Few foods are as tightly bound to the holidays as cookies. They’re gifted and decorated, shipped and left out for Santa—they’re the first consideration when you ponder holiday baking (assuming your fruitcakes have been safely tucked away in October).


If you’re planning a swap, consider accommodating a wide range of cookie needs by letting everyone know they can simply bake as many as they’d like to take. Pick up some extra containers and zip-lock bags at the dollar store, and consider asking everyone to print out copies of the recipe (or even just one, to snap on your phone).


If you’re an attendee, consider bringing logs of refrigerator cookie dough (they look great in holiday wrap) for everyone to take home to slice and bake as needed. Besides being less work, dough is more compact, keeps longer, and who doesn’t love having the means for a batch of freshly baked cookies at the ready? Bars can also be less fussy, and easy to wrap, freeze and transport in a stack. Resist the urge to attempt to make your entire quota at once by tripling or quadrupling a recipe—with baked goods, you can usually get away with doubling it, but more than that can send things out of whack.

Taking them Home

Once you’re at the point of packaging cookies up to take home, try to keep soft and crisp ones separate—packed together, the crisp cookies will soften, the moist ones dry out, and the flavours will mingle. Separate them if you can, and tuck any you won’t eat in a few days (or didn’t eat on the ride home) into the freezer. (If you have sneaky housemates, outsmart them by saving empty frozen vegetable bags to tuck cookies into for safe storage.)

Holiday Cookies – Classic Shortbread Cookies

Along with these Classic Shortbread Cookies, check out some of Julie Van Rosendaal’s other cookie recipes: Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies and Chocolate Tahini Rugelach.

Classic Shortbread

Standard shortbread dough is a ratio of 1:2 butter to flour, with about a half part sugar. Your technique makes a difference: whipping the butter and sugar first makes for a light, melt-in-your-mouth cookie, and simply blending the three together makes an equally buttery, but denser, Scottish-style shortbread. However you combine them, a basic formula can act as a blank template for any number of flavours and additions.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes


  • 1 c. butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 c. icing sugar
  • 1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c. cornstarch
  • 1/4 t. salt


  • Preheat the oven to 325˚F.
  • In a medium bowl, beat the butter with the icing sugar until creamy, or for whipped shortbread, beat it for several minutes, until pale and light. Stir in the flour, cornstarch and salt. Stir in any additions you like.
  • To shape, roll or pat 1/3-inch thick and cut into shapes, squares or bars; roll the dough into balls and flatten with a cookie stamp or the bottom of a glass; or roll up into a log to chill and slice. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 12-15 minutes, until pale golden and set. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.