December 1, 2020
Background for 25 Days of Christmas Cookies:
For the past few years, we’ve enjoyed delighting our guests with 25 Days of Christmas Cookies each December. Every day from December 1-25, we bake a fresh batch of Christmas cookies, choosing a new recipe each day. Next we take some photos, share the best ones on social media, and then we give the cookies away to our guests and friends and family.
It’s always tough to decide which cookies to make in December. We bake many kinds of cookies here all year long. In our opinion, Christmas cookies should be cookies that we don’t normally bake at other times of the year, and should reflect the flavors of the season. Ideally, the cookies should be especially photogenic and festive looking. Finally, we try to include cookies that reflect our family heritage and traditions while making opportunities to find new favorites each year.
Sharing Family Traditions:
This year, we lost several elderly family members: Julie’s dad Gerry, Blayne’s dad Wayne, Julie’s stepmom Elizabeth, and Julie’s great Aunt Bette. The holidays will be a little less bright without these loved ones here to celebrate. Fortunately, we can honor and remember them through cooking and family traditions. With that in mind, this year we will be sharing more favorite family cookie recipes that have been passed down to us via family cookbooks and handwritten recipe cards. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!
December 25: Apple Pie Cookies
I made these Apple Pie Cookies in honor of my mom, Kay. She was famous for her pies. The crust was always so tender and she could practically whip them out in her sleep. These cookies are delicious and so cute to look at. They have a caramel glaze on the bottom and a cinnamon and spice flavored crust. If you make them, be aware that the recipe makes way too much apple filling and caramel sauce for the amount of dough…either double the dough or cut the filling in half. My mom made lots of cakes and pies but she usually left the cookie baking to my sister and me! I miss her a lot, but it’s fun to honor her memory on Christmas with these cookies. Thanks for following along with the 25 Days of Christmas Cookies.
December 24: Ann’s Stryl Cookies
Stryl Cookies are thin, waffle-style Norwegian cookies that are made on a special decorative iron. Blayne’s mother Ann and her sisters made them at Christmas. They are similar to a Krumkaker or to an Italian Pizzelle cookie. The iron is heated on the stove, the batter poured in, and then rolled around a wooden spoon handle. Blayne made these special cookies on the iron passed down to him from his Aunt Thelma. They are crispy and delicious!
Here is the family recipe:
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
Whip cream into soft peaks, then fold in sugar. In a separate bowl. whisk together eggs and vanilla. Alternate adding egg mixture into cream, then flour into cream. Rest overnight in refrigerator or for at least 2 hours.
Heat stryl iron on medium heat and lightly grease it with cooking spray. To bake the cookies, drop a teasponful of batter into the center of the iron. Bake until both sides are golden-this takes abouta minute on each side. To remove, slip the tip of a blunt knife under the cookie and slide it off, then immediately roll onto the handle of a wooden spoon and set aside to cool. Remove spoon handle when cookie cool.
December 23: Vanillekipferl (Vanilla Crescent Cookies)
Originally from Vienna, these Vanillekipferl are traditionally made at Christmastime throughout Bavaria and Europe. We ate them for the first time last December while visiting the incredible European Christmas markets along the Rhine River. This recipe is from Viking River Cruises. They are a new favorite at Greenlake Guest House, and have become an annual tradition.
3 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups ground almonds (we used Bob’s almond flour)
1 1/2 cups butter, preferably unsalted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup vanilla sugar or granulated sugar for dusting (vanilla sugar is commonly found in European grocery stores and also available on Amazon)
Preheat oven to 375F. Combine all ingredients except vanilla sugar to form a dough (dough will appear quite dry). Chill dough for at least 30 minutes. Next, pinch off sections of the dough in walnut-sized chunks and roll with your fingers into a tube, then bend it into a crescent shape about 3 inches long while placing it on the cookie sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the edges are just barely golden brown. Dip in vanilla sugar while still warm. When cool, store in an airtight container.
