Holiday cookies are one of the most anticipated parts of the season, but ginger bread and Danish butter cookies can get boring by the time December rolls around.
Don't leave Santa some stale tree-shaped sugar cookies this year. Instead, here are four recipes, from matcha- and ube-flavored cookies to macaroons and a waffle-pressed "wookie" to try this year.
Carol Mangabat, Executive Chef at Cookies by Cookies
"This recipe is so simple and easy to make, it brings me back to my roots from the Philippines and the tropical tastes featured in a lot of Filipino baking I grew up with as a kid," Mangabat told NBC News. "The cookie is a beautiful purple, with a light and crumbly texture and flavored with ube, which is a sweet purple yam. Some of the ingredients may be tricky to find but well worth the effort once you find them."
"This recipe also calls for baking ammonia which can have an overwhelming smell and a batter that shouldn't be ingested," she added. "But don't let it scare you away, it'll be well worth the wait when the delightful cookies are finished baking!"
- 1 cup softened butter
- 1 cup Crisco shortening
- 1 1/2 teaspoon Ube extract (I use McCormick)
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
- 1 teaspoon baking ammonia
- colorful sprinkles to decorate
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and shortening by hand or with a mixer. Add Ube extract and mix well. Then add sugar and mix well, add flour and mix well, and add coconut and mix well. Finally, add baking ammonia and mix well.
Form the batter into rounded balls, and place 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet. Gently press the dough so the tops are flat. Sprinkle the cookies with your favorite decorative sugars.
Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for nine to 11 minutes or until edges are a faint golden brown. Let cool and enjoy.
Stephanie Chen, Baker on "The Great American Baking Show"
"I love this recipe because matcha is not only delicious, but it’s the perfect ingredient to bring a very festive look to your cookie without adding any gross food coloring," Chen told NBC News. "I love contrast of earthiness from the matcha and pistachios, then you get the brightness of the orange infused cranberries. This cookie works great as a base for decorating with royal icing or simply decorated with a drizzle of white chocolate. Enjoy these cookies with your morning coffee, afternoon tea, or as a snack with some milk!"
Cranberry Pistachio Matcha Cookies
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 teaspoons culinary matcha powder
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped pistachios
- 1 cup chopped dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 1 cup (2 sticks) softened unsalted butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, cold
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 ounces of melted white chocolate
In a small saucepan, add chopped cranberries and orange juice. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Stir and cook while simmering for a minute or two. Remove from the heat and set aside. After the mixture cools down, strain the juice out of the berries.
In a medium bowl, add flour, salt, matcha powder, and chopped pistachios and whisk together until incorporated then set aside.
"I love contrast of earthiness from the matcha and pistachios, then you get the brightness of the orange-infused cranberries. This cookie works great as a base for decorating with royal icing or simply decorated with a drizzle of white chocolate."
In a stand mixer bowl, add butter and sugar. Cream the two together with a paddle attachment on medium speed for a few minutes. With a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl then turn the mixer back on and beat in the egg and vanilla extract until light and fluffy, another two to three minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again, turn the mixer on low then add in the cranberries and the dry mixture a cup at a time until all the ingredients are mixed together. Don’t over mix. You should see cranberries speckled throughout and the dough should be a nice green color.
Remove half of the cookie dough from the mixer bowl, form into a disc then wrap in plastic wrap. Repeat with the other portion of dough. Place it into the freezer for 15 minutes to harden the dough quickly. If you aren’t in a hurry, place into the fridge for 35 to 40 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prepare your cookie sheet pans by lining with parchment paper. Place one disc of cookie dough on top and then add another piece of parchment paper on top so dough is sandwiched between the paper.
Roll out the dough so it is a quarter-inch thick. To ensure the dough rolls out evenly, I like to use quarter-inch wooden dowels on either side of the dough so the rolling pin will be even and stop before it gets too thin.
