Martha's All-Time Favorite Christmas Cookies
Holiday baking with Martha means cookie recipes that are both traditional and surprising. Of course, at the top of Martha's list are sugar cookies, and her buttery recipe is the standard bearer for those classics. Once you've made the dough, you can cut it into any shape you wish, from partridges-in-a-pear-trees, to snowmen, to reindeer, to Santas. Martha's go-to for decorating is royal icing, which goes on smoothly and then dries wherever you place it, ensuring your cookies will look fantastic (and taste delicious, too).
Any collection of favorite Christmas cookies would be remiss if it didn't include gingerbread. Here, we've taken it one step further and actually included two different varieties as part of this round-up. First, there are Martha's Gingerbread Snowflakes, which she pipes with royal icing and sprinkles with fine sanding sugar to create a frosty effect. Then there are her Chewy Chocolate-Gingerbread Cookies, deeply flavored with fresh ginger (instead of the usual powdered spice) and a double-dose of chocolate, thanks to both semisweet chocolate and cocoa powder.
There are four wonderfully nutty cookies on Martha's list: Giant Pistachio Wreath Cookies; Hazelnut Sandwich Cookies, filled with apricot or raspberry jam and melted chocolate; Noel Nut Balls bursting with pecans and coated in confectioners' sugar (Martha's take on the more well-known Mexican Wedding Cakes and Russian Tea Cakes, the latter are made with almonds not pecans); and Shaped Icebox Cookies, which Martha likes to make with Sicilian pistachios for their color and the way contrast with dried apricots, cranberries, and other bright dried fruits.
Old-Fashioned Lemon Sugar Cookies and Brown-Butter Cookies round out Martha's assembly, and while lemon and brown butter may not be conventional holiday flavors, there's no arguing that they're lovely—as it turns out, both lemon desserts and brown butter are absolute favorites for Martha. And perhaps just the unexpected touch your platter of Christmas cookies needs.
Because it just isn't Christmas without gingerbread! Martha likes to make different sizes of snowflakes—the ones pictured here are larger, but she makes smaller cookies as well. She pipes her cookies with royal icing and sprinkles them with fine sanding sugar.
Hazelnut Sandwich Cookies
Old-Fashioned Lemon Sugar Cookies
Martha loves lemon (it's one of her very favorite flavors), and everyone will adore these classic crisp, citrusy cookies. To get the crinkly tops, the cookies are sprinkled with sanding sugar, then lightly brushed with water and sprinkled with more sanding sugar, then baked.
Chewy Chocolate-Gingerbread Cookies
Noel Nut Balls
Shaped Icebox Cookies
Martha has a handy technique for forming logs of cookie dough: She uses a sushi mat (a device usually reserved for forming rolls of rice and fish). And she likes to use Sicilian pistachios for these cookies because they have the best color and contrast nicely with dried apricots, cranberries, and other bright dried fruits.
Another simply exquisite cookie. Browned butter—butter that's been gently cooked until golden brown—seems to enhance just about anything it's added to, and this holiday treat is no exception.