Holiday Cookies? Or My Whisk Can Beat Your Whisk.

Passive Aggressive title aside, this post is an early homage to the ubiquitous Christmas cookie. I got the idea after watching Food Network’s Holiday Bake Off championship last night. The first two rounds involved making classic Christmas cookies. Not cakes. Not candy. Cookies.

And all modesty aside? I could have baked those people under the oven.baker cat

I know a lot of them were trying to impress the judges with “fresh” new flavor combos but really it’s in the execution. The eliminated contestant admitted she never baked cookies just cakes. She didn’t even have a recipe for one and she MADE IT UP. And the result was…as you would expect…sad.

Now I’ve got my favorites as we all do. Here are my top 5:

1. Sugar cookies. NOT cut out sugar cookies, just a good, solid vanilla infused  rolled in festive colored sugar cookies. Here’s my award winning recipes

Joanie’s Sugar Mounds

1 ¼ cups butter, softened

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 ¾ cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup sugar for coating

 Beat butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Blend in vanilla.

 Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually stir into butter mixture, just until blended.

 Roll dough into walnut size balls and roll in the extra sugar.

 Place 2 in apart on ungreased cookie sheet and flatten slightly. Bake 350 degrees for 8-10 min or until edges are slightly browned. Cool for 5 min. Remove to rake to finish cooling. Makes 2 dozen.

The KEY is using high quality vanilla.

2. Gingerbread. I’ll allow cut outs for these but past that only a minimum of royal icing highlights.

3. Thumbprint Cookies. These are as classic as they come and can appeal to many different fillings. I like strawberry jam best and again, a good, rich vanilla for the batter is essential.cookiest

4. Bar cookies. Imagination can go wild here. All types of ingredient combinations baked ONE time then cut into bars. Here’s a local favorite

Kentucky Christmas Bars

1/2 cup butter softened              1  1/2 cup brown sugar

2 cups plus 2 Tbsp. flour            2 eggs, beaten

1 tbsp. bourbon                             1 tsp. baking powder

1 cup. chopped pecans                 1 cup chocolate chips

Chocolate Glaze:

1 tbsp. cocoa                                   2 tbsp. bourbon

1  1/2 tbsp. melted butter             2 tbsp. milk

Cream butter and 1/2 cup sugar together. Stir in 1 cup flour; press into ungreased 9×13 pan. Bake at 350 for 10 min. Beat eggs with remaining 1 cup sugar and bourbon. Stir in 2 tbsp. flour and baking powder. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Spread over crust and bake additional 20 min. Remove and cool 30 min. Drizzle with glaze. Let glaze set; cut into bars.

5. And last but not least Springles. Traditional German anise cookie. Don’t like ’em, disaster the one time I did try to make ’em but…they were a favorite of my Daddy’s 😀

So what about ya’ll? What are your favorite holiday cookies? Are you a baker (or a candlestick maker?). How would you do in a competition? What’s your go to kitchen tool? (Mine is my trusty 20 year old cookie sheets)  Share a recipe? Mail some to me? 😀 Let’s hear it!

Bonus question: One of the contestants made a Madeline which the judges discounted as “cake” rather than “cookie”. Do you agree?






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  • Jane says:

    Hello Joanie,
    I love sugar cookies, but am not much of a baker. I can screw it up even when the cookie or cake mix comes in a box. A couple of years I found a pecan snickerdoodle recipe and I’ve been trying to get my baking cousins to make it, but have not been successful yet. They did bake some lemon cookies last year for Thanksgiving that were delicious.

    • Jane, congrats on snagging the bird! Better lock up any cookies you have on hand.

      I feel your pain. I can follow a recipe okay if it’s not complicated and doesn’t involve arcane instructions like “reduce,” but I have no instincts in the kitchen. Pull me off the recipe, and I’m in trouble.

      Lemon cookes sound great!

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Mmmm…lemon cookies. Nom, nom, nom.

      But as Nancy said, keep the Chook out of the cookies! He’s already put on a few pounds and it’s not even the holidays yet!

    • Joan Kayse says:

      Jane! I LOVE lemon anything! Would love the recipe!

