The scene in “The Wizard of Oz” when Dorothy steps out of her black-and-white house into the Technicolor world of the yellow brick road is one of the most breathtaking movie moments I’ve ever seen. The air catches in my throat, and I’m awestruck no matter how many times I have watched it.
That’s exactly how I feel about this year’s holiday cookie section. Seeing them all together for the first time at our photo shoot, as you do here, I got more than a little choked up. The colors, the joy, the love that our team and contributors put into it all — it was like stepping out of the shadows and into a rainbow.
As in 2020, our cookie issue, now in its 17th year, was something to help buoy our spirits even as the world around us continued to be shaken by the ongoing pandemic, natural disasters and social unrest. Again, we retreated to our kitchens as a balm. We tested, we tasted. We delivered cookies and developed a relay system all over the Washington area, sharing both the workload and fruits of our labor.
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We deliberately cast a wider net — stretching far beyond our little corner of the globe — when recruiting recipe developers. We reached out to chefs, bloggers and authors from all over the country and in a few international locales as well. The only true objective: Notching another dozen outstanding recipes for our ever-expanding archive of holiday treats.
In this collection, you’ll find an eclectic, engaging array of cookies and confections. Seeking a traditional rolled and cut cookie to decorate? We have those. How about easy drop cookies that are both nostalgic and novel? They’re here, too. Gluten-free and vegan options? Check and check. You’ll find ingredients to appeal to many tastes, with recipes featuring chocolate, nuts, spices, dried fruit and more. There are treats that shimmer and sparkle, others draped in icing. They’re accessible and approachable, and even when a recipe asks you to go a step above, trust us that the effort is well worth it (and the offered alternatives are just as delicious).
Try one or try them all. Either way, be sure to share with your friends and family. Now let’s introduce you to this year’s recipes:
Tamarind Mantecadito Cookies
Washington pastry chef Paola Velez turns to her Dominican roots with this simple sugar cookie taken to the next level with nutmeg and a sweet-and-sour tamarind icing.
Candied Sweet Potato and Toasted Walnut Cookies
Nashville chef and blogger Charles Hunter III takes the standard drop cookie in a whole new direction, adding tender, honey-glazed pieces of sweet potato and drizzling with a swoon-worthy cinnamon and maple icing.
Vegan Eggnog Cookies
This dairy- and egg-free treat from blogger Jessica Hylton Leckie is a soft and chewy ringer for the holiday beverage. Her cashew- and almond-based version goes into both the cookie and glaze (and you’ll have extra of to sip while you nibble).
Chocolate Macadamia Nut Kisses
If you’re a fan of Italian baci di dama, you’re going to love this version from pastry chef Pichet Ong, which channels his current post in Hawaii by using macadamia nuts in the cookies that are sandwiched around a caramel-based chocolate ganache.
Fig and Ginger Terrazzo Tiles With Disco Sugar
Expect elegance with a splash of color and punch of ginger in these chocolate-studded slice-and-bake cookies from Toronto cookbook author Tara O’Brady.
Spiced Spelt Cookies
Baker Arturo Enciso of Long Beach, Calif., brings the heat with these adorable cutout cookies (the cactus shape is highly recommended but not mandatory) that let a heady mix of cinnamon and cayenne play off the nutty undertones of whole spelt flour.
White Chocolate, Rosemary, and Almond Biscotti
For a delightful tea- or coffee-time treat, Australian cookbook author Thalia Ho parlayed her interest in botanical ingredients by pairing piney rosemary and bright orange peel with the caramelized sweetness of baked white chocolate pieces.
Red Velvet Santa Hat Cookies
Cookbook author and “Great American Baking Show” champion Vallery Lomas takes inspiration from the classic cake in these cutout cookies that are decorated with white chocolate and can be made in the shape of your choice, though Christmas stockings and candy canes are just as fantastic.
Cardamom Kaju Katli
Mithai are a popular genre of Indian sweets, and New York chef and caterer Surbhi Sahni shares this vegan, gluten-free and no-bake gem from her collection, made with mellow, creamy cashews and loads of fragrant cardamom.
Chewy Cranberry Coconut Oatmeal Cookies
Chicago pastry chef Aya Fukai upgrades the classic oatmeal raisin cookie by swapping in tart cranberries and adding tropical coconut along with the walnuts for a homey soft-on-the-inside, crisp-on-the-edge treat.
More confection than cookie, this “dessert lasagna” from Chicago baking instructor Emily Nejad will have you falling hard for layers of saltines, chocolate ganache and sublime homemade marshmallow fluff.
This recipe marks the return of our holiday cookie project. Denver baker Elana Beruschwalks you through how to customize your own eye-catching version of her signature kaleidoscope sweet.
About this story
Photos by Scott Suchman for The Washington Post. Food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post. Photo editing by Jennifer Beeson Gregory. Design and development by Christine Ashack. Additional development by Leo Dominguez. Design editing by Rachel Orr. Editing and recipe editing by Matt Brooks, Ann Maloney and Olga Massov. Copy editing by Jim Webster. Portraits by (from top): Hector Velez, Jordan Hunter, Jessica Hylton Leckie, Melissa Hom, Stephanie Noritz, Mitchell Maher, Thalia Ho, Courtesy of Vallery Lomas, Regina Onal, Neil Burger, Dana Richards/ettakit and Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post.
Becky Krystal is a food reporter and staff writer for Voraciously. After several years as a general assignment reporter in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, she came to The Washington Post in 2007 to work for TV Week and Sunday Source. Her time at The Post also includes a five-year stint in the Travel section.