Holiday Cookies

Each year, the Chicago Tribune hosts a nationwide holiday cookie contest, where readers can submit their favorite family recipes to be featured in the Good Eating section of the paper. In a new cookbook, Holiday Cookies: Prize-Winning Family Recipes from the Chicago Tribune, more than a decade's worth of recipes are featured. Each recipe draws on a family tradition, some dating back as far as 1921. Stopping by Chicago Tonight to discuss the history of the contest, favorite recipes and more, is Joe Gray, editor of the Good Eating section of the Chicago Tribune.

Check out three recipes below.

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Cranberry Coins

Yield: About 120 cookies
Prep time: 20 minutes
Chill time: 4 hours
Bake time: 10 to 12 minutes per batch


2½ cups flour

1½ cups sugar

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened

1 egg

2½ teaspoons cinnamon

1½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup dried cranberries, chopped

¾ cup pistachios, toasted, chopped

Decorative sugar


1.      Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or use a silicone mat.

2.      With your mixer at low speed, beat all the ingredients (except the cranberries, pistachios and decorative sugar) until just mixed. Increase speed to medium; beat 3 minutes, scraping the bowl when necessary. Add cranberries and nuts; mix on low until just combined.

3.      Divide dough in half; form into 2 logs about 1 inch in diameter. Wrap each in plastic wrap; refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours.

4.      Remove wrap; slice logs crosswise into ⅛ inch thick slices. Sprinkle with decorative sugar; place on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake until light brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool. Repeat with remaining cookies.

Gingerbread Bears
Found on pg. 35 of Holiday Cookies

Prep time: 35 minutes
Chill time: 2 hours or overnight
Bake time: 7 to 10 minutes
Yield: 3 to 4 dozen large bears


3½ cups unsifted all-purpose flour

1½ teaspoons ground ginger

1½ teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

¾ cup sugar

1 large egg

¾ cup light molasses

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Decorations as desired


1. Measure 3½ cups flour; sift together with spices, baking soda and salt; set aside. Beat butter with an electric mixer in a large bowl until smooth. Add sugar and mix on high speed until light and fluffy, 2 minutes. Add egg and mix well. Stop the mixer and add molasses and lemon rind. Mix on low speed to combine. Stir in dry ingredients with a wooden spoon.

2. Divide dough into four parts. Wrap each one separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.

3. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease baking sheets.

4. Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator at a time. Roll the well-chilled dough on a floured board or between sheets of waxed paper to a 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out with cookie cutters and carefully transfer to prepared baking sheets, leaving 1-inch between each cookie.

5. Bake just until the cookies are lightly browned and set, 7 to 10 minutes. Do not overbake. Transfer from baking sheets to a wire rack and cool completely before decorating. Decorate as desired. Store in airtight containers.

Snowflake Sugar Cookies

Yield: 30 cookies (depending on size)
Prep time: 40 minutes, plus decorating
Chill time: 4 hours
Bake time: 12 to 15 minutes per batch


3 cups all-purpose flour

3 cups bread flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 pound unsalted butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 tablespoon 2% milk

3 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk

Royal Icing:

¼ cup meringue powder

1 pound powdered sugar

Water, about ⅓ cup

Gel food coloring

1. Combine the flours and baking powder in a bowl; stir to evenly distribute the baking powder. Set aside.

2. In a 6-quart stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the salt, vanilla and milk; mix to blend. With mixer running, add eggs and extra yolk, one at a time, waiting until each is combined before adding the next.

3. Reduce the mixer speed to low; slowly add flour mixture. Add additional all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough is no longer sticky to the touch. Turn dough out onto plastic wrap; divide in half. Wrap each portion in plastic wrap; form into flat discs. Refrigerate 4 to 48 hours, or freeze up to a month.

4. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Let dough warm up slightly; roll out to ½ inch thick using powdered sugar (not flour) to stop it from sticking. Cut out snowflake shapes; bake on parchment-lined baking pans until just barely starting to brown on the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove promptly from oven; let cool on the sheet pan, 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.

5. For icing, mix the meringue powder and powdered sugar in a medium bowl; slowly add water until the frosting reaches desired consistency. Add a little gel food coloring, if desired. For best results, start with a stiff frosting, put some aside in a parchment baking bag or zip-top bag, then add water to the remaining frosting. Use the stiff frosting to pipe outlines on the cooled cookies, then carefully apply the thinner icing to fill in the cookies between the piped outlines (a toothpick helps to carefully move thin icing into small spaces).

Reprinted with permission from Holiday Cookies by the Chicago Tribune staff, Agate Surrey, November 2014.

Upcoming Event:

Holiday Cookie Decorating Day

Just in time for the holidays, kids will love this two-hour, hands-on cookie decorating workshop with chef instructors from Kendall College. Decorating stations will be fully stocked with cookies, frosting and decorations for every child. This fun-filled, messy morning is designed for children 4 to 12 years old.

Saturday, Dec. 6, 10:00 am
Kendall College, 900 N. North Branch St., Chicago
$35 for one child, $120 for four children (a $140 value). Parents attend free!

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