Christmas Cookies

Hi all! I hope you enjoyed my last post about the Gingerbread Lane installation at the Fairmont Royal York. I don’t know about y’all, but all that talk about gingerbread and candy got me hungry… and on that note, today I wanted to share something equally delicious with you: my holiday baking!

Every year around the holidays, I go into full Betty Crocker mode, and honestly, it’s a bit of a production. It starts with me reviewing my collection of cookie recipes. I’ll look at what I made last year (because of course I keep an annual record) and decide what makes the cut this year. Typically, I make between 5-6 types of cookies, doubling batches as needed if I’m baking for more people, or if I know a particular cookie will be popular! I’ll usually make the same 3-4 tried-and-true classics every year, and add 1-2 new recipes to the rotation. Next, I make a complete list of all the ingredients I need, and inventory my kitchen to see what I need to buy. I try to do this a few weeks in advance so that I can keep an eye out for things on sale – especially important these days when grocery prices are through the roof! Then comes the baking itself. Each year I do it a little differently. For example, last year I baked all the cookies over the course of a week. Each evening after work, I’d bake one batch, prep the dough for the next day’s recipe and pop it in the fridge (cookies always turn out better when you chill the dough for at least 2 hours, and ideally overnight.) This year I decided to go for broke and make all the cookies in just one day. It took me just over 7 hours total, and would have taken me longer if Tania didn’t take pity on me and help with the clean-up. I have to admit it was nice to get everything finished at once and just be done with it, but it was also absolutely exhausting. I still can’t decide which method is better!

In any case, I’m really happy with how all the cookies turned out, and I wanted to share the recipes I used in case you’re looking to do some holiday baking of your own and need some ideas. Here’s a sampling of the different cookies I made this year:

And here are links to their recipes:

Sugar Cookies: I found this recipe by the Preppy Kitchen last year and will never go back to another. I had experimented with multiple sugar cookie recipes over the years and had the same issue with all of them: as soon as you placed them in the oven, they’d spread out and completely lose their shape. The pretty cutouts I worked so hard on would turn into shapeless blobs! This recipe changed all of that. The dough is so easy to roll out, the cookies hold their shape beautifully, and they’re the perfect texture: not too soft and cakey, but not too crispy or crunchy.

Sparkling Lemon Snowflakes: I’ve been making this simple Betty Crocker recipe for years and it’s always a huge hit. Even people who don’t love lemon-flavoured desserts like these cookies! It’s basically a sugar cookie except it has lemon zest in the batter and a simple lemon glaze on top. Sprinkling the glaze with white sanding sugar gives these cookies a glittery, festive look that make them a pretty addition to any cookie tray. I always double-batch these and they always run out.

Vanilla Almond Snowball Cookies: This recipe by Bread Booze Bacon proves that sometimes the simplest cookies are the best ones. I made this for the first time last year and it may be my favourite Christmas cookie of all time. It uses only five ingredients, doesn’t call for any rolling or cutting out (just drop and bake) or fancy decorations (just roll in powdered sugar). They’re sweet, nutty and so flavourful. I can’t recommend this recipe enough. Another double-batcher!

Red Velvet Cookies: If you love soft, cake-like cookies, you will love this recipe by Cooking Classy. It basically tastes just like red velvet cake, but in cookie form! Their bright red hue and white chocolate chips lend a cheery, festive vibe to any cookie plate. I make these throughout the year whenever the craving strikes, but this year I decided to add them to my Christmas rotation.

Ambrosia Macaroons: I mentioned earlier that each year, I like to pick a new recipe I’ve never tried before. This year, it was this macaroon recipe from Southern Living. I love coconut and I also love a unique cookie recipe, so when I saw that this one called for pineapple, orange zest, cream cheese and maraschino cherries, I was instantly intrigued. Not all of my cookie experiments turn out, but this one has become a new favourite. They are fruity, sweet-salty, and so soft – they literally melt in your mouth. The cherries make them perfect for a Christmas cookie tray, but they’d also be fun to serve at a luau or any tropical-themed party.

While I’m writing this, I wanted to give a shoutout to another cookie that didn’t make it onto my list this year, but that I love just the same: linzer cookies. This linzer recipe by Gimme Some Oven is one of my absolute favourites. You simply can’t go wrong with decadent raspberry jam sandwiched between almond shortbread and dusted with powdered sugar. The only reason I didn’t make them this year is because between making the cutouts, sandwiching them together and filling each cookie, these cookies are rather time-intensive. Instead, I’m going to save them for Valentine’s Day, when I’ll only be making one cookie and can devote more time to them! Here are the ones I made last Valentine’s Day:

Well, there you have it: my 2022 holiday baking roundup! If you have any questions about any of these recipes, please comment or send me an email – I would love to help or offer advice wherever I can.

