For the past few years, my favourite thing to bring people when we visit over the holidays is freshly baked cookies. Baking is also a great activity to do with your kids, especially over winter break. Through trial and error, I’ve used recipes to make cookies that weren’t so great (my husband still happily ate them) and cookies that I make year after year – if I can find where I saved the recipe.. So I thought I’d share a few of my favourites that I’ve personally tested and loved.
I’ve tried many recipes to bake sugar cookies for birthdays and holidays, but if I can find one that uses almond extract, it makes the cookies that much better. I’m not the most patient person, and for some reason always bake at the last minute. So instead of cooling giant chunks of dough for hours, I typically only chill it for half an hour. Then after I’ve rolled out the dough and cut out the shapes, I put those cut-out cookies on a plate and stick them back in the fridge for 10 minutes. Then I transfer them to a baking sheet and put them straight in the pre-heated oven. That way the cookie never loses its shape as it bakes – we’ve all seen the “Nailed it” sugar cookie blobs from dough that hasn’t been chilled enough.
Every year, I go back to this recipe for royal icing. It dries to a smooth, hard, matte finish – that is, if I give the cookies enough time to dry before my kids eat them all. I use Americolor gel icing that I buy from a local baking supply store to get rich, vibrant colours. And the best part is this recipe is only 3 ingredients. I make it using egg whites, but if you’re not into that, it can also be made with meringue powder.
A Spicy Perspective’s Mexican Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
These are a hit every year. Made with a little cayenne pepper and instant espresso, you may or may not want to serve these to kids. The batter ends up looking like brownie dough, so don’t be afraid if it looks a little soft. After chilling for an hour, they’re good to roll. They end up with a crispy outside a brownie-like inside, and the cinnamon and cayenne really warm you up. I love to hand these out when visiting friends over the holidays.
Ambitious Kitchen’s Brown Butter Snickerdoodles
Butter makes everything better. Brown butter might just be my favourite thing in the world. These cookies have a crispy outside and soft inside and that tangy snickerdoodle taste. Make sure not to overbake them – I judge how long to leave them in by looking at the bottom of one of the cookies. Once it’s light golden brown, I take them out. I also add a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg to the batter for extra spice. One tip I have for these cookies is to roll out the balls first, then put all the balls in a bowl & into the fridge to chill. Then I double-roll them in the cinnamon sugar mix just before baking.
Sugar and Spice Cookies from AllRecipes
I’m personally not a huge fan of molasses. It’s a little bitter and I feel like I taste it above everything else. So I searched for a molasses-free recipe to make our classic gingerbread people and found this. Since they don’t list ginger as an ingredient, I go ahead and add a heaping teaspoon of ground ginger (and am generous with the rest of the spices too). We use Joy of Baking’s royal icing recipe with these as well. These always end up being the cookies we leave out for Santa.
A simple shortbread cookie is what reminds me of Christmas the most. This cookie reminds me of baking with my grandma. I would be the one pressing the dough balls down with a fork and adding the rainbow sprinkles. So this is definitely one you can do with your kids. This melt-in-your-mouth cookie is simple to make with few ingredients. Just make sure you are using high quality butter and vanilla since those are what gives this cookie all their flavour.