Originally published 20 December 2019
What better time to revisit Annika Eats’ list of 12 Christmas cookies to bake at home?
Everyone knows the Christmas carol, but what’s the significance of the 12 days of Christmas? And why do we make cookies enough for the entire town during this time of year? Is it only cookies that are significant? When did this cookie trend begin? Does it have any religious sentiment attached to it? There are endless queries related to the 12 days of Christmas without even adding cookies to the equation.
Where did the 12 days of Christmas come from?
Let’s first look at the traditions behind the 12 days of Christmas before we start talking all things baked and delicious. The significance is symbolic to the Roman Catholic timeline of the birth of Jesus Christ. It commences on 25 December and concludes on 6 January with the arrival of the three kings (wise men). This is the concise Biblical answer.
It was during the 16th century that sugar and its scrumptious by-products began making appearances, with cakes and breads surfacing. During the wait for the three kings’ arrival, a variety of sweet treats were made in celebration in order to keep the festivities going and spirits high. With the development of technology over time, we have refined those treats and flavours to match our taste buds. This had led to traditions in different countries around the world based on the ingredients available in each nation.
Christmas cookies around the world
A few traditional holiday cookies from around the world:
- France: madeleines, macarons, palmiers
- Italy: pignoli, amaretti, cucciddati
- Norway: krumkake
- South America: alfajores
- Germany: lebkuchen, peffernuesse
- Austria: Linzer cookies
- Switzerland: basler brunsli, simtsterne
- Mexico: buñuelos
- Hungary: kolaches
- Cyprus: melomakarona
- Bulgaria: maslenki
- Romania: salam de biscuiti
- Russia: pryaniki
- India: nankhatai, kulkuls, bolinhas, rose cookies
My list of Christmas cookies
My list of cookies has to include biscuits, bars and bonbons because there is no Christmas that is complete without a few of these treats adorning my dining table.
Let’s talk a little about flavours – there are so many choices, from traditional to more current trends. I believe that sweet treats should be a combination of everything that is familiar, comforting and lip-smackingly delicious.
I had to add cookies with nuts. Cashews, almonds, walnuts, chestnuts and pecans are my go-tos, so it was a no- brainer which ones would be chosen – each one was a winner!
While chocolate and peppermint are a traditional pairing, I went for chocolate and coffee as they are a match made in heaven. And while a good old chocolate brownie may not seem that festive, if you throw a whole bunch of chestnuts and a splash of Baileys into the mix, you are on your way to a spruced-up holiday brownie.
Rum balls are good, but replacing rum with brandy makes them even better.
Breakfast cookies with oats, cranberries and white chocolate chunks make for an incredible on-the-go snack, and speaking of breakfast, cornflakes and marshmallows are the best of friends if treated well, making an edible wreath.
With all things sweet, a little savoury works just fine, and my bacon Cheddar biscuits are flaky, salty and seasoned with crushed black pepper, making for a hearty side at the dinner table.
Nothing compares to a custardy coconut macaroon with a cup of tea.
Sugar cookies may seem tacky, yes, but they are priceless and thoughtful when customised as edible gifts or even as buntings on the Christmas tree.
In addition to flavour, a cookie is as good as its texture. Let’s be honest here – without a good crumble, snap, crackle or sticky, fudgy, moist texture, we are in no mans land and shouldn’t be talking cookies at all. So with flavour comes texture; they work hand in hand and both are essential to baking the prefect cookie. To ensure the right texture is achieved, the techniques used for preparing the cookies are important, so dough resting time, baking temperature, the use of a thermometer, substitutions, scales and measurements are at the focus of making these yummy treats. But before you get overwhelmed – this doesn’t mean you must have fancy equipment in order to prepare these cookies. Nope, you most certainly do not!
I made this list of cookies to ensure that I have covered multiple flavours and a variety of textures. They also feature numerous culinary techniques, so you can learn a thing or two in the process.
These treats can be made before Christmas and shared with family and friends as a gesture of kindness throughout the season.
