Holiday Cookies

When it comes to the holidays in Florida, the only “white Christmas” you’ll find is on our sandy beaches. Creating holiday cheer in the Sunshine State takes a little effort – from lights on palm trees to tinsel draped evergreens, to catching a glimpse of Santa decked out in red swim trunks. Most Floridians can’t imagine it any other way.

Besides, we all know that true holiday spirit comes from the precious moments we share with our loved ones, like catching up with a sister over a cup of tea, or gathering for a feast with the extended family. For me, these are the important connections that make this time of year so special. And for me, they are intertwined with food and traditions passed down through generations.

I caught the baking bug as a tot, and happily assumed the role of cookie-maker when my grandmother passed on the torch. As a kid, it seemed like she would make dozens of varieties, such as snowballs, sugar cookies, and nut horns — an old-world delicacy featuring fresh walnut filling wrapped in a rich, flaky crust. Chocolate gingerbread, forgottens, and peppermint crackles are a few new favorites I’ve added into the rotation, and I know she’d be proud of my spread. In this season of giving, I’ve decided to share some of our family’s favorite cookie recipes, old and new.

 

Print Recipe
4.85 from 13 votes

Snowballs

These go by a couple of different names, including Wedding Cookies and Polvorones. My grandmother always called them Snowballs, and so I do, too. They are a festive looking cookie for the holidays, one that comes together quickly and easily, and has a lovely spiced cinnamon and pecan flavor. My grandmother's original recipe came from her beloved 1940s era Slovak-American cookbook, from which many of her other treasures were found. I’ve tweaked it slightly.
Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time18 mins
Servings: 4 dozen

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 cup pecans not toasted or salted

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350. On a rimmed baking sheet, toast pecans for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool. Once cool, grind them finely in a food processor. Be careful not to over grind, or else you will have pecan-butter instead of finely ground pecans.
  • In a stand mixer, beat ½ cup of powder sugar with the butter until smooth, about 2 minutes. Scrape down bowl and beat again, adding the vanilla.
  • Combine the flour, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Add it to the mixer and beat just until combined, scrape then beat again for a few seconds. Add in the ground pecans and mix until fully incorporated, being careful not to over mix.
  • Divide the dough in half and wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Pinch off walnut sized pieces of dough, roll gently into balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet 1-inch apart. Bake for 18 minutes.
  • Place the remaining powdered sugar in a bowl. Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool on the pan for 4 or 5 minutes. While still warm, carefully roll them in the powdered sugar and place on a rack to finish cooling. Cookies will keep, tightly sealed, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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My Favorite Gingerbread Cookies

My Favorite Gingerbread Cookies
Print Recipe
4.85 from 13 votes

My Favorite Gingerbread Cookies

Over the years, I’ve incorporated some of my own recipes into my family's mix of traditional holiday cookies. It is so hard to pick a favorite cookie, but if pressed I would have to say these chocolate gingerbread confections are at the top of the list. The aromas that fill the house as they bake announce that the holiday season is here, and once you take that first, chewy bite there is no mistaking it. The rich molasses flavor and heady spices are a match made in heaven with the bittersweet chocolate. Adapted from Martha Stewart's Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies.
Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time12 mins
Servings: 2 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg or ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1 cup good quality bittersweet chocolate chunks or large chips

Instructions

  • Sift the dry ingredients together (flour through baking soda) and whisk to ensure even distribution.
  • In a stand mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar together using the paddle attachment 4-5 minutes. Add the grated ginger and molasses. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and beat again.
  • Add the flour and mix on slow speed until just incorporated. Scrape the bowl again and mix until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips Remove to a sheet of plastic wrap, flatten into a 1 inch disc, wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. (At this point you can freeze the dough as well. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before proceeding).
  • Preheat the oven to 325. Form the cookies into 1 ½ inch balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet two inches apart. Refrigerate while you form the rest of the cookies.
  • Bake for 12 minutes, until they are cracked on the top. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. Cookies stay good, stored at room temperature, for up to a week.

Tips & Tricks

*You can roll the cookies in granulated sugar before baking to give them a festive and attractive appearance. 

