Holiday Cookies


Finished trio of cookiesThese very special Holiday Cookies offer a variety of flavors to add to your list of holiday cookies.  They are all easy to make and can be made ahead to minimize your last minute preparations.

Sienna Lace has very special memories for me.  I first encountered Almond Lace cookies, from which this recipe is derived from the owner of a cooking school in Iowa. I was, at one point in my ever changing career, a traveling cooking teacher which is how I found myself in Iowa.  I remember a long drive from the airport on roads that appeared to be cut straight through fields of crops.  It was cold and the land lay quiet as it waited for spring before it could come to life again.

Being a city girl, I couldn’t imagine the long drive without a house, shopping center or building in site.  There was an occasional stop sign but that was pretty much it! When we finally arrived at the house, it was warm and inviting with the aroma of a perfectly roasted chicken with rosemary and a side dish of sweet potatoes and apples.  Dessert was the almond lace cookies. I had never seen them before and was enthralled.  I also remember wondering how many I could eat before I looked boorish! It took me no time at all to ask for the recipe.

The flavors of this  Sienna Lace are based on the fantastic 15th century Italian cake, Panforte di Sienna which was rich with spices brought from the Orient as well as honey and sugar, orange and lemon available only to the wealthy of that time. The delicacy of this cookie is matched only its flavor and is a great addition to any cookie tray.

The Chocolate Dipped Cappuccino Rounds are a coffee lovers dream with chocolate, cinnamon and coffee making this a modern holiday cookie. This is an icebox cookie as it has to set up before it can be sliced and baked.  The milk chocolate glaze is of the quick tempered version where a little shortening added to the chocolate allows it to dry with a perfect sheen that looks to all the world as though you actually tempered the chocolate.  Crystal sugar edges the cookie and gives a crunch and a bit of sweetness to each bite.  The shortening is essential in this cookie to prevent it from spreading too much during baking.

Anise Swirls came about years ago when I was looking for a different flavor for my cookie tray.  Anise is a favorite flavor in Italy and Germany and has a distinct licorice flavor.  They flavor a lot of their holiday cookies with anise.

These are a piped cookie filled with a bit of red currant jelly that looks like jewels.  They are a strong flavor and should be kept separate from other cookies so as not to alter the flavor of the other cookies.  While I prefer anise oil, it can be difficult to find so I have included a substitution of anise extract which is easily found in the spice aisle, especially during the holidays.  Oils are much stronger flavors and do not bake out as extracts can so measure carefully if using the oil.  The use of cake flour is important in this recipe.

The swirl is obtained by using a piping bag and tip but alternate instructions are given if you don’t want to go that route.  We had customers at the retail shop that would wait all year for this particular cookie.  It was one of my husband’s favorites before  he was diagnosed with diabetes – bummer!!!

So come back in time with me and enjoy these Holiday Cookies meant to be eaten in a leisurely manner with friends and a cup of coffee or tea.  Of course, eating them anytime by yourself isn’t all bad either.  I have done both!

2 ounces hazelnuts, skinned* (60 grams)
2 ounces blanched almonds (60 grams_
1 stick unsalted butter (114 grams or 4 ounces)
1/2 cup sugar (100 grams or 3 13 ounces)
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon rind
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange rind
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
2 tablespoons milk
3 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted (100 grams)

*If hazelnuts are difficult to find, use 4 ounces of almonds.ingredients

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Toast the hazelnuts and almonds for 7 to 8 minutes.  Cool completely. Finely grind nuts in the food processor.  Set aside.

Combine the dry ingredients and set aside. dry ingred in bowlLine baking sheets with foil, dull side up.  Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Butter meltingAdd sugar, flour, salt, citrus peels and spices. ingred. melting in butter  Stir until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes.  Mix in nuts and milk; Almonds incook until slightly thickened, no longer than 3 minutes.   CookedRemove from the heat.  Let sit for 5 minutes.

Drop by teaspoonfuls (about the size of a quarter) onto foil spacing about 4 inches apart.  Dropping cookiestray of unbaked cookiesThe batter will spread considerably when baked.  Bake until the cookies are a deep medium brown, 8 to 10 minutes.  Let them cool on the foil, then remove with a spatula carefully as they are very fragile.  Wipe foil with paper towel and use again.  Make sure the cookie sheets are cold before placing the next batch of cookies on them.  The cookies can be dropped onto foil while waiting to bake if desired.

When cool, sparingly spread the underside of one cookie with chocolate Chocolate on cookieand sandwich with another cookie.  Top cookie onStore in an airtight tin.  These are also wonderful plain as single cookies without chocolate.

Store the baked cookies in an airtight tin for several weeks with or without the chocolate.

Yield:  About 40 single cookies or 20 sandwiched depending upon size.

Tray of finished cookies

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate (60 grams)
2 cups all purpose flour (140 grams or 5 ounces)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4  teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening (60 grams
1/2 cup butter, room temperature (114 grams or 4 ounces)
1/2 cup sugar (100 grams or 3 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup brown sugar (100 grams or 3 1/2 ounces)
1 tablespoon instant coffee
1 teaspoon water
1 egg
Crystal Sugar as neededIngredients

Melt unsweetened chocolate, cool and set aside.

