Christmas Cookie Party: Homemade Cookies with Global Flair

this year I drew the menu…

Eats:  Lots of Christmas Cookies, but with Indian Twists & treats inspired from the year’s travels
Tunes: Our Christmas Cookie & Cocktail Party Playlist (with some missing, like Wynton Marsalis’ incredible version of Rudolph)
Chatter:  Your top 5 Favorite Holiday Traditions
Fun: Make your own Ornaments (free printable shapes)

Intro

This time of year might just be the most jam-packed when it comes to traditions, rituals, food and special music!  Having grown up Catholic, it’s certainly a favorite time of mine, and in our mixed family, as well.

Filed under “take your fav traditions and spice them up with even more meaning and resonance for you” is exactly what spurred our annual Christmas Cookie & Ornament Making Party now it it’s 16th year.  A big part of the holidays is being with family and friends, and we enjoy doing that while sharing special food & drink, with great festive tunes in the background, and a collaborative, ongoing art project.

Below you will find lots of recipes, a free printout, and lots of new and old traditions.  Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Tunes

Fav Holiday tunes of course! Mostly all upbeat for a party, but gotta throw some slower classics on there, too.  It’s nice and long already so just put it on shuffle repeat… and we’ll of course keep adding to it (particularly when I figure out how to add non-Spotify stuff!  of rind an alternative to Spotify?!).  Also check out the Christmas Tree playlist and the related post as well!

Traditions

This time of year, conversations naturally turn to traditions.  No matter what you celebrate, the fact is that in most locations around the globe, school lets out, some offices shut down, and families and friends come together in some way, shape or form.

This year I’m trying to skip out on chatting about self-improvement (“Any new year’s resolutions?”) and travel logistics (“So what are your plans for the holidays?”) in favor of asking fellow revelers what their top 5 favorite holiday traditions are!

Here are our Top 5 Favorite Christmastime Traditions:

5. Santa!  It’s a controversial one, and we are definitely don’t like to overdo it… but there’s some definite magic there that we won’t skip.

4. Decorating!  Getting our tree up and home decorated as soon after Thanksgiving as we can (never before).

3. Christmas Music!  Get Christmas music on a vast majority of the time, whether via Sonos, CD or vinyl (again: never before Thanksgiving).  I try not to let it go to long after either, but after Christmas 2015, dear daughter was requesting “Oh Holy Night” right up through the following JULY.  No joke.

2. Making Ornaments & Decorations  Some of my fondest memories are of making holiday crafts at home and school, and I not only delight in doing it today, along with my kids, but also to take a walk down memory lane via art from years past.  In the next section below, you can get a free printout to cut and make traceables and easy ornaments of your own.

1. Parties!  Christmas Eve is always with my dad’s side, and Christmas Day with my mom’s.  Each have their own fun associated with them (trying to glimpse Santa in the late night sky, an overly crowded evening mass where some rules get a bit lax, seeing so many cousins all together, Yankee swap gift game…) , and it’s awesome to see our kids’ excited about some of the things that got me the most jazzed 30+ years ago.

And then of course it’s our Annual Cookie, Cocktails and Ornament-making Party!  It only just barely won out over #2, and the reasons are really threefold.  First, it’s a time when old friends who have been coming for years will come, and often we haven’t seen them but for last year.  Second, the event itself grew out of the early intertwining of the lives of my husband and I.   I had a mostly barren tree (save for the angel and a very few ornaments), and wanted hep decorating it.  I threw a party as an excuse to get friends over and make merry, eat Christmas cookies and make ornaments.  Many of the early attendees didn’t celebrate Christmas, so right away there was a cross-cultural aspect.  Garam Masala Oatmeal Raisin cookies have been there since the beginning.  Lastly, this party offers us a challenge to fold in representations of our favorite travels that year, whether it’s providing only French wines, offering Cuban Mohitos, or making Mochi or Pralines (from scratch, of course).

What are your top 5 favorite holiday traditions?

Fun

Print to fit a whole 8.5×11 sheet of paper: no margins, possibly at 105%. Check print preview.

We’ve done a few different shapes over the years but my favorites are the mitten, bulb, candy cane, tree, and new this year: the dove.  Download this and cut out the shapes.  Then use the cutouts to trace shapes into whatever color paper you want.  Of course, cardstock or at least thicker paper will last longer (both in terms of the template and the ornaments), but use what you have and it will be great.

When provided template is printed as possible on an 8.5 x 11 inch paper, then each individual shape will fit at least twice 2 on Paper Source’s A7 cardstock paper (some need some playing with tilting but they fit!  Less waste!).  For this project, we usually use their Chartreuse, Red, shimmery white Star dream?), sometimes Royal Blue, and next year, Shimmery Gold.

Poke a hole and use a traditional ornament hook, or use ribbon or string.  We also like to hang all of ours up using tiny clothespins, which is a holdover from the mittens year.

Eats

Of COURSE, putting your OWN twists on these things is the point, but that doesn’t mean we won’t all look for inspiration and recipes.   If any of these recipes suit your style and taste, enjoy and let us know how they go!  Note: some recipes follow the list in this same post, and others are links to other pages on this site.

  • Garam Masala Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – always
  • Candy Cane Kulfi – for the past 3 or 4 years
  • Chocolate Pistachio Cookie, with Cardamom – added maybe in 2012, but only started adding cardamom 2014
  • Gingerbread Cookies, with saunf, used interchangeably with raisins
  • Mochi – representing Japan! I used a combo of this recipe for the sticky rice coating, and this recipe for the bean paste, but have notes for next time.
  • The Cookie Formerly Known as Christmas Twist (Almond-y Sugar Cookies with Saunf) – meant to have a naming contest. Next time
  • Microwave Pralines – Easiest, most delicious (if finger burning) recipe.

