‘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.
Meet Amanda Rettke, blogger at i am baker and the author of Surprise Inside Cakes. On her blog, Amanda writes about all things baking and shares recipes for brownies, cakes, cupcakes — and, of course, cookies! Here, we ask her all about her holiday baking traditions, her favorite holiday flavors, and presentation ideas. Read our Q&A below, then try her classic recipe for Christmas Cookies.
What are some of your favorite holiday baking traditions?
I am a relatively new baker (just about six years now) so any baking traditions are ones that I am trying to implement. My kids and I have been making decorated sugar cookies for the last five years, and they are getting quite good at decorating (as well as being super creative)!
What flavors are best for baking this time of year?
Fall in Minnesota is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. In addition to the beauty, the abundance of ripe apples and pumpkins make for delicious baking! This time of year I am in a mad baking frenzy, often trying to use up the bounty of zucchini, but often unable to resist the juicy and crisp apples. I can go through a bottle of cinnamon in a month!
Let’s talk cookies. What are your top tips for making the best batch every time?
Consistency. Always use room temperature ingredients, always use the same measuring spoons and cups, always use parchment, always use the same baking pans and always bake in the same spot in your oven. oon it becomes habit and you don’t even have to think about it!
Any creative cookie decorating ideas?
Make it a sandwich. For sugar cookies you can add a cherry or cinnamon or coffee flavored buttercream. Or personalize a cookie with a short and sweet quote or someone’s name. This will make their day!
When it comes to holiday cookies, do you stick to tradition or try to experiment?
Both! I bake quite often and try new things every year. In the process of making a very classic peanut butter blossom last year I decided to try and make it red velvet. They turned out so delicious and perfect that I will be making them every year now!
Any memorable cookie baking disasters?
Yes. I once forgot to add eggs to my sugar cookies. It was not pretty. Then there was that time I forgot the cookies in the oven. And that time I failed to chill my dough before rolling. I make mistakes often!
What’s in your ideal cookie tin?
I am a sucker for vintage tins! I stalk Etsy and the local antique shops. I also stock up after Christmas, as some stores discount tins that are maybe not solely Christmas designs.
Can you share any fun presentation/gift wrapping ideas for cookies?
I love getting the cardboard ice cream containers and filling them with cookies. They can be so easily dressed up with a simple ribbon, or you can even personalize a label. See an example here!
Tell us about the recipe we’re sharing, Christmas Sugar Cookies. What was your inspiration? What’s special about the recipe?
This is by far the most delicious sugar cookie I have ever tried, and I have tried a LOT! They are reminiscent of my great-grandmother’s recipe. She was an avid baker and wedding cake decorator. Every time I make them for my family, my mom starts to tell stories about Grandma Inga. It’s wonderful seeing her eyes light up (and often get misty) and hearing about family.
Any tips for people making these cookies? Creative twists or other ideas?
Using room temperature ingredients is important, and then chilling your dough. To make them yours, try playing around with the extracts. Switch out almond for orange. Or add cocoa in place of a portion of your flour and then use peppermint extract.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy them?
These cookies are by far the best when paired with my glaze icing. The icing does not harden like royal icing and adds the perfect texture and flavor to the sweet sugar cookie!