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Here’s How to Prep All Your Holiday Cookies in Just 2 Hours

updated Nov 17, 2021
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Various holiday cookies plated and in bags or boxes.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

As soon as the Thanksgiving leftovers are put away, it’s time to turn our attention to the next round of holiday celebrations. And that means it’s time to make cookies! So head to the grocery store and fill your basket with flour, sugar, and butter to make treats that you can gift to nearby neighbors and friends far and wide.

Not every holiday cookie is ideal for shipping or storing, and that’s where the planning for this Power Hour comes in. Cookies like Italian pizzelles look like beautiful snowflakes, but their delicate texture is prone to shattering in the mail, while jam-topped Linzer cookies and iced sugar cookies might not hold up to long-distance deliveries. The best cookies for shipping and sharing are sturdy sweets with either a chewy or crisp texture that will stay fresh for days. Choose festive flavors rather than intricate icings and specialty shapes so that your time in the kitchen doesn’t stretch into the evening hours.

Set aside just two hours for this Power Hour to mix and bake every cookie you’ll need to celebrate the season. You’ll finish in a cloud of flour with 10-dozen cookies ready for snacking and sending in cross-country care packages.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Holiday Cookie Prep Goals

  • Make cookies (or cookie dough for the freezer) to enjoy and share during the holidays.
  • Make festive cookies that don’t fall to pieces in a cross-country care package.
  • Prep the cookie doughs in an order that helps minimize dishwashing.

Cookie Prep Snapshot

  • Makes: Five different types of cookies (about 10-dozen cookies total)
  • Prep: 2 hours
  • Post-prep baking required? No. Prepare all cookies to completion to be packaged and shipped or stored in the cookie jar to enjoy throughout the holiday season.

Cookie Menu

Shopping List

This week’s shopping list is short because this Power Hour is all about cookies! Since there are so many dry goods on the list, be sure to shop your pantry first. Check the expiration date on baking powder and baking soda. Don’t forget to check your stash of parchment paper, storage bags or containers, and packing boxes for shipping treats to friends and family.

  • Butter: 2 pounds unsalted butter
  • Eggs: 6 large
  • Flour: 9 cups all-purpose flour
  • Sugars: 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, 2 3/4 cups powdered sugar, 1/4 cup coarse sparkling sugar, 1/4 cup molasses
  • Spices and extracts: Ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Mix-ins: 1 cup chopped pecans, 1 cup white chocolate chips, 1 cup dried cranberries
  • Everything else: Cooking spray, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, fine salt, kosher salt, 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, 1 orange, 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • For baking, storing, packaging, and shipping: Parchment paper, gallon zip-top bags, gift packaging, shipping boxes, packing tape
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Power Hour: How I Get the Prep Done

Before you begin, clean your counters and pull out the equipment needed to measure ingredients, mix the doughs, and cool the cookies. You’ll need a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer), measuring cups and spoons, mixing bowls, a few baking sheets, parchment paper, and cooling racks. Follow the order for preparing the doughs below and just scrape the mixing bowl clean with a spatula between batches — sticky and spiced doughs show up later in the plan.

  1. Bring butter and eggs to room temperature and heat oven. Bring the butter to room temperature before you begin. Room-temperature eggs will incorporate into the doughs more easily, so take them out now. Heat the oven to 325°F.
  2. Steep mint in butter for Mint Chocolate Crinkle Cookies. Infuse the butter with fresh mint flavor for about 30 minutes before making the dough. As the butter and mint steep, move on to making the butter cookies.
  3. Mix and chill Easy, Melt-in-Your-Mouth Butter Cookie dough. Make the butter cookie dough. Roll into a rectangle between two sheets of parchment paper, then freeze until firm, about 20 minutes.
  4. Make and bake Holiday Snowballs. Make the dough, then scoop into 2-dozen small, marble-sized balls. While the cookies bake, combine powdered sugar and one bottle of decorating sugar in a shallow bowl. Empty another bottle of decorating sugar into another shallow bowl. Roll the just-baked cookies in the powdered sugar mixture, and then into the decorating sugar. Set aside to cool completely. Increase oven temperature to 350°F once these cookies are out of the oven.
  5. Make and bake White Chocolate Cranberry Bar Cookies. Mix the dough, then spread into a parchment-lined 9×13-inch baking dish. Bake until the edges are firm and a tester comes out with a few crumbs, then cool completely in a pan on a wire rack. Cut into 32 bars.
  6. Make and bake Soft & Chewy Gingerbread Cookies. Make the dough, then scoop into 1-tablespoon portions onto parchment-lined baking sheets (a small ice cream scoop is a good tool for this). Roll in coarse sugar, then arrange 2 inches apart, about 12 cookies per baking sheet. Press down with the bottom of a glass until the dough is 1/2-inch thick. Bake until the edges are firm and the centers puffed. Cool on the baking sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
  7. Make and bake Mint Chocolate Crinkle Cookies. Strain the mint-infused butter into the bowl of the stand mixer then add the brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Continue making the cookie dough, mixing in the egg, melted chocolate, and finally the dry ingredients. Scoop the dough into 1-tablespoon portions and roll in granulated and powdered sugar. Bake until light golden-brown, then cool.
  8. Bake Easy, Melt-in-Your-Mouth Butter Cookies. Cut the chilled dough into 36 rectangles, then arrange on 2 unlined baking sheets. Brush the tops with egg wash, then sprinkle with coarse sanding sugar. Bake until firm and lightly-golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes on the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. Wrap and store all items. Once the cookies are completely cool, transfer them to zip-top bags then freeze or package for shipping.
Credit: The Kitchn
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Your Cookie Baking and Gifting Game Plan

The cookies in this plan are ideal for storing and sharing during the next few festive weeks. The treats are baked and ready to serve or ship at a moment’s notice. Store cookies in airtight containers at room temperature, or stash in freezer zip-top bags to prolong their freshness. Whether shipping or storing the cookies, separate the powdered sugar-dipped Holiday Snowballs and Mint Chocolate Crinkle Cookies from others to contain the sweet dust. While these cookies are sturdy, cushion the packaging with festive packing paper to guarantee a safe arrival.

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Power Hour Meal Prep is the series where we help you put it all together. We show you how to eat well during the week with an hour or two of Power Hour prep over the weekend. Every plan is different; mix and match to find your own personal sweet spot.