My Favorite Holiday Cookie/Candy Recipes
My family has German roots, and most of my ancestors settled in Ohio. Those holiday trips to Ohio to visit my grandmas and great aunts always meant there would be plenty of laughter, card games, and good food in store for us. My favorite holiday treats - springerle cookies and buckeyes - are a nod to my German heritage and Ohio ties, and also to the memory of my grandmas and great aunts. The smell and taste of these confections takes me right back to their cozy kitchens.
I've been making buckeyes every year for the past 16 years. I make them to share with friends, neighbors, teachers, and co-workers. Lucky recipients of these treats look forward to them and tell others about them, so I end up making larger batches each year to cover the newcomers.
My mom just passed my grandmother's old springerle cookie board on to me this past Thanksgiving. It is a gorgeous wooden board with designs carved into it.
I tried my hand at these cookies for the very first time a few weeks ago and I was pleased with the results. These cookies are almost too pretty to eat, but I eat them anyway. They have a black licorice flavor, so they're not everyone's cup of tea, but I love them.
As a holiday gift to you all, I'd like to share these two treasured recipes. Maybe they'll become a holiday tradition in your family, too.
These amazing peanut butter and chocolate confections get their name from the fact that they look just like buckeyes or horse chestnuts. If you don’t mind spending a lot of time in the kitchen to roll hundreds of these little balls and dip them in chocolate, give this winning recipe a try. Be warned though – once you make these and share them, you’ll be expected to make them every year. In fact, you’ll probably need to start doubling the recipe.
- 2 lbs peanut butter (I prefer the natural, smooth peanut butters)
- 3 lbs powdered sugar
- 1 lb butter, softened
- 3 Tbs vanilla extract
- 2 12-oz bags of chocolate chips (I use a mix of milk chocolate and semi-sweet chips)
- 2 oz baking chocolate
- ½ cake of paraffin wax
- Mix the peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar until smooth. You’ll need to use your hands to really bring the dough together. Add more peanut butter to taste if you prefer to lighten the sweet factor.
- Chill the dough and then form it into 1” balls (the size of a horse chestnut). Place the balls on cookie sheets and chill.
- Cut the paraffin wax and baking chocolate into small pieces to help them melt quicker. Put them in a double boiler with the chocolate chips. Melt until smooth.
- Insert toothpicks into the peanut butter balls, then pick them up by their toothpicks and dip them into the chocolate one by one, being careful to leave the tops of the balls chocolate-free so they look like horse chestnuts. If the balls start falling off the toothpicks, just put them in the freezer for a few minutes to harden a bit.
- Place the dipped balls on waxed paper so the chocolate sets.
- Remove the toothpicks from the balls and then smooth the tops of the balls to hide the toothpick holes.
- Refrigerate any buckeyes you aren’t going to eat immediately.
Springerle (Anise Cookie)
This dunking cookie has the distinct taste of anise, or black licorice, and is a Christmastime staple in many German households. Search antique shops or online to find a springerle cookie board or springerle rolling pin to create beautifully unique cookies that are perfect for holiday giving. These cookies should be made in advance, but I often eat them immediately out of the oven.
- 4 eggs
- 1 lb powdered sugar
- 2 tsp anise extract
- 4 ½ cups sifted cake flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 Tbs anise seed, crushed
- Beat eggs while gradually adding sugar until mixture is light and fluffy.
- Mix the flour and baking powder together in a separate bowl.
- Fold the anise extract and flour mixture into the egg mixture. The dough gets very stiff.
- Chill the dough about an hour.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to about 1/2” thickness. If using a springerle rolling pin to create the designs, roll the pin over the dough. If using a springerle board, I find it works best to put the dough on top of the board and then use a regular rolling pin to push the dough into the mold. (If the dough starts sticking to the mold, dust the mold with a little powdered sugar.)
- Cut the cookies apart and place them on a greased cookie sheet that has been sprinkled with the anise seeds. The cookies need to sit out at least 8 to 12 hours at this point. They must have a dry top before baking or else the pattern will melt into the cookie as it bakes.
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Bake the cookies until they are light yellow (not browned). This should take about 10-15 minutes.
- Store the cookies for at least 2 to 3 weeks. They will be hard, making them a perfect cookie to dunk in coffee or tea.