Readers share favorite holiday cookie memories — and the recipes that come with them

3December 2020

For many of our readers, making cookies during the holiday season isn’t just another chore to check off the list: It’s a great way to make memories with friends and family.

This is the fifth year that we have asked Eat readers to reminisce about holiday cookie-making, and as always, we were inundated with great stories, photos and recipes.

We picked a few handfuls of our favorite entries from the stack — there just wasn’t space to run them all.

But keep your memories top of mind, and be sure to take lots of pictures while making cookies this year. This is now officially a Pioneer Press holiday tradition.

Memories and recipes have been edited for length and clarity, in some cases.

Happy reading (and baking)!

THAT’S ONE WAY TO CRASH A PARTY

Cathi Hogan’s dad schemes to sneak into a gals Christmas baking party by dressing the part. (Courtesy of Cathi Hogan)

A family tradition for the day after Thanksgiving, the females in our family would gather at my sister’s house to make Christmas goodies. Cousins, Nieces, Aunts, Sisters, Moms, Grandma, even Great Grandma would arrive with our recipes, ingredients, and aprons in tow, prepared for a day of laughs, stories, memories, and of course some baking, too. It was always fun to see the variety of Christmas treats people came up with each year to make and then share.

One year, Great Grandma was a bit late to the party. My Dad had agreed to be her chauffeur. When we finally heard them arrive we opened the door to see quite a sight. Apparently “someone” was a bit jealous of the “all female rule.” Never wanting to be the one left out, he dressed the part. Great Grandma spent the rest of her day shaking her head, laughing, and declaring how embarrassing it would have been if they had been pulled over on their way to the cookie gathering.

We miss you Grandma and Dad, not only at Christmas time, but always! Thanks for the smiles and recipes.

— Cathi Hogan, Oakdale

Christmas Candy Snack Mix

Makes about 24 cups

Snack mixture:

1 large bag Fritos

1 large box Crispix

1/2 jar peanuts

Coating:

2 sticks butter

2 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup white corn syrup

To prepare the snack mixture: In a large roasting pan, combine Fritos, Crispix and peanuts. Mix well.

To make snack coating: In a saucepan, boil butter, brown sugar and corn syrup for 1 ½ minutes.

Pour over cereal mixture and stir well.

Bake for 8 minutes at 300 degrees. Stir. Bake for another 8 minutes. Spread on cookie sheets to cool. Optional: You may add a bag of M&M’s after it has cooled.

Store in an airtight container.

BAKING PALS FOR LIFE

For 25-plus years, my good friend Mabel and I baked our Christmas cookies together. We mixed up a double batch of 14 different kinds of cookies — baked them and decorated them all in one day. Our favorite cookie was the cherry slices. Not only are they delicious, but they make the cookie plate look so festive.

Mabel is no longer with us, but when I am baking these cookies, I have such good memories of our years of baking together.

— Jean Peikert, Forest Lake

Cherry Slices

Makes about 11 dozen cookies

1 cup butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup sifted powdered sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/4 cups flour

1 cup pecans, broken in half

2 cups candied cherries, 1 cup red and 1 cup green, cut in half

Cream butter and sugar. Blend in egg. Stir in flour and vanilla. Mix well. Add cherries and pecans. Divide dough in three parts, roll into three logs. Wrap in plastic wrap, chill for at least three hours. Cut into 1/8-inch slices. Bake at 325 degrees for 13 to 15 minutes, or until delicately browned on the edges.

PEANUT BRITTLE FOR DAD

Rollie Brandt with a slab of her famous peanut brittle. (Photo courtesy of Rollie Brandt)

Over the course of 47 years I’ve made hundreds of batches of what people tell me is the best peanut brittle they’ve ever eaten! This began with me as a young bride in 1973 trying a recipe from my new cookbook for my dad who always loved peanut brittle. It grew into a yearly tradition making it for my dad for Christmas, his birthday and Father’s Day, and at least eight batches at Christmas for friends/family and my husband. Everyone says it’s the best!

