Christmas Cookies

I had not planned to make Christmas cookies this year. Many of  you are now probably calling my husband to inquire as to my well being.

During a typical holiday season I will make dozens of Christmas cookies. But this isn't a typical holiday season and we are having a difficult time summoning up some Holiday Cheer. I chalk it up to just moving and we've yet to find our groove. Maybe it's in one of those boxes we haven't unpacked. So... I am trying to do the things I usually do with the thought "if the body is moving the heart will follow". My friend Julie starting baking yesterday as a way to fill the time as she anxiously waited for her boys to arrive from the States, so I thought I would bake along with her. And so today, since the house is decorated, the candles are burning, and theres a nip in the air, I baked cookies to conjure up the spirit of Christmas past.

In the late 90's I purchased Rose's Christmas Cookies. It has become my Christmas Cookie Bible. I have literally made every single cookie in that book, cover to cover. I did stop myself though at the over the top excess that is a gingerbread replica of the Notre Dame Cathedral. You have to have boundaries people.

I am a huge fan of cookbooks by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Her recipes are PRECISE, foolproof, and utterly delicious. They run the gamut from traditional favorites to cookies that require special equipment and skill. Her cookbooks are like taking a masterclass on baking, you'll learn a lot but you'll also have fun along the way.

This year I only made one from her cookbook, the rest were cookies that I had bookmarked while browsing around the internet.

From left to right: Rose's Crescents, Chocolate Chip Cherry Drops,
Fudge Drops, Halva Flapjacks, and Spiced Molasses Cookies.

Buckle your seatbelt kids, here we go....

To start, Fudge Drops. They are the bites of heaven smack dab in the middle of the platter above. If you closed your eyes you would think you were eating a fudgy brownie.

Fudge Drops
from King Arthurs Flour

8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) butter
1 cup (7 1/4 ounces) sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon espresso powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) All-Purpose Flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup (6 ounces) chocolate chips, optional

In a double boiler, or in the microwave, gently melt together the chocolate and butter. To avoid heating the chocolate too much and possibly burning it, the best method is to heat till the butter is melted and the chocolate has partially melted, then remove from the heat. Stir till all the chocolate melts.

In a separate bowl, beat together the sugar and eggs till they're thoroughly combined. Add the hot melted chocolate, then stir in the remaining ingredients, including the chocolate chips, if you're using them. Refrigerate the batter-like dough for 1 hour, to make it easier to handle.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets, three if you have them.

Drop the cookie dough by tablespoonful’s (about the size of a small ping pong ball) onto the prepared baking sheets. A tablespoon cookie scoop makes this task extremely simple. Leave about 2" between the dough balls, as they'll spread as they bake.

Bake the cookies for 11 to 12 minutes, until their tops are shiny and cracked. They won't crack until the very end, so keep a close eye on them; when they're cracked all the way across the top surface, they're just about done. The point is, you want these baked all the way through, but just barely; additional baking will make them crisp rather than chewy. Remove the cookies from the oven, and top each with a kiss-shaped chocolate, a nonpareil, or a bittersweet chocolate wafer, if desired. Wait 5 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool. 

Next, Rose's Crescents. They can be a bit fiddly and fragile but the almonds give them a wonderful texture and the cinnamon sugar topping is a nice change of pace from the usual coating of confectioners sugar. I would buy the Christmas Cookie book for this recipe alone. (But now you don't have to because I posted it below)

Rose’s Crescents
From Roses's Christmas Cookies

2/3 cup blanched sliced almonds
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
1 2/3 cup all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup superfine sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon

In a food processor with the metal blade, process the almonds and sugar until the almonds are ground very finely.
Cut the butter into a few pieces and add it with the motor running. Process until smooth and creamy. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the flour and sprinkle the salt on top. Pulse in just until the flour is incorporated.

Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, press itinto a thick disc, wrap it tightly and refrigerate for 2 hours. Stir together the topping ingredients and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 8 portions. Work with 1 section at a time, keeping the remainder of the dough refrigerated. Knead the dough between floured hands until malleable. Pinch off a portion of the dough and roll it into a ¾ inch round ball. On a lightly floured counter, roll each ball into a cylinder about 3 inches long. Form each cylinder into a crescent shape and place on the cookies sheet.

Bake for 14-16 minutes or until set but not brown. Cool the cookies on the sheets for 10 minutes. While they are still warm lift them from the cookie sheet with a small spatula and gently roll them one at a time in the cinnamon sugar mixture.
Finish cooling on wire racks. Store in an airtight container.

