As children, we loved sugar cookies, cut into fun shapes, frosted and sprinkled. But as we grew up, we often opted for more sophisticated cookies, such as macaroons, madeleines and meringues. Happily, Christmas cookie trays usually feature our childhood favorites snuggled up against rum balls and pecan tarts and myriad other treats. This wide-ranging selection is a siren song at parties, drawing people together to peer and muse, consider and choose. We asked a few home bakers to share a special cookie recipe with us. Perhaps you’ll find one to add to your own holiday tray.

cookies_maple

Family recipe is easy to make

Four generations of Pat Perkins’ family have loved the maple cream cookie.

“I called all the kids and asked, what’s your favorite cookie I make and they all said the maple cream,” Perkins said. “My grandmother made these.”

This drop cookie is frosted in maple-scented icing.

“You don’t have to press them or roll or cut out,” she said. “I like it because it’s easy to do, with ingredients you have in your pantry.”

MAPLE CREAM COOKIESS
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans

Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer. Add eggs, beating well. In separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture, alternating with sour cream, vanilla and nuts. Mix until well blended. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Yields 3 dozen cookies. Frost with maple icing.

MAPLE ICING:
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring
1/4 cup melted butter

Blend until smooth.

cookies_sheri

This cookie recipe is great as a fall or winter treat

Although she cooks all day at work, Sheri Dawson still bakes at home. Dawson, sous chef at the University Center at Kent State’s Stark campus, is known for sharing her homemade cookies with the building staff.

“It’s a fall tradition to bring in gingersnaps and pumpkin dip,” Dawson said, but admits she makes the molasses-laced cookies year-round. She serves the cookies with a creamy dip made of pumpkin, confectioners’ sugar and cream cheese.

“I serve it in a little hollowed-out pie pumpkin,” Dawson said. Her recipe makes four to five dozen soft, chewy cookies — enough to share.

GINGERSNAP COOKIES
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light molasses
2 eggs
1 cup sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices. In large bowl, combine butter, sugar, molasses and eggs. Cream with electric mixer until thoroughly mixed. Add in dry ingredients; mix well. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until dough is firm; about 1-2 hours. Pinch off dough about the size of a walnut. Roll into ball, then roll in granulated sugar. Space about 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes. Place cookies on cooling rack. Serve with pumpkin dip if desired.

PUMPKIN DIP:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
8-oz. package cream cheese, softened
15-oz. can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger

Combine sugar and cream cheese, beating until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and serve. Refrigerate until served. For fall, you also can pour into a fresh pie pumpkin that has been hollowed out.

cookies_clothespins

A little offseason baking turned into side business

Theresa Headley’s family owns Sable Creek Golf Course in Marlboro Township. Eight years ago, she and her mother, Mary Frase, started baking cookies in the offseason.

“It started just baking for friends,” Headley said. “Then I said, ‘Why don’t I put fliers out at schools and in office buildings?’ I thought working moms might be interested.”

They were. The two women now make up to 500 dozen cookies in November and December.

“It’s insane! We do 10 different kinds,” Headley said. “It’s not big money, but a nice little winter income for Mom and I.”

Headley shared their recipe for her favorite cookie they make, called the “clothespin.”

“People used to roll them on (wooden) clothespins, but Mom uses dowel rods now,” she said. “This one takes the most time because you have to roll the dough thin, wrap it on the rod, bake them on the rod so it makes a tube, then fill them with cream.”

CLOTHESPIN COOKIES
1 pound butter, softened, divided
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon white sugar
2 egg yolks
1 1/4 cup cold water

Filling:
1 cup milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups shortening
8 cups confectioners’ sugar
7-oz. jar marshmallow cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix 1/4 pound of the butter with 3 cups of flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, egg yolks, and water with pastry cutter, as you would pie dough. Chill for one hour, then roll out on a floured pastry sheet or board. Spread 1/4 pound of the butter over dough. Fold dough together and refrigerate one hour. Repeat this procedure until all the butter is used. Divide dough into fourths, wrapping each in plastic wrap. Chill.Take dough out one package at a time and allow to stand at room temperature to soften enough to handle. Roll dough on floured surface to 1/4 inch or thinner, similar to pie crust. Cut dough into 1/2-inch-wide by 4-inchlong strips. Wrap around dowel pins (5/8-inch dowels), pinching ends. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes until lightly browned. Slide off sticks while still very warm, then cool completely.

Filling: In a sauce pan over medium heat, cook milk and flour until thick, stirring constantly. Let cool. Cream together shortening, confectioners’ sugar, marshmallow cream and vanilla. Add cooked mixture to creamed mixture and beat until fluffy. Fill cooled pastry curls with filling.

cookies_yule

You’ll love the yule logs

Renee Kessler bakes cookies for Christmas, but she also bakes throughout the year for weddings, baby showers and other parties.

“I’ve done this for the last 20 years, always out of my home,” said Kessler, who dubbed her business the Busy Mom’s Bake Shop.

“My most unusual customers are a funeral home and cemetery. They’ll have a memorial service and ask for large trays of cookies to put out.”

Kessler makes 15 different kinds of cookies, including pecan tarts. For Christmas, she recommends the Yule Log cookies.

“They’re a little bit spicy with nutmeg and rum,” she said. “And I sparkle them up with glitter and little cutout holly leaves.”

YULE LOGS
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 egg
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with electric mixer on medium-high speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, brown sugar, nutmeg and ginger. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg, rum and vanilla until combined. Beat in flour until combined. Divide dough into six equal sections. Wrap dough portions in plastic wrap and chill about 30 minutes or until easy to handle. On a lightly floured surface, shape each dough portion into a 1/2-inch-thick rope. Cut ropes into 3-inch logs. Place logs 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake about 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer to wire rack and cool.

Browned butter frosting: In small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup butter over low heat until melted. Continue heating until butter turns a delicate brown. Remove from heat and pour into medium mixing bowl. Add 5 cups sifted powdered sugar, 1/4 cup milk, and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Beat on low speed until combined. Beat on medium to high speed, adding additional milk (1 to 2 tablespoons) as necessary, until spreading consistency. To decorate: Spread frosting on each cookie. Run a fork lengthwise along top so frosting resembles bark. Sprinkle lightly with petal dust or ground nutmeg. Add holly and berries made from icing.