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STATEWIDE — Regardless of whether or not you are waiting on Santa this holiday season, you might be preparing to bake some cookies for your friends and family.

If so, there are many sweet staples that are popular at this time of year.  A few of these are included in this article.

And, if you are not a prodigious home baker, there are other options for you around the state.  Central Indiana bakeries like Confectioneiress Cupcakes & Sweets (Zionsville), My Sugar Pie (Zionsville), The Flying Cupcake (multiple locations), Rene’s Bakery (Broad Ripple), and Amelia’s Bread (Indianapolis) might be able to help you.

Note: All included recipes are coming from The New York Times Cooking website.  Full access to this site and its recipes is included with certain NY Times subscription packages.


Sparkling Shortbread Cookies (Makes 36)

Dough Ingredients:

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg yolk

2½ cups all-purpose flour

Decoration Ingredients:

1 large egg white, beaten

½ cup decorative sugar


1. Make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugar and salt.  Beat on low speed until incorporated and smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, about 3 minutes.  (Do not beat until fluffy, you don’t need to incorporate air into the dough.)  Add the egg yolk and mix until just combined.  Turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

2. Add the flour to the bowl all at once and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.  Turn the mixer speed to low and beat until flour is fully incorporated, scraping the bowl again if needed, about 30 seconds.  The dough will be in large crumbles.

3. (If you’re starting with a half batch of Butter Shortbread Dough, start here.)  Form the dough into two 9-inch logs.  Wrap each log firmly in a strip of parchment paper and twist the ends shut.  Refrigerate until the dough is firm enough to slice, about 30 minutes and up to 3 days.

4. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

5. Brush the surface of each log all over with the egg white.  Sprinkle a sheet of parchment paper with the decorative sugar and roll the log in the sugar to completely coat.  Slice each log into ½-inch rounds.  Lay the rounds on the prepared baking sheet, spacing at least ½ inch apart.

6. Bake until the cookies are golden at the bottom edges, rotating once halfway through baking, about 22 minutes.  Move the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.  The baked cookies can also be stored frozen in an airtight container for up to 10 days.  Thaw at room temperature before serving.


Frosted Holiday Sugar Cookies (Makes 48)

Dough Ingredients:

2½ cups all-purpose flour, more for rolling

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1½ cups confectioners’ sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 large egg

Icing Ingredients:

3 ¾ cups confectioners’ sugar

3 large egg whites

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

Pinch of kosher salt

Food coloring, as needed


1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Beat in vanilla, then beat in egg.

3. Add flour mixture and beat until just combined.  Divide the dough in half, pat into flat rectangles, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours.

4. Divide each dough parcel in half, and roll out to ⅛-inch thickness between two sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap.  Repeat with remaining dough.  Chill until firm, about 20 minutes.

5. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line four cookie sheets with parchment paper, sprinkling with a little flour if the dough seems sticky.  Cut out shapes from the rolled and chilled dough and place on prepared sheets 1-inch apart.  Bake until golden around the edges, 8 to 13 minutes.  Let cool.

6. Meanwhile, prepare the royal icing: in the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar, egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt.  Whisk until stiff and glossy.

7. To tint the frosting, divide into small bowls.  Cover the ones you aren’t using with plastic wrap; the frosting dries out very quickly.  Use a rubber spatula to stir in desired food coloring.  Though not necessary, it makes life easier if you make two versions of each color – one that is thick to pipe the outline on the cookie, and one that is thinned out slightly with a little water to flood the outline.  Transfer frosting to piping bags fitted with very small round tips (sizes 1 to 2 work best).

8. Pipe frosting onto cooled cookies and let set, at least 2 hours.  Or use a pastry of paint brush to decorate cookies with the frosting.


Gingerbread Cookies (Makes 36)

Dough Ingredients:

1 cup light brown sugar

1 cup light molasses

1 cup vegetable shortening

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 egg, lightly beaten

¼ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

4 to 4½ cups all-purpose flour, more for rolling dough

Decoration Ingredients:

Royal icing and cinnamon candies, optional


1. In a small saucepan, combine brown sugar, molasses and shortening.  Place over medium-low heat and stir just until mixture is melted and smooth.  Remove from heat and mix in baking soda and ¼ cup cold water.  Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.

2. Add egg, salt, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon and cloves; stir to mix well.  Add 4 cups flour and mix well, adding up to ½ cup more if dough seems sticky.  Shape into a ball, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to 24 hours.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to ¼-inch thickness, and cut into gingerbread boy shapes with a 5-inch-long cookie cutter.  Arrange on baking sheets 1½ inches apart, and bake until risen and no longer shiny, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow cookies to cool.  If desired, decorate with royal icing and cinnamon candies.  Store in an airtight container.


