• Christmas cookies in Concord N.H. on Dec. 11, 2017. Sarah Pearson

  • Peanut butter cookies taste just like mom made.

  • Butter Balls are a holiday tradition in Lorraine LoRusso’s family.

  • Chocolate chip cookies are stuffed with miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Sarah Pearson photos / Monitor staff

  • Chocolate and mint is a festive combination in crackles.

  • Christmas cookies in Concord N.H. on Dec. 11, 2017. Sarah Pearson—Monitor staff

  • Use cookie cutters to shape cookies, then coat with chocolate and candy.

  • A tray contains (from left) peanut butter cookies, chocolate mint crinkles, chocolate-covered shortbread cookies, stuffed chocolate chip cookies, butter balls and two gingerbread men. Sarah Pearson photos / Monitor staff

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The holiday season is upon us. Yesterday marked the first day of Hanukkah. Christmas is a mere 12 days away. It’s a time of celebration and joy amid the short, dark days of winter. And nothing says celebration like sweets; in this case, cookies.

Cookies are great for gifting to neighbors or sharing with an unexpected guest. Plus, you’ll need a good cookie for when Santa Claus comes round on Christmas Eve.

Many cookies’ main ingredients consist of flour and butter. You’ll want to splurge on high-quality brands or risk having a dough that doesn’t come together well.

Here are a few recipes shared by members of the Monitor family – readers and staff. Try a few and let us know what you think.

Chocolate-Covered Shortbread Cookies

Sugar cookies seem to often be the go-to for decorated cookies, but I like shortbread for this purpose because they are not so sweet, allowing the toppings to shine.

For the cookie:

¾ cup butter, softened

5 tablespoons sugar

2 cups flour

For decorating:

12 oz. white chocolate chips

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

candy canes, sprinkles or other toppings (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix butter, four tablespoons sugar and flour. Roll dough to ¼ inch thick and sprinkle with the last tablespoon of sugar. Use cookie cutters to shape the dough.

Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool.

In a heat-safe bowl set on top of a pot of boiling water, melt chocolate and oil.

Dunk each cookie in chocolate. Then, immediately, dip into crushed candy cane pieces or other candy.

Refrigerate to set chocolate.

(Submitted by Sarah Pearson, features editor. Adapted from Betty Crocker.)

Butter Balls

My mother would make these for the holidays every year, along with five or six other kinds of Italian cookies. We would spend hours in the kitchen together making them for family and friends, then bring them with us as we went around to everyone’s house to visit them during the holiday week.

½ stick butter

⅓ cup and 1 tablespoon Crisco

¼ cup confectioners’ sugar

Dash of salt

½ teaspoon vanilla

1 cup flour

Mix butter, Crisco and confectionary sugar until creamy. Add salt, vanilla and flour, a little at a time. Mix well.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls.

Place on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 11 to 13 minutes.

While warm, roll in confectioners’ sugar.

Makes about 24 balls.

(Submitted by Lorraine LoRusso, “Monitor” reader.)

Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

2¼ cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

12 ounces chocolate chips

8 ounces Reese’s Miniature Peanut Butter cups, unwrapped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream butter, both sugars, eggs and vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda and salt.

Fold in chocolate chips.

Drop a tablespoon of dough into each cup of a mini muffin pan. Bake for about 10 minutes.

While still warm, press a peanut butter cup into the center of the cookie.

(Submitted by Steve Leone, editor-in-chief. Adapted from Nestle’s Toll House Cookie recipe.)

Chocolate Mint Crackles

If I didn’t have to go to work and had a dishwasher, I would try these cookies tomorrow because I’m craving them.

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

¾ teaspoon pure mint extract

½ cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Melt chocolate in a double-boiler over simmering water.

Whisk flour, baking powder and cocoa. In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, and butter. Gradually add in the melted chocolate and mint extract until smooth. Then, add in the flour mixture.

Roll dough into 1 tablespoon balls, then coat balls with confectioners’ sugar. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake 15 minutes.

(Submitted by Elizabeth Frantz, “Monitor” photographer. Adapted from Martha Stewart.)

Gingerbread cookies

Christmas is the season for gingerbread cookies. The little cut-out people are one of the icons of the holiday. Plus, spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves add warmth.

You can decorate yourself, or perhaps gift naked cookies accompanied with assorted toppings to children.

2¾ cups flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup butter

¾ cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons ginger

½ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon cloves

¼ cup molasses

Combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add egg, vanilla and molasses.

Fold in flour to butter mixture.

Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thick and use cookie cutters to shape. Bake cookies 11 to 13 minutes on ungreased cookie sheet.

Let cool, then decorate.

(Submitted by Sarah Pearson, features editor. Adapted from Good Housekeeping.)

Peanut butter cookies

I found a peanut butter cookie recipe that most closely echoes my mother’s original recipe. She never passed it down, but I remember helping her make them! I made the decision to veto adding almond extract and any waiting around to refrigerate the dough. (Ain’t nobody got time for that business.)

1 cup brown sugar

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

½ cup creamy peanut butter

1 large egg

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar, or more as needed for coating the cookies

Beat the brown sugar, butter, and peanut butter with the paddle attachment of a mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg, and vanilla extract and beat to combine. Add the flour, baking sod, and salt, and stir just until combined.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls, coat each ball in sugar, and transfer to a baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between cookies.

Press the tines of a fork flat against each ball of dough to indent it, then make a second indentation perpendicular to the first one.

Bake until the cookies are firm and their edges are golden brown, about 10 minutes.

(Submitted by Emily Freeman, advertising.)