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Nov 22, 2010 08:37 AM

What cookies are you baking for Christmas this year?

I just bought the America's Test Kitchen Christmas Holiday Cookies magazine (as if I need more cookie recipes!) and I got to wondering wondering what everyone is baking this year. Are you going back to old favorites, or has something new caught you eye? It would also be nice to share your recipes and/or the source of your recipes with the CH cookie-baking brigade!

I declare these games officially open: Let the baking begin!

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  1. Chocolate/Raspberry bars
    Pie filling squares
    Chocolate thumb print cookies
    Marshmallow cream nut bars
    Gum drop cookies
    Scandinavian almond bars
    Kongo bars
    Lemon bars
    Polka daters
    Walnut caramel triangles
    Toasted hazelnut bars
    Persimmon cookies
    Looks like a lot of baking for just the two of us but plates of cookies make nice gifts for friends and neighbors and when you love to cook the experience is soulfully satisfying.

    6 Replies
    1. re: todao

      That's quite an impressive list, todao. How do you approach it? Do you bake and freeze or just commit to a frenzy right before Christmas? And are these all time-honored cookies, or are there some newer cookies mixed in?

      1. re: roxlet

        Except for the marshmallow cream nut bars, a recipe that I developed earlier this year, these are time-honored cookie recipes that we've collected throughout the years. We have perhaps a hundred favorites in our collection but these are the "best of the best" and my wife and I have a great deal of fun sharing the kitchen and preparing these each year. We will bake them over a period of two or three days and yes we do freeze them. But we try to do all the baking (even the famous fruit cake - but it's not the dog food variety) on the three days prior to Christmas so, although they might be frozen, the cookies remain in good condition. This year we'll present modest gifts of plated cookies along with an assortment of tea. Can't wait to get started.

        1. re: todao

          Very nice! Reminds me of the frenzy my mom and I used to whip ourselves up into. Would you be willing to share recipes for any of your special favorites?

          1. re: buttertart

            Yes! The walnut caramel triangles sound divine!

            1. re: roxlet

              That's my wife's recipe and if I gave it away she would divorce me. After 52 years I'm not sure I can get along without her. However, this one:
              comes pretty close to what she makes and I think it'll produce something you will enjoy greatly.

          2. re: todao

            i was happy to read that your fruitcake wasn't the "dog food variety". LOL! What fun that you get to enjoy the kitchen TOGETHER! It's a wonderful place to be after 52 years! Congrats on that!

      2. Do no-bake cookies count? We can't go a holiday season without making a double batch of bourbon balls..... mashed up Nilla Wafers, with Karo, nuts, powdered sugar, some chocolate, a few (hic!) splashes of bourbon, and all mixed and rolled up into balls and drenched (again!) in powdered sugar. They're even better after sitting for a few days. :o)

        3 Replies
          1. re: stomsf

            Really want to try this with Rum...would love to get input and a more precise recipe. Can you help?

            1. re: Boonowuno

              I haven't made these in years, but here's a recipe (paraphrased) from The Williamsburg Cookbook. The proportions in the original recipe calls for 2 cups of vanilla wafer crumbs, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 1 cup confectioner's sugar, 1 cup finely chopped pecans, 2 tablespoons corn syrup and 1/4 cup bourbon. Mix the dry ingredients well then add the wet ingredients. Shape into 1 inch balls and roll them in 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar. Makes 36-42 balls.

              I have amounts penciled in and I'm guessing that I changed the proportions to suit my taste. I combined 3 cups vanilla wafer crumbs (approximately 90 cookies), 2-1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder, 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, 1/2 cup finely chopped or grated pecans, 1/2 tablespoons white corn syrup, 1/2 cup bourbon, rum or brandy.

              Because I prefer the cookies less sweet, I dust the balls rather than rolling them with confectioner's sugar. I also prefer them to be a bit more "boozy", so I use Wild Turkey 101 for the added kick. Haven't tried this with rum, but I would suggest using a good dark rum for flavor.

              The original recipe calls for storing them in a tin box or other metal container for at least 12 hours before serving. It is important that they sit before eating because the cookie will change from a grainy to a smoother texture.

          2. I've volunteered at a local senior center since the early 80's. In those days, we served about 125 on Xmas; now we deliver about 250 - 275 to shut ins and serve another 125 - 150 in the center. We ask people to donate cookies for the Xmas meal. The deliveries get packaged before the in-center service, and cookies are portioned into zipper lock bags. At the start of Xmas morning, before a lot of volunteers arrive, the cookies are "boughten"--Oreos, Chips Ahoy, etc. Those are perfectly good cookies but it broke my heart that shut-in seniors would be getting commercial cookies with their Xmas meals. So a few year ago, I made it my goal to provide at least two home made cookies per meal, or at least 600 cookies total.