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Forgottens

Forgottens
Print Recipe
4.85 from 13 votes

Forgottens

Christmas Day at my aunt’s house was filled with all sorts of “must-haves.” From her buttery rolls to her mother-in-law’s creamed pearl onions, her table was full of tradition. Once the turkey and the oyster stuffing and all the other savories had been devoured, she’d bring out a tray of Forgottens. As kids, we preferred these to the other traditional desserts- Ambrosia and fruit cake- which my aunt and several other family members couldn’t imagine Christmas without. Nowadays I like to add chopped hazelnuts to the mix and a little cinnamon for festive spice. Note that the cook time is long, but it is not active time. The name Forgottens comes from the method of turning off the oven and leaving the cookies in there until the oven is cool.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Servings: 4 dozen

Ingredients

  • 2 egg whites
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • ½ cup hazelnuts
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon optional

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350. Toast hazelnuts for 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and when cool enough to handle, rub the loose skins off. Coarsely chop and set aside.
  • In a stand mixer or using hand-held beaters, beat the egg whites until stiff. Gradually add the sugar, about a tablespoon at a time. Beat in the vanilla and cinnamon, then stir in the hazelnuts and chocolate chips.
  • Drop by teaspoons onto parchment lined baking sheets. Place in the 350 degree oven, then turn the oven off and don’t open until it is cold.
  • Store in a sealed container for up to a week.

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Grandma's Nut Horns

Grandma's Nut Horns
Print Recipe
4.85 from 13 votes

Grandma’s Nut Horns

In our family, my maternal grandmother owned Christmas Eve. It was her day and she went through inexhaustible lengths to ensure everything was just perfect. Her parents immigrated from Slovakia in the early 1900s, and my grandmother took great pride in the traditions of Slovak cooking- which especially shone through around Christmas. Nut Horns were always part of her cookie spread, and were one of my favorites as a kid.
Prep Time40 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Servings: 8 dozen

Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar divided use
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ½ pound butter 2 sticks, cut into small pieces
  • 1 package dried yeast
  • 3 eggs separated
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract divided use
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 pound nuts we always use walnuts

Instructions

  • Make your nut mixture. Preheat oven to 300. Lay the walnuts out on a baking sheet and toast for 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Once cool, grind them in a food processor. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add in the nuts, 1 ½ cups sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Wipe out the food processor and add the flour, ¼ cup sugar, and salt and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse again until the butter is in small, pea sized pieces.
  • Stir the yeast and the warm water together in a small bowl.
  • Beat egg yolks and add the milk and vanilla to them. Stir into the yeast, then add it all to the flour mixture. Pulse until the dough comes together, then turn it out and knead until smooth. If it is sticky, add a bit more flour. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.
  • Divide the dough into 8 balls. Working with one at a time, roll it out into a circle about the size of a dinner plate. Cut it in half, then cut each half into 6 wedges, for a total of 12 triangle shaped pieces. Spread the nut mixture on the fat end of each piece. Roll it up, starting at the fat end, and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Refrigerate until you have formed the other cookies.
  • Heat the oven to 350. Once the cookies are all formed, bake for 10 minutes, rotating the pans half way through to ensure even cooking. They should be slightly browned. Remove and let cool on racks. Repeat with remaining cookies. Store at room temperature for up to a week, or freeze for a month.

44 Comments

  • Vicki says:

    5 stars
    These look delicious and I love the stories! Can’t wait to try them.

  • Manette says:

    These sound delicious and look easy to do. Will definitely be trying the forgottens.

  • Deb says:

    The picture looks like the gingerbread cookies might be rolled in a little sugar before baking but it doesn’t mention that in the recipe. Just curious?

    • KeyLimeLexi says:

      You are right. It is not a necessary step, but I did do it for that batch as I wanted them to have a sparkle for the picture. I will make a note in the recipe for that option. Thanks!

  • Adina says:

    Oh man you just made my grocery list longer!! Can’t wait to try these, thank you for sharing your tasty traditions with us!

