‘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.
This cookbook legend needs no introduction. Dorie Greenspan’s books have inspired us in the kitchen for years, and this holiday season we’re especially excited to have her newest cookbook Baking Chez Moi for inspiration. Here, we ask Dorie all about her holiday baking traditions, favorite festive flavors, and go-to treats to share. We also feature a gift-worthy recipe from Baking Chez Moi: her Parisian Macarons.
What are some of your favorite holiday baking traditions?
I bake just about every day of the year, but when the holidays roll around, I bake even more. Cookies, cookies and more cookies, for sure. But I also bake a Bûche de Noel, a Christmas Log, and a little later in the season, a Galette des Rois, a Kings Cake. I love to have sweets at the ready for visitors and, during the holidays, my go-to gift is a box of homemade cookies.
What flavors are best for baking this time of year?
Like so many bakers, I turn to spices, nuts and dried fruits for the holiday. Oh, and plain, delicious butter-and-sugar cookies too. But I’m very open-minded when it comes to cookies: If they’re great, I bake them, no matter when. The way I look at it, cookies know no seasons.
What are your top tips for making the best batch every time?
Don’t mix your cookie dough too vigorously. You don’t want to beat air into the dough. (If you do, the dough will rise in the oven and then sink.)
Be patient! If a recipe tells you to let the dough chill: Chill. Ditto if you have to wait for the cookies to cool after they’re baked.
If you’re making cut-out cookies, chill the dough before you cut – you’ll get sharper edges.
Always let your baking sheets cool between batches.
Freeze cut-out cookies in airtight containers and then bake them – on demand – straight from the freezer. (Add a minute or two to the baking time.)
Any creative cookie decorating ideas?
I always opt for simple when it comes to decorating. I might bake cookies with sanding sugar or pearl sugar, so that they come out of the oven already decorated. Or I’ll dust baked-and-cooled cookies with powdered sugar – I put a pretty cookie cutter over the cookie and use it as a stencil for the sugar. I’ll dip cookies into melted chocolate – dark or white; all the way or only half-way.
To give cookies texture and extra flavor without having to decorate, I’ll top cookies, pre-bake, with streusel or coarsely chopped nuts coated in egg white.
When it comes to holiday cookies, do you stick to tradition or try to experiment?
It wouldn’t be holiday without certain cookies, but I always play around and add something new. A girl’s gotta have fun, right?
Any memorable cookie baking disasters?
I’m always making mistakes, mostly because I don’t follow my own advice. I tell everyone not to do two things at once: if you’re baking, don’t talk on the phone. And, of course, there are times when I bake and talk and, inevitably, those are the times when I forget to add an ingredient. Aarrgh!
And then there are the times when I forget to set the timer. Aarrgh, again! Happily that’s never a real disaster because you can tell when cookies are done by smell and color and, often, a little poke.
What’s in your ideal cookie tin?
My tin always has a version of my grandmother’s sugar cookies, molasses cookies, ginger and chocolate cookies, rugelach, speculoos and something very chocolatey, usually World Peace Cookies, my somewhat salty, chocolate-chocolate chunk cookies. And then I’ll add whatever is the wild card for the season.
Can you share any fun presentation/gift wrapping ideas for cookies?
I prefer to pack cookies in something re-usable, so I’ll stack them in a cookie jar or a nifty storage container. Because I think cookies are beautiful on their own, I don’t do much to fancy them up.
Tell us about the recipe we’re sharing, Parisian Macarons. What was your inspiration? What’s special about the recipe?
Parisian Macarons are THE cookie in Paris, my second home. People travel across town to get macarons from the pastry shop they think has the best ones and politely (but energetically) argue the merits of one over the other.
I wanted to include the recipe for Parisian Macarons in Baking Chez Moi because it is so important to the sweet life in Paris. It’s a classic recipe. The macaron shells are made from ground almonds, sugar and egg whites and they can be tinted any color imaginable. The shells never change; it’s the filling that varies and it can vary wildly.
Any tips for people making these cookies? Creative twists or other ideas?
The recipe for Parisian Macarons is long and the techniques for making them a bit unusual, so I always suggest that bakers read the recipe through – twice! – before starting. There’s nothing hard about making the macarons, but parts of the method can be surprising, especially when you’re beating and mashing your just-whipped, light and airy egg whites!
The shells for the macarons are always the same, but you can get creative with how you color them. The place to put your personal stamp on the cookie is the filling – the sky’s the limit here. In Paris, in addition to the traditional fillings of vanilla and chocolate ganache and sometimes jam, you might find Nutella or peanut butter, truffle cream, buttercream or even something spicy and savory.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy them?
I love macarons with tea in the afternoon and as an after-dessert dessert, the last little treat of the evening. I also love them with Champagne. Champagne and macarons are an elegant combo.
Dorie Greenspan headshot photo credit: Alan Richardson