9 recipes for every taste at your Christmas cookie swap

These festive holiday cookies are so pretty they look like presents … but so delicious, you may want to keep some for yourself!

Photo courtesies from left to right: Brampton Bed and Breakfast Inn | David Burke Kitchen | Genevieve Ko

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it might seem like too much work to pile extra sugar and flour into your grocery cart and spend an afternoon baking. But there’s something about the rhythmic motions of sifting, mixing, and placing unbaked cookies into neat rows on greased cookie sheets. And while it’s delightful to fill your own kitchen with warmth and holiday smells, I think it’s even more fun to invite friends over and swap cookies, so that you leave with all sorts of different varieties, even though you only brought one.

Once you get started, you might want to pick a few kinds and heap a few on plates for neighbors and friends. At this time of year, and always, we could all use a little extra sweetness passing from one set of hands to another.

If you’re looking for a little cookie-baking inspiration, we’ve collected some recommendations from cookbook authors, food bloggers, chefs, and professional kitchens. Some of these cookies are cute, others are elegant, but all of them may bring you to a moment of truth: should you give them away, or savor them for yourself? Might be time to make an extra big batch.

Almond Biscotti

9 recipes for every taste at your Christmas cookie swap

Photo Courtesy of Brampton Bed and Breakfast Inn

This recipe comes courtesy of Brampton Bed and Breakfast Inn in Chestertown, Maryland.

Please note that this is a very large batch, perfect for sharing (or feeding lots of bed and breakfast guests. Feel free to halve the recipe if necessary.

Makes: approx 12

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Difficulty: easy

Ingredients:

6 cups of all purpose flour
4 ½ tsp of baking powder
1 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of salt
2 tbsp of anise seeds
zest of 2 lemons
4 cups of toasted almonds, chopped fairly fine
1 cup of unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 ⅔ cup of sugar
6 eggs
1 tsp of almond extract

 

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 275° F. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, anise seeds and lemon zest. Add the almonds and mix well.

2. In a large bowl combine the butter and sugar and beat together until blended. Add the eggs and almond extract. Blend well.

3. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture. Combine until a sticky dough forms. Dust work surface with flour, remove dough from bowl and knead for a minute or two, until the dough comes together, adding flour if necessary.

4. Pat dough into a large rectangle shape about an inch thick. Cut into 6 sections. Take each section and form individual rectangles, again, about an inch thick. Place 3 each—about 4 inches apart—onto 2 large sheet pans lined with parchment paper.

5. Bake approximately 30 minutes. The dough will spread out as it bakes. It should feel firm to the touch in the center when it is ready. Remove from the oven and let cool about 10 minutes or until you can easily handle them. Place on a cutting board, one at a time. Using a serrated knife, cut slices across the baked dough about ½” wide. Place the slices back on the sheet pan and return to oven to bake again about 10–15 minutes longer, or until the biscotti are firm and dry, but not beginning to brown. Let cool completely.

6. Package them in decorative bags or tins. Or, if they are all yours, enjoy them throughout the season with your guests, who will surely be impressed.

Chai Spiced snickerdoodle cookies

9 recipes for every taste at your Christmas cookie swap

Photo Courtesy of David Burke Kitchen

At David Burke Kitchen in Soho, executive pastry chef Tracy Wilk can frequently be found inventing and serving tempting delights. “I created my chai spiced snickerdoodle cookies as I was in search of a unique, but approachable cookie to sell for a Cookies for Kids Cancer Bakesale,” she says. “They were such a big hit, they’ve become a staple in my kitchen!” With their spicy appeal, they might become a staple in your kitchen as well.

Makes: approx 12

Preparation time: 24 hours

Cooking time: 8–10 minutes

Difficulty: easy

Ingredients:

230 g of butter, room temperature
270 g of granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
6 g of vanilla extract
375 g of all-purpose flour
5 g of cream of tartar
4 g of baking soda
5 g of chai spiced blend (please see below for recipe)
4 g of salt

Method:

1. Place your flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and whisk together. Set aside.

2. Using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, cream together your butter and two sugars until it begins to hold a peak and the sugar crystals begin to dissolve. Add your eggs one at a time, scraping down in between additions. Add your dry ingredients to the bowl in one addition, mixing until it just comes together. Be careful, do not overmix.

3. Let dough rest in the fridge for 24 hours. Scoop cookies using a 1 ½ oz scooper, allowing cookies to firm up in the fridge before baking. Pre-heat oven to 325°F.

4. Using the palm of your hand, flatten cookies. Toss cookies in chai sugar and place on sheet tray, with enough room for them to double in size. Bake cookies for 8–10 minutes, until the outsides are just set but the middle is still soft.

