There are so many things to love about the Holiday season, like the festiveness and the happiness I feel when I see the lights and decorations. It brings a smile to my face. Hearing familiar Christmas songs while out shopping for friends and family brings a major amount of joy. But the thing I love the very, very most about the holiday season is baking. Nothing beats the smell of homemade cookies in a warm kitchen. Family time paired with a plateful of fresh-baked cookies and a cup of hot chocolate or mulled wine…that my friends, is a perfect day. Since December 18 is “Bake Cookies Day,” we thought it would be fun to share some favorite Christmas cookie recipes from the gang at PONY-O.
PECAN CRESCENT COOKIES
2 sticks salted butter, softened
¾ c powdered sugar, plus more for finishing
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp orange zest (optional)
½ tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
2 c all-purpose flour
1 c pecan halves, finely chopped
Place the softened butter, sugar, vanilla, and orange zest in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer). With a hand mixer (or stand mixer with a paddle attachment) on medium speed, beat until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the cinnamon and flour and mix on low speed, just until combined. Add the pecans and mix on low just until combined, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed.
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Position one oven rack in the top one-third of the oven, and the other rack in the bottom one-third position. Shape slightly mounded tablespoonfuls of dough into oval shape logs, about 2 ½ -inches long. Place them on two baking sheets, about 2-inches apart and curve them into half-circles.
Bake for 20-22 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from upper to lower rack half-way through, just until the bottoms of the cookies are lightly golden. Let cool on the sheet tray for 10 minutes before transferring to a bowl of powdered sugar. Dredge them while they are warm, then transfer to a cooling rack set over a sheet tray to cool completely. Once cool, sprinkle with additional powdered sugar, if desired. Store in an air-tight container in a single layer, between layers of parchment paper, at room temperature for up to 1 week.
BROWN SUGAR OATMEAL COOKIES
1 c salted butter, softened
2 c packed brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 whole eggs
1 ½ c all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
3 c old fashioned oats
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
In the bowl of an electric mixer (or using a hand mixer) beat together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl after each one.
Mix together the flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium sized bowl. Add it into the creamed mixture in 2 to 3 batches, mixing it until just combined. Mix in the oats until just combined.
Use your preferred size cookie scoop (or a regular spoon) to drop portions of dough onto a lightly greased cookie sheet, spacing them a couple inches apart. Bake for 12-13 minutes or until dark and chewy. If you'd like a crispier cookie, just cook a little longer!
Let them cool slightly on the pan after removing from the oven, then transfer the cookies onto a plate for serving.
* Note: Add 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts to the flour mixture if you'd like a nutty flavor and crunch.
CRANBERRY ORANGE COOKIES
1 ½ c sugar, divided
1 tablespoon plus 1 tsp freshly grated orange zest, divided
¾ c butter, at room temperature
2 c all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ c sweetened dried cranberries
½ c macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
In a small bowl, combine 1/3 cup of the sugar and 1 teaspoon of the orange zest. Use your fingers to rub it together until the orange zest is mixed throughout the sugar. Set aside.
Combine the remaining 1 cup sugar and the butter in a large bowl. Beat until creamy. Add the egg and the remaining 1 tablespoon of orange zest and beat to combine.
Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix until combined.
Add in the dried cranberries and the macadamia nuts. Mix just until combined.
Using a 1 1/2 tablespoon scoop, shape the dough into balls. Roll in the orange sugar then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, at least 2 inches apart. Flatten the cookies slightly with your hand.
Bake for about 7 minutes, until the cookies are just barely browning around the edges. Do not overbake.
Cool for 1 minute before removing from the baking sheet to cool completely.
GINGERBREAD MOLASSES COOKIES
2 ⅔ c all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
4 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp kosher salt
1 ½ c granulated sugar
1 c vegetable oil
⅓ c molasses (unsulphured)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs (at room temperature)
1 c powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with a sheet or parchment and set aside.
To a medium bowl, add the all-purpose flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Whisk together until combined.
To the bowl of a stand-up mixer with the paddle attachment, add the sugar and oil. Beat until light and sort of fluffy, about 1 minute. Pour in the molasses and vanilla extract; then with the machine running on low, add one egg at a time. Mix until combined.
Add the flour mixture and mix just until no flour speckles appear and the dough is cohesive, about 30 seconds to a minute. Cover the cookie dough with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge to chill for 1 hour.
Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl. This will smooth out any lumps.
Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop out balls of dough, rolling them in between your palms until balls form. Roll them in the sifted powdered sugar. The powdered sugar should be on there pretty thick.
Transfer the dough ball to the lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the cookies about 4 inches a part. These spread a bit so give them some space. I baked about 6 cookies per sheet.
Transfer the first baking sheet to the oven to bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, until they appear crackled and puffed up. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheets for at least 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. You’ll notice that they’ll fall a bit as they cool—this is good! Repeat with the cookie dough.
Happy baking! Wishing you and yours a happy and blessed Holiday Season! And remember: no one wants a hair in their cookie! Tie your hair back with your PONY-O hair ties when you bake for comfortable, damage-free hold!