If I had it my way, the Christmas season would never overlap with final exams, but there is one advantage to having the busiest time of the year with the most wonderful time of the year: stress-baking. Whether as a study break or a post-exam celebration, the sound of my hand mixer beating butter into creamy peaks is always a cathartic experience. In addition, having too many cookies for one person to eat is the perfect excuse to drop off some snacks for friends who might be in study mode.
Unfortunately, the number of Christmas cookie recipes we are able to try is always limited. There is only so much time and so many sticks of unsalted butter in the freezer. If you only have the time to make one batch, here are my recommendations for what to try based on what classes are stressing you out the most at this time of year!
These cookies instantly remind me of the cookies an Italian grandmother would bring home from the deli in a butter-stained white bag. However, I would like to argue that making these yourself and eating them warm is miles better than having them from a bag at a few days old. Just make sure not to burn your thumb when you smush the centers down to make room for the raspberry jam!
Between the crunch of the pistachios and the snap of the jam, this recipe screams Old-World Europe to me. Hopefully, anyone working on their Latin homework will be instantly transported to Mediterranean luxury after trying a bite of these.
2. Writing Seminars
I think the best recipes have a good story to go with them, and this one makes me homesick to my core. Austinite baker Tavel Bristol-Joseph sells these cookies next to my favorite downtown bookstore, and they are a perfect warm treat to go with a new novel. The best part is that all the ingredients are locally sourced in the Central Texas area, so you can expect the crunch of pecans and the zip of lemon zest in every bite just as much as the chocolate chips.
When he first shared the recipe, Bristol-Joseph recommended that bakers use the Sonoran wheat flour native to the Texas Hill Country. However, when baking these in Baltimore, I find that whole-wheat flour works just fine.
One important note is that the original recipe makes a 6-ounce cookie. If you want to make more, smaller cookies for gifting, you can make 2-ounce cookies and bake them for about a minute less!
3. Biomedical Engineering
This recipe, attempted by myself only once, takes 48 hours from start to finish. But it’s not like you’re sleeping anyway, right? Put your skills to good use by making your own toffee chips and browning your butter to the perfect consistency before beginning.
Even though these cookies take quite a bit of effort, they taste amazing, and you will feel satisfied when you eat a gigantic, chewy, salty-sweet treat (or three). Especially for this recipe, since you are spending enough time on it, you have to treat yourself to some high-quality chocolate. Make sure to chop up a bar instead of buying chips; a lot of chocolate chips have wax added to them, which do not melt as well. In my experience, these cookies go fast at parties, but you can (try) to stretch them out by cutting the large cookies into squares or triangles.
4. Public Health
Everyone knows that Public Health majors are the sweetest people around, but that doesn’t mean they’re docile. Public Health majors are out to help the world, and they’re not afraid to light things on fire to do it. In honor of this sweet and spicy combo, I believe the snickerdoodle is the most fitting suggestion for you.
Arguably the best part of making these cookies is that your apartment is going to smell like cinnamon sugar for days. In the (unlikely) event you have leftover dough, you can roll it into balls, roll the balls in cinnamon sugar and freeze them for a festive snack. Make sure that you use heat-treated flour and pasteurized eggs for safety if you do give this a try!
5. Applied Mathematics and Statistics
These were my absolute favorite cookie when I worked in an Italian restaurant. There is no flour in these cookies (making them naturally gluten-free!), so their chewy base is made from almond paste and sugar, making them both bitter and sweet. Crunchy pine nuts give texture on the top.
However, whoever makes these cookies has to be good with numbers. Pignoli cookies have become increasingly more difficult and more expensive to make the past two Christmases due to supply chain issues with pine nuts. In addition, the almond paste can get rather expensive if you don’t shop around enough. Worst case scenario, Applied Mathematics and Statistics majors can figure out a ride to Vaccaro’s in Little Italy, where pignoli are sold by the pound, and pass those off as their own.
6. Bonus: Visual Arts minors
There is no event better to show off your creativity than a sugar cookie decorating party. You are welcome to make the frosting in the recipe above, but you can also save time by mixing powdered sugar and water to your desired thickness, then use (unused!) paint brushes to “paint” your cookies.
Over the years, I’ve decorated cookies to look like everything from Saturday Night Live skits to state flags. Best of all, these sugar cookies actually taste amazing! The secret ingredients are almond extract and cream cheese, which makes them much more exciting than the Pillsbury dough you can find in a tube.
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