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If you enjoy baking, and especially if you enjoy sharing your baking expertise, then the holiday season was made just for you to show your stuff.

The tradition of baking treats and for the holidays goes back so far that it isn’t even worth doing the research to find the date. Safe to say, it’s a rich, personal and delicious tradition which, if shared, is even more special.

The easiest and most widely shared holiday baked goods are cookies.

Personally, I was never into the plain shortbread / sugar cookies that you decorate, although that’s a fun afternoon project for the kids. Me, I go for the “what I know sells” and by that, I mean what most people love eating!

With that in mind, I’ll share with you a few of my very favorite cookie dough recipes. Added to one or two of your own favorites I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful assortment, perfect for holiday snacking or gift giving if you’d like to arrange them all in a decorative tin or jar.

Disclaimer: It’s just about as hard to create a NEW cookie dough recipe as it is to reinvent the wheel, at least a main-stream cookie that just about anyone could enjoy.

Think of these recipes as a reminder of just how good a warm cookie right out of the oven can be. It’s not an expedition into a new, unchartered baking world but rather a journey to a well-known and welcome place.

To begin, I don’t want to anger the cookie Gods by even suggesting I can improve on the Nestles Toll House Chocolate Chip cookie recipe EXCEPT to offer you these professional suggestions.

1. Use THE best butter you can find. (I love President butter but Plugra or Kerrygold are also wonderful).

2. Use THE best PURE vanilla you can find.

3. Follow the recipe.

So, that said, a few of my holiday cookie recipes are already on our Nino’s website. I always include them in my own mix of cookies.

Caramel Cherry & Pistachio Cookies

This recipe is almost like a classic Tollhouse Chocolate Chip cookie recipe, except the garnishments are white chocolate chips, sun-dried cherries, caramel pieces (cut from wrapped caramels), and of course, pistachios. I personally think caramel, sun-dried cherries and pistachios are natural partners. This recipe takes the place of what I’d otherwise choose for a traditional mix, which would be an oatmeal raisin cookie recipe.

Pecan Balls

This recipe, using pecans, is one that I first started baking in the late 60s, even before I went off to cooking school. It’s a no-egg recipe, resulting in a very light and tender cookie FULL of pecan flavor. This recipe I occasionally use in place of another popular “nut” based recipe. Peanut Butter Cookies.

So far, we have 3 cookies in our Holiday Mix, now onto one that you CAN decorate if you choose to and one that’s definitely, a traditional favorite.

Gingerbread “Persons”….

Makes a crowd of about 18 persons

Ingredients:

1 cup Butter, softened

1 cup Brown Sugar

1 1⁄3 cups Molasses

4 X LG Eggs

8 cups All Purpose Flour, divided

1 tsp. Baking Soda

1 tsp. Salt

1 tsp. Ground Allspice

1 tsp. Ground Cloves

1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon

1 tsp. Ground Ginger

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until smooth.

3. Stir in the molasses and eggs.

4. Combine 1 1/2 cups of the flour, baking soda, salt, allspice, cloves, cinnamon and ginger then beat into the molasses mixture.

5. Gradually stir in the remaining flour by hand to form a stiff dough.

6. Divide dough into 2 pieces.

7. On a well-floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8″ to 1/4″ thickness.

8. Cut into gingerbread persons with a cutter.

9. Place pieces 1″ apart onto parchment lined cookie sheets.

10. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

11. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven.

12. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

If you decorate these cookies, you’ll need some icing and candy decorations which you can find in most any bakery aisle. Unless you intend to make dozens and dozens of these cookies it isn’t worth making a recipe for Royal Icing (which hardens). BUT this recipe is also perfect for making a gingerbread house and it’s the icing you’d also use to “glue” together all the pieces and to decorate it so if that’s in your plans, that recipe is on Nino’s website recipe section under the Gingerbread House.

Still have some energy? Some extra flour? Some…PEANUT BUTTER? Anyone opening a tin of Holiday Cookies is hoping these will be somewhere under the lid. You can find a recipe like this one on any baking website or on the website of either Hershey or Jiff Peanut Butter. I’ll save you the time.

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

Ingredients:

Makes 3 Dozen (or 1 serving…lol)

2 ½ Cups All Purpose Flour

1 tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Baking Soda

½ tsp Salt

1 Cup Peanut Butter (Smooth / Creamy Style)

3/4 Cup Butter, Softened

3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar

3/4 Cup Light Brown Sugar, Packed

2 X LG Eggs

1 tsp Pure Vanilla

Extra Sugar for Rolling

36 Chocolate Kiss Chocolates

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2. In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together softened butter with brown sugar and white sugar. Beat for 1 minutes.

3. Add peanut butter and blend until combined.

4. Add vanilla, blending again. And then one egg at a time, blending until combined.

5. In a medium mixing bowl, soft together baking powder, baking soda, salt and flour.

6. Add to wet mixture until just combined.

7. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and then roll in a bowl of white sugar.

8. Place cookies 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet.

9. Bake cookies 11-12 minutes or until right before they start to brown.

10. Immediately after removing from the oven, place one chocolate kiss in the center of each cookie, pressing down lightly to secure.

11. Cool on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes, then carefully transfer to a cool rack.

While cookies are enjoyed by nearly everyone, Biscotti is the “forgotten” cookie, probably enjoyed more by “adults” than children, especially if it is often enjoyed with coffee, tea or even dessert wine. Maybe best of all, unlike most cookies, the fruits of your labor can be enjoyed for quite some time if you store them afterwards in an air tight container.

CLASSIC Biscotti

Makes about 18 Biscotti

Ingredients:

½ Cup Clarified Butter

1 Cup Granulated Sugar

1/2 tsp Salt

1 Orange, Freshly Zested

1 Lemon, Freshly Zested

1 TBSP Anise Seed, Whole

3 X LG Eggs

3 Cups All Purpose Flour

1 TBSP Baking Powder

1/2 tsp. Baking Soda

2 Cups Almonds, Sliced & Toasted

1/2 cup Pistachios, Chopped Pieces

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Beat together butter, sugar, salt, lemon and orange zest and anise seed until light.

3. Add eggs, one at a time, blending after each addition.

4. Stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and nuts.

5. Divide finished dough in three sections.

6. With buttered fingers, shape each portion into a log approximately 1 1/2″ in diameter and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Repeat with the other two portions and space logs at least 4″ apart.

7. Using your palms, flatten each log to a 1″ thickness.

8. Bake 25 minutes rotating cookie sheet half way through the baking.

9. Remove the loaves from the oven and allow to cool.

10. Using a thin, sharp bladed knife or serrated knife, cut logs in approximately 1″ wide cookies at a 45-degree angle.

11. Lay slices, cut side down on a cookie sheet and re-bake at 275 degrees an additional 45 minutes or until very dry. Remove cookies from the oven and cool. Cookies may be dipped in chocolate or dusted with powdered sugar.

12. Store cookies in an airtight container.

We’ve covered a lot of ground here and in doing so we’ve mixed in some of the “classics” with a couple of new cookie ideas for you to consider. I hope you’ll consider firing up the oven this holiday season and once again enjoy the delight of homemade cookies.

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