
½ cup chopped, toasted marcona almonds
½ cup chopped, toasted pecans
Maldon or another flaky sea salt, for garnish
• Line a baking sheet with parchment and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
• In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, sugar, bourbon, vanilla and kosher salt. Let the butter melt and sugar dissolve, then increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a whisk until the mixture turns a dark amber and is thick, 12 to 15 minutes. (To use a candy thermometer for this step, attach it to the saucepan and cook until the temperature reaches 285 degrees.)
• Pour the toffee mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and immediately sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the top. Let sit 2 minutes so the chocolate begins to melt, then spread the chocolate with an offset spatula to create a layer on top of the toffee. Sprinkle the almonds, pecans and flaky sea salt evenly over the top. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour, then cut or break into pieces.
Marianne Moore is a longtime contributor to Sauce Magazine.
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