I've never been a fan of Christmas cookies. In my experience they tend to be bland sugar cookies pressed into vaguely holiday-ish shapes and buried beneath a mountain of colored sugars. My cooking companion is Hindu and freely admits that her Christmas repertoire is fairly limited as well.
So we decided to come up with a a Christmas cookie that we would enjoy and that was still vaguely Christmas themed. After acquiring a basic sugar cookie recipe from Cooks Illustrated we sat down and started brainstorming some flavor combinations. Of the three ideas we came up with, white chocolate and ginger was our favorite. Candied ginger is sweet but interesting and chocolate provides a nice balance.
We hewed closely to the Cooks Illustrated "Chewy Sugar Cookie Recipe." Any white or regular chocolate chips should do but candied ginger can be a pain to find. Luckily, Cost Plus World Market offers a excellent brand that is reasonably priced. If you're a DIY you might be interested in trying your own hand at making candied ginger.
Here are a few more notes for baking these cookies:
1. Their base recipe uses cream cheese because it "rounds out the flavor." We found that the cream cheese did help to make cookies taste slightly more complicated than "sugar+flour."
2. They warn against over-handling the batter, either by mixing it to death or by handling them too much when shaping them. Believe their advice and take some of our own advice:
3. Mix in your additional flavors after you cream the butter and sugar. We didn't do this and ended up working with the batter more than we would have liked. The end result was that our cookies came our less puffy than we would have liked.
4. We made our test batch with the recommended 2 tablespoons of batter. The resulting cookies were pretty damn big. Our followup batches had cookies made with half the batter and they were significantly more manageable.
The Chow Bella Christmas Cookie Exchange -- so far: