Tag Archives: Christmas cookies

Adults Only Christmas Cookies: Bourbon Balls

Santa and bourbon balls. Agnes Badertscher made the winking Santa Mug in 1968.

Santa and bourbon balls

These are the only cookies on my list that are labeled “adults only.” And they are the cookies that must be made at least a week before they are going to be eaten, so hurry–you’re just getting here in time to make Bourbon Balls for Christmas. The winking Santa Mug  was made by Agnes Badertscher  in 1968.

Don’t worry, Bourbon balls are simple to make–no baking–and they make your kitchen smell heavenly. Bourbon and chocolate and pecans.  Yum.

Everybody loves Christmas Cookies, but everyone also has a favorite.  I’ve talked about my late father-in-law’s favorite cookie, Pfefferneuse; about my three boys favorite when they were small, their Grandma Badertscher’s  Butterscotchers; about my husband’s favorite, Double Crunchers and about everyone’s favorite, Emily Dickinson’s Black Cake. Since you have to check driver’s licenses before you hand out Bourbon Balls, pretty much everybody wants to get their hands (or mouths) on these little flavor bombs, too, but the one person who really kicks up a fuss if he doesn’t get his yearly Bourbon Balls is my brother, Bill (Paul William) Kaser.

The recipe is below, but the first step in the directions should really be “Take off any rings you are wearing and wash your hands well.”  Because you are definitely going to dig your hands into the dough on these. There’s no other way to make them.

Christmas Cookie: Bourbon Balls

Serves 5 doz. small cookies
Allergy Tree Nuts, Wheat
Meal type Dessert
Occasion Christmas


  • 2 1/2 cups crushed vanilla wafers (11 oz box)
  • 1 1/4 cup pecans (coarsely chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons powdered unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup (Either light or dark)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup bourbon (See note)
  • 1 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 4 tablespoons powdered unsweetened cocoa


1. Mix wafers, pecans, cocoa and corn syrup. Add in enough bourbon to make a sticky dough. It will still be somewhat crumbly.
2. Scoop up the dough by scant spoonfuls, press together with hand. Roll between palms into a ball about 1/2 " in diameter.
3. Mix well the confectioners sugar and 4 Tablespoons cocoa in a small bowl.
4. Roll each ball in the sugar mixture until coated.
5. If you want a more dense covering of sugar/cocoa, let stand an hour or so then roll again before storing in airtight container to ripen for at least a week.


Although I traditionally make these as bourbon balls, they can also morph into rum balls, chocolate liqueur balls, or even anise-flavored ouzo balls. Don't be afraid to experiment. However, just as when you cook with wine, the better the quality of the liquor, the better the taste of the finished product.


Double Cruncher Sandwich Cookies

Christmas Chocolate Sandwich Cookie: Double Crunchers

Recipe for sandwich cookie

Double Cruncher recipe card

Although I’ve been making Double Crunchers since some time in the 70s, I have never made the chocolate-filled sandwich cookie any time other than Christmas. They are not handed down by ancestors, but rather by food promoters’ test kitchen. Bless those test kitchens.  So many wonderful recipes in my mother’s and my files came out of test kitchens–printed in magazines, newspapers and on food labels.

However, I am happy to start a tradition and hand them down to my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren (not to mention to you.)

Many cookbooks and on-line recipes include prep time and cooking time for recipes. It gives you a guide not only to how far ahead you have to plan, but as to how challenging  the cookie is going to be. This sandwich cookie is not difficult, but chocolate-filled Double Crunchers take a LOT of time.

And I’m not even counting the difficulty of resisting the temptation to eat all that chocolate filling before it goes on the cookies!!

Double Cruncher Sandwich Cookies

Double Cruncher Cookies must be rolled and then flattened.

I also judge a dish’s difficulty by the number of dishes and pans it takes to complete the job.

