When it comes to holiday cookies, more is definitely merrier: more flavors, textures, shapes and sizes, and more delicious choices on the buffet table or in a gift box.
But that doesn't have to mean more effort for the baker. Here are three cookies made using various techniques — dropped, pressed, and rolled and cut — that are easy and keep well for days.
Bake a few batches and be prepared for more smiles.
For more recipes and additional tips, visit www.marthastewart.com/everydayfood. Questions or comments about the column should be directed to www.marthastewart.com/contact-us-form.
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Pistachio spritz pinwheels
Makes about 32
- 3/4 cup (3 ounces) toasted, unsalted shelled pistachios
- 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 3 to 5 drops green gel-paste food color, such as leaf green
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, melted
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse pistachios with 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar in a food processor until finely ground.
2. With a mixer on medium speed, beat butter with remaining 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in extracts and food color. Reduce speed to low; add flour, salt and pistachio mixture and beat until combined. Add 3 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough is smooth and pliable (so it will push through press).
3. Divide dough in half; spoon half into a cookie press fitted with a pinwheel design. Press cookies (2 pushes of spritzer), 1 inch apart, onto a baking sheet lined with a nonstick baking mat. Repeat with remaining dough and another lined baking sheet.
4. Bake, rotating sheets once, until edges are pale golden, about 14 minutes. Let cookies cool on sheets 1 minute, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
5. Place melted chocolate in a small piping bag fitted with a small writing tip, or a resealable plastic bag with a corner snipped off. Pipe chocolate in center of each cookie and let set, about 1 hour. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container, between sheets of parchment or waxed paper, up to 1 week.
Nutritional analysis per pinwheel: 124 calories, 8 grams fat, 11 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 16 milligrams cholesterol, 18 grams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 59 percent of calories from fat.
Chocolate-hazelnut shortbread squares
Makes about 4 dozen
For the crust:
- 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
- 1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
For the truffles:
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 pound bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons Frangelico or other hazelnut liqueur
- 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts, skins removed and toasted, coarsely chopped
- Unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
1. Make the crust: Heat oven to 375 degrees with rack in middle. Butter a 9-inch square cake pan. Line bottom and 2 sides with parchment, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Butter parchment.
2. With a mixer on medium speed, beat butter with brown sugar, vanilla and salt until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low; beat in flour until combined and a soft dough forms.
3. Spread dough in prepared pan, pressing evenly with the bottom of a dry-measure cup. Prick all over with a fork. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
4. Make the truffles: In a small saucepan, bring cream just to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat; whisk in chocolate until melted and combined. Add liqueur and salt, whisking until blended, then stir in nuts. Let cool slightly.
5. Pour chocolate mixture evenly over cooled crust. Refrigerate, uncovered, until cold and set, about 2 hours.
6. Remove shortbread from pan using parchment; place on a cutting board. Dust top completely with cocoa powder. Cut into 48 squares, dipping knife in hot water and wiping clean before each slice. Refrigerate in a single layer until ready to serve, up to 1 week.
Nutritional analysis per square: 113 calories, 9 grams fat, 6 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 10 milligrams cholesterol, 31 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 74 percent of calories from fat.
Peppermint-candy sugar cookies
Makes about 30
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 4 ounces flat round peppermint candies
- 2 tablespoons coarse sanding sugar
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
2. With a mixer on medium speed, beat butter with granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla until just blended, scraping down sides of bowl. Reduce speed to low and beat in flour mixture until combined. Refrigerate dough until firm, about 1 hour.
3. Meanwhile, place peppermints in a resealable plastic bag and finely crush with a meat mallet. Transfer to a shallow bowl and mix with sanding sugar.
4. Form rounded teaspoons of dough into balls for small cookies, or rounded tablespoons for larger ones. Roll in crushed-candy mixture to coat. Arrange 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.
5. Bake, rotating sheets once, until edges are starting to brown, about 11 minutes for small cookies, 14 minutes for larger ones. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks. (Break off any bits of melted candy from edges of cookies, if necessary.) Cookies can be stored in an airtight container, between sheets of parchment or waxed paper, up to 1 week.
Nutritional analysis per cookie: 95 calories, 3 grams fat, 16 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 15 milligrams cholesterol, 34 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 30 percent of calories from fat.