‘Tis the season for sharing home-baked treats! This year we partnered with some of our favorite bakers to create the ultimate holiday cookie swap. See them all here, then follow along and show us your own holiday cookies on Instagram @williamssonoma with the hashtag #wscookieswap.
As a renowned cookbook author, pastry chef and teacher, Alice Medrich is an expert on all things dessert (and chocolate)! Who better to inspire our holiday baking this year than the author of books like Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies? Here, we ask Alice all about her favorite holiday treats, her best tips for cookie baking, and what’s in her ideal cookie tin. She also shares the recipe for Buckwheat Linzer Cookies from her latest book, Flavor Flours. Read on!
What are some of your favorite holiday baking traditions?
I love my mother’s apple crisp, which is easy and delicious—and better than most pies. First my mother made it, then I made it—with help from my daughter and her cousins when they were small—and now my daughter makes it. I like a blend of apples, especially good Jonathan apples because the flavor and rosy color from their skins is delicious and beautiful. I also like Braeburns, Pippins, Pink Ladies and Sierra Beauties. And I don’t peel them, so the whole thing is easy.
What flavors are best for baking this time of year?
All of the usual suspects, please: nuts, apples, pears, pomegranates, persimmons, quince, pumpkin, chestnuts. Caramel, chocolate. The warm baking spices, fresh ginger…
Let’s talk cookies. What are your top tips for making the best batch every time?
Don’t over-mix: for single batches, mixing by hand will give you more tender cookies than mixing with a mixer (unless you are very careful with the mixer!).
Nuts should be fresh. Buy the largest pieces you can from a store with high volume. Toast (when called for) and chop or break them yourself.
Measure accurately. A scale is best. Many a bad cookie is due to using too much flour.
Never put cookies away until they’re completely cool or you will end up with soggy or moldy cookies.
Use good cookie sheets: say no to any that are so thin that they warp in the oven, and say no to dark surfaces.
Any creative cookie decorating ideas?
I like to pipe or drizzle melted chocolate on cookies instead of the traditional powdered sugar icing. Chocolate is tastier and less sweet and just as good for sticking on those jimmies and sprinkles. You can use white chocolate if you like and color it with oil-based food coloring (specifically made for chocolate).
When it comes to holiday cookies, do you stick to tradition or try to experiment?
I love my favorites, but I like to build on them. Once I tried 25 new flavors for meringues, including powdered goat milk and walnuts (which was delicious, by the way).
Any memorable cookie baking disasters?
I tried to pipe meringue “asparagus” cookies (sprinkled with ground pistachios) for a photo shoot. They were so bad the entire team burst into laughter. Just couldn’t help themselves.
What’s in your ideal cookie tin?
Classic Ginger Cookies and Chocolate Chip Cookies, Buckwheat Linzer Cookies or Nibby Buckwheat Butter Cookies, Alfajores, Peanut Butter Meringues, Salted Toffee Peanut Butter Cookies, Chocolate Mint Sandwiches, and Coconut Cookies or Coconut Wafers from Flavor Flours.
Can you share any fun presentation/gift wrapping ideas for cookies?
I’m pretty conventional. I like tins because they are reusable and they keep crisp cookies nice and crisp. Plain metal tins without any prints or scenes on them are elegant and versatile. I add a gorgeous wired ribbon.
Tell us about the recipe we’re sharing, Buckwheat Linzer Cookies. What was your inspiration? What’s special about the recipe?
I love linzer cookies, and I love the flavor of buckwheat. Buckwheat pairs well with dark red fruit flavors, so there is the jam component right there. These cookies happen to be gluten free.
Any tips for people making these cookies? Creative twists or other ideas?
You can add a handful of ground walnuts or hazelnuts to the dough. Try different jams. You can also turn these or a nutty variation into thumbprint cookies, which are a little quicker to make but still pretty and festive.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy them?
A cup of good black tea or oolong tea is lovely if there is time for a sit down. Coffee of course. I’m looking forward to pairing them with a dessert wine pairing such port or Banyuls…but I haven’t gotten to that yet!