Holiday Cookies from Around the World


Tex-Mex Chocolate Icebox Cookies

A web of excess white chocolate may harden around the sides of these cookies post drizzle. Break these off for a cleaner look.

A web of excess white chocolate may harden around the sides of these cookies post drizzle. Break these off for a cleaner look. (Maura McEvoy/)

In 2005, these spicy chocolate cookies from San Antonio’s legendary Liberty Bar took the No. 7 slot in the Saveur 100. The Texas institution still serves ‘em at Sunday brunch, in lieu of a breadbasket and completely unadorned. That festive drizzle of white chocolate is all us.


Tex-Mex Chocolate Icebox Cookies

In 2005, these spicy chocolate cookies from San Antonio’s legendary Liberty Bar took the No. 7 slot in the Saveur 100. The Texas institution still serves ’em at Sunday brunch, in lieu of a breadbasket and completely unadorned. That festive drizzle of white chocolate is all us.
Yield: makes About 4 Dozen Cookies
Time:

9 hours, 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 34 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
  • 12 cup all-purpose flour
  • 34 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 12 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 14 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 14 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 12 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 12 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter (1½ sticks), cut into small pieces
  • Melted white chocolate, for drizzling

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the first 6 ingredients and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat together the sugar, egg, and vanilla on high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Add the butter and continue beating until smooth, about 3 minutes more. Use your fingers to work the reserved dry ingredients into the butter mixture until just combined.
  2. Using a plastic bowl scraper, divide the dough in half and transfer each half to a large sheet of parchment paper. Use the paper to squeeze and roll the dough into 2 compact 9-inch logs, twisting the ends tightly to make uniform cylinders. Freeze for at least 8 hours and up to 30 days. (If freezing longer than 24 hours, wrap the paper-wrapped cylinders tightly in plastic.)
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  4. Meanwhile, unwrap and slice each log into ⅓-inch-thick rounds. Space the cookies ½ inch apart on parchment-paper-lined baking sheets, and bake until slightly puffed with tiny cracks on the surface, 7-9 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. Place the rack of cooled cookies over a cool baking sheet. Using the tines of a small fork or a pastry bag fitted with a very fine tip, drizzle generously with melted white chocolate. Set the rack of cookies aside until the chocolate is firm. Stored in an airtight container, the cookies will keep for up to 7 days.

Aussie-Kiwi Anzac Biscuits

It’s important to use a deep pot; When the baking-soda is stirred into the butter and syrup, the mixture bubbles and grows in volume quickly!

It’s important to use a deep pot; When the baking-soda is stirred into the butter and syrup, the mixture bubbles and grows in volume quickly! (Maura McEvoy/)

An acronym for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, Anzac biscuits are the brainchild of 1920s-era military wives and mothers who sold the cookies for war-effort fundraisers. Heather Sperling, who developed this recipe for the 2014 edition of the Saveur 100, first tasted them at an outdoor market in, of all places, Berlin. “As a lifelong oat-cookie devotee, it was intense love at first bite,” she says. Loaded with coconut as well as oats, the dough will have a crumbly texture. No matter; once pressed into patties, it’ll bake to a sturdy, satisfying crunch.


Aussie-Kiwi Anzac Biscuits

An acronym for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, Anzac biscuits are the brainchild of 1920s-era military wives and mothers who sold the cookies for war-effort fundraisers. Heather Sperling, who developed this recipe for the 2014 edition of the Saveur 100 first tasted them at an outdoor market in, of all places, Berlin. “As a lifelong oat-cookie devotee, it was intense love at first bite,” she says. Loaded with coconut as well as oats, the dough will have a crumbly texture. Never fear; once pressed into patties, it’ll bake to a sturdy, satisfying crunch.
Yield: makes 2 Dozen Cookies
Time:

50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 14 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 12 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 13 cup boiling water
  • 1 12 tsp. baking soda
  • 10 Tbsp. plus 1½ tsp. unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbsp. golden syrup, such as Lyle’s

