For the better three quarters of the year, I admittedly ignore cookies, but as soon as the holiday season sneaks up on me, my obsession with them skyrockets. I want cookies. Cookies to tide me over from November to January.
I will, without hesitation, skip the Christmas cake in favor of a cookie that promises crunch and delight and intrigue. Linzer cookies sealed with apricot or raspberry jam, chocolate-hazelnut cookies in every combination possible, a spicy gingersnap, even the savory cheddar and sea salt-loaded crackers. I welcome all with open arms. The holiday season should be all cookies, all the time.
There are some ingredients whose fragrances and tastes are a necessity in my holiday cookies—the energizing scents of the winter citruses, the cooling aroma of crushed green cardamom or peppermint, the warmth of grated cinnamon and nutmeg.
When it comes to shape, a holiday-themed cutout-cookie—that say, simply dipped in melted chocolate or a sweet glaze—is most certainly welcome. Cutout cookies melt away all expected norms of adult behavior with their playful character. As a cook, there’s something satisfying in achieving that perfect shape when the blades of the cookie cutter press through the flat layer of rolled-out dough.
Over the years, I’ve collected a wide assortment of cookie cutters in various shapes and sizes, some from childhood, the rest as an adult. Less-complicated shapes always win the day while some of the more obscure, hard-to-decipher cutters end up at the back of the drawer. My grandmother had four cookie shapes at home: a Santa Claus, a Christmas tree, a candy cane, and a wreath. We used them all, carefully painting each cutout cookie with bright-colored frostings and sprinkling with silver sugar pearls. As an adult, my preferences on cookie décor might have changed, but cutout cookies still remain as playful, adventurous, and enticing.
In my take on the classic sugar cookies, buckwheat and oat flours bolster the dough, while sugar and butter give necessary structure as the cookies bake and cool. You can add any spices and flavorings that pair well with white and dark chocolate—my personal favorites include cinnamon, black or long pepper, candied citrus peels, or crystallized ginger.
Once the cookies are baked, I hang my cookie cutters on our Christmas tree. It seems like a fitting spot to celebrate them for the next couple of weeks. —Nik Sharma
Featured in: Food52's Holiday Cookie Chronicles —The Editors