Whether they’re warm and gooey, buttery and chewy, or crisp and spicy, it’s hard to rival the taste of a homemade cookie. And now that the holidays are here, how about stirring up some batches to share with others? To inspire you, here are five holiday favorites from area bakers.
Susanne Clermont bakes up a gingerbread crowd
Co-owner, Sandpiper Bakery
29 North Main St., Ipswich, sandpiperbakery.com
At Sandpiper Bakery, Susanne Clermont handles the sweet side of the menu, while her business partner, Molly Freidman, prepares the savory. “I’ve been working in bakeries since I was fourteen,” says the pastry chef, who grew up in Texas, but perfected her pastry skills during a stint at Two Fat Cats Bakery in Portland, Maine. At Sandpiper Bakery, she crafts French pastries, Southern favorites, like bourbon pecan pie, and cookies, like Ginger People Cookies, which she adapted from a recipe she grew up enjoying.
“My parents are both extremely social and threw great parties with lots of cookies and these [cut-out ginger cookies] were always my favorite,” says Cleremont, who tweaked the recipe for her shop by adding fresh and crystallized ginger, butter instead of shortening, less molasses, and no boiling water. “What I particularly like about these cookies is that you can cut the dough into whatever shape you’d like for the holiday you’re celebrating.”
Ginger People Cookies
Makes approximately 24 cookies
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons salt
3⁄4 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1⁄2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3⁄4 teaspoon ground ginger
1⁄2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1⁄4 teaspoon ground clove
1⁄4 teaspoon of black pepper
8 ounces unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 1⁄2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1 1⁄2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger (optional)
1 1⁄3 cups molasses
Royal icing ingredients
1 egg white
2 2⁄3 cup confectioners sugar
1. To make cookies, sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove and black pepper.
2. In a mixer, cream butter with brown sugar, fresh ginger and crystallized ginger (if using) until light and fluffy. Add eggs, then molasses, scraping down sides and bottom of bowl to incorporate all ingredients. Add flour mixture; mix until blended. Place dough on a table and shape into a flat rectangle. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm (about 1 hour).
3. Preheat oven to 350° F.
4. Roll out dough to 1⁄2-inch thickness and cut into desired shapes. Place cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool.
5. To make icing, blend egg white and confectioners sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy. Decorate cooled cookies with icing.
Kim Gregory makes allergy-friendly treats
Owner, b Gregory|Pure Pastry
8 Gateway Lane, Beverly, kimgregorypurepastry.com
Working out of her home in Beverly, Kim Gregory crafts organic pastries made with unrefined sweeteners, ancient grains, home-grown fruits, and eggs from her chickens. “I went into baking when my daughter was born with food allergies in 1997,” says Gregory, whose thumbprint cookies below are a gluten-, grain-, and dairy-free version of her Italian grandmother’s recipe.
Gregory grew up watching her grandmother make traditional Italian sweets but didn’t learn to make them herself until she joined Polcari’s Restaurant in Saugus as a pastry chef. She taught herself how to make her baked goods healthy and shared that knowledge with her daughter’s friends. “Every holiday, I had a cookie party with twenty-five kids rolling out dough in my kitchen. My daughter could not go out to eat because of her allergies and sensitivities, so I made sure her holidays, birthdays, and get-togethers with her friends were amazing experiences.”
Gregory sells her wholesome goodies online, out of her house (via phone order), and in area stores (see her website for listings). Come spring, she’ll additionally sell them from a food truck (for kids to enjoy after school and at ball games) and via boat (to sell on the water, too).
Yields approximately 30 cookies
3 cups sliced blanched almonds
⅔ cup rapadura sugar (organic whole cane sugar)
1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
2 fresh egg whites
1⁄2 teaspoon fair-trade pure vanilla extract
Blackberry or other fruit jam
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. In a food processor, add almonds, sugar, and salt; process until finely ground. Add egg whites and pulse until dough starts to come together.
