Grossy's Guide to Holiday Cookies
As an Italian-American, Holiday Cookie Season is a BIG DEAL. It starts immediately after Thanksgiving and lives beyond New Year's. While it has a ton of meaning, takes a lot of work and comes with lots of anticipation, it's actually a simple 3-step process:
Make a cookie, eat a cookie, share a cookie. That's it.
Italian families make the same recipes every year, but everyone in the family makes their own versions of the same cookie recipes. Of course, everyone talks about whose is the best while simultaneously letting everyone know theirs is obviously the best but ensuring whoever they're talking to that THEIRS is the best. Oh, and no one shares their recipe secrets with each other. It's hysterical hysteria and I absolutely love it.
My favorite part is that every house has a cookie tray that lasts the season. It's a living, breathing organism that shifts and changes depending on what cookies are available. Some are homemade, some were made by others and brought over, and some are store bought. You never know what you are gonna get, and that's the best part.
Holiday Cookies have been a big part of my life every holiday season for years. As a young Italian kid, I would steal cookies from the endless stacks of tins that my mother and grandmothers would keep in the house for the entire month of December. As an adult, I am known for my Annual Holiday Cookie Party, which is my favorite day of the year. I'm covering both in this guide, but first, here are all of the Holiday Cookie recipes that I have to offer:
If all those options weren't enough, I have some new holiday cookies this season that I think you are really gonna love so stay tuned!
Now, let's talk about those cookie tins...
As I mentioned above, Holiday Cookie Season starts immediately after Thanksgiving. How are we able to bake cookies so early before the end of December? Well, for one, no one is waiting until Christmas to eat the cookies. We eat them all season-long because that's literally the way the cookie crumbles. And if a baker does decide to wait to devour them, they'll still be fresh since cookie tins are the perfect way to store cookies for weeks without them going stale and getting hard.
Here is the very simple run down of how to store your cookies in cookie tins:
Bake cookies. Let cookies cool completely.
Acquire cookie tins, or any air tight storage container you have on hand. That means tupperware or anything with a lid will do. Even a storage bag works. It does not need to be metal. Cookie tins are easy to find via a quick Google search, too! You can even ask your grandmas or call your local Maria. Better yet, join me on eBay as I spend way too much money on vintage cookie tins!
Placing your cookies in layers, fill your tin to the top. In between each layer, place a piece of parchment paper (cut to size).
Leave some room at the top of the tin for a piece of bread. Bread is the ultimate cookie-saver; it will absorb the air inside the container instead of the cookies, keeping them fresh.
Check the container every few days to see if the bread needs to be refreshed. Cookies will last a few weeks, at least, but keep in mind not every cookie has the exact same shelf life.
Make cookies, eat cookies, share cookies. Repeat.
Note that biscotti do not store well in cookie tins, and they thrive as the dry, biscuit-like cookies they are! Store them in the open air.
The Annual Grossy Holiday Cookie Party
Ahhhh, the Annual Grossy Holiday Cookie Party, AKA my favorite day of the year! It's also the easiest party in the world to throw. As you can see from all the pics above from my 2019 cookie party, the set up and clean up is extremely simple!
Here's how to throw your own Grossy Holiday Cookie Party:
My party format is an open house afternoon. We literally only serving cookies, so I have it between lunch and dinner. I play holiday music and have a fake fireplace roaring on my TV (thanks, Netflix!) You can throw your party any time of day you like, this is just how I roll. Speaking of rolling...
Roll out butcher paper on a large surface like a dining able, kitchen island, bar top, etc. Have sharpies on hand and some to-go bags and tape.
Invite your guests, telling them they can either bake homemade cookies to share or bring something festive to drink. I do not allow store bought cookies at my party. It's a rule that I stand by strongly. More on that later.
When guests arrive, ask them to place their cookies in piles on the butcher paper, then write their name and what kind of cookie they made.
Encourage your guests to mingle, taste the cookies, and to ask around for who made what. Every cookie and every baker has a story, and I love watching them all be told during the party. The way that people get to know each other, have meaningful conversations, and talk about recipes is just so magical. It makes the entire party and is why I don't allow store bought cookies. The cookie party is about sharing and storytelling about the act of making the cookies themselves!
There are always plenty of cookies, so I have to-go bags for people to take some home and share them.
It's worth noting that I do have drinks at the party! Hot chocolate is flowing (with lots of fun add-ins), my roommates make a holiday cocktail, and someone always brings whole milk (bless them!).
Once the party is over, you just roll up the butcher paper, recycle it, and 90% of your clean up is complete!
Sit, back, relax, and treat yourself to as many cookies as you want. You did it!
I would be remiss to not mention the ONE very special element of the Annual Grossy Holiday Cookie Party that's my favorite element...
The Grossy Cookie Party Decorating Table
If you know me, you know I am very much a Pinterest Mom who loves a craft project, especially an edible craft project. A seat at the cookie decorating table at my cookie party is a HOT TICKET...possibly because it's the only place that has seating at the party, and mainly because it's so much fucking fun.
Here is how I set up the cookie decorating table:
I bake (using pre-made cookie dough that I roll and cut) or buy blank cookies (call around local bakeries). Sugar or ginger do the trick. I like simple shapes and I like gingerbread people. Both seem to bring out the most creativity in people.
Go crazy buying the most fun icing and decorations you can find. There is no wrong decoration. I recommend candy eye balls to really bring your cookie people to life. IMPORTANT: I do not do anything homemade, though you could make a ton of frosting homemade if you like! Pick your battles.
You need some tools for frosting. Nothing fancy, just butter knives, spoons, and toothpicks will do the trick. Less is more and paper towels are a must.
You will want to cover this table in butcher paper as well, as the surface of your table can get quite messy. Remember, the paper means easy peasy clean-up!
I have trays on hand for people to place their finished cookies for everyone to admire. My favorite part of the party is seeing what everyone creates. It makes me so proud of my friends!
The Strategist did a beautiful rundown of my Annual Holiday Cookie Party, which I encourage you to read here.
I hope you all have your own versions of the Grossy Holiday Cookie Party, and I cannot wait to see them when you do!