Dad passed away this past July of end-stage Alzheimer’s. I’d bring him a few pieces every week when I visited for seven years in his memory-care assisted-living residence and he loved it until the end! It will be sad this Christmas knowing he’s gone but I’ll think of him smiling every time I gave it to him!

— Rollie Brandt, Rosemount

Peanut Brittle

1 pound dry-roasted peanuts

3 tablespoons butter, plus extra for greasing pans

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1 cup water

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon water

Preheat oven to 270 degrees.

Have all ingredients measured and ready to add quickly.

Generously grease two cookie sheets with softened butter, then place cookie sheets into warm oven. The key to being able to spread peanut brittle is having the cookie sheets warm.

Measure vanilla, baking soda and 1 teaspoon water into a small container. Tip: Use a tiny spatula and have it mixed and ready. It will separate so at the last minute you’ll have to mix again and pour in quickly.

Using a 2 cup liquid measuring cup, fill to the 1 cup line with hot water, then pour corn syrup on top to the 2-cup line. Hot water makes it easier to pour both out into your pot.

Mix the sugar, corn syrup and water into a large heavy pot. Attach candy thermometer to edge.

Set burner to high and watch carefully. TIP: Use oven mitts to avoid burns.

Early on, the mixture boils vigorously but only needs occasional stirring. As the mixture approaches 240 degrees, stir constantly. When it reaches 240, add peanuts and butter and stir constantly until it reaches 300 degrees. Turn off heat and stir in baking soda/vanilla/water mixture.

Pour into warm pans and spread evenly. Let cool on a wire rack. Once cool, it should lift off the cookie sheets.

FIND THE SNOWBALLS!

Snowball cookies. (Photo courtesy of Tami Swenson)

The snowball cookies were always a family favorite when I was growing up. My mother would make them and try to hide them in the refrigerator, but my siblings and I would always find them and mom would have to make another batch.

That tradition has continued as now I make them and try to hide them, but my daughter always finds them and I usually have to make another batch, too. My daughter was in a serious motorcycle accident this summer and is now in a rehab center. My hope is that she will be home for Christmas and in time to search for the snowball cookies.

— Tami Swenson, St. Croix Falls, Wis.

Snowball Cookies

Makes about a dozen cookies

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 bag (12 ounces) chocolate chips

1 bag (14 ounces) sweetened coconut flakes

Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, salt and vanilla, mixing thoroughly. Add chocolate chips. Form dough into small balls and roll in coconut flakes. Refrigerate until firm and serve cool. Can also use mint flavor chips, mini chocolate chips or cherries (diced).

THREE DOUGHS, ONE COOKIE

Neapolitan cookies. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Eisenhuth)

These cookies are fussy, but it’s always been fun to have the kids help create the little circles of various doughs needed to create one cookie. They also help crush the strawberries and add the mini chips. These cookies are usually gone within a day … they rarely make it to the holiday cookie tray. The red can be dyed a deep red and the vanilla side can be dyed green as well, to make it even more of a holiday look. Make one ball of vanilla dough and split it into three separate bowls.

— Jennifer Eisenhuth, Mendota Heights

Holiday Neapolitan cookies

Makes about 15 cookies

1 cup butter

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

1/2 cup baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

For the separate doughs:

Red and green food coloring

1/2 cup freeze dried strawberries, ground or crushed finely

Mini chocolate chips (optional)

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Using a stand or hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars in a large bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time and mix well until the dough is light and fluffy. Add vanilla and blend well. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt until combined and add to the wet dough. Stop mixing once a solid dough is formed. Separate into 3 equal parts. Add mini chips and green food coloring to one section. Add cocoa powder to another. Add the strawberries, red food coloring and mini chips to the third portion of dough.

Using a teaspoon, create a ball of each flavor of dough. Press the 3 balls into a cookie-dough scoop (or roll the three flavors into one ball). Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and place the cookie dough balls on the cookie sheet, with 2 inches in between them. For a large cookie sheet, I can usually fit six dough balls.

Bake at 350 for 9-10 minutes, and let them sit on the hot cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

BELLS OR SUNBURNED MEN IN HATS?