12 days of Christmas cookies
1. Pecan fudge (recipe link)
As a kid, I always chose candy, chocolate and fudge over cookies. If I were given candy even today, I would be very happy. So it is only right to have my pecan fudge as the first sweet treat on my cookie list. It keeps for awhile and can be made ahead of time, however, I doubt it will last any longer than a couple of days. Enjoy a piece or two and and not the entire tub in one go – all the best with that!
2. Edible buntings (recipe link)
A good sugar cookie is a must and should be under the belt of anyone who bakes. Contrary to popular belief that it’s old-fashioned and tacky, I beg to differ – I think it’s versatile and makes for a great gift. The decoration can be based on your preferences, the colours can be customised and, if you’re good at piping, little messages can be piped onto each cookie (or head online and invest in a food-grade writing pen).
3. North Pole rocky road (recipe link)
Baking is beautiful and, yes, the smell of freshly baked sugar cookies wafting through the air is magical, but having a no-bake cookie recipe in your repertoire is a must. If I’m being completely honest, I cannot call these decadent squares cookies – they are more like bars that have been cut into small pieces, fit for Santa to eat without getting his beard dirty.
4. Snowballs (recipe link)
Snowball cookies are a beautiful treat fit for angels on their clouds. The icing sugar on the outside of the cookies is not mandatory, but it does make them look like little snowballs. For those hardcore vegetarians out there, these babies are eggless.
5. Brandy balls (recipe link)
This is my take on the classic rum balls with the substitution of brandy. Yes, you could use rum and there is nothing wrong with it, but I absolutely love the pairing of brandy with chocolate. Going for familiar flavours, this reminds me of my grandfather’s flambéed Christmas pudding, which was a tradition every year. These two-bite balls make for great edible gifts and look festively cute.
6. Christmas cornflakes wreath (recipe link)
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I love my morning cornflakes with milk, bringing back familiar flavours from my childhood. And since Christmas lunch is so heavy, my breakfast on Christmas morning has to be light and simple.
7. Bacon Cheddar biscuits (recipe link)
We all love sweets, but if I want to stay true to my 12 days of Christmas cookies list for this year, I have to add these salty, flaky, savoury biscuits into the series. These biscuits are strong enough in flavour and texture to make them confident sides on the Christmas lunch or dinner table.
8. Baileys chestnut brownies (recipe link)
Okay, we all know brownies are anything but festive. They are made throughout the year for any and every occasion, but wait until you have tried my Baileys chestnut brownies – they will change your mind about all your prior brownie thoughts.
9. Coconut custard macaroons (recipe link)
I have had a lot of coconut macaroons, some made only with egg white and others made with whole egg, some with desiccated coconut and others with fresh coconut. You name the type and I have most likely tried it. So when I stumbled upon Food52’s recipe, it was only natural that I was going to give it a go. The recipe calls for sweetened shredded coconut and condensed milk – firsts for me.
10. Mocha discs (recipe link)
These discs actually taste like mocha coffee in cookie form. They are packed with a hard-hitting coffee flavour that is mellowed down with the sugar drizzle on top, balancing the bitterness with sweetness in every bite. I used instant ground coffee here, and it worked just fine. If you have a coffee grinder, you could just as well use that, however, coffee essence or extract will not work – you need to use the real deal for the real flavour.
11. Lace cookies (recipe link)
Every cookie has its own character. Whether through texture, flavour or even method of preparation, they each have their own identity. These lace cookies are no exception. With just five ingredients, these beauties take a matter of minutes to bake. Once baked, they must be completely cooled on a wire rack or else the centre may become soggy.
12. White chocolate & cranberry oat cookies (recipe link)
How does breakfast in cookie form sound? This cookie has oats, dried cranberries, white chocolate and walnuts – all of which you could add into your porridge, but I’ve just added them into these chunky cookies that are crusty on the outside and soft, almost cakey, in the centre.
Enough talk about history, flavour and texture. Let’s get baking!
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