Baking Christmas cookies every year is one of my favorite holiday traditions. Each year, I make roughly 10 different types of cookies. Some are tried and true favorites that are must-haves in the Lowe household during the holidays, while others are new.
Each year, I pick a few new recipes that I haven’t made before to test out and this year is no different. Today, I’m sharing the Christmas cookies on my list to bake this year and giving my feedback and impressions of each.
Christmas cookies 2020
This year, I’ve cut back a bit on the number of cookies I made for the holiday season. Typically, I like to have a well-stocked freezer with a variety of cookies on hand. I like to use them for last-minute gifts or to bring along when headed to holiday parties. Because of COVID though, we don’t have family coming to stay with us and we don’t have any holiday party plans.
Making a ton of cookies didn’t seem necessary this year but I didn’t want the holiday season to pass us by without making a few of our faves. I made a batch of double chocolate chip snowball cookies that I made and shared last year in my 2019 Christmas cookie roundup. These were a new to me cookie last year that quickly became a family favorite.
My mother-in-law always sends us a batch of her sugar cookies that are my husband’s favorite. In fact, I sometimes have to make an extra batch just to make sure we have enough to get us through the holidays. They are super soft and not too sweet. Truly one of the best sugar cookies I’ve come across.
The rest of the cookies on my 2020 bake list are new to me recipes that I’m testing out this holiday season. I’m really excited about my list this year and if you’re looking for some ideas, check out the ones listed below!
These are the cookies I’m making this year
Brown sugar cookies
I’ve been wanting to make a brown sugar cookie for a couple of years now. I love the chewy texture that brown sugar adds to a cookie and the rich buttery flavor.
I was gifted the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook a couple of years ago from my dad and found a recipe for these cookies in it.
Their recipe for Brown Sugar Cookies online is slightly different from the one in the book. In the book, they take 10 of the 14 tablespoons of unsalted butter and brown it in a saucepan for a nutty flavor. Then, they add the remaining 4 tablespoons to the browned butter and stir to melt. I’m a huge fan of browned butter so this was perfect for me!
Their online recipe also calls for flaky sea salt to sprinkle on the cookies once you pull them from the oven. Next time I make these I’ll try adding this to the tops of my cookies. These cookies are sweet and the salt would help balance that out.
I ended up making some slight tweaks to these cookies. The recipe calls for dark brown sugar but I only had light on hand. I usually prefer light but the next time I make these I’ll try it with the dark as they suggest.
I also chilled the dough for a bit before popping them in the oven. In the book, their goal was to create a cookie with crispy edges and a chewy center. Mike isn’t a huge fan of crispy cookies and I was hoping that by chilling the dough I could combat some of that. The melted butter makes the cookies spread and I was trying to keep them from doing that. I didn’t have much success though but will continue to play around and adjust to see if I can get the texture I want.
This recipe is definitely a keeper and one I think my family and friends will love! Try them out and let me know what you think.
Peanut Butter kiss cookies
Ok, so not an entirely new to me cookie but one I don’t bake that often is these peanut butter blossom cookies, or what I like to call kiss cookies. They are a traditional classic holiday cookie where I come from and it wouldn’t be Christmas without them.
My mom typically makes these cookies for us when she comes into town at the request of my sister and husband. This year though the task has fallen to me.
I don’t think there’s any better combo than peanut butter and chocolate and these cookies are the perfect mix of the two. Both my mom and mother in law make these at Christmas but the recipes are slightly different between the two.
My mother in law’s recipe calls for Crisco instead of butter to keep the cookies from spreading a ton when baking. Her cookies also get a quick roll in sugar before going into the oven to bake. This gives a slight crunch to the outside and a little extra sweetness.
My mom’s recipe uses butter and the dough is chilled to prevent the cookies from spreading, She doesn’t roll her cookies in sugar keeping the outside soft and cakey.
For my cookies, I ended up testing out two different butter-based recipes. The first recipe for peanut butter kiss cookies from Eating on a Dime was super simple to make and came together rather quickly. I noticed though that with these cookies because the recipe doesn’t call for the dough to be chilled, my cookies spread quite a bit. They still taste great they just didn’t look like I thought they would.
The next recipe I tried for peanut butter blossoms by Striped Spatula ended up working out perfectly. This recipe suggests chilling the dough for at least an hour in the fridge before baking. I ended up making the dough after dinner one night and let it rest in the fridge overnight before baking the next day. They kept their shape in the oven and are the perfect soft and chewy texture. This recipe calls for rolling the balls in sugar before baking them. I opted to forgo this step in the process though strictly out of preference.
When I asked my husband if he had any requests for cookies this year this was his one and only. I think these turned out great and they got Mike’s stamp of approval which is all that matters!
Reese’s stuffed peanut butter cookies
Another play on the popular peanut butter and chocolate combo is these Reese’s stuffed peanut butter cookies from Sally’s Baking Addiction.
