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Best Christmas cookies for the holidays


(CNN) —  

In a year that has turned many lives upside down, keeping a favorite tradition intact helps things feel normal on at least one level. Enter: Christmas cookies. Even if making cookies isn’t a tradition, or you’re looking for a new, better recipe than you’ve used in the past, we have some yummy recipes, tips and trinkets to add seriously satisfying holiday spirit, like, today.

John Kanell of Preppy Kitchen fame says, “Making Christmas cookies together, boxing them up to give out and enjoying them creates special memories that I treasure all year round.”

Samantha Merritt of Sugar Spun Run agrees that making memories is a big part of the fun of baking Christmas cookies and adds, “I love how comfortingly ritualistic the process is while still allowing for so much creativity!”

It’s time to sink our teeth into these three classic recipes followed by the tools of the trade and adorable cookie jars too. (And if you’re not up for braving the supermarket aisles, you can always check Instacart for any last-minute ingredients from your local stores.)

Preppy Kitchen

Preppy Kitchen’s Peanut Butter Christmas Cookies

PHOTO:
John Kanell of Preppy Kitchen

“Using a processed peanut butter is easier for this recipe. If using a natural peanut butter, make sure to stir thoroughly. Most peanut butters are salted, but if you’re using an unsalted variety, add about 3/4 teaspoon sea salt to the batter,” says Kanell about his favorite Peanut Butter Christmas Cookie recipe.

Peanut butter cookie ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

See the full instructions for making peanut butter cookies.

Sugar Spun Run

Sugar Spun Run’s Easy Iced Sugar Cookies

PHOTO:
Samantha Merritt of Sugar Spun Run

Merritt’s Easy Iced Sugar Cookies are the stuff that kids dream of (and adults too — who are we kidding?). She advises that when making these festive classics, “Your butter should be soft, but not so soft that the surface is oily” and “Chill the dough! I know, it’s hard to be patient, and it’s so tempting to skip this step, but it’s important. This allows the butter to re-solidify and keeps the cookies from spreading in the oven.”

Sugar cookie ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

Sugar cookie frosting ingredients

  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Gel food coloring optional

See the full instructions for making easy sugar cookies and icing.

Preppy Kitchen

Preppy Kitchen’s Italian Pizzelle Cookies

PHOTO:
John Kanell of Preppy Kitchen

Classic and crisp, these pretty Italian pizzelle cookies will stay fresh longer than most cookies, which makes them great for sharing during the holidays when people tend to make and have more treats than usual to nosh through.

Kanell says you don’t just have to think of these as cookies. “These also make great mini ice cream cones,” he says. “Roll them around a cone-shaped form just after coming out of the iron, then allow to set. You can make a cone out of cardboard or foil if you don’t have one hanging around.”

Italian pizzelle ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon anise seed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar

See the full instructions for how to make Italian Christmas cookies.

Homy Feel Round Cookie Cutter, 12-Pack ($10.99; amazon.com)

Homy Feel Round Cookie Cutter, 12-Pack

Homy Feel Round Cookie Cutter, 12-Pack

PHOTO:
Amazon

“I have dozens of cookie cutters, but my all-time favorite is this set of graduated circle cutters,” says Kanell. “Perfect for cutting cookies, but you can also use them to ‘fix’ misshapen cookies. Corral the cookies into perfect circles just after coming out of the oven using tight circular motions.”

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Threshold Stainless Steel Cookie Cutter ($1; target.com)

Threshold Stainless Steel Cookie Cutter

Threshold Stainless Steel Cookie Cutter

PHOTO:
Target

Decorating cookies — whether made of gingerbread, sugar cookie or anything else — with icing and candy is a classic for a reason… It’s fun! These cookie cutters have a plastic covering along the top so that it doesn’t hurt as much to cut out a lot of them in one go, and we love that they’re available in patterns like stockings, Santas, stars, ornaments and more.

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Liliao Christmas Winter Ugly Sweater Cookie Cutter ($5.99; amazon.com)

Liliao Christmas Winter Ugly Sweater Cookie Cutter

Liliao Christmas Winter Ugly Sweater Cookie Cutter

PHOTO:
Amazon

Ugly Christmas sweaters have become a tradition in and of themselves, so why not extend that into the cookie decorating festivities?

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Ann Clark Extra-Large Vintage Pickup Truck With Christmas Tree Cookie Cutter ($6.99; amazon.com)

Ann Clark Extra-Large Vintage Pickup Truck With Christmas Tree Cookie Cutter

Ann Clark Extra-Large Vintage Pickup Truck With Christmas Tree Cookie Cutter

PHOTO:
Amazon

The Christmas tree truck continues to inspire vintage cuteness with this cute stainless steel cookie cutter. “I prefer metal cookie cutters to plastic ones because the lines are always more defined, and I personally find them easier to use,” says Merritt.

