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Holiday Cookie Time!

Does your family leave cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve? You are not alone as millions of families worldwide have participated in a variation of the tradition for centuries.  If you are looking for a new recipe to try out we’ve got you covered.

Here in the US, leaving cookies and milk became popular in the 1930s, during the Great Depression. It is thought that parents at the time were trying to teach their children the importance of giving to others and to show gratitude for the gifts they were fortunate enough to receive on Christmas.

Almost a century later, many families still leave an offering out for Santa, the most popular treat being Oreos and chocolate chip. If you want to mix things up a bit, we have some holiday cookie recipes sure to entice Santa to leave an extra present or two under the tree.

These cookies are, of course, also great for sharing at holiday parties, giving as gifts, or just eating for fun.

Chocolate Dipped Macaroons

When Santa heads to Annapolis, he may be delighted by the treats at the Buckley house. When asked for his favorite cookie, the Mayor offered his recipe for Chocolate Dipped Macaroons.

GettyImages 483321745Ingredients:
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 teaspoon rum extract
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 large egg white
3 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
1 (4 oz) bar dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine condensed milk, extracts, salt and egg white and whisk until thoroughly combined. Add most of the coconut (reserve some to roll the cookies in after formed). Mix with a spatula until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Using a spoon or small scoop, form the mixture into balls. Roll the balls in the remaining coconut. Space the cookies on a lined baking sheet (silicone or parchment). Bake for about 20 minutes. Let cool at least for about a half-hour.

Microwave the chocolate bar (or heat in a double boiler). Dip the base of each cooled cookie into the chocolate. Place on dry parchment, chocolate side down. Cool completely (until chocolate rehardens).

Shrewsbury Cakes (Cookies)

Robin Matty, Curator of Collections for Historic Annapolis, suggests a traditional Maryland recipe similar to the sugar cookies of today. “Cookies, as we call them today, were referred to as “small cakes” in the 18th century,” says Matty. In the 18th century refined sugar was considered a luxury item and not as pure as the sugar we know today. It came in a conical shape and wrapped in blue paper, which would brighten and whiten the appearance of the sugar. 

The recipe is adapted from Mrs. Charles Carroll’s 18th-century account book, held at the Maryland Historical Society (printed in booklet, Maryland Recipes: in honor of the Bicentennial, by BGE, 1976). 


1 ½ pounds of flour (approximately 5 cups of white all purpose flour)
1 pound of sugar (approximately 2 cups of white sugar)
4 eggs
4 tablespoons of cream
4 tablespoons of rose water

Sift together flour and sugar. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and add the cream and rose water. Mix with flour and sugar until it makes a paste and chill. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll very thin on a floured surface and cut to desired shape. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for about 6 minutes. 

GettyImages 1180407017Molded Ginger Cookies (Speculaas)

Local Annapolis food historian, blogger and foodways consultant Joyce White offers up a specialty of the Netherlands and Belgium. “These are cousins of gingerbread, only lighter and more delicately spiced,” shares White. Intricately carved wooden molds are used to make them, which form the cookies into bas-relief images of characters and symbols from stories about Saint Nicholas.

3 cups flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1⁄2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground ginger
1⁄2 tsp. ground cloves
1⁄2 tsp. baking soda
1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
1⁄4 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1⁄3 cup milk

In a bowl, whisk together flour, spices, baking soda, salt, and white pepper; set aside. In a mixer, beat together butter and sugar. Add half the flour mixture; mix. Add milk and remaining flour mixture; mix. Form into 2 disks. Chill, covered, for 2 hours. 

Preheat oven to 350°. Working with 1 disk at a time, break off chunks and press into a floured speculaas mold; scrape away excess dough and invert mold to free dough. Brush away flour from mold. Transfer imprinted dough pieces to parchment paper-lined baking sheets, spacing pieces 2″ apart. Bake until golden brown, 16–18 minutes. Let cool.

GettyImages 184620839Sugar Cookies

What would the holidays be without sugar cookies! My mother, Eleanor Hatcherson, grew up in South Baltimore and though the kitchen was small, there was always room to make cookies. Here is our family sugar cookie recipe.


1 lb butter
6 eggs
8 cups flour
4 cups sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla
4 tsp. baking powder
green and red sugar sprinkles

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cream softened butter with a hand mixer and gradually add sugar. Add eggs and vanilla, continuing to cream with mixer. In a separate bowl, mix together flour and baking powder. Gradually add to the cream mixture and blend with a mixing spatula until it forms a dough. Sprinkle flour onto the surface where you will roll out the dough. Coat your hands and rolling pin with flout as well. Roll out a little bit of dough at a time to desired thickness and cut with cookie cutters. Place on cookie sheet and sprinkle with sugar sprinkles. Bake for about 8 or 10 minutes (the thinner your cookies, the quicker they will bake.)

If you want to ask Santa in person what his favorite cookie is, Maryland Santa Sightings will let you know when and where to find him!

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