      Sorry to have been AWOL all day. That darn non-baking fun day job and all!

  • Deanna says:

    I suck at anything remotely resembling baking that require any degree of skill. I have been told cooking is art and baking is science. I definitely tend more towards art than science. My few rather sad attempts at baking have been … well, sad! Because of my rather lacklustre results, I have not felt encouraged to persevere, terrible I know, as practice makes perfect. I stick to cooking and buy my cookies but ginger snaps and chocolate chip are some of my favorites.

    • Deanna, I envy your cooking skills. I have none. I have the dh, who worked as an assistant cook in school and loved it. I rely heavily on him in anything involving the kitchen. I can follow a recipe, but devising ways to jazz it up, either cooking or baking, is beyond me.

    • Joan Kayse says:

      I don’t know about science Deanna…there is a bit of flare involved though. I I have a KILLER chocolate chip cookie…and I just typed this answer looking through a cat.

      Grayson! Stop perching in front of the monitor!

  • Helen says:


    I don’t bake a lot these days although I may have more time now 🙂 and I tend to make Christmas cakes fro Christmas rich fruit cakes with brandy or sherry in them yum although i love these recipes and may try them out with the grandkids this year

    Have Fun

    • Helen, we do fruitcake, too! “We” meaning I’m in charge of procuring the brandy and soaking the fruit in it and the dh is in charge of everything else.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Ohhhh…how yummy! I love filled breads. I have this recipe for a filled bread that I haven’t made in a few years. May habe to drag that out….

    • Joan Kayse says:

      Helen, your scrumption Crissy Cakes are legend here in the Lair…and we’ve not yet tasted one 😀 Powerful skill if it wends its way from Down Under And mega congrats on retiring!

  • Shannon says:

    I love cookies, and they love my waist.

    My specialty is pudding cookies, made with instant pudding. A friend does these with sugar free pudding and sugar substitute for diabetic husband. Everything else is variable: butterscotch pudding with butterscotch chips. Most recently I substituted almond flavoring for vanilla, used cheesecake pudding, white chocolate, bits, and almond slivers. (Yes I was trying to win the office competition.)

    Next up is vanilla with peanut butter chips. Pondering walnuts.

    I’m allergic to chocolate but if you’re really nice to me, I will make some combination including the devishish chocolate with deep chocolate bits (not chocolate chips).

    Thank you for the sugar cookie recipe. I have been looking for something easy and different.

    • Shannon, cookies love my waist, too, alas. The pudding cookies sound great! I have a particular fondness for butterscotch.

      If you have competitions at your office, you must have quite a few bakers. Your contribution sounds yummy!

      • Shannon says:

        Supposedly the chili cook-off on Friday will be judged fairly. Our contests usually fall in the NOT FAIR version of competition. Bribery, multiple voting, and disappearance of ballot boxes have been known to occur.

  • Amy Conley says:

    Joanie, I don’t cook, or bake. And if I try, you probably couldn’t eat, but it would make a great weapon. The older I get the more I like cookies as opposed to cake.
    And I have. No idea fwbhat a “Madalibe” is.

  • Joanie, yum! Reading this makes me hungry.

    The dh and I saw that same program. FWIW, we though someone else would get the axe. And watching one woman drove me up a tree.

    I’m not a baker–not in the sense you are. I can make the occasional cookie or cake and have it turn out okay, but bandita, I’ve had your chocolate chip cookies, and they are seriously out of my league! I have no doubt you would mop the floor with those people.

    As for how I would do in a competition…I wouldn’t. I’m not facing off with people who have a “go-to tool” in the kitchen. Not when my go-to is the microwave! Or, when he’s around, the dh. Nuh-uh. No way would I embarrass myself like that.

    After seeing them on TV, I believe I have eaten Madelines, but I have no idea where they fall on the cookie-cake continuum. I remember only that they were yummy. (Kind of like the guy on Continuum, but that’s a different yumminess and different blog.)

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Oh, yeah, the guy on Continuum…yum!!

      Are you calling your husband a kitchen tool? Grins.

      Then again, I’ve had his fudge brownies. Yumbo!!