Homemade Chai Spice Blend:

2 tbsp of ground cinnamon
1 tbsp of ground nutmeg
1 tbsp of ground cardamom
1 tbsp of ground allspice
1 tbsp of ground ginger

Blend together, set aside

Chai Sugar:

3 tbsp of chai spice
1 cup of granulated sugar

Mix until chai spice is fully incorporated, set aside for coating cookies in before baking

Chef Notes: I use a scale for all of my recipes for accuracy. They are a fairly inexpensive purchase that will help all your recipes to come out with total precision! This recipe has been written in grams.

The key to a perfect cookie is to carefully cream your butter and sugar, and to not over whip your eggs to keep a dense texture. Always let your cookies rest for a minimum of 24 hours after making the dough, allowing the dough to firm up and the flavors to develop.

I use a homemade chai spice blend to flavor these cookies, but regular ground cinnamon is a great substitute as well!

Classic vanilla bourbon balls

9 recipes for every taste at your Christmas cookie swap

Photo Courtesy of Genevieve Ko

The next two recipes were created by recipe developer and cookbook author Genevieve Ko using Maker’s Mark Bourbon.

“Stay true to holiday traditions while creating these classic bourbon balls, which makes for the perfect size of sweet holiday indulgences,” says Genevieve. “Classic is right. Because bourbon balls just don’t get any better than this. The only problem will be cooking enough for seconds, thirds and fourths.”

Makes: 2 dozen balls

Total time: 20 minutes, plus chilling

Difficulty: easy

Ingredients:

½ part of Maker’s Mark® Bourbon
9 oz of shortbread cookies
½ cup of pecans, toasted
½ cup of confectioners’ sugar
1 cup of white chocolate chips

Method:

1. In a food processor, finely grind the shortbread. You should have 2 cups crumbs. Add the pecans and confectioners’ sugar and pulse until the nuts are chopped. Transfer to a large bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the bourbon to a boil. Remove from the heat and add ¾ cup of chocolate chips. Stir until smooth. Pour into the pecan mixture and stir until well-combined. Form into sixteen 1 ½” balls. Place the remaining ¼ cup of chocolate chips in a resealable plastic bag. Microwave in 20 second increments until melted, squeezing the chocolate in the bag to evenly melt. Snip a small hole in one corner and drizzle the chocolate onto the balls. Refrigerate in an airtight container until firm, after at least 2 hours and up to 1 week.

Sazerac shortbread

9 recipes for every taste at your Christmas cookie swap

Photo Courtesy of Genevieve Ko

You’ll be a hit at your cookie swap with this recipe! “Make spirits bright with this twist on the classic shortbread recipe, made with Maker’s Mark Bourbon and fresh lemon zest for a sweet and tangy treat that’ll tantalize your senses throughout holiday festivities,” says Genevieve. “Definitely not Mama’s shortening bread. Simple, quick, sweet and tangy, this is what we call a dessert-lover’s dream.”

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 35 minutes, plus cooling

Makes: 2 dozen

Difficulty: easy

Ingredients:

1 tbsp of Maker’s Mark® Bourbon
¼ cup of sugar
2 tsp of freshly grated lemon zest
½ tsp of anise seeds
⅛ tsp of salt
6 tbsp of unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1 cup of all-purpose flour

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a food processor, pulse the sugar, bourbon, lemon zest, anise, and salt until well mixed, scraping the bowl occasionally. Add the butter and pulse until creamy, scraping the bowl occasionally. Add the flour and pulse until small clumps form, scraping the bowl occasionally. Scatter the clumps evenly in an 8″ square cake pan. Press into an even layer. With a bench scraper or knife, cut the dough into 6 strips crosswise and 4 strips lengthwise to form 24 rectangles. Dock the dough with a toothpick or skewer. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cut along the same marks again, then cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Chef Gemma Stafford, of Bigger Bolder Baking, shared three recipes for supersized holiday cookies that can be made one at a time (the dough will keep for up to four days, or you can freeze it and enjoy a little bit of Christmas whenever you need it). Give these as gifts (or enjoy an indulgent treat with your coffee or tea).

Gingerbread man cookie

9 recipes for every taste at your Christmas cookie swap

Photo Courtesy of Bigger Bolder Baking

“A holiday classic, these cookies are the perfect balance of spice and sweetness,” says Gemma. “Decorate him with a traditional design or get creative with your icing and candies. However he’s dressed, he will be very well received.”