If you’re new to cookie baking or would simply like some useful tips, here is the best advice I can provide. Disclaimer: I am not an expert baker by ANY means, but I wanted to share what has helped me. A lot of these tips are based on mistakes I’ve made myself – it truly is a learning process!

  • Decide how you want to approach your baking. As mentioned earlier, I’ve done it both ways and each has their pros and cons. Spreading out the baking over several days is definitely more manageable, but it also feels like you’re never done baking – and like your kitchen is never clean! Doing all your baking in one day is absolutely exhausting, but you get it all accomplished at once, and can give your kitchen a serious deep-clean afterwards and be done with it. Next year I may adapt a happy medium: prepare all the doughs one day, chill them overnight, and do the rolling/cutting/baking/decorating the next day. I’ll let you know next year how that turns out!
  • Be like Santa Claus…make a list and check it twice! Nothing is more frustrating than being midway through a recipe and realizing you’re missing one egg or one last teaspoon of vanilla. When in doubt, buy a little extra – it’ll give you peace of mind, and most baking ingredients keep for a long time if stored properly.
  • Have multiple cookie sheets on hand. This will save time and help you continue prepping cookies while others are in the oven, instead of waiting around for the last batch to finish baking. I recommend at least 4 or 5 depending on how many batches you’re baking (I only have 3 and learned my lesson the hard way this year!)
  • If you want your cutout cookies to retain their shape and stay just as pretty after baking, chill the cutouts in the fridge for about 10 minutes before baking. It does wonders at reducing spread.
  • Set a timer, even if you think you don’t need one. When you’re making so many cookies at a time, it’s easy to get distracted and forget what’s in the oven, and nobody likes burnt cookies! Also, whatever you do, don’t open the oven mid-bake – the oven temperature will drop and it’ll take much longer to finish the job. Use your oven light instead.
  • Allow more time than you think you’ll need. I was convinced I’d need no more than five hours to bake five different kinds of cookies (three of which were double batches.) It took me over seven hours and that was WITH help from Tania. I had booked an appointment in the early evening and was rushing to get there on time! Give yourself plenty of time so you don’t stress out.
  • Clean as you go – as much as you can. I’m sure you’ve heard this adage many times before. I certainly have – mostly from my mother, who’s a great baker and very organized. I always do my best to clean as I go, but I will say it’s not always possible and sometimes it does just make sense to clean up all at once when you’ve finished. That said, doing a little here and there will help minimize the mess later! So just do whatever you can: whether that’s putting away ingredients that are no longer needed, running the dishwasher as soon as it’s full, or hand-washing measuring spoons so they’ll be ready for your next batch.
  • Enlist help! Although I was in the kitchen for an entire day, I might have been there the whole night too if I didn’t have Tania’s help. Whether you need help cleaning the kitchen, drying dishes, decorating cookies while you roll more cutouts, or checking the oven when you’re elbow-deep in dough, don’t be shy to ask for help. Many hands truly make light work.
  • Make sure your cookies are completely cooled before storing. Some cookie recipes will tell you to wait as little as 10 minutes – don’t believe it for a second! I let my cookies cool several hours before storing them in air-tight containers lined with wax paper. Be sure to store different types of cookies separately – storing different cookies together can impart flavour from one kind into another, and nobody wants their lemon cookies tasting like chocolate! Also, be mindful of textures: storing soft cookies with crispy ones can make the soft ones crunchy and vice versa. When storing soft cookies, try adding a piece of white bread to the container – it’ll keep the cookies soft and fresh.
  • Make notes for next year. Years of baking has taught me that recipes are seldom, if ever, perfect. Did the recipe call for 15 minutes of bake time but your cookies came out overdone? Did it say it made 30 cookies but you only got 20? Were the cookies a bit too sweet or too salty, or need more or less of a certain ingredient? Make notes about what you should remember or may want to tweak for next year – trust me, you think you’ll remember and you won’t!

I hope these tips and recipes were helpful! Are you doing – or have you done – any holiday baking this year? If so, let me know what you made – I’m always looking for new recipes. And if you try any of the recipes listed above, please let me know how they turn out.

Happy baking!

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