2020 has been different in a lot of ways to say the least. Many of our family holiday traditions have been put on hold this year as we celebrate apart. Getting creative though, my mom, sister, and I were able to continue our baking tradition. Just in a different way.
With the help of technology, we picked a Saturday and an easy recipe to make and made our Christmas cookies together over FaceTime. My sister had saved these cookies to our Christmas Cookies group Pinterest board a couple of years ago. We decided this was the year and the recipe to try to make together.
This cookie doesn’t disappoint. It’s a delicious peanut buttery cookie dough that’s similar to the above peanut butter kiss cookies. The rich peanut butter flavor intensifies when you chill the dough which is necessary to keep the cookies from spreading and the Reeses cup from oozing out.
Once the dough has had a chance to chill out, take a mini Reeses cup and stuff it into the center of a ball of dough. Bake, and once cooled, drizzle with a mix of melted chocolate and peanut butter for an extra bit of that Reese’s cup flavor.
If you’re a big fan of peanut butter kiss cookies and Reese’s cups you need to add these to your Christmas cookie bake list! You won’t regret it!
Nutella Shortbread Cookies
This fall I got hooked on a Nutella shortbread cookie that my mother in law made for my nieces. It’s a simple but delicious buttery cookie with a ribbon of chocolate hazelnut spread running through it. I’m a big fan of Nutella but surprisingly I’ve never used it in my baked goods. I decided this year I would add it to my list.
Knowing I wanted to make these for Christmas, I started hunting online for a recipe to test out. I landed on one that sounded good by Taste of Home that used what they call a master holiday cookie dough mix.
If you’re unfamiliar with what a master cookie dough mix is, it’s a basic dough you make that then becomes the base for multiple other cookies. In this case, one being chocolate hazelnut pinwheels.
To make the master dough, you start by creaming together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined. Finally, flour and salt get added slowly until incorporated, and once complete the dough is ready. At this point, it’s a bit sticky, and best to pop it in the fridge to firm up. The site states you can store it in the fridge for about a week making this a great make ahead recipe.
To make the chocolate hazelnut pinwheels, you simply soften the dough and roll it out into a rectangle shape. Next, spread it with the hazelnut spread and top with chopped hazelnuts if desired. Roll the dough up tightly starting with the long edge and then wrap the log in plastic and set in the fridge to chill for a couple of hours. This will help the dough keep its shape and make it easier to slice.
For my cookies, I decided to forgo adding the chopped nuts and added extra hazelnut spread for good measure. I found that when baking them, I preferred to slice my cookies on the thicker side, resulting in a softer cookie once baked.
M&M Christmas Cookie Bars
For my final Christmas cookie recipe for 2020, I wanted something that was super simple to make and a little bit festive without being fussy. Enter M&M Christmas Cookie Bars from the FoodySchmoody Blog.
I’ve always been a fan of cookie bars but I’ve never actually made any. I decided to give these a whirl this year and I have to say I’m on the fence.
This is a recipe my sister had added to our Christmas Cookie Pinterest board and I thought they would be a perfect addition to my 2020 bake list. I LOVE a good chocolate chip cookie and I’m always on the hunt for the perfect one to add to my repertoire. So, when I saw these, I thought these would be a hit.
I ended up making two different batches in the hopes that one would turn out but I don’t think I got it right this year. The recipe seems simple enough. The dough is very similar to a regular chocolate chip cookie dough recipe but with melted butter and a bit more brown sugar for extra chewiness. Chocolate chips and red and green M&Ms are mixed into the dough, bringing the holiday vibes without a ton of extra work in decorating.
Once mixed, spread the mixture into a 9×13 inch pan and bake until the dough pulls away slightly from the edges and is golden brown. When adding to my 9×13 pan though I was afraid that the bars would be too thin and not chewy in texture. I quickly whipped up another batch and baked that in my 8×8 inch pan. Hoping that the extra thickness would give me the chewy, cakey texture I was after.
I’m not sure what I did wrong but both came out underdone and the texture seemed all wrong. I’m not giving up though and may play around with this one a bit to see if I can get it to work for me. Have you tried making a cookie bar before and had success with it? Send me recipes if you have!
Christmas Cookies 2020
Even though 2020 has been difficult and most of our holiday traditions look a bit different this year, one tradition that I couldn’t let go of was my holiday baking. It brings me so much joy and peace to get in the kitchen and whip something up with butter and sugar. It’s my happy place and definitely where I go to relax or change my mood.
Much of this year has been filled with a lot of stress and uncertainty but getting into the kitchen and doing something I enjoy has helped me move through some of those mixed feelings and bad days.
I hope that whatever your holidays look like this year, you are able to find some peace and joy as well. Even if it looks a bit different. Happy holidays, friends! Stay safe and warm!