One Christmas Eve years ago, my sister and her husband needed to get the kids out of the house for a little while, so my other sister and I had them help us make some Christmas cookies. My mom suggested we make Spiced Cherry Bells – one of her favorites. It’s a filled cookie shaped to look like a bell with a maraschino cherry as the bell’s clapper. My nieces enjoyed cutting, filling and shaping the cookies, but their versions didn’t look much like bells. They decided the cookies looked like red-faced men (the cherries) wearing hats. The kids are grown now, but they consider it a Christmas tradition to get together on Christmas Eve to make cookies. They are much more skilled in shaping the bells, but their nickname for Mom’s favorite cookie remains – “Sunburned Men with Big Hats.”

— Teresa Root, South St. Paul

Spiced Cherry Bells (a.k.a. Sunburned Men with Big Hats)

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen

Dough:

1 1/2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon instant coffee

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoon brown sugar, packed

3 tablespoons dark corn syrup

1 teaspoon cream (or milk)

1 egg

Filling:

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed

1 tablespoon butter, softened

3 tablespoons maraschino cherry juice

1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans

6 – 8 oz. jar of maraschino cherries, cut in half

Mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, and instant coffee. Set aside.

Cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the corn syrup, egg, and cream.

Add the dry ingredients to the other ingredients. Mix well.

Divide the dough into four equal portions. Roll out each portion between sheets of parchment paper to a thickness of 1/8”. Leaving the dough between the parchment paper, chill the dough for about an hour.

While the dough is chilling, make the filling: Combine the brown sugar, butter, and maraschino cherry juice. Stir in the pecans. Leave at room temperature until needed.

One portion at a time, pull the parchment away from the chilled dough, but leave the dough resting on one piece. Cut the dough into 2 1/2-inch circles. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Reroll the leftover dough and cut more circles.

Place ½ teaspoon of filling in the center of each circle. To form the bell shape, fold the top of the circle over the filling. Then fold in both sides. Shape the dough to round the top and squeeze in the sides to make it look like a bell.

Place a maraschino cherry half at the bottom of the circle, covering the filling, to represent the bell’s clapper.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

NO BAKE COOKIES? WHY, YES

White chocolate crunchie. (Photo courtesy of Marie T. Aguirre)

My mom is a very good cookie baker. At Christmas time growing up we had all sorts of spritz, pecan slice cookies, peanut butter blossoms and so on. One cookie wasn’t really a cookie, as it was unbaked, I guess? I have heard many stories of cookie parties where someone was aghast at seeing a cookie that wasn’t baked. But I love the White Chocolate Crunchies. Actually, I call them that. They never had a name. I love the sweet and salty taste of them. They are colorful as well. I make sure I give Margie Smith, a pal of mine, a dozen or two. Mom uses almond bark but I like white chocolate.

— Marie T. Aguirre, St. Paul

White Chocolate Crunchies

Makes about 8 dozen

1 pound white chocolate

2 cups mini marshmallows

2 cups Fruit Loops

2 cups Rice Krispies

2 cups Spanish peanuts

Mix everything in a large bowl except white chocolate. Melt the white chocolate and add to the mixture. Drop by the teaspoonfuls on parchment paper or wax paper.

A FAMILY FAVORITE

Grandma’s molasses crinkle dipped cookies. (Photo courtesy of Marin Peterson)

I am submitting one of our favorite family cookie recipes. My grandma, who is 89, has been making these cookies for at least 50 years! These cookies are not only tasty but cute on a cookie plate (and easy enough for a 12-year-old like me to make!).

— Marin Peterson, age 12, White Bear Lake

Grandmas’s Molasses Crinkle Dipped Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen

¾ cup shortening

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

¼ cup molasses

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon clover

½ teaspoon ginger

granulated sugar (for rolling dough)

half a bag of white chocolate chips (about 6 ounces)

Mix shortening, brown sugar, egg and molasses in a medium bowl or stand mixer. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, clover and ginger in a separate bowl. Mix with wet ingredients. Chill dough for four hours or overnight. Shape dough into small balls (size of a walnut) and roll in granulated sugar. Bake 350 degrees for 9 minutes.

Cool cookies. Dip half of the cookie in white chocolate. Top with red or green sprinkles (optional). Let cookies cool to firm up chocolate.

