Savor: Christmas Cookies

BY Molly Grennan

Whether youre exchanging them serving them to loved ones or leaving them for Santa one thing is certain … These cherished cookie recipes are not to be missed this holiday season

Remember when you were a kid and Christmas meant presents sure but also cookies mom made from a recipe she only used this time of the year? So do we. Lets face it its just not Christmas without homemade cookies.

The history of holiday cookies dates back to well a long long time ago when Neolithic farmers (9500-3000 BC) “baked” a paste-like food made of grain and water on hot stones to celebrate festive occasions. Cookies are believed to be a descendant of this food.

The word itself cookie comes from the Dutch word koeptje meaning small cake and was first used by the people of the Persian Empire in the 7th century AD. Cookies as we know and love them date back to medieval Europe and recipes such as Lebkuchen a German cookie also known as gingerbread the first cake/cookie to be traditionally related to Christmas. By around 1500 cookies were being baked all over Europe mostly some variation of Lebkuchen cookies or buttery Spritz cookies an almond-and-vanilla flavored delight. In England and Australia cookies were and still are referred to as biscuits; in Spain theyre called galletas and in Italy they are known as amaretti or biscotti.

The Dutch are responsible for the first true Christmas cookies. Dutch and German settlers introduced cookie cutters decorative molds and festive holiday decorations that made baking and decorating cookies an art form. Americans took their lead and have been running with it ever since.

Here are four local bakers who are taking Christmas cookies to a whole new level of love!

Buttered Romanian Christmas Cookies
from the kitchen of Rosemary Kramer

Leaving his wife and children behind in Romania Rosemary Kramers grandfather came to America in 1920 to find work and send money home. These were hard times for the family to be sure. A simple cookie baked every Christmas reminds Rosemary of the strength of her family and the joy of their love during the holiday season. Fortunately for her and now for us that cherished recipe survives today. Rosemarys grandmothers Buttered Romanian Christmas Cookies remain a holiday necessity every year. Since she was a young girl Rosemary remembers making them and what they meant to her family. “They have been a symbol of Christmas in my family for generations ” she says.

For the cookie dough

3 cups flour

1 tablespoon sugar

teaspoon salt

pound butter

pound Crisco

2 egg yolks

1 package of dry yeast

cup milk

teaspoon vanilla

For the Nut Filling

2 egg whites beaten

1 pound English walnuts chopped fine

1∕3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla


1. Sift together flour sugar and salt. Mix butter and Crisco together as you would for pie crust. In another bowl whisk eggs milk yeast and vanilla. Add flour mixture one cup at a time to mixture. Mix until not sticky on hands. Cover dough and refrigerate overnight.

2. Next day make nut filling mixture: Beat egg whites until stiff. Beat in vanilla and sugar and gradually fold in nuts.

3. Roll dough in powdered sugar to inch thick. Cut into 2 inch squares. Place nut filling in the center and pinch one pair of opposite corners. Use egg whites to help pinch corners together.

4. Bake at 375 for 12 minutes. When cool sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Cranberry-Pecan Biscotti
from the kitchen of Lulu Leder Lulu Fine Custom Baking

The history of biscotti can be traced back thousands of years to Tuscany Italy. The word “biscotti” is derived from the Latin word biscotus which means twice baked. Lulu Leder of Lulu Fine Custom Baking got the idea for one of her Christmas cookie recipes from a biscotti baking book her sister gave her (for Christmas). She loves baking this Christmas Cranberry-Pecan Biscotti because the red cranberries and the melted white chocolate are a perfect complement to the colorful seasonal spirit around the house and because they taste incredible. “I think biscotti are such a unique type of cookie and these are perfect for the holidays!” says Lulu.

For the cookies

cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup brown sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1∕8 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup dried cranberries


1. Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour baking powder salt and cinnamon to the creamed mixture and blend until smooth. Fold in the nuts and cranberries.

2. Divide the dough in half and shape on a lightly greased baking sheet into two logs about 4 inches wide and inches high. Place them 3 inches apart. Bake in a 350o oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until they are golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes.

3. Transfer to a cutting board and cut each log into -inch slices. Place the slices cut side down on a baking sheet and toast each side in a 275o oven for 10 minutes. Cool. Makes about two and one-half dozen biscotti.

For the White Chocolate Dip

Place eight ounces of white chocolate in a double boiler. Melt slowly over warm water. Be careful not to let it get too hot. Dip biscotti in the melted white chocolate and let them dry before storing in an air-tight container.

Pfeffernusse Cookies
from the kitchen of Apple Annies

Apple Annies Bake Shop has been around for six generations. Starting in the 1800s in a small town in Italy this baking company moved to New Jersey and then to Wilmington bringing with it delicious traditions that were passed down from generation to generation. Staying true to old-time-bakery tradition Apple Annies bakers use no preservatives or additives when making their holiday goodies which range from perfect pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving to sweet Babka bread at Christmas. When it comes to cookies Apple Annies has been making Pfeffernusse a traditional German recipe for 50 years.

For the cookies

16 ounces brown sugar

4 ounces butter

cup salt

teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

teaspoon anise seed

teaspoon nutmeg

teaspoon ginger

3 cups flour

4 eggs

cup honey

8 ounces milk

1 cup chopped pecans

Lemon zest (for a special touch)


1. Combine sugar butter salt baking soda cinnamon anise seed nutmeg ginger and flour and blend well. Add eggs honey and milk to dry ingredients and mix. Add pecans and the optional lemon zest blend all together. Refrigerate over night.

2. The next day heat the oven to 375o. Form cookie mixture into inch balls. Place one inch apart on an ungreased baking pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool. Roll balls in powdered sugar.

Gingerbread Men
from the kitchen of Kate Costella Aunt Cakes Cookies

Why the bread in gingerbread? In the 13th century the German word was gingerbras which itself was borrowed from the Old-French saying that meant “preserved ginger was used.” By the mid-14th century the word bread began to replace the bras. Bread or no bread of all the Christmas pastries the gingerbread cookie was and still is! greatly loved by American children. Kate Costella owner and baker for Aunt Cakes Cookies has been making Gingerbread Men for years. She uses what was originally her mothers recipe for the holidays. “I remember making them with my mom ” Costella says. “We used to decorate them with bowties and candy. It was so fun and they looked so cute!” They still do.

For the cookies

1 cup white sugar

1 cup molasses

cup softened butter

cup hot water

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 heaping teaspoon ground ginger

6 cups all-purpose flour use more flour if needed


1. Combine first four ingredients and then rinse molasses out of cup with the hot water. Add the eggs and mix well until blended. Add the rest of ingredients and mix well. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm about three hours.

2. Roll out dough and cut with a cookie cutter. Bake at 350o for about 10 minutes. Makes six dozen gingerbread cookies.