Adding Garam Masala to my favorite oatmeal cookies was probably the very first time I got excited about blending our heritages via food.  Though we make them year round, they are also ALWAYS part of our annual Christmas cookie party.  For some reason we really didn’t add any more twists to our Christmas favorites until this year!

Chocolate Pistachio Cookie with Cardamom

Ingredients

  • 6 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)(~1 cup, unchopped)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder (at least!)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus 1 tbsp, softened (1 stick)
  • 1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cups salted, shelled pistachios (not dyed red), finely chopped (6 oz)

Instructions

  • Finely chop 2 1/2 oz. (just a bit less less than 1/2 cup) chocolate and melt in small bowl set over small saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove bowl from heat and cool chocolate.
  • Finely chop remaining 3 1/2 oz. chocolate.
  • Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and cardamom.
  • Beat together butter and brown sugar with electric mixer at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, then beat in egg and vanilla until combined well. Add flour mixture in batches and mix at medium speed until just combined, then beat in melted chocolate until incorporated. Stir in pistachios and chopped chocolate.
  • Divide dough into 6 equal portions and roll each piece into a 12-inch long log (3/4 inch thick). Wrap each log in plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least 30 minutes.
  • Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Slice 1/2-inch thick rounds from frozen logs and arrange about 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheet, lined with parchment paper.
  • Cook for 7 minutes, or until tops have cracked. I prefer just barely cracked, but some may prefer a crisper cookie, so cook less or more according to your taste.
  • Transfer to rack to cool.

Notes

Adapted from Sister-in-law KD, Dec 2008

The Cookie Formerly Known as Christmas Twist (Almond-y Sugar Cookies with Saunf)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup softened salted butter (originally called for margarine but I rarely have it around)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs (originally called for egg yolks -no whites- but I stopped discarding the whites and it’s still yum/works)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • food coloring (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • saunf* or crushed candy cane, or rainbow sprinkles (optional)

Instructions

  • Carefully soften butter in microwave (on defrost) if not very soft.
  • Mix butter and sugar on high until creamy.
  • Add eggs, vanilla and almond extract and beat on high until fluffy.
  • If using, add a few drops of food coloring to desired color (mindful that the flour will lighten it some).
  • Add baking powder and also flour (in 1/2 cup increments, while beating on medium low, just to combine.
  • Wrap dough in plastic wrap, and chill for at least an hour. This will help the dough and also make it easier to handle. Keep in the fridge for a few days, or roll into 1.5 inch diameter logs and freeze, for slice and bake!
  • When beginning to roll cookies, preheat oven to 350.
  • Roll: On lightly floured dish towel (tucking edges around and under a cutting boarroll out dough in sections to 1/3 inch thick and cut with desired cookie. Add any toppings, as desired.
  • Twist: The original recipe was a twist of 2 colors, by making thin logs (or snakeof each and then twisting them together). For this make 2 batches, and freeze any extra in logs for easy, small-batch slice and bake.
  • Cook on an ungreased cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. for mini-cookies, 6 minutes is probably more than enough. For twist cookies, you might need 1For large cookie cutters, maybe 7-You’ll need to check depending on cookie size and thickness. They will begin to crack on the top when done.
  • Cool on the pan for a few minutes, then transfer directly to a wire rack to stop the cooking.

Notes

*find saunf here

Gingerbread Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup softened butter or margarine
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 1/2 baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 3 1/4 cup flour

Instructions

  • Carefully soften butter in microwave (on defrost) if not very soft.
  • Mix butter and sugar on high until creamy.
  • Add eggs and molasses and beat on high until fluffy.
  • Add baking soda, salt and spices, and then add flour in 1/2 cup increments, while beating on medium low, just to combine.
  • Wrap dough in plastic wrap, and chill for at least an hour. This will help the dough and also make it easier to handle. Keep in the fridge for a few days, or roll into 1 1/2 inch diameter logs and freeze, for slice and bake!
  • When beginning to roll cookies, preheat oven to 350.
  • Roll: On lightly floured dish towel (tucking edges around and under a cutting boarroll out dough in sections to 1/3 inch thick and cut with desired cookie. Add any toppings, as desired.
  • Cook on an ungreased cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. For mini-cookies, 6 minutes is probably more than enough. For large cookie cutters, maybe You’ll need to check depending on cookie size and thickness. They will begin to crack on the top when done.
  • Cool on the pan for a few minutes, then transfer directly to a wire rack to stop the cooking.

Microwave Pralines

I almost never have the exact amount of one of the ingredients so I’ve been fudging it each time, but it’s generally aligned with this recipe.  Haven’t’ found a foolproof so I wont share a definitive, but I will share lessons learned.

  • Be ready to burn your fingertips.  The exact moment that the temperature of the mixture is good to drop onto the wax paper in neat, pretty little piles is when it’s thickened up but also still very hot.  If it cools too much, it won’t have that smooth sheen.  It will still taste good though!  Yes, I’ve tried with spoons but I find a spoon and a finger easiest.
  • You know your microwave best:  I end up nuking it longer than recipes say because our microwave is so crappy.
  • While it’s cooling, don’t walk away cuz you’ll forget and it will harden too much and you’ll be really annoyed.
  • Trial & error – The first time I made it I rushed things and the mixture was too runny.  The good news is that you only need to try one little pile to know if the mixture is at the right temp / has been nuked enough.  If it’s spreading a ton, nuke it a few more minutes.  If it’s hardened too much, add a tad of cream and nuke it, but it’s better not to get to that point.

 

mochi in progress