    • Joan Kayse says:

      Why thank you Nancy. I do like those cookies myself.

      And you’re talking about the “perky” giggling woman aren’t you? Gawd, she got on my nerves! I wanted to sneak in and twist her piping bags into knots.

  • Debbie Oxier says:

    Love Christmas cookies. Every year my daughters and I take one day in December and bake up a storm. My youngest’ s hubby bought her a double oven a couple years ago just to accommodate all her baking! We have some traditional cookies we make every year. Snowballs (a variation of Mexican wedding cakes), sugar cookies, Chocolate standards, coconut islands, and usually try something new every year. It’s one of my favorite things to do at Christmas. The last two years my great granddaughters and their friend have joined us. We even had a flour fight which my son-in -law got in on. Fun times!

    • Debbie, I bet all your friends look forward to Christmas! We’ve had a couple of friends who were serious holiday bakers. Their array of choices was mind-blowing, and it sounds as though yours also are. Too bad for ys that both sets of friends moved away!

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Coconut islands? Wow! What are those?

      And you’ll have to be sure to come back for the 12 Bandita Days of Christmas. LOTS of cookie recipes! Woot!!

    • Joan Kayse says:

      I don’t care for coconut myself, but coconut islands? I find intriguing….fluffy island and you could perch a teeny little santa figure on it 😀

  • Debbie Oxier says:

    Sorry, it should read Chocolate Sandies!

  • pjpuppymom says:

    Hi Joanie! Totally missed that show on Food Network Sunday night. I’ll be watching next weekend!

    Sugar cookies are one of my favorites too. My recipe is very similar to yours except that I add lemon extract along with the vanilla. I usually do the drop cookies but Sunday afternoon I made cut-off cookies with my almost 5-year-old baking buddy. She’s quite an innovative cookie decorator. 😉

    I’ll kick off my Christmas baking and candy making the weekend following Thanksgiving. Lots of goody packages to ship and deliver!

    My most frequently requested Christmas cookies are my log cookies. They’re like a pecan sandie (with brandy) but are shaped like a log, dusted with powdered sugar and have one end dipped into melted chocolate.

    I hear you on the high quality vanilla. Several years ago, I had an employee whose parents made several trips a year to Haiti. They would bring me back bottles of pure vanilla that were pure heaven.

  • Deb says:

    Joanie, I used to bake all the time. I just have gotten out of the habit. I am more of a bars-type baker, thought. I love cut-out, frosted sugar cookies, but they are a pain to mess with, so I don’t. I do make Scottish shortbread.
    I also make pebbern nodder, a Danish cookie. (It is called pepper nut in English, but is is NOTHING like the German pepper nut. No anise (yuck), only 1/4 tsp pepper for 12 cups of flour, cardamom for spice, and only cut to be about the size of the tip of the little finger. Made with lard, they melt in your mouth.)

    For some reason, I think of peanut butter blossom cookies as a Christmas cookie. Not sure why. (PB cookies with the chocolate kiss pressed down into them.)

    Lastly, 2 weeks before Christmas, the Lutheran Church Ladies in town have a cookie walk. Hey, for $4 a pound, who wouldn’t go there for some really fancy and yummy cookies? 😉

    • Deb says:

      Thanks for the Kentucky Bars recipe.

      Danish Wedding Cake is really an almond paste cookie called kranskage. Very good! But, too hard to make without the right kind of pans.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Oooh, you make Scottish Shortbread from scratch? I’d love to have your recipe!!

      And that church lady cookie walk? Yeah. I’d be there. Grins.

    • Joan Kayse says:

      Hey Deb! Is that $4 a pound per THIGH or just waist 😀

      The Danish one sounds intriguing. A lot of Germanic/Scandanvian types seem the same…need special pans or what’s that one that you use like a brand form to fry it???Gah, can’t think of it right now.

      What about spritz cookies? I had a cookie press that my Mom had but could not get it to squeeze out cookies uniformly. A lot of work

      • Deb says:

        No special pan for baking the pebbern nodder, but you do need a dish-like pan that looks like a colander to shake them in to round them and get excess flour off. Hard to find. Spritz cook is are goid, but hard to get “right”. 🙂

  • Joanie!!!!!!!!!!! I can’t think about holiday baking yet. I have a granddaughter birthday and Thanksgiving to get through yet, of course pumpkin pie or cheesecake does qualify as baking.