December 22: Grandma Pond’s Sugar Cookies
My paternal grandma, Vera Pond, kept a tin of these sugar cookies on hand nearly every time we saw her during my childhood. The cookies are much different than the usual ones I bake because they are made with more eggs, shortening instead of butter, and with the addition of sour cream. Grandma would often just cut them into squares with a knife after rolling them up, and would top them with a sprinkling of sugar and some chopped nuts or coconut. My aunt pointed out that Grandma probably would not have chilled the dough because she would not have had the space to do so. Prior to the 1950’s, she kept her perishable food in a special small, vented kitchen cupboard (common in older homes) with a block of ice that was replaced daily. Perhaps this is why she made them with shortening instead of butter. Grandma passed away in 1995, at the age of 101. Grandma always ate half a cookie (just half!) after breakfast. She liked to finish every meal with something sweet.
The cookies are light and a little bit crunchy. The texture is almost like a cracker, and they keep for a long time.
1 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup thick sour cream
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
flour (Note: I added 5 cups of flour and it seemed about right….the dough was still quite shiny and sticky but I was able to roll it)
Flour enough to handle on board. Be careful not to get dough too stiff. Roll. Cover with sugar, nuts, or coconut. Cut in squares and bake in quick, hot oven (about 375-400F).
December 21: Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies
Thank you to my fellow innkeeper and friend Linda Dike of the Guest House B&B for sharing this recipe for Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies. She and I often exchange recipes and ideas and this one is a definite keeper! I sliced these at half an inch as the recipe suggested which made for a nice, moist cookie. However, I think they would look prettier if they were a little thinner. They are hard to slice when right out of the refrigerator so do let them sit for about 30 minute to make it easier to prep them for baking. I added a half cup of chopped dried cranberries to the dough for a little holiday color and flavor. Dried cherries or pecans would also be a delicious addition to this scrumptious cookie.
December 20: Christmas Crack Toffee
I’ll admit that this Christmas Crack Toffee is not technically a cookie. This confection seems to be well known to many people, but I had never tried it and was intrigued by the sweet-salty combination. Plus, it is made from a base of soda crackers and includes a simple homemade caramel sauce and M&M’s. What’s not to like? I made this version with milk chocolate chips and a drizzle of white chocolate, and added crushed pretzels to the top for a little extra salt and crunch.
Aunt Janet’s Ginger Cookies
December 19: Aunt Janet’s Ginger Cookies
When I told my Aunt Janet that I was including more family recipes this year in the 25 Days of Christmas Cookies, she asked me to include her Ginger Cookies. Aunt Janet is 90 years old and still lives independently in her own home just 10 minutes from us. She has been baking these soft, spicy cookies for decades now.
¾ cups shortening
1 cup sugar
¼ cup light molasses
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. ginger
Sugar, for rolling the cookies (Note: I like to use sanding sugar to make the cookies sparkle a bit.)
Mix shortening and sugar together until fluffy. Add molaasses and egg, then dry ingredients. Chill dough for at least 2 hours. Make into small (1 inch) balls. Roll in sugar.
Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375F for 7 minutes and NO LONGER, if you like soft cookies, according to Aunt Janet.
December 18: Black and White Striped Cookies
These Black and White Striped Cookies are epecially pretty and flavorful refrigerator cookies. The “black” layer is chocolate” and the “white” is vanilla. Jane prepped this batch and, as usual, she did an excellent job of getting the layers precise and even. They are a little time consuming but the dough can be prepped ahead of time and refrigerated for a couple days.
December 17: Italian Fig Cookies (Cucidati)
I saw a beautiful photo of these Italian Christmas Fig Cookies and decided to try making them this year. There are many recipes and variations for this deliciously most and tender, fruit filled cookie. This version is made with dried figs, dates, almonds, and Grand Marnier. I hope our guests enjoy them as much as we did.
December 16: Chocolate Cutout Cookies
These tasty Chocolate Cutout Cookies are a nice alternative to traditional Gingerbread Cookies and are fun to decorate with buttercream or royal icing. They are one of our favorites!
December 15: Rosemary-Walnut Cookies
We’ve been making Rosemary-Walnut Cookies at Greenlake Guest House for a few years now with rosemary from our own garden. This pretty shortbread cookie is considered an “icebox” cookie and is simply formed into a log, rolled in toasted nuts, then sliced and baked. The dough can even be frozen prior to baking. Simply thaw the log overnight in the refrigerator and then bake.