Chocolate Chip Cherry Drops, because I have been told that chocolate and cherry should play together more often. This is my absolute favorite recipe for Chocolate Chip cookies and I just added 1/2 cup of chopped dried Montmorency cherries.

Chocolate Chip Cherry Drops
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Makes about 18 large cookies.

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm

1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1-1  1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup chopped dried Montmorency cherries

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.
Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
With an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chips and dried cherries.
Roll a scant 1/4 cup of the dough into a ball. Place the formed dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart.
Bake until the cookies are light golden grown and the outer edges start to harden yet the centers are still soft and puffy, 8-12 minutes. Cool the cookies on the sheets. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets with a side metal spatula.

The next cookie was a gamble, but I am pleased with how it turned out. I have a friend who loves Halva, a sesame paste candy, and I had wanted to make a cookie that featured either Halva or the deep sesame taste of Halva.  My attempts were epic fails and then I found this recipe. Halva Flapjacks, they are really rich, with a fudge like texture from the Tahini paste. Flapjacks are oat based bar cookies popular in the UK. You will need a scale, and might need to do some math, but don't be afraid, these will be worth your efforts.

Halva Flapjacks
Recipe by Dan Lepard

Tahini has a curious effect when warmed, because it turns sugar and syrup to a fudge-like state. This means that with these oat flapjacks, you can reduce the butter content considerably and still end up with a firm fudge consistency after baking.
100g unsalted butter
75g brown sugar
200g sweetened condensed milk
75g tahini
50g honey
100g chopped dried dates or figs (I used dried cranberries)
100g chopped walnuts
25g sesame seeds
175g-225g rolled oats
Heat the butter, brown sugar and condensed milk in a saucepan until hot and the sugar dissolved, then remove from the heat and stir in first the tahini and honey, and then the dried fruit, nuts and sesame seeds. Now stir in enough rolled oats until the mixture just holds its shape – the more oats you add to the mix, the firmer the finished flapjack will be.
Line a 20cm or 25cm square cake tin (or similar) with buttered foil and pack the flapjack mixture into the base. Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan-assisted)/350F/gas mark 4 and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the flapjack is just beginning to turn golden on top. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
When warm, cut the flapjack into squares and serve, or store in an airtight container.

And finally....Spiced Molasses Ginger Cookies. The scent of warm spices, a lovely chewy texture, the occasional heat from a bite of crystallized ginger. They remind me of my childhood Christmases. I chilled the dough and wished I hadn't as I like them to spread a bit more.

Spiced Molasses Ginger Cookies
From Epicurious

2 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
¼ cup dark molasses
sugar for rolling

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt. Stir in the crystallized ginger and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Add the egg and molasses and mix well to combine.
On low speed add the flour mixture. Scrape down bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Roll the dough into balls roughly the size of walnuts. Roll the dough in sugar to heavily coat and then place on baking sheet.
Bake 10 minutes.


  1. Hey Shelly! I was literally logging on to my computer just now to send you a message for one of your favorite cookie recipes....and I saw this :) I am going to a cookie party on Friday with my Bible Study gals and am supposed to bring something that is not a "kid-cookie". Now I have several great options! Ketsi isn't big on sugar (yet) so I should be able to get these made without her flipping out. Hope you get a bit of the Christmas spirit going. I was just talking to Hannah about how I feel like we are in a bit of a strange place this Christmas season too. Miss you!

  2. Thanks for helping me bake the boys in. These look delicious. Especially interested in the halva cookie. Let's exchange.

  3. I am going to go on record and say that Flapjack is the worst possible name for a cookie, but I am really pleased with how they turned out.
    Kim, I hope that you have a great time at your cookie party, it sounds just like the kind of thing to get the Christmas MoJo flowing.

  4. Can I just say? I so enjoy your blogging!

  5. Um, you just saved me hours of online searching for new recipes to try this holiday! I'm officially on mat leave as of Friday and quickly approaching nesting mode... And I think Christmas baking is going to soothe that itch! Can't wait to try these - esp the halva treat! :)

  6. Halva flapjacks. You're too good to be true. Is Miss LM eating those by the bucketload? I'm jealous. And I'm going to try 'em! This list is full of all the flavors and scents that make this house happy: dark chocolate, ginger, tahini,'s like you read our Christmas minds.

  7. As per Julie, the Halva cookies are now Haystacks and not Flapjacks. You'll love them I just know it. LM did stop by after lunch to inquire if any were in the office:) Miss you.