I have been baking Christmas Cookies every December for decades. I have a repertoire of classics that I make every year because each one is the favorite of someone in my family. Also, my old tried and true recipes never fail me. My husband loves simple Almond Butter Cookies, my sister-in-law Joyce likes Spritz, made in my elderly hand-cranked cookie press, my brother-in-law Rudy always appreciates my Orange Ginger Cookies, and the list goes on. Nevertheless, every year I get lured into trying a new cookie recipe by the tantalizing photographs in one of the magazines I read every month. Some of these neophytes have made it into my list of perennial favorites, but even more have caused nothing but bitter frustration, embarrassment and failure.
This year, I intend to bake only Christmas cookies that I have made successfully in years past and that I know my loved ones will like. Of course, I can’t promise that I won’t be dazzled by a photo of Gingerbread Men decorated like Mickey and Minnie Mouse in Santa Hats. Okay, I can promise not to go down that road, but I will at least stay open to the possibility of finding the best Christmas cookie recipe ever just this year. Short of that miracle, here is my baker’s dozen list of old faithful Christmas cookies from the past. I have loved making each one of these, and my loved ones have thanked me for them. The recipes for several of these favorites can be found on myteaplanner.com. I am happy to provide the recipe for Christmas Sugar Cookies, which I found in a magazine, with a gorgeous photograph, of course.
- Almond Butter Cookies
- Orange Ginger Cookies
- Mexican Wedding Cookies
- Christmas Sugar Cookies
- Cinnamon Sugar Pie Crust Pinwheels
- Mexican Chocolate Cookies with Chili
- Apricot and Plum Jam Bars
- Cherry Thumbprint Cookies
- Best Friend Lemon Bars
- Iced Chocolate Brownies
- Chocolate Chip Cookies
When compiling my yearly Christmas cookie list, I like to picture a huge tray on Christmas Eve with several of each of the cookies arranged in a pleasing display. I look for visual contrast, color, and variety in shapes, flavors, textures and appearance. A few days before Christmas, I like to assemble individual trays or boxes for special friends.
I will leave you with a few tips about each of my favorite Christmas cookies in case you would like to try making them yourself.
Christmas Sugar Cookies
For the Cookies:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 ½ cups flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup toasted sliced almonds, crushed
For the Icing and Decoration
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
red and green food coloring, optional
red and green sugar crystals
white, silver or multi-colored sprinkles
Preheat oven to 375° F (After the dough has chilled)
Makes: about 4 dozen
Special equipment: Large mixing bowl, medium sized mixing bowl, sieve or flour sifter, electric mixer, plastic wrap, 2 large baking sheets, parchment paper, rolling pin, Christmas-themed cookie cutters, such as stars, bells, Christmas trees, angels, etc., one or more small bowls, teaspoon
- Bring the butter and egg to room temperature and toast the sliced almonds on a foil or parchment-lined cookie sheet at 350° F for five to ten minutes until they are lightly golden brown. Let the almonds cool, then crush them and set aside.
- Sift the 2 ½ cups flour, baking soda and salt together in a medium sized bowl using a sieve or flour sifter. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and 1 ½ cups powdered sugar together until fluffy. Add the egg and beat until well incorporated. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts.
- Slowly add the flour mixture and beat just until the flour disappears into the dough. Stir in the toasted almonds. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill for three hours. Preheat the oven to 375° F and divide the dough in half. Continue to chill one half, and roll the other half out on a lightly floured flat surface with a rolling pin to a thickness of about ¼ inch.
- Carefully cut the dough into Christmas shapes with cookie cutters and transfer the cookies to parchment-lined baking sheets. Gather up the scraps of dough into a ball and re-roll to cut out more cookies. Sprinkle the cookies with red or green sugar crystals, or wait to sprinkle the cookies until after they are baked, cooled and iced.
- Bake in the pre-heated oven for 7-8 minutes, or just until the edges start to turn a light golden brown. These sugar cookies should be very light in color. Remove the cookies from the baking sheet, still on the parchment paper, and cool on a flat surface. Remove the remaining dough from the refrigerator and follow the same procedure using a fresh sheet of parchment for each batch of cookies.
- Decorate the cookies when they have cooled completely. For the icing, mix the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla in a medium sized bowl until smooth. Leave the icing white in color, or place it in smaller bowls and tint with a few drops of red and or green food coloring.
- Spread icing over each cookie with a teaspoon, using the back of the spoon to make sure the icing is evenly distributed. Sprinkle immediately with red and green sugar crystals, white, silver or multi-colored sprinkles for a festive appearance. Let the cookies sit on the parchment until the icing has dried. Carefully transfer to airtight containers, separating layers with sheets to parchment.