December 14: Peppermint Chocolate Chip Cookies
These Peppermint Chocolate Chip Cookies are a new recipe for us this year. I am a fan of peppermint and chocolate so I loved the candy cane pieces and the mix of white chocolate and semi sweet chocolate. These cookies are easy to make and the dough keeps well in the freezer after they are portioned into individual scoops. They do tend to spread, even when baked from frozen. Note: I personally prefer a puffier cookie so would recommend adding an extra quarter cup of flour to the dough to make them spread less. Also, be careful to tuck the candy cane pieces inside the dough before baking so the candy cane doesn’t melt all over the cookie sheet.
December 13: Coral’s Peanut Butter Balls
These no-bake Peanut Butter Balls are absolutely delicious and are gluten free. Thank you to our interim innkeeper Coral Simdorn for sharing this fabulous recipe. She made them for Greenlake Guest House last December, when Blayne and I were in Europe. Today, I used my double boiler to melt the chocolate and froze the balls for about 30 minutes to make them easier to dip. I tried using a toothpick, a bamboo skewer, and even a fork for dipping with limited success. Coral says she always uses the toothpick. I think I could use a little more practice on dipping them so I may have to try these again! They are so good that I don’t want to give up.
Ingredients for Balls:
1 c peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar
¼ cup butter, softened
2 ½ cups rice krispies (add more if needed)
¼ cup chopped nuts (prefers pecans)
Ingredients for Dipping:
6 oz chocolate chips
1 square semi-sweet chocolate
1-inch square paraffin (Note: I did not have paraffin and didn’t use it-it makes the chocolate shiny)
Mix peanut butter, powdered sugar butter, rice krispies, and nuts and make into balls. Chill.
Melt dipping ingredients in a double boiler.
Dip into chocolate using toothpick. Set on wax paper.
December 12: Aunt Rhoda’s Almond Cookies
Julie’s Great-Aunt Rhoda worked for the California Almond Growers Association back in the 1940’s and 50’s. She baked these shortbread-like cookies for years to give to friends and family. Rumor has it she would stay up all night baking massive quantities of cookies, before traveling to Seattle to visit her brother and his family each Christmas. These cookies were a special favorite of her niece Janet and nephew Gerry. I’m not sure if the original recipe came from the Almond Growers Association or were a traditional recipe that was passed down from Rhoda’s aunts, who immigrated from Sweden. Enjoy!
1 1/2 cup blanched almonds, ground fine (about 1/4 pound)
2/3 cup butter or shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/3 cup flour
pinch of salt
Cream butter, then add sugar, flour, salt, vanilla, and almonds. Work with finger tips. Shape into small balls and flatten with fork.
Bake 25 min. in slow oven (300F). Sprinkle powdered sugar over baked cookies
December 11: Cranberry Rugelach
These Cranberry Rudglach Cookies are another new cookie for us at Greenlake Guest House. In fact, I’d never even tried one. These tender, pastry-like cookies are popular during Hanukkah and can be filled with a variety of fruits and nuts or even chocolate. This version is from Sunset Magazine and the filling is made with fresh cranberries, ginger, white chocolate, and walnuts. They are sprinkled with cinnamon sugar prior to baking. We give them a thumbs-up!
December 10: Chocolate-Dipped Peppermint Shortbread
This Chocolate-Dipped Peppermint Shortbread Cookie is a new one for us and it may be my favorite 2020 cookie yet. The cookies look very pretty and are quite simple to prepare. The taste and texture is amazing too. They are hard to resist!
I dipped the corners of some of the cookes in chocolate and sprinkled them with the crushed candy canes as the recipe suggested. However, I thought they were even prettier with the chocolate drizzled diagnally across the top. This method is my usual “cheat” way of quickly frosting cookies. I put the frosting in a ziplock sandwich bag and cut a tiny hole in the corner. Easy peasy.
December 9: Gingerbread Men Cookies
These classic Gingerbread Men are another holiday tradition at Greenlake Guest House. Christmas would not be the same without them! My family did not make them so I’ve tried a few different versions. This one is from McCormick Spice and I like the flavor and soft texture. These cookies hold their intended shape without spreading too much, even when rolled to a quarter inch thick. Jane frosted them with Royal Icing.
