Holiday Baking Blitz–Making Goodies, Having Fun

All over the country and around the world, avid home bakers, including me, are happily gearing up for the holidays. We’re pulling out favorite recipes, assembling ingredients, and already our kitchens smell sooo good! We simply have to bake this time of year.

The oh-so-charming sugar cookies at top right are the creations of my cookbook colleague and friend, Sandra Gutierrez, author of The New Southern Latino Table. Look carefully and you’ll see amongst the angels and gingerbread people some pretty iced jalapeno-shaped cookies; Sandra says they’ve been in the family repertoire since her girls were young. (The cookies just below and at the bottom feature only dye-free fruit icings recipes here and green tea icing here, and are ones I’m preparing for my grandchildren. They are from my Simply Sensational Cookie book available on-line here.)

The gingerbread houses were fashioned in the kitchen of my baker friend Maria Springer. She specializes in the rightly famous Viennese pastries of her homeland and hosts a huge make-your-own gingerbread cottage class for kids and their parents at her home every year.

The biscotti, below right, are from the kitchen and blog of my cookbook author friend Domenica Marchetti. Yes, of course, she’s Italian! And her latest book is The Glorious Pastas of Italy. 

The chocolate brandy balls below left are the work of Bunky Cooks, Gwen Pratesi .
(She made them from a recipe from my Simply Sensational Cookies.)

For all of us baking is an integral part of  our holiday celebrations. For me personally, rolling, cutting out and decorating sugar cookies brings back vivid recollections of getting ready for Christmas in my mother’s kitchen.  For my husband and son, the heady aroma of my mother-in-law’s family famous spiced Lebkuchen call to mind the many dozens she lovingly prepared for them over her eighty plus years. Continuing to bake their treats helps us keep our memories of them strong.

Simply Sensational Cookies

This year I’m mostly baking from my new book Simply Sensational Cookies. I’m proud to tell you that it has been on number of this season’s cookbook gift lists, including the Washington Post’s “Cook the Best Books” roundup and NPR’s “Top Ten Holiday Cookbooks” list.

I’ve also published several helpful blog posts on making and decorating cookies here; and you may want to see my popular video on the best way to roll out dough go here; for a good sugar cookie recipe, go here.)   

If you are now in the mood for more cookies, you can hear NPR’s All Things Considered host Melissa Block talk and eat heirloom molasses cookies  and with me and a guest listener here; two recipes including one of my faves from Simply Sensational Cookies, my Glazed Double Ginger Molasses cookies, are posted with the story.

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  1. says

    My favorite memory is when my cousin and I tried to make "fudge." We were twelve and it never set, just sat there like melted ice cream. We ate every last bit! Thank you for a chance..congrats on top 10!!!

  2. Joyce says

    Congratulations on being the top 10! I would definitely love to have a copy of Simply Sensational Cookies!
    My family loves chocolate chip cookies and they are the ones most requested! I love your book The All-American Dessert Book!

  3. says

    My Mother was not a baker but somehow I am and so I have been making baking memories for my family and friends over the years. Sugar cookies, oatmeal peanut butter chocolate chip, chocolate chunk and mexican wedding cookies are some of our family's favorites for Christmas. We also love pecan pie and pumpkin pie.

  4. says

    Baking tons of peanut butter, chocolate chip, and oatmeal raisin cookies helped my brothers and I bond together during the holidays. We would laugh and mix and drop cookies onto the baking sheet and then even sneak a few hot ones when my mom turned her back :)

  5. says

    I love the collection of cookies. I have not made any yet at all this year but as soon as I get my copy of Sensational Cookies you bet I will! Actually, I saw the Brandy Balls on Gwen's blog and bookmarked them and have gingerbread biscotti on my list to make. Your success with this book does not surprise me one bit, Nancy dear. A huge congratulations!

  6. says


    I heard you Friday on Dan's show, ironically as I was on my way in to meet with him.

    As we were speaking, he sat there with your cookbook in front of him. At one point I reached across the desk, grabbed it and began my search. In my sights, Oatmeal Raisin.

    See, I make mulled cider and the final step of it is to sweeten the concoction up with raisins. The thought of using those in cookies haunted me. I tried a recipe and it was horrible and now I was on a mission. I told this to Dan who made a copy of your recipe for me.

    Today was the day and frankly, they were the best Oatmeal Raisin Cookies I have ever had..ever. So much so I have moved on to your Ultimate One-Bowl Chocolate Chunk Cookies. Dang..just dang!

    I think I need the book to experiment on what other delights I might find!!

  7. says

    Wishing you much success with the book. My Mom made gingersnaps…just for me. Now, I try to recreate her recipe as she can no longer bake. Thanks for offering the cookbook give away.

  8. says

    nutballs : 2/3 c butter
    1 c ground nuts
    1 c flour
    3 tbl sugar
    1 tsp vanilla
    cream butter, work in other ingredients. pinch off large marble size pieces, roll into ball shape. Bake at 375* 10 min and roll in powdered sugar, while hot
    from a disintegrating cook book from around 1900.

  9. says

    Hi Nancy! Congrats on your new book and top 10 ranking! I must get one immediately. I want to bake my traditional family cookie recipe this weekend. Its adapted from a 1940's cookbook. I have my mom's old tattered cookbook as a memento. Citrus Sand Tarts. I grew up baking these every year with my mom. We spent a lot of time in the kitchen together. I can't resist them. Since she died, not I've baked them at Christmas. This year in her memory, I am going to bake them and write a post about it. A friend told me there is a section on making your own natural colored sugars which is one reason I need your book. Thanks for writing such a great book.

