The Most-Loved Holiday Cookies From Around the WorldPhoto by Kelsey Weinkauf/Unsplash Food Lists cooking
It isn’t the holiday season without cookies, whether you’re baking some for Christmas gifts, festive get togethers or cookie exchanges. Some recipes have been handed down from generation to generation, but it’s always fun to discover something new to add to your repertoire. From Italian struffoli to Lebanese ma’amoul, here are some of the most-loved Christmas cookies from around the world.
A Southern Italian holiday table isn’t complete without a mountain of struffoli. These tiny, deep-fried balls of sweet dough are cooked until golden then rolled in honey and colorful candy sprinkles. The recipe varies from family to family, but each one includes either white wine, marsala, brandy or rum. They go perfectly with espresso following a seafood feast on Christmas Eve.
Shortbread: Scotland and Ireland
If you’re in Scotland or Ireland for Christmas, chances are you’ll be served shortbread biscuits along with a hot cup of tea or coffee. In case you were wondering, Irish shortbread is different from Scottish shortbread. Ireland’s cookies are crumblier and are made with cornstarch in addition to flour and rich, creamy Irish butter. The Scottish cookies use vegetable shortening instead of or in addition to butter, resulting in a crisp, firm and crunchy texture.
If there’s one Christmas treat that’s made its way around the world, it’s German pfeffernüsse. These small cookies, sweetened with molasses and light brown sugar, are made with a blend of warm, aromatic spices like cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamom and freshly ground pepper. Once they’re baked, they can be dusted with powdered sugar or dipped in a simple white glaze.
A shortbread made with a mix of semolina and all-purpose flour, ma’amoul are enjoyed for the holidays across the Middle East. The dough is scented with rose water or orange blossom water, which gives them their unique flavor. While they’re most commonly filled with dates, some recipes use figs, pistachios, walnuts or almonds instead.
Another Christmas cookie that has gained world-wide acclaim is Austria’s Linzer cookie. These jam-filled almond shortbread sandwiches have the center punched out of the top biscuit so you can see the filling. While heart shapes are most common, you can get creative with different shaped cookie cutters for those centers, like stars or bells, and you can sprinkle them with powdered sugar for a snowy effect.
Finnish Christmas stars, known as joulutorttu, are made with a flaky, buttery ricotta or cream cheese pastry filled with jam and shaped into pinwheels. A sweet prune filling is traditionally used, but you can pick your favorite jam or preserves instead. The cookie recipe can also be transformed into a large filled tart shaped into a wreath that can be served as a holiday dessert.
Greek almond shortbread cookies, or kourabiedes, are a staple during the Christmas season both in Greece and in many other countries where Greek people have put down roots. Simple, crumbly and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, they’re flavored with brandy or ouzo and rolled in powdered sugar once they’ve cooled.
Kolaczki, with their flaky pastry and colorful centers, are a popular holiday cookie in Poland and other Eastern European countries. They’re made with a simple cream cheese dough that gives them a slight tang and can be filled with jam, fruit preserves, pie filling, poppy seeds or sweet cheese.
More widely known as Mexican wedding cakes, polvorones are tender, crumbly and buttery shortbread cookies made with chopped nuts and topped with powdered sugar. They’re a special occasion cookie, especially during the period between Christmas Day and Epiphany on January 6. While the dough is primarily made with butter in Mexico and other countries across South and Central America, the recipe from Spain uses manteca, or pork lard.
A crisp, delicate waffle cookie, krumkake is crafted using a specially shaped iron, similar to that of Italian pizzelle. The batter is typically spiced with cardamom, although you could swap it for ginger or other warm, wintery spices. Once they’re ready, the waffle cookies are rolled similar to an ice cream cone. Enjoy them plain or filled with freshly whipped cream and berries.
Broas de Mel: Portugal
Named for a type of bread, the shape of these Portuguese honey cookies resembles small loaves. They have a dense texture thanks to the inclusion of olive oil, and while honey can be used in the recipe, many recipes call for dark molasses, or sugarcane honey, instead. The cookies aren’t overly sweet, but you will pick up hints of nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon.
Peanut Butter Blossoms: United States and Canada
One of the most popular holiday cookies in the United States and Canada, peanut butter blossoms are quick, easy and tasty. Made with a homemade peanut butter cookie dough that’s shaped into balls and rolled in granulated sugar before baking, a milk chocolate candy kiss is placed in the center of each cookie after they’ve finished baking. There are simple ways to dress them up for an extra festive touch, like rolling them in colored sugar or topping them with mini peanut butter cups.
Chewy Ginger Cookies: England
The holiday season and gingerbread go hand in hand, but rather than the hard biscuits that are used for iced cookies and houses, these cookies are soft and chewy. The recipe calls for golden syrup—which is easily found across the UK but can be easily whipped up at home—along with soft brown sugar and spices like cinnamon and ginger, of course. If you prefer an extra hit of spiciness, you can add fresh or candied ginger to your dough, and for another layer of flavor, consider some lemon or orange zest.