SUGAR AND SPICE

Spice cookies. (Photo courtesy of Peggy Koegel)

This is a family recipe I’ve been making for years. It is a unique spice cookie recipe because it does not use molasses. I use this cutout recipe for Halloween and Christmas cookies. I took a cake-decorating class many years ago when my children were young. I ended up using my cake decorating bags on cookies, allowing for more detailed designs. The kids, family and friends love these cookies, and now I get special requests to make them every year.

— Peggy Koegel, White Bear Lake

Spice Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups butter or margarine softened

2 cups packed brown sugar

1 egg

4 cups of all-purpose flour

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp baking soda

Mix butter with brown sugar, add egg. Beat until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl stir flour, spices and baking soda then add to the creamed mixture. Cover and chill until firm (I chill overnight). On a floured surface, roll out on 1/8″ thickness. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet, 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned. Decorate as desired.

TRADITION, TRADITION!

Sarah Peterson and her brother Chris Granley help decorate cookies in this vintage photo. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Peterson)

Decorating sugar cookies is always at the top of our family’s holiday checklist. It’s one of my favorite traditions from my childhood, sitting around the dining room table with my brothers and having finger-licking access to all the colored frostings and sprinkles! Today, my own daughters also love to make and decorate cookies for Christmas. Sometimes we buy the refrigerated dough and packaged frosting to cut steps and get us closer to the real fun of decorating and eating the cookies. However, once I made my mom’s recipe for sugar cookie cutouts and glaze alongside her last holiday season, I realized it’s not that difficult or time-consuming to make cutouts and the frosting from scratch. These cookies have a great texture and the glaze is so pretty!

— Sarah Peterson, St. Paul

Glazed Sugar Cookie Cutouts

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies

Cookies:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg yolk

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Glaze:

2 cups powdered sugar

4 teaspoons light corn syrup

4 teaspoons milk

Assorted food coloring, sprinkles and other decorations.

For the cookies: Cream butter with sugar, salt and egg yolk until smooth. Gradually beat in the flour.

Wrap dough and refrigerate one hour or up to two days. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough on lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into shapes and place on parchment-covered cookie sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

For the glaze:

Mix all ingredients. Divide into separate bowls and add food coloring. Spread over cookies as a base for decorating. The glaze will dry with a nice shiny sheen.

TEA AND COOKIES

Buttery Toffee Oat Cookies. (Photo courtesy of Caroline Johnson)

I spent my growing-up years in Assam, India. Assam is known the world over for its rich, black tea. Every afternoon, our family would share a cup of steaming tea served with sweet biscuits or cookies. At Christmastime we shared plates of Christmas cookies with our Indian friends who shared plates of wonderful homemade sweets with us. Our grandchildren participate in our tea tradition as well.

Thanks to traditions like these, I’ve remained a foodie and I love conjuring up recipes to enjoy or enter in recipe contests.

I love hosting Christmas Teas and sharing cups of tea with friends. Pandemic and all, this year is no different, other than the format. I will be hosting Zoom Christmas Teas, which will give me perfect opportunities to create new memories as we chat and enjoy my new original Buttery Toffee Christmas Cookies.

— Caroline Johnson, New Brighton

Buttery Toffee Oat Cookies

Makes 45-47 small cookies

1 cup butter , softened and cubed

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups flour

1/2 cup rolled oats

1 cup toffee brickle pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large bowl with an electric mixer combine butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla and beat for 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Gradually mix in flour and baking powder. When totally incorporated add rolled oats and brickle pieces.

Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using a small cookie scoop or teaspoon put rounded balls of dough 2 inches apart on parchment. Put 2 tablespoons of flour in a saucer and dip a fork in the flour and press each ball of dough, dipping fork in flour in between pressing each cookie. Bake for 8 minutes then switch the cookie sheets and bake for 7 more minutes until lightly golden brown. Cool cookies on a cooling rack and keep in airtight container. These cookies also freeze well.

YOU KNOW, PUTIN REFER!

