By Barbara Beltrami

There are certain traditions whose pleasure is as much in the anticipation and process as in the outcome. And I think that baking Christmas cookies is one. I’m not saying that those delicious confections aren’t fun to eat, that they aren’t downright addictive. I’m just saying that it’s the expectation, the clearing of the kitchen counter, the line up of all the ingredients and decorations and the assembly- line camaraderie of family and friends all pitching in to mix and press, bake and decorate and even clean up the beautiful mess that is the real fun. 

And it doesn’t stop there. Then it’s surveying the heaping platters, dividing and arranging them into assorted pyramids or decorative containers that caps the whole experience. Of course, we all have our traditions, the one Christmas cookie that people expect from our kitchen (mine is my ginger people), and then there are those that are digressions from tradition — little crunchy, crumbly surprises that are likely to become new traditions. Here are a few.

Candy Cane Cookies

Candy Cane Cookies

YIELD: Makes 4 dozen


¾ cup sugar

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 large egg

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract

1¾ cups flour

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon coarse salt

½ cup crushed candy canes

¼ cup sugar


Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. In large bowl combine, the ¾ cup sugar, butter, egg and extracts; beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until smooth and creamy. In separate bowl, sift together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt; add butter mixture and beat on low speed until well blended; stir in half the candy canes. Stir remaining candy canes into the ¼ cup of sugar. Shape dough into ¾-inch balls; roll them in sugar and candy cane mixture, then place 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes until edges are lightly browned; do not over bake. Let cool one minute on baking sheet, then remove to rack to cool completely. Serve with peppermint tea or hot chocolate.

Teddy Bear Cookies

Teddy Bear Cookies

YIELD: Makes 4 dozen


½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature

½ pound cream cheese at room temperature

1¼ cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 large eggs

3 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon coarse salt

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

About 50 gummy bears


In large bowl beat butter, cream cheese and sugar until smooth; beat in vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one. In a separate bowl sift together flour, baking powder and salt, then gradually beat into creamed mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to shape, about one hour. Preheat oven to 350 F. Roll dough into 1½-inch balls, roll in confectioners’ sugar and place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake until edges are set and tops are cracked, about 13 to 14 minutes. Immediately press a gummy bear into top of each cookie. Cool five minutes, then remove to wire racks to finish cooling

Orange Chocolate Truffles

Orange Chocolate Truffles

YIELD: Makes about 1½ dozen


½ cup heavy cream

8 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1½ teaspoons finely grated orange zest

1 cup good quality cocoa powder


In a medium saucepan bring the cream to just a simmer over medium-low to low heat, transfer to medium bowl; pour cream over chocolate, cover with plastic wrap and set aside until chocolate melts, about 10 minutes. Stir in vanilla and orange zest until thoroughly blended; set aside to cool to room temperature, about 45 minutes. When you are sure there is no heat left in mixture, beat it on medium speed of electric mixer until it turns a light color; refrigerate about one hour. Using a melon baller, scoop into balls and roll smooth with hands. Place cocoa powder in shallow dish and roll balls in it until covered on all sides. Gently remove each one to a waxed paper or parchment-lined baking sheet; refrigerate until ready to serve, then let sit at room temperature.