Food  |  News & Politics

We Baked All of the 2023 NYT Holiday Cookies

Our honest ratings of everything from this year's Cookie Week.

Photograph by Jessica Ruf.

Well, folks, it’s finally Cookie Week: that fun and exhausting time of year when the New York Times publishes a handful of holiday cookie recipes and I contemplate making them and then usually don’t. Except that this year I did—or, at least, I made one of them and then convinced six of my colleagues to bake the rest. Here are our observations. May they guide you in your holiday baking adventures.


Technicolor Cookies

By Rob Brunner, Politics and Culture Editor

Photograph by Michelle Brunner.

I enlisted my teenage son to help, and the cookies were quite easy to make—we just followed the directions! It was like when we used to build Legos together a decade ago, only with quite a bit less Star Wars. The one hard-ish part—as you can see from the photo—was the icing. That involved a slightly tricky technique of layering different colors and then pouring the mixture over the cookies, which we didn’t quite master. If we did it again (which we will not), I’m sure we’d do a much better job.

I also don’t like the colors we ended up with. The Senior Safeway only had two food-coloring options, and I picked the wrong one. That resulted in what a coworker somewhat derisively described as rather “Easter for a Christmas cookie.” Flavor-wise, it’s basically a sugar cookie punched up with ingredients (ginger, orange zest, cardamom, cinnamon) that made it more sophisticated. It tasted like extremely sweet herbal tea (in a good way). But these cookies are obviously meant to be looked at as much as eaten, and even with our lack of icing skills, they’re super eye-catching.

Overall Rating: 4/5


Gingerbread Blondies

By Jessica Ruf, Assistant Editor

Photograph by Jessica Ruf.

I’ll start this review by listing my ginger cookie baking credentials: 1) I make a massive gingerbread house each year; 2) I have a fantastic recipe for triple ginger biscotti; 3) I have a dog named Ginger; and 4) I myself am a ginger (well, technically a strawberry blonde, or might I say, a ginger blondie?). Anyway, my verdict about these ginger blondies is that they are good—soft and chewy with a warm, spicy punch. If I make these again, I’ll probably add a ¼ tsp cayenne and throw in some extra dark chocolate chips too.

But you really should bake them longer than the recipe recommends. (And don’t take my word for it—read the recipe’s reviews from other bakers!) Following the recipe, I pulled them at 25 minutes, and while I love a gooey cookie, these were practically pudding even after cooling. At this point, I decided to just whip up a second batch (this time cutting back on the sugar by ¼ cup and adding ⅛ tsp of cayenne for a little extra punch) and I baked them in the oven for 45 minutes. This did the trick (though, honestly, I still could’ve left them in another five).

Overall Rating: 3.75/5


Lemon Butter Curls

By Amy Moeller, Fashion and Weddings Editor

Photograph by Amy Moeller.

I have a lot of lemon lovers in my life, so I was happy to be assigned these Lemon Butter Curls to try. And for the last 18 hours or so, they have made me pretty popular in my house (they got two thumbs up from my oddly-discerning-of-sweets seven-year-old, as well as my husband, from whom she gets her lack of passion for dessert).

A couple of hangups along the way: I did not read the recipe far enough in advance to get the eggs out to room temperature, and I had to use an extra half of a lemon to get the right consistency for the glaze—I don’t think either ultimately mattered. This recipe also called for a couple of tools I didn’t have: namely, a sifter (my powdered sugar landed a little thick, but delicious nonetheless), and a metal cookie press (the recipe suggests piping the cookies with a star-shaped tip, so my hand-formed shapes were reading a little more worm-like than dainty curl.) I would definitely make them again—overall they were pretty easy and well worth the effort—but I think next time I’ll get the tools to make them as pretty as they were tasty.

Overall rating: 4/5


Neapolitan Checkerboard Cookies

By Sylvie McNamara, Staff Writer

Photograph by Sylvie McNamara.

I have to admit that I did not want to make these cookies. It’s not that they don’t look fetching—it’s that you basically have to make three different cookies (vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry shortbreads) while only getting credit for one. Nevertheless, I persisted, and things went smoothly until I had to slice the dough into strips. Do you know how difficult it is to cut cookie dough into precise, ten-inch strips? Are you aware that it’s impossible to make the sides straight? I wasn’t. I even used a ruler. That didn’t seem to help.

