At holiday family celebrations, homemade cookies usually have a starring role. Some have rich ingredient lists, others tender backstories. Here’s a sweet batch of recipes from the kitchens of K staff members. Consider it our gift to you. Enjoy, and happy holidays from our families to yours.
Swedish Tea Cookies
My mom and I made these when I was little. I’m not sure why — we’re not of Swedish heritage — and I’m not sure the cookies are all that Swedish, either. What they are is delicious. And fun to make. And best of all, easy. Butter, margarine, brown sugar and flour come together in a dense shortbread that gets crowned with jam and sprinkled with powdered sugar. They’re just as decadent today as I remember them being years ago.
Makes 24-30 cookies
• 1 stick butter
• 1 stick margarine
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 2 cups flour
• Jam or fruit preserves, to taste
• Powdered sugar, for sprinkling
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter, margarine and brown sugar. Slowly add flour and mix well.
2. Form dough into small balls and arrange on cookie sheet, about 1 inch apart. Bake for 5 minutes.
3. Remove from oven and make a thumbprint in the center of each one. (Alternatively, use a rounded measuring spoon to make the indention.) Fill thumbprints with jam or preserves, being careful not to overfill.
4. Return to oven and bake until edges are golden, about 13-15 minutes. Cool slightly and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
— Stephanie Allmon Merry,
K editorial director
Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies
When I was a little girl, I would watch my grandmother make the best chocolate chip-walnut cookies. As I grew older, I didn’t see her as often. My grandmother died when I was in my teens, and we never knew what the recipe was, as she made it from scratch and from memory. Over the years, I tried to replicate the recipe and the cookies never turned out quite like hers. This recipe is the closest that I have found; my family says they taste just like Grandma Stricker’s.
Makes 3 dozen cookies
• 1 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
• 3/4 Crisco Butter Flavor Baking Stick
• 2 tablespoons milk
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
• 1 egg
• 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
• 1 cup chopped walnuts
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Beat brown sugar, butter stick, milk and vanilla in bowl on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in egg.
2. Combine flour, salt and baking soda in separate bowl. Mix into creamed mixture just until blended. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough 3 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet.
3. Bake 8-10 minutes until lightly browned. Cool 2 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool completely.
— Steffanie Harnitchek, K publisher
‘Red Hot Christmas’ Painted Sugar Cookies
When my kids were small, I took a cookie bouquet class and soon became a devoted fan of the painted sugar cookie. When you place a collection of them on sticks in a bouquet arrangement, children go crazy for them — and they also love to join in and make a big mess when it comes to applying edible color. Any shaped cookie cutter will do, but at my house, the Texas-themed assortment became the top choice, and now the brightly painted yellow rose, “red hot” chili pepper, cowboy boot and Christmas star are staples. The dough freezes well and can be made in advance, so we always double the recipe. Using the tiniest pinch of baking powder — and zero baking soda — allows the cookies to hold the crisp forms of their cookie cutters, while rolling out the dough in an extra-thick slab creates cookies that are solid enough to be placed on skewers, if desired.
Makes 2 dozen cookies
• 6 1/2 cups flour
• 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
• 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 3 sticks butter (or margarine)
• 3 cups sugar
• 3 large eggs or 2 jumbo eggs
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1/2 cup evaporated milk
• 1 tablespoon cinnamon (optional)
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl and set aside.
2. In large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Add flour mixture and milk alternatively to sugar mixture until all ingredients are blended.
3. Chill for a minimum of two hours.
4. Roll out dough on a floured surface, keeping it to at least 1/2 -inch thickness throughout. Cut out using cookie cutters. Place cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
5. Let cookies cool before painting with frosting. (They freeze well or may be stored in the refrigerator for several days before and after painting.)
Note: We use Betty Crocker Decorating Icing, thinning it with a little water for a smoother consistency. Watered down icing takes longer to dry, but it spreads easily and leaves a thin coat of color that doesn’t chip or flake off when dry. Detail work on your designs — polka dots or squiggles on cowboy boots, for example — is easily done with a toothpick.
— Elaine Rogers, K editor
Peanut Butter Cookies
Growing up, I always baked with my paternal grandmother. Making cookies from scratch was something we enjoyed. This recipe is just one from those days.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies
• 2 sticks butter
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1 1/2 cups peanut butter
• 2 1/2 cups flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Soften butter.
2. Add all ingredients and mix together well. Roll dough into 1-inch balls, place on cookie sheet, and with a fork, press to make checkerboard design.
3. Bake for 12 minutes.
— Lynn Hammer, K associate publisher
Giant Ginger Cookies
This chewy and aromatic cookie pays homage to the Star-Telegram’s wildly popular Very Merry Christmas Cookie Challenge that ended in 2013. In fact, a version of this cookie was crowned champion in 2011. Every time I make this recipe, it gets raves. Bonus: It’s super easy. Bonus II: Your entire home will be filled with the smell of spices.
Makes about 25 4-inch cookies
• 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 4 teaspoons ground ginger
• 2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 1/2 teaspoons ground
• 1 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 1/2 cups shortening
• 2 cups granulated sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1/2 cup molasses
• 3/4 cup coarse sugar
or granulated sugar
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, beat shortening with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds to soften. Gradually add the 2 cups of granulated sugar. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and molasses. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour mixture.
4. Shape dough into 2-inch balls, using 1/4 cup of dough per cookie. Roll balls in the 3/4 cup coarse or granulated sugar. Place about 2 1/2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
5. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until cookies are light brown and puffed. (Do not overbake or cookies will not be chewy.) Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
— Celeste Williams, K contributing editor
Gluten-free Chewy M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies
Just before Halloween two years ago, my Chicken Express-loving teenage daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease. Cooking at our house went through a major overhaul. Gluten-free baking usually involves complex flour blends. This recipe, adapted from Yammie’s Gluten Freedom blog, takes only one kind of flour. While most GF cookies have a rather gritty texture (especially unpleasant if you’re, ummm, sampling a bit of dough), this one is divine. You can really just close your eyes and imagine you’re eating the real thing. Yammie made this recipe as a cookie cake. If you want to do the same, double the baking time.
Makes 3 to 4 dozen cookies
• 2 sticks butter
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 1 cup white sugar
• 2 eggs
• 2 teaspoons vanilla
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 4 1/2 cups gluten-free oat flour (I get Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oat Flour, or you can grind your own gluten-free oats in the food processor)
• 1 cup M&Ms
• 1 cup chocolate chips
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the butter and sugars. The mixture will be slightly crumbly. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.
2. Mix together the baking soda, salt and flour and add to the wet ingredients. Mix until well-incorporated. Dough will be slightly sticky.
3. Add the M&Ms and chocolate chips.
4. Bake on parchment paper until edges are golden brown (about 10 to 14 minutes, depending on size and desired chewy vs. crispy texture). Press more M&Ms into the top for garnish immediately upon removing from the oven.
— Sandra Engelland, K staff writer
Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies
• 2 1/2 tablespoons salted butter
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 large egg
• 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/3 cup melted semisweet chocolate
• 10 peppermint candies, chopped
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the egg and mix well.
2. Add peppermint, flour, cocoa and baking powder; mix well.
3. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before use.
4. Roll out to 1/8 -inch thickness on a floured surface. Cut out 2-inch rounds using a cookie cutter or a drinking glass and transfer to a parchment paper-covered baking tray.
5. Bake 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Decorate with a little melted chocolate and crushed peppermint candy. Store in an airtight container.
— Sharon Kilday, K designer