Cynthia DePersio, mom of chef Ryan DePersio and pastry chef at Fascino in Montclair, shares her favorite holiday cookie. If you love the dessert at Fascino, this is a real treat:
“Biscotti are a must in my home… But for Christmas, I do copious amounts for gifts. My cousin hosts a brunch for about 75 including extended family every year and I bring several hundred for all to enjoy & take home. Here’s my newest version getting fave reviews (included on our Fascino piatto plate!). This is also nut-free, not so usual with Biscotti:
- 8 ounces unsweetened butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 5 large cold eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure Tahitian vanilla
- 5 cups bleached AP flour
- 2 Tablespoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup bittersweet coarsely chopped chocolate
- 1/3 cup finely ground espresso
- 2 Tablespoons dark unsweetened powdered cocoa
-In a microwavable bowl or small pot, melt butter until just melted, but not hot; pour into large mixing bowl.
-Stir in the sugar and then whisk in eggs one at a time (cold is good to firm butter a bit to make it not so soupy). Mix in vanilla.
-Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
-Add half flour mixture to bowl & stir in, adding remaining as it makes a smooth dough. Add in chocolate, mixing to distribute throughout dough.
This is soft, cover w/plastic wrap & chill until stiff.
-In a bowl, whisk together coffee and cocoa.
-Preheat oven to 350F. Cut dough into 4 even pieces, roll each into a 14 x 1 1/2″ wide inch log & place 2 on a parchment lined 14″x 17″ heavy duty cookie sheet evenly spaced. Sprinkle tops to cover with coffee mixture, (or if feeling confident, roll each log in the mixture on a sheet waxed paper to cover surface and place on sheet). Repeat with remaining 2 logs on another sheet or keep chilled until ready to bake.
-Bake 25-30 minutes until lightly browned and set in center when pressed with fingertip. Cool on wire rack 15 min. Reduce oven to 340F. Slice logs across on slight diagonal 1/2″ thick. Arrange cut side down on sheet and bake 5-6 min. Flip slices and bake 5 min. more to just lightly golden. Cool completely and store in tightly sealed tin at room temperature up to 3 weeks or freeze up to a month.
If you prefer nuts in your Biscotti, Melody Kettle shares her recipe:
Makes 3 dozen
- 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at roomtemperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and coarselychopped
- 1 tsp. grated orange zest (or lemon)
-Preheat an oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour 1 large baking sheet or line it with parchment paper. Have another un-greased baking sheet on hand.
-In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter on high speed until fluffy and pale yellow. Add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is no longer gritty when rubbed between your finger and thumb. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla until blended.
-Over a sheet of waxed paper, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and beat on low speed or stir with a wooden spoon just until incorporated. Mix or stir in the hazelnuts and orange (or lemon) zest until evenly distributed. The batter should be very soft.
-Turn the batter out onto a generously floured work surface and divide in half. With well-floured hands, transfer one-half onto the greased baking sheet and shape into a log about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place on one side of the sheet. Repeat with the remaining batter, leaving at least 4 inches between the logs. (They will spread as they bake.)
-Bake the logs until the edges are golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the logs cool for 10 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs, still on the pan, on the diagonal into slices 1/2 inch wide. Carefully turn the slices on their sides and return them to the oven. When you run out of room on one baking sheet, start transferring slices to the other sheet.
-Bake until the edges are golden, about 10 minutes more. Let the biscotti cool completely on the pans on wire racks. Store in an airtight container.
Lisa Davies shares her favorite Lemon Star Cookies, which are simple, zesty, and festive:
Lemon Star Cookies
Makes about 22
- 4 ½ oz unsalted butter, cubed and softened
- ½ cup superfine sugar.
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
- 1 ¼ cup plain flour
- 3/4 cup coarse cornmeal
- Powdered sugar to dust.
-Preheat the oven to 315 °. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
-Beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Mix in the egg yolks, lemon zest, flour and cornmeal until they form a ball of soft dough. If the mixture is too dry, add a few drops of water. Roll out on to a lightly floured surface to ½ “ thick.
-Cut out the stars from the dough using a 1 ¼ “ star-shaped cutter. Place on the tray and bake for 15-2o minutes, or until lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack and dust with icing sugar.
-A top tip is to make the dough in advance and keep in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze it so that you can have freshly baked cookies when your guests arrive.
Selma Avdicevic shares her favorite cookie recipe, which comes from Martha Stewart:
“Since we don’t celebrate Christmas, I wasn’t really familiar with the cookie swaps or baking parties until a few years ago when a friend invited me to one. In panic, I went looking for a right cookie, something that we will love, and is not your basic chocolate chip. I found this recipe in an old Martha Stewart magazine, and we absolutely love it, as do all our friends.” Selma adds, “The dough freezes very well, so I always make a few extra logs and keep in the freezes, for, well, whenever we need a cookie.”
White Chocolate, Hazelnut, and Cherry Triangles
- 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder (omit if making thumbprints, ball cookies, or spritz cookies)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup chopped white chocolate
- 1/2 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
- 1/2 cup dried cherries
-Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Beat butter and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture, and beat until combined.
-Once the flour is incorporated according to dough recipe, beat in white chocolate, hazelnuts, and cherries. Divide dough into 2 pieces. Shape each into a 10-inch-long triangular shape. Wrap in parchment. Refrigerate until very firm, about 2 hours.
-Slice dough crosswise slightly thicker than 1/8 inch. Reshape if needed. Bake at 350 degrees on parchment-lined baking sheets until firm, 12 to 14 minutes.