Let’s see, for Double Crunchers that would be:

  • Flour sifter.
  • Measuring cups for dry ingredients.
  • Measuring cup for shortening.
  • Measuring spoons.
  • Bowl in which to mash cornflakes and mix in oats and coconut.
  • Bowl for flour and soda.
  • Electric mixer or large mixing spoon.
  • Large Bowl for mixing all the other ingredients.
  • Cookie sheets.
  • Cooling racks.
  • Small saucepan for melting chocolate and mixing other filling ingredients.
  • Large saucepan to hold boiling water in which to put small saucepan.
  • Assorted knives and spoons for spreading,stirring, scooping.
  • Small glass to use to flatten the cookies.
  • Bowl with a little flour to dip flattening glass in.

Actually, it could be worse.

Some Christmas cookies became holiday specials in our house simply because they are not simple.  Anything that takes as long as the Double Cruncher sandwich cookie does to make, is not going to tempt me frequently during the year.

But if I DON’T make them at Christmas, there’s hell to pay.  These are, with not even a close rival, my husband Ken Badertscher’s favorite cookie.  He has no interest in saving them for Christmas eve, or giving them to other people as gifts. As soon as the chocolate/cream cheese filling is slathered between the two crispy cookies, he’s on them like a lion on a gazelle.

So since I do like to have a few for other people (not to mention myself) I almost always make a double recipe, which means they take a good half day to make from start to finish. So please join me for Christmas tea with Double Crunchers.

Cookies: Double Crunchers

Serves 2 1/2 doz
Allergy Egg, Wheat
Meal type Dessert


  • 1 cup Pillsbury's Best All Purpose Flour (sifted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon Diamond Crystal Salt
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 egg (unbeaten)
  • 1/2 teaspoon French's Vanilla
  • 1 cup corn flakes (crushed)
  • 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup coconut
  • 1 cup Nestle's Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels (6-oz package)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/3 cup Cream Cheese


1. Sift flour with soda and salt; set aside
2. Add sugars gradually to shortening, creaming well.
3. Blend in egg and vanilla; mix well.
4. Stir in flour mixture, then add corn flakes, rolled oats and coconut. [by hand]
5. Shape by teaspoonsful into balls; place on greased cookie sheets. Flatten with bottom of glass dipped in flour.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. [Place on cooling racks as they come out of oven.]
7. Melt chocolate chips with powdered sugar and 1 Tablespoon water {in small saucempan] over boiling water.
8. Blend in 1/3 C cream cheese, beating until smooth. Cool.
9. Place flat sides of two cookies together with filling [spread thickly], sandwich style.


I have given you the recipe-- complete with four brand-name products-- just as it came from a newspaper insert that I clipped some time in the 70s. As far as I can tell, French's does not make vanilla extract any more. The other products are available, but that doesn't mean you must use them in this recipe. I found it interesting that the recipe combined products from various companies that advertised in the newspaper supplement.

I have made the cookie with both flaked and shredded coconut. Shredded makes a somewhat smoother cookie. I measure the cornflakes before crushing, otherwise the cookie has too much cornflake.

These cookies do not spread, so you can place them fairly close together on the cookie sheet. You'll have to make them small if you want to actually get 2 1/2 dozen.

Final note. Spread the filling thickly, or you'll have a lot left over and you'll eat it. Then you'll be sorry when you step on the scales.

Christmas Cookies: Pfefferneuse (and a Confession)

Although this recipe for pfefferneuse cookies does not go back generations in my family as far as I know, it should. I feel justified in calling it a traditional cookie since its roots are Dutch and German and my own paternal line is German.

Pfefferneuse cookies and ornaments

Ornaments from our travels to Holland, Switzerland and Germany on the tray with pfefferneuse cookies.

Not only that, but I learned from the Internet, that pfefferneuse is a traditional cookie among Mennonites. My father-in-law, a Mennonite whose family came from German Switzerland, loved these cookies. He said they were his favorite among all the ones I made.  And they are  a tradition in our household ever since the late 1960s. I know that because of a little incident that I’m going to confess to in a minute.

