8 recipes for your holiday cookie swap

CBC Calgary food and nutrition expert Julie Van Rosendaal shares some festive snacks perfect for sharing.

CBC Calgary food and nutrition expert Julie Van Rosendaal shares some festive snacks perfect for sharing

Here are some sweet suggestions for holiday goodies. (Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

‘Tis the season for Christmas cookie baking — and swapping.

If you have a get-together planned, or are looking for new cookie inspiration, here are eight recipes that are easy to make in large batches and are sure to go over well if they’re destined for gifting.

If you’re planning a cookie swap, plan ahead and have a few extra containers on hand (they are inexpensive at the dollar store). 

Remember not to package soft and crisp cookies together, or they’ll take on each others’ characteristics  the soft cookies drying out and crunchy ones getting soggy.

Most cookies freeze well in airtight containers if you wind up with more cookies than you’ll eat (or share) in a few days.

Chocolava Cookies

These are rich, intensely chocolate, brownie-like cookies, rolled in icing sugar before they’re baked to create a crackled surface as they rise and spread in the oven.

Don’t overbake them — they should be set around the edges but still soft in the middle. If you want to make Nenshi's red velvet cookies, add a couple teaspoons of red food colouring along with the eggs.

  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • icing sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 350˚F. In a large bowl or in the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, brown sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt, breaking up any lumps of brown sugar. Add the butter and pulse or stir with a fork, pastry cutter or whisk until the mixture is well combined and crumbly.

Add eggs and vanilla and stir by hand just until the dough comes together. The dough will be fairly dry — it will seem at first that there isn’t enough moisture, but if you keep stirring, or get in there and use your fingers, eventually it will come together.

Place a few heaping spoonfuls of icing sugar into a shallow dish. Roll dough into 1 ½-inch balls and roll the balls in icing sugar to coat. Place them about two inches apart on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake for 12–14 minutes until just set around the edges but still soft in the middle.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Makes more than a dozen cookies.

(Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

Apricot, Almond and Chocolate Chip Biscotti

Sturdy biscotti is perfect for giving; it travels well, keeps well, and is easy to make in large batches. Logs of dough are baked, then sliced and baked again, giving them their characteristic crunchy texture. This basic biscotti can be used as a blank canvas; add any kind of dried fruit, nut and chocolate you like.

  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted
  • ½ cup sliced or chopped dried apricots or dried cranberries
  • ½ cup chocolate chips or white chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, stir together the butter, sugar, eggs, orange juice and vanilla until smooth; add the flour, baking powder and salt and stir until almost combined. Add the almonds, apricots and chocolate chips and stir just until blended.

Divide the dough in half and with dampened hands, shape each into a log two- to three-inches wide and one-inch thick on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (You may be able to fit both on the same sheet.)

Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden. Let cool, then transfer to a cutting board and cut on a slight diagonal into ¾-inch slices with a sharp or serrated knife.

Turn the oven down to 300°F. Place the biscotti upright on a baking sheet, leaving at least a half inch between them, and bake for another 30 minutes until crisp and golden. 

Makes about three dozen biscotti.

(Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)


An alfajor or alajú is a traditional confection found in some regions of Spain and in parts of Latin America, including Paraguay, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.

In North America, they most often refer to shortbread or sugar cookies sandwiched with dulce de leche, a soft milk caramel that makes a delicious, simple filling and a perfect pairing with buttery shortbread.

  • 1 ½ cups butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • dulce de leche or homemade caramel, for filling

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar for three to four minutes, until pale and light. Beat in the vanilla. 

Add the flour and salt and beat just until the dough comes together; gather it into a ball, divide it in half, shape each piece into a disk and wrap in plastic or waxed paper. Refrigerate for half an hour or so.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. On a lightly-floured surface, roll each piece of dough out ¼-inch thick and cut into 1.5-inch rounds with a cookie cutter. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and prick each once or twice with a fork.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until pale golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Once completely cooled, spread half the cookies with dulce de leche or caramel and top with a second cookie. 

Makes about two dozen sandwich cookies.

(Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

Barley Chocolate Chip Cookies

Support our Alberta barley farmers while you do your holiday baking.

Barley is higher in fibre than oats and soft barley flour produces a chewy cookie that stays soft longer than those made with wheat flour, without the tweedy texture of whole wheat or oat flour.

