Cookie purists might need help to digest the trend, but crossover cookies are emerging as go-to provisions for holiday parties this year. They reflect our current fondness for big, bold, complex flavors and textures — such as smoky, pungent, sweet, spicy, crunchy — all rolled into one neat little package.
Some, like the accompanying recipe for Sun-Dried Tomato and Pepperoni Rugelach, are made just like classic versions — except they omit the sugar and crank up taste with herbs, spices, salt and various other full-flavored filling ingredients that play well with cocktails or wine.
(When you’re serving them to the purists, refer to savory rugelach as “rollups.”)
My piquant Peppercorn-Chive Cheddar Wafers are readied much like thin rolled, cut-out cookies. But they, too, contain no sugar and are topped with crushed peppercorns, salt and black mustard seed, then crisped in a warm oven to achieve a crackerlike consistency.
Crossover cookies can marry that same crisp texture with a bit of sweetness. My Spicy Smoked Tea-Pecan Crisps look like crackers but are enlivened with cinnamon, allspice and coarse sugar crystals, as well as a spicy component. They are equally suitable on an appetizer cheese tray, fruit plate or dessert and tea table.
You can create your own crossover recipes, as long as the flavors are fresh and natural tasting.
■ Introduce several components, such as hot, herbal, tangy and salty, at once. Complex combinations and ones with a kick are on trend.
■ Amp up a standard cheese-straw recipe by using a smoked cheese; adding a smidge of sharp mustard, a dash of hot sauce and freeze-dried minced onions; and garnishing with crunchy smoked nuts or seeds.
■ Make zippy and eye-catching cocktail thumbprint cookies by reducing the granulated sugar in a classic sugar-cookie dough to 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons per cup of flour and incorporating 1/4 cup extra-sharp shredded cheddar cheese for every cup of flour; or by rolling the balls in black or white sesame seeds before forming indentations for the filling. Fill the thumbprint centers with homemade or store-bought hot pepper jelly.
■ Transform a biscotti dough by eliminating the sugar, spices, dried fruit and extracts. Instead, fold in fresh minced rosemary, pine nuts and chopped oil-cured (not brined) black olives.
■Turn a gingersnap recipe into the base for cocktail hors d’oeuvres by boosting the amount of ground ginger and reducing the sugar to three tablespoons of sugar per cup of flour. Top with a tart cranberry-orange relish, serve alongside a savory spread, or sandwich mincemeat between two gingersnaps to create a savory sandwich cookie.
Baggett created a chapter of savory and crossover cookies for her latest cookie cookbook, “Simply Sensational Cookies” (Houghton Mifflin, 2012), which was included in the Post Food Section’s 2012 Holiday Cookbooks List. She’ll join Wednesday’s Free Range chat at noon: live.washingtonpost.com.