Treasured treats from beloved grandmothers, simple-but-delicious recipes that have been passed down for generations, and an almond biscotti that tastes like Italy — these are a few of our favorite holiday treats.
Some know them as Mexican wedding cookies, others call them snowballs. In my family, they’re pecan puffs: buttery, flaky cookies studded with chopped pecans and double-coated in an ungodly amount of powdered sugar. My mommommy has baked these every Christmas for as long as I can remember — filling Christmas tins for friends and family, and always saving an extra-large Ziplock bag for the grandkids to enjoy on Christmas day (and the subsequent days as we wander around in a food coma). What’s the secret to these cookies? Vanilla extract. Two tablespoons might seem like a lot, but trust the process (and Mommommy) — two tablespoons is just right.
Preheat oven to 325°. Cream butter, then mix in powdered sugar and vanilla until fully combined. Add all other ingredients and mix until just combined (don’t overwork the dough!).
Roll dough into small balls and bake on an ungreased baking sheet for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly golden. Let cookies sit on baking sheet for ten minutes, then roll in powdered sugar. Roll cookies in powdered sugar once more after they’re completely cool. Enjoy!
When I was forced to eliminate gluten from my diet, cutting out chocolate chip cookies was one of the toughest foods I had to say goodbye to. Then, one day, my mother-in-law presented me with a plate of these amazing gluten-free chocolate chip cookies!
Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 ¾ cups finely ground almond flour ¾ teaspoon kosher salt (or less) ½ teaspoon baking soda (or less) 1 ¼ sticks butter at room temperature ½ cup light brown sugar ½ cup granulated sugar 1 large egg 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract 12 ounces chocolate chips
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk the almond flour, salt, and baking soda to combine.
Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium speed until very light, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the egg and mix on medium speed to combine. Scrape the bowl well, then add the vanilla and mix to combine.
Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just combined, about 10 seconds. Scrape the bowl well and mix on low speed to ensure the mixture is homogenous.
Add the chocolate and gently mix to incorporate it. Scoop the dough into 10 mounds of dough the size of generous golf balls and transfer them to the prepared baking sheets. Stagger the rows to allow the cookies room to spread.
Gently press the cookies down slightly with your fingers until about 1½ inches thick. Bake the cookies, switching racks and rotating the sheets halfway through until they’re golden brown around the edges and just barely set in the center, 18 to 22 minutes. Transfer sheets to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then transfer cookies with a spatula onto another rack to cool a bit more.
This recipe recalls the days my husband and I lived in Florence, Italy, where all around town were antique bakeries where I could order tiny, almond-filled cantucci fresh from the oven. This recipe is the closest I’ve found to make my kitchen smell like those little shops — filled with the aroma of mulling spices and almond and vanilla. Perfect for dunking in a post-dinner coffee, or — dare I say it — breakfast.
Better Than Almond Biscotti
125g slivered almonds 350g all-purpose flour 190g white sugar 1 teaspoon baking powder Pinch of salt 2 eggs, room temperature, plus egg yolk for glazing 1 ounce Vin Santo* 1 tablespoon honey, warm 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 teaspoon almond extract
*Vin Santo is a Tuscan dessert wine — ancient, amber-hued, and deeply aromatic. Think aging casks in your great-grandfather’s attic. It’s hard to find here, so you could probably substitute another aromatic dessert wine, possibly even spiced rum! Why not? Give it a go.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Spread almonds on baking sheet and put in oven while it preheats to toast the nuts (5-10 minutes). They should turn a pretty brown hue.
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl
Crack in the 2 eggs and add in the other liquid ingredients. Slowly mix with fork until dough starts to come together. Add in the almonds and then mix the mixture with your hands until it’s combined. It will feel a little short, not sticky, and should hold together. Divide dough in half and form into two long longs, approximately 2 inches wide and 1 inch tall.
Lay across lined baking sheet at least 3 inches apart. Glaze logs with extra egg yolk for that beautiful shine. Bake 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.
They should be a golden-brown color, not doughy inside, but still soft when you take them out. Then lower the oven to 275°. When just cool enough to handle, using a sharp knife, cut logs at angle into about ½-inch slices.
Arrange the cookies side up on the baking sheet, and bake at 275° for 15-20 minutes. They shouldn’t color more, but they should dry out. However! Do not let them get hard. They should have a little bit of give when you touch them.
Remove and let cool (or eat them hot!). They should harden up more while cooling, but they shouldn’t be teeth-breaking hard. They should have an easy bite but still hold together easily when you dunk them into your coffee.
Store in airtight container — if they last that long.
When I was little, my grandma used to arrive at our house on Christmas morning with two round, red tins with big red bows on top — one for me and one for my brother. Inside were dozens of cookies, but my all-time favorite was her “Best Cookies in the World” — nutty coconut-oatmeal cookies coated with a layer of sugar.
Joyce’s Best Cookies in the World
1 cup butter (no margarine, please) 1 cup sugar 1 cup brown sugar 1 egg 1 cup vegetable oil 1 cup rolled oats 1 cup crushed corn flakes ½ cup shredded coconut ½ cup chopped nuts 3½ cups flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 325°. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and oil and mix well. Add oats, corn flakes, coconut, and nuts, stirring well. Add flour, baking soda, salt, and vanilla. Mix well and form into balls the size of small walnuts. Place on ungreased cookie sheets. Flatted with a fork dipped in water. Bake for 12 minutes.
Allow to cool on cookie sheets for a few minutes before removing.
The women in my family can make a mean pound cake, but cookie recipes are few and far between. These chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookies were one of the rare cookie recipes my grandmother would bring to our annual Christmas morning pajama brunch.
½ cup salted butter 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder ½ cup milk 1 tsp vanilla extract ⅔ cup creamy peanut butter 3 cups quick oats (don’t use old-fashioned oats)
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or set out approximately 29 cupcake liners.
In a 2.5-to-3-quart medium saucepan combine butter, sugar, cocoa, and milk. Set over medium heat, and cook, stirring frequently, until it reaches a full boil. Allow mixture to boil 60 seconds without stirring.
Remove from heat, immediately add in vanilla, peanut butter, and quick oats. Stir mixture until well combined then, using a medium (2 tablespoon) cookie scoop or two spoons, drop mixture onto lined baking sheets or into cupcake liners.
Allow to rest at room temperature until set, about 20 to 30 minutes (to speed up setting, refrigerate).
Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.
OK, OK, these aren’t a cookie, but my mom made these a lot at Christmas.
1 cup sugar ½ cup water 2 cups raw peanuts with the skins on
Preheat oven to 300°. Dissolve the sugar in water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add in the peanuts. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring all the while. Cook until the peanuts are completely sugared (the nuts will be all coated and there will be no more syrup in the pan). Pour out the nuts and spread on a greased cookie sheet.
Bake for approximately 30 mins, stirring at 5-minute intervals. Remove from oven and let cool. Store in an airtight container.