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together the first 4 ingredients and set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the boiling water and baking soda. In a small pot over medium heat, melt the butter and golden syrup, then stir in the reserved baking-soda mixture. Remove from the heat, pour over the reserved dry ingredients, and stir until a crumbly dough forms.
  3. Using a 1-ounce scoop or rounded tablespoon, divide the dough into balls. Drop the balls onto parchment-paper-lined baking sheets and press into ¼-inch-thick patties, spaced about ½ inch apart. Bake until golden, 15-20 minutes. Let cool completely on the baking sheets. Stored in an airtight container, the cookies will keep for up to 7 days.

Find Lyle’s Golden Syrup—which has faint caramel notes compared to plain-old corn syrup, and is produced by a company based in the UK—in the baking or international-foods section of your local grocery store. The amber-colored sugar-cane product can be used in place of any liquid sweetener (including honey and maple syrup).

Argentinian Alfajores (Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies)

Although the powdered sugar is optional, these sweet sandwich cookies benefit from the lovely visual finish.

Although the powdered sugar is optional, these sweet sandwich cookies benefit from the lovely visual finish. (Maura McEvoy/)

When Nick Malgieri, former executive pastry chef at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World, deems a cookie exceptional, you grab a rolling pin, stat. Malgieri’s recipe for the iconic South American sweet, which appeared in our December 2010 issue, calls for a hefty amount of cornstarch, resulting in incredibly delicate and tender wafers. Be sure to let them cool completely before sandwiching together.


Leche Sandwich Cookies

When Nick Malgieri, former executive pastry chef at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World, deems a cookie exceptional, you grab a rolling pin, stat. Malgieri’s recipe for the iconic South American sweet, which appeared in our December 2010 issue, calls for a hefty amount of cornstarch, resulting in incredibly delicate and tender wafers. Be sure to let them cool completely before sandwiching together.
Yield: makes About 20 Sandwich Cookies
Time:

1 hour, 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 23 cups cornstarch
  • 1 14 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 10 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 23 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. cognac or brandy
  • 12 tsp. inely grated lemon zest
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • Dulce de leche, for filling cookies
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, sift together the cornstarch, flour, and baking powder; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add the cognac and zest, and continue beating to incorporate. Add the yolks one at a time, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a silicone spatula after each addition to fully incorporate each yolk. Add the reserved dry ingredients, then mix on low speed, continuing to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed, until a soft dough forms.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead briefly, then divide into 3 equal-size pieces. Working 1 piece at a time and using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to ¼-inch thickness. Cut out cookies with a 2½-inch round cutter. Space the cookies 1 inch apart on parchment-paper-lined baking sheets. (Reroll scraps and repeat until all of the dough is used.) Bake, rotating halfway through, until pale golden, 12-15 minutes. Cool completely on the baking sheets.
  4. Flip half the cookies over; spread each with 1 heaping teaspoon dulce de leche. Top with the remaining cookies and dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired. Stored in an airtight container, the cookies will keep for up to 4 days.

Tunisian Makroud (Date-Filled Semolina Cookies)

To work efficiently, ask a friend or family member to dunk and garnish these Tunisian cookies as they come out of the fryer.

To work efficiently, ask a friend or family member to dunk and garnish these Tunisian cookies as they come out of the fryer. (Maura McEvoy/)

In our December 2015 issue, Ghaya Oliveira, the executive pastry chef at Daniel Boulud’s Dinex restaurant group, described the holiday sweets of her native Tunisia as “the tiniest bit of indulgence, made with the best quality ingredients.” For Oliveira’s makroud recipe, that means using fresh deglet noor or medjool dates, not dried ones.