3. With wet hands, shape approximately 1 tablespoon of dough into a ball. Place 6 to 8 balls (spaced apart) on a parchment-lined baking sheet and flatten each ball slightly. Make an indentation in center of each cookie with back of a lightly floured spoon.
4. Bake cookies until crackly and lightly golden brown, 15–20 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Spoon jam into indented part of cookie.
Joe Mysliwiec fries up a traditional Polish pastry
Executive Baker, Figtree Kitchen
3 Liberty St., Newburyport, figtreekitchen.com
Joe Mysliwiec, executive baker at Figtree Kitchen, got into baking when making an animated short film, titled The Bread Baker. “I wanted to be an animator in high school and I thought if I’m going to work on this project, I need to learn how to bake bread.” From bread, he moved on to baked goods and never looked back. In addition to the scones and croissants he bakes at the Newburyport café, he whips up dozens of cookies, including some of the ones he grew up eating over the holidays.
“On Christmas, we’d always go up to [my mother’s side of the family in] Worcester and I remember there was always a never-ending supply of Italian Christmas cookies that my [maternal] grandmother used to make. My mother’s side was Italian and my Dad’s mother was French and his father was Polish-Czechoslovakian. We would always go to both sides of the family over Christmas and so my [paternal] grandmother would make angel wings, which I think I liked because of the powdered sugar.” Called chrusciki in Polish, the fried treats are a cross between a pastry and a cookie with a texture similar to a cannoli shell, only airier and lighter.
“The cookie itself is not that sweet, but when you roll it in powdered sugar, that’s where you get the sweetness. My grandmother never wrote down the recipe, but my aunt has made Martha Stewart’s recipe (Stewart has Polish heritage) multiple times and says they’re very close.”
Chrusciki (Adapted from Martha Stewart)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
5 large egg yolks
1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons sour cream
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon each orange extract, lemon extract and vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 tablespoon rum
1 tablespoon each: grated lemon zest and grated orange zest
2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
7 cups (3 pounds) vegetable shortening, for deep-frying
Sifted confectioners' sugar, for sprinkling
1. Put melted butter, eggs, egg yolks, granulated sugar, sour cream, salt, extracts, vinegar, and rum in bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until mixture is pale, about 3 minutes. With mixer running, add zests. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add up to 3 cups flour, 1⁄2 cup at a time, until a fairly stiff dough forms.
2. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead, dusting with flour if it seems sticky, until dough becomes smooth, soft, and elastic, about 10 minutes. Halve dough and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Let dough rest at room temperature, 30 minutes.
3. Working with one piece at a time, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until about 1/16 inch thick. Cut dough into 5-by-1 1⁄4-inch strips. Trim ends on diagonal.
4. Lay dough strips vertically in front of you and cut a 1 1⁄4-inch-long opening through middle of each strip. Working with one strip at a time, push one end through cut, then pull through to make a bow-tie shape. Transfer formed chrusciki to a large parchment-lined baking sheet, and cover with a clean, slightly damp kitchen towel. Repeat process with remaining dough.
5. Heat shortening in a large (6-quart) pot over medium-high heat until it registers 375° F on a deep-fry thermometer. Working in small batches of about 7, fry chrusciki, turning once with a slotted spoon, until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Transfer fried chrusciki with slotted spoon to two paper-towel-lined baking sheets to drain. Just before serving, dust chrusciki with confectioners' sugar.
Angela Daley sprinkles joy onto iced Italian cookies
Owner-Head Chef, Three Sweet Peas
Bakery Café, 159 Main St., Rowley, threesweetpeasbakerycafe.com
Angela Daley, Owner and Head Chef of Three Sweet Peas Bakery and Café in Rowley (named after her three children) developed a passion for baking watching her maternal grandmother in the kitchen. “I like the creative side of it—just being able to make whatever comes to mind that sounds good,” says Daley, who perfected her craft by attending Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. “I also think what I love about [baking] is that it makes people happy and I like making people happy through food.” Some of the first sweets Daley made for her café were the lemon-iced Italian ricotta cookies that her Sicilian grandmother used to make for the holidays.
