One of the traditions I brought from my childhood into our family is the Christmas Morning Cookie Breakfast.
You’ve probably heard the adage, “Cookies are the most important meal of the day.” No? That’s just something my mom said? (Okay, my mom never said that. But if you know her, you'll agree it’s something she could have said.)
On Christmas morning, we start the day off with a cookie tray and clementines as we open gifts (with, of course, Christmas music playing in the background.) Every other day of the year, my kids are used to me yammering about whole-grain-this and natural-sugar-that, but not on Christmas morning. On Christmas morning, we party.
Over the month of December, I bake 8 or so Christmas-only cookie recipes. I make one per baking session so we can appreciate that individual cookie before I freeze the rest of them for later consumption and sharing.
Growing up, my mom had her special recipes she only made during the season, including Peanut Butter Balls (which we prefer to eat still frozen) and something called Croatian Tort, with a yeasty dough, nuts and apricot, which my grandma used to make for my dad’s family.
Since she still bakes a lot of cookies every year, I don’t need to make those childhood favorites. I’ve found my own recipes the boys look forward to each year.
My favorite flavor to incorporate is peppermint. You can tell it’s December when you hear the sweet sound of me pounding on candy canes (sometimes in rhythm with the Christmas music). Other flavors I like to highlight are cinnamon, orange zest and maple.
Here are some of my favorites, with notes.
A simple cookie, but one of our top recipes. I even broke from tradition and made them for my son’s graduation party, just because I knew he loved them so much.
A small cookie scoop is a lifesaver here; otherwise, I struggle to roll them small enough.
I don’t make many chocolate cookies at Christmas, but this one makes the cut.
I swap out the nuts for white chocolate peppermint chunks, making it perfect for Christmas! (Although, I haven't been able to find these special chips yet this year.)
I don’t follow the instructions to roll the dough into logs. Instead, I refrigerate the dough for 15 minutes and drop by spoonful onto pan, keeping the dough refrigerated between sheets.
Chocolate Peppermint Bar Cookies from Gourmet Magazine
This might be my personal favorite. The chewy, dark chocolate dough contrasts beautifully with the crunchy candy canes. It doesn’t make a lot, though, so if you like it, make two pans.
Note: I don’t find this to be enough batter for a 9x13 pan and put it in an 8x11 instead.
Be prepared for the batter to be very thick and difficult to spread—just do your best and it will melt into place as it bakes.
If you like dark chocolate, consider using Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa instead of regular.
There’s nothing particularly “wintry” about maple, but I first found this recipe in a Christmas cookies magazine, so that’s the only time I make it!
This recipe makes a lot of cookies and way too much icing. I usually only do a ½ recipe of the dough and a 1/4 recipe of the icing! I also use real maple syrup, not maple flavoring, for the icing.
This very flavorful spice cookie is my boys’ favorite of all the Christmas cookies! When baked just right, they are chewy.
This recipe is only slightly different from my own: mine doesn’t call for cardamom, and instead, I just use ¾ t cloves.
If you overbake these, they will turn crispy quickly, so be sure to underbake them a little. I bake mine at 375 for 6-8 minutes.
Joy of Cooking’s Fourteen in One (Master Recipe) in Orange Nut Variety
So light and crispy, and not overly-sweet. I love the subtle orange flavor.
Add 1 teaspoon of finely grated orange zest and 1 cup of finely ground pecans to the creamed butter, sugar and salt.
You can either rolls these into 1 Tablespoon balls and flatten with the bottom of a flour-coated glass, or roll and cut them into shapes.
For extra tastiness, put the hot cookies in a sugar/cinnamon mixture and coat.