Dial up the cute factor at your holiday table with these fun and creative holiday desserts, ranging from easy Santas crafted from strawberries to ambitious baking projects like a buche de Noel. Turn on some festive tunes, gather the whole family, and put even the littlest hands to work stirring batter and decorating with candies. The more the merrier!
Holiday baking season is upon us, and while we’re tempted daily by the prospect of putting together all manner of cakes, cinnamon rolls, gingerbread houses, cheesecake and tarts, it’s really all about the cookies for us. (You, too? It’s not too late to sign up to receive our 12 Days of Cookies newsletter, BTW.) Read on below to see which cookies we Food Network staffers will be baking up first this season, and get the recipes to try them at your home, too.
“Meltaways (aka polvorones, aka Mexican wedding cookies, aka butterballs) have always been my favorite Christmas cookie (my mom called them ‘snowball meltaways’ when I was growing up), but this year I’m making Food Network Kitchen’s new version: Eggnog Meltaways. They really do taste just like eggnog – there’s bourbon, rum extract and nutmeg in the dough — but they’re buttery and crumbly like a meltaway should be.”
— Michelle Buffardi, Director, Digital Programming
“Oatmeal cookies, chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies — you name it, my Mama Hynes always has a truly fantastic batch of soft, perfectly baked cookies on her kitchen counter. But as much as I aspire to be just like my grandma, rolling sugar cookie dough is my nemesis; even though you might think having three helpers would make the job easier for me, eight hands are not better than two! But my kids really love to measure, pour and mix, and watching them sit impatiently on the kitchen floor staring through the oven door while something they’ve helped make bakes warms my heart. This year I’m looking forward to trying our hands at Butter Spritz Cookies. The kids can choose their own cookie-press shapes and have fun decorating their creations with sprinkles, and I can have dozens of homemade cookies on the counter without having to roll a single scrap of dough.”
— Meghan Cole, Content Administrator
“Giada De Laurentiis’ Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cookies were the first Food Network recipe I ever made, and maybe the first thing I ever baked, full stop. Back in high school, I’d bake a batch on the Sunday before school let out for the holidays so I could give them out to friends and teachers. Honestly, I don’t know how I parted with them. Packed with chewy, finely chopped oats, toasted hazelnuts and English toffee, these buttery beauties would have me in a sugar coma until at least New Year’s.”
— Allison Milam, Associate Editor
“I know that baking is a science and that recipes for baked goods ought to be followed to the letter. But — confession time — when it comes to the cinnamon in things like cookies, pies and tarts, I usually double or even triple the amount called for in the recipe. That’s how much love that spicy, warm, fragrant flavor. (More is more, right?) So it’s a wonder that I’ve never made snickerdoodles before. Not only are these cookies easy to make, but they’re known for their over-the-top cinnamon taste: They’re rolled in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar, after all, which guarantees cozy, comforting cinnamon taste in each bite. This year I’ve got my eyes on Trisha Yearwood’s recipe for snickerdoodles — but there’s a good chance I may up the cinnamon there, too.”
— Maria Russo, Online Convergent Editor
“Peanut Butter Blossoms are my holiday-season Achilles’ heel — my mother-in-law makes them by the boatload, and I eat just about as many. This year, I want to try Nancy Fuller’s take on the recipe, which incorporates peanut butter chips into the batter. She also suggests spreading a little jelly on the cookies before finishing them off with a chocolate candy. Sounds delicious!”
— Lauren Piro, Food Network Editor
“The best cookies on a holiday cookie spread often look the simplest. You might pass them over for the fancier-looking treats if you didn’t know better. That’s part of the allure of my grandmother’s famous Potato Chip Cookies. The golden rounds look like basic shortbread or sugar cookies, but then you bite into one and the hit of salt and crunch takes you by surprise (and keeps you reaching for seconds, then thirds). I once won a very prestigious interoffice cookie bake-off with these babies, and I’m admittedly not a baker. While Grandma’s recipe is a closely guarded family secret, Ree Drummond has a version that incorporates chocolate, and in my opinion that’s never a bad idea.”
— Sara Levine, Senior Managing Editor
“I went to school near this warm, low-ceilinged Hungarian pastry shop that always reminded me of the Three Broomsticks from the Harry Potter books — so, of course, every day after class I’d go sit in the corner and read by myself. I only ever got one thing: coffee with almond extract, cinnamon and a tall, dramatic swirl of whipped cream (the kind from a can). Such a good drink. Anyway, one year I was dating this nice Italian boy and brought him there after dinner. He asked if I had ever eaten a rainbow cookie. I hadn’t, of course. He explained how important they were for Italian-American families during Christmas, and how he could eat a dozen in one sitting. So we bought a handful and ate them with the coffee I just told you about. To this day I only ever get that coffee with those rainbow cookies. Some people call them “Italian flag cookies,” “Venetian bars” or even “seven-layer cakes” (after the three layers of almond sponge, the two of jam and the two of chocolate). Valerie Bertinelli calls them Neapolitan Cookies. Whatever they’re called, I like to make them around the holidays for my family because they’re like nothing we grew up with, and because they remind me of Greg.”
