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5 Holiday Cookie Recipes With a Twist (Plus, Pro Tips for the Perfect Batch!)

‘Tis the season to preheat the oven and bring out the cookie cutters! Don't miss these must-try recipes and tips for cookie perfection.

December 14, 2017

Throughout the year, I whip up batches of cookies with my mom and stepsons. Most of the time, our cookies lean towards the chocolate-chip variety. Sometimes, they are surrounded by oatmeal, and other times made extra chocolaty with cocoa powder and extra chocolate. There’s nothing like warm, fresh cookies straight from the oven!

As the weather gets colder and the decorations more festive, I break out the big guns. Sprinkles, frosting, cookie-cutters, and more butter than you can shake a fist at. I love baking up a variety of special cookies with friends and family during this time of year — it’s part bonding and mostly a lot of indulgence!

Whether you plan on baking your traditional holiday favorite, or you want to branch out with new shapes, flavors and styles of cookies, here are a few tips and tricks to set you right from the start.

Measure once (but, measure right!)

Baking is a science, so it pays to be accurate. When measuring out flour: always spoon, never scoop. Or, better yet, weigh the flour out if you have a small scale. When you scoop flour directly from the bag, you can get up to 150 percent more flour than your recipe calls for, which will result in dry, tough cookies. Instead, use a spoon to gently place flour in your measuring cup, then level off the top with a knife or the handle of the spoon. Don’t tap or pack the cup, which will cause the flour to settle.

Temperature matters

Of course, preheating the oven to the correct temperature is always important. But, having your ingredients at the proper temperature is key to a successful cookie, as well. Unless your recipe says otherwise, let all of your ingredients (eggs and butter, especially) come to room temperature for at least 1 hour before you begin your bake. This will help ingredients emulsify into the dough, creating a better-textured cookie. Plus, egg whites will beat up better, if you’re making meringues. In a pinch, you can warm up eggs in warm water for 10 minutes or grate butter into a bowl and it will soften quickly.

And, since not all ovens are made the same (and tend to fluctuate calibration over time), invest in an oven thermometer to make sure you’re really preheating to the right temperature.

Feeling shapeless?

Sometimes those perfect cutout cookies to look, well, not so perfect after baking. Your cookie dough can get pretty warm and soft after all of that mixing. Give it a good chill in the refrigerator (at least one hour) before you roll or drop your dough. Let the dough warm up for about 10 minutes before rolling it out, so it’s easier to work with. Make sure to cool your baking sheets in between each batch, to keep cookies from spreading. If your cutout cookies are still spreading, it might be that they are getting too much heat in the oven. Try baking them on a lower oven rack, with an empty baking sheet on top to block some of the excess heat at the top of the oven.

Ready to bake? Here are a few of my classic holiday favorites.

Vegan Meringue Kisses

Recipe and photo courtesy of PCC Community Markets

Meringues are light, airy cookies typically made with egg whites. This equally delicious vegan version is made with…wait for it…garbanzo bean liquid!

Snickerdoodle Bars

Recipe and photo courtesy of Paula Nemzek for <em>KCTS 9 Cooks</em>.

This recipe packs all of your favorite buttery, cinnamon-y flavor of a snickerdoodle cookie into bar form.

Tender Snowflake Cookies

Recipe and photo courtesy of Foodal/Ask the Experts.

Like a traditional butter cookie, but better, snowflake cookies use ingredients you probably already have in your pantry, and will melt in your mouth as soon as they hit your tongue.

Drunk Gingerbread Men

Recipe and photo courtesy of Sweet Peas and Saffron.

Classic gingerbread cutout cookies get a boozy twist with a splash of Kahlua. After all of this holiday baking, you may need a splash, too.

Coconut Macaroons III

Recipe and photo courtesy of Allrecipes.com.

One of my personal favorite cookies, these coconut macaroons are extra moist and rich thanks to sweetened condensed milk.


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Jackie Freeman

Recipe developer, food stylist and culinary tinkerer, Jackie Freeman has worked in the culinary field for over 20 years as a private chef, cheesemaker, culinary instructor, recipe editor and a radio and video personality.

More stories by Jackie Freeman

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