  • ¾ cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups barley flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 8 oz. dark or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into chunks

Preheat oven to 350˚F. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars until pale and almost fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla.

Add the barley flour, baking soda and salt and stir or beat on low until almost combined; add the chocolate chunks and stir just until blended. 

Drop dough by large spoonfuls onto a parchment-lined sheet and bake for 10-14 minutes (depending on their size) until golden around the edges but still soft in the middle. Let them set for a minute, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool. 

Makes about two dozen cookies.

(Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

Chocolate Angelica Cookies

The famous Tofino taco truck Tacofino is known for its spicy chocolate Diablo cookie. I omitted the chile peppers but kept the ginger. If you’re a real ginger fan, try adding chunks of candied ginger to the dough too.

To make the traditional chocolate Diablo cookies, add one teaspoon of cayenne pepper to the dry ingredients.

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cocoa
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips or chunks (optional)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • coarse salt or sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. In a large bowl, stir or whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon (if using) and salt. If you like, toss in the chocolate chips.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugars, oil, ginger and vanilla. Add to the dry ingredients and stir (you may need to get in there with your hands) until you have a stiff, dark dough. 

Scoop out the dough by the ¼ cupful and place a couple inches apart on a greased or parchment-lined sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt or sugar, if you like. Bake for 15 minutes, or until cracked and set but still soft in the middle. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Makes a dozen big cookies.

(Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

Beurre and Sel Jammers

These substantial jam-filled cookies are perfectly round and uniform in size, having been baked in muffin tins.

They can be Christmasfied by using marmalade, cranberry sauce or fruit mincemeat. Adapted from Dorie Greenspan via Bon AppétitDecember 2012.

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup icing sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Streusel and filling:
    • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • ¼ tsp. salt
    • 5 Tbsp. chilled butter, cut into bits
    • ¾ cup thick, chunky jam, marmalade or mincemeat

Make the cookie dough first. In a large bowl beat the butter, sugars and salt for a few minutes, until pale and creamy. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla.

Add the flour and beat on low speed or stir just to combine. Take walnut-sized chunks of dough and press into the bottom of muffin tins; alternatively, roll between sheets of parchment ¼-inch thick, freeze and then cut into rounds the same size as your muffin tin (I used a small glass rim).

To make the streusel, mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a small bowl, then rub in the butter with a fork or your fingertips until well blended. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Drop a small spoonful of jam into the middle of each round of dough. Using your fingers or a small spoon, sprinkle roughly 1.5 Tbsp of streusel around edges of each cookie, trying not to get any in the jam.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the sides and streusel are golden; cool until warm enough to handle, then use a thin knife to remove the cookies from the pan. 

Makes about two dozen cookies.

(Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

Peppermint Brownies

A batch of brownies is often overlooked at a cookie swap. If you line your pan with parchment first, it’s easy to lift the batch out of the pan and cut into squares. Or leave it whole and wrap  an easy way to package a dozen or so at a time!

  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. peppermint extract
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup dark chocolate chunks (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate. Pour into a bowl and stir in the sugar, eggs and peppermint extract.

Add the flour and salt (and chocolate, if you’re using it) and spread into an 8x8-inch pan that has been lined with parchment. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Makes 16 brownies.

(Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal) (Julie Van Rosendaal)

S’Mores Cookies

Classic chocolate chip is upgraded with mini marshmallows and a shake of graham cracker crumbs. The dough is quick to pulse together in a food processor, streamlining the process when you have plenty to make.

  • ½ cup butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 – 1 ½ cups chocolate chips
  • 1-2 cups mini marshmallows

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, pulse the butter and brown sugar until well blended. Add the egg and vanilla and process for a good minute, until the mixture is pale and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if you need to.

Add the flour, graham crumbs, baking soda and salt and pulse until almost combined; add the chocolate chips and pulse just until the dough comes together.

Drop by the spoonful onto a parchment-lined sheet and press a couple mini marshmallows into each. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until pale golden and just set. 

Makes more than a dozen cookies.

(Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)


Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal talks about food trends, recipes and cooking tips on the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. MT. The best-selling cookbook author is a contributing food editor for the Globe and Mail, and writes for other publications across Canada.


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