December 8, 2020: Aunt Thelma’s Sandbakkels
Aunt Thelma invited Blayne and me to her home to learn how to make Sandbakkels (Norwegian sugar cookies) many years ago when we were first married. She embraced her Norwegian heritage and cooking, and usually had a tin of cookies in the freezer for impromptu guests. Blayne used to sneak a half dozen or so of these into his sleeve or pocket on Christmas Eve when the extended family would gather at her home. Aunt Thelma wanted to him to appreciate how much work they were. She also gave us a box of the traditional tins for making them.
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter
1 beaten egg
1 tsp. almond extract
½ cup ground almonds (optional)
2 ½ cups flour
Cream butter and sugar, then add remaining ingredients. Form into balls and place each one into a sandbakkel tin. Using your thumb, press into tins and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. Cool 3 minutes then remove from tins (tap on table or loosen with knife).
Note: We found it helpful to spray the tins lightly with cooking spray. The cookies can be very difficult to remove from the tins sometimes without it if the tins are not well seasoned.
December 7, 2020: Classic Linzer Cookies
Today we baked these Classic Linzer Cookies. We’ve tried these before, and they are a little tricky because the dough can be so sticky. This version worked well and tasted great too. They are much easier to roll out if you use a silicone mat and top the dough with a piece of parchment paper so it doesn’t stick to the rolling pin. I rolled them out fairly thin, so they only took 7 minutes to bake. The cookies with the cutouts in the middle bake a little faster than the solid ones so you may want to bake them on different cookie sheets. Raspberry jam is a classic filling, but we had some lemon curd in the refrigerator so tried filling them with that too and it was absolutely delicious.
December 6: Chocolate Almond Biscotti
We’ve been making this Chocolate Almond Biscotti here at Greenlake Guest House for a few years now. This version is our favorite. The biscotti has a nice crunch, but it is soft enough to enjoy on its own, without dunking in a hot beverage. Sometimes we like to dip these cookies in chocolate or drizzle a little white chocolate over the top to make them look a little fancier. They are delicious either way!
December 5: Sugar Cookies with Jane’s Buttercream Fondant
Frosted Sugar cookies are a staple of any Christmas Cookie collection. They are beautiful and delicious! These cookes were a Greenlake Guest House team effort, baked by Linsy and frosted by Jane. The frosting is a special Buttercream Fondant that Jane has created. She says she likes using fondant instead of royal icing because:
This fondant recipe is quick and easy to mix and actually tastes like buttercream frosting. The fun really begins when you add color to the fondant and start to decorate your cookies. In the past I’ve enjoyed working with royal icing, but it can be very sticky and difficult to get the consistency just right. And, the colors can run into each other if you don’t wait long enough between layers. Fondant doesn’t run, and if you can roll and cut cookies, you can roll and cut the fondant to exactly fit the cookies. Then, you can cut out smaller shapes of different colors to add accent, and even use rubber stamps to press in an image or words. The final product is amazing, and I usually end up with far fewer fails than when using icing.
Jane’s Buttercream Fondant for Cookie Decorating
1/3 cup butter (softened)
1/3 cup syrup (Brown rice syrup, cane sugar syrup or light corn syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
4 ½ cups powdered sugar
In a stand mixer, blend the butter, syrup, vanilla, and salt. Mix this together on medium speed with a paddle attachment, until it is smooth and well combined.
Add the powdered sugar and mix slowly at first, until everything is combined. Be patient it takes a while for it to all mix and come together.
Now you have a ball of fondant. It dries out quickly, so keep it wrapped.
To color the fondant, use your favorite food coloring (paste, gel, and liquid can all work). Take a portion of the fondant and knead in a small amount of coloring, until it is completely combined.
To roll it out, lightly dust the work surface with powdered sugar, roll it out flat (about 1/16” to 1/8”) and cut out with cookie cutters. You can use the same cutters you used to cut out the cookies. The fondant can also be molded into shapes (like clay)
To adhere the fondant to the cookie, lightly brush the back of the fondant piece with simple syrup (or purchase “Dab & Hold”, a Wilton product) then carefully stick the fondant onto the cookie.
Be creative with cutters and even rubber stamps to personalize your cookies. Note: Leftover fondant can be tightly wrapped in plastic and stored in the refrigerator or freezer. If frozen, allow it to thaw overnight in the refrigerator when you want to use it.
