Putting together the perfect Christmas Cookie Tray is an art. Every year I put way too much effort and thought into making my trays, tins and boxes. At this point I’ve got a solid formula and it only seemed fair to share my cookie tray formula with you!
A great cookie tray has a few qualities that make it stand out above the rest. It has to have variety in flavor, color and texture and it should be pretty. Each individual cookie should be unique and add something special.
Mix Old and New Recipes
I have a few staple cookie varieties I make every year and I also try to add a few new types to mix it up. Every year I make Mexican Chocolate Snicker Doodles, a soft chocolate cookie with cinnamon and chili powder.
Coconut Macaroons and Peppermint Meringues are the other classics that come back year to year. Fresh eggs make great meringue and usually by Christmas my hens have started laying again so I have to celebrate with egg filled goods.
The coconut macaroons got a bit too toasted this year but they’re still good. My four year old was practicing her level 7 unprovoked melt-down and they spent a bit too much time in the oven. Having a few bombproof recipes in your back pocket will set you at ease when you’re working your ass off in the kitchen.
Adding a new recipe or two each year is a great way to make baking fun again. I love having my old standbys but adventure is always good. If I’m not experimenting with my own recipes I let my kids pick something out of a magazine or cookbook.
The newbies this year are Christmas Crack Bites and Lemon Blueberry Fudge. The fudge came together on a whim because I bought a bag of lemons and that’s how I roll. Luckily it’s a solid 10 and the tart sweetness is the perfect complement to the other goodies.
The snowflakes are an attempted spin on my Whiskey Ganache Filled Chocolates but they were a bit of a flop. The bourbon eggnog filling wasn’t thick enough and the mold was uncooperative. I’m still giving them away
so I stop eating them but they aren’t my best work.
Pick a Variety of Flavors
The biggest key to having a great cookie tray is having a wide variety of flavors. What’s the point in making your kitchen a mess if you’re going to have a box full of different cookies that all taste the same?
I try to have all of these flavors represented: chocolate, peppermint, citrus/fruit, almond/vanilla and something seasonal like cranberry or eggnog. Finding a recipe to hit each box isn’t that hard and it can certainly take your tray to the next level!
Mix Up the Texture
Texture is also an area where you can really play around and hit different notes. It’s harder to hit distinct categories with this one but try to keep a variety.
I always make peppermint meringues that are crisp and then melt away in your mouth to leave a minty tingle. Chewy coconut macaroon, a creamy fudge and a soft sugar cookie round out the selection.
Make it Pretty
Color is probably the least tricky to mix up. You can always add food coloring, frosting or sprinkles to make your Christmas cookie tray extra festive.
My go-to colored cookies are spritz, this year I made Cheesecake Spritz from Encouraging Moms at Home that I colored green and decorated with gold balls.
I made another giant batch of Christmas Crack Bites and topped them with green, red and white star sprinkles. Instead of leaving my meringues plain I striped them with red for a fancy peppermint candy look.
Make it Semi-Homemade
Remember that old show Semi Homemade? I used to watch it and think she was lazy, how hard is it to just make cookies you know?
Then life happened, I now have 2 kids, a full time job, 2 websites and a farm full of animals hell bent on dying. I don’t have time to do everything from scratch anymore.
I’m sure you’re in a similar boat, give yourself a break and buy a tub of meringues. If you want to add a homemade touch dip them in chocolate. You can do the same thing with pizzelle cookies for an easy treat that looks way fancier than it is.
Bulk up your Christmas cookie tray with a few store bought goodies. Toss in a few Hershey kisses or baby KitKats in holiday wrappers.
Pick a Pretty Box,Tin or Tray
Every year I give away lots of cookies, I even joke that I make new friends in December just so I can give them cookies! You can pick up tins or decorative cardboard boxes at Michael’s, pop in some parchment paper or cling wrap and then add the cookies.
Keep the box or tin size in mind when you’re making your cookies. If you make 5-8 types of cookies and you want to put 2-3 of each in the tin you have to keep them on the small side. That way they’ll all fit and people can sample more than one type without getting stuffed.
I take a larger tray to work every year, usually filling it with whatever I have left over after doing the tins. I like to start from the outside working inward with rows of cookies and filling the center with fudge.
Do you have marathon baking sessions every year? I’d love to hear all about your holiday baking adventures! Leave a comment below telling me your favorite Christmas cookie.
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