With a large blended family that includes six children, I have baked a lot of cookies over the past couple decades! And every year, the internet delights me with ever-expanding options for creative, tempting Christmas cookies. When the holiday season rolls around, however, I always crave the treats my grandmother used to make every December.
Old-fashioned Christmas cookies
Back then, she’d start by making candy: homemade fudge, buttery caramels, divinity, rock candy and creamy buckeyes. Then she’d make dozens and dozens of cookies of many varieties as well as fresh cinnamon rolls and pecan, pumpkin, apple, cherry and mincemeat pies – all with flaky crusts I’ve never had the patience to successfully emulate.
When I was 17 years old, I had the presence of mind to ask my grandma if I could copy her recipes. She handed me some blank recipe cards, and over a flour-dusted countertop, I painstakingly transcribed these Christmas flavors of my childhood, which I can still gratefully stir up and drop on a cookie sheet 30 years later and beyond.
I know a little something about self-preservation and am not nearly as ambitious in my holiday baking as she was… but from the perspective of a child whose primary responsibility was licking the spoons, it was a heavenly annual baking ritual, and I sure miss it.
Nostalgia motivates me to — at the least! — make her cookie staples, especially at Christmastime: chocolate chip cookies, chewy oatmeal cookies, and coconut-date bars (which are so much better than they sound — try them!). Here, I share them with you.
To get the most out of every crumb of the oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies, I like to freeze them and then eat them at approximately the moment they’ve thawed to room temperature. This ensures every bite has that fresh-baked flavor and tender, chewy texture.
I have a great love of nearly all cookies (fat + sugar + flour – who needs anything else in this life?!), but this oatmeal cookie is my very favorite cookie of all time. Chewy and caramely with a soft, but satisfyingly dense bite; it’s hard to stop eating these.
Beat butter, brown and granulated sugars until creamy.
Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt; add to butter mixture, mixing well.
Stir in 3 cups of oats and mix well. For a sturdy, well-formed cookie, continue gradually mixing in additional oats until the dough is not loose and sticky (otherwise the cookies will spread and be thinner and more crispy - not a bad thing; just according to your preference).
Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool ten minutes on cookie sheet; remove to wire rack and cool completely.
Chocolate chip cookies
It took me awhile to understand that the shortening in this chocolate chip cookie recipe is responsible for what I consider to be a superior texture. This recipe yields a tender and taller, flavorful, chewy cookie.
Gluten-free variation: I swapped out the wheat flour for a gluten-free 1:1 mix (I used Krusteaz brand, but have had success with various other brands, as well). I was impressed with how they turned out – they even had a chewiness that you don’t necessarily expect with the rice blend flours.