Photos and text by Michelle Reese

Is baking cookies a Christmas tradition in your house? I grew up in a house where baking was a favorite activity year-round, but especially at Christmastime. I have fond memories of baking with my mom and sister while watching holiday cartoon specials that were recorded on VHS tapes, complete with commercials for K-Mart, Hess Trucks, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola. (Truthfully, I kind of miss that nostalgia when we pop in a DVD or watch via streaming these days!) We filled tins with cookies that would be stacked in the kitchen until the New Year. We’d eat them while snuggled on the couch watching our favorite Christmas movies, they’d get shared during family get-togethers, and of course – we’d leave a few on a plate for Santa on Christmas Eve.

The author, eating cookies since 1983

Even after my sister and I moved out of our parents’ house, Christmas baking was still a tradition that we’d gather to do together. And now, our own kids join us. While we might bake a few batches in our separate houses, for one Saturday mid-December, there are 3 generations together in the kitchen. “Family Cookie Day” is an event that I look forward to every year, and I hope my kids look back on it with the same happy memories that I have from my childhood.

If you’re looking for recipes to try with your family this year, I’m happy to share a few. Below, you’ll find some tried and true recipes to make your holidays a little sweeter!

Chocolate Dipped Almond Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

For decorating: 

  • 1 bag (12 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips plus 1 Tablespoon shortening OR chocolate melting chocolate
  • Sprinkles/jimmies

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Using an electric mixer, combine the powdered sugar, butter, egg and almond extract.
  3. Slowly add the flour, cream of tartar and baking soda, mixing to combine.
  4. Shape batter into 1-inch balls. Then roll in palms into 2-inch logs.
  5. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
  6. Cool completely.
  7. Using a double boiler or microwave, melt chocolate chips. (If using the microwave, heat at 50% power in 30-second increments, stirring every 30 seconds.)
  8. Stir in the shortening to make the chocolate smoother.
  9. Dip cooled cookies halfway into the melted chocolate.
  10. Place cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment and sprinkle with jimmies while the chocolate is still wet.

Spritz Butter Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/4 cups salted butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups flour

For Decorating:

  • Sprinkles, mini M&Ms, chocolate chips
  • Small jar of maraschino cherries, drained and cut into halves

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla, mixing to combine.
  4. Gradually add flour, mixing just until combined.
  5. Spoon into cookie press fit with shape of your choice. Squeeze cookie press to release dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  6. Decorate cookies with cherries and/or sprinkles.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes until just slightly golden.
  8. Allow cookies to cool for 5 minutes before transferring from the baking sheet to wire cooling racks.
  9. Cool cookies completely before storing in an air-tight container.

Makes approximately 6 dozen cookies.

Peppermint Cocoa Cookies

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (dark or light)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips (mini or regular)
  • 8 ounces white chocolate (chips, baking chocolate or melting wafers)
  • 3 large candy canes or sprinkles, for decorating

Instructions:

  1. Using a hand-held or stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium-high speed for at least 1 minute until fluffy and light in color.
  2. Add egg, vanilla and peppermint extract. Beat on high speed. Scrape down the sides.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder and baking soda.
  4. On low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in small increments. Mix just until combined.
  5. Use a large spoon or spatula and stir in the chocolate chips.
  6. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
  7. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  8. Remove the bowl from the refrigerator. Scoop and roll balls of dough, about 1 Tablespoon each. (If the dough seems TOO cold to work with, let it sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.) Place dough balls on lined baking sheets. (Parchment paper or silicone mats are great for this!)
  9. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes. These are chewy cookies, so they’ll seem very soft in the center when you take them out of the oven. That’s okay! Allow them to continue to cook/start to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Then move to cooling racks.
  10. Once the cookies are completely cooled, you can dip half of the cookie in melted white chocolate and decorate with crushed candy canes or sprinkles.
  11. Place cookies in the refrigerator to help the chocolate set. Then store in an air-tight container.

Chewy Snickerdoodles

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup salted butter, room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2-3/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Coating:

  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
  2. Add eggs and mix well.
  3. In a smaller bowl, combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.
  4. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet, mixing after each addition but being careful not to overmix.
  5. Cover bowl and chill in the refrigerator for about an hour.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400°.
  7. Line baking sheets with parchment paper (or use a silicone baking mat).
  8. In a small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon to coat the cookies.
  9. Using a spoon or small ice cream/cookie scoop, form dough balls approximately the size of whole walnuts.
  10. Roll in cinnamon sugar coating and place on baking sheet. About 15 should fit on a standard baking sheet.
  11. Bake 8-10 minutes until cookies are very lightly browned but still soft to the touch.
  12. Allow to rest for just a few minutes before moving to a cooling rack.
  13. Makes approximately 5 dozen cookies.

Chewy Molasses Cookies with White Chocolate

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup white sugar

For decorating:

  • White melting chocolate
  • Sprinkles

Instruction:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  2. With an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until combined.
  3. Add egg and molasses. Beat until mixed well.
  4. Reduce speed to low and gradually mix in dry ingredients, just until combined. Do not overmix.
  5. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  7. Scoop dough by the Tablespoon (using a small cookie scoop is great for this) to create small balls.
  8. Place white sugar in a small bowl. Roll balls in sugar to coat.
  9. Arrange balls on baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Twelve cookies should fit on a standard baking sheet.
  10. Bake cookies, one sheet at a time, approximately 12 minutes, or just until edges of cookies are just firm. Rotate tray after 5 minutes.
  11. Refrigerate the bowl of cookie dough in between each tray of cookies. Keeping dough cool when rolling will allow for puffy, chewy cookies instead of flat, spread cookies.
  12. Let cookies cool for 5 minutes on the tray before moving to a cooling rack.
  13. Once cookies are completely cooled, you can dip them in melted white chocolate and decorate with sprinkles.

Makes 36 cookies.

Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup seedless raspberry jam (Smucker’s used here)

Drizzle:

  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon milk

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
  3. Add almond extract and mix.
  4. Mix in flour just until combined. Do not overmix.
  5. Using a small cookie scoop, form dough balls and place on cookie sheets lined with parchment or use a silicone baking mat such as this.
  6. Make a small indent in the center of each ball using your thumb. Fill hole with preserves.
  7. Bake for approximately 14 minutes, or until cookies are just ever so slightly browned.
  8. While cookies are baking, prepare drizzle by mixing powdered sugar, almond extract and milk until smooth.
  9. Lightly drizzle sugar glaze over warm cookies.

Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.

Double Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • About 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • About 1/2 cup chopped peanut butter cups

Optional Drizzle:

  • Melted chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, cream butter, sugars and peanut butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix.
  4. Slowly add in flour and baking soda.
  5. Fold in chocolate chips and peanut butter cups.
  6. Using a small cookie scoop, form dough balls and place on cookie sheets lined with parchment or use a silicone baking mat.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes.
  8. Let cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes before moving to cooling rack.
  9. Once they’re cooled completely, you can add the optional chocolate drizzle.

Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.

 

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