Vanilla Bean Spritz Cookies (Makes 48)

Dough Ingredients:

1 cup unsalted butter, preferably cultured, softened

½ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup light brown sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or use 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or orange zest, ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon or cardamom, or ½ teaspoon almond extract (optional)

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

Decorative sugar, for sprinkling


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a handheld electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the egg, vanilla and the zest, spices or almond extract (if using), and mix until well combined and smooth.

2. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add flour and salt until just incorporated.

3. Load dough into a cookie press.  Following the directions that came with your cookie press (models can vary), push the dough onto ungreased baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between cookies.  Sprinkle cookies with decorative sugar.

4. Bake until firm to touch and golden brown at edges, about 12 to 17 minutes.  Transfer cookies onto a wire rack to cool completely.


No-Bake Chocolate Clusters (Makes 40)

Dough Ingredients:

6 or 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks

12 ounces white chocolate bars (chopped), or semisweet chocolate chips

4 cups cornflakes

1 cup moist, plump dried cranberries

⅓ cup unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)

Fleur de sel or fine sea salt, for finishing

Sprinkles, for finishing (optional)


1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat or with 40 mini-muffin liners.

2. If you’re using white chocolate, use 6 tablespoons butter.  For semisweet chocolate, use 8 tablespoons butter.  Put the butter in a small saucepan, top with the chocolate and cook over very low heat, stirring almost constantly, until smooth.  (Alternatively, you can stir in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water or in a microwave-safe bowl in a microwave, stirring in 20-second increments.)

3. Meanwhile, toss the cornflakes, cranberries and coconut, if using, in a large bowl.  Pour over the melted chocolate and gently stir in with a flexible spatula.  Some of the cereal will break — it’s inevitable — but keep working until you’ve coated all of the flakes.

4. Use a medium cookie scoop or two spoons to shape sweets either on the lined baking sheet or in the paper liners.  Gently press the mixture into the scoop or a spoon, binding the elements, before releasing the scoop or scraping the mixture off the spoon with another spoon onto the sheet or into the liners.  Finish with salt and sprinkles, if using.

5. Refrigerate or freeze for about 30 minutes, or until set, before serving.  To keep, cover and refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for up to a month.  These are good straight from the fridge or just a few minutes out of the freezer.


Rugelach (Makes 36)

Dough Ingredients:

4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces

1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

1 cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

Filling Ingredients:

⅔ cup raspberry jam, apricot jam or marmalade

2 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ cup chopped nuts (Pecans, walnuts or almonds)

¼ cup plump, moist dried currants

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or ⅔ cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

Glaze Ingredients:

1 large egg

1 teaspoon cold water

2 tablespoons sugar, preferably decorating (coarse) sugar


1. To make the dough: Let the cream cheese and butter rest on the counter for 10 minutes — you want them to be slightly softened but still cool.

2. Put the flour and salt in a food processor, scatter over the chunks of cream cheese and butter and pulse the machine 6 to 10 times.  Then process, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, just until the dough forms large curds — don’t work it so long that it forms a ball on the blade.

3. Turn the dough out, gather it into a ball and divide it in half.  Shape each half into a disk, wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day.  (Wrapped airtight, the dough can be frozen for up to 2 months.)

4. To make the filling: Heat the jam in a saucepan over low heat, or do this in a microwave, until it liquefies.  Mix the sugar and cinnamon together.

5. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.  (Silicone baking mats are great for rugelach.)

6. To shape the cookies: Pull one packet of dough from the refrigerator.  If it is too firm to roll easily, either leave it on the counter for about 10 minutes or give it a few bashes with your rolling pin.

7. Working on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 11- to 12-inch circle.  Spoon (or brush) a thin gloss of jam over the dough, and sprinkle over half of the cinnamon sugar.  Scatter over half of the nuts, half of the currants and half of the chopped chocolate.  Cover the filling with a piece of wax paper and gently press the filling into the dough, then remove the paper and save it for the next batch.

8. Using a pizza wheel or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 16 wedges, or triangles.  (The easiest way to do this is to cut the dough into quarters, then to cut each quarter into 4 triangles.)  Starting at the base of each triangle, roll the dough up so that each cookie becomes a little crescent.  Arrange the roll-ups on one baking sheet, making sure the points are tucked under the cookies, and refrigerate.  Repeat with the second packet of dough and refrigerate the cookies for at least 30 minutes before baking.  (The cookies can be covered and refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to 2 months; don’t defrost before baking, just add a couple of extra minutes to the baking time.)

9. Getting ready to bake: Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

10. To finish: Stir the egg and water together and brush a bit of this glaze over each rugelach.  Sprinkle the cookies with sugar.

11. Bake the cookies 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until they are puffed and golden.  Transfer the cookies to racks to cool to just warm or to room temperature.