Modern city gal though I think myself, I have a total weakness for traditional Christmas cookie swaps. There’s something so cool about seeing the Christmas cookies from around the world that come from sometimes generations-old recipes from a melting pot of friends. Should you need a new idea beyond gingerbread men and sugar cookies this year–not that we can ever get enough of those–take some inspiration from these 10 amazing Christmas cookies from a variety of global traditions.
DUTCH SPECULAAS SPICE COOKIES
The Dutch spice trade is responsible for the unique taste of these delicious cookies (at top) which are some of my favorites, when I can get my hands on them. They get a kick from cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, anise, and even a bit of white pepper. To go the handmade route, you will need a Speculaas mold like this vintage one on Etsy, to make them pretty enough for Sinterklaas to leave you a gift in return.
GERMAN PFEFFERNÜSSE COOKIES
Don’t ask me to ever try spelling them again, but eating them? No problem. Especially with this recipe (shown at top) from the La Fuji Mama blog. There’s all sorts of disagreement as to whether the origins of these spiced cookies (the name means “pepper nuts”) are German or actually Dutch and I’ll just recuse myself and go with the majority rule. The only thing I know is that you should run away if you see a recipe substituting margarine for butter, unless you have dairy allergies. Pfeffernusse cookies keep nicely and transport easily making them great holiday gifts too.
MEXICAN WEDDING COOKIES
I love these simple, delectable sugar cookies made flavorful with crushed walnuts and lots of confectioner’s sugar dusted on top. This recipe from Deb’s Recipes on Food.com looks like a guaranteed hit.
This recipe for Vanilla Gaulettes from artfoodlifeblog.com is a true heirloom recipe, dating back her great-great-great grandmother in the 1800’s. How cool is that? You’ll need a non-stick Pizelle Press like this one from Cuisinart, which is similar to a waffle iron. In fact, the result is kind of like a flat waffle cone and not too sweet–serve them alone or with ice cream or richer desserts.
These unbelievable confections originate from Spain, but I first had them on a trip to Buenos Aires where they’re ubiquitous, so I always associate them with South America. It’s more or less a caramel dulce de leche spread sandwiched between two shortbread cookies and this recipe from Gourmade at Home gets lots of thumbs up. If you want to save time, there’s a ton of good, ready-made dulce de leche available in jars.
I never tire of light-as-air meringues when they’re made perfectly. In other words, a light crackle of a crust on the outside, and just the teeny hint of chewiness on the inside. It’s so easy to make more festive seasonal variations too, like these yummy peppermint meringue cookies from Joy the Baker that Stacie recommended in her post last year on 8 spectacular holiday cookies. You can even add chocolate chips–or do what I’d do and make a batch of each. They go fast.
Kristi Mucci on Food 52 shared this recipe traditionally served over the holidays by her Greek inlaws. Cinnnamon, cloves and orange are the perfect holiday flavors, with a touch of honey and a sprinkling of walnuts on top. She suggests substituting a little semolina flour in the mix for a sandier texture.
AUSTRIAN LINZER COOKIES
Asking friends their favorite Christmas cookies, I was surprised that so many of them mentioned Linzer cookies, the classic jammy sandwich cookies. I love the step-by-step photos and instructions at A Fox in the Kitchen, and she smartly reminds you that before you start, be sure to have both the fluted (or round) cookie cutter as well as a smaller one to remove the center in a pretty shape for the top cookie.
POLISH BOW TIE COOKIES
Also called Chrusciki, Angel Wings or Polish Crullers, I see these fried golden twists covered in confectioners sugar in all sorts of holiday cookie posts. I should note, however, that my Polish friend informs me they’re more for big festive occasions like Mardi Gras or New Year’s. But since she insists that she’ll eat them any time, I’m happy to include this recipe from Janet Keeler, author of the book Cookielicious, published on the Comfy Cuisine Blog.
ITALIAN ANISE CHRISTMAS COOKIES
There are so many good Italian Christmas cookie recipes, but I always think of these, covered in the rainbow nonpareil sprinkles, because they live in the fluorescent-lit dessert cases of every Italian bakery in New York. The classic is made with anise extract, but as Stevie of Weird Combinations notes, they’re just as good with vanilla or almond extract. Just consider the fact that anise is supposed to ward off evil spirits so you know, choices.