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What exactly is a ‘Christmas’ cookie?

Christmas cookies mark many holiday memories.
Christmas cookies mark many holiday memories. Special to The Star

Christmas cookies conjure specific memories from days past.

What is a Christmas cookie? There really isn’t a wrong answer is there. Families create traditions and cookie recipes are passed down through the years.

You remember those recipes, the ones that you only bake during December. Specifically, they are the recipes that you can hardly wait to begin mixing and stirring.

This is one time that I will rely on and agree with Wikipedia for the definition of Christmas cookies, “Christmas cookies are traditionally sugar biscuits and cookies (though other flavors may be used based on family traditions and individual preferences) cut into various shapes related to Christmas.”

Perfect, but in my opinion we need to add one hard and fast rule regarding the preparation of Christmas cookies. They must be dainty, two- or three-bite cookies. Tea cookies, if you will, not cookies that are prepared for tailgating at Arrowhead, but morsels that you can savor and enjoy.

These gems can adorn many a holiday table or buffet and glisten more than any tinsel of the tree.

Here is our family’s version of a classic Christmas cookie.

Classic Christmas Cookie

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies

1 cup butter, softened

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup raspberry jam

Coarse sugar

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 teaspoons water

1 teaspoon almond extract

In a medium bowl, beat butter with mixer on medium high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. Beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl. Add flour and mix on low to medium speed until combined. Cover and chill for about 1 hour or until the dough is easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls, placing about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Using your thumb, press an indentation into the center of the cookie. Spoon a scant 1/2 teaspoon jam into each indentation. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake about 10 minutes or until edges are light brown. Cool on cookie sheets for 1 minute then transfer to wire racks to cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk together confectioners’ sugar, 1 teaspoon of the water and 1 teaspoon almond extract. Add the additional teaspoon of water if need be to make icing a drizzling consistency. Drizzle cookies with icing.

Store in the refrigerator for up to three days or freeze for as long as three months.

Baking Tip:

Use care when forming the cookie rounds. Use your fingers to mold a nice, sturdy round and reshape as you use your thumb to make the indentation. This will take a little time but result in a beautiful cookie treat.

This recipe was adapted from Better Homes and Gardens.

Roxanne Wyss is one of two cookbook authors and food consultants that make up The Electrified Cooks. Her most recent cookbook is “Triple Slow Cooker Entertaining.” She develops the recipes for the “Eating for Life” column for The Kansas City Star and is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier. She blogs at