Robins Woods shares her secret recipe for her Saltine Toffee Cookies or what she calls “Christmas Crack.”
“This is an easy to make but wonderfully delicious treat. I pack them in tins and give as gifts during the holidays. Adding nuts on top is optional, but I usually leave them out.”
Saltine Toffee Cookies
Recipe yield 1 cookie sheet full
- 4 ounces saltine crackers
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I also use white chocolate or milk chocolate chips)
- 3/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)
-Preheat oven to 400°
-Line cookie sheet with saltine crackers in a single layer
-In a saucepan, combine the sugar and the butter. Bring to a boil and then continue for 3 minutes. Immediately pour over saltines and spread to cover crackers completely. Be careful, this mixture can scald you!
-Bake for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over the top. Let sit for 5 minutes. Spread melted chocolate evenly. Cool completely and break into pieces. Enjoy. It’s addictive!
Veronique Deblois’ favorite cookies are Koulourakia, which are Greek cookies typically eaten at Easter, but Veronique loves them at any holiday:
Makes 48 cookies
- 2 sticks butter
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 ounce of whiskey mixed with a pinch of baking soda
- 1 tsp vanilla
- flour (approximately 3 1/2 cups)
- 1 large egg beaten with ¼ cup milk
- sesame seeds (approximately 5 tbsp)
-Preheat oven to 350 F.
-In a large bowl, whip the butter until creamy, approximately 1 minute. Add sugar and blend. Add eggs, beating well after each one. Add baking powder. Add whiskey mixture and vanilla. Add flour. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
-On a lightly-floured surface, form a tbsp of dough into a ball then roll it into a 7-inch long rope (sprinkle dough with some flour if too sticky). Take the two ends of the rope, join them then twist to form a braid (watch video on how to do this).
-Line 4 cookie sheets with wax paper. Place cookie braids about 2 inches apart on the wax paper-lined trays and brush tops with the egg and milk mixture. Sprinkle the top of each cookie with sesame seeds.
-Place two cookie sheets on the top rack of the oven and bake until tops of cookies are browned, approximately 10 minutes, then switch the cookie sheets from the upper oven rack to the bottom oven rack and bake an additional 10 minutes. Repeat process with additional baking sheets.
-Take cookies out of the oven and cool for 2 minutes, then transfer them to a kitchen towel and cool completely.
Note: You’ll need 4 cookie sheets for this recipe (can cool and wash the first 2 cookie sheets after the first batch of cookies have baked). You’ll likely need to re-refrigerate the dough after you roll and braid enough cookies for 2 baking sheets. Not into braiding? Koulourakia can also be made into a circle using a 7-inch long rope! Do not store cookies before they’ve cooled completed or they’ll lose their crunch.
My personal favorite holiday cookies are my version of the Chocolate Brownie Cookies from Food & Wine. After years of making them, I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit. I find that the addition of espresso makes them even more amazing:
Chocolate Brownie Cookies
- 1 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- One 12-ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips
-In a large bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chopped chocolate, butter, and espresso mixture stirring a few times, until smooth, about 7 minutes.
-Beat the eggs with the sugar at medium speed in an electric mixer until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and salt. Fold in the melted chocolate, then fold in the flour and baking powder. Stir in the chocolate chips. Scrape the batter into a shallow baking dish, cover and freeze until well chilled and firm, about 1 hour.
-Preheat the oven to 350° and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Working in batches, scoop 2-tablespoon-size mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the cookies are dry around the edges and cracked on top. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely before serving.
Holly Korus says her Chocolate Dipped Macaroons are the best ever.
Chocolate Dipped Macaroons
- 4 egg whites
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 1/2 cups sweetened coconut flakes (14 oz bag)
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
- One 11.5 oz bag of chocolate chips
-Combine all the ingredients, EXCEPT the chocolate into a medium-sized sauce pan. No separating or sifting necessary, just dump it all in.
-Cook over medium-high heat for five minutes stirring constantly. Turn the heat up to medium-high for 3-5 minutes more, stirring constantly until it thickens, pulls away from the sides and browns a bit.
-Transfer into a covered container and refrigerate until cold. This takes about an hour.
-Drop spoonfuls about 1 1/12 to 2 tablespoons full on a nonstick cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.
-Bake at 300° for 20-25 minutes until a bit golden. Let them cool.
-When cookies are cool, put chocolate chips into a microwave proof bowl. Melt on high for 45 seconds, take out and stir. Melt in microwave for 15 second increments until chocolate is almost melted stirring between each increment. When the chocolate chips look just about melted, stir with a spatula until smooth
-Dip half of the macaroon into chocolate, a spoon or spatula is helpful to coat. Let cool. These keep wonderfully in the freezer for weeks. Make them now and save yourself some time later!
Liz George says these One-Bowl Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies are one of her favorite cookies to make –and give.
“They won’t win any beauty contests, but the crowd seems to love them! They are yummy, easy and fast — an added bonus when life gets hectic during the holidays. My kids who never drink milk, always ask for a glass with these cookies, but I also love them with coffee. ”
Yields 2 dozen
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 stick butter, softened
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- A little less than 1/2 bag of your favorite semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Generous 1/2 cup of flaked coconut
- Generous 1/2 cup chopped pecans
-Preheat oven to 375 F. In large mixing bowl, combine first five ingredients; beat with mixer until well blended (don’t worry that mixture seems dry – just persevere and keep beating until butter incorporates with other ingredients)
-Stir in chocolate chips, coconut and pecans. Drop by tablespoonful on cookie sheets and bake for 12-15 minutes until golden. My kids who never drink milk, always ask for a glass with these cookies, but I also love them with coffee.