The Baker’s Passport: Holiday Cookies from Around the Globe

This holiday season, celebrate with cookies from around the world. Wyldegrey Media’s got delicious recipes for sweet treats from Italy, France, Mexico and more.

Polvorones

In Spain and Latin America, polvorones are cookies for celebrations. Marcela Valladolid uses walnuts instead of the more traditional pecans but keeps the crumbly quality that characterizes these universally popular cookies.

Jam-Filled Almond Macarons

A camera-ready macaron has a smooth top and the coveted “foot”: a lacy ring around the bottom. But macarons are très temperamental. With some practice — will guide you to macaron success just in time for your holiday cookie swap. If your first batch is less than perfect, savor your macarons in all their crispy, chewy glory, and try again.

Golden Rugelach

Rugelach are often served at Hanukkah meals. The flaky cream cheese dough that enfolds the fruit and nuts is made like pie dough and is easy to do in the food processor.

Chinese Sesame Cookies

These cookies provide a little drama, with their yin-yang look and unique flavor. Making them, though, will feel familiar to every cookie baker: Just shape the dough into logs, chill, slice and bake.

Almond and Raisin Biscotti

Anne Burrell’s biscotti are nicely buttery and crisp-tender, not rock-hard. And there’s no better pairing than the anise and orange that she adds to the dough.

Dutch Stroopwafels

These classic Dutch cookies are often sold as a quick snack on the street and are especially popular during the holidays. They come from the same town as Gouda cheese does, but this Dutch treat is strictly cheese-free.

Blackberry-Pecan Linzer Cookies

Aida Mollenkamp puts an American spin on her version of this celebratory Austrian sandwich cookie: Toasted pecans and brown sugar flavor the dough, and blackberry jam, a West Coast staple, makes a dark, earthy filling.

Pignoli Cookies

Pignoli cookies are standard at any Italian bakery. But they are the simplest of cookies to make at home, mixed in one bowl and ready in under an hour. Anne Burrell’s special touch? A bit of honey.

Maamoul

Maamoul are soft sugar cookies that are traditionally stuffed with a wintry date and orange filling. We also love apricot-raisin and quince-walnut filling.

Pizzelle (+ Wyldegrey Personal Favorite!!)

Hailing from Abruzzo in Central Italy, pizzelle are crisp, flat waffle-esque cookies made in a special hot iron. Like mostaccioli, these cookies predate Christmas — in fact, it is said that this is the oldest known cookie recipe on earth, dating back to the 8th century BC. In olden times, presses were made from cast iron and would be heated over a fire, or directly on the stovetop. You can still find those irons if you’re up to the challenge, but electric irons are much easier to use, and very easy to find both online and at major retailers.

Kourabiedes

These are a Greek celebration cookie — while they’re most popular at Christmas, you also see them at weddings, Easter and other holidays as well. They’re almost always served with a powdered sugar topping; at Christmas, it’s traditional to stick a whole clove in the top to represent the gift of spices that the Three Wise Men brought to Bethlehem.

Linzer Star Sandwich Cookies

Alex sandwiches raspberry jam in between two buttery star-shaped cookies to make this festive holiday treat that’ll be the centerpiece of your dessert spread.

Mazurkas

We tasted cookies from all over Eastern Europe, and these bars really stood out — they were beautiful, satisfying, sweet and colorful, and the dried fruit really sings Christmas. They’re usually made on Christmas Eve, but their portability would make them great for bake sales or cookie swaps.

Kransekake

Kransekake is a show-stopping Scandinavian celebration dessert that literally means ‘wreath cake.’ The tower of ring-shaped cookies whimsically decorated with royal icing is worthy of being the center of any celebration.

Struffoli

Giada makes this festive Italian dessert with her family every year for the holidays. A sweet honey sauce binds the fried dough balls and hazelnuts into a wreath shape topped with sprinkles.

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bar

There are a number of stories as to where this cookie came from. It’s thought to be native to Nanaimo, British Columbia (hence the name), and it gained widespread popularity in the 1950s. Whatever its origins, we loved it. We added the twist of peanut butter to make a simple, delicious, no-bake bar cookie that’s super kid-friendly and freezes well.

Zimtsterne

These are a classic German Christmas cookie; you’ll find them in most every household as soon as St. Nicholas’ Day (December 6) rolls around. These gluten-free cookies are kind of like a cross between a macaroon and a meringue, with a hint of nutty spiciness. We find them truly addictive. They’re designed to keep for a long time, they’ll get chewier as time passes.

Pistachio Melbas

This biscotti-like cookie is derived from the Eastern European/Jewish cookie Mandelbrot. Australians adopted it, and renamed it Mandel-Melba, due to its textural similarity with the Australian favorite Melba toast (named, of course, for the opera singer Dame Melba). We’ve used pistachios here, with lemon and orange zests to brighten the flavor. They’re not super-sweet; they’re more of a cookie to have with your tea or coffee. The key to this is to slice it super-thin so it crumbles in the mouth.

Angel Wings

A Polish classic, these sweet cookies are fried until crunchy and tossed with powdered sugar.

Lusikkaleivat

Scandinavia is known for all kinds of cookies, mostly flavored with anise or lemon. The flavor we found most compelling in cookies from all over Scandinavia, however, was brown butter — it’s nutty, rich and delicious, and pairs perfectly with a tart fruit jam. These cookies get their elegant shape from the teaspoons used to form them.

Polish Cream Cheese Cookies

Why bake with cream cheese? It helps the dough to bake extra buttery and tender, perfect for filling with your favorite jam or preserves.

Florentines

These Tuscan cookies are a Christmas classic. They’re nutty, lacy and crisp, as well as deceptively simple to make. Drizzling them with chocolate turns them into the perfect holiday indulgence.

Sesame Rings

These Sephardic Jewish cookies are usually served at Shabbat (Sabbath) dinners and on holidays. We loved the savory sesame flavor so much that we added tahini to the dough to help showcase it. They store well, so they’re excellent cookies to keep around in case of unexpected guests.

Russian Tea Cakes

Though the exact origin of these cookies is unclear, their worldwide appeal is undeniable. Mixed with pecans and dusted with powdered sugar, a cookie swap is not complete without these delectable delights.

Finnish Crescents

Similar to Joulutorttu, a traditional Finnish dessert, these cookies have a flaky crust and sweet fruity filling.