5 Colorful Cookies for Your Christmas Platter

April Peveteaux

christmas cookieHave you been serving up dull cookies to your holiday guests? Yes, chocolate rules, but it doesn't make for a delightful color palette. If you want to wow the carolers, your neighbors, or the people on your "cookie gift" list, choose your cookie combo wisely.

I've searched through some pretty beautiful cookie recipes and baked dozens just to let you know about some of the best sparkly recipes out there. It's a tough job, but someone's got to be the cookie sampler.

Here are my favorite cookies that bring color to your platter.

I made this first recipe Christmas 2008. Little did I know my subscription to Gourmet magazine would be ending before its time. Luckily the editors of Gourmet put together an amazing cookie book for each year of Christmas cookies. So I made it again this year. Still pretty simple to make these stunning, and delicious, Glittering Lemon Sandwich Cookies. From The Gourmet Cookie Book, here's my all-time favorite Christmas cookie recipe.

Glittering Lemon Sandwich Cookies

If Santa’s elves grew citrus trees, these sparkling lemony bites would surely be among the branches. Our favorite in a year rich with cookies, these adorable little balls look like nothing found in any store. They melt in your mouth, leaving behind a lovely citric freshness. Roll them in brightly colored sanding sugar to make them twinkle like vintage ornaments.

Makes about 4 dozen sandwich cookies


1 1⁄3 cups all-purpose flour

2⁄3 cup cornstarch

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

2 sticks (1⁄2 pound) unsalted butter, softened

1⁄2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla

White and colored sanding sugars

For filling

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1⁄2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: a heavy-duty sealable bag

MAKE COOKIES: Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together flour, cornstarch, and salt.

Beat together butter and confectioners’ sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then beat in zest and vanilla. At low speed, mix in flour mixture just until a soft dough forms.

Put sanding sugars in different bowls. Roll a scant teaspoon of dough into a ball and drop into sugar, turning to coat. Reshape if necessary and transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat, spacing balls 3⁄4 inch apart, until baking sheet is filled.

Bake until tops are slightly cracked but still pale (bottoms will be pale golden), 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer cookies on parchment to a rack to cool completely.

Form and bake more cookies on second baking sheet.

MAKE FILLING AND SANDWICH COOKIES: Beat together all filling ingredients in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until combined well. Transfer to sealable bag and snip off a corner.

Turn over half of cookies and pipe about 1⁄2 teaspoon filling on flat side of each. Sandwich with remaining cookies, pressing gently.

Recipe Notes

1. The sugared dough balls should be chilled for 30 minutes or frozen for 5 to 10 minutes to help preserve their round shape. Keep the sandwiched cookies chilled.

2. The unsandwiched cookies keep, in a metal cookie tin, at a cool room temperature for up to 4 days.

christmas cookiesRaspberry-Almond Linzer Cookies


2/3 cup almonds
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for the work surface
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
1 12-ounce jar raspberry jam


Heat oven to 350°F. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast, tossing occasionally, until fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes; let cool.

In a food processor, process the almonds and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar until the almonds are finely ground.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the almond mixture, then the flour mixture, mixing until just combined (do not overmix).

Divide the dough in half, shape into two disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours.

Heat oven to 350° F. On a lightly-floured surface, roll out each piece of dough to a 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 2- to 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. Using a 3/4- to 1-inch round cookie cutter, cut out the centers from half of the cookies. Reroll and cut the scraps as necessary.

Bake, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until the edges are golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly on the baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Sprinkle the confectioners’ sugar on the cookies with the holes. Spread 1 teaspoon jam on the remaining cookies and top with the sugared cookies. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

christmas cookieAunt Sis’s Strawberry Tart Cookies

Cookies appeared on the cover of Gourmet for the first time. And to celebrate the occasion, the magazine published a mini-cookbook of staff recipes. This recipe was contributed by food editor Amy Mastrangelo, then Gourmet’s reigning cookie queen. Each Christmas she baked up an assortment for all of her colleagues. “We couldn’t wait for them!” remembers an editor. “Each one was perfect.” These lovely little thumbprint cookies, each one like a tiny strawberry pie, were always the first to disappear. Bake them, and you’ll understand why.

Makes about 8 dozen cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

3 sticks (1 1⁄2 cups) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

2 large egg yolks, beaten lightly

1 cup strained strawberry jam

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, the sugar, and the salt, add the butter, and blend the mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Stir in the egg yolks, blend the mixture until it forms a dough, and chill the dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Let the dough soften slightly, roll level teaspoons of it into balls, and arrange the balls about 2 inches apart on lightly greased baking sheets. Using your thumb, make an indentation in the center of each ball, being careful not to crack the dough around the edges. (If the dough cracks, reroll it and try again.) Fill each indentation with about 1⁄4 teaspoon of the jam and bake the cookies in batches in the middle of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the edges are pale golden. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 2 minutes, transfer them to racks, and let them cool completely. The cookies may be made 1 month in advance and kept frozen in airtight containers.

christmas cookieMartha Stewart's Simple Sugar Cookies

I don't believe Martha ever endorses anything simple, but these are almost simple. I will say you have to have more artistic talent than I do if you want these sugar cookies turning out like the photo, above. Me? Not so much. But still, I was able to present Santas that looked shabby chic.

Makes about 2 dozen 4-inch cookies

4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl.

Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low.

Gradually mix in flour mixture. Divide dough into quarters; flatten each quarter into a disk. Wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees with racks in upper and lower thirds. Let one disk of dough stand at room temperature just until soft enough to roll, about 10 minutes. Roll out dough between two pieces of plastic wrap to 1/4-inch thickness. Remove top layer of plastic wrap. Cut out cookies with a 4- to-5-inch cookie cutter. Transfer cookie dough on plastic wrap to a baking sheet. Transfer baking sheet to freezer, and freeze until very firm, about 15 minutes. Remove baking sheet from freezer, and transfer shapes to baking sheets lined with nonstick baking mats. Roll out scraps, and repeat. Repeat with remaining disk of dough.

Bake, switching positions of sheets and rotating halfway through, until edges turn golden, 15 to 18 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.

1/2 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
2 (10-ounce) jars maraschino cherries, drained


In a medium bowl, stir together the shortening and cream cheese until well blended. Stir in the flour, you may need to use your hands to help it form a dough. If the mixture seems too dry, add a couple of teaspoons of water. Cover and chill several hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease cookie sheets.
Before rolling out the dough, dust the rolling surface heavily with confectioners' sugar. Roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into 1x4 inch strips. Place a cherry on the end of each strip. Roll up each strip starting with the cherry. Place on prepared cookie sheets and dust with a little of the confectioners' sugar.

Bake for 7 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Cookies should brown slightly. Dust again with the confectioners' sugar. Allow cookies to cool before serving, the cherries are very hot!


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