According to my findings on the web, pfefferneuse (pepper nuts) are traditionally eaten on the date of Sinterklas–December 5 or 6 in Holland or Germany–when Sinterklas (our Santa) delivers the goods. I’m not sure where I got this recipe, which diverges from the mid-19th century origins,mainly because it does not contain pepper–which is the pfeffer in the name. Instead, it relies on other spices and anise for its peppery goodness. It also calls for coffee (although I rarely have any around so I use water or tea) and it uses some butter, which makes it a bit lighter.

But the more I searched, the more I became aware that there are approximately a zillion different ways to make a cookie that is called pfefferneuse. And of course anyone who makes the cookies a different way than you do, will refuse to acknowledge yours as genuine.  See for example, this Pinterest page.

Pfefferneuse being glazed.

Pfefferneuse cookies being glazed.

Powdered sugar, glaze or bare naked? Almonds, walnuts, or no nuts at all. Baking soda, baking powder or the original ammonium carbonate? Shortening or not? It can drive you crazy.

You can see in the picture below that, as usual, I make the cookies too large. Despite trying to rein in the size, every year, I forget how much they spread. Some year, I’d like to keep the cookie small enough that it really is a little ball instead of a flat cookie.

Now the confession of wrongdoing in the kitchen. Once upon a time when I was a young mother, my husband and I got an invitation to go to a holiday event that was somehow related to his job.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten that I had put pfefferneuse dough in the refrigerator to cool, and was running out of time to get the cookies baked  and glazed before company arrived.

So when the baby sitter arrived, and I was in my spikey high heels and bouffant hair-do, all ready to go out on the town, I informed her that not only was she watching my three little darlings–but she also needed to shape, bake and glaze several dozen cookies.  For this she was being paid fifty cents an hour, mind you.

To this day, I have no idea whether she had ever baked anything before in her life, and I can’t believe I would just dump this job on somebody who already had their hands full with watching three ornery boys. She must have really needed the few dollars she was going to make.

Pfferneuse ready to bake

Pfferneuse ready to bake

I explained to her how to shape the cookies with floured hands, told her she could wait until the boys went to bed, and put the cookies out on a cookie rack.  The cookies turned out great. I don’t know if she ever baby sat for us again.

Pfefferneuse Fruit Cake Cookies

Serves 6 dozen
Allergy Tree Nuts
Meal type Dessert
Occasion Christmas


  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup coffee
  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup candied cherries or mixed candied fruit
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon anise seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise extract
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water or rum
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar


1. Combine 1/2 C sugar, corn syrup, butter and coffee in large (3-quart) saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes.
Dry ingredients
2. Sift together flour, soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg
3. Grind or pulse in food processor candied fruit, raisins and nuts
Combine ingredients
4. When syrup has cooled, add two eggs lightly beaten, and anise flavorings. and mix well.
Combine and finish.
5. Stir in dry ingredients, then fruit mixture.
Combine and finish
6. Chill dough at least four hours--will hold for a couple of days.
7. Let dough come to room temperature, flour your hands and shape the dough into one-inch balls. Place on greased cookie sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes.
8. While cookies bake, Combine 1 C sugar, water, cream of tartar in small pan and boil until clear. Cool.
9. When glaze is cooled, whisk in 1/2 C powdered sugar.
10. Put cookie racks on waxed paper to catch drips. Dip slightly cooled cookies into glaze and set on racks. You can decorate with bits of red or green candied cherry if you wish. Let glaze harden before packing in cookie tins or plastic containers, with waxed paper between layers.


Cookies can be baked and frozen and you can warm them and add glaze when you are ready to use.

When I do not have coffee on hand, I have used strong tea, but the bitterness of the coffee adds a different flavor.

Don't make the cookies too large, as when they bake, you want them to maintain their rounded top rather than flatten out.  While I generally think the bigger the better with cookies, I believe these are better in smaller bites.