Cookies might be the only reason I'd consider applying for Santa Claus' job. First he has to make a list of the entire world's population of children — and then he has to check it twice. Can you imagine? No wonder Christmas only happens once a year. And I doubt it's easy to get those elves to turn out millions of mini iPods. But who wouldn't want to trade places with him to eat a world's supply of cookies for an entire night? Not me. And after you read what some of Charleston's bakeries have lined up for their cookies this holiday season, you'll be wishing you were the jolly fat guy, too.
At Sugar Bakeshop, you'll find a variety of homemade holiday cookies which co-owner Bill Bowick says came straight from his family cookbook. "I grew up in Charleston, so a big holiday tradition for my family was my grandmother's pecan sandies," he says. The powdered sugar pecan sandies ($1) are a buttery shortbread cookie that they hand-press and shape to look like seashells. Better yet, all the pecans Bowick uses are fresh and local. "They make for great Charleston-inspired gifts." Another recipe inspired by Bowick's childhood are the sugar cookies ($1.75), which they shape like Christmas and Chanukah icons. "Some decorated cookies have a really hard icing finish, but ours are a little softer," he says. The Linzer cookies ($1.50) use the same recipe as the sugar cookies except they're filled with fruit preserves. They'll also have coconut almond macaroons ($1.25) and gingerbread men, women, and even reindeer ($1.50). Cookies are sold separately or prepared in a gift tin, which includes 18 cookies for $25.
If you're looking for gift ideas, Charleston Bakehouse has a decorated cookie platter that includes a variety of all their favorite holiday cookies. The crackle cookies are one of owner Tracey Ditizio's favorite Christmas treats. She's been baking them for over 20 years, and still loves watching the chocolate dough fluff and crack in the oven. "Since the tops of them are all cracked, we sprinkle powdered sugar over them so they look like little snowflakes on top," Ditizio says. She'll also be preparing butter cookies, decorated sugar cookies, and pecan tassies, which are like mini pecan pies with a gooey filling. To add some color into the mix, she's baking pinwheels with dyed red dough. "They're just butter cookies essentially, but the swirls of red make them look really seasonal," Ditizio says.
Holiday cookies aren't just a Christmas thing for The Village Bakery. Head Chef Amy Hogg is baking extra batches of her chocolate dipped macaroons for families celebrating Chanukah, and the holiday sugar cookies come in all shapes, including dreidels. "My sugar cookie recipe uses heavy whipping cream, which isn't traditionally included in most holiday recipes," Hogg says. "The recipe we use bakes a really good, rich cookie." Instead of dousing her cookies in sugary decorations, she says they coat them in a lemon glaze first to offset the sweetness of the icing. She'll also carry Mexican wedding cookies, which are round shortbread cookies covered in powdered sugar, and classic gingerbread men. The cookies are priced at $3 for a package of four cookies, but Hogg says she can custom-make most cookie arrangements at her customers' requests.
The red velvet cookies are a holiday favorite at Saffron, which baker Cynthia Huggins says are harder to keep on their shelves than they are to bake. The cake-inspired cookies are made with a chocolate dough dyed deep red and mixed with white chocolate morsels. "They're a really pretty cookie, which I think is what draws people to them," Huggins says. They're also carrying traditional sugar cookies and gingerbread men throughout the holiday season.
If you're hoping to expand your holiday cookie horizons, try Rococo's lebkuchen cookies, which Chef Rusty Thiem says they're importing directly from Germany. "It's basically Germany's version of a gingerbread cookie, except it's a little differently spiced," Thiem says. Get a box of lebkuchen for $5.75, or for something baked in-house, try their decorated sugar cookies, or a gingerbread boy or girl. "Our gingerbread cookies are soft, so they're not too crispy or spicy. They've been really popular," Thiem says. The gingerbread and sugar cookies are sold in packages of three for $5.