Lois Witzel of Roseville packs up cookies to send to relatives every year.  (Photo courtesy of Lois Witzel)

One Christmas, I was wondering what to give my 15-year-old nephew in California, David. I sent him a shoebox filled with cookies that were his to share.

This began a tradition, and as my family of three boys grew to include their wives and children, each family got a box of cookies. Now I send 3 boxes of cookies to grandchildren in college, 3 boxes to each of my boys’ families, and more boxes for my friends and neighbors. David still gets a box every year.

My baking starts earlier every year so that the boxes arrive before Christmas. They should be refrigerated, so I put “Putin Refer” as the name for the address, thinking everyone would know what to do. They didn’t.

David married in 2009 and has children of his own. David is 44 now, so for 29 years I have been baking cookies every Christmas.

— Lois Witzel, Roseville

Cranberry Orange Cookies

Makes 54 cookies

Orange sugar:

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest

Cookies:

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 large egg

1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all orange sugar ingredients in bowl; stir until well mixed. Set aside.

Combine 1 cup sugar and butter in large bowl; beat at medium speed until creamy. Add egg and 1 teaspoon orange zest; mix until combined. Add flour, baking powder and baking soda; beat at low speed until well mixed. Add cranberries. Continue beating just until mixed.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll balls in orange sugar. Place, 2 inches apart, onto ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten with bottom of glass to 1 1/2-inch circles.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are very lightly browned. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet; remove to cooling rack.

TREASURED MEMORIES

Christmas baking is synonymous with thoughts of my mother. Her plates of cookies were coveted among friends, family, and strangers alike. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, she made up to 18 different kinds, and the favorite were her frosted sugar cookies.

In December 2017, we helped her walk up the stairs to my sister’s house. She sat, with hollowed cheeks, and a weak smile. Like a master baker, she talked her three daughters through every step, even though we heard the instructions each Christmas of our 31, 29 and 27 years.

Since her passing, my sisters and I spilled tears over rolled dough not quite as thin as hers, frosting consistency not as perfect. However, the beauty of baking now is that we hear her voice in every step, “only soften the butter, Hillary,” “use a little flour on the rolling pin,” and that remembrance brings comfort to our healing hearts.

— Hillary Walker, St. Paul

Holiday cookies. (Courtesy of Hillary Walker)

Carole Walker’s Sugar Cookie Recipe

Makes 7 to 8 dozen cookies

Cookies:

1 ½  cups sugar

½ cup lard

½ cup butter

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup milk

4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

Frosting:

1/2 cup soft butter

1 tsp clear vanilla (if available)

6 cups powdered sugar (2 pound bag)

To make cookies: Blend sugar, lard and butter in large bowl, then add egg. Combine dry ingredients in a smaller bowl.Add dry ingredients and milk to creamed mixture. Shape into three 1” by 4” discs of dough, cover with plastic and refrigerate.

Once chilled, roll out each disc to 1/10” on lightly floured textured surface. Cut into desired shapes and place on a baking sheet line with parchment paper. Reroll and cut out excess dough up to two times.

Bake at 400 degrees for 6-7 min, do not brown. Let cookies sit on pan for a minute, then put on cooling racks. Cool completely before frosting.

To make frosting:  Whip frosting ingredients with a mixer and divide in small containers. Add food dye to create desired colors. Frosting can be stored in sealed containers in the fridge. Add drops of milk to freshen. After frosting, let cookies dry before storing.

RED HOT STASH

My Grandma Wentz, a German woman in small-town North Dakota, was a prolific, wonderful baker, baking many goodies at Christmastime. Her ginger cookies were favorites of mine and my father’s; both my father and I were often guilty of finding the hidden tins of cookies and “sneaking” them. I have adapted Grandma Wentz’s recipe, adding extra spice and sparkle for the season; they are holiday favorites still.