— Eric Kim, Programming Coordinator
“A few months ago, I purchased a bag of maple sugar, thinking, ‘I’ll definitely use this at some point.’ It took a while, but I’m finally cracking it open, thanks to this Maple Stars cookie recipe [from Food Network Magazine]. Festive maple-flavored sugar cookies are sandwiched with maple-spiked white chocolate for a breakfast-meets-dessert experience. Plus, who can resist a shimmery dusting of gold sugar for a finishing touch? These will definitely be the stars of my holiday cookie plate!”
— T.K. Brady, Online Editor, Food Network Magazine
Check out Food Network’s complete collection of Christmas cookies right here.
Chefs’ Picks tracks down what the pros are eating and cooking from coast to coast.
Cookies can be enjoyed year-round, but let’s face it: The holidays provide the perfect excuse to indulge in this classic treat. And there’s no better tradition for doing so than the cookie swap, that sweet soiree where each invitee brings a batch to share. We’ve asked some of the country’s finest cookie aficionados — pastry chefs and bakers — to weigh in with their good-to-the-last-crumb creations. Read on to get their recipes that are sure to reign supreme at any party. Read more
The Christmas Cookie Challenge, hosted by Alison Sweeney, is a furious but festive battle to determine the best cookie baker in the country with the winner taking home $10,000. Five bakers’ holiday delights were judged in three rounds of competition by chef and culinary entrepreneur Sharone Hakman, American Idol-winner and seasoned baker Jordin Sparks and Food Network Star Season 12 finalist Damiano Carrara.
Chocolate chip cookies are a tried-and-true dessert staple for a reason; whether you like them chewy, crunchy or packed with nuts and fruit, there’s a cookie out there for you. Ready to take your cookie game to the next level? Try our mix of classic and creative chocolate-chip cookie recipes, including one that gives you permission to eat all the raw cookie dough you want (yes, really). Plus, check out our guide to baking your version of the perfect chocolate chip cookie, complete with your pick of textures and flavors.
All cookie fanatics know that the only thing better than one cookie is two — plus a rich, creamy filling. A step up from the classic chocolate chip or sugar cookie, these treats feature cookies that are fruity, nutty, cakey and more. Try the cookie version of an already traditional dessert, like carrot cake, or go for an unexpected flavor (popcorn?); this list of our favorite sandwich cookies has it all.
Cake-Mix Mint Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (pictured above)
Who knew you could use boxed cake mix as cookie batter? With the simple addition of chocolate chips and peppermint extract, these easy-to-make cookies will be fudgy and minty.
We’ve all heard of shortbread, but what exactly does it mean when we say a pastry is “short”? The terms “short crust,” “shortbread” and even “shortening” all refer to the texture of the crumb of the pastry. Short pastry is usually dense, crumbly, crisp and buttery, and these flavorful bars, studded with orange zest and nuts — and drizzled with chocolate — are no exception.
When I was little my neighborhood block was my universe. My best friend lived next door. We played kickball on the street in front of the house and explored the woods behind; our driveway was the best racecourse that any daredevil biker could hope for.
My dear friend Doris also lived on my block. She probably had a good 50 years on me, but that didn’t stop us from becoming close. She was kind and extremely gracious, considering that I would drop in on her without notice whenever it pleased me. My own grandmother lived 8,000 miles away, but Doris was nearby and I was grateful for her company. We’d play checkers and drink lemonade for hours. I loved our chats, and I loved her smile.
But that wasn’t all. Doris had the best snacks around — Little Debbie everything! She had crispy and crackly Star Crunch, dense and fudgy brownies, and my personal favorite, plenty of Oatmeal Creme Pies. Even today when I see those boxes in the supermarket, I’m immediately whisked back to the time when I’d sit on Doris’ fuzzy, teal couch in front of the glass coffee table considering my next checkers move with a mouthful of sugar.
Meal planning over the weekend for a few nights’ worth of dinners during the week indeed has its merits; after all, who doesn’t want to come home to a nearly-ready-to-eat meal? But you know what’s perhaps even more enticing than supper at the ready? Dessert at the ready. Take a few hours today to prep one of these over-the-top indulgences — think towering chocolate cake, the easiest chocolate chip cookies and buttery lemon bars worthy of citrus season — and get set for some sweet treats during the week when the craving hits.
In case you missed it, last week FoodNetwork.com and HGTV.com came together in the Scripps Lifestyle Studios to host the ultimate live holiday cookie party on Facebook (watch the three segments here, here and here). Justin Warner hosted the event, and I had the pleasure of nerding out with him and Michelle Buffardi, from FoodNetwork.com, on chocolate chip cookie recipes.
One of my favorite parts of the day was the unveiling of the gingerbread house that recipe developer Melissa Gaman and FoodNetwork.com’s Eric Kim (with special help from Mory Thomas and Miriam Garron) worked on ALL DAY! Viewers had a ton of questions about the construction of the house, so here are some of their building tips:
The Secret Roof Compartment (pictured above): Melissa cleverly turned our house into a surprise cookie jar. Here’s how she did it: She cut one of the roof sides into two pieces and “glued” the bottom piece, with royal icing, onto the house. The removable piece simply sat on top without needing to be affixed to the house. Then the whole roof was decorated in almond shingles that covered the seam to the secret panel!