    So top 5 Christmas cookie requests here:

    1. Chocolate Mint cookies. Imagine a chewy chocolate cookie with a melted Andes mint on top.

    2. BUCKEYES. Not technically a cookie, more like a candy. I make them ONLY at Christmas. The recipe makes 9 Dozen, but is labor intensive.

    3. Coconut Jam Thumbprints. Very much like yours, but rolled in coconut before baking.

    4. Peanut blossums with Hershey Kisses in the middle.

    5. Mexican Wedding cakes. These are made solely for the Jazzman.

    And I also make iced cookie cutter sugar cookies. Mine had very good vanilla in it, too. I usually make these ahead of time and freeze before icing. Then the grandkids can decorate them. It’s a tradition.

    • Deb says:

      Ooh, love Mexcian Wedding Cakes….or Russian Tea Cookies or Swedish Crescents. So, a popular cookie dough with so many countries claiming it.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Suz, I’m with you…I’ve got to get through Thanksgiving first! Hahah!!

      And I adore buckeyes. Don’t make them but love them. :>

      Wedding crescents…trying to remember if I like those or not. Are they the ones dusted with powdered sugar.

  • Oh, by the way, I watched the Holiday Baking Competition, too. I think I could’ve taken a few of them out. 🙂

    BUT I do want the recipe for the “pinch” cookies.

  • EC Spurlock says:

    Joanie, my family can (and has) thrown fits and mutinied if I didn’t make cookies for Christmas! I will admit I do love to bake and usually keep the cookie jar full but for Christmas only a full-out extravaganza will do. I usually make 4-6 different types and give them out to friends and neighbors as well as sharing with the office and keeping a bunch. We have only two traditional staples, thumbprint cookies (ours are rolled in finely chopped pecans and filled with whatever homemade jam I have open; fig jam is the best) and my mother-in-law’s sugar cookies. These are rolled out and cut into shapes ranging from the traditional trees, hearts and angels (decorated with sliced almonds) to oddball shapes like hubby’s Michigan-shaped cookie cutter and the Ninjabread Men cutters we got a few years ago (so yes, now we have Christmas Ninjas.) The rest vary from year to year and I’m always looking for new recipes. My personal favorites are Italian cucidatti and Swedish boeterkoek. I agree, the vanilla is key; one of our friends went on a cruise and brought me back a bottle of Mexican vanilla, which is very mellow and less sharp than the Madagascar kind you get in the supermarket. So now I make a special trip to Williams Sonoma for their Mexican vanilla every year.

    Alas, my favorite cookie mixing bowl bit the dust last year when my flour bag literally leapt out of the cabinet of its own accord and smashed that sucker to bits. So now I have to buy a new one big enough for the big batches I make.

    • Deb says:

      Mine did that last year, too, EC, in a freak accident. I was getting the bowl out of the cupboard and my 2 c glass measuring cup bumped against it and it shattered into hundreds of pieces all over the kitchen floor. I was, and still am, bummed about it. It was a super huge mixing bowl and haven’t really found one like it since.

      • EC Spurlock says:

        It happened to another friend of mine last Christmas too. She suggested we set up a flour bag suicide prevention hotline. I’ve had that bowl (part of a set of 10 glass nesting bowls) for 25 years and I am lost without it!

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Oh, man, where did you get the Ninjabreadmen cookie cutters? How freakin’ cook is that?

      And I’d LOVE to have the recipe for the Swedish cookies. I’m trying to bring Sweden into the house this Christmas. We’re going to get a Julbok (small!) and talk about all the Swedish traditions, inlding the Krampus! Grins. My hubby’s grandmother was 100% Swedish. Im tracing her ancestry and am getting my boys involved. Grins.

      • EC Spurlock says:

        You can get the Ninjabread Men here: For my money the best part is the recipe on the back. Fred’s has all kinds of cool and offbeat stuff, so if you’re looking for a fun gift for the cooks you know, this is the place.