December 4: Grandma Gerty’s Raisin-Filled Cookies
These raisin-filled cookies were a special treat when I was growing up. The recipe I’m sharing came from my great-grandmother Katie Weber Reiman’s “little notebook” and were submitted by Grandma for a family cookbook back in the 1980’s. My grandmother, great-great Aunt Lena, Aunt Bette, and my own mother baked them when they wanted to make something a little extra special. I made them for the first time this year and they were just as good as I remembered, and less work than I was expecting. Be sure to seal the edges because the filling can leak out if you are not careful.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or shortening
1/2 cup milk
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups raisins
2 tsp. flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
Cook filling ingredients until thickened, stirring carefully, as it burns quite easily. Let cool.
Mix dough, roll thin and cut into rounds. Place cookies on lightly greased pan and place a teaspoon of filling on each. Sprinkle a little sugar on each cookie, if desired. Place another round over each and bake at 350F for about 10 minutes.
December 3: Aunt Bette’s Peanut Blossoms
Betty Crocker may have written a lot of cookbooks, but Julie’s Aunt Bette could teach her a thing or two! Aunt Bette was famous for her huge homemade platters of cookies at the holidays and family gatherings. She has been my inspiration for 25 Days of Christmas Cookies. Actually, I could have spent the entire month baking only her recipes and have had plenty to choose from. There are many recipes for Peanut Blossoms, but hers is my favorite because it is so tender. The original recipe calls for rolling the dough in granulated sugar, but don’t be afraid to try rolling them in peanuts or sprinkles or sanding sugar to add variety to your cookie tray. They are prettiest if you keep the size small.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
granulated sugar for rolling the dough before baking
48-60 chocolate kisses, peeled
Cream sugar with butter and peanut butter; mix in milk, vanilla, and egg. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt and stir into dough. Shape in small balls (one inch or so) and roll in granulated sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 8-10 minutes at 375F until light brown. Remove from oven and press candy kisses in centers until cookies crack. Return to oven for 2 more minutes. Remove from sheet and cool.
December 2: Mexican Wedding Cakes
Mexican Wedding Cakes (also called Russian Tea Cakes) are Julie’s personal favorite. This buttery shortbread cookie is rolled twice in powdered sugar. It looks festive and tastes delicious. Julie likes to make them with pecans rather than walnuts and keeps the cookie size down about an inch in diamater so they can be eaten in one or two bites. Favorite recipe for this cookie? Read it in the Betty Crocker Cookbook!
December 1: Elizabeth’s Joe Frogger Cookie
Today we are sharing Joe Frogger cookies. This recipe was given to me from my stepmom Elizabeth Pond. It was one of her very favorites and well remembered by her children. Although it is a humble looking cookie, the flavors of molasses, rum, ginger and nutmeg are perfect for the season. Joe Froggers date back to the 1700’s and were created by Joseph and Lucretia Brown, African American tavern owners in Marblehead, Massachusetts. The original cookies were the size of pancakes and were popular with fishermen and sailors because they kept well and could be taken on long voyages.
1 1/2 cups molasses, hot (Elizabeth said she just warmed it in the microwave for a minute or so)
1/2 cup boiling water
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar (preferably dark)
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. dark rum (or rum flavoring, which is what Elizabeth used)
6 cups sifted flour
2 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the molasses, water, and baking soda. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and blend well. Add the honey, vanilla, and rum and blend everything together.
Combine dry ingredients (flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg) together in a bowl. Slowly add a third of the dry ingredients, then half the molasses mixture, then a third of the dry ingredients, remaining half of the molasses, and the last third of the dry ingredients, blending between each step. Continue until all ingredients are incorporated (dough will be quite sticky and soft). Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour, preferably overnight.
After dough is chilled, break the dough into walnut sized pieces and roll them into balls between your palms. Roll the balls in granulated sugar, then arrange 2 inches apart on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Press the bottom of a drinking glass onto each ball of dough, gently flattening it before baking. (Note: Elizabeth’s recipe says that the dough can also be rolled out to a half inch thickness and cut into 2-inch circles with a glass or cookie cutter but personally I found the dough to be too sticky to recommend this option.)
Bake the cookies at 375F until they have set but still seem soft in the middle, about 10 minutes.