“It was definitely a staple that we had at Christmas, Easter and pretty much all of the holidays,” says Daley. “They are two bites max and the sprinkles on top make them fun and very festive.” Plus, she adds, they always remind me of my grandma, who I love so much.
Italian Ricotta Cookies
Makes about 60 cookies
Ingredients for cookies
2 cups granulated sugar
1 stick salted butter
15-ounce container whole milk ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon each pure vanilla and lemon extract
2 large eggs
4 1⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
Ingredients for icing
2 cups confectioners sugar
5 tablespoons warm whole milk
1 teaspoon each pure vanilla extract and fresh lemon juice
1. To make cookies, preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Combine granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl and beat with rotary beaters until light and fluffy. Add ricotta, extracts, and eggs. Mix until well combined.
3. Scrape bowl down and then add flour and baking powder. Beat until dough comes together. For each cookie, roll a rounded tablespoon of dough into a ball and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, spacing cookies about two inches apart. Bake cookies 10–12 minutes or until lightly golden. Let cool.
4. To make icing, whisk together all icing ingredients except for nonpareils until combined. Dip tops of each cookie in icing mixture and then sprinkle with nonpareils.
Eva Nikolakakos serves a sugar-dusted taste of home
Co-owner Eva’s Pastries, Inc.
139 Lynnfield St., Peabody, evaspastries.com
As the oldest of four siblings with two parents who worked, Greek-born Eva Nikolakakos got behind the stove at an early age. “I started baking at the age of eight. It came naturally to me—it was a gift.” Eventually, she became a pastry chef and when she left Crete in 2013 to settle in Boston, she couldn’t find the authentic Greek sweets she craved. “All my teeth are sweet,” Nikolakakos says, laughing.
“I love a good dessert and was disappointed with what I found in [American] markets, so I thought, ‘Okay, how about I try making them myself?’” She opened up a Facebook page to sell Greek desserts via the internet and eventually opened Eva’s Pastries, Inc., with her business partner, Chef Danny G, selling Greek sweets, including two traditional holiday cookies.
“In Greece, we always have two Christmas cookies,” says Nikolakakos. “One is called kourabiedes, which is a butter almond cookie covered with powdered sugar and the other is melomakarona, which is a honey walnut cookie.” Traditionally, families gather together—the grandmothers, mothers, aunts and cousins—baking big batches of the cookies to divvy up. The kourabiedes are the most popular, says Nikolakakos, and in Greece are made from a mixture of goat and sheep’s butter. At her shop, she uses cow’s butter, however, with excellent results.
“It’s a very buttery cookie that melts in your mouth, and the powdered sugar on the outside gives it the perfect sweetness because the cookie by itself is not very sweet.”
Makes approximately 24 cookies
2 cups whole, skin-on almonds
2 sticks unsalted butter
3⁄4 cup powdered sugar (plus more for dusting)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
Rosewater (transferred to a small spray bottle, if possible)
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Place almonds on a baking sheet and roast 15 minutes. Let nuts cool, then coarsely chop.
3. Combine butter and 3⁄4 cup powdered sugar in a large bowl. Whip with electric beaters on medium speed for 1 minute and then on high speed for 4 minutes. Add chopped almonds and vanilla; blend on low speed for 10 seconds.
4. Sift cake flour with baking powder and salt. Add to almond mixture and blend on low speed until dough comes together.
5. For each cookie, roll 2 tablespoons of dough into a ball. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing cookies 1 1⁄2-inches apart, and press lightly to slightly flatten. Bake cookies for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden. Let cool.
6. Add some powdered sugar to a bowl for dusting. Working in batches, spray or sprinkle cooled cookies with rosewater and then toss in powdered sugar until well coated.