If you look forward to winter holiday desserts all year long, you’re not alone. I have sudden cravings for a cold glass of coquito in April, and sometimes think about a croquembouche festooned with drips of caramel in July. Now that it’s finally December, it’s time to dig into all those great seasonal goodies. But this year, we have a bit of a twist: Cookies Meet Classics, a baker’s dozen of your favorite holiday sweets as cookies.
We called up some of our favorite bakers, creators, recipe developers, and cookbook authors to shrink a banquet table of winter treats into a mailable cookie box. In other words, we cookie-fied the classics. That means that you can have the flavors of mulled wine in a two-bite snack, and a perfectly portioned Yule Log for one. These treats are ideal for sharing and dropping off at doorsteps, or just making into a festive platter for yourself. And if you have to dig out the recipes again in June, well, I’m not about to tattle on you.
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Former Food52 editor Rebecca Firkser takes traditional Hanukkah doughnuts and turns them into soft, jammy cookies adjacent to thumbprints. “These pillowy sugar cookies are chewier than a snappy or crumbly shortbread cookie, thanks to brown sugar and egg yolks, and a hefty glug of olive oil makes them extra-tender, as well as calls back to sufganiyot’s fried origins,” Firkser writes. Fill them with strawberry or raspberry jam for a traditional version, or use any flavor of fruit preserve you prefer—no matter what, they’ll be delicious.
Coquito is a rum-based drink made with coconut and warming spices—and according to Reina Gascon-Lopez, it’s Puerto Rico’s “quintessential” holiday beverage. She writes: “Speaking from experience, my family always had coquito in the house during the cold winter months, sharing this rich and decadent coconut-based rum drink with friends, family, and neighbors alike.” Infused with coconut, cinnamon, nutmeg, and just a hint of rum, these coquito cookies get extra flair from a heap of toasted coconut on top of the glaze. Eat them with a cup of tea or coffee, or just dunk them in a punch glass of coquito if you want to be meta about it.
In the West Indies, Black Cake is a holiday staple, and here, Jillian Atkinson brings the flavor of that luscious cake into cookies packed with dried fruit and burnt sugar. “This recipe turns the dense, pudding-like cake into a crispy-edged cookie with a chewy pool in the center and delightful hints of nutmeg and cinnamon,” Atkinson writes. The cookies are a bit lighter on booze than Black Cake usually is, but they’re just as full of flavor.
If you’re not familiar with baesuk, you should know that the term refers to two delicious Korean treats. One is a pear-based punch. In the other, whole pears are steamed or poached with spices.
“To mirror the flavors of the original dish, shortbread dough is spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and black pepper, and diced pears are cooked down with jarred honey jujube tea marmalade until they reduce together into a jammy compote,” developer Joy Cho explains. “The pear filling is spooned onto the grooved cookies after baking to better retain the shape of the centers, and a sprinkle of eye-catching pine nuts completes the look.”
Latkes might not seem like the most promising candidates to turn into cookies, but leave it to Food52’s former food editor Emma Laperruque to work her magic and do just that. These cookies have only four ingredients, and are inspired both by latkes and coconut macaroons. She ditches the onion typically found in latkes and adds in a combination of sweetened condensed milk and butter. The result is a sweet-and-salty potato chip cookie that allows you to channel latke flavor without heating up a pan of oil.
A traditional Yule Log or buche de Noel is a wonderful centerpiece—but hard to fit into a cookie box. These Yule Log cookies look like miniature versions of the classic, right down to the chocolate swirl in the center. Break out your fanciest sprinkles to give them extra pizazz.
The Arabesque Table author Reem Kassis takes knafeh, a sweet cheese and shredded phyllo treat widely enjoyed across the Middle East, and transforms them into these gorgeous holiday cookies, accented with crushed pistachios and floral orange-blossom- and rose-waters.
A craze in the ’90s that has once again become the it drink, espresso martinis are everywhere, including in these boldly flavored cookies. Garnish them with flaky smoked salt or, if you’re feeling extra, give them a dip in white chocolate, sprinkle with chopped chocolate-covered espresso beans, and serve in a martini glass. Like its namesake cocktail, this cookie hits just the right balance of sweet and bitter notes—meaning it’s the perfect recipe for those who don’t have the biggest sweet tooth but still crave a holiday treat.
Use whatever dried fruit you have on hand to make these glorious fruitcake cookies, a riff on the holiday classic that is as beloved as it is divisive. This recipe takes the best parts of a fruitcake—the combination of chopped, dried fruit and warming spices—but transforms it into a crispy-edged, chewy cookie. You can customize it to whatever your favorite fruit flavors are, but don’t skimp on the spices, which give the warming backbone to these sweets.
If you love rum balls but want them to be more cookie-like—cookbook author Nik Sharma has you covered. He describes the flavor here as “boozy chocolate baklava sans the pastry,” and that’s exactly what they taste like. It doesn’t hurt that these cookies come together without the use of an oven or stove, making them the ultimate no-bake treat.
Think of these as the slice-and-bake version of pannetone, just perfect for keeping in the fridge or freezer to bake off when loved ones arrive. “In true holiday spirit, I like to serve them with a nip of Amaretto,” Grant Melton, a former Food52 producer, writes. The shortbread base is also endlessly customizable: Melton puts a combination of golden raisins, dried cherries, and candied orange peel in his, but you could use dried pineapple, cranberries, or any other fruit instead.
You might know of roasted chestnuts primarily from Christmas carols, but these thumbprint cookies, which combine the nuttiness of chestnuts with fig jam, will convince you that they’re worth keeping around for more than just the novelty. This recipe employs the mild, starchy nut in two ways: First, chestnuts are pulsed into a meal and used to replace some of the flour, giving the cookies an ultra-tender texture. The rest coats the cookies’ exteriors, giving them a toasty, crunchy finish.
These cookies take the Palestinian tradition of making ka’ak and mamoul cookies and infuses them with the wintry flavors of mulled wine. Mulling spices can be found in many grocery stores this time of year, but, with a mix of ground cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and orange zest, you can just as easily make your own.