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Holiday Cookies on a Shoestring

The holiday season is in fill swing, and that means lots of holiday cookies. In our special edition of "Chef on a Shoestring," Katie Lee, "Early Show" contributor and author of the new cookbook, "The Comfort Table: Recipes for Everyday Occasions," shows us everything we'll need to make and decorate the seasonal confections.

Gingerbread Cookies
Poinsettia Butter Cookies
Peanut Butter Surprise Balls
Christmas Wreath Cookies


Gingerbread - This sweet dates back to the Middle Ages, when fair ladies presented the rather hard, honey-spice bread as a favor to dashing knights going into tournament battle. In those days, gingerbread was intricately shaped and decoreated, sometimes with gold leaf. Today, gingerbread generally refers to one of two desserts. It ca be a dense ginger-spiced cookie flavored with molasses or honey and cut into fanciful shapes. Or, particularly in the United States, it can describe a dark, moist cake flavored with molasses, ginger and other spices. This gingerbread "cake" is usually baked in a square pan and often topped with lemon sauce or whipped cream. ("The Food Lover's Companion")

"Early Show" recipes galore!

Rugalach - A Hanukkah tradition, rugalach are bite-size crescent-shaped cookies that can have any of several fillings including raisins and nuts, poppy-seed paste or jam. They're generally made with a rich cream-cheese dough. ("The Food Lover's Companion")


Gingerbread Cookies

7 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup lightly-packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups molasses
2/3 cup water


In a large bowl, sift flour, soda, spices, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the brown sugar, butter, molasses, and 2/3 cup water for 3 to 4 minutes. Gradually add flour and mix until ingredients are combined. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface. Divide in quarters and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Remove one dough at a time from refrigerator and let stand for a few minutes to soften slightly. On a lightly-floured surface, roll dough about 1/4-inch thick. Cut with a floured gingerbread cookie cutter. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until cookies begin to crisp and lightly darken. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Frost or decorate with Royal Icing.

Royal Icing

1 pound powdered sugar
1/3 cup Milk (plus more if needed)


In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat sugar and milk. If too thick, add a tablespoon of milk, one at a time.

To tint icing, add food coloring to achieve desired color.

Poinsettias Butter Cookies

3/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Red food coloring (about 20 drops)
1 egg
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
Green sprinkles or green M&Ms


In a large, use an electric mixer on medium speed to beat butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, egg and cream cheese. Add food coloring to make dough light red. Stir in flour until just blended. Shape dough into a ball, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate about 2 hours, or until firm.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pinch dough into 1 ½-inch balls. Use scissors to make 3 cuts in the top of each ball, about ¾ of the way through. Place ball on cookie sheet and slightly spread sections apart.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until sections have began to flatten and edges are set. Sprinkle centers with green sprinkles or press green M&M into the center.


4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 sugar
1 egg yolk
1 cup flour
Pinch salt
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup finely-chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Coarse sugar


In a large bowl, use an electric mixer on medium speed to beat the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and salt. Beat about 3 to 4 minutes, until fluffy. Add the egg yolk and beat to combine. Turn the mixer to low and add flour until just combined.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Form dough into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each half into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F and position the racks in thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Heat marmalade in the microwave until it is melted. In a small bowl, combine chocolate chips, walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon.

On a lightly-floured surface, roll one disk into a 10-inch round. Brush the surface with melted marmalade and sprinkle with half of the chocolate chip mixture. Cover the dough with a piece of wax paper and gently run the rolling pin over it to press the filling into place.

Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut the dough into dough into 16 even wedges. Starting at the outside edge, roll each wedge to the tip, forming a crescent. Arrange cookies on prepared baking sheet. Brush each cookie with egg and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake cookies on upper and lower oven racks for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating halfway through. Let cool completely on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.

Peanut Butter Surprise Balls

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
32 mini chocolate peanut butter cups


Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease two cookie sheets.

In a small bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the egg and beat until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla and peanut butter and beat until fully incorporated. Add the flour mixture and beat until well mixed.

Shape the dough by the tablespoonful around each peanut butter cup. Place onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Cool a couple minutes on cookie sheet and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

For a Christmas Wreath Cookies recipe, go to Page 2.

Christmas Wreath Cookies

3/4 cup butter
1 (16 ounce) bag marshmallows
7 cups corn flakes
Green food coloring
Blue food coloring
Red Hots


Melt butter in pan. Add marshmallows and stir until melted. Add food coloring until mixture is a nice "holly" green. Remove from heat and pour over corn flakes in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly. On wax paper, form wreath-shaped cookies and decorate with Red Hots to look like berries.

So how did Katie Lee do?

Gingerbread Men
Poinsettia Butter Cookies
Peanut Butter Surprise
Christmas Wreaths

Lower Left Pop-Ups
Gingerbread Men
flour $1.49
ginger $.80
cloves $.59
molasses $2.59
total $5.47

butter $1.99
sugar $1.89
food coloring $3.39
M&Ms $.79
total $8.06

cream cheese $1.99
marmalade $1.59
chocolate chops $3.19
walnuts $1.75
total $8.52

Peanut Butter Surprise
peanut butter $1.88
peanut butter cups $3.29
total $5.17

Christmas Wreaths
marshmallows $1.29
corn flakes $3.49
Red hots $1.29
total $6.07

Total $33.29

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