Pecan Cream Cheese Christmas Cookies
Numerous classic holiday recipes from the past seem to have fallen out of conversation. While sugar cookies shaped like Santa Claus remain a favorite, there are several older but beloved recipes that deserve a revival. Take, for instance, these festive pecan cream cheese cookies with their red and green colors, which radiate Christmas cheer. The first time I made these cookies for my adult siblings, they all experienced the same emotions of delight, surprise, and nostalgia. It turns out that they had forgotten that our mom used to make these cookies every year until she deemed the recipe outdated. Even I had forgotten about them until I stumbled upon a photo of these treats, triggering a vivid memory of being 8 years old and helping her roll the dough log in colored sugar. So, from personal experience, I can attest that this is a wonderful cookie to make with kids, despite the small wayward sugar grains involved.
Each cookie boasts a delicate texture and a delightful flavor, thanks to the inclusion of an entire block of cream cheese in the dough. This not only imparts a hint of tanginess but also gives the cookies a pleasant chewiness.
Because of the substantial amount of cream cheese and butter in the dough, it’s soft before baking. Therefore, you’ll need to shape it into four logs, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate them until they firm up. I found it convenient to lay out plastic wrap on a silicone baking mat, use an ice cream scoop with a release button to deposit four scoops of dough in the middle of the plastic, and then roll the dough into a log shape by covering it with the mat. Afterward, I wrapped the dough in plastic, and I was ready to proceed.
Once the dough logs are chilled, prepare a pan or tray filled with about half a jar of colored sugar crystals. Roll the logs in the first color, then slice them before baking. It’s crucial to switch utensils, trays, and cutting boards, as well as wash your hands, when transitioning to the second color, as mixing the colors can result in a muddled appearance.
These cookies feature chopped pecans within the dough and a single pecan half atop each one, adding a wonderful nutty flavor and crunch. However, if you need a nut-free version, these cookies are still fantastic without the nuts.
Bake these treats, and prepare for a deluge of compliments on these delightful cookies. Another noteworthy detail is that these finished cookies freeze exceptionally well, allowing you to bake them in advance without any issues. This is ideal for those of us who aim to maximize our holiday baking. While we might now consider them “retro,” I’ll always think of them as a holiday classic.
Recipe makes 48 cookies Preparation time: 2 hours and 20 minutes Cooking time: 18 minutes Calories per serving: 102 Allergens: Nuts, Milk, Wheat, Gluten, Eggs Diet: Vegetarian
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 (2.25 oz) container green sugar crystals
- 1 (2.25 oz) container red sugar crystals
- 1 cup pecan halves
Cream together softened butter, cream cheese, and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla, and mix well. Gradually add 1 cup of flour at a time, stirring each time. Then, add the salt and fold in the chopped pecans.
Divide the batter in half and shape it into four logs, each about 2 inches across. Wrap the logs in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Place the red sugar crystals on one plate or tray, and the green sugar on a separate plate. Roll two logs in red sugar and the remaining two in green sugar. Use a sharp knife to cut each log into 1/4-inch slices. If reusing the same tray, knife, or other tools, make sure to wash and dry them thoroughly between colors to avoid accidentally mixing the red and green.
Place the slices on a lined baking sheet, leaving 2 inches of space between them. Put a pecan half in the center of each cookie and bake for 15-18 minutes or until the bottoms of the cookies begin to lightly brown. Avoid overbaking.