— Tiffany Ogden, St. Paul

Ginger “Red Hots.” (Courtesy of Tiffany Ogden)

Ginger “Red Hots”

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

Cookies:

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon

1 tablespoon ginger

3/4 teaspoon cayenne (more or less depending on preference of spiciness)

3/4 teaspoon nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon allspice

3/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup canola oil

1 large egg

1/4 cup mild molasses

Red decorative sugar

Glaze:

One cup sifted powdered sugar

1 tablespoon or more milk

Vanilla or almond extract, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne, nutmeg, allspice, cloves,and salt. Beat sugar and oil in another bowl until pale in color, about two minutes. Beat in egg and molasses. Gradually stir in flour mixture. Roll 2 tablespoons dough into balls and roll in red sugar. Bake until the cookies are golden brown and soft in middle, about 9-10 minutes. Let cookies cool. Combine all glaze ingredients and mix till smooth. Drizzle immediately on cookies. Let glaze set. Enjoy!

COOKIE PALOOZA

Bev Mademann, mid-1980s. (Courtesy of Naomi Lifejoy)

Christmas brings such sweet traditions and memories. Each year my mother baked or assembled a delightful variety of treasured goodies: frosted sugar cookies from Aunt Bertha’s recipe, mint stick brownies, peanut blossoms, cherry winks, Russian tea cakes, chewy date nut delights, green tinted cornflake wreaths with the cinnamon “berries,” spritz cookies, Rosettes and many others.

My mom, Beverly Mademann, was a St. Paul resident on the west side all her married life. For weeks she lovingly amassed the delicious batches and placed them in the freezer. She loved entertaining during the holidays and made sure each luncheon or dinner was topped with a beautiful tray of her confections. She often shared a plateful with neighbors.

The holidays were special times because of her. She did everything with love and devotion. Thank you, Mom, for showering us with all your blessings.

— Joyce Juza, Rice Lake, Wis.

Beverly Mademann’s Mint Stick Brownies

Makes 12 brownies

Brownies:

2 squares baking chocolate

1/2 cup butter

1/2 teaspoon peppermint flavoring

1/2 cup sifted flour

2 eggs, well beaten

1 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped nuts

Mint Frosting:

2  tablespoons butter, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon milk

1/2 teaspoon peppermint flavoring

Few drops green food coloring

Glaze Topping:

1 square baking chocolate

1 tablespoon butter

To make Brownies: Melt chocolate and butter together over hot water. Cool. Add beaten eggs, sugar, flavoring, flour, salt and nuts. Mix well. Pour batter into well greased 9″ square pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool. Frost brownies with this double layer of frosting.

To make Mint Frosting: Mix together until creamy and spread on cooled brownies. Refrigerate while you make glaze topping.

To make Glaze Topping: Combine butter and chocolate and melt over hot water. Blend well. Dribble this glaze on green icing. Carefully tilt pan back and forth to cover surface or very carefully spread. Refrigerate to set chocolate glaze. Cut into finger like sticks, about 3 inches long.

GATHERING THE GRANDKIDS

Avis Cordes with her grandchildren showing their favorite cut-out cookie in 1997. (Courtesy of Jill Cordes)

My mother-in-law, Avis Cordes, passed away in February 2018, and your holiday cookie recipes stories from readers made me think of fond times my kids had baking cookies with their Grandma Avis. She would gather the six grandkids together for a day of cookie baking right before Christmas. Avis had so much patience, allowing the kids to first create anything they wanted and then focused on cut-out cookies and her World’s Best Sugar Cookies. She had a special glass that would be used to make the imprint as you pressed the cookie- it was a big deal when it was your turn to use the glass and carefully press the cookie down without smashing it. Avis had a way of making each grandchild feel so special and loved. As teenagers and adults, she would give a tin of her sugar cookies to a grandchild as she attended their sporting or musical event. We miss her dearly, but thankfully we have these fun baking memories to cherish.

— Jill Cordes, Roseville

World’s Best Sugar Cookies

Goodhue County 4-H Cookbook

Originally submitted by Minda Hjortaas from Kenyon, MN

Makes 100 cookies that freeze very well

1 cup powdered sugar

1 cup white sugar

1 cup butter

2 eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

5 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Cream sugars and butter; add eggs and beat well. Beat in oil and vanilla. Add sifted dry ingredients and mix well.

Roll into 1-inch balls. Dip in sugar (can use colored sugar) and press down with a glass (that has a pattern on the bottom) dipped in sugar. Bake at 350 degrees on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes.

