Think you have to spend hours icing individual cut-out cookies to be a star at your cookie exchange? Think again! Here are six impressive cookie recipes for the holidays that don’t require an advanced degree in decorating, but still look dressy enough for any holiday party. What’s more, none of these are so fussy as to exclude assistance from those with still-developing fine motor skills, so you can actually invite your kids to help!
Here’s the line-up: three slice-and-bake recipes, one bake-and-slice, a no-bake option, and a sheet-pan sugar cookie—complete with frosting and sprinkles. None of them require special equipment. Just a little kitchen prep and some presentation panache will make these seasonal sweets the talk of the town.
World Peace Cookies
These cookies are a true expression of their name, bringing joy and goodwill to countless bakers and their friends and relations around the globe. Not only are they utterly delicious, they’re also simple, relying on a few exceptional ingredients. So splurge on the good chocolate and the French sea salt—you won’t be disappointed. As the cookie recipe’s author Dorie Greenspan declares, “If everyone had it, peace would reign o’er the planet.” This wish for peace on earth, even just in cookie form, is appropriate at any time, but becomes even more compelling now as we’re reflecting on the past year and gazing ahead to what the next year may hold. If you give these cookies, your recipients will surely be content.
Date Pinwheel Cookies
In our house, it’s just not Christmas without date pinwheels, which have been a family tradition through several generations on my mother’s side. I have a copy of my grandmother’s handwritten recipe, which she attributes to her mom. They’re an old-fashioned delight, and always eye-catching with their spiral rounds of golden cookie and dark, sweet date filling. I make the rolled logs well in advance and store them, wrapped well, in the freezer. They can be sliced and baked as you need them—no need to thaw first—so whether you’re serving two or twelve guests, the cookies are always fresh. Pro tip: save the cardboard tubes from parchment paper or paper towels and make a straight cut from one end to the other. Slip these cardboard cradles around your wrapped logs of cookie dough to prevent them from becoming flat on one side.
These shortbread showstoppers need no decoration and their geometric design is awe-inspiring. Although they look impressive, all it takes to make them is two simple cookie doughs, a ruler, and a little patience. Don’t worry if it seems like the dough is too crumbly; just knead and press it together. This version is egg-free and, as a bonus, gives clever steps for cutting the dough to create the pattern, inspired by quilt-making techniques. It’s much easier than trying to glue together lots of strips of dough, as most recipes instruct. I tend to make my squares a little thicker, starting with a 6-inch square. I simply trace a square onto parchment by using my 6-inch bench scraper as a guide. Like the other slice-and-bake cookies, you can make these ahead of time and bake them as you need them. I recommend using salted butter, or adding a bit of salt, to enhance their flavor.
The ever-sophisticated biscotti lend a little continental flair to a cookie platter. Although any twice-baked Italian cookie is called “biscotti” (meaning “twice-cooked”), these cantuccini are the classic almond-studded dunkers we usually think of when we hear the name. This starts off a bit dry, with just the eggs to moisten the dough, but with a little patience it comes together. Once it’s mostly mixed, little hands can get right in and knead the dough and pat it into shape. Slicing the baked logs is strictly for grown-ups, but if you’d like to make these even more fun, have kids help dip half of each finished cookie in melted chocolate, or drizzle them with white or dark chocolate.
No-Bake Wreath Cookies
These childhood favorites are just plain fun and totally kid-friendly! A little green food coloring dripped into an ordinary batch of marshmallow-cereal treats creates a culinary homage to the evergreens we love this time of year. Your junior chefs will get a kick out of buttering their fingers and helping to form these festive wreaths. I recommend turning the cereal mixture out onto parchment and, when just cool enough to handle, portion it out into clumps. From that stage, there will still be ample time for kids to form them and decorate them before they harden. Choose whatever cereal flakes you like, and don’t skimp on the cinnamon candies!
Sheet-Pan Sugar Cookies
Still need your holiday sugar cookie fix? Here’s the fastest way to get it done, using that culinary workhorse and server-upper of fast, one-pan meals: the sheet pan. This is a perfect way to get great frosted sugar cookie flavor in a fraction of the time. If you are actually making and decorating fancy cut-out cookies and need something to keep little hands busy, or if you just want a one-and-done winner, this is your recipe. Kids can spread the dough in the pan, frost it when it’s cool, and sprinkle on the decoration. I recommend using a little bit larger pan than the recipe calls for if you have one on hand. Otherwise, they will be fairly thick and a little more cake-like than your typical cookie, but still delicious. Also, if using a 9×13-inch sheet pan, you’ll likely have some frosting left over, which is never really a bad thing. And remember, just because they’re easy doesn’t mean they can’t look fancy. Give them a diamond cut by first slicing them into long rows, then slice across the rows diagonally to give them an elegant shape.
We hope you like these cookie recipes and add some of them into your holiday baking plan. Let us know how they turn out, or share your own cookie ideas with us in the comments below. Happy holidays to all!
All photos courtesy of Patrick Stigeler, Artisanal Imaging, LLC., used with permission, all rights reserved.