Combine flour, cinnamon and salt; set aside. Dry ingred. in bowlDry ingred. mixed In the bowl of a mixer, combine shortening and butter. butter-shortening in bowlBeat until well combined; add sugars and beat until fluffy.Sugars in bowl

Battr mixed 1Dissolve coffee in the water Coffee in liquidCoffee-liquid mixedand add it, Coffee inthe melted unsweetened chocolate and the egg to the butter mixture;Egg and chocolate inbeat well.  Add the flour and beat until completely combined. Dough mixed

Turn out onto the table and Dough on tabledivide the dough in half.Dough divided Roll each half into a 10 to 11 inch log. Rolled into a logRoll each log in crystal sugar.  If the dough is too soft to roll easily, refrigerate it briefly.  Try not to use too much flour when rolling and be sure to brush it all off before rolling in the crystal sugar.  Rolled with sugar Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze.

When ready to use, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thaw the logs if frozen, and cut into 1/4 to 1/3  inch rounds.Cutting roll

Double pan (place on another baking pan) and bake for 18 to 20 minutes until the cookies are set. Tray of unbaked cookiesTray of baked cookies

Milk Chocolate Glaze
8 ounces milk chocolate chips (225 grams)
2 tablespoons shortening

Combine the milk chocolate chops and shortening in a bowl. Microwave for about 2 minutes on half power or place over boiling water until melted. Stir to combine.

If the chocolate is too loose or too firm, it will not coat well.  If it is too loose, let it sit for a few minutes and test the cookie.  If it is too firm, microwave it very briefly and test.

Dip the tops of the cookies in the chocolate,Whole cookie dipped 1

Top of cookie dipped in chou.

Shake the cookie to smooth out the chocolate.  Place them on parchment to set up. Alternately, you can half dip the cookies if desired.Half dipping 1Half dipping 2

Scrape the bottom of the cookie on the side of the bowl to clean it off.

Wiping bottom off


Finished PhotoANISE SWIRLS
2 sticks butter, room temperature (225 grams or 8 ounces)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar (150 grams or 5 1/3 ounces)
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon anise oil
2 1/2 cups cake flour (300 grams or 10 ounces)
Red Currant Jelly as neededingredients

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment.

Beat butter and sugar until very fluffy and almost white. butter and sugar mixed Add the yolks, baking soda and anise oil and continue beating until fluffy.  eggs in Add the flour and beat on low until completely mixed, scraping as necessary.Flour inDough mixed

Fit a pastry bag with a #5 open star tip (about ½ inch wide). Pipe into swirls as small as possible.Piping 1Piping 2piping 3

With the rounded end of a wooden spoon dipped in flour, make an indentation in the center of the cookie but do not go completely through.Making hole

Enlarge the hole by rotating the end of the spoon around the hole at an angle.Enlarging holeTray of shaped cookies with holesIf you don’t want to pipe the cookies, roll into balls the size of large walnuts. Make an indention, bake and fill as called for above.

Double pan the cookies and bake 15 to 18 minutes until lightly colored. Cool several minutes on the pan. Remove to racks to cool completely.

Heat currant jelly in a measuring cup in the microwave until somewhat liquid. Whisk smooth. Pour a bit into each indentation.Filling with jelly Let dry overnight so the jelly will tighten up.Tray of finished cookiesThese cookies are best made several days ahead and stored in airtight containers to mellow the flavor.  They will keep in tins for weeks.

These can be frozen before filling with the jelly. Simply defrost on racks and fill.

Yields: Approximately 35 cookies, depending upon the size.

Pastry has not only been my profession, but my passion. If there is anything in particular you would like to see or any questions about baking or pastry, please let me know. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss a post!
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20 thoughts on “Holiday Cookies

  1. Manisha

    Hi Helen,

    I have always been in awe of lace cookies…now i know how easy they are :)
    with refrigerator and freezer packed i think its time to make some cookies :)))

    thanks always for sharing your lovely foolproof recipes so honestly.

    best regards

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Manisha – At one point, before I knew how to make the, I thought lace cookies were magical. What they are is magically easy!! You can substitute different nuts or extracts to change the flavoring.

  2. Lynn Huddleston

    .. Also wanted to say how great it is to see these crafted recipes so carefully written out, together with photos and giving the various alternative weights – I work in grams, so to see this is a joy ! Lynn

  3. Dennis Whitish

    I enjoy you recipes very much and wonder if you have a favorite sugar cutout cookie recipe you would share. I have been searching for years for the perfect sugar cookie recipe to make at the holidays, not too crisp and not too cake-like. I have fond memories of cutout sugar cookies the ladies of my church made for the children of the school during the holidays.

    Seasons Greetings!

  4. Vicki Bensinger

    These all look wonderful Helen. I’ve never made the Siena Lace cookies or even the Almond ones but always love them. If I wanted to make the Almond Lace would I just sub out the Hazelnuts and use all almonds or would I replace some of the spices as well? I would imagine these take a while to make the full batch since you space them out 4 inches apart.

    Great recipes, I look forward to trying them.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Vicki: To make the almond ones, yes, use all almonds. Omit all the spices and add 1 teaspoon almond extract. Continue as instructed. These are actually very easy. It is important to drop the small amount because the really spread and cool completely before removing. I think I got at least 9 on a rimmed baking sheet at once, possibly 12 so it is not too bad.

      These are a bit different as cookies go and I think you will really enjoy them. Happy Holidays to you Vicki.

  5. sallybr

    Helen, what a beautiful trio of cookies! You know, I’ve always wanted to try to make lace cookies, but was too scared to go for it. You are giving me that nice nudge in the right direction… love the coffee cookies with chocolate, my husband would flip for those

    as to the anise cookies, I sometimes have a problem with intense anise flavor, but the shaping of these babies is amazing! A work of art…..

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Thanks you Sally. The lace cookies are so very easy. The biggie here is don’t drop them larger. The really, really spread. Also, be sure to let them cool before removing them from the baking sheet.

      Use any flavoring extract in place of the anise as a substitute.

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