  • Nancy says:

    I make the snowballs but have never baked the pecans ahead of time. Am wondering what the difference in taste will be.

  • Jacky says:

    Anxious to try the nut horns. sound like the butter horns my grandmother used to make, except she used jam and sifted confectioner’s sugar over them. They were my favorites and unfortunately , she left no recipe. Have been searching forever. Maybe this time!

  • Mary says:

    Everything looks so good! Can’t wait to get started. Thank you in advance.

  • Donna Davis says:

    5 stars
    They all look and sound delicious!! My husband is usually the one to try new recipes, he’s been sick for a few months, maybe I’ll see if he’s up to a couple new recipes. Thank so much! Merry Christmas!!

  • Suzanne Ouellette says:

    what a great idea to share family traditions. The old recipes ae the best. I will try them soon.

    cold in Michigan……. Sue

  • Chuck says:

    Any gluten free recipes ?

    • KeyLimeLexi says:

      Yes there are several! Look in the salad area and the soups, and lots of the seafood dishes as well. For desserts the Forgottens are gluten free, as well as the Semifreddo (if you don’t use the cookie crumbs).

  • PBJ says:

    4 stars
    A Very Merry Christmas, May all of these Wonderful Traditions and many more carry on!!!
    So glad my husband was reading Bealls ad so I could get linked up to your delightful info. :))
    HUGS PBJ

  • Debra H says:

    5 stars
    Oh how lovely of you to share special family stories and traditions! I love to bake! I was Florida
    born & raised. When I was a young girl in home economics, you’d get extra credit each week if you would make the baking item of that week at home over the weekend. I always used to do this with my Italian grandmother! She had such patience! Bagels, key lime pie, lemon meringue, carrot cake, multiple varieties of cookies, banana bread, the list went on and on! So thank you for sharing with us! This should be fun!

  • Georgina Wilson says:

    looks like great fun to bake and enjoy finding new recipes… Do you have one for key lime pie?

    • KeyLimeLexi says:

      Thanks Georgina! I do have a key lime parfait on the site – find it under Recipes / Sweets & Treats – but have not posted my favorite key lime pie recipe… yet! Stay tuned!

  • Teresa Leaptrott says:

    Can’t wait to try these cookie recipes! Thank you for sharing!

  • GMH says:

    5 stars
    Thank you! These are all great recipes—always made by my mother every Christmas, as well as year round. I look forward to your recipes to come.;)

  • Krystel says:

    5 stars
    So excited to have all of these recipes in one place for reference! There is nothing more special than continuing family recipes and traditions especially during the holidays. Thank you Lexi xo

  • Jennifer Wright Kenney says:

    Alexis, as a Bradentonian, I spent many hours at “Grandpa Beall’s” store as a little girl. Now you’re going to make this old girl spend a lot of time at the store of another “old Florida family” to buy the ingredients for these wonderful recipes. George Jenkins was pretty smart to make sure there was a Publix right down the plaza from the Beall’s?❗️Are these recipes just on the website, or do you by any chance have a cookbook? My parents would love to read your stories, and I would love to have the recipes.

    • KeyLimeLexi says:

      I love hearing your story! Thank you so much for your comments. I do not have a cookbook – yet! I hope to work on one soon! Thanks so much for your interest.

  • Mom says:

    Grandma would be so proud of you Lex!

  • Pam says:

    5 stars
    Snowballs sound a lot like Mexican Wedding cookies. So yummy and melt in your mouth.

  • Marilyn Schwab says:

    Your introductory email was very eye-catching! Also I love the name Alexis, I had a Siberian Husky neighbor and friend up north with that name. I used to call her Lexi Lex the Pretty Girl.
    Well thank you for bringing back a fond memory and representing the Bealls family in a fresh and informative way.
    Looks like you have many fans already, including one with fond memories of home economics classes. Glad to read that, I taught home economics for 25 years.
    Wishing you every success, Lexi. And thank you again!

    • KeyLimeLexi says:

      Thank you Marilyn so much for your note. I am glad I could help spark some fond memories! And glad you’re enjoying the recipes and stories!

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