I will let you in on a little secret: I find buying presents for other people incredible stressful. Even more so, when I don’t know the present recipient extremely well (e.g. parents of friends or partners). I know I can’t be alone in this. However, if there is one thing I have learned over the year it is that homemade gifts always go down well. Especially the edible kind. Even better if they come in some pretty packaging.
So today I share 10 recipes for delicious Christmas cookies and edible gifts that I have posted on the blog over the years – from traditional German or Greek Christmas cookies to homemade Torrone, truffles and pâte de fruits, there is hopefully something for everyone and every skill level so you can create your own gift boxes of different kinds of cookies and sweet treats to give away over the Christmas period (or to eat them all by yourself ;-)).
Flourless except for the wafer biscuit, Elisenlebkuchen are among my favourite Christmas cookies ever. While most European countries have one or several versions of gingerbread (the German word for which is Lebkuchen), Elisenlebkuchen seem to be unique to Germany. Heavily spiced and macaroon-like in texture, Elisenlebkuchen are incredibly moreish. While widely available these days, including internationally, they are actually really easy to make at home (which also turns out much cheaper!). Plus, they look rather impressive once done, whether covered in a simple white icing and decorated with blanche almonds or dipped in dark or milk chocolate. Wrapped in some cellophane and tied with a pretty bow they also make a super nice edible gift.
I have written about these a few times and was lucky enough to have these included when Food52 did a cookie map of the world in the run-up to Christmas a few years ago. Click here for the recipe if you want to try your hand at making our own.
Rye, Walnut and Cardamom Crescent Cookies
A simple twist on the more traditional Vanilla Crescent Cookies (Vanillekipferl), I love these Rye, Walnut and Cardamom Crescent Cookies. If you think of Vanilla Crescent Cookies as the type of cookie your baby sister might adore, then think of these as the type of cookie your older brother’s cool friend would prefer – a more sophisticated, grown-up and intriguing version of Vanillekipferl. Click here for the recipe.
Chocolate Garam Masala Snickerdoodles
These cookies take their inspiration not just from the Blue Bottle Saffron Vanilla Snickerdoodles but also from some Chocolate Curry and Coconut cookies I saw at Baked in NYC a few years ago. If you like chocolate covered gingerbread cookies then I think you will love these cookies too – they are like the grown-up version of chocolate covered gingerbread! Click here for the recipe.
German Peppernuts with Indonesian Long Pepper
German Peppernuts are spiced cookies made (hence the name) with a generous helping of ground pepper. Simple to make, these were a huge hit when Kaja and I did a couple of Christmas cookie classes in the run-up to Christmas last year. Here, fragrant Indonesian long pepper gives these classical German Christmas cookies both a new lease of life and a really intriguing and delicious flavour. Click here for the recipe.
Tamarind Pâte de Fruit
Pâte de Fruit is essentially a wine gum made with fresh fruit juices or purees and sugar which is set with the help of pectin. Once set, the pâte de fruit is cut into smaller shapes (small squares or disks are common but you could also use small cookie cutters for different shapes) and rolled in sugar to avoid them sticking together. This Tamarind Pâte de Fruit is a bit more unusual in flavour and is also a fantastic way of using up that open jar of tamarind paste at the back of your fridge. This time of year you could of course also make a mulled wine pâte de fruit by replacing the tamarind water with homemade mulled wine. Click here for the recipe.
Melomakarona are peculiar cookies. The dough is made with both butter and olive oil, and so much of either, that shaping them will leave your hands pretty greasy. And yet, the resulting cookies don’t taste or feel oily at all. Also, as little sugar as there is in the dough itself, the resulting cookies are nonetheless tooth-achingly sweet thanks to being drenched in a sugar and honey syrup right after baking. And while technically they are cookies, their flavour and texture and that syrup bath always reminds me much more of baklava – delicious sweet little morsels that are perfect alongside some strong coffee, ideally the Greek kind of course. Click here for the recipe.
Almond, Hazelnut and Pistachio Torrone (with Aquafaba)
Italians really don’t like cold and wet weather. So the only way for them to get through the cold winter nights around Christmas and the New Year is to spend the evening playing cards with friends, ideally next to an open fireplace. In fact this is how I spent many cold December and January evenings during my many trips to Italy and while I lived in Italy. Key to the success of these evenings with friends was of course the food. Not quite full meals (since at that time of year these were either had at home or at some other relative’s place) but something to snack on. In particular, Pandoro (or Panettone depending on your preference), bowls of nuts and mandarins and, of course, Torrone. As it turns out, making Torrone at home is actually really easy and the perfect opportunity to use up odds and ends of various open bags of nuts and seeds at the back of your pantry.
The not-so-secret ingredient of this Almond, Hazelnut and Pistachio Torrone is Aquafaba, i.e. the water left over from cooking chickpeas and other legumes. With a raw egg white texture, aquafaba is incredible and mimics the texture of egg whites perfectly in this Torrone (bonus: it also means this Torrone is safe to eat for those with an egg allergy). And no, the resulting Torrone does not taste of Chickpeas! There is of course nothing stopping you from making the Torrone with egg white. Also, as delicious as the combination of almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios is, you could of course swap in some pecans, brazil nuts or peanuts, for example. Click here for the recipe.
Dark chocolate truffles with Sichuan pepper and orange zest
Homemade chocolate truffles are probably one of the easiest homemade gifts you could make. And probably also one of the most widely appreciated ones. After all, who doesn’t like to receive a box of chocolates? For something a little less ordinary, these Dark Chocolate Truffles with Sichuan Pepper and Orange Zest get a little heat from the Sichuan pepper and some fruity flavour from orange zest. Click here for the recipe.
Oat and Cardamom Florentines
While you could make these any time of the year, the cardamom in these Oat and Cardamom Florentines makes them taste Christmassy to me. Also, Florentines are so pretty to look at, thin and delicate with a shiny top and chocolaty bottom, they are perfect for wrapping in clear foil or little cellophane bags with a pretty bow and give away as gifts. That they come together very easily and fast is another plus in case you are looking for some last minute present inspiration. Click here for the recipe.
Turkish Delight with Pistachios, Cinnamon and Orange Blossom Water
Making Turkish Delight is a real labour of love. But assuming you have a bit of time on your hands and don’t mind standing by the stove for the better part of an hour or so, the process itself is pretty straightforward. Also, there is no shame in watching Netflix while standing at the stove and stirring a pot of Turkish Delight!
While there are dozens of flavour variations for Turkish Delight, each one with an almost endless variety of possible add-ins of different nuts or dried fruit, this Turkish Delight with Pistachios, Cinnamon and Orange Blossom Water is one of my preferred versions since it combines so many delicious flavours. Click here for the recipe.
What is your favourite Christmas cookie you make year after year? Or do you have a favourite thing to make as an edible gift? Tell me in the comments!