Friends, it’s here: the weekend to bake bake bake. Here are 25 Christmas cookie recipes to make and gift (or save for yourself!) this holiday season.
This year I’ve added two new sugar cookies (this one and this one) to my Christmas cookie repertoire, both of which are made with brown sugar exclusively, both of which are perfectly salted, both of which have brought serious joy to both the little and large humans in my house.
The below selection of cookies is organized as follows:
1. Classic Cream Cheese Cutouts: This is the recipe I make every year with my children. It’s easy and good, and I don’t stress about them coming out perfectly, because that’s not what Christmas is about … right? This recipe yields an enormous amount of cookies, and they keep well for days (weeks!) in an airtight tin.
2. Kristina’s Molasses Crinkles: My cousin Kristina makes the best (award-winning!) cookies, and these are one of my favorites—sugar-crusted, chewy, and perfectly spiced.
3. Rum Balls: so pretty, so easy, so delicious. This is an old-fashioned recipe made with crushed vanilla wafers and confectioner’s sugar, and I find them irresistible. These keep well, travel well, and freeze well — great to have on hand around the holidays.
4. Grand Marnier Chocolate Truffles: Rich and boozy, how bad can that be? These truffles can be made ahead and stashed in the fridge — bring them to room temperature an hour or so before serving. Great with coffee (or more booze) after dinner.
5. Chocolate-Covered Peanut Butter Balls:This recipe comes from the mother of one of my mother’s students, who made them as a thank you gift for teaching her son. She included the recipe with the balls — how nice?! — and we’ve been making them ever since. They taste like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, but better — think: dark chocolate + peanut butter + sea salt. Bonus: the recipe yield 165 balls (!!), all of which can be made ahead of time. Perfect for holiday gifting.
7. Chocolate Sugar Cookies: To me these cookies are perfection: deeply chocolaty, perfectly sweet, and nicely salted. But what differentiates them from other chocolate sugar cookies is the inclusion of dark brown sugar, which, like Sarah Kieffer’s brown sugar cookies (recipe below), gives them the loveliest chew.
9. Melissa Clark’s Rosemary Shortbread: Salty, sweet, buttery — this shortbread is addictive. The rosemary is subtle but so nice. This has been a favorite since Melissa Clark published the recipe in The Times many years ago.
11. Molly Yeh’s Mandel Bread with Marzipan and Sea Salt: Mandel bread, also known as mandelbrodt, literally”almond bread”, is a traditional Jewish twice-baked cookie originating from Eastern Europe. It’s typically softer than biscotti due to a higher amount of oil or butter, and in Molly’s version, the inclusion of marzipan makes them both soft and chewy throughout. In this recipe, the loaves of dough are coated with sprinkles or pearl sugar AND sea salt just before baking, which makes them particularly addictive.
14. World Peace Cookies: Like the vanilla bean sablés, these world peace cookies are sandy in texture, buttery-rich in taste, and nicely salted. But these are midnight-dark in color and super chocolaty … delicious.
18. Daley Toffee: A family recipe from a dear friend, this toffee is incredibly addictive. Great for gifting and having on hand around the holidays.
Two Oatmeal Cookies
19. Dark Chocolate, Coconut, Oatmeal Cookies: From the editors of Lucky Peach: “These cookies are best when they have fully cooled, though you will undoubtedly eat some warm because it will take you years to develop the patience to ignore the siren’s call until they are ready. You are only human.” This is another non-traditional Christmas cookie, but a crowdpleaser nonetheless.
20. Salted Oatmeal Cookies: I’ve been making this Washington Post recipe since 2007, when my grandmother snipped it out of her Wednesday paper and saved it for me. She was so wonderful. These cookies are loaded with oats, minimally spiced, and a perfect balance of sweet and salty.
Two Gluten-Free Treats
21. Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies: From Jeffrey Larsen’s Gluten-Free Baking at Home, these cookies are made with clarified butter, an ingredient that keeps cookies from spreading as they bake. How? Butter has a lot of water in it — clarifying it removes both the water and the milk solids, leaving the butter fat behind.
23. Linzer Cookies. I contributed this linzer cookie recipe to King Arthur Flour’s Sift a few years back. These require a little bit of work and patience, but: Is there anything more festive than a tray of confectioners’ sugar-dusted, jam-filled linzers?
24. Bake Sale Winning-est Gooey Oat Bars: From Deb Perelman’sSmitten Kitchen Every Day, these bars are a snap to throw together: a buttery shortbread crust comes together in seconds in the food processor, which then bakes alone while you stir together the gooey topping, a mix of melted butter, sugar, eggs, oats, chocolate, and coconut. Once crust and topping unite, the pan returns to the oven for a quick final bake.
Deb says these bars taste like “brown butter and caramel… like an old-school magic bar, but possibly even more delicious.” This is all true, except for the “possibly” bit — these are so much better than magic bars.
25. Brown Sugar Cookies: From Sarah Kieffer’s 100 Cookies, these are a recent discovery. As with these chocolate sugar cookies, the use of brown sugar exclusively gives these cookies the loveliest chew. Recipe below:
1 cup (2 sticks or 227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1.75 cups (350 grams) dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon molasses
1 large egg + 1 large yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar, for rolling
Adjust an oven rack to the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line three sheet pans with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and the molasses and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined.
Place the granulated sugar in a medium bowl.
Form the cookies into 1.5-oz (45 g) balls (2 tablespoons). Roll each ball in the sugar and place 8 cookies on each sheet pan.
Bake one pan at a time, rotating halfway through baking. Bake until the sides are set and the bottoms are light golden brown, 1o to 11 minutes.
Transfer the sheet pan to a wire rack and let the cookies cool for 5 to 10 minutes on the pan, then remove them and let them cool completely on the wire rack. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.