Tunisian Makroud (Date-Filled Semolina Cookies)

In our December 2015 issue, Ghaya Oliveira, the executive pastry chef at Daniel Boulud’s Dinex restaurant group, described the holiday sweets of her native Tunisia as “the tiniest bit of indulgence, made with the best quality ingredients.” For Oliveira’s makroud recipe, that means using fresh deglet noor or medjool dates, not dried ones.
Yield: makes About 2 dozen cookies
Time:

2 hours, 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • Pinch of saffron threads, crushed
  • 14 tsp. kosher salt
  • 14 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter (½ stick), melted
  • 2 12 cups fine semolina
  • 4 oz. pitted fresh Deglet Noor or medjool dates (about ¾ cup)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 14 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 18 tsp. ground cloves
  • 18 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 14 tsp. finely grated orange zest
  • 14 tsp. kosher salt
  • 34 cup sugar
  • 12 cup honey
  • Juice of 1 medium lemon (about ¼ cup)
  • 2 Tbsp. orange-blossom water
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 3 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the saffron, salt, and ½ cup warm water. Allow to steep for 5 minutes, then add the vegetable oil, butter, and semolina, stirring until a smooth dough forms.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead briefly, then divide the dough in half. Shape each piece into a 2-inch-thick rectangle, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
  3. Meanwhile, make the filling and honey syrup. Using a food processor, purée all the filling ingredients with 2 tablespoons warm water, then divide between two small zip-lock plastic bags; set aside.
  4. In a small pot over medium heat, bring all the honey syrup ingredients plus 1 cup water to a boil; lower the heat to medium-low and cook until slightly reduced, about 20 minutes; set aside to cool.
  5. On a lightly floured work surface, unwrap 1 piece of dough and roll into a 12-inch-long rope. Using your thumb, press along the top of the rope to flatten the middle, creating a narrow trench. Snip a bottom corner off 1 of the plastic bags and pipe a thin stripe of filling into the trench, then bring the long sides up and over, pinching to seal. Roll the rope back and forth, elongating it to 18 inches, while also smoothing its seam. Flatten the rope slightly to make a ¾-inch-thick strip. Using a paring knife, trim and discard the strip’s ends, then cut it on the diagonal at every inch to create twelve 1-by-3-inch diamonds. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
  6. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the vegetable oil to 350°F. Working in batches, fry the diamonds, flipping once, until golden brown, 3-5 minutes, before immediately dunking them in the pot of honey syrup for 10 seconds. Transfer to a wire rack set over a large, rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and let cool completely. Stored in an airtight container lined with parchment paper, the cookies will keep for up to 7 days.

Orange-blossom water (and its cousin, rose water) is widely used throughout North Africa, southern France, and the Middle East, to perfume both sweet and savory dishes. Al Wadi, Mymouné, and Carlo are all reliable brands; look for them at specialty spice shops, or find them online at snukfoods.com.

Dutch Speculaas (Molded Ginger Cookies)

With coriander and white pepper, these speculaas cookies are more complexly-spiced than your classic gingerbread man.

With coriander and white pepper, these speculaas cookies are more complexly-spiced than your classic gingerbread man. (Maura McEvoy/)

A Christmas tradition throughout the Netherlands and Belgium, speculaas rely on handcarved wood molds, often called “cookie boards,” for their striking good looks. Published in Saveur’s December 2020 issue, this recipe from renowned New York City pastry chef Nick Malgieri yields a more delicately spiced gingerbread than the North American version.


Dutch Speculaas (Molded Ginger Cookies)

A Christmas tradition throughout the Netherlands and Belgium, speculaas rely on handcarved wood molds, often called “cookie boards,” for their striking good looks. Published in Saveur’s December 2020 issue, this recipe from renowned New York City pastry chef Nick Malgieri yields a more delicately spiced gingerbread than the North American version.
Yield: makes About 2 dozen cookies
Time:

2 hours, 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 12 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 12 tsp. ground cloves
  • 12 tsp. baking soda
  • 12 tsp. kosher salt
  • 14 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
  • 12 Tbsp. unsalted butter (1½ sticks), softened
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 13 cup milk

