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6 Dressed-Up Classics That Belong in Your Next Cookie Exchange

Take your cookies from good to great this holiday season.

<p>Danielle K</p>

Danielle K

We don't know about you, but at Allrecipes, one of our favorite parts of the holiday season is all the baking we get to do. From homemade host gifts to holiday parties to cookie exchanges, there's always an excuse to turn your oven on and whip up a sweet treat (or three!).

When it comes time to plan this season’s to-bake list, don't overthink things. This year, we're going back to basics with some good, old-fashioned favorites that never disappoint. Plus, for each classic cookie, we've included a few ways to add a seasonal twist or put pantry staples to good use and make old favorites feel new again.

The Best Rolled Sugar Cookies

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Dotdash Meredith Food Studio
Dotdash Meredith Food Studio

Name a more classic holiday cookie than a rolled sugar cookie, shaped and decorated in seasonal fashion—we'll wait. Our Best Rolled Sugar Cookies are one of the most popular cookie recipes on Allrecipes, with over 8,000 5-star ratings. Recipe author J Saunders writes, “This is the best sugar cookie recipe and the only one I use. Whenever you make these cookies for someone, be sure to bring along several copies of the recipe—you will be asked for it, I promise!”



“These came out just as I hoped—they’re the closest recipe to my grandma’s I’ve found yet. I upped the vanilla and threw in a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg.” – CHRIS AKINS





Tip

Reroll dough scraps only once to keep cookies from absorbing too much flour and getting tough. Here’s our trick for rerolling: Gather dough scraps and rechill, then roll into a square. Use a knife to cut into diamonds, squares, or bars for zero waste.



Variations to Try:

Orange-Chocolate: Add 1 teaspoon orange zest to the dough with the eggs in Step 3. Add 6 ounces chopped dark chocolate to flour mixture.

Gingerbread Spice: Add 1 teaspoon each ground ginger and cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon each nutmeg and ground cloves with the flour in Step 3. Dust cooled cookies with cinnamon sugar.

Peppermint: Replace 1/2 cup flour with 1/2 cup finely crushed waffle cones and use peppermint extract instead of vanilla. Top baked cookies with crushed peppermints.

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

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<p>Dotdash Meredith Food Studios</p>

Dotdash Meredith Food Studios

Thumbprint cookies are always a welcome addition to a cookie exchange, no matter which kind of jam or jelly you fill them with—heck, you can even take them to the savory side. This chocolatey version gets an extra hint of warmth thanks to the addition of cinnamon. For an even more kid-friendly version, garnish each cookie with a mini marshmallow or two for a hot cocoa-inspired treat.

Variations to Try:

Pumpkin Pie Spice: Omit cinnamon and add 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice with flour in Step 3. Omit cream and chocolate. For filling, beat 4 ounces of softened cream cheese and 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup. Pipe into indentations and dust with additional pumpkin pie spice.

Sandies: Replace 1/2 cup flour with 1/2 cup finely ground pecans. (Process 3/4 cup pecan halves in a food processor just until finely ground; don’t grind too long or it will turn into pecan butter.) If desired, sprinkle filled cookies with chopped pecans.

Raspberry & Cream: Omit cream and chocolate. Fill each indentation with 1 teaspoon mascarpone cheese and 1/2 teaspoon seedless raspberry jam; Swirl the two. Fill these cookies just before serving.

Molasses Cookies

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Chewy, dark, and deeply spiced, these Molasses Cookies just taste like the holiday season. You can—and should—bake these cookies in big batches, as they are perfectly portable and crowd-pleasing, making them the ideal edible gift. One community member, SINGLEGUYWHOCOOKS, shared a genius tip for keeping them soft: “When storing these (and other cookies) store a piece of bread with them to keep them moist, otherwise they dry out like rocks!”



“I like a spicy cookie, so I added a teaspoon of white pepper. Incredible.” – DIANABENTLEY77





Tip

For a thicker, more cakey cookie, increase flour to 2 1/4 cups.



Variations to Try:

Anise: Add 3 to 4 drops anise oil or 1 teaspoon ground anise with molasses in Step 2.

Chocolate: Drizzle cooled cookies with 6 ounces melted dark or milk chocolate.

Candied Ginger: Stir 1/4 cup chopped candied ginger into the dough in Step 2.

Mrs. Sigg's Snickerdoodles

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<p>Danielle K</p>

Danielle K

Snickerdoodles are a classic for a reason—soft, chewy, lightly spiced, and endlessly crave-able. And did we mention they only take 30 minutes to make? Swap out the cinnamon-sugar coating for other variations for a super simple way to make these beloved cookies brand new again.



“Oh my gosh. I love Snickerdoodles, and I’m sure that these are the best I have ever, ever, ever had! Beautiful color and a light, buttery taste. You can tell just by looking at the dough that it is going to be a good cookie.” – BARBARA H.



Variations to Try:

Cardamom-Cocoa: Omit cinnamon. Roll dough balls in a mixture of 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon ground cardamom, and 2 tablespoons sugar. If desired, dunk cooled cookies in melted chocolate.

Black Pepper-Brown Sugar: Replace white sugar with brown sugar. Omit cinnamon and roll dough balls in a mixture of 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 2 teaspoons black pepper.

Coffee: Replace vanilla with coffee extract. Omit cinnamon; instead, roll dough balls in a mixture of 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder.

Oreo Balls

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Meredith Food Studio
Meredith Food Studio

Oreo Balls, aka Oreo Truffles, are seriously one of the easiest treats you'll make all holiday season, if not all year. You're three ingredients away from a decadent truffle that could win over even the biggest chocolate snob, and the best part is there are endless iterations of the basic formula. Use another flavor Oreo (or another nostalgic treat entirely), add an extract or flavoring to the chocolate coating, or decorate with any seasonal sprinkles your heart desires.



Tip

Stick a toothpick in the chilled cookie ball to easily dip the whole thing in chocolate. When you remove the toothpick, you might see a tiny hole. That's fine! Just cover it up with more chocolate.



Variations to Try:

Peanut Butter: Swap in peanut butter sandwich cookies (like Nutter Butters) for Oreo cookies and peanut butter for cream cheese for a Buckeye-inspired treat.

Chocolate-Peppermint: Stir 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract into the melted chocolate before coating the balls. Top with crushed candy canes.

Red Velvet: Use Red Velvet Oreos in place of regular Oreos and swap in white chocolate for semisweet chocolate in the coating. Garnish with more Red Velvet Oreo cookie crumbs.

Soft Oatmeal Cookies

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House of Aqua
House of Aqua

Think of these top-rated oatmeal cookies like the blank canvas of the cookie world. Recipe author BITTERSWEET1 writes, "They're soft, chewy, and easily customizable—just add 1 cup raisins, nuts, or chocolate chips when you mix in the oats. Keep them on hand for after-school snacking or make a batch for a holiday cookie exchange."



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"This has been a favorite at our house for years," writes candy. "Try replacing the vanilla with a tablespoon of maple flavoring. It gives a wonderful twist to a wonderful recipe."



Variations to Try:

Cranberry-White Chocolate: Add 1 cup dried cranberries and 1 cup white chocolate chips to the batter before baking.

Banana-Chocolate Chip: Add 1 mashed banana after the eggs are incorporated, before adding the dry ingredients. Stir in 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips before baking.

Cowboy-Style: Stir 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, 1 cup shredded coconut, and 1 cup chopped pecans into the batter before baking.

Read the original article on All Recipes.