Richmond baker extraordinaire Arley Arrington walks us through making her favorite holiday treats
Every year, copious amounts of sugar, butter, and cinnamon course through our kitchen at record speed. Christmas cookies are emblematic of the holidays: a staple dessert, snack, gift, and lifestyle. The holidays are a time to break out family heirloom recipes and connect with nostalgia for past occasions through spritz cookies, linzer cookies, and sugar cookies. Or, maybe we welcome each holiday season as the chance the to experiment with new Christmas cookie recipes, adding snappy gingerbread, salted rye buttons, and fudgy chocolate disks to our repertoire. Wherever the sugar spirit takes you, Richmond-based baker Arley Arrington offers a few tips and techniques to pull off flawless Christmas cookies every time.
Tips for Making the Best Christmas Cookies
TIPS FROM ARLEY FOR THE BEST CHRISTMAS COOKIES
- SILICONE BAKING MATS help ensure your cookies don’t burn on the bottom and stay nice and soft in the middle.
- If you’re baking more than one tray of cookies at a time, ROTATE them from front to back and top to bottom to make sure all of your cookies are baking evenly.
- CHILL YOUR DOUGH OVERNIGHT if you can, especially for rolled cookies. It deepens the flavor and makes sure the cookies don’t spread too much.
- Arrington uses a COOKIE SCOOP to shape most of her cookies. A heavy-duty stainless steel scoop is worth the investment. We recommend looking for a size that yields 2-inch cookies.
- SHIP anything other than chocolate-dipped cookies, which are likely to melt during the journey. Pro tip: Avoid stale cookies by sticking a small piece of bread in the tins, which helps keep the cookies fresh.
- STOP BAKING COOKIES as soon as they are consistently browned around the edges, and just not wet in the middle (but maybe a teensy bit gooey). They’ll continue to cook on the baking sheet for a few minutes outside of the oven, and then will firm up even more as they cool.
- Arrington likes to put A SCOOP OF ICE CREAM between two cookies to make a dessert that is simple, but impressive. Killer combos: ginger molasses + vanilla ice cream and Mexican hot chocolate + coffee ice cream.
Arrington’s Best Christmas Cookie Recipes
Arrington wasn’t a big chocolate fan until discovering how well it goes with chile and cinnamon. “This has been my obsession for the last year,” she says. “I’m a new person.”
Shortbread people are Arrington’s answer to the Christmas classic. “They’re super cute and festive, and an easier alternative to gingerbread men.”
Arrington’s Aunt Barb makes hundreds of Christmas cookies for her extended family every year, including russian tea cakes. “They’re teeny tiny, not too sweet, and just sort of melt in your mouth,” she says. “I added the brown butter to deepen the nutty flavor.”
These cookies were inspired by Arrington’s Jamaican grandmother who made a ginger beer that was “so intensely gingery that the ice-cold drink would burn your throat a little bit on its way down,” she says. “The molasses cookies won’t burn your throat (as long as you let them cool before devouring them), but ginger-lovers like me appreciate the bold flavors.”
Rich, buttery shortbread anchors the dynamic duo, dark chocolate and orange. Though chocolate and orange may seem like an unlikely pairing, the slight bitterness of the orange compliments that in the chocolate, and the fruity sweetness draws out the sugar in the glaze. These Christmas cookies double down with zesty orange flavor, using both zest and orange liqueur in the dough.
These nutty thumbprints offer baklava flavor without having to painstakingly butter endless sheets of phyllo dough.
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