It’s baking time! A few days before Christmas, my usually dormant inner baker wakes up and then makes up for lost time. I’m sharing this recipe with you just in time for you to make them for Santa, and keep some for yourself.
I made my first version of these cookies back in 2004 when I was a volunteer and board member for a Houston-area memory care foundation called The Seniors’ Place that provided daytime activities for seniors who have Alzheimer’s. This was during my busy single mom years, so the extra things I usually volunteered for were activities that could be done at home, like making cookies for the seniors’ Christmas gifts that year. This allowed me to involve my son and make it a joint activity.
I chose three different types of cookies, and my then 7-year old son helped me bake them over a few evenings. Then we took our bounty of several hundred cookies to The Seniors Place on a Saturday and worked with other volunteers to wrap them in brightly colored cellophane and put them in Santa mugs for gifting the next week. The whole experience was a wonderful one to share with my son, providing a balance to the hustle and bustle of shopping and wrapping and concerts and parties and all of the other things that happen during the holidays.
The next year, Thomas asked me if we were going to make “the senior people cookies” again, and thus, the tradition of making them during the holidays was born. My mother-in-law requests them every year, too. One of the other recipes from that wonderful year is the Raspberry Nut Christmas Bars, which I published back in 2015.
That’s a plate of our Christmas cookies from Christmas Eve at my in-laws a few years ago. The Raspberry Nut bars are in the back, and festive versions of the Cranberry-Walnut Chocolate-Covered Cookie Mountains are in the foreground.
Recipe: Cranberry-Walnut Chocolate-Covered Cookie Mountains
Makes about 4-6 dozen, depending on your desired cookie size.
- 1 c. butter, softened (two sticks)
- ½ c. granulated sugar
- 1 c. dark brown sugar
- 1 tsp. almond extract
- 2 lg. eggs
- 2¼ c. flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 c. total dried cranberries and/or cherries
- 1½ c. walnuts or pecans, chopped
- 2 c. chocolate chips, your choice of dark, milk or white
- 12 oz. meltable dipping chocolate (found in the baking section of most grocery stores)
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Beat the butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugars, beating well. Add the almond extract and eggs, beating until well blended.
Combine flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a medium bowl and stir to mix well; add about half to the butter and sugar mixture and mix, then add the other half and mix again until it is combined. Stir in the dried cherries and/or cranberries, walnuts and chocolate chips.
Drop the dough in spoonfuls on a nonstick baking sheet for your desired cookie size and bake for 9 to 11 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.
When cool, follow instructions on the dipping chocolate for melting in the microwave, then dip each cookie into the chocolate and place on a clean cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Allow the chocolate to dry completely before packaging or covering the cookies.
Note: these cookies are on the sweet side, like a combination between cookies and candy, and that’s why I prefer to make them a little smaller than some of my other cookies.
Also, the recipe is versatile, and you can change it up in various ways:
- Use white chocolate for dipping, to make it look like snow on the cookie mountains
- Double-dip! Milk chocolate first and then white, either two whole coats, or just drizzles on the second
- Go nuts and sprinkle finely chopped walnuts or pecans on the chocolate just after dipping
- Sprinkle on some holiday cheer with either Christmas-colored sprinkles just after dipping, or silver or gold if you’re doing the cookies for a New Year’s party
- Turn up the sophistication and use dark chocolate for the chips and the dipping
- Go all Reese’s-like with a peanut-butter and chocolate approach by using all peanut butter chips or half-and-half peanut butter and milk chocolate chips, omitting the dried fruit and using dry-roasted peanuts instead of walnuts or pecans; reduce the almond extract to a half teaspoon for this version
In addition to being delicious, these cookies are easy and fun to make with kids. That’ll be an activity for a few years from now when our little grandson, known as GK#1 here in the blog, can join me in the kitchen. Toddler fingers will be just right for dipping, don’t you think?
Come on over, Santa – we’ve got your cookies ready!
© 2021, Glover Gardens