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
Test Kitchen Notes
Featured in: Food52's Holiday Cookie Chronicles —The Editors
- Prep time 3 hours
- Cook time 10 minutes
- Makes about 3 dozen 2 inch cookies (amount will vary by the size of the cookie cutter used)
(141 grams, or 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) buckwheat flour, plus more for dusting
(141 grams, or 1 1/2 cups) oat flour
(113g, or 1/2 cup) light brown sugar
(4 1/2 ounces, or 1 stick plus one tablespoon, or 127g) unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
plain full-fat cream cheese
pure vanilla extract
- Chocolate drizzle
(90g) white chocolate chips
(90g) dark chocolate chips (I used Guittard 75% dark cacao)
- Place the buckwheat and oat flours, along with the salt and sugar, in the bowl of a stand mixer. Dry whisk to evenly mix using the paddle attachment for about 2 minutes on medium-low speed.
- While the mixer is set at medium-low speed add half of the butter and mix for 2 minutes. Then increase the speed to medium-high and add the rest of the butter, cream cheese and vanilla. Mix for about 2 minutes until completely combined. Transfer the dough to a clean sheet of parchment paper and shape it into a disc using clean hands. Wrap the disc with cling film and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before baking.
- Before rolling out the dough to prepare the cookies, line two cookie/baking sheets with parchment paper and keep aside. Divide the cookie dough into 4 equal parts. Work with one part time and keep the rest refrigerated until ready to use. Using a rolling pin, roll out the cookie dough between on a clean surface lightly dusting the dough with a scant amount of buckwheat flour. You can also roll out the cookie dough between two sheets of parchment paper and use a little amount of buckwheat flour to dust (I've done it both ways and I prefer the parchment paper method, handling the cookies is much easier). The rolled out dough should be about 1/8 inch (3mm) thick. Cut out cookie shapes using your favorite cookie cutters. Transfer the cutouts onto the prepare baking sheet leaving about 1 inch (2.5cm) space between them and freeze to chill for 30 minutes.
- While the cookies are chilling, place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 300°F (180°C). Return the leftover cookie dough to the rest of the dough and prepare the rest of the cookies in the same manner. Bake the chilled cutout cookies in the preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet halfway through baking. The cookies are done when their edges start to turn lightly golden brown. Remove the baking sheet with the baked cookies from the oven and allow to cool for about 1 minute, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
- Chocolate drizzle
- Spread the cooled cookies out on a large sheet of parchment paper (It is preferable to work in a cool place away from a heat source which will allow the chocolate to solidify after it is drizzled onto the cookies.)
- Place 3/4 of the white chocolate chips into a small heat-proof mixing bowl. Place the bowl in a saucepan containing water that is barely simmering on a stove. Stir the chips until they melt and the temperature reaches 110°F (43°C). Immediately switch the stove off and remove the bowl from the saucepan. Stir in the rest of the white chocolate chips and mix until combined. Using a fork drizzle the chocolate over the cookies and allow the chocolate to solidify before drizzling with the dark chocolate.
- Repeat the same steps to prepare the dark chocolate. Drizzle the dark chocolate over the cookies and allow to solidify at room temperature. Transfer and store the cookies in airtight container.