When giving gifts for the holidays, homemade can be best.
And some of the best homemade holiday treats? Cookies, of course!
On The Early Show Wednesday, Martha Stewart Living Food Director Lucinda Scala Quinn served up some of her favorite cookie recipes from the book "Martha Stewart's Cookies: The Very Best Treats to Bake and to Share," put together by Martha Stewart Living Magazine.
Lucinda also shared creative and easy packaging ideas to turn cookies into a handmade gift, from the Martha Stewart Craft line available at Walmart.
Cream-Cheese Walnut Cookies
4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 ounces cream cheese, (not whipped) room temperature
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups walnut halves (1-1/2 cups toasted and coarsely chopped), 1 cup finely chopped
1. Whisk together flour and salt in a large bowl; set aside.
2. Put butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in sugar and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture, and mix until just combined (do not overmix). Mix in couresly chopped toasted walnuts.
3. Transfer dough to a work surface. Divide in half; shape each half into an 8-1/2 inch-long log about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap each log in parchment paper; freeze until firm, about 30 minutes or up to 2 weeks.
4. Preheat oven to 350 with racks in upper and lower thirds. Unwrap 1 log, and roll in 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts, coating completely. Cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Space 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
5. Bake cookies, rotating halfway through, until golden around edges, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Repeat with remaining log and remaining 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.
Chocolate Crackle Cookies
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1-1/2 cups light-brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Melt chocolate over medium heat in a heat-proof bowl or the top of a double boiler set over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.
3. With an electric mixer, beat butter and light-brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Add melted chocolate. With mixer on low speed, alternate adding dry ingredients and milk until just combined. Divide the dough into quarters and cover with plastic and chill in the refrigerator until firm, about 2 hours.
4. Divide each piece into 16 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar to coat, then in confectioners sugar to coat. Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
5. Bake until surfaces crack, about 14 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let cool on wire racks.
Cranberry Pistachio Cornmeal Biscotti
1-1/4 cups all purpose flour
1-1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped pistachios
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in center. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.
2. Put butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until smooth. Add sugar and mix until pale and fluffy. Mix in eggs one at a time until well combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture all at once, mix until just combined. Add lemon zest, cranberries, and pistachios, and mix until combined.
3. Transfer dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Pat into a log that is roughly 14 by 3 ½ inches. Bake until firm, lightly browned and slightly cracked on top, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack about 15 minutes.
4. Transfer log to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut on the diagonal into ½ inch thick slices. Arrange slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake cookies rotating sheet half way through until they begin to brown at edges, 15-to-18 minutes. Let cool on sheet on a wire rack. Cookies can be stored in an air tight container at room temperature up to two weeks.
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