I think it would be safe to assume the majority of you moms have Christmas cookie lovers in your homes, amiright? Kids love cookies so much that when my son was a toddler, if he would ignore my calls of his given name, I would instead call out “COOKIE!” and he would come running. I wish this was a joke but it is not. I also wish I still did not have to do this, but I do. It still works.
Being kids, my offsprings’ second most favorite tradition of the holiday season is Christmas cookies (after presents, obviously. As much as we talk about Baby Jesus and good will toward men, they’re always most concerned with presents). And to be honest, although I used to love making Christmas cookies (mostly when I only had ONE kid, not THREE kids), it’s kind of just another task to complete in the already busy month of December. Do you kind of feel the same way? But regardless of whether or not I want to bake them, my kids are always begging for me to do it. They’re not fools. Wherever the sugar is, there they are too.
So whether you are the next Martha Stewart or don’t know your powdered sugar from the granulated sugar, I’ve got some ideas for you. Before we begin, some general advice: Tie your hair back. Use parchment paper or silicone baking mats under all your cookies when baking for best results. And never leave a toddler unattended with the cookies!
This is the best cookie for you if you have time, kids who want to decorate, and want variety. This is also the kind of cookie that gives the most options as to your level of baking proficiency.
Difficulty Level: Martha Stewart
Here’s the link to the recipe I use. (The yield is 60 cookies, so scale down if you need to.) I’m not bragging here, but my kid’s kindergarten teacher stopped mid-lesson to tell me that these are the best cookies she’s ever had. It’s a great recipe! The thing I have to reiterate to you, if you are going to do this the right way, is that it is important to refrigerate the dough at least several hours to make sure it is cold throughout. If not, the cookies will spread when baked into bizarre shapes that don’t look like anything they were supposed to. Use lots of powdered sugar (instead of flour) when rolling them out to cut them. Also, don’t bake them too long. Just enough that the undersides start to look golden brown and they are not doughy in the middle. As far as icing, if you want flat and glossy, here’s a nice guide on how to do it the easy way. (Tip: you’re going to need more water than the recipe calls for. Just keep stirring and dripping!) But I prefer thicker, spreadable frosting, so here is the sugar cookie frosting recipe my mom passed down to me. It hardens after an hour or two so the cookies are stackable.
Difficulty Level: Sandra Lee
If this all sounds like WAY too much trouble, go to the store and buy the dough pre-made (or heck, just plain ol’ sugar cookies) and proceed normally.
Difficulty Level: Lorelai Gilmore
Your biggest decision is whether you are going to go to the local Safeway or scout out your locally-owned bakery. Then get yourself a nice cookie platter, a nice bottle of wine (or sparkling apple cider), and a smile of satisfaction.
Nothing is more Christmas-y than gingerbread. I’ve had different kinds of gingerbread cookies, but I prefer the soft kind. Here’s the recipe that I use, which are soft and delicious. You can leave them uniced, or you can use this icing recipe with an icing bag and a fine tip to make some nice designs.
Or you can always buy a pre-baked gingerbread house kit and let your kids go to town. If they can’t get through it without eating it, you’ll know they at least had fun.
These are one of the cookies my mom always made (even though she was more of a Home Alone mom than a Martha Stewart). They’re delicious but sometimes frustrating to make for me, but I think that has more to do with my unrealistic desire to make them into perfect spheres. (They won’t ever be.) I use the old trusty Betty Crocker Big Red Cookbook recipe. My tip is this: The butter needs to be thawed slowly on the counter, not in the microwave. Any over-softness will make the balls flatten into unsightly lumps.
Biscotti is great because it’s delicious, makes a great little gift paired with a mug and some coffee packets/tea bags, and is generally kind of unfussy to make. Take a whole batch to your book club or mom’s club. Or you can freeze them in baggies and take them out to serve with coffee or tea if you have last-minute company coming over. If you want to get fancy, you can also dip them in glaze (like the sugar cookies above) and sprinkle them with chopped nuts or festive sprinkles. Go crazy! Everyone needs a creative outlet, ya know? My go-to recipe is one I received from a friend a few years ago. Here’s her version of Eggnog Biscotti.
Peanut Blossom Kisses
My husband and kids love these. They’re also not very difficult, and the kids are generally quick to offer their services when it comes to unwrapping all the Hershey Kisses. They look nice, too. You can find the recipe here.
Confession time: I’ve never actually made this. But according to my husband, these white pillowy candies are the Holy Grail of Christmas Cookies, so I’m including it here. His mother makes Divinity every year, and that is a-ok with me. But (heaven forbid) if she kicks the bucket I’m going to have to take over Divinity-making duties. From what I’ve seen, it is a battle. My mother-in-law has broken many a wooden spoon while making Divinity. So if you are brave, give it a try and tell us how it went! Here’s the recipe.
And I leave you with a “cookie” recipe that anyone with microwave skills can do: chocolate-covered pretzels. I remember making these with my sweet grandmother. It was so much fun to do the sprinkles!
1 package of almond bark coating (aka chocolate- or vanilla-bark)
1 package of pretzels
Warm up the bark coating in a bowl in the microwave, stirring occasionally, until melted. Dip pretzels in one at a time (I use chopsticks but a fork would probably suffice) and lay out on waxed paper. Decorate with sprinkles and let cool and harden. If your dipping chocolate starts to get thick, warm it up again in the microwave. Viola!
Whether you turn your kitchen into a de facto bakery for a weekend, or grab a cup of hot cocoa while out at the local bakery with your kids, I hope that you enjoy some holiday sweets and time with your loved ones.