Shared from Food52
A collection of extra-special treats and stories full of cheer—straight from the Food52 team, community, and a few star cookie-bakers, too.
Photo Credit: ROCKY LUTEN. Food Stylist: SAMANTHA SENEVIRATNE. Prop Stylist: BROOKE DEONARINE.
This time of year signifies a great many things: gatherings of loved ones, thoughtful gift exchanges, feasting galore. It’s also the time for long-standing family traditions, whether it’s breaking out that precious set of heirloom china for the big holiday dinner, assembling around the piano for a round of caroling after the meal, or baking up a batch of special-occasion cookies to enjoy by a crackling fire at the end of the evening, mug of cocoa in hand.
In fact, to us, nothing says “the holidays” more than these special-occasion cookies. Whether the recipes have been passed down to us from our great, great-grandparents, or brought into the family from a magazine clipping or church cookbook over the years, they usually have a meaningful story, and always bring good holiday cheer.
That’s why we’re thrilled to share with you the Holiday Cookie Chronicles: a collection of extra-special treats with heartwarming stories to dunk into. In this series, you’ll find 31 cookie recipes from every corner of the world, brought to us by the Food52 team, community, and a few star cookie-bakers, too.
The Holiday Cookie Chronicles
1. Secret Cookies From Merrill Stubbs
Our co-founder, Merrill Stubbs, has been making these buttery, sparkly cookies for years: to package as holiday gifts for her elementary-school teachers, and pick out from the cookie jar once all the gifts were given. She learned the recipe from her mother, who learned it from a woman who learned it from another woman before that—and now, Merrill’s taught the recipe to her own kids, and to us, too. We’re glad the secret’s out.
2. Salted Rosemary Shortbread From Carla Lalli Music
Carla Lalli Music grew up not in a “decorated cookie” household, but in a “biscotti/gingersnap/shortbread” kind of household. This means that every holiday involved some very delicious salted rosemary shortbread, which her mother baked in quadruple batches and sent home with every guest leaving her parents’ house (wait, can we come next year?). When Carla grew up and began hosting holidays of her own, she carried on the tradition of this rosemary shortbread, embracing its savoriness by adding grapefruit zest to the dough, and extra flaky salt on top. Fun fact: This shortbread freezes really well—we’re just going to leave that info right here.
3. Sweet Potato Rum Cookies From Chrissy Teigen
Though Chrissy Teigen, by her own admission, has “never been a sweets type of girl,” she wowed us with a holiday cookie that’s unlike any other in our recipe box. These beauties are made with plush, silky sweet potatoes in syrup, and scented with a hit of allspice. Best yet, they’re drizzled with a rummy, buttery glaze that makes things “fun for the adults” while being Luna-friendly, too (thanks, rum and butter extracts!). Chrissy says she likes to make extra glaze for cookie-dipping, and keep a pinch bowl of salt closeby for sprinkling on top of each bite. Chrissy’s a smart—well—cookie.
4. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies (Aka Magic Middles) From Emma Laperruque
Food writer and recipe developer Emma Laperruque grew up eating “magic middles” for years, before she discovered that the term meant different things to different bakers. There were the (discontinued!) Keebler magic middles, with fudgy insides wrapped in a chewy sugar cookie blanket; there were the Stella Parks revivalist cookies on Serious Eats; and there were the Beta Sigma Chi/church community cookbook/newspaper-clipping versions, with peanut butter bellies and brownie-like outers. This only means good things: You can choose your own adventure when it comes to these cookies. But the chocolate-PB version may be the most delicious adventure to choose.
5. Ginger-Coconut Macaroons From Sam Davis
These macaroons were inspired by Chef Samantha Davis’ favorite treat from her childhood: Jamaican coconut drops, or spicy, candied clusters of fresh ginger and dried coconut. When a craving for them struck, Sam used to pay a visit to her “local” Jamaican store to buy them—traveling to a whole different New York City borough to stock up—but soon found a foolproof way to recreate the flavors in her own home without the long journey. You’ll find Sam with these ginger-coconut macaroons in tow at just about every party she attends, since they’re super-simple to whip up, and a real crowd pleaser.
6. Almond Biscotti From Amanda Hesser
Back in the ’90s, our co-founder, Amanda Hesser, considered starting a biscotti biz-cotti business around these almondy classics. The recipe, developed by an editor at the Atlantic back in 1987 and based on the Tuscan classic, biscotti di Prato, was just a little sticky and a lot wordy. Amanda, her sister, mother, and grandmother, took it upon themselves to decode and simplify the recipe once and for all, and sharpen their dough-scraping-and folding-moves as they did it. While he Hessers never did start the biscotti-slinging business, they continued making the cookie every holiday season, and luckily for us, shared the recipe. Now, we’re excited to bake these for our holiday swapees this season, or hoard them during the December festivities like Amanda’s family does.