By Brittany Carlson
I love Christmas cookies, but even more than that, I love cookies with a good story.
The three cookie recipes I’m about to share not only have a rich history, but taste delicious as well.
First, I’ll share my Grandmom Mabel Collier’s recipe for Christmas roll-out cookies, so named because the dough is first rolled out flat and then cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Grandmom grew up on a farm in a blended family of 17 children, which is why this cookie recipe calls for 12 cups of flour!
I grew up making these with my Grandmom and Mom, using cookie cutters shaped like a candy cane, star, bell, Santa, Rudolph, snowman and Christmas tree. Even though my Grandmom has passed away, my Mom still makes these cookies every year, decorating them with the simple vanilla frosting Grandmom used to make and sprinkles. It’s a little different than other roll-out cookie recipes because of the subtle nutmeg flavor and fluffy texture. It also freezes well and stays soft. Here it is in its original format:
Old-Fashioned Roll-Outs for Christmas:
(Makes 12 dozen)
10-12 cups flour
3 ¼ cups sugar
2 cups shortening
2 cups sour milk (2 tsp vinegar per cup of milk)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp nutmeg (fresh grated if possible)
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
Combine ingredients, roll out and cut into shapes. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes. Frost with vanilla frosting (we use powdered sugar with a little butter, vanilla and water) and decorate with sprinkles.
The next recipe I’ll share is my husband’s favorite Christmas cookie, which I learned to make when we were living in Germany in 2011. It comes from a woman who taught cooking classes in Stuttgart at the time (and now has her own cooking website, daringgourmet.com).
This recipe, however, is not on her website, nor is it anywhere on the Internet that I could find.
The cookies are called “Heilingenschein,” or “Angel Halos” in the Swabian dialect. If you love the flavors of almond and raspberry and like a soft, pillowy cookie, you will love these.
Here is the recipe, converted from its original metric system. Be sure to watch the cookies and not overbake; the time will vary based on your oven.
Heilingenschein (“Angel Halos”):
(Makes 4 dozen)
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 pinch sea salt
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temp.
1 cup cold butter, cut into chunks
¾ cup seedless raspberry jam
2 2/3 cups almond paste (3 packages). (I found these in the baking aisle at Harris Teeter).
3 egg whites
1 ¼ cup powdered sugar
Special equipment needed:
Pastry bag or icing extruder
For cookie dough:
Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Make a well and put in it the sugar
vanilla and eggs. Mix from the middle. Add cold butter and cut with a
pastry blender and knead (or use a food processor).
Divide the dough into two equal parts, roll each into a log about 2 inches in diameter and refrigerate at least 2 hours for easy slicing and baking later.
Preheat oven to 325-350 degrees Farenheit (depending on your oven).
Make marzipan filling: Mix marzipan, egg whites and powdered sugar with mixer,
until you have incorporated all ingredients into smooth paste.
Slice the rolls into about 16 cookies each. Each cookie should be about 1/6” of an inch.
Place on cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.
Pipe marzipan as a ring around the outside of each cookie (not on top). If you don’t have a pasty bag, you could use a Ziploc bag and cut a corner. Don’t make the piping too thick- should be about half an inch in diameter.
Bake for 10-13 minutes.
When cookies are done, take out, and spoon jam into the center of the rings. Put
jam in a bowl and stir, to make it creamy (before spooning onto cookie).
Bake again for about 5 to 6 more minutes – jam is supposed to just begin to
The last recipe is from my friend Susan, who described the history of her family’s filled Christmas cookies:
“Nothing says Christmas to my extended family more than these cookies we have always just called ‘filled cookies,’” she said. “Back story is that in ancient times my father’s mother (he was born in 1928 and she was over 40) made these cookies for the holidays. No written recipe. My mom got the basics from her sisters-in-law and she always made them at Christmas time. In the last couple of years (my mom just turned 85) she has made them and I acted as assistant. But I realized I needed to put down to paper the exact ingredients and steps for future generations.”
(Makes approx. 42-44 cookies)
6 oz raisins
9 oz prunes
¼ cup sugar
5 cups all purpose flour
1 cup Crisco shortening
2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sour milk (1 cup milk + 1 tbsp white vinegar or lemon juice)
1 tsp baking soda
Make filling by putting the prunes and raisins in a medium pot and covering with water. Add sugar. Bring to boil, turn down to low and simmer 20-30 minutes (no need to stir).
Taste and add more sugar, if desired. Remove from heat and let cool (in case you think it looks soupy, the prunes will continue to soak up the juice while cooling).
Make the dough:
Cream shortening and sugar. Meanwhile, add baking soda to sour milk.
Add milk to creamed shortening and sugar, and mix until well incorporated.
Mix in oats.
Add flour to mixture, one cup at a time, with mixer on slow speed (to prevent flour bombs).
Divide the dough in half. Roll out each half on a lightly floured surface about 1/8-inch thick (or slightly thicker), then cut with cookie cutter. We use a 2 ½ -inch biscuit cutter. Note: because of the oats, cookies don’t always cut cleanly.
Re-roll any scrap pieces of dough ad cut out more cookies as needed.
Place the cookie bottoms on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, about 12 to a sheet. Drop a small amount of filling in the middle of the bottoms, leaving an edge. If using a 2 ½-inch cutter, a heaping teaspoon is the right amount. Cover with cookie tops, crimping the edges to seal.
Bake at 365 degrees F (335 if using a convection oven). Bake until lightly browned, about 12-15 minutes, depending on your oven. You do want bottoms to be ever so slightly browned. Remember, these cookies are kind of white colored and soft. Over baked cookies will be crisp.
Let cool on a rack.
-the prunes and raisins can be made up to a week in advance and kept in the fridge. You want a cold mixture when making these cookies.
-You are cutting tops and bottoms, so we recommend that you place cookie bottoms on first baking sheet, add filling, cut tops, place them and crimp, put in oven and while these bake, start on next batch.
I hope you get to try at least one of these special cookies this year. If you do, I hope it tastes even sweeter knowing that it has been a special part of Christmas tradition for many families, including my own.
Brittany Carlson is a lifelong lover of words and all things chocolate. She is an Army wife and has two sons that are 5 and 3 years old. She has written for several Army community newspapers, including the Stuttgart Citizen (Germany), Fort Leonard Wood Guidon (Missouri) and Fort Belvoir Eagle (Virginia). Brittany holds a Master of Arts in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She and her family live in NC.
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