Putting together an assortment of Christmas cookies is like building a good cheese plate – it's all about variety. Different flavors, shapes, and textures, all in a festive mood. Christmas cookies should be a little luxurious, a few pegs up from quotidian cookie-jar treats. Chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal-raisin, snickerdoodles, hermits; I love them all, but they just don't make my Christmas cut.
I make 4 or 5 different kinds each year, holding to the same ones for a few years then moving on to something new that grabs my fancy. But I seem to have settled on a consistent palette: toasty nuts, chocolate, warm spices (cinnamon, ginger, clove, cardamom), something orange, lots of vanilla, and always plenty of butter. My current roster includes Double Gingersnaps, Mexican Wedding Cakes, chocolate-dipped Shortbread Stars, Mint 'Oreos', and Cuccidati. I won't include recipes here, just notes on what I've changed or tips for getting them right.