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The Incredible SUGAR COOKIE!

Transform a basic batch of dough into four festive treats

Red Velvet Swirl

Almond Sugar Shapes

Chocolate Peppermint

Melted Hot Cocoa

Basic Sugar Cookies

16 tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

¾ cup sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface

¼ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Beat the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla. Reduce mixer speed to low.

2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl, and add it slowly to the butter mixture, mixing until just incorporated (the dough will be stiff). Shape into a flat 1-in.-thick disk. Refrigerate, wrapped, for 1 hour.

3. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to ¼ in. thick. Cut into shapes and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. The scraps can be combined and rolled out again. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges are a light golden brown. Cool slightly on the baking sheets before transferring to cooling racks.

Makes: About 3 dozen medium cookies

Prep time: 30 minutes, plus chilling

Cook time: 36 minutes

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

The author of Joy the Baker Homemade Decadence combines two holiday flavors

Prep 1 batch basic cookie dough and shape using your favorite cookie cutters. Bake and cool completely. To decorate, coarsely crush candy canes, then pulse a heaping ½ cup of the candies in a food processor to grind. Set aside. Place 2 cups melted dark chocolate in a small but deep bowl. Dip each cookie halfway (or desired amount) into the melted chocolate. Gently shake off any excess and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Immediately sprinkle with crushed candy canes. Let cookies stand at room temperature until the chocolate sets.

Red Velvet Swirl Cookies

The host of Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship gives dessert a new spin

Prep 1 batch basic cookie dough and transfer all but ¾ cup of the dough to a piece of lightly floured parchment; shape into a 10-in. square. Chill for 20 minutes. Add 2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 tsp. red food coloring to the reserved dough and mix until bright red. Shape the red dough into a rectangle, pressing by hand. Place dough between two sheets of waxed paper; roll to a 10-in. square. Remove top piece of waxed paper, and invert red dough onto plain dough. Discard waxed paper. Roll dough to an even thickness, then tightly roll into a cylinder. Spread ¼ cup course red sanding sugar on a baking sheet. Roll the cylinder in the sugar until coated. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until very firm, about 30 minutes. Slice the dough into ¼-in.-thick rounds and bake as directed, 12 to 14 minutes.

Cookie Swap Sugar Cookies

The chef and cookbook author adds a splash of holiday color

Prep 1 batch basic cookie dough, adding 1 tsp. almond extract with the vanilla. Cut dough with cookie cutters. Bake as directed and cool completely on wire racks. To decorate, tint 1 (12 oz.) can of vanilla frosting to desired shade of red. Tint 1 (12 oz.) can of vanilla frosting to desired shade of green. Microwave frosting in 20-second increments, stirring after each, until frosting is of pouring consistency. Arrange cookies on wire racks, about 1 in. apart. Slowly pour frosting over cookies. Let cookies stand 10 minutes, or until set. Use a pastry bag to outline cookies with more frosting, and add colored sanding sugar, sugar pearls, dragées and sprinkles.

Melted Hot Cocoa Cookies

The chef and creator of Duff Goldman by Gartner Studios bakeware whips up a chocolate lover’s dream

In step 1, add 2 tbsp. molasses with the butter and sugar. In step 2, add 3 tbsp. of hot cocoa mix, a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of instant coffee to the flour mixture. Bake as directed. Before the cookies have cooled, add a dollop of marshmallow crème to the tops and broil them in the oven for 20 to 30 seconds so the marshmallow toasts slightly. Serve immediately.

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