Why My Favorite Holiday Cookie Is the Chocolate Chip Cookie (and Yours Should Be Too!)

updated Jun 30, 2021
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Chocolate Chip Cookies for the Holidays
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Credit: Angela Chung

Okay, here goes: My favorite holiday cookie is a classic chocolate chip cookie.

Yes, chocolate chip cookies. A decidedly non-holiday cookie. But hear me out: As a baking blogger, one of my favorite things to do over the holidays is bake a batch of homemade cookies to give to friends and family as presents. Not only do I save some money with my holiday shopping, but my cookie boxes are also always a hit! People always appreciate the time and effort it takes to make baked goods from scratch — not to mention the fact that nothing beats the taste of fresh, homemade cookies, too.

My first box ever was filled with classic cookie recipes that weren’t necessarily holiday-themed: chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cinnamon ones, and even fudge brownies. This box received RAVE reviews. In fact, it was this box that encouraged me to keep up the holiday tradition! 

I’ll confess that, as the years have gone on, I’ve gotten more ambitious with my cookie boxes. Last year’s box reached an all-time peak: I included buttered rum shortbread, dark and stormy sugar cookies, and even crinkle cookies made from ube, a purple yam used in a lot of Filipino desserts. Although people appreciated the, er, “elevated” recipes, these fancier boxes didn’t quite achieve the legendary status of that first holiday cookie box of classics — many years later, I still get old coworkers and acquaintances asking me for the chocolate chip cookie recipe from the first box I ever made! 

Why Chocolate Chip Cookies Are Secretly the Best Holiday Cookies

This year, as I plan my holiday cookie boxes, I find myself thinking a lot about the success of that first holiday cookie box. Although it’s definitely fun to try festive holiday-specific recipes, it’s easy to underestimate how much people love tried-and-true classics … like chocolate chip cookies. Yes, I KNOW that chocolate chip cookies are usually available year-round — but for good reason. They’re delicious and everyone loves them. And at a busy, frantic time like the holidays, chocolate chip cookies are there for you when you just want a hit of something sweet that you KNOW you love and won’t ever let you down. 

Furthermore, most holiday cookie recipes are fussier than I would like during this busy time. Most holiday cookies, especially the kind that need to be rolled out and stamped into shapes, need to be chilled before baking. That’s a lot of time spent waiting for a cookie to come together! AND you still need to bake and decorate them, too.

While it can be fun to dedicate an entire day to making these cookies, the truth is, around this time of the year I just can’t spare the time. This is where the chocolate chip cookie comes in and saves the day once more — most chocolate chip cookie recipes come together in a flash. Almost all of them freeze beautifully too, allowing you to save the baking for when you’ve actually got the time to do so. And my chocolate chip cookie recipe, from my new cookbook Weeknight Baking, doesn’t even require you to sit around and wait for the butter to come to room temperature — you get to use melted butter instead! 

How to Make Chocolate Chip Cookies a Little More Festive

Have I convinced you that the chocolate chip cookie should be your go-to holiday cookie? Or are you still skeptical and in need of something more holiday-specific? Because if so, there are ways to make the humble chocolate chip cookie more festive, too. In my favorite holiday variation, however, I swap out the melted butter for browned butter, throw in a dash of holiday spices like cinnamon, and use the very best flavors, splurging for fancy vanilla extract and gourmet chocolate. That means skipping the chocolate chips and using feves from a brand like Valrhona or Guittard — in a pinch, I’ll even chop up my favorite chocolate bar. You’d be surprised at what a world of a difference that high-quality ingredients make in a recipe.

So for my holiday cookie box this year, I’m going all in and making just these different variations of my chocolate chip cookie recipe: a classic chocolate chip cookie, a brown butter version, and a holiday spiced version all based on the same recipe below. I’m convinced it’s going to be a hit!

Credit: Angela Chung

Chocolate Chip Cookies for the Holidays

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground cinnamon (optional)

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    ground cardamom (optional)

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    ground nutmeg (optional)

  • 1/8 teaspoon

    ground cloves (optional)

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick) melted or browned butter, slightly cooled

  • 3/4 cup

    packed dark brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1

    large egg

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

  • 8 ounces

    (60 to 70% cacao) dark chocolate feves (1 1/4 cups, NOT chips), or a high-quality chocolate dark chopped into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces

  • Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

  2. Whisk 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, the spices (if using), 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda together in a medium bowl.

  3. Place 1 stick melted or browned unsalted butter, 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar, and 1/4 cup granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on low speed until just combined. Add 1 large egg and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and beat until just combined. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl once more, and beat on low speed for 30 seconds more. Increase the speed to medium-low, add 8 ounces chocolate all at once, and beat until evenly distributed throughout, about 1 minute.

  4. Use a 3-tablespoon cookie dough scoop to portion the cookie dough into balls, placing them at least 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake 1 sheet at a time until the edges have set but the centers are still gooey, about 10 minutes. The cookies will look puffed when you pull them out of the oven, but will fall and crack into the perfect cookies as they cool. Immediately sprinkle with the flaky sea salt.

  5. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and let the cookies cool until the edges and bottoms of the cookies have set and feel firm to the touch, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, bake the remaining dough or freeze it to bake later. Serve the cookies warm or at room temperature.

Recipe Notes

Storage: The cookies can be stored in an airtight container or zip-top bag at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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