Food, Holiday

The Best Christmas Cookies


The best Christmas cookies are the ones you’ve been making with family and friends for as many years as you can remember. Here’s a photo tour of one longstanding cookie-baking tradition, with a recipe for my favorite Christmas gingersnaps.

Fifteen years ago, a coworker and I were talking about how we loved to make Christmas cookies, but somehow didn’t find the time anymore. We decided to meet in her kitchen to bake together.

Lifelong friendships can form over food coloring

That year, her oldest daughter was two years old. She happily spent the afternoon decorating both sides of a single sugar cookie. We hadn’t yet had the pleasure of  meeting her second girl, who would come along a few years later. Now they’re beautiful young women — one working on her college applications, the other in middle school — and we’re still meeting every year to bake.

Mother, daughter, and dough

By now, we’ve honed our roles. Mary and the girls prepare the dough for gingersnaps and sugar cookies while I knock off a couple batches of Kraft Fantasy Fudge, something I started making with my own mom when I was about two. (I make the original Fantasy Fudge recipe, not the screwed-up version they published a few years ago — the New Coke of old-school holiday fudge. Sniff.)

Their dad, who has a true artist’s touch on the acoustic guitar, plays Christmas tunes while we sift and stir, roll and bake.

Then we all start decorating . . .

While I can’t get past using white frosting for everything . . .

Zoe inspires with her skill and sense of humor. Here, Blue Tree and Nordic Stripper . . .

I couldn’t resist making this cookie for my friend Emily, the world’s best Giants fan . . .

And then there are the perfect gingersnaps. Mary’s cookies have a snappy flavor but they’re still a little bit chewy, which is what I like. She could sell ’em if she wanted to, so I’m lucky to be able to share the recipe here.

The Best Christmas Gingersnaps

3/4 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Preheat the oven to 375˚.
Cream together the first 4 ingredients until fluffy. Sift together the dry ingredients and stir them into the molasses mixture. Form the dough into small balls, about 1 1/2″ in diameter. Roll in granulated sugar and place 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 375˚ for 10 minutes.
December: California Style

Happy Christmas.

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  • Reply Julia December 23, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    That is just so beautiful and special! What a great tradition you've started. It sounds like a perfect way to spend a pre-holiday afternoon. Awesome guitar cookie!

  • Reply Denise | Chez Danisse December 23, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    What fun. I've never baked with live music. You are a creative crew. I just love that little guitar and the Nordic stripper. I'm smiling, big. Thanks.

  • Reply meg December 23, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    I love cooking baking with friends. We did it for a few years with some close friends and then haven't the past 2 years. I miss it! Your cookies are gorgeous too! Mine look only marginally better than they did when I was 2 frosting both sides and dumping on sprinkles =)

  • Reply Marisa December 23, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Shae, your pictures of the decorated cookies are just lovely! I hope you have a wonderful holiday!

  • Reply kaela December 24, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Nordic stripper gets my vote! :) Sounds like a wonderful time. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

  • Reply S and O December 30, 2010 at 4:57 am

    Yummo those cookies look really good and like lots of fun to make :D

  • Leave a Reply to S and O Cancel Reply