        The boeterkoek recipe is really easy and looks more complicated than it is.
        Cream together 2/3c butter and 1 c sugar. Add 1 tsp almond extract and 1 beaten egg. Gradually add in 1 1/2c flour and 1/2 tsp baking powder, stirring with a fork until smooth. Spread in a greased 8-inch square cake pan. In a separate bowl, beat together 1 egg and 1 tbsp milk and brush over top of dough. Top with sliced almonds. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until golden brown. I like to let it cool completely and drizzle a glaze of confectioner’s sugar mixed with a little water or almond extract in diagonal lines across the top before cutting the bars for a festive look.

    • Joan Kayse says:

      Oh EC! I MOURN the loss of your cookie bowl….and I hadn’t even “met” it.

      If I lost my mother’s old ceramic bowl I’d lay down and cry. And my ratty cookie sheets? We ahem..”talk” to each other. (OK, my workday may have been a touch TOO long :D)

  • catslady says:

    Sorry to admit I just don’t bake any more. I use to make a special thumbprint cookie (almond extract and grape jelly) but it is very time consuming. I spend more time on cooking dinners lol. I do think Madelines are definitely cookies – you pick them up individually which to me is the definition of a cookie.

  • Jeanne Adams says:

    Joan what a FUN post! OMGosh you could SO bake anyone under the oven. You’re a State Fair winner, you are!

    As Nancy said, I too have had your baking. NOM, NOM, NOM!! Those chocolate chips of yours….divine!!

    I love, love, love to bake. It’s one of my favorite things. Teenaged boys don’t always appreciate the cooking part but the baking? They love that. Snork!! I usuallly make a passle of cookies at the holidays, although pie is the staple. My mother’s molasses cookies. Chocolate soft cookies. LOTS of sugar cookies, both the drop kind and the cut-em-out-and-decorate them kind. Gingerbread. A couple of years ago we attempted Gingerbread houses.

    OMGosh. Fi-as-co. But funny as all get out. So…all’s well. And we ate lots of gingerbread and gumdrops so it was a “win” in that respect! hahaha!

    My fav kitchen tool (after the coffeemaker) is a set of fab measuring spoons. They’re the stainless steel professional kind. LOVE THEM. Also, love my professional grade knives. (But you would have guessed that, right? Grins)

  • Pissenlit says:

    Your whisk probably can beat my whisk since my whisk is a fork…

    My favourite holiday cookies are cookies that I’m not allergic to. I luuuuuurve cookies!…providing they don’t have the kind of nuts that will kill me. I’m not really much of a baker and a competition would be an epic fail. I need a recipe in front of me. If I do bake anything, I pretty much only bake apple cakes and congo squares. My favourite kitchen tool is my melon baller. 😀

    I understand that madeleines are little cakes but to me they fall in the same category as ladyfingers which are little sponge cakes but are considered a biscuit/cookie…so…in my books madeleines are cookies too despite what anyone else says. 🙂

    This is the only apple cake recipe that I ever use. It always goes over well when I show up with one. My friends and family like it more when I peel the apples first and I usually prefer to substitute dark brown or demerara sugar in place of white for this but otherwise, this recipe is always a total win!

  • I have no doubt you could have baked those chicks back into the Stone Age, Joanie !! I’m saving these recipes for my Mom. She is the baking queen in our family. Yes, I run a bakery, but we only bake one cookie – a really great chocolate chip. They come in little pre-made frozen blobs. We just put them on a cookie sheet and bake them.

    My Mom’s specialty is potato chip cookies. She always makes them for Christmas so she can give them to the firemen and policemen in the town where she lives.

    She makes them for me to take to RWA Nationals every year, but my roomie and I tend to eat them all in the first couple of days!

  • Joan Kayse says:


    I am SO going to raid your room next year. Bar the door!

  • Joan Kayse says:

    Hey everyone! As I said, sorry to have been MIA today…darn paying day job!

    Thanks to Nancy, Jeanne and Suz and all you talented BB’s out there for keeping the oven “baking”. Now…where did I put my butter?