KitchenAid 4.5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer ($259.99; target.com)

KitchenAid 4.5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer

KitchenAid 4.5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer

PHOTO:
Target

A KitchenAid stand mixer is the crown jewel of many kitchen countertops, but it’s not just pretty. “This is an all-purpose workhorse that I use every day,” shares Kanell.

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Luminarc Stackable Glass Bowls, 10-Piece Set ($34.27; amazon.com)

Luminarc Stackable Glass Bowl 10-Piece Set

Luminarc Stackable Glass Bowl 10-Piece Set

PHOTO:
Amazon

Kanell loves using these bowls. “Graduated glass bowls are great for baking and do not take up a lot of storage space,” he says.

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Escali Arti Glass Digital LCD Display Kitchen Scale ($25.99, originally $29.99; amazon.com)

Escali Arti Glass Digital LCD Display Kitchen Scale

Escali Arti Glass Digital LCD Display Kitchen Scale

PHOTO:
Amazon

Merritt advises, “Measure your flour properly. Many home bakers are accidentally over-measuring their flour by scooping it with their measuring cup. This packs too much flour into the cup and ultimately leaves you with dry, crumbly dough that cracks when you try to roll it. Instead, stir your flour, spoon it into the measuring cup, then level it off. Or, better yet, use a scale!”

This is the scale that we’ve used and love. Plus, it comes in so many fun colors!

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Joseph Joseph Adjustable Rolling Pin With Removable Rings ($19.99; amazon.com)

Joseph Joseph Adjustable Rolling Pin With Removable Rings

Joseph Joseph Adjustable Rolling Pin With Removable Rings

PHOTO:
Amazon

Create cookies with perfectly uniform thickness — so that they all bake evenly — by using the bands on this handy rolling pin. Merritt adds that, “If your dough seems sticky while you’re rolling it out, don’t panic. Now is the time to be more liberal with the flour! Lightly dust your counter, the dough and the rolling pin as needed.”

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Nordic Ware Half Sheet With Oven-Safe Nonstick Grid, 2-Piece Set ($30; amazon.com)

Nordic Ware Half Sheet With Oven-Safe Nonstick Grid, 2-Piece Set

Nordic Ware Half Sheet With Oven-Safe Nonstick Grid, 2-Piece Set

PHOTO:
Amazon

Cookie sheets with removable grid inserts that double as cooling racks are a must-have for any serious home cook or baker.

However, you should “never place cookie dough on a hot or warm cookie sheet,” warns Merritt. “The cookies will start to melt before they hit the oven, causing them to spread and lose their shape.”

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Dash Mini Pizzelle Maker ($17.99, originally $19.99; kohls.com)

Dash Mini Pizzelle Maker

Dash Mini Pizzelle Maker

PHOTO:
Kohls

Kanell shares that you should “place the batter a bit closer to the pizzelle maker’s center; when it shuts, the batter will be squeezed just to the edge.”

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Wilton Gel-Based Food Color, 12-Pack ($15.59; amazon.com)

Wilton Gel-Based Food Color, 12-Pack

Wilton Gel-Based Food Color, 12-Pack

PHOTO:
Amazon

Merritt says that she prefers using gel food color for coloring homemade sugar cookie icing.

’Twas Santa Cookie Jar ($69.95; williamssonoma.com)

‘Twas Santa Cookie Jar

PHOTO:
Williams Sonoma

Of course, the big man himself has to make an appearance, and this exclusive cookie jar at Williams-Sonoma shows Santa sipping his cocoa and checking his list twice — just as he should be.

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Lenox Balsam Lane Cookie Jar ($39.99, originally $100; macys.com)

Lenox Balsam Lane Cookie Jar

Lenox Balsam Lane Cookie Jar

PHOTO:
Macys

If a cookie jar that’s easy to reach into — and fill — is important to you, this classy, cozy cabin from Lenox is a no-brainer.

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Mr. Christmas Nostalgic Lighted Cookie Jar ($40.99; bedbathandbeyond.com)

Mr. Christmas Nostalgic Lighted Cookie Jar

Mr. Christmas Nostalgic Lighted Cookie Jar

PHOTO:
Bed Bath & Beyond

It might seem understated at first glance, but flip the switch on the lighted Christmas tree topper (that takes two AAA batteries) and prepare to be dazzled as much by the jar as by the cookies inside.

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Martha Stewart Collection Snowman Figural Cookie Jar ($31.93, originally $80; macys.com)

Martha Stewart Collection Snowman Figural Cookie Jar

Martha Stewart Collection Snowman Figural Cookie Jar

PHOTO:
Macys

No roundup of Christmas cookie jars would be complete without a snowman in the wintry mix. This one is from the hostess with the mostess, Martha Stewart.



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