  10. Anonymous says

    My mother's kitchen was full of good smells, especially at Christmas. There would be loads of cookies, but our favorite was the sand tart. We rolled the dough paper-thin, carefully painting on the egg white and dusting with cinnamon sugar. Then the three blanched almonds were placed just so. Now she is 99 and still will eat any cookie I make, but secretly wishes it was a sand tart!

    I recently went to a neighborhood cookie swap, taking my favorite from Nancy's All American Cookie Book, lemon-almond jumbles, which everyone loved. I can't wait to find my favorite from the Simply Sensational Cookie Book. Congratulations to Nancy for inclusion on NPR's top ten list and what a great interview!
    Chris Tischer

  11. says

    I have memories of helping my mother bake also. Especially pushing the cinnamon red hots into gingerbread people to create buttons, and bits of raisins for eyes. Now, I am baking with my grandchildren and hope they will have memories too. Perhaps if you share the baking activity with others, the season will seem brighter and it will be a nice way to remember your mother.

  12. says

    I have so many favourite Christmas baking memories, but I think that the top would be pushing little bits of candied peel (red and green, of course) into the tops of my Mother's shortbread cookies (from the cookie press). Since her passing, I have tried to make those cookies, using her press, but they are just not the same.

  13. says

    I forgot to add my memory… I remember growing up and helping Mom in the kitchen decorating the sugar cookies and helping to "paint" the springerle cookies. (still one of my favorite cookies)

  14. says

    Congratulations on all of your hard work for this book! I really wish I had more time, so I could make all of the great recipes.

  15. Susan S. says

    When I was a child, my mother used to make about a dozen different Christmas cookies, and we used to help her. We would give an assortment to many people as gifts. It was something we all looked forward to every year.

  16. says

    One of the cookies that has become part of our special occasions are rugelach. It seems that there is one member of each generation that takes this holiday task on. My oldest daughter is our premier rugelah maker. I like your variation on the savory crackers!

  17. says

    Congratulations on making the NPR and Washington Post top cookbooks lists. I've been giving your cookbook to many friends this holiday season–and it's a gift that has they all love.

    I've baked your cookies for many cookie swaps and for the cookie sale we've done in past years for our community center's fund raisers. I need easy and clear directions–and your recipes always turn out delicious.

  18. says

    Thanks Louise, I greatly appreciate your comments. That long-ago book was fun to do–and still reminds me of the recipes I learned to make while living overseas. A lot has changed, cookie-wise, since then.

  19. Louise Donaldson says

    Nancy, I have been a fan of your work ever since you wrote The International Cookie Cookbook which made my mouth water for the cookies I loved while living abroad. I am particularly excited that you chose to use natural colorants for the icings and decor in Simply Sensational Cookies and look forward to preparing your delicious recipes which always work. Congratulaions on your recognition by NPR on the beautiful book.

  20. says

    Thanks Patricia, so glad you enjoyed the cookies. Don't worry about the typos–we ALL do that as we are thinking faster than we can type and are usually multitasking as well.

  21. says

    Nancy — after tasting some of your cookies, I can believe your book is a popular Christmas gift — I'm giving one to my trainer who just finished a 2 year chef training degree. I just wish I could try making some for myself, but I wouldn't even know how to computer the WW points :) Back in the day when I had unlimited energy, I used to bake dozens and dozens of cookies at the holidays. I would package them and bring some if I went to someone's house. And all my relatives got a stash. I probably made about 20 types of cookies. Most of the recipes came from my college best friend's mother. I wasn't a sugar cookie or cut out type of baker. I did bars and fruitcake type cookies (I love fruitcake, too, Rebecca) and crescents and … Oh, dear, now I want some. Great luck with your new book.

  22. says

    Nancy, congratulations on making NPR's top 10 list. A well-deserved accolade. I think I am going to enjoy baking from Simply Sensational Cookies as much as I have enjoyed (and will continue to enjoy) baking from The All-American Cookie Book. Your books are treasures in our house.

    (BTW i'm not entering the giveaway because I already bought your beautiful book. I just wanted to say congrats, and also thanks for the shout-out!) Marry Christmas!

  23. says

    That's great about your being on the top ten at NPR! My mom always made tons of sugar cookies for the holidays. She also liked to bake and give away fruit cakes. I never understood all the jokes about fruitcake. I love them. I taught mom to add spice cookies (Rocks) to her repertoire.

    I don't bake a lot now. I'm much rather make cook food.

  24. says

    That's great about your being on the top ten at NPR! My mom always made tons of sugar cookies for the holidays. She also liked to bake and give away fruit cakes. I never understood all the jokes about fruitcake. I love them. I taught mom to add spice cookies (Rocks) to her repertoire.

    I don't bake a lot now. I'm much rather make cook food.

  25. Toby Devens says

    Thanks for the links to wonderful cookie sources, Nancy. I bake and give cookies as holiday gifts–ship them to family around the country and bring tins as gifts to open houses. Your recipes are always easy to follow and produce beautiful results. Also: congratulations on being showcased on NPR. Looking forward to using your "Simply Sensational" recipes this year.