Creative Cookies

Joy! Baking Treats

Santa called. He'd like more exciting treats this year. We promise he'll be impressed with these clever twists on the classics.


By Tara Bench
Photos by Yunhee Kim

Holiday Waffle Cookies

Active | 30 minutes Total | 1 hour Makes | 15 waffle cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • ⅓ tsp. almond extract
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • ½ 16-oz. can vanilla frosting
  • Assorted colors of coarse sanding sugar

Make It

  • In a large bowl combine the eggs, sugars, and almond extract. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until pale, about 4 minutes. Beat in the butter. Beat in flour and salt until incorporated.
  • Preheat a waffle iron on high. Lightly coat waffle iron with cooking spray. Spoon 2 Tbs. batter onto each section of the waffle iron. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown. Using a fork, remove cookies from waffle iron. Repeat with remaining batter. Let cool.
  • Microwave frosting in 20-second intervals, stirring in between, until just melted. Dip waffle-cookie tops into melted frosting and decorate with sanding sugar.

Variation: To make chocolate waffles, substitute vanilla extract for the almond extract and reduce flour to 1 cup. Add ½ cup dark cocoa powder, ½ cup chocolate chips, and ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon when adding the flour.

Nutrition Per Cookie 234 calories; 2g protein; 11g fat (5g sat. fat); 33g carbs; 1g fiber; 23g sugar; 1mg iron; 12mg calcium; 138mg sodium

Rainbow Rings

Active | 1 hour 30 minutes Total | 3 hours Makes | 40 cookies

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1¼ cups butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Gel or paste food coloring

Make It

  • In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar; beat for 2 minutes on medium speed or until mixture is light and fluffy, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Add the eggs and the egg yolks; beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. Gradually add flour mixture, beating on low speed just until combined.
  • Divide the dough into 6 portions. Set one portion aside to leave plain. Tint remaining portions with desired colors, kneading the gel or paste into the dough. Wrap each ball of dough in plastic wrap, pat flat into a rectangle, and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.
  • Between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap roll each portion of dough to ¼-in. thickness. Wrap in plastic and freeze for 15 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Using a 3-in. round cookie cutter, cut 40 cookies from the assorted colored doughs. Using a 2-in. round cookie cutter, cut a 2-in. cookie from the center of each 3-in. cookie. Using a 1-in. round cookie cutter, cut a 1-in. cookie from the center of each 2-in. cookie. Mix and match cookie colors, fitting one 3-in., one 2-in., and one 1-in. cookie together. (See photo above.)
  • Place cookies on the prepared baking sheets and bake 6 to 8 minutes, or until edges are just firm. Let cool on wire racks. Repeat with remaining dough.

Nutrition Per Cookie 142 calories; 2g protein; 6g fat (4g sat. fat); 20g carbs; 0 fiber; 10g sugar; 1mg iron; 13mg calcium; 91mg sodium

Christmas Tree Stacks

Active | 1 hour 15 minutes Total | 2 hours Makes | 60 cookies, 8 stacks plus extras

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe Rainbow Rings cookie dough, plain
  • Green gel or paste food coloring

Make It

  • Tint one-quarter of the dough dark green with the food coloring, kneading food coloring into the dough. Divide the remaining dough into 5 portions. Tint each portion a lighter green than the one before. Wrap each portion in plastic wrap and chill 45 to 60 minutes or until easy to handle.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the large, darkest green portion of dough to ¼-in. thickness. Using a 4½-in. star-shaped cookie cutter, cut 8 cookies from the dough, rerolling scraps as needed. Place on the prepared baking sheets. Bake about 8 minutes or until edges are just firm but not yet brown. Let cool on wire racks. Roll the next 2 darkest portions of dough as above, using a 3½-in. star-shaped cutter to cut 8 of each color. Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until edges are firm but not yet brown. Cool on wire racks. Roll, bake, and cool the next 2 darkest portions of dough as above, using a 3-in. star-shaped cutter to cut 8 of each color. Roll, bake, and cool the remaining portion of dough, using a 2-in. star-shaped cutter to cut 8 cutouts. (You will have extra cutouts of some sizes).
  • Once cookies are cool, stack the stars, starting with the large dark stars and ending with the lightest color small star. Insert a wooden toothpick into the center of each stack. Top each toothpick with star-shaped gold stickers (available at office-supply stores).

Nutrition Range Per Cookie (Depending On Size) 35-177 calories; 0-2g protein; 2-8g fat (1-5g sat. fat); 5-25g carbs; 0 fiber; 3-13g sugar; 0-1mg iron; 3-16mg calcium; 23-114mg sodium

Starry Thumbprints

Active | 45 minutes Total | 1 hour 10 minutes Makes | 30 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • Coarse decorating sugar, such as Wilton Sparkling Sugar
  • ½ 16-oz. can cream-cheese frosting
  • Edible glitter, optional

Make It

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the flour, cinnamon, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl combine the butter and sugar. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until completely combined. Beat in the flour mixture.
  • Form the dough into 1-in. balls. Roll balls in decorating sugar, and place on the prepared cookie sheets. Using the back of a ½-tsp. measure, make an indentation in the center of each cookie. Bake until edges of cookies are firm and bottom is lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Re-indent centers with the back of the ½-tsp. measure if needed. Cool completely on wire racks.
  • Fill each cookie with 1 tsp. frosting and sprinkle with edible glitter if using.

Nutrition Per Cookie 107 calories; 1g protein; 5g fat (2g sat. fat); 16g carbs; 0 fiber; 10g sugar; 0 iron; 4mg calcium; 57mg sodium

Snowman Pops

Active | 2 hours Total | 3 hours 30 minutes Makes | 15 pops

Ingredients

  • 36 vanilla sandwich cookies
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 15 lollipop sticks
  • 10 oz. vanilla-flavor candy coating (almond bark), chopped
  • 15 strings sour licorice lace
  • 15 mini marshmallows
  • 1 tube black colored decorating frosting
  • Red candy-coated sunflower seeds (or Starburst candies rolled into carrot-nose shapes)

Make It

  • Place cookies in the bowl of a food processor. Cover and process until finely ground (you should have about 3 cups). Add the cream cheese and ginger. Cover and process until dough comes together into a ball.
  • Roll three-quarters of dough into 15 balls and remaining dough into 15 smaller balls. Stack a small ball on top of each large one. Chill for 1 hour. Insert a lollipop stick into each snowman. Chill 10 minutes more.
  • Place candy coating in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until melted.
  • Working in small batches, dip snowmen into melted coating, spooning coating over and allowing excess to drip off. Poke the ends of the lollipop sticks into floral foam, Styrofoam, or an upside-down shoebox to suspend the pops until the chocolate is set. Chill 10 minutes.
  • Use the remaining melted candy coating to attach a licorice-lace scarf and mini-marshmallow hat banded with black decorating frosting. Insert a candy-coated sunflower seed for a nose, and pipe on black eyes and buttons. Chill until serving.

Nutrition Per Pop 244 calories; 1g protein; 13g fat (7g sat. fat); 31g carbs; 0 fiber; 20g sugar; 1mg iron; 13mg calcium; 121mg sodium