Christmas and Holiday Cookie Traditions

These are sweet treats we indulge in as well as pass around to family, friends and neighbors each year. Germany shares this affinity for special holiday cookies and I hope you are trying your way through them while you are here.

Prep table food Wendy Holiday Cookie Creations© Wendy Payne

This year I had the privilege of baking cookies for single and unaccompanied soldiers in the Stuttgart area and loved doing it! I really appreciate the sacrifices our soldiers give as well as I know the holidays can be difficult when stationed away from family and friends. Here are my top five “go-to” recipes for the holidays!

Hershey Kiss Cookies

Hershey Kiss Cookies food Wendy Holiday Cookie Creations© Wendy Payne

This is an absolute favorite of most people during the holiday season! Originally called Peanut Blossoms, this recipe was introduced at the Pillsbury Bake-off in 1957. Although not even placing, the original recipe is still obviously unforgettable. I have changed it a little bit because I’m not a fan of shortening.

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg
2 tablespoons of milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup white sugar for rolling
36-38 Un-wrapped Hershey Kisses

Pre-heat oven to 375º F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. In the bowl of a stand mixer cream together butter, both sugars and peanut butter. Then add egg, milk and vanilla.

In a small bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add flour mix to butter mix. Refrigerate dough in bowl for 30 minutes. Unwrap the Kisses while dough is chilling. Form into 1 inch balls. Roll in sugar and place about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 9 – 10 minutes or until cookies are just a little brown. Remove from oven and press a Kiss into the center of each cookie. Cool on a cookie sheet for 5 minutes and then move cookies to cooling racks.

Russian Tea Cakes

Russian Tea Cakes food Wendy Holiday Cookie Creations© Wendy Payne

If you Google this recipe, you will probably find 10,000 different kinds of Russian Tea cakes. Almonds are my favorite nuts and I love almond extract. I realize this may not be authentic, but they are my family’s favorite too. You may substitute almost any nut, but perhaps not pine nuts.

1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
6 tablespoons Confectioner’s sugar
2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped almonds or 1 3/4 cup Almond meal
(As a major time saver, I used Almond meal from Edeka.)
1/3 cup Confectioner’s sugar for decoration

Pre-heat oven to 350º F.

Cream butter and vanilla until smooth in a medium bowl. Combine the 6 tablespoons Confectioner’s sugar and flour; stir into butter mixture. Mix in the chopped almonds or almond meal. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place them 2 inches apart on an un-greased cookie sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown including the bottoms. Once allowing cookies to cool completely on the pan, sprinkle with Confectioner’s sugar.

Spritz Cookies

Spritz Cookies food Wendy Holiday Cookie Creations© Wendy Payne

These fun holiday cookies of different shapes are a holiday classic. It is easiest if you own a cookie press for this one. I’ve had the same Wilton Spritz cookie press for 18 years. I bought it when we were stationed at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas and was taking cookie and cake decorating classes with Annie. If you’ve been stationed in Leavenworth for CGSC (Command and General Staff College), you might even know this awesome pastry teacher. If you don’t own one, you will just have to get creative with the shapes.

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cup (3 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Pre-heat oven to 350º F. In a medium bowl, combine flour and baking powder. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg, milk and extracts. Add flour mixture and mix well. Roll dough into a long log shape. Fill cookie press with dough and fit with disks; press cookies onto un-greased cookie sheet.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet and then remove to cooling rack to cool completely. This recipe makes about 7-8 dozen cookies.

Peppermint Bark

Peppermint bark food Wendy Holiday Cookie Creations© Wendy Payne

I know this is not a cookie, but it is just one of my favorites. This year I found a huge short-cut by using M&M’s mint kisses. The bottom layer is the dark chocolate mint and the top layer is white chocolate with crushed candy canes.

2 lbs dark chocolate Hershey Mint Kisses, unwrapped
1 cup crushed (about 6 candy canes or use 12 small ones)
2 lbs white melting chocolate or white chocolate chips
2 teaspoon vegetable oil, separately
Peppermint flavoring, optional

You can use a double boiler to melt your chocolate, but I have found a microwave trick that works wonders. Layer a cookie sheet with parchment or waxed paper.

In a medium glass bowl, add dark chocolate Hershey Mint Kisses and 1 teaspoon vegetable oil. Place in microwave on full power for 30 seconds and then stir chocolate. Return to microwave for 15 second intervals until chocolate is completely melted. (Usually only takes 2 times)

On lined cookie sheet spread melted dark chocolate in a thin layer and then place in refrigerator for 40-45 minutes or until firm.

Second layer
Place candy canes in a plastic bag and hammer into 1/4-inch or smaller chunks. Melt white chocolate and 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in microwave in intervals in the same way as the dark chocolate mint Kisses. Combine 3/4 of the candy cane chunks with white chocolate, leaving some aside.

Remove cold, firm dark chocolate sheet from refrigerator and spread with melted white chocolate and peppermint. Sprinkle the remaining crushed peppermint on top of the melted white chocolate. Return to refrigerator and allow to cool for an additional 40-45 minutes.

Chocolate cutting food Wendy Holiday Cookie Creations© Wendy Payne

Remove the cookie sheet from the refrigerator and with a good knife cut into triangles or desired shape.

Keep in the refrigerator to remain cool before serving or packaging.

Rolled Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons milk
3 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

(I usually double this recipe.)

Pre-heat oven to 400º F

Cream butter, sugar and egg and then slowly add in vanilla. In a separate bowl add flour, baking powder and salt. Roll into 4 large balls, wrap in plastic wrap, flatten like a thick pancake (about the size of a dinner plate.) Chill for at least an hour. Roll out onto wax paper and flour. Cut into desired cookie shape, re-rolling unused dough into a ball until all dough is used.

Cook for 5 – 10 minutes until brown on bottom. Cool on wire rack. Allow to completely cool before icing.

Wrapping food Wendy Holiday Cookie Creations© Wendy Payne

Other Cookie Time-Saving Tips

  • I use the smallest cookie scoop (think tiny or gelato size) for shaping Russian Tea Cakes and Hershey Kiss Cookies before hand rolling.
  • For my German stove, I use 190ºC for 375º F.
  • If you use a cooking stone, be very careful of over-cooking. You may need to adjust oven temperature accordingly.
  • A major purchase was buying “German” cookie sheets to fit the oven.
  • To keep organized, I pack all of my Christmas cookie supplies in big Rubbermaid container with all the recipes.

Merry Christmas, Frohe Weihnachten and Happy Holidays. May you enjoy the season and the year has exceeded your expectations and given you hope for the future!

Author’s Profile: Wendy Payne is a military spouse and lives with her family in Stuttgart, Germany. She is a freelance writer, blogger and photographer. She also enjoys gardening, hiking, yoga and sharing Europe with people.

Featured Image Photo Credit:  © Wendy Payne

Categories: Community Favorites, Family Life, Food & Wine, Recipes

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