Twists on cookie classics to make your home smell like the holidays.
Friday, December 3, 2021
Bite-sized Christmas cookie history
Feasting around what we now consider holiday time dates back to for winter solstice celebrations, when you basically stuffed yourself silly in anticipation of winter famine, according to History.com. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages when Christmas festivities became more popular than those for the solstice, however, that Christmas cookies were added to the menu.
It was during this time that spices, along with sugar and butter, were available a bit more readily in Europe. They were still incredibly expensive, though. Deciding it was worth it to splurge on the celebrations, this was the one time families bought ingredients like cinnamon, ginger and lard. Basically, everything you need for the perfect yuletide treat.
A few centuries after the Middle Ages, in 1796, the long-titled "American Cookery: or, The Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry and Vegetables, and the Best Modes of Making Puff-pastes, Pies, Tarts, Puddings, Custards and Preserves, and All Kinds of Cakes, from the Imperial Plumb to Plain Cake" cookbook was published. Generally considered the first American cookbook, it included a recipe for “Christmas Cookery,” otherwise known as cookies. These were not quick treats you’d whip up at the last minute. According to the original cookbook, they were “hard and dry at first” and needed to be stored in a damp room for a few months before they were edible.
If you’re looking for some classic Christmas cookie recipes with a twist, here are some of the tastiest to be found. Even if you’re baking with inexperienced, pint-sized bakers, we promise you won’t have to wait months to eat them. So enjoy the taste of the holidays, the smell of home and joy of cooking with family.
Sugar cookies with a twist
- It’s time to play with your food. Taste of Home shows how to make a sugar cookie puzzle with cut-out trees, snowmen and more to set the scene.
- There’s something about these sugar cookies that will leave even the most experienced taste testers trying to figure out your secret ingredient. Food & Wine shows us how to make cardamom sugar cookies for a bit of spice to tickle the tongue and the nose.
- Keep the recipe classic but make the look unique. Use your favorite sugar cookie recipe or store-bought dough to make cookies in various sizes, then stack them to form a Christmas tree. Get the recipe from Taste of Home.
Shortbread cookies with a twist
- Shortbread is delicious. Chocolate is delicious. Put them together and you have a treat no one will be able to turn down. Try this chocolate shortbread recipe from Cookies & Cups.
- What’s Cooking Good Looking brings us a vegan and gluten-free shortbread recipe. But just because there’s no flour or butter, don’t think there’s no flavor. Try their recipe for pine nut and peppercorn shortbread.
- We didn’t think shortbread could have a kick to it, but this one proved us wrong. Slide Willow Bird Baking’s toasted pecan shortbread in the oven and don’t forget the spiked toffee sauce.
Gingerbread cookies with a twist
- Leave it to Marth Stewart to take a classic and make it even classier. These simple gingerbread tree cookies are elevated with her lemon icing. When you want the smell of Christmas, you can’t go wrong with gingerbread and citrus.
- Combine gingerbread with thumbprint cookies using this recipe from Tablespoon. Of course you can make your own gingerbread, but we appreciate this recipe’s hack of using boxed mix. Simple never smelled so good.
- Making gingerbread houses is a tradition in many families. Crying over architectural cookie failures is a tradition in others. If that’s you, try this graham cracker gingerbread house hack from Happiness is Homemade.
Cookies inspired by holiday drinks
- We asked around the office and snickerdoodles came up as a favorite Christmas cookie. We wonder what they’d think of Tablespoon’s chewy chai snickerdoodles with just the right amount of spice to keep it interesting.
- When the kids are opening presents and you’re still trying to wake up, why not pair your morning brew with cinnamon clove coffee cookies? In Katrina’s Kitchen has the recipe to wake up your taste buds.
- There are plenty of cookies out there that are inspired by hot cocoa, but why not shake things up a bit with a salted caramel hot chocolate cookie? Beyond Frosting shares their luxurious recipe, although we’ll admit we don’t understand their tips on storing them. We’re pretty sure these cookies will be gone quicker than Santa can say, “On, Rudolph!”
- Eggnog cookies have been on our baking wish list for over a year and we promise it’s finally going to happen this winter. Recipe Girl has the recipe that makes us want to bite, sip, repeat.
Cookies inspired by cake and candy
- The Middle Ages taught us that the holidays are a time for indulgence (read above if you skipped over what you thought was a boring history lesson). Since we’re being extravagant in the kitchen, it’s time to make triple chocolate cheesecake cookies from Tablespoon.
- Does your family set out a gumdrop tree at Christmas? It’s nostalgic but it might also not be the most sanitary tradition. Bake the candy in a cookie instead. Get the coconut gumdrop cookie recipe – yes, coconut – from A Farmgirl’s Dabbles.
- Fruitcake gets a bad rap, but maybe we can save that reputation by making it into something slightly different. Make fruitcake cookies with The Seasoned Mom.
More welcoming scents
There are other great ways to bring your favorite holiday scents to the home. It seems like every year there’s another baked good-inspired candle on the market, and they keep smelling more and more like the real thing. We’re also seeing more scented artificial fire logs. There’s the obvious pine and cedar, but don’t stick your nose up at cinnamon, pumpkin spice or, if you’re feeling daring, chicken.
If flames aren’t your thing – we know they don’t always mix well with pets – try adding fresh greenery around the house or make a pomander. Make a simmer pot on the stove with oranges, cinnamon and cloves, or hang a sachet of Christmas-inspired herbs in a closet.