            Since then, I've been on the prowl for cookies that can be made in mass quantities--no roll-and-cuts or fussy icings. In the past, I've done simple slice and bakes that I partially dipped in melted chocolate and then into colored sugar and sprinkles; spritz, with lots of colored sugar and sprinkles (do you seem a theme?); snickerdoodles; and Sally Anns (my current faves, I make them 3" diam and tint the icing various colors, and of course also use colored sugar and sprinkles). Bar cookies also work well but I tend to avoid ones with lots of nuts, as many seniors have tooth and gum issues. I also tend to avoid "cookie jar" cookies such as oatmeal or choco chip, as they don't seem special enough.

            Any suggestions from 'hounds would be much appreciated!

            ps. Cookies for my own use this year include bendy ginger cookies, with and without lemon filling (I think my house would be vandalized if I didn't make them); boozy figgy thingies (ground figs, dates, almonds, and coconut, bound with a boiled caramel that's heavily spiked with dark rum); sweetmeats (brown sugar custard with lots of walnuts and coconut, on a shortbread crust); and a couple of new, gluten-free recipes because a friend was recently diagnosed as celiac.

            24 Replies
            1. re: Erika L

              I think a ginger cookie is always festive and usually appreciated by everyone. The ones I make use shortening, and can be easily portioned with a small ice cream scoop. I find that this gives you a lot of smaller uniform sized cookies. Maybe those are like your 'bendy ginger cookies.'

              1. re: roxlet

                I'm all over cookie scoops--I resisted for years and now have four diff sizes! I've thought about using the scoop method on ginger cookies and also chocolate crinkles--that's what I did to portion snickerdoodles, then I "rounded" them in my palms and dunked in cinnamon sugar. It's the only way to make dozens and dozens of individually shaped cookies with any speed. Scooping with two teaspoons or a melon baller takes all day, I know from personal experience. Thanks!

              2. re: Erika L

                i'd go gingersnap. will seem more festive than "oatmeal raisin" ;-)

                1. re: Erika L

                  Erika, what a great thing you're doing. Here is the simplest recipe in my repertoire. It's an old family recipe, and it doesn't look like much, but i get so many complements and requests for the recipe. And they look like Christmas cookies.

                  Danish Cookies
                  1 C. salted butter, softened
                  1/2 C. light brown sugar
                  2 c. flour
                  maraschino cherries, halved

                  Cream butter and brown sugar. Beat in flour. Form heaping teaspoonfuls into balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheets and use two fingers to flatten each cookie slightly, leaving a slight ridge running down the middle. Press a cherry half into the center.

                  Bake at 350 for about 8 minutes.

                  1. re: CathleenH

                    These do look easy and sound delicious. What is the yield on the recipe?

                    1. re: masha

                      No yield given in the recipe -- This is from an ancient, hand-lettered index card. I'd say not very many. I usually scale it up at least 3 times to include them in the numerous boxed assortments I give away.

                      And to buttertart: These don't come out as crunchy/crumbly as shortbread. They should be slightly soft. I'm not fond of shortbread, but I do like these. The brown sugar also makes a big difference.

                      1. re: CathleenH

                        Cathleen, I just made these cookies (2d batch in the oven right now) and I have a question: Should the cookies be browned when they are ready? My oven is a tad slow but typically works fine if I add about 2 minutes to a cookie recipe. I left the first batch in for 13 minutes, and they were just starting to brown on the bottom and still a bit soft. It's also possible that I made them a bit larger than "1 heaping tsp-ful," which might account for longer cooking time. In other words, aside from the clock, how can I visually tell that the cookies are done?

                        And for those who are curious as to yield -- I'd asked just to gauge the amount of cherries that I'd need -- I got 25 cookies from the basic recipe given by Cathleen.

                        1. re: masha

                          Sorry for the delayed response -- And I can only be vague. I haven't made these in 2 years and I just don't remember what they look like when it's time to pull them out. Just slightly brown on the bottom? Maybe dry looking on top?

                          The key is not to overbake them. You probably got it right if they were soft when cooled. You don't want them to be crunchy. If you overbake them a little, they may soften up after a couple of days in a tin.

                          1. re: CathleenH

                            Thanks Cathleen. I did figure this out on my own. The recipe is a real "keeper." I made 4 or 5 batches of it over the last 2 weeks, as it is so easy and tastes great.

                            And to answer the broader question on this post, in addition to Cathleen's Danish cookies, the other cookies that I made this year are:

                            Martha Stewart's rolled sugar cookies (in holiday shapes, decorated with frosting).
                            Chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips
                            Spritz cookies dipped in chocolate, with sprinkles
                            Oatmeal raisin, chocolate chips
                            Russian snowballs
                            Shortbread bars spread with semi-sweet chocolate & almonds
                            Maida Heatter's Viennese Chocolate Walnut bar recipe posted by Butter Tart below (which I probably will not do again as the yield is pretty low for the amount of work, and they were too "crumbly" to travel well)

                            Finally finished last night, with the last batches for people that I work with. All of the tins that get shipped out of town went out by UPS over the weekend!

                              1. re: roxlet

                                Apparently also known as Russian Tea Cakes, I got the recipe from last years New York Times:

                                I probably will not make them again. I thought that they were too sweet, with the dusting of confectioners sugar. I was looking for something to make that was fast and did not involve a lot of ingredients yesterday morning to fill out some of the tins that I needed to ship (I'd run out of brown sugar by then).

                                1. re: masha

                                  Thanks. They look a little like Mexican Wedding Cakes.

                                  1. re: roxlet

                                    The recipes I've looked at for Russian Tea Cakes and Mexican Wedding Cakes are pretty much identical, except for varying choices in using walnuts and pecans.

                              2. re: masha

                                Just an addendum on my comments as to the Vienneese Chocolate Walnut bar recipe that Buttertart had posted:

                                Although the yield was low for the amount of work, and they are too crumbly for shipping. I probably will make these again afterall just for ourselves, as my son really liked them (he had not yet come home when my comments of 12/20 were posted). However, I probably would use a bit more apricot preserves than the 1/4 cup as it was spread so thin that you could not taste the apricot at all. The chocolate flavor and richness is great.

                      2. re: CathleenH

                        That's my mother's formula for shortbread, but with granulated sugar. 4 c flour: 2 c butter: 1 c sugar. She got it from a Scottish lady friend in the 1950's. You can mold it into any number of shapes.

                        1. re: CathleenH

                          These look great, and 8 minutes in the oven will make for an efficient assembly line--thanks!

                        2. re: Erika L

                          This is a fabulous thing you are doing. I have a friend who worked at a senior center and see if I can donate.
                          Rather than ginger cookies why don't you try Hermits. Baked as a bar cookie with raisins I think they would fit your parameters.

                          1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                            I was thinking bar cookies would be the easiest to make a large quantity. I remember Dommy gave away a bunch of bar cookies for the holidays one year, and they all looked great. Here's her post: In fact, I just made two bars last night: Banana Bars and Chocolate Chip Blondies... not very Thanksgiving-ish, but just what sounded good!

                            1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                              Thanks--I found a recipe for hermits in an issue of Cook's Country and was going to test drive it.

                            2. re: Erika L

                              I think what you are doing is admirable. I have made these Chocolate Mint Cookies from Epicurious before, they taste like a Thin Mint and are a definite crowd pleaser. The cookies are very easy to make, you just prepare the dough, roll into a log and slice.


                              1. re: lizzy

                                These are now on the list for this year. Thank you!

                                1. re: lizzy

                                  There seemed to have been a lot of comments on this recipe that they are dry. Have you found this to be so, and have you adjusted the recipe at all?

                                  1. re: roxlet

                                    The only change I have made is increasing the peppermint extract to just over 1 teaspoon. I personally don't find the cookies dry, and I think if others do they might have cut the cookies too thin or baked them too long. If you're worried about them being dry, you could cut the cookies a little thicker or bake them for 10-12 minutes instead of 15 minutes.

                                2. re: Erika L

                                  Would you post recipes for "cookies for my own use" ? They sound so good and unique, not the run of the meal. I like to try different and new recipes. Sounds like you got it. Thanks for sharing.

                                3. Peanut butter blossoms
                                  Oatmeal raisin with cranberries
                                  Chocolate chip
                                  Thin Mint Brownie Bites
                                  Lemon snaps

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: attran99

                                    Are the peanut butter blossoms the ones with the Hershey's kisses in the middle?

                                      1. re: roxlet

                                        My MIL's been making these sunce the dawn of time. V v good.

                                        1. re: buttertart

                                          I roll the peanut butter cookie base in sugar before it a nice textural element.

                                            1. re: buttertart

                                              I love these cookies.. I also roll in sugar before baking. So simple, and kids love to help with these!

                                      2. re: attran99

                                        MMM. A well thought out list. A little bit of everything including lemon which always gets short shrifted during the holidays.

                                        Pray tell - what is a peanut butter blossom?

                                        1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                          it's a soft peanut butter cookie (sometimes rolled in granulated sugar) with a hershey's kiss in the center. I used to make them as a kid all the time!

                                      3. There's a reason why chocolate chip cookies are so popular...I've tried other cookie recipes but none as good as classic chocoalate chip cookies...