Holiday Guide

Try These Three Holiday Cookie Recipes from Portland Bakers

Sebastiano’s fig cookies, Smith Teamaker’s chai chocolate chip cookies, and Kim Boyce’s gingersnaps: these are a few of our favorite things.

By Katherine Chew Hamilton

Sourdough bread is so March 2020 (unless you’re AOC, who baked off her first loaf last week—hey, she’s got bigger fish to fry). But there’s never been a better time to bake holiday cookies than now. Don’t have time to bake? Sebastiano’s, the Sicilian deli in Montavilla, has these labor-intensive cuccidati available for online ordering and pickup now, and Smith Teamaker’s headquarters has these chocolate chip chai cookies for sale, too. (Bakeshop has a tempting holiday menu, too, including stollen, pies, and burnt Basque cheesecake—but these gingersnap cookies are not on it.)

Need more holiday cookie recipes? Check out our cookie roundup from a few years back, featuring a total of five recipes from Michelle Vernier of Bella's Italian Bakery, and Eve Küttemann, who currently runs cottage bakery Vue Microbakery.

Cuccidati (Sicilian Fig Christmas Cookies) by Elise Gold, co-owner of Sebastiano’s

Cuccidati are a Sicilian Christmas tradition.

Makes approximately 100 small cookies (“That may sound like a lot, but these cookies aren’t worth making in a small batch—it goes against tradition and you can always share them with someone who we guarantee will be very excited to receive them,” says Gold.)

“Back home in New Jersey, rolling cuccidati is an industrious day of hard work and connection. All of my great aunts, aunts, and female cousins join forces to roll an insane number of cookies. Each person/family leaves with a tin filled with love for everyone to share throughout the cold season. This year is a different one for gathering and sharing, but I am certain that sending these cookies to friends and family will deliver the hug and kiss that you wish you could share with them but can’t,” writes Gold.


20 oz dried figs (remove hard stems and cut into halves)

5 oz dried tart cherries, such as Montmorency

2 1/2 oz dried cranberries

5 oz raw almonds

2 oz candied lemon or orange peel

2 oz Oregon Meadow Foam honey

4 oz marmalade

4 oz jam (can be any flavor; try Oregon marionberry) 

In the bowl of a food processor (or chop by hand or use a meat grinder), process almonds until chopped into fine bits. Be sure not to overprocess nuts into a nut butter. Empty almonds into a large bowl. Process figs, cherries, cranberries all together using blade. Pulse and move mixture frequently to get a nice consistency. You want the mixture to become paste-like with some texture still, but processed enough as a filling for a cookie. Empty fruit mixture into large bowl with chopped almonds. Mix together with hands to combine all ingredients. Add honey, marmalade, and jam. Mix to fully combine all ingredients. Taste the filling. If your filling tastes too sweet: add in more dried cranberries and candied peel. If your filling tastes too tart and/or too dry: add in more honey and/or jam. You can also experiment with adding pine nuts, amaretto, brandy, marsala, fresh lemon zest, or pistachios.


3 cups of all-purpose flour (Gold prefers Camas Country organic low gluten AP flour)

1 cup granulated sugar

Pinch of salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 cups shortening of your choice (lard is traditional, but Sebastiano’s uses butter and vegetable shortening)

1/2 cup cold water

In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, salt, baking powder with your hands. Add shortening. Mix with hands until shortening is incorporated into flour into fine crumbles, pea-like in size. Add water gradually until a smooth dough is achieved. Wrap dough with plastic wrap and let sit for at least 15 minutes before using. 

FORM AND BAKE COOKIES Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a generous amount of flour on your work surface and rolling pin, roll dough into a rectangular shape, about ¼ inch thick. Cut dough into long strips, spoon in filling, and roll to cover with dough. Using a sharp knife, cut into uniform squares or rectangles. Bake cookies for about 12 minutes, rotating trays halfway through for even baking.


1 cup powdered sugar

2-4 tbsp water

Add some colorful sprinkles for authentic Italian flair.

Mix sugar and water with spoon or small whisk to desired consistency (easily brushed on top of cookies, but not so watery that it absorbs into the cookie). Once cookies are completely cooled, lightly coat cookies with icing. Lastly, for a nice Italian touch, add a splash of color with nonpareil sprinkles. Gold likes the all-natural nonpareils from Color Kitchen, a company based in Bend.

Chocolate Chip Chai Cookies by Karl Holl, culinary consultant at Smith Teamaker

Chai from Smith Teamaker sets these chocolate chip cookies apart from the rest.

Makes 12 cookies

275 g unsalted butter, room temperature

9 oz organic brown sugar

9 oz organic sugar

1¼  tbsp loose leaf Smith Teamaker Masala Chai tea, blended to a powder


2 tsp vanilla extract

1¼ lb dark chocolate chips

1¼ tsp baking soda

½ tsp baking powder

17 oz all purpose flour

1 ¼ tsp vanilla sea salt*

MAKE DOUGH Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using an upright mixer or hand mixer, cream butter, sugars and chai powder together on medium speed until creamy, about 6-8 minutes. On low speed, add eggs one at a time. Once eggs are well incorporated, turn mixer off and scrape the bottom well. Mix with a spatula to make sure there are no clumps in the dough. Add vanilla salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Add chocolate chips and mix until just incorporated. Turn mixer off and scrape bottom before adding in the flour. Add flour and mix until dough comes together.

BAKE COOKIES Scoop cookies onto baking sheet lined with parchment, and bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating the tray after about 8 minutes. Remove from oven, transfer to a cooling rack, and let cool. While cookies are cooling, Holl suggests steeping a cup of Smith Teamaker’s Silent Night tea to enjoy with your freshly baked cookies. 

*Take empty vanilla pods and put them directly into Jacobsen Sea Salt (Kosher sea salt works too). 

Gingersnaps from Kim Boyce of Bakeshop’s cookbook, Good to the Grain

The addition of whole wheat flour makes these gingersnaps a little different.

Makes 3 dozen cookies 

Wet Mix:

4 oz unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup unsulphured (not blackstrap) molasses

2 tbsp grated fresh ginger

1 egg


Dry Mix:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground clove

1/2 tsp kosher salt


To Finish:

1/2 cup sugar


MAKE DOUGH In a bowl, mix together the melted butter, sugars, molasses, ginger, and egg. Sift the dry ingredients over this mixture and stir to form a batter. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least two hours, or preferably overnight.

SHAPE COOKIES Position two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rub two baking sheets lightly with butter. Pour the half cup of sugar into a bowl. Pluck out balls of dough about 1 tablespoon in size. Toss them in sugar, roll them into balls, and toss the balls back into the sugar for a second coating. Place the balls on the baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between them. Repeat with the remaining dough.

BAKE COOKIES Bake for 10-15 minutes, rotating trays halfway through for even baking, until the color is evenly dark across the top of the cookies. Transfer cookies to a wire rack. Eat them straight out of the oven, later that day, or keep in an airtight container for up to three days.

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