As I laid my strips into long checkerboard logs, they did not sit flush with one another. They were wompy and messed up. The dough crumbled in my hands. I did my best to shove the logs into their proper shape then brushed them with egg whites, praying that the strips would adhere while knowing with certainty that they would not. But actually, they did. Out of the oven emerged these sweet little cookies—all three flavors distinct but complementary—with a nice amount of salt. I sort of love them. They look fabulous on a plate. My favorite shortbread recipe remains this one, which I think is less work for more flavor. But I’m not mad to have these little treats in my house.

Overall Rating: 4/5


Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

By Andrew Beaujon, Senior Editor

Photograph by Andrew Beaujon.

Far too many cookies in this year’s section had what I think of as “to heck with that” ingredients or techniques—freeze-dried strawberries? meringue powder? piping bag? Is Vaughn Vreeland going to compensate me for all this trouble?—and seemed like they were chosen primarily for their looks. Congratulations, millennials, it’s your world now. I chose this recipe because a) I like Mexican hot chocolate; and b) we had everything on hand except miniature marshmallows, which I kind of oppose but can’t explain why.

One error: I incorporated all three teaspoons of cinnamon into the dough instead of reserving a teaspoon to dust the dough balls before they went into the oven, so I rolled them in straight-up sugar instead. I got fewer cookies than I expected and the marshmallows thawed almost instantly before I enveloped them in the dough, so it seems pointless to have frozen them. Quibbles aside, I appreciate the cayenne kick, the deep flavor the cinnamon gave the chocolate without being overpowering, and the molten bits in the finished cookies. These cookies intensified my recent worry that I have anhedonia, because I thought they were only okay, but my family loved them and insisted I keep half the batch at home instead of sending them all to the office.

Overall Rating: 3.4/5


Rainbow Rave Cookies

By Daniella Byck, Lifestyle Editor

Photograph by Daniella Byck.

I opted to make these cookies for two reasons: The recipe looked simple enough, and I love a colorful sprinkle. The final product did not disappoint on either front—and only took one mixing bowl. In fact, the hardest part of the entire process was when I forgot to completely re-screw the sprinkles cap and spilled the remaining jimmies all over my cabinet and floor.

There were some concerns about these cookies being too sweet, but I found the almond flavoring to be more powerful than the vanilla, creating something a little less cloying than anticipated. In the future, I’d even consider making them with peanut butter M&Ms for some saltiness or using the cookies for a festive ice cream sandwich. After quality control (me) tested three cookies while standing over the stove, it is safe to say these baked goods strike a good taste/aesthetic/work ratio. And the memory of them will last well beyond the plate, thanks to the sprinkles I’m still fishing out of the floor nooks.

Overall Rating: 3.92/5


Matcha Latte Cookies

By Jessica Sidman, Food Editor

Photograph by Jessica Sidman.

This recipe has an unexpected secret ingredient: peanut butter. In the same way that almond can mimic the flavor of cherries or oregano hints at pizza, peanut butter is meant to augment the matcha—or so recipe developer Eric Kim explains. I have to admit, it’s a very nice combo, but these cookies hinted more at peanut butter than matcha to me. I ended up making a second batch because I had a lot of leftover frosting after the first round. This time, I skipped the peanut butter and doubled the matcha. Honestly, it didn’t do much to boost the matcha flavor, and I ultimately preferred the peanut butter version. Touché, New York Times! My one suggestion if you want more matcha flavor is to sprinkle some on top of the frosting.

What I appreciate about this recipe is that it’s not excessively sweet. That said, the cookies are extremely rich due to the unabashed use of butter (three sticks for 20ish cookies). The “boiled milk” frosting was a fun way to give the cookies that latte flavor, but it’s essentially sweet whipped butter. Overall, I’d say these were relatively easy to make and looked beautiful. Do they taste like a matcha latte? Kind of! At the very least, the matcha gives the cookies a lovely green color. My toddler gave them her own nickname: Godzilla cookies.

Overall rating: 3.9/5

Sylvie McNamara
Staff Writer