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the first 9 ingredients and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 1-2 minutes. Add half of the reserved dry ingredients and mix on low speed until combined. Using a silicone spatula, scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, then add the milk and continue mixing on low speed until combined. Scrape the bowl again, then add the remaining dry ingredients and continue mixing on low speed until combined.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, then divide the dough in half, form into 2 discs, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  4. Meanwhile, working with 1 disc at a time, break off a chunk of dough and press it into a lightly floured speculaas mold; turn the mold dough-side down, then gently thwack the edge of the mold against your work surface to release the cookie. Brush away any excess dough that clings to the mold and re-flour it before continuing with all of the remaining dough (feel free to use multiple shapes if you like). Space the cookies 2 inches apart on parchment-paper-lined baking sheets and place in the freezer just until firm, about 10 minutes. Gently brush away any excess flour from the surfaces of the cookies, then bake until golden brown, 18-20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Stored in an airtight container, the cookies will keep for up to 7 days.

Where’d You Get Those Koekplanken? There are a number of vendors selling beautiful handcarved wooden speculaas molds, or koekplanken, on Amazon (we especially like the selection from Artisans Boutique). But a word of warning about buying new: The wood will be sticky, and the cookies difficult to extract, until frequent use softens the molds’ sharp edges. So you might wanna case eBay and Etsy for pre-seasoned vintage options. Wherever you look, a search for “cookie board,” or “speculaas mold,” will lead to a wide assortment of new and used options. The truly impatient can also cheat, achieving a similar effect by shaping the dough into balls and pressing them with a lightly floured cookie stamp.

Iraqi Lemon Cardamom Cookies

These delicate cookies can be cut into any shape, but make sure to adjust the baking time to the size of the cookie.

These delicate cookies can be cut into any shape, but make sure to adjust the baking time to the size of the cookie. (Maura McEvoy/)

In our February/March 2017 issue, Jessica Soffer wrote movingly about her Baghdad-born father’s battle with cancer, and how she coped by nursing his ailing potted lemon tree, named Maralyn, back to life. Fruit from a revived Maralyn informed these cookies, based on Middle Eastern sweets Soffer’s dad, Sasson, enjoyed as a boy.


Iraqi Lemon Cardamom Cookies

In our February/March 2017 issue, Jessica Soffer wrote movingly about her Baghdad-born father’s battle with cancer, and how she coped by nursing his ailing potted lemon tree, named Maralyn, back to life. Fruit from a revived Maralyn informed these cookies, based on Middle Eastern sweets Soffer’s dad, Sasson, enjoyed as a boy.
Yield: makes About 30 Cookies
Time:

3 hours, 40 minutes

For the cookies:

  • 2 cups plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 12 tsp. kosher salt
  • 16 Tbsp. unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 13 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 14 cup minced, candied lemon peel (store-bought or homemade, plus more for garnish

For the glaze:

  • 1 confectioners’ sugar
  • Juice of ¾ of a medium lemon (3 Tbsp.)
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the first 4 ingredients and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 1-2 minutes. Add the vanilla and lemon zest, and continue beating to incorporate. Add the lemon peel and the reserved dry ingredients, then mix on low speed, using a silicone spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed, until a crumbly dough forms, about 2 minutes.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, then divide the dough in half, form into 2 discs, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.
  3. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
  4. Lightly flour a clean work surface and rolling pin. Working 1 disc at a time, roll the dough out to ¼-inch thickness. Cut out cookies with a 2-inch round cutter, and space 1 inch apart on parchment-paper-lined baking sheets. Repeat with the other half of the dough, then reroll the scraps once to continue cutting more cookies. Bake, rotating halfway through, until golden brown, 18-22 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. Meanwhile, make the glaze: In a medium bowl, whisk together all the glaze ingredients until no lumps remain. Once the cookies are cooled, dunk the bottom third of each cookie into the glaze, letting any excess drip back into the bowl. Return the cookies to the wire rack, top each with a piece or two of candied peel, and set the rack of cookies aside until the glaze is completely dried. Stored in an airtight container, the cookies will keep for up to 7 days.