BAKING IS HEALING MEDICINE

Cousins Celia Hanson (left) of Stillwater and Anna Diffley of Shakopee. (Courtesy of Kelly Murray)

During the 1970s, my mother, Dolly, sooo enjoyed her holiday baking ritual of 20 Christmas cookie recipes, quite possibly to ward off the stress of being a single parent.

Night after night she’d roll out another batch, smells luring us into the kitchen. She never really had us help, as I feel this was her alone time, meditative, quite possibly healing her soul, while safely storing her creations in the “still coveted plastic gallon ice cream buckets.”

As the holiday arrived, she would have us arrange them on silver trays. Never directing us, but praising our artful arrangements, instilling confidence. The dining room table was filled with cookies as we eagerly awaited gatherings with our cousins.

Baking has been the same medicine for me, as I make mom’s recipes remembering her guidance and love. I could bake for hours and not be happier. My grown daughter enjoys baking as well.

— Kelly Murray, Stillwater

Date Frying Pan Cookies

2 tablespoon butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 cup dates cut fine

2 1/2 cups Rice Krispies Cereal

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Mix and cook butter, sugar and eggs in large frying pan until smooth and bubbly. Take off burner and mix in cereal and walnuts well.

Working quickly, drop tablespoons of mixture into pie pans filled with shredded coconut. (Having three people works great as the date mixture is hot and sticky.) Wrap coconut around the mixture forming a ball, squeezing firmly to set. Lay on wax paper to cool. Store in the refrigerator or freezer. Tip: a dryer coconut works better than some brands that are more moist.

PUTTING ON THE (NOW DAIRY- AND GLUTEN-FREE ) SPRITZ

As long as I can remember, my mother, Eileen Collette, baked spritz cookies at Christmas. Wreaths with candied cherries, trees with green sugar and colored balls, Chocolate-dipped sticks. She used a spritz cookie press that had the handle broken off; the holes for the rivets were duct-taped shut. Over the years she must have made thousands of these cookies. My middle son Sam follows a dairy-free and gluten-free diet so I adapted my spritz recipe and now he enjoys the cookies as well. Each year at Christmastime our family gathers for a baking day. I am in charge of the spritz cookies. I still use my mothers cookie press, with the handle broken off.

— Chris Collette, Excelsior

Gluten-free Spritz Cookies

Makes about 5 dozen cookies

1 cup dairy-free margarine

1/2 cup sugar

2 1/4 cups one for one gluten-free flour (must contain xanthan gum)

I teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix margarine and sugar. Stir in remaining ingredients. Chill dough for 1/2 hour.

Fill cookie press with dough, form desired shapes on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake until set but not brown, 6-9 minutes. Decorate as you like.

THE JOY OF BAKING — AND GIVING

Through her later years, my mother’s love for the holidays and baking remained as strong as ever. Late into the evening one year, after baking batches and batches of her Spritz, we thought we had tucked the last cookie into her antique cookie tins only for my mother to discover in her dining room (her eyes twinkling like Mrs. Claus as she chuckled), a tray of unbaked cookies. Oh, how we laughed from cookie exhaustion that we yet had one more tray to bake. She never had so many Spritz to give as gifts as she did that year. Her greatest joy was giving and sharing her love of the holidays with so many loved ones.

Little did I know that that was the last year I was to be so blessed with the joy of holiday baking with my little mama. This cookie is favored heavily in my family as well as by friends and co-workers. It is buttery with a perfect amount of almond flavor. I cannot go to my youngest brother’s home at Christmas without a tin of “mom’s spritz!” I have my mother’s original handwritten recipe card and I continue to use her original cookie press every year.

— Patty McCann, Forest Lake

Swedish Spritz

Makes 7 to 8 dozen cookies

1/2 pound unsalted butter

2/3 cup sugar (I use fine bakers sugar)

3 egg yolks

1 teaspoon pure almond extract

2 1/2 cup sifted unbleached flour

Put dough through the cookie press using desired holiday shapes. Decorate unbaked cookies lightly with holiday colored sugars, sprinkles, ahd  cherries for wreaths. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

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