Kelly’s Christmas Cookies.

This holiday season has been a bit tighter budget-wise than it has in years past, so I opted to make cookies for my friends & loved ones for the holidays instead of buying gifts. I bought $5 tins at Target and picked up the ingredients for 3 different cookie recipes. I then spent Sunday afternoon making a mess of my kitchen, and am so happy with how these turned out. This route was definitely more affordable and homemade gifts are always fun, but with full disclosure before you mistake me for Martha Stewart: this took forever. I’d repeat the Spiced Ginger Drops in a heartbeat, but will probably wait for Christmas 2018 before attempting the Candy Cane Cookies again.

I adapted the below recipes from Southern Living (I am a die-hard Southern Living cookbook fan… I have been making their pies since I was 12) and Betty Crocker. Honestly, I’m exhausted from hours in the kitchen and probably won’t look at my oven for a while, but am so excited to send these off to my aunt & uncle and my boyfriend’s parents as a sweet gift for the holidays.

Without further ado, in order from easiest to hardest:

Spiced Molasses Drops (aka Ginger Molasses Cookies):

These are very easy to make and done relatively quickly! I followed this recipe almost to the T with just a couple of modifications included below (i.e. I used half the pepper originally intended). My only note is that the cookies come out quite round if you don’t press them down on the sheet before putting them in the oven. Tasty nonetheless! Also, it only makes 2 dozen (not 4 as listed, womp womp.).

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup light molasses (I used Grandma’s… worked just fine!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup sanding sugar or sparkling sugar (I used Whole Foods’ 365 Cane Sugar and it worked well. It’s hard to find sanding sugar in NYC!).
Step 1:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Beat butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add molasses and vanilla, and beat on low speed just until combined. Add egg, and beat on medium speed until mixture thickens slightly, about 30 seconds. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and pepper in a medium bowl. Gradually add to butter mixture, and beat on low speed just until combined after each addition.

Step 2:

Place sanding sugar in a shallow dish or bowl, and drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls into sugar, rolling to coat (pictured above). Place half of coated dough balls about 2 inches apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Press to create a flatter cookie, or leave as a ball to create a rounder one. Mine turned out quite round in the first batch which you can see above. Still tasty, but would press more if I did the recipe again!

Step 3:

Bake in preheated oven until cookies are just set, 10 minutes. Cool on pans 5 minutes; remove cookies to wire racks, and cool completely, about 30 minutes. Repeat with remaining cookie dough.

adapted from Southern Living

Dark Chocolate Sablés

These French cookies are beautiful and delicious, but a bit tricky. I followed Southern Living’s recipe that prompts you to roll the dough into a cylinder and freeze it, and then slice and bake each cookie. The sandy texture makes it hard to get a firm edge on the cookie, so mine crumbled a bit. As a fix in the future, I think I’d roll and cut them instead, like this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I also lowered the temp from the original recipe and reduced the cooking time to prevent it from melting too much. Otherwise, it’s a 10/10 cookie: not too sweet, and light enough that the chocolate isn’t overwhelming. Flakes of sea salt add a savory finish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 1/2 (4-oz.) 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate baking bars (I used Ghirardelli)
  • Flaky sea salt or chopped toasted pecans (optional)
Step 1:

Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy; add vanilla, and beat until combined. Stir together flour, cocoa, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed until combined after each addition. Finely chop 1 of the bittersweet chocolate baking bars, and stir into cookie dough until well incorporated.

Step 2:

Divide dough in half; shape each into an 8-inch-long log. Wrap each log tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze until firm, about 30 minutes. (Dough may be frozen up to 1 month.)

Step 3:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Cut dough into 1/2-inch-thick slices, and place 2 inches apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. (Move remaining dough logs to the refrigerator while cookies bake.)

Step 4:

Bake in preheated oven until bottoms are lightly browned, 10 minutes. Cool on pans 5 minutes; remove cookies to wire racks, and cool completely, about 20 minutes.

Step 5:

Chop remaining 1 1/2 bittersweet chocolate baking bars, and place in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH until chocolate is melted and smooth, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds.

Step 6:

Dip half of top side of each cookie in melted chocolate. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt or chopped toasted pecans, if desired. Place cookies on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and chill just until chocolate sets, about 15 minutes. Layer cookies between wax paper, and store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days.

adapted from Southern Living

Candy Cane Cookies 

I’m going to shoot you straight here: these were WAY harder to make than they look. I first saw a recipe that used pre-made sugar cookie dough, and I basically laughed and thought it was a cop-out, so decided to made my own dough first… total mistake. They took hours.

Regardless, they are such a festive cookie, but I’d only recommend if you have lots of time and if it’s not your first rodeo in the baking department. You can see in the below pic that many cracked in the oven, and they were really tough to roll out.

I used a modified Betty Crocker recipe from the 70s, which I can’t really find online except for in the comments section here, and detailed below with my edits. The key was making sure the dough was super pliable in a consistency similar to playdough. These would also be great with a dusting of powdered sugar on top. I left off the peppermints as I’m not a huge peppermint fan, but the look of these is fantastic, and honestly they are really tasty (the almond extract is the key).

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp red food color
  • 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy (optional, I skipped)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (optional, I skipped)
Step 1:
Beat butter, shortening, and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy; add egg, almond extract and vanilla, and beat until combined. Stir together flour and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed until combined after each addition.

Step 2:

Divide dough in half and place one of the halves in a new bowl. Add red food color to one bowl and mix thoroughly until fully combined.

Step 3:

Stir together peppermint candy and granulated sugar; set aside.
Step 4:
For each candy cane, shape approx. 1/4 cup dough from each color into a 12-inch rope by rolling back and forth on a hard surface (do not flour the surface unless needed – it will get too dry). Place 1 red and white rope side by side; press together, and roll until both colors form 1 cylindrical rope. Twist. Cut into 3 equal-sized pieces. Place on ungreased cookie sheet; curve top of cookie down to form handle of cane.
Step 5:
Bake 10 minutes or until set and very light brown. If using, immediately sprinkle candy mixture over cookies. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
Hope you enjoy & happy holidays!!
Xx
Photography by Tim Jeffreys

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Comments

  1. All of these cookies look so good, I can’t choose my favourite. The candy cane ones are super cute though! 🙂

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

  2. Narhee says 12.19.17

    Looks so delish! Homemade gifts are honestly the best (:

    Narhee | Made in Mauve

  3. Carrie says 12.20.17

    I think the reason I only bake during the holidays is because I do 3-4 cookie/fudge batches and it takes all day and is utterly exhausting! Plus I don’t have a dishwasher . Good job!

  4. Emily Rose says 12.21.17

    I make homemade cut out sugar cookies for all the ladies in my office each year and include a $5 Starbucks card. It’s a great treat that inexpensive but always well received! I will agree with you, rolling out, baking, and icing these take sooo long! I’ve always wanted to try the candy cane recipe but maybe next year… 🙂