Home -Candied Lemon Peel While it’s fine to top these cookies with store-bought candied lemon peel, all you need to make your own is a few lemons and a cup of sugar. You have to plan ahead, though, because the candied peel takes at least an hour to dry. Cut and discard the top and bottom ends of two large lemons. Using a sharp vegetable peeler and following the curves of the lemons, cut away the outermost part of the peel in wide strips. Trim away and discard any remaining white pith from the peel, then very thinly slice the strips lengthwise. (You should have about ½ cup.) Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and place a fine-mesh wire rack on top; set next to the stove. To a small pot of boiling water, add the sliced peel. Lower the heat to simmer and cook just until tender, 15-20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the peel to the prepared rack (discarding the cooking liquid) and distribute into a single layer. Let dry for 15 minutes. In the same pot, stir together 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water; bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the sugar is dissolved, 1-2 minutes. Add the peel and cook, stirring occasionally, until it looks translucent and the syrup is thickened, 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and use the slotted spoon to transfer the candied peel back to the wire rack, leaving a bit of space between each piece. Set the rack aside until the peel is mostly dried and firm, about 1 hour. Save the lemon syrup for another use. (Lemon drop cocktails, maybe?) Toss the peels in additional sugar before finely mincing ¼ cup for the cookie dough; reserve the remainder for garnish. Stored in an airtight container at cool room temperature, the candied peel will keep for up to 30 days.

Macanese Beijinhos de Coco (Coconut Cookies)

As you roll these coconut kisses, keep a bowl of water nearby; You’ll want to re-moisten your hands after every few.

As you roll these coconut kisses, keep a bowl of water nearby; You’ll want to re-moisten your hands after every few. (Maura McEvoy/)

Though writer and chef Rosa de Carvalho Ross was born and raised in Hong Kong, her family has roots in Macao almost as old as the region itself. As a child, she returned there often, and recalls eating these cookies, which are traditionally packaged in lacy paper wrappers called cortadinhas at weddings and other celebrations. Ross shared her recipe for the popular Macanese treat in an article for our March 1999 issue.


Macanese Beijinhos de Coco (Coconut Cookies)

Though writer and chef Rosa de Carvalho Ross was born and raised in Hong Kong, her family has roots in Macao almost as old as the region itself. As a child, she returned there often, and recalls eating these cookies, which are traditionally packaged in lacy paper wrappers called cortadinhas at weddings and other celebrations. Ross shared her recipe for the popular Macanese treat in an article for our March 1999 issue.
Yield: makes 24 Cookies
Time:

25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unsweetened finely shredded coconut
  • 12 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter (½ stick), melted
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir all the ingredients together. Using a ½-ounce scoop or a packed tablespoon, divide the dough into 24 pieces. Moisten your hands and roll the pieces into smooth balls. Space the balls 2 inches apart on parchment-paper-lined baking sheets and bake, rotating halfway through, until golden, 15-18 minutes. Cool completely on the baking sheets. Stored in an airtight container, the cookies will keep for up to 5 days.

Cortadinhas Given as favors to guests at weddings, birthday parties, christenings, and first communions, Macanese Beijinhos de Coco, or “coconut kisses,” are traditionally wrapped in intricately cut papers called cortadinhas. “We used to sit around the kitchen table at night and cut them until our fingers were sore,” says Ross of the lacy trappings. “Sadly, it’s a dying tradition today.” For her daughter Sarah’s wedding, the author’s sisters, Raquel and Monica, surprised the bride with dozens of cortadinhas. “They had worked for many nights,” Ross wrote, “laughing and gossiping and cutting, to bring us a piece of our past.”



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