Makes: approx 12

Chilling time: 30 minutes

Baking time: 10–12 minutes

Difficulty: easy

Ingredients:

1 ½ tbsp of (½ oz/15g) butter, softened
2 tbsp of packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ tbsp of molasses (treacle/ honey)
½ cup of all-purpose flour
¼ tsp of ground ginger
¼ tsp of ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp of ground cloves (optional)
¼ tsp of baking soda
pinch of salt

Method:

In a bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and molasses and mix until combined. Mix in the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon and salt until combined. Cover and refrigerate for minimum 30 minutes or until easy to handle. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 10–12 minutes. Once cooled store the cookie in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Traditional Irish Shortbread

9 recipes for every taste at your Christmas cookie swap

Photo Courtesy of Bigger Bolder Baking

A traditional Christmas cookie back home in Ireland is a shortbread cookie,” says Gemma. “Holidays are about indulgence, so if a cookie with some sugar and vanilla that is held together with butter doesn’t do it for you then I don’t know what will.”

Makes: approx 12

Baking time: 10–12 minutes

Difficulty: easy

Ingredients:

6 tbsp of (3 oz/90g) butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp of sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
⅛ tsp of pure vanilla extract
7 tbsp of all-purpose flour
pinch of salt

Method:

In a medium bowl mix together the soft butter, sugar and vanilla until light and pale. Mix in the flour salt until combine. Your mix might look dry but press it together with your fingers and it will come together to form a dough. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 10–12 minutes or until lightly golden in color. Once cooled store the cookie in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Chocolate crinkle cookie

9 recipes for every taste at your Christmas cookie swap

Photo Courtesy of Bigger Bolder Baking

Snow is falling … on these gorgeous crumbly chocolatey cookies, with a soft-fudge center, they’re not going to hang around!

Makes: approx 12

Chilling time: 30 minutes

Baking time: 10 minutes

Difficulty: easy

Ingredients:

8 tbsp of white sugar
2 tbsp of vegetable oil (or any flavorless oil)
1 egg
½ tsp of vanilla extract
8 tbsp of all purpose flour
4 tbsp of cocoa powder
½ tsp of baking powder
pinch of salt

Method:

In a medium bowl mix together the sugar, oil, egg and vanilla. Mix until smooth and shiny. Sift over the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt and mix until combined. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Gently shape your cookie into a ball and press down until it is 5″ wide. Coat with icing sugar and place onto cookie sheets. Bake at 350°F (180C) for just 10 minutes. This will insure a fudgy soft center. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before removing from cookie sheets. Enjoy the same day it is baked.

Honey Spice Cookies

9 recipes for every taste at your Christmas cookie swap

Photo Courtesy of Sue Bee Honey

This recipe comes from the chefs at Sue Bee Honey. Sweet without being sickly, these light delicate cookies are perfect accompanied by a nice glass of milk.

Makes: approx 12

Baking time: 7 minutes

Difficulty: easy

Ingredients:

1 ½ sticks of butter
1 cup of brown sugar
¼ cup of Sue Bee Honey
1 egg
¼ tsp of ground cloves
1 ½ tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of ground ginger
½ tsp of salt
2 ¼ cups of flour
½ tsp of ground cinnamon

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream together brown sugar and butter. Slowly add the Sue Bee Honey, then the egg; mix well. Sift dry ingredients together and add to the creamed mixture. Make sure the batter is mixed well then form balls and dip in white sugar and place on greased cookie sheet sugar side up. Bake for 7 minutes.

Cranberry Pistachio Cookies Recipe (Gluten-Free)

9 recipes for every taste at your Christmas cookie swap

Photo Courtesy of Nuts.com

Looking for a gluten-free holiday option? Look no further than these red and green beauties, developed by registered dietician Miryam Quinn Doblas for nuts.com.

“Making cookies is a joyous event any time of the year, but especially during the holiday season,” says Miryam. “My cranberry pistachio cookies are gluten-free and delicious, which makes them a hit both at home and at holiday parties. They’re fun to make, and even more fun to share with loved ones!”

Makes: approx 12

Baking time: 11–13 minutes

Difficulty: easy

Ingredients:

1 cup of almond flour
1 cup of brown rice flour
1 egg
½ cup of sugar
½ cup of coconut oil, melted
¼ cup of dried cranberries
¼ cup of pistachios, chopped
½ tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of vanilla extract

Method:

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with unbleached parchment paper. In a stand mixer, add the egg, sugar and vanilla extract. While the stand mixer is running, add the coconut oil. Combine until you obtain an even mixture. Pause the mixer and add the almond flour, brown rice flour, and baking soda. Mix until combined. Turn the stand mixer off and fold in the cranberries and pistachios. Using a spoon or cookie scoop, place cookies 2–3 inches apart and bake for 11–13 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Whether your cookie preferences run classy or cute, hopefully you’ve found something new to try out this season.

Cara Strickland
Cara Strickland
Cara Strickland is a freelance writer living in the Pacific Northwest. She writes about food, faith, singleness, and relationships for a variety of publications in print and online. You can find more of her work at carastrickland.com.

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