Christmas Cookie Roundup

sugar & spice

sugar & spice

Even though today is Christmas Eve Eve, it’s not too late to make some Christmas cookies. Here are some of my favorites that I’ve made over the past few years. (Click on the photo for the recipe.)

Hello Dollies (aka Magic Cookie Bars) – so many delicious layers

check out all those layers

check out all those layers

Cream Cheese Spritz Cookies – get your (cookie) gun

cream cheese spritz

trim the tree

No-Bake Chocolate Clusters – there’s literally no baking involved; just melt, mix and set

no-bake chocolate clusters

no bake, no fuss

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Christmas Cookie Day: Toffee Bars

toffee cookie bars

toffee time

These aren’t your typical Christmas cookies. But who says you need to be typical? The holidays deserve something special, and there’s something very special about toffee and chocolate and a few well placed flakes of sea salt.

Toffee Bars
1 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon of baking powder
½ teaspoon of salt
1 ½ sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cups of brown sugar
1 egg
½ vanilla
1/4 cup toffee bits
1 ½ cups of Heath candy bar bits*
½ teaspoon of flaky sea salt

Heat your oven to 325º.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, and then add the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour mixture a little at a time until well combined. Stir in the toffee bits.

Lightly grease an 8×8 (or similar) baking dish. Line with parchment paper, leaving extra that hangs over the edge, and lightly grease the parchment. Spread the batter into the dish in an even layer. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Sprinkle the Heath bits over the top and bake a few minutes more until the chocolate is melted. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the sea salt, and let cool completely in the dish. When cool, use the parchment paper to lift out the bars and then cut into squares. Then eat.

*I used 30 miniature Heath bars, which I unwrapped, placed into a large ziploc bag and then smashed with a rolling pin. It was very therapeutic.

Christmas Cookie Day: Spiced Sugar Cookies

spiced sugar cookies

spiced sugar cookies danced in their heads

I’m a little behind with my Christmas baking this year. We can blame Thanksgiving for being so “late.” But let’s be honest, it’s never too late to start making Christmas cookies.

First up this year are classic sugar cookies with holiday spices. I cut them into festive shapes to get myself into the holiday spirit. But please, don’t judge my decorating skills. There’s a reason I don’t draw or paint for a living. I don’t have a lot of patience, and I think that has a lot to do with it. The only good thing about being a crummy cookie decorator is that you get to keep the rejects for yourself. And I maybe kinda sorta messed up a few on purpose. Oops. Hope that doesn’t put me on the naughty list. Maybe I can persuade Santa with a few of these tasty cookies.

Spiced Sugar Cookies
For the cookies:
2 1/3 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
½ teaspoon of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cup of sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons of vanilla
Holiday cookie cutters

For the icing:
1 cup of powdered sugar
2 teaspoons of milk, plus more if necessary
Holiday sprinkles and green & red colored sugar

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, and then add the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour mixture a little at a time until well combined. Refrigerate dough until firm, about 2 hours.

Heat your oven to 375º.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thick. Carefully cut into shapes using the cookies cutters and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until lightly browned. Let cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes and then place a rack to cool completely.

While cookies are cooling, make the icing. Combine the powdered sugar and milk in a small bowl. Add more sugar or milk depending on how thick you want it. Hold the cookies by their edges and use a spoon to pour the icing over them. Let any access icing run off, and then place on a sheet of parchment paper. Add sprinkles, colored sugar or other decorations, and let dry. Then eat. Or, leave them for Santa on Christmas Eve (wink, wink).

Christmas Cookie Day: Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s Brownies

Candy Cane Joe-Joe's Brownies

joe to the world

Okay, brownies technically aren’t cookies. But if you put out a plate of brownies at your holiday party would people complain? Heck no. Especially not brownies made with chopped up Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s. These cookies only make an appearance during the holiday season, but let me tell you – I dream about them all year long. There’s something magical about chocolate cookies filled with candy cane cream. My friends & I have been obsessed with them for years, once we discovered the Trader Joe’s a few blocks away from our office had them. We used to take afternoon field trips to the store to get them, and then secretly hide them away in our desks so nobody would steal our precious treats. Sure, you might say Candy Cane Oreos are just the same. But let me tell you, they are not. The real flecks of candy cane make a big difference. Feel free to add actual candy cane pieces if you want these brownies extra pepperminty.

Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s Brownies
– 8 oz of semisweet chocolate chips
– ¼ cup of cocoa powder
– 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
– ¾ cup of flour
– ½ teaspoon of baking powder
– ¼ teaspoon of salt
– ½ cup of brown sugar
– ¼ cup of sugar
– 2 eggs
– 1 teaspoon of vanilla
– 18 Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s, chopped into pieces

Heat your oven to 350º.

In a saucepan, melt the chocolate chips, cocoa powder and butter over low heat, stirring occasionally. When nearly melted, remove from the heat and whisk until smooth.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the sugars, eggs and vanilla. Slowly add the chocolate mixture and beat until combined, then beat in the flour mixture a little at time until a thick, glossy batter forms. Stir in about ¾ of the Candy Cane Joe-Joe pieces. Pour the batter into a lightly greased 8×8 baking dish and top with the remaining Joe-Joe pieces. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean. Let cool completely and then cut into squares.

Candy Cane Joe-Joe's Brownies

have a holly jo(e)lly christmas

So tell me: Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s versus Candy Cane Oreos, what’s better?

Christmas Cookie Day: Pecan Butter Balls

Pecan Butter Balls

let it snow(ball)

It’s time for a snowball fight! Okay, not really. But these pecan butter balls do look a lot like little snowballs, especially since they’re covered in powdered sugar. But unlike a ball of ice, these cookies have chopped pecans inside. They’ll go perfectly with a hot cup of coffee or your afternoon tea. Or your morning hot-drink-of-choice for that matter. You could use walnuts or almonds, but then they won’t be pecan butter balls anymore.

Pecan Butter Balls
– 2 cups of flour
– ¼ cup of sugar
– ½ teaspoon of salt
– 1 cup (2 sticks) of margarine or butter
– 2 teaspoons of vanilla
– 2 cups of finely chopped pecans
– Powdered sugar, enough to cover the balls

Heat your oven to 325º.

Combine flour, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the margarine and vanilla and mix together with a wooden spoon or a pastry cutter. Keep mashing it all together (this will take a few minutes) until a soft dough forms. Mix in pecans.

Shape into 1 inch balls and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 25 minutes, or until firm and lightly browned on bottom. While still a little warm, roll or sprinkle the balls in powdered sugar. Let cool completely and then eat.

Christmas Cookie Day: Cream Cheese Spritz Cookies

cream cheese spritz

trim the trees

It’s that time of year again, people! Trees are being trimmed. Jack Frost is nipping at your nose. And every Monday is Christmas Cookie Day. Last year I introduced everyone to Hershey Kiss Things, a long-time holiday tradition in my family. Well, these cream cheese cookies have had a place alongside them for as long as I can remember. They’re so creamy and tasty, it’s nearly impossible to eat just one. Plus, it’s fun to use a cookie press to stamp out little trees, wreaths, snowmen or whatever festive shapes you want.

Cream Cheese Spritz Cookies
– ½ cup (1 stick) of margarine, softened
– 4 oz of cream cheese, softened
– ⅓ cup of sugar
– 1 egg yolk
– 1 ½ teaspoon of orange extract
– 1 ½ cups of flour
– ½ teaspoon of salt
– Food coloring and festive sprinkles (optional)

Heat your oven to 400º.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the margarine, cream cheese, sugar, egg yolk and orange extract together. Add the flour and salt and beat until well combined. Add a few teaspoons of green food coloring and mix.

Place the dough into a cookie press, pick a festive stencil like a Christmas tree or wreath, and press the cookies onto an ungreased baking sheet. Add sprinkles. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes. Keep a close eye on the cookies while they bake – the bottoms can brown (and burn) quite quickly. Let cool and then eat.

cream cheese spritz

deck the halls

Check back every Monday this month for more great Christmas cookie recipes!