Every year, I end up making a lot of cookies for the holidays. I separate them out into little clear treat bags, tie them up with ribbons, and add them to gift baskets, boxes, and bags. This year (with the move), I told myself I’d refrain. My kitchen situation is only half set up, for one thing. I have less counter and storage space in the new place, so I’m still trying to find a home for everything. It’s not that the kitchen is tiny, exactly. It’s quite reasonably sized. I was just incredibly spoiled in our Jersey City apartment, which had a big open floor plan and wrap-around granite counter that doubled as a bar. I’m still working out solutions for the new place to compensate. “Give yourself a break,” I thought, “People eat enough cookies this time of year anyway.” About a week ago, as I looked at the presents I was giving people, I changed my mind. They needed little bags of cookies. I really have no idea if anyone else feels that way, but personally, I just didn’t feel like my normal gift-giving self without them!
So, while it’s likely too late to help you choose your own cookies for this holiday season, I thought I’d share what I decided to make this year. Aside from some version of chocolate chip cookie, every year I end up trying out new things. Eventually I suspect I will settle into a few more standards, but for now I’m enjoying the variety each year. My go-to place for new cookie recipes is the blog Sally’s Baking Addiction. She hosts a “Cookiepalooza” each year on her blog, where she gathers her own and other people’s cookie recipes and shares them with her readers. Sally’s recipes are dependable and creative. I had the pleasure of meeting her while she was doing a book tour, and she’s also a super great lady.
I have some particular criteria when it comes to choosing my yearly holiday cookie selection:
- As I will likely start making cookies one or two weeks ahead of the holiday (even further out when I was working long hours full-time), the cookie needs to freeze well so they are still good when it comes time to gift them. This could be anywhere up through and possibly after New Year’s, as I only really see immediate family on Christmas itself.
- Can I easily double, triple, or quadruple batches of the recipe as needed to maximize time and efficiency?
- If the recipe requires special (i.e. pricey) ingredients or significant hands-on time, does the end result seem worth the added effort and/or expense? In other words, am I truly and absolutely excited to make the recipe over every other? This is essential, because making cookies for the holidays isn’t like making baked goods for other times throughout the year. It’s like a marathon, and with limited available time during this busy season and a lot to get done, the last thing I want is to get frustrated or bored doing something for other people that I otherwise love doing. For this reason, I usually do only one cookie-type a season that involves rolling out dough or more complicated techniques. Mostly, I stick to drop cookie recipes, or those that involve simply mixing up a batch of dough, forming it into balls, and “dropping” them onto cookie sheets to bake.
2016 Cookie Selection
This year, I chose four types of cookie. I also have a possible fifth in the back of the mind, if I find I need a few more to round things out. My friends and family live all over the place, so I give very few gifts on Christmas itself each year, and usually don’t mail holiday gifts until the week after due to the craziness of the post office the week of. I’m hoping no one minds this strategy – so far no complaints that I know of! Here is what is nearly taking up my entire freezer at this point:
- A double batch of my previously posted Salted Chocolate Chunk Bourbon Cookies (which is essentially a quadruple batch as I had already doubled the batch in the posted recipe).
- A double batch of these Soft-Baked Funfetti Sugar Cookies, made with festive green, red, and white sprinkles. It’s a solid recipe for a simple cookie.
- A batch of Peanut Butter Buckeyes, from Sally’s cookbook, Sally’s Candy Addiction. This was a pretty standard recipe, and involved melting chocolate in a double boiler. The cookbook has some great tips on the best ways to do this and other candy techniques, but I found I had at least double the amount of melting chocolate I needed once all the peanut butter balls were dipped. Not wanting to waste it, I sought out other things in the kitchen I could dip in good chocolate. This resulted in a number of half-dipped chocolate chunk cookies (delicious) and cereal clusters dipped in chocolate. No regrets.
- These Double Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, which I just made yesterday as a last minute addition. I’d never made crinkle cookies before. I didn’t know the cracked look was merely a result of the confectioner’s sugar coating forming a shell while being heated, and then breaking apart as the dough expands. I thought that was pretty cool. I am very impressed by the rich chocolate flavor in these cookies, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they become a new cookie staple. I already have ideas for innovations on it.
- And, if I find I need another cookie to make, I have my eye on these Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies from Amy’s Healthy Baking. I have the oats and enough fresh cranberries leftover from another recipe, so it seems like a good use of resources and an interesting alternative to what I’ve already made.
So, that wraps up my cookie haul for this season! Do you have any staple cookie recipes to share? What’s your favorite?
Happy Holidays to you from me and my photography assistant Midna! I hope you have the chance to enjoy many delicious foods with your friends and family.