Crush Your Holiday Cookie Swaps With These 3 Easy Recipes

Cookie-swapping is an extreme holiday sport. No matter what the invitation (or the host) says, these festive gatherings are not just for "fun." In an unspoken reality, cookie swaps are-cut throat competitions meant for weeding out the cookie weak from the cookie strong. And the last thing we want this season is to bring a batch of duds to the party.

In order to bypass the good, the bad, and the ugly of holiday treats — and beeline up the dessert ranks to absolutely killer — we've enlisted some professional help from Sally's Cookie Addiction. Sally McKenney's cookbook offers a unique collection of cookies, bars, and shortbreads recipes that wield the power to completely crush the cookie swap competition.

So scroll ahead to check out three of her top, easy cookie options: from slice and bake mint-chocolate chippers to toffee coffee-dipped shortbread and even a surprise kitchen sink creation. Trust these recipes to bring the festive fire to all of the upcoming dessert games —and may the best cookie win.

Photo: Courtesy of Sally McKenney.
Kitchen Sink Cookies
Makes 45 cookies

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 cups old-fashioned whole rolled oats
1 cup crushed potato chips
3/4 cup butterscotch morsels, plus more for topping
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, plus more for topping
3/4 cup mini M&M’s®
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Instructions
1. Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar, and beat on medium-high speed until creamed, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, milk, and vanilla extract, and beat on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl and beat again as needed to combine.

3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low speed until combined. With the mixer running on low speed, beat in the oats. Once combined, beat in the potato chips, butterscotch morsels, chocolate chips, M&M’s®, and walnuts. The dough will be thick and sticky. Cover and chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes (and up to 4 days). If chilling for longer than 3 hours, allow it to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before rolling and baking because the dough will be quite hard.

4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.

5. Scoop balls of dough, about 1½ tbsp (No. 40 scoop) of dough per cookie, and place 3 in. apart on the baking sheets. Bake for 12 to 13 minutes, or until lightly browned on the sides. The centers will look very soft.

6. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. While the cookies are still warm, I like to press a few more chocolate chips and/or butterscotch morsels into the tops—this is only for looks!

7. Cookies will stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Sally Says: To keep the cookies thick but light, I added baking powder and a little extra baking soda.
Photo: Courtesy of Sally McKenney.
Mint Chocolate Slice & Bake Cookies
Makes 24 cookies

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface and hands
3/4 cup unsweetened natural or Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp pure peppermint extract
2 (4 oz.) bars semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Instructions
1. Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar, and beat on medium-high speed until creamed, about 2 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla extract, and peppermint extract, and beat on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl and beat again as needed to combine.

3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low speed until combined. The dough will be slightly sticky.

4. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and, with floured hands, divide into 2 equal portions. Shape each portion into an 8-in. log, about 2½ in. in diameter. Tightly wrap the logs in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours (and up to 5 days). Chilling is important for this dough, to prevent the cookies from spreading in the oven and losing their shape. I prefer to chill it overnight.

5. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.

6. Remove the logs from refrigerator. Slice each log into 12 equally thick cookies and place the cookies on the baking sheets about 2 in. apart. Bake the cookies for 12 to 13 minutes.

7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

8. Melt the chopped chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave in 15-second increments, stopping and stirring after each until completely smooth. Dip each cooled cookie halfway into the chocolate. Allow the chocolate to set completely, about 30 minutes.

9. Cookies will stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

*Sally Says: Make sure to use peppermint extract, as opposed to simply “mint” extract. I find that the latter tastes more like toothpaste than anything else! If you like super-minty flavor, stir ½ tsp of peppermint extract into the melted chocolate along with ½ tsp of vegetable oil.
Photo: Courtesy of Sally McKenney.
Coffee Toffee Shortbread
Makes 50 cookies

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface and rolling out
2 tsp espresso powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup plus 2 tbsp toffee bits (such as Heath Bits ‘o Brickle Toffee Bits)
1 to 2 tsp water
2 (4 oz.) bars milk chocolate, coarsely chopped

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract, and beat on medium-high speed until combined and creamy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl and beat again as needed to combine.

3. Switch the mixer to low speed and slowly add the flour, ¼ cup at a time. Once all of the flour is incorporated, add the espresso powder, salt, and toffee bits. Turn the mixer up to high speed and beat until the dough comes together. Continue beating the dough until it becomes smooth. If the dough is still not smooth after 2 full minutes of beating, add 1 to 2 tsp of water.

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide into 2 equal portions. Roll out one portion to ¼ in. thickness. Cut into shapes using a cookie cutter. Re-roll the remainder of that portion and continue cutting until all is used. Repeat with the second portion of dough. Place the cookies 3 in. apart on the baking sheets.

5. Bake the cookies until very lightly browned on the edges, 12 to 14 minutes. The toffee will bubble on the sides and tops. This is okay! Remove from the oven and allow to cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

6. Once the cookies have cooled completely, melt the chopped chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave in 15-second increments, stopping and stirring after each until completely smooth. Dip each cookie halfway into the chocolate. Allow the chocolate to set completely, about 30 minutes.

7. Cookies will stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

*Sally Says: Don’t confuse espresso powder with ground coffee. Espresso powder (aka instant expresso) is super concentrated, highly flavorful, and dissolves quickly with liquid. Pick up a jar to use with this book and try adding a tsp or 2 to brownies, chocolate cakes, and cupcakes.
Photo: Courtesy of Sally McKenney.
Sally's Cookie Addiction by Sally McKenney, $17.17, available at Amazon.
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