Place the dough and sheet pan back into the freezer for 10 minutes to chill. Repeat with the other disc. After the flattened dough is hard, start to cut out your desired cookie shapes! I love using this recipe with a Christmas tree cookie cutter because of the fun green color. After cutting as many as you can, collect scraps, chill them in the freezer, and cut more cookies to use up the remaining dough.
Lay out the cut cookies on parchment paper lined sheet at least an inch apart. Cookies will be very nice and cold so they shouldn’t spread much by the time you are baking them. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes until the edges start to slightly brown and become hard to the touch. Let cookies cool on the sheet for 10 minutes then finish the cooling on wire racks.
Once cookies have cooled completely, melt white chocolate either on a double boiler or with a microwave. If you’re doing it with a microwave, place chocolate into a glass bowl uncovered on high for 45 to 60 seconds stirring once, until chocolate can be stirred smooth.
Make sure there is sheet pan under the wire rack before decorating with chocolate. Place chocolate into a piping bag or a sandwich bag. Cut off a small corner of the bag then squeeze with a quick waving motion across the cookie.
Let white chocolate set in the fridge if in a hurry or set out for a few hours. Store dried cookies in an air-tight container for a week.
Ashley Guzman, Pastry Chef at Faith and Flower
"Here is one of my favorite cookie recipes: The Coconut Macaroon. Not to be confused with the Parisian macarons," Guzman told NBC news. "These cookies, when baked, are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The shredded coconut gives wonderful texture. The dough can be made and portioned ahead of time. You can also get creative when shaping these. They can be rolled into little balls, flattened into conventional cookie shape, or — if you're feeling ambitious — shaped into three dimensional pyramids. The baking time and temperature is for a macaroon no larger than one-ounce portions."
- 1 pound softened butter
- 1 1/3 pound granulated sugar
- 8 large room temperature whole eggs
- 1 1/2 pound unsweetened shredded coconut
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a rondeau or large pan with high sides, melt the butter over very light heat. Once totally melted, add the sugar and stir until dissolved, without raising the temperature of the butter too much. Then add the eggs slowly while mixing constantly to bring them up to temperature with the butter and sugar without coagulating.
Once the butter, sugar, and eggs are completely mixed together, add the coconut and stir to mix completely. Over low to medium heat, cook the batter in the pan while mixing constantly with a heat-proof spatula or wooden spoon. The batter will start to stiffen as the liquid starts to evaporate. Keep cooking and stirring until the batter is so thick it can stand up on itself.
"These cookies, when baked, are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The shredded coconut gives wonderful texture."
Lay out onto a pan to allow to cool.
Once cool, tear the batter into desired portion size and shape. If the dough starts to become soft while shaping, return to the refrigerator to allow to firm up. When ready to bake, place baking sheet in pre-heated oven and cook in 7 minute rotations. They are finished when the outsides are a caramel brown. Allow to cool completely and enjoy.
Tip — these taste and look fabulous with a drizzle of chocolate poured on them. They also serve as a lovely cookie to serve alongside coconut sorbet or chocolate ice cream.
I love these cookies because of their chewy texture and their ability to hold for a long time. I like to make a large batch and have them ready to bake off for company during the holidays. They will take your cookie plates to the next level!
Andrew Singh, Chef at The Iron Press
"The wookie recipe originated from one of the owner's grandma," Singh told NBC News. "It ends up with a nice crispy outside but still very soft inside. ... Finding the right balance of salt and other things that won't burn faster in a waffle press is important. There's a lot of trial and error, but this one ended up working out for us."
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 8 ounces softened butter
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- red and green M&M's
- condensed milk syrup
- vanilla ice cream
Grab two bowls. In one, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. In the other, mix the brown sugar, white sugar, and vanilla extract. Once mixed, combine the bowls into one.
Slowly add the butter to the mixture little by little.
Beat the eggs separately, then add them to the mixture. Mix well until soft, then fold in a desired amount of M&M's. Roll into a medium-sized ball and place it onto a prepared waffle iron. Press and cook thoroughly on high for about two minutes.
Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of condensed milk syrup. If desired, sprinkle on a handful of additional M&Ms.