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Easy Ways to Dress Up Your Christmas Cookie Recipes

Here's how to boost the wow factor of your favorite holiday cookie.

Scandinavian Christmas Cookie Tree
Scandinavian Christmas Cookie Tree
Written by Julia Halewicz

One look at that greasy, crusted-over Christmas cookie recipe and you know it's time to shake things up. With a few small tweaks, you can add some major wow-factor to your dessert presentation without changing too much about some of your favorite Christmas recipes. Choose an icy color palate like mint green and pale blue to dress up your sugar cookies, or pile cookies into a Christmas tree shape for some added wonder on your holiday table. You also can get kids baking with a recipe that calls for using kids' hand prints instead of cookie cutters. A little change in tradition will keep your guests wanting more.

Here are some ways to ramp up your Christmas cookie recipes:

Scandinavian Christmas Cookie Tree

A tower of cookies shaped like a Christmas tree will delight old and young guests alike. Take your favorite Christmas cookie recipe and make an easy change: Instead of one-sized cookie, make three different sizes. Stack them from largest to smallest for a tree-shaped presentation.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

Directions:

  • Heat oven to 425ºF. 
  • In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar; add vanilla, eggs and cream.
  • Sift in dry ingredients to creamed mixture; mix well. 
  • Chill dough for 2 hours. On a floured surface, roll out dough. 
  • Cut out stars using 3 different sizes of stars (we used 5″, 4″ and 3 1/2″). 
  • Using a plastic straw, poke a hole in the center of each cookie. 
  • Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 6 minutes. 
  • Let cookies sit for 24 hours. Decorate with icing. 
  • Let sit for another 4 to 8 hours.
  • Using a wooden dowel, place one of the large cookies through the dowel and start stacking. Using the large cookies first, spiral them so the points do not align. Continue to stack largest to smallest.

Pastel-Colored Iced Sugar Cookies

Making sugar cookies is a no-brainer during the holidays, but a little change in your icing colors can transform your recipe from ordinary to extraordinary. Using icy pastels like mint green and baby blue is a refreshing spin on the classic treat. You can match blue crystals to the icing, decorate with clear crystals, or crush peppermint candy canes for a little contrast. The result is elegant and delicious. 

Ingredients: 

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk (reserve egg white)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract

Directions: 

  • Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and nutmeg; set aside. 
  • Cream shortening and add sugar gradually. Add egg and egg yolk to creamed mixture and beat until fluffy. 
  • Combine sour cream, vanilla and lemon extract. Add to creamed mixture. Add dry ingredients that had been set aside. 
  • Chill for 1/2 hour. 
  • Roll out onto slightly floured board. 
  • Cut with cookie cutter. Brush with unbeaten egg white and sprinkle with sugar. 
  • Bake at 400ºF for 8 minutes (depending on thickness of cookies). 
  • Cool and ice with frosting.

Peppermint Twirls

For another twist on the classic sugar cookie, create a pinwheel effect with peppermint flavoring. 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon red food coloring
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 cups chopped peppermint candies.

Directions: 

  • Heat oven to 350ºF. 
  • Beat together butter, powdered sugar and vanilla. Add eggs. Add flour. 
  • Divide dough in half. Add peppermint flavoring and red food coloring to one half. 
  • Divide each segment of dough in half so you have two red doughs and two plain. 
  • Using a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece of dough into an oval. Place a red rope and a plain rope on top of one another. 
  • Starting at one side of the oval, roll dough together so it forms a long pinwheel. Repeat with other two sections of dough. 
  • Using a knife dipped in flour, cut dough into slices, forming circles. 
  • Roll edges of circles in chopped peppermint candy pieces. 
  • Place on greased cookie sheet. 
  • Bake about 10 minutes.


Sleigh Ride Cookies

These no-cook cookies are an adorable way to serve up some Christmas cheer. Use them as a centerpiece on the table next to a gingerbread house—if the kids can resist them!

Ingredients: 

  • 2 red string licorice sticks
  • 1 graham cracker
  • 2 candy canes
  • 20 pieces of small candies, such as jelly beans
  • 2 tablespoons white icing
  • Toy dog figurine  

Directions: 

  • Ice the length of the two candy canes and place a large graham cracker on both to make sleigh bottom and let dry to harden. 
  • Add icing to sides of sleigh; let harden. 
  • Place icing on sleigh and pile candy assortment on top of sleigh.
  • Tie licorice to look like ropes from sleigh onto toy dog. Add cotton candy snow around sleigh.

Little Hands Christmas Cookies

Tracings of your kids' hands always pull at the heart strings. Share the joy by making cookies using their hand prints instead of cookie cutters. Grandparents will eat them up. 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 package (2 sheets) prepared cookie dough sheets 
  • 8 ounces (1/2 container) prepared frosting
  • 1/4 cup sprinkles; food coloring.

Directions: 

  • Remove cookie dough from the package and place on cutting board or clean flat surface. 
  • Position child's hand on the dough and trace around hand and fingers with a table knife. 
  • Gently remove the cut-out cookie "hand," being careful not to tear it. (If desired, you may also wish to poke a small hole near the base of the palm for hanging as an ornament on the tree with a thin ribbon. Cut the hole before baking.)
  • Place cookie hands on a cookie sheet at least an inch apart and bake according to package directions. 
  • Allow to cool on a baking rack. 
  • If desired, ice cookies using a prepared frosting, and add sprinkles.  

Eggnog Bars

Cookie bars are a favorite for kids and this version incorporates eggnog, which adds a creamy custard layer.

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar plus 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 1/14 cups whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions: 
  • Heat oven to 350ºF. 
  • Line bottom and sides of a square baking pan with foil. 
  • Mix together flour, sugar and butter. Press into bottom of foil and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 300 degrees. 
  • Beat together egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar until thick and golden. Add cream, flavoring, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg; mix thoroughly. Pour over baked layer. 
  • Return to oven and bake for 50 minutes. 
  • Test custard by inserting a knife in the center; if it comes out clean, custard is set. 
  • Let cool, then sprinkle with additional nutmeg and remove foil. Cut into bars. Refrigerate until serving.

German Sugar Cookies

Gold-dipped German sugar cookies add some sparkle to your holiday table. 

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups white flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt.

Directions: 

  • Heat oven to 350ºF. 
  • Mix vanilla, brown sugar, orange zest and butter together. Add eggs and blend well. Gradually add dry ingredients. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 9-11 minutes.
TELL US: What's your favorite Christmas cookie? Answer in the comments below.

More holiday food articles on Darien Patch:


And check out these holiday food articles on AOL's Kitchen Daily:

This article is part of Mix It Up, an editorial series created in collaboration with AOL's Kitchen Daily and Huffington Post. It is dedicated to making the lives of mothers easier through articles, videos and slideshows focused on simple and creative solutions to everyday challenges. From healthy recipes to exciting ideas for a more balanced lifestyle, this section aims to become a resource for moms everywhere. 















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