Picture it: you’ve just finished up your holiday dinner surrounded by friends and family. The low mumble of excited chatter makes its way through the room as the pot goes on for coffee. Maybe there’s a crackling fire nearby, too, filling the house with warmth. Then you hear it – the unmistakable crinkle of unfurling cellophane. The best part of the night is here. It’s time for holiday cookies!
Which cookie do you reach for first? Are you a dedicated chocolate chip lover, or do you wait all year for a buttery snowball or spritz? We introduced a bit of friendly competition to the holiday dessert table to find out.
Chocolate chip is the winner!
After three rounds of voting, chocolate chip knocked out the competition to claim the title of greatest holiday cookie (and some may say, contender for greatest of all time).
Many cookies crumbled along the way, but gingerbread held strong until the final swing, losing the bout with a final count of 43% to 57%.
Thank you for participating and Happy Holidays! Read on for recipes.
If there’s one cookie that signifies the holiday season, it’s the gingerbread man. With his little smile and adorable buttons, he’s a staple among cold-weather confections.
When it comes to the classic gingerbread man, there are two types of textures: soft-baked and crispy. Depending on how you roll out your dough (thin for crispy and thick for soft) you can customize the perfect consistency for your tastes. Plus – and this is arguably the best part – decorating gingerbread men once they’re done baking is an interactive and playful activity the whole family can enjoy. From icing to gumdrops, their final look is up to you.
A perfect little bite, jam thumbprint cookies feature the harmonious combination of a simple shortbread and the baker’s choice of jam or preserves. While we may think of them as a relatively modern cookie, they have a rich history originating in Sweden, where they are referred to as “hallongrotta,” meaning “raspberry cave.”
Whether you actually use your thumb to create these instantly recognizable cookies or use the bottom of a wooden spoon like Martha Stewart suggests, the result will be just as scrumptious.
Snowball cookies (or butterballs, in the Italian tradition) are simple but decadent little morsels made with butter, powdered sugar, flour and vanilla. You can add your choice of nuts like pecans or walnuts, but it’s not totally necessary.
A staple of Hanukkah, the tasty treats resemble miniature croissants, and they’re not too far off. This version of rugelach pastry from All Recipes involves flaky dough filled with a mixture of cinnamon, nuts and raisins that come together for a light and crispy rugelach perfect for dunking into a post-dinner hot coffee.
There’s a reason magic bars are named as such; they are, without a doubt, magical. Why, you ask? First and foremost, they’re super easy to make, to the point where the ingredients are mixed together in one step and baked. Secondly, there’s something for everyone in a magic bar. Layers of graham crackers, coconut, chocolate chips and nuts sit atop a base layer of pure butter. Are you drooling yet?
Blondies, the “blond” version of a brownie, have just as much star power as their chocolatey counterpart – and some may even say they’re better! While brownies are based in chocolate, a strong ingredient that doesn’t allow for much depth of flavor, blondies have a vanilla base, which lets other flavors shine like butterscotch, brown sugar and sometimes even white chocolate.
A whole cheesecake? That’s a lot. Teeny tiny bite size cheesecake bars, on the other hand? We’re piling up our plate! Something about the mini version of a bigger thing just makes them extra delectable, and that’s certainly the case with cheesecake bars.
Made with a graham cracker crumb crust and cream cheese-based filling just like its full-size edition, these little bars can be crafted with any flavor you’d like whether that’s blueberry, cherry, pumpkin or plain. Although the process can be a bit time consuming, the end result is always worth it.
The obligatory rainbow cookies (or bars) are old regulars when it comes to holiday desserts – and for good reason. Made with three layers of almond-flavored cake, the tricolor pattern comes from red and green food coloring. The yellow layer can either be colored with food coloring or left as is. Sandwiched between each cake layer is a thin coating of your choice of jam, then everything is covered with milk chocolate.
You may not be familiar with the name for these cookies, but you have probably seen and enjoyed them at many a holiday gathering. Usually identified by their bright colors, spritz cookies are buttery little marvels that take the shape of trees, flowers, snowflakes and leaves and taste like sugar cookies (but are so much better because, you know, they’re green and pink).
If you’re not a candy cane fan now, these cookies are sure to make you one.
As opposed to a sticky candy cane with harsh peppermint flavor, these candy cane cookies take on the iconic look of the holiday candy with twisting red and white ribbons, but omit peppermint flavoring entirely; instead, the cookies are almond flavored. Of course, if peppermint is your jam, you’re more than welcome to add it in!
Melted Snowman Sugar Cookies
Cookies and marshmallows are a match made in dessert heaven, especially when it comes to melted snowman sugar cookies. While these cookies may look intricate and hard to make, they’re actually quite easy, and especially simple when using pre-made sugar cookie mix and icing like in this recipe from Betty Crocker.
Chocolate Reindeer Pretzels
The perfect mix of salty and sweet doesn’t exist — oh. We stand corrected. Chocolate reindeer pretzels are a treat after any fickle eater’s heart, as they combine the best of both worlds: the satisfying salty crunch of a pretzel with the sweet chewiness of a caramel Rolo candy. What’s better than that?
Toll House Chocolate Chip
The classic chocolate chip cookie. Need we say more?
Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
A cousin to jam thumbprint cookies, the peanut butter cup cookie has the same general idea, but instead of jam in the center, it’s an ooey-gooey peanut butter cup that sits in the center of peanut butter-flavored cookie dough.
Chocolate Peppermint Crinkles
A cakey cookie is great as it brings together the best of both worlds, the thick texture of cake with the crinkle effect that only comes with cookies. For these chocolate peppermint cookies, the two flavors harmoniously combine for the perfect holiday dessert. If you’d like to add a little pizzaz, sprinkle some roughly chopped candy cane over the top like in this recipe from Sift and Simmer.
Not to be confused with the French macaron, coconut macaroons are light, flavorful dollops of coconut dipped in melted chocolate. Simple perfection!
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Tell us about your holiday baking traditions in the comments below.
Illustrations by Sarah Hopkins.