If you’re easily intimidated (or just short of time) to tackle fancy cookie decorating, Denver Post staffers and friends have compiled some of our favorites for you. Happy holidays!
Peanut Butter Fudge
My grandmother made wonderful peanut butter fudge. She’d send us a tin of the stuff for Christmas and my brothers and I would devour it. For years, I would ask her for the recipe. She always demurred and changed the subject. But I was persistent. The truth was, this is an easy recipe. Laughably easy. And she wanted us to think it took more time and more effort. Nice try, grandma. — Alison Borden
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 pound (about 3 1/2 cups) powdered sugar
Combine the butter and peanut butter in a glass bowl and cover with plastic. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir to combine — the mixture should be smooth and creamy. Microwave on high for 2 more minutes. Add the vanilla and slowly add the powdered sugar, stirring until combined. Spread it in an 8 by 8-inch pan lined with parchment paper. Fold the parchment over the pan and chill for at least 4 hours before cutting.
Soft Molasses Cookies
This is just a holiday classic. The spices just make me want to break out in carols. And this recipe makes about 5 dozen cookies, so you’ll have plenty to give out with an assortment of other Christmas treats as gifts. From the 2015 We Energies Cookie Book. we-energies.com/recipes — Alison Borden
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1½ cup granulated sugar, plus more for topping
- ½ cup dark molasses
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1¼ teaspoons baking soda
- 2¼ teaspoons ground ginger
- 1¼ teaspoons ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
In a mixing bowl, cream butter, shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the molasses and eggs. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and salt. Gradually add to the creamed mixture. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape the dough into 1-½-inch balls. Roll top in sugar. Bake for 10-11 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Rosemary, Almond and Parmesan Cocktail Cookies
This recipe by Dori Greenspan, author of “Around my French Table,” makes a delicious, savory cookie and since the dough needs to freeze, it’s a great make-ahead recipe. The best part might be rubbing the sugar with the rosemary. The recipe appeared in the November 2011 issue of Food and Wine. — Lee Ann Colacioppo
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (1 ounce)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, diced
- 2 large egg yolks, beaten
Preheat the oven to 350°. Toast almonds for about 10 minutes, until golden. Turn off the oven and let the almonds cool.
In a bowl, rub the sugar with the rosemary until moist and aromatic. In a food processor, combine the rosemary sugar with the almonds, flour, cheese and salt and pulse until the almonds are coarsely chopped. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the egg yolks and pulse until large clumps of dough form.
Transfer the dough to a work surface and knead gently until it just comes together. Divide the dough in half and press each piece into a disk. Roll out each disk between 2 sheets of wax paper to about 1/4 inch thick. Slide the wax paper–covered disks onto a baking sheet and freeze for at least 1 hour, until very firm.
Preheat the oven to 350° and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with one piece of dough at a time, peel off the top sheet of wax paper. Using a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, stamp out cookies as close together as possible. Arrange the cookies about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.
Bake the cookies for about 20 minutes, until lightly golden; shift the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
The rolled-out frozen cookie dough can be wrapped in plastic and kept frozen for 2 weeks. The baked cookies can be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Chocolate Covered Pretzel Rods
Sweet and salty. What’s not to like? For years, I have put together baskets of Christmas treats for our friends and neighbors. And every year without fail, the pretzels are plucked from the just-delivered baskets before they hit the table. I’m a purist and just do simple chocolate, but you can have fun with different toppings too. — Lori Punko
- Chocolate chips
- Vanilla candy melts
- Sprinkles, nuts, crushed candy canes (optional)
Melt chocolate chips in microwave or double-boiler. Dip pretzels one at a time into the chocolate using a spatula to help cover about 3/4 of the pretzel. Roll in topping if desired. Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment to dry.
For vanilla drizzles, melt candy melts in microwave. Spoon into small freezer bag. Cut off corner of bag and drizzle over tray.
Let harden for up to 24 hours.
I hesitate to include myself in the fellowship of bakers, in truth, because not only do I rarely bake, but also I certainly do not fancy myself one either. I am a good home cook, but I neither enjoy nor am skilled at home baking. So, the Pecan Clouds recipe is for you non-bakers out there. These cookies from allrecipes.com by Chef621 are so simple that I could have baked them in my Little Tikes play kitchen some many years ago. (In fact, its incandescent bulb might have put out all of the 250 degrees heat the recipe calls for.) — Bill St. John
- 2 egg whites
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 cups pecan halves
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. In a large glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add sugar, continuing to beat until whites form stiff peaks. Stir in vanilla and pecans. Drop mounded spoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheet.
Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven. Turn off heat, and allow to remain in oven at least another 30 minutes, or until the centers of cookies are dry.
No Sugar Oatmeal Cookies
This one is for those few of us who’ve banned cane or processed sugar from our pantry and diet. Sweetness in these cookies comes by way of the natural sugars in applesauce and very ripe bananas. Raisins and their sweetness are optional, but who ever heard of an oatmeal-based cookie without raisins? From allrecipes.com, by Gene Payne
“When you have a sweet tooth and want to stay on track. Sugar is not an added ingredient. No flour or lactose either.”
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 3 ripe bananas, mashed
- 1/3 cup applesauce
- 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
- 1/4 cup almond milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir oats, bananas, applesauce, raisins, almond milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon together in a bowl until evenly mixed; drop by the spoonful onto a baking sheet.
Bake in the preheated oven until the edges are golden, 15-20 minutes.
Grandma Montesanti’s Date Nut Drop Cookies (makes 3 dozen)
These are my Grandma Montesanti’s favorite cookies, and since she’s my favorite person, they’re extra favorites. She told me she found the recipe in a newspaper or magazine long ago — before I was even born. Sure enough, she procured the original, clipped-out recipe from a September 1973 issue of “Better Homes and Gardens” and texted me the photo. (Grandma has mastered the iPhone!) So thank you BH&G — and Mrs. Ken McClarnon of Sun Prairie, Wisc., for submitting the recipe — for giving my grandma these little drops of glee.
The cookies themselves aren’t overly sugary; it’s the frosting that gives them the perfect level of sweetness. Throw in the crunch from the nuts and the chewiness of the dates, and you’ve got a balanced, unique cookie that’s sure to be a favorite for you, too. — Allyson Reedy
- 1 cup finely chopped pitted dates
- ½ cup water
- 1 egg
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup butter
- ¼ cup milk
- 1½ cups flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- 3 tablespoon butter
- 1 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon milk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine dates and water in small saucepan and bring to boil. Simmer 5 minutes. Cool and then set aside 2 tbsp of the date mixture (for the frosting).
Beat egg, sugar, butter and milk with date mixture.
Stir together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a separate bowl. Add to egg mixture. Stir in walnuts.
Drop teaspoon-sized (or whatever feels right for you) mounds of dough onto ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool completely, then frost.
For the frosting:
Beat butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and reserved dates. Add a tiny bit of milk, just enough to make the frosting spreadable.