Tea Cookies flavored with almond extract then topped with jam and walnuts are at the top of this year’s Christmas list. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

I’ve told the story more than once: I used to be the Queen of Christmas Cookies, making 20 kinds or more every year. Now I make a few batches and my grown children, teenager grandchildren, my sister and my niece bake their favorites, then we all get together and share. It’s a much more sensible plan.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at iwrite33@comcast.net.

These three cookies are at the top of the list and I can’t imagine Christmas without them. As I bake (or just enjoy) each of these family cookies, I also remember the sweet story attached to each recipe.

The dough for all these can be made a few days ahead and refrigerated. Just bring it to room temperature for 15 minutes before working with it.

Great Aunt Hazel’s Tea Cookies have been part of the holiday line-up ever since I can remember. I was 10 years old when I made my first batch. I’m not sure why we only had them for Christmastime, but they remind me of what a fantastic baker my dear auntie was.

My mom was a holiday cookie producer extraordinaire and often made the Chocolate Pinwheels. Perfectly, I must add. They are a little fussy but worth the trouble.

I added Italian Ricotta Cookies to our Christmas repertoire after rediscovering them at a local bakery recently.


So, here you go. Buy some extra butter and begin.

Great Aunt Hazel’s Tea Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 large eggs, separated
2 2/3 cups flour
Dash of salt
1/2 cup strawberry jam
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. With an electric mixer, beat together butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg yolks and almond extract. Mix in flour and salt.

Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Make indentations in the middle of each ball with your thumb. Brush cookies with beaten egg white.

With a small spoon, top each cookie with jam and sprinkle with nuts. Bake for 12 minutes or until cookies begin to brown on the edges.

Allow to cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes then remove to wire racks and cool completely. Yield: 4 dozen cookies


Chocolate Pinwheels

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted

In a large bowl, beat butter at medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar, egg and vanilla while continuing to beat. Whisk together flour, salt and baking powder, and add to butter mixture. Mix well.

Divide dough in half and mix the chocolate into one half. Wrap both halves in plastic wrap and chill for several hours.

Roll out vanilla dough, then roll out chocolate dough separately into rectangles about 1/8-inch thick. Place chocolate dough on top of vanilla dough and roll the layers up together like a jelly roll. Wrap and chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut cookie roll into 1/8-inch slices and place 1 inch apart on baking sheets. Bake for 8 minutes. Allow to cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then remove to wire racks and cool completely. Yield: 3 dozen cookies

Lemon Italian Ricotta Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
15 ounces ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 large eggs
4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt


In large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat sugar and butter until blended. Increase speed to high; beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Beat in ricotta, vanilla and eggs at medium speed until well-combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour, baking powder and salt; beat until dough forms. Chill dough for a minimum of 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drop dough by level tablespoons about 2 inches apart onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake about 15 minutes or until cookies are very lightly golden (cookies will be soft). Allow to cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes then remove to wire racks and cool completely before glazing.


2 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
Christmas sprinkles

In a small bowl, stir sugar and milk until smooth. Add vanilla, lemon juice and zest. Dip tops of cookies into glaze then decorate with Christmas sprinkles. Allow to dry completely. Yield: 5 dozen cookies

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