My Gift : Favorite Holiday Cookie Recipes

Happy, happy holidays to you all! I hope you have been enjoying time with friends and family this December. My family arrived last Tuesday and we have been exploring Munich, as well as baking and cooking like fiends at home for the past several days. The culmination of our holiday mania was yesterday, when my husband's family joined us - meaning that we served Christmas dinner for 12! The atmosphere was pleasant and everyone was in a happy mood, but as you can imagine I was just a *little* stressed during the past days trying to get everything prepared. 

Which explains why I am sending you my recipes today, a bit later than I had planned. We'll just call these "holiday" cookies rather than Christmas cookies - after all New Year's Eve is coming up and heck, these cookies are so good, they taste great for any occasion. I have adapted and translated several of the recipes from my collection of German cookbooks.

Double Chocolate Horns

These cookies are easier to make than they look, and are a unique treat for special occasions.

cookie dough:

1 3/4 cup (250 g) flour
3/4 cup (100 g) powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. cocoa
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup grated dark chocolate (about 2 oz./ 50 g)
1/2 cup (125 g) butter, softened
2 eggs

for garnish:

8 oz. (200 g) white chocolate
2 oz. (50 g) dark chocolate
chopped nuts or coconut (optional)

Combine all cookie dough ingredients in a large bowl and knead until smooth. Wrap dough in plastic wrap or waxed paper and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight. Before using, let come to room temperature for 10-15 minutes and preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line cookie sheets with baking/parchment paper (this will save you lots of clean up later!)

To form cookies, first make small balls of dough - a bit smaller than walnut size - then roll the dough balls between your hands to form little elongated "sausages" (you can tell this recipe is German :) - and make the ends somewhat thinner and pointed. Curve the cookies to form half-moons and place on your prepared cookies sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until they test done. Be sure not to overbake as they will become dry. 

After the cookies have completely cooled, prepare the garnish. Melt the white chocolate very gently, stirring constantly. I do this with seperate rounded pot, placed over a pan of hot water, but you can probably do this in a microwave if you prefer. The key is not to let the chocolate get too hot, or it will turn dull when it cools. The melted chocolate should just feel lukewarm to the touch.

Dip one end of your cooled cookies into the melted white chocolate one by one, and place them on parchment paper to dry. Before the chocolate hardens, you could also sprinkle the cookies with chopped nuts (pistachios would look nice), coconut, or tiny colored or silvered candy sprinkles. Because one of my daughters is allergic to nuts and doesn't like coconut, I chose to add a bit of additional decoration with a bit of melted dark chocolate. Melt the chocolate as described before, and dip in a spoon. Drizzle melted chocolate over the cookies - and have fun with it. I found the more relaxed, loose, and non-perfectionist I was at this stage, the better the cookies turned out!

Let the cookies cool completely before serving. These cookies keep wonderfully for several days when packed in air-tight containers or cookie tins. Be sure to add sheets of waxed paper between the cookie layers. Enjoy!

Spicy Cutout Cookies

These spicy sweet cookies are easy to make and have a delightful flavor!

cookie dough:

2 3/4 cup (400 g) flour 
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1 cup (100 g) sugar 
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 1/4 (300 g) cup cold butter, chopped in pieces

for garnish:

1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp. milk
chopped almonds or coarse raw sugar 

Combine flour, baking powder, spices, and sugar in a large bowl. Add vanilla, egg, and cold pieces of butter, then knead well until smooth. Wrap dough in plastic wrap or waxed paper and cool in refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight. Before using, let come to room temperature for 10-15 minutes and preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Grease or line cookie sheets. Prepare garnish by mixing egg yolk with milk in a small bowl. 

Roll out cookie dough on a well-floured surface to approx. 1/8 inch (3 mm) thickness. Cut out your favorite shapes with cookie cutters and carefully place on prepared cookie sheets about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. Brush tops of cookies with egg yolk/milk mixture and sprinkle with chopped almonds or coarse raw sugar. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Wonderful warm, and these cookies keep very well when stored in air-tight containers. Their spicy flavor actually improves with age!

Jackson Pollock Toffee Bars

Add an elegant touch to this American classic cookie!

cookie dough:

1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. molasses
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
pinch of salt

for garnish:

8 oz. (200 g) dark chocolate, chopped
4 oz. (100 g) white chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Grease and flour a large cookie sheet. Cream butter and sugar together, then blend in molasses, egg, and vanilla until well combined. Gradually beat in flour and pinch of salt. Spread batter into prepared pan, using a spatula or floured hands to press down dough evenly. (It doesn't have to be perfect - just fairly even.) Bake for 20-22 minutes or until golden and tests done. Be sure to get your dark chocolate chopped and ready at this point - you can also use semi-sweet chocolate chips.

As soon as you take the baked cookie dough layer out of the oven, put the cookie sheet on a non-flammable surface and start sprinkling the chopped chocolate or chocolate chips on the surface. The heat of the freshly baked cookies will melt the chocolate. Give it a couple of minutes to melt completely, be patient. If your chocolate needs some help melting, you can place the cookie sheet back in the warm oven for a minute or so, but watch out and please don't burn your chocolate. Spread the chocolate evenly over the surface of the cookie/toffee layer and let cool. 

The classic variation is to sprinkle chopped nuts like pecans or walnuts on the chocolate before it cools. This tastes wonderful, and you are welcome to do that! However, we found out this year that my daughter Lucy is allergic to nuts, so I developed this variation - and I really liked the result.

After the dark chocolate layer has cooled, melt your white chocolate carefully on the stove or in the microwave. Using a spoon, drizzle the white chocolate all over the dark chocolate surface and have fun doing it. I pretended to be the artist Jackson Pollock who is famous for his drip and splatter paintings. You can also melt more dark chocolate, or milk chocolate and create multiple layers of "action painting."

These look beautiful when cut into squares and were a big hit at our Christmas party. All of my German relatives kept asking how I made them. Now you know ;)

Jam Stars

cookie dough:

2 3/4 cups (400 g) flour
3/4 cup (120 g) sugar
1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel
3/4 (200 g) cup butter
1 egg

for garnish:

powdered sugar
approx. 1/2 cup of your favorite jam

Combine flour, sugar, lemon peel, butter, and egg, and knead into a smooth dough. Form into a large ball and wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Cool in refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight.

Before using, let come to room temperature for 10-15 minutes and preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Grease or line cookie sheets. Roll out cookie dough on a well-floured surface to approx. 1/8 inch (3 mm) thickness. Cut out small star shapes (or rounds or any of your favorite shapes) with cookie cutters and carefully place on prepared cookie sheets about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.

Let cookies cool completely. Next, take a cookie, add a small dollop of jam (1/4 tsp. or less) to the bottom side and sandwich this on top of another cookie. If you are using star shapes, you can stagger the points to make a nice design. Repeat with all cookies, then let the cookies "dry" for a couple of hours before dusting generously with powdered sugar. Important - these cookies taste much nicer after being stored in air-tight tins or containers for 2-3 days (or more) - so don't get too impatient. The flavor and textures both improve with these cookies if you give them a little time. Be sure to store the cookies layered between sheets of waxed or parchment paper, otherwise they tend to stick to one another. 


If you'd like to make jam thumbprint cookies, I posted a recipe earlier this year here


Happy baking and I hope you will enjoy these cookies! It can be so much fun to make cookies and invite a friend over for tea, or surprise your family with a special treat. 

We are going to visit my husband's parents in the Alps to ride in a horse-drawn sleigh today, and I am quite excited! Thanks again for all your nice comments and support and I'll be back to share photos soon.