12/21/2014 08:05 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

17 Best-Loved Holiday Cookies and Bars

1. Almond Biscotti


Inspired by the almond biscotti served at the celebrated Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, these Italian-style cookies are are made by forming a fragrant, almond-studded dough into loaves, partially baking it, slicing it and then baking it again. They are everything you want a good biscotti to be: buttery, lightly sweet, crunchy but not tooth-shattering -- and as good with your morning coffee as they are with dessert wine, afternoon tea, ice cream, parfaits, pudding or fruit salad. GET THE RECIPE

2. Snickerdoodles


Snickerdoodles are sweet, buttery sugar cookies lightly dusted with cinnamon. With their whimsical name, crackly tops, perfectly crisp edges and soft centers, I don't know anyone who can resist them! Since they are easy and fun to bake, they make a great family baking project -- kids love to form the squishy dough into balls and roll them in cinnamon-sugar. GET THE RECIPE

3. Chocolate Fudge Crinkles


Deeply chocolate, crisp and powdery on the outside, and soft and fudgy in the center: if you can imagine what a brownie would taste like in cookie form, this is it. GET THE RECIPE

4. Crispy Ginger Cookies


This is the perfect ginger cookie: it's got just the right balance of spices -- think ginger, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and black pepper -- and a wonderfully buttery crisp texture. GET THE RECIPE

5. Millionaire's Shortbread


Known as Millionaire's Shortbread, presumably because they are so rich, these bars consist of a layer of crumbly shortbread, a layer of soft caramel and a layer of chocolate. To me, they taste just like gourmet Twix bars. GET THE RECIPE

6. Coconut Macaroons


As a coconut lover, I've tried dozens of coconut macaroon recipes over the years -- be it for the holidays or for friends who eat gluten-free. These, made with sweetened condensed milk, are my favorite. Chewy and moist on the inside, crispy and golden on the outside, they are delicious plain but even more irresistible dipped in chocolate. GET THE RECIPE

7. Luscious Lemon Squares


With a crisp and buttery shortbread crust, tart-yet-sweet lemon filling and powdered sugar topping, these lemon squares are as pretty as they are delicious. They also freeze beautifully, so you can make them ahead of time and defrost as needed. GET THE RECIPE

8. Crave Worthy Sugar Cookies


These sugar cookies are truly crave-worthy: buttery and rich in flavor, with a crisp and sparkly exterior and tender-chewy interior. I discovered the recipe years ago on the King Arthur Flour website, and it's been my go-to for sugar cookies ever since. GET THE RECIPE

9. Nutty Jam Thumbprints


These Nutty Jam Thumbprints could win a cookie contest on looks alone. The cookie is actually a Mexican Wedding Cake (also known as a Russian Tea Cake, Viennese Crescent or Snowball), which makes the perfect shortbread-like base for a dollop of luscious fruit preserves. The recipe is adapted from Alice Medrich's award-winning cookie book Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy.GET THE RECIPE

10. Toffee Almond Sandies


These cookies might look plain but when you bite into them, you discover a buttery and sweet shortbread studded with melted toffee bits and crunchy almonds -- they're just wonderfully good. They're also incredibly easy to make and keep well, making them -- in my mind, at least -- the perfect holiday cookie. GET THE RECIPE

11. Nutella Sandwich Cookies (aka Yo-yos)


These have got to be some of the world's cutest cookies. They look just like little yo-yos, thus the name, and are popular in Australia. You make them by joining together two buttery shortbread disks with a layer of creamy chocolate-hazelnut spread. Delicious, adorable and perfect for the holidays! GET THE RECIPE

12. Walnut & Cinnamon Biscotti


Adapted from a lovely little cookbook called Biscotti: Recipes from the Kitchen of the American Academy in Rome by Mona Talbott and Mirealla Misenti, these biscotti are delicately spiced with cinnamon and delicious with coffee or tea. They also keep for a long time, which makes them perfect for gifting. GET THE RECIPE

13. Pecan Shortbread Squares


If you're a fan of pecan pie, you're going to love these pecan squares. A buttery shortbread crust and rich caramel-pecan topping make them truly over-the-top -- the perfect hostess gift, treat for your co-workers or potluck dessert this time of year. GET THE RECIPE

14. Spiced Pumpkin Cookies


Imbued with warm autumn spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves, these little pumpkin cookies are cakey on the interior and slightly crisp on the exterior, with a bit of crunch from the raw sugar sprinkled on top. My family flocks to the kitchen as soon as I pull them out of the oven, and the first batch disappears before the second trays are even done. GET THE RECIPE

15. Rugelach


Delicious to eat and fun to make, rugelach (pronounced rug-a-lah) are miniature crescent-rolled pastries posing as cookies. They're made by rolling a triangle of dough around a sweet filling of fruit, nuts, chocolate or pretty much anything your heart desires. If you've never had them or made them from scratch, definitely roll up your sleeves and give this classic walnut-raisin version a try. Fresh out of the oven, they're buttery, crisp and flaky, with a sweet cinnamon scent that will tempt you to eat the entire batch. GET THE RECIPE

16. Double Chocolate Biscotti


My 11-year-old son calls these biscotti "crunchy brownies." It's an apt description: biscotti are twice-baked cookies made intentionally dry and crunchy for dunking into coffee or tea, and these are made with a double dose of chocolate. When you dunk them -- ideally into a hot cup of café au lait -- they soften, becoming rich, chocolaty and decadent. GET THE RECIPE

17. Chocolate Chip Pecan Blondies


Part cookie, part brownie -- who doesn't love blondies? And the best part is that they're ridiculously easy to make: less ingredients than cookies (plus you don't have to roll the dough into balls) and easier than brownies because there's no chocolate to melt. This version, made with chocolate chips and pecans, is my all-time favorite. GET THE RECIPE