January 16, 2020
If you have been a guest with us in the past, you may be aware that we have been baking “25 Days of Christmas Cookies” each December for the past few years. This year may have been our best yet. Julie and all of the staff including Jane, Linsy, Katie all look forward to planning and baking and decorating these special cookies each year. Our interim innkeeper Coral also helped with the cookie baking during the first week of December this year when Julie and Blayne were in Europe. We baked some of our family and staff favorites as well as some brand new recipes. Inspired by Julie and Blayne’s trip to Europe and the famous Christmas Markets there, we also added some special new European cookies this year.
How do we manage 25 Days of Christmas cookies in December?
First, we start planning a month or two ahead of time by looking at recipes and talking with our friends, and family, guests, and staff. Julie puts together a master list that includes a mix of fancier, time consuming cookies and some easier recipes for the busy days. In addition, we try to balance out the workload by doing some prepping ahead of time.
For example, on a slow day we might mix some sugar cookie or gingerbread cookie dough that needs to be refrigerated. We mix the dough and wrap it in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator or even the freezer. Then, we shape and bake the cookies the next day (thaw overnight in the refrigerator if dough is frozen). Finally, we frost and decorate the baked cookies on the third day. Other cookies, such as the date nut pinwheels, can be prepped and frozen (unbaked), then thawed in the refrigerator overnight and baked the next day. In addition, some cookies such as the miniature cheesecakes are typically stored completely baked and frozen so they can be made up to a few weeks ahead of time. Cookies can also be prepped and baked in partial batches. It’s possible to have a variety of fresh baked cookies on hand to give as gifts or serve at a party with a little planning.
We don’t use a lot of special equipment to bake these cookies. However, Julie really loves her silicone mat for rolling out cookie dough easily without sticking. Other tools that are nice to have include parchment paper and insulated cookie sheets for baking the cookies and and a piping bag and tips for frosting the cookies. It’s also handy to have a variety of cookie tins for storing the cookies and giving them as gifts.
What makes a cookie a Christmas cookie?
In our opinion, this decision is somewhat arbitrary and personal. At Greenlake Guest House, we bake lots of different cookies every day of the year. Here are the criteria we used this year for our Christmas cookies (yours might be different):
- Christmas cookies can’t be cookies that we bake at other times of the year
- The cookies should reflect the flavors of the season: chocolate, peppermint, ginger, cinnamon, and so forth.
- Ideally, the cookies should be very photogenic and festive looking in addition to being delicious.
- We included family recipes of cookies that we enjoyed during the holiday seasons of our childhoods.
- This year, we were inspired by the European Christmas markets and made a greater effort to include cookies that reflected our Scandinavian and German heritage.
How do we find our recipes?
We find recipes in a variety of ways. Julie enjoys reading cookbooks and food blogs and finds many recipes that way. Some of her favorite recipe sources include Epicurious, Better Homes & Gardens, and Smitten Kitchen. Others are shared by friends and our staff. Finally, some of the cookies are family recipes that she has been making for years. Here is one from the “family recipe” cagegory: Miniature Cheesecakes. Julie’s Aunt Bette makes these every year and they are always a hit with the whole extended family.
Aunt Bette’s Miniature Cheesecakes:
2 ¼ c. crushed graham crackers
3 Tbsp. sugar
6 Tbsp. butter
Melt butter, add sugar and crumbs for crust. Put scant Tbsp. in miniature muffin liner and press down with flat glass (small shot glass works great).
16 oz. cream cheese (2 cups)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ c. sugar
Mix at medium speed for 20 minutes (yes, twenty!). Put 1 teaspoonful on crust and bake in 325F oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and turn heat to 425F.
1 ½ cup sour cream
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
Mix and spread about 1 teaspoonful to edges of cake. Bake at 425F for 5 minutes. Decorate with tiny bits of maraschino cherries (red and green) before last baking if desired. Remove the paper cups in 10-15 minutes. Freeze separately on parchment-paper lined cookie sheet, then place in large freezer bag or food storage container. Serve frozen or refrigerated. Makes 60-70 pieces.
Note: You will need 3-4 dozen miniature muffin tins and miniature paper liners to make these in 2 batches. Well worth all the work! Freeze separately on parchment-paper lined cookie sheet, then place in large freezer bag or food storage container. Makes 60-70 pieces.
Here is the complete list of cookies that we baked this year.
December 1: Date Nut Pinwheels
December 2: Mexican Wedding Cakes
December 3: Christmas Fruit Drop Cookies
December 4: Mint Chippers
December 5: Pecan Dreams
December 6: Chocolate Cutout Cookies
December 7: Cranberry Ecstasy Bars
December 8: Peanut Butter Balls
December 9: Strawberry Thumbprint Cookies
December 10: Aunt Bette’s Peanut Blossoms
December 11: Chocolate Mint Crinkles
December 12: Black and White Cookies
December 13: Spritz
December 14: Christmas Sugar Cookies
December 15: Rosemary Pecan Cookies
December 16: Cinnamon Star Cookies (Zimtsterne)
December 17: Peppermint Fudge
December 18: Chocolate Kiss Cookies
December 19: Cranberry Shortbread Cookies
December 20: Gingerbread Cookies
December 21: Vanillekipferl Shortbread Cookies
December 22: Chocolate Almond Biscotti
December 23: Nanaimo Bars
December 24: Norwegian Krumkake Cookies
December 25: Miniature Cheesecakes
We shared photos on social media on our Facebook and Instagram accounts. Please reach out to us via email if you want any of the recipes or if you have any suggestions or recipes to share with us for next year. We look forward to hearing from you!