Best Ever Christmas Cookie Recipes! Impress Your Friends! Astound Your Relatives!

Cristina Olufson's Pecan SquaresSome people have one specialty they are known for, but it’s always nice to have a festive assortment of around four cookies for gatherings and gifting. I don’t recommend Dark chocolate cookies because they can look like dirt clods, or rice krispies squares, which just bring down the whole plate. And if you’re going to dip pretzels and Oreos in chocolate, you might as well just buy a tin of Danish Butter Cookies. Everybody loves those. For holidays you want fancy, special cookies with jam and nuts and sprinkles. There is one exception. No matter how many cookie plates I have made, the simple chocolate-chip cookies are always the first to go.

I usually double the recipes as you get a higher cookie yield with less work that way. Make it easy on yourself by preparing at least one cookie bar or square, like brownies or lemon bars. You can also mix most kinds of cookie dough ahead of time and keep them wrapped in wax paper in the refrigerator or freezer. When planning your baking, prepare any dough that needs chilling first.

Recipes after the jump

BLUE RIBBON CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

I personally am a Nestle Tollhouse person, and I add pecans. But Bob Lee uses this recipe  from Mrs. Fields and always gets raves.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a medium bowl combine flour, soda, and salt. Mix well with wire whisk. Set aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, blend sugars at medium speed.

Add butter and mix to form a grainy paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Add eggs and vanilla extract, and mix at medium speed until just blended. Do not overmix.

Add the flour mixture and chocolate chips, and blend at low speed until just mixed. (Again, do not overmix.)

Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons onto an un-greased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake low and slow for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer cookies immediately to a baking rack or cool surface.

GINGERSNAPS

I have been making these since I was in my early 20s. I found them in an old volume of an encyclopedic set of cookbooks. They are still one of my most popular cookies. They definitely say Christmas.

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tablespoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup molasses

Additional granulated sugar for dipping.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.

Cream butter until soft. Add sugar gradually, creaming after each addition until well-blended.

Beat in egg and molasses.

Sift dry ingredients into creamed mixture. Blend well.

Form dough into small balls by rolling in palms of hands. Dip each ball into granulated sugar.

Place balls 3″ apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes until top is rounded and cracking.

MISTO LEMON BARS

I found this recipe in the DEAR SOS column of the LA Times. “Misto executive chef-owner David Williams sent us this recipe. Yum.”

2 1/4 cups sifted flour

1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar

1 cup butter

8 eggs

3 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup lemon juice

4 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon unsifted flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together sifted flour and powdered sugar. Cut in butter until mixture resembles crumbs.

Pat in bottom of 13×9-inch baking pan. Bake until golden brown.

Beat eggs with granulated sugar and stir in lemon juice, zest, baking powder and unsifted flour. Mix well. Pour over crust. Bake at 350 degrees 45 minutes. Cut into 32 (1 1/2×2-inch) bars.

Makes about 32 bars.

PEEP’S SHORTBREAD COOKIES

This recipe is from a former co-worker of mine who shared my love of recipes and good cookies. Most shortbread dough is very delicate and the cookies crumble easily. This is a pretty hardy cookie, yet it remains light and buttery. Sometimes I separate the dough and mix lemon zest into half of the dough. You could also mix in chopped candied ginger, tiny chocolate chips, or crushed candy canes.

1/2 pound sweet/unsalted butter (Do not substitute)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cornstarch

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, salt and both sugars.

Sift together the flour and cornstarch. Gradually mix into the butter and sugar in the mixing bowl. (Add in mix-ins if you like)

Shape the dough into 1″ by 2″ by 15″ rectangular logs. Wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper and chill until firm.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Unwrap and slice into 1/4″ rectangular slices. If it is difficult to slice, the dough may need to soften on the counter or chill longer.

Place slices on an ungreased cookie sheet and prick with fork.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes. Do not overbake. Do not let cookies brown. Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

SNOWBALLS/MEXICAN WEDDING CAKES

This is a pretty standard recipe. Many different countries have similar cookies called by a different name. This recipe is from Jessica Collins. To make “Mexican Wedding Cakes” add cinnamon.

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup walnuts, pecans or almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped

In a standing mixer with paddle attachment or a hand held mixer, beat butter on medium speed until light and fluffy- about 3 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup of the confectioner’s sugar, the salt, and vanilla extract and mix until combined.

Turn mixer to low and slowly add the flour, followed by the nuts.  Mix until all ingredients are combined.  Do not over-mix.

Divide dough into 2 disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to 2 days.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Working with half of the chilled dough, pinch off a piece of dough – about 1 Tablespoon- and roll between your hands into balls.  Place balls on parchment lined baking sheets, 1 inch apart, and bake for about 18-20 minutes just until bottoms are light golden brown.  Lift one cookie up to check for doneness.

Remove cookies from oven and cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes.

Place the remaining confectioner’s sugar in a small bowl and drop warm cookies in one at a time and roll until completely covered with powdered sugar.

Makes about 36 cookies

MACAROONS

Also from an old encyclopedic set of cookbooks. Some people put a little maraschino cherry on top to make it super festive.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup butter

1 3-ounce package cream cheese

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons almond extract

2 teaspoons brandy

5 cups (14-ounces) flaked coconut

Maraschino cherries, halved or sliced (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Cream together butter, cream cheese, and sugar in a large mixing bowl.

Add egg yolk, almond extract and brandy. Mix well.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the mixer. Blend well.

Turn off mixture and stir in 3 cups of flaked coconut by hand.

Chill dough for at least one hour.

Shape dough into 1″ balls. Roll balls in the remaining 2 cups of coconut.

Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and flatten the balls a little with a fork. Add cherry if desired.

Bake for 15 minutes or until slightly browned on the bottoms.

SPLIT SECONDS

This is a basic sugar cookie recipe filled with colorful jam to make the cookies festive. It has been in my family forever. I just discovered from a search that it was from the Pillsbury Bake-Off® 1954 by Robert Fellows.

2/3 cup sugar

3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup red jelly or preserves

Heat oven to 350°F.

In large bowl with electric mixer, beat sugar and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and egg until well blended.

Add flour and baking powder; beat on low speed until dough forms.

Divide dough into 4 equal portions. On lightly floured surface, shape each portion into 12″x3/4″ roll; place on ungreased cookie sheets. With handle of wooden spoon or finger, make indentation about 1/2 inch wide and 1/4 inch deep lengthwise down center of each roll. Do not make the indentation too deep or the cookies will break after baking.

Fill each roll’s indentation with 2 tablespoons jelly.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool slightly, 3 to 5 minutes. Cut each baked roll diagonally into 12 cookies; remove from cookie sheets. 

Elise Thompson

About Elise Thompson

Born and raised in the great city of Los Angeles, this food, culture and music-loving punk rock angeleno wants to turn you on to all that is funky, delicious and weird in the city. While Elise holds down the fort, her adventurous alter ego Kiki Maraschino is known to roam the country in search of catfish.
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