Market Musings Blog

A versatile holiday cookie dough + recipes

Everyone loves holiday cookies, though few people have the time to make several varieties. But here is a master dough recipe that you can easily vary to produce cookies with three distinctive flavors and appearances. These are delicate, crunchy cookies made with the season’s nuts, and each of them will win you raves.

James Beard’s Nut Butter Balls
Austrian Nut Crescents
New Mexican Biscochitos

The first two of these cookies use identical doughs and differ in their shapes and flavorings—Nut Butter Balls are most glorious with pecans or hazelnuts, while Austrian Nut Crescents feature walnuts. Set aside one-third of the dough to modify for making traditional New Mexican Biscochitos.

The Master Dough

2 c. unsalted butter
1/4–1/3 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
4 c. sifted all-purpose flour

  • Preheat oven to 325°; use middle rack of oven.
  • Cream butter; add sugar and beat in until mixture is fluffy. Add vanilla.
  • Add flour.
  • Divide dough into three portions; place each in a separate bowl.

Cooking Tip: To grind nuts, you may use a hand-crank nut mill, a food processor or a coffee grinder (not the one you use for coffee, though!).  Just be sure to pulse briefly if you use the electric options- Or you’ll end up with nut butters!

Nut Butter Balls

1/3 master dough
1 1/3. c. finely ground pecans or hazelnuts
2/3 Tbsp. brandy (optional)
Powdered sugar, sifted                   

  • Add 1 1/3 c. c. finely ground pecans or hazelnuts. Using fingers, mix nuts lightly into dough.
  • If desired, add brandy and mix lightly again.
  • Roll out portions of dough, 1/4 c. at a time, into 1/2-inch diameter snakes. Cut into 1/2-inch lengths and roll between your hands into small balls. Place on ungreased baking sheet and cook for 10–12 minutes.
  • While they’re still warm, roll balls in sifted powdered sugar. 

Austrian Nut Crescents:

1/3 master dough
1 1/3 c. finely ground walnuts
Powdered sugar, sifted

  • Add 1 1/3 c. c. finely ground walnuts to dough. Using fingers, mix nuts lightly into dough.
  • Chill dough in refrigerator until it can be easily rolled into a log about 1 inch in diameter.
  • Roll dough into a log, and cut off slices about 1 inch thick. Place each section on an ungreased cookie sheet, and bend each end of cookie so that it forms a crescent. Bake for 10–12 minutes until lightly colored.
  • While they’re still slightly warm, sift powdered sugar from far above cookies so that it coats them very delicately.

New Mexican Biscochitos

1 egg
1/3 master dough
1 1/3 c. more of sifted all-purpose sifted flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 Tbsp. brandy
1 tsp. anise seed, ground or anise oil extract
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

  • Add egg to 1/3 of Master Dough; stir in thoroughly, then add flour, baking powder, salt, brandy, and anise seed.
  • Flour a board and roll out dough 1/4-inch thick. Use cookie cutters or cut into your own shapes. Before placing on greased cookie sheet, sift combined sugar and cinnamon over cookies from a height so that it coats them very delicately.
  • Place cookies on pan and bake for 10–12 minutes.

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