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All I Want for Christmas Are My Grandma’s Cookies

Here are five recipes for the tastiest holiday classics.

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Traditional Christmas cookies close up stacked in layers
Danielle Atkins (Food and prop stylist: Teresa Blackburn)
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Nothing gets me into the holiday mood faster than twinkling lights, Bing Crosby crooning Christmas carols on the radio and the smell of spice cookies baking in the oven. My favorite cookies come from my grandmother's recipe box, but many involve a rolling pin and cookie cutters, which is a bit too time-consuming for me.

However, I still make several of her recipes (the easier ones) and get the kids and grandkids involved while I'm cooking. With three generations of us in the kitchen, there is a great feeling of continuity as we bake, frost and decorate the cookies together. I know my grandma would be proud!

Here are five of our classic Christmas cookie recipes that will fill your friends and family with deliciousness and nostalgia.

Traditional Christmas pecan puffball cookies
Danielle Atkins (Food and prop stylist: Teresa Blackburn)

Pecan Puff Balls

Also known as pecan snowballs, Russian tea cakes or Mexican wedding cookies, this traditional recipe has been around for ages and has always been a part of our holiday dessert platters. I have fond memories of making these with my older siblings in my mother's kitchen where we also ended up coated in powdered sugar while rolling the cookies.

Makes 4 dozen cookies

1 cup butter, softened

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups flour (sifted)

2 cups finely ground pecans

2 cups confectioners' sugar (plus extra for second coating)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the butter, sugar, vanilla and salt together. In a separate bowl, mix flour and pecans, then slowly add this to the butter mixture until blended. Carefully roll dough into 1-inch balls (the dough will be slightly dry and crumbly) and place on a greased cookie sheet 1 inch apart. Bake for 15 minutes (or until cookies are a light golden brown). Fill a deep bowl with 1-2 cups of confectioners' sugar. Using a spoon, roll a few cookies at a time in the sugar bowl while they are still warm. Once coated, let them cool on a wire rack. After the last cookie is done, repeat the process again for a second coating.

Traditional Christmas Jelly Thumbprint cookies
Danielle Atkins (Food and prop stylist: Teresa Blackburn)

Jelly Thumbprint Cookies

These cookies are very tasty and very pretty, arranged on a holiday party plate. Use different colored jams, such as strawberry, apricot and blueberry, to spruce up the presentation.

Makes 25-30 cookies

1 cup butter, softened

6 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch of salt

2 cups flour

1 small jar of jelly or jam (any flavor)

Confectioners' sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 400. Cream all ingredients (except jelly) together. Roll rounded teaspoons of dough into balls and place on a greased cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. With your thumb, make an indentation in the center of each dough ball. Using a small spoon, drop some jelly into each cookie indentation. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool for 2 minutes. Then dust the cookies lightly with confectioners' sugar sifted over the top of each one.

Traditional Christmas Peanut Butter Blossoms cookies
Danielle Atkins (Food and prop stylist: Teresa Blackburn)

Peanut Butter Blossoms

This chewy, peanut butter cookie with creamy chocolate nestled in the center is a bite of traditional holiday bliss. If you love Reese's candies, these super easy, homemade cookies will satisfy all your cravings.

Makes 3 dozen cookies

1/2 cup sugar (plus extra for rolling)

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 egg

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

36 Hershey's Kisses, unwrapped

Preheat oven to 375. Mix all ingredients (except chocolate kisses). Roll into 1-inch balls. Add some extra sugar to a bowl and roll each cookie in the sugar for a light coating. Place on greased baking sheet 2 inches apart and bake for 8-10 minutes until edges are a light golden brown. Remove and press one chocolate kiss on top of each cookie. Cool before serving.

Traditional Christmas Swedish Butter cookies
Danielle Atkins (Food and prop stylist: Teresa Blackburn)

Swedish Butter Cookies

My grandmother made this delicate, buttery treat for the cookie baskets she gave to all the neighbors for gifts, and the tradition has been carried down through the years to our family. The creamy texture of the dough makes this the perfect melt-in-your-mouth butter cookie that also goes well with a cup of hot peppermint cocoa or pumpkin spiced coffee.

Makes 4-5 dozen cookies

4 cups flour, sifted

2 cups butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

Decorative colored sugar (red and green)

Preheat oven to 350. Cream all ingredients together (except colored sugar). Shape into several 9-inch long log rolls, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, then wrap each in foil. Chill in the refrigerator overnight. Slice the cookies about 1/2 inch thick and place on a greased cookie sheet. Sprinkle colored sugar on cookies (I do half the batch in red and the other half in green) and bake for 5-10 minutes (check on them after the first five minutes) or until edges are very slightly browned. Let them cool for a few minutes before gently removing them from the cookie sheet.

Traditional Christmas Frosted Gingerbread cookies
Danielle Atkins (Food and prop stylist: Teresa Blackburn)

Frosted Gingerbread Cookies

What would the holidays be without a gingery, frosted cookie? The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and ginger baking in the oven will fill your house with the irresistible scent of Christmas morning.

Makes 2 dozen cookies

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 egg

1/4 cup molasses

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Buttercream Frosting:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 12 cups confectioner's sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2-3 teaspoons milk

Cream the first 5 ingredients together and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix flour with baking soda, salt and all other spices. Slowly add this to the butter mixture and blend well. Store dough in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and roll dough into 1 1/2 tablespoon-sized balls. Place cookies 2 inches apart and bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on a baking sheet for 5-7 minutes before removing them to a wire rack to completely cool. For the frosting, cream butter for 5 minutes until fluffy. Slowly add sugar, then vanilla. Add 1 teaspoon milk, mix, and depending on consistency, add the other 2 teaspoons if needed. Spread or pipe frosting onto cookies. Decorate with colored sugar, colorful nonpareils, or a slight dusting of cinnamon.

Serve up these sweets at your upcoming gatherings, and I can assure you guests will ask for the recipes. A merry holiday season to all, as you savor these timeless and delicious treats.


What cookies do you remember your grandmother or mother making? Let us know in the comments below.

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