One of the things that people always ask me is how I make food seem so effortless. I just seem to appear with food out of the blue doing very little work or preparation to make it happen. I’d like to let you in on one of my secrets: I cheat, and I work smart and not hard. My Christmas cookies are a case in point to this type of thinking. I make one basic master cookie dough and I split that dough out adding ingredients to make the cookies into different cookie types.

How I got started

Traditional Chocolate Chip cookies

I have been making Christmas cookies since I was a child. My brothers were both chocolate chip cookie crazed, and I used to bake each of them a shirt box full of cookies as their gift from me every year. I then learned to make more types of cookies from a wonderful neighbor and that became our tradition. I’d go to her house and we would make cookies by the box.

The secret to a great cookie?  Balanced salt and sugar!

Getting better flavor from your cookies means a balance of salt and sugar.

As I matured into a better cook, I started learning all of the little tips and tricks to make cookies fast and easy. I learned that you nearly always use real salted butter and quality chocolate chips or chunks into the recipe for rich flavor and balance.

My favorite butter is Kerrygold..

Use salted butter? Why would you do that? The reason is simple: Salt helps to balance sugar on the palate. Have you ever eaten a cookie that just tastes – too sweet?  Or a cookie that tastes simply bland or the butter doesn’t come through in the flavor?  It’s all about the salt. Using a quality salted butter helps to get the salt throughout the dough evenly and adds that bit of savory to the sweetness for perfect balance.

Work smart not hard

Now, how do I work smart?  I make one “Master Dough” and then I split that dough down to make cookies of all different types by adding ingredients to the split out portions of dough. For this to truly work. you do need a mixer or food processor because cookie dough is heavy to mix by hand. I used to do it by hand for years, but its a lot more work.

Making multiple cookies on one sheet from the Master Dough recipe.

Each “Master Dough” batch of cookies makes 2 dozen cookies. I suggest that you triple the batch and break it down into 3 portions. This gives you a two dozen of each type of cookie. You can always make one type of cookie at a time, it’s up to you.

Note: For those of you who are Gluten Free – I have found that these cookies all work beautifully with Namaste Gluten Free Flour Blend. The Oatmeal Raisin cookies in particular paired with the Trader Joes Gluten Free Oats is amazing.

This Recipe is EASY and foolproof!

In order to prove my recipe works, I enlisted the help of my friend Audrey who describes herself as a “Disaster Chef“. I figure if she can make these cookies, anyone can! This girl can usually burn water – seriously!  She did a great job with her cookies.  Not a burn mark in sight!

Master Dough Ingredients:

These are the things you will need for your Master base of cookies.
  • 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2  tsp salt
  • 1 cup of salted butter melted and slightly cooled – super soft butter also works. (I really like to bake with Kerry Gold Irish Salted Butter)
  • 3/4 cup of packed light brown sugar (I often use dark brown sugar for a more caramel flavor to my cookies depending on the type of cookie I’m making)
  • 3/4 cup of white granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature. (The temperature helps all of the ingredients to meld together easily)
  • 2 tsp of pure vanilla extract, vanilla bakery emulsion, or my favorite vanilla bean paste.

Kitchen tools needed:

  • Small, Medium and Large kitchen bowls
  • 1 electric mixer with paddles or mix by hand with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula
  • measuring cups and measuring spoons
  • cookie scoop
  • Silicone baking sheet or wax paper for baking
  • Cookie sheets
  • Wire rack for cooling
  • Spatula
  • Dinner fork for making hatch marks

Preheat Oven to 325 F Degrees


Mix your dry ingredients together for your master cookie dough

Whisk the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.  In a large bowl (or your mixer’s bowl), whisk the butter and sugars together until smooth. Whisk in the egg and yolk, then blend in the vanilla extract.

Cream your butter, sugar, and eggs together till fluffy for your master cookie dough.

Add the dry ingredients into your wet ingredients until they come together.  Do not overwork your cookies! The dough will be very soft.

Master cookie dough will be soft but do not overwork.

Splitting your dough and letting it cool down:

Split your dough evenly into sections

At this point, split your dough out if you have made extra batches.

Use clingfilm to wrap your dough tight to rest it in the refrigerator before baking.

Cover the dough balls with cling film and put in the refrigerator for 3 hours. It will stay good in your refrigerator for up to a week.

If you are going to freeze your cookie dough for later use, I’d suggest you freeze them as premade balls. They can be baked right from the freezer!

This dough also freezes beautifully.  However, I do suggest that you finish making your cookies and freeze them as dough balls so you can just grab them and bake when you want them.

Note: the following measurements are to be used with the entire “Master Batch” of cookies.  If you are splitting the dough down, split down the ingredients appropriately. Here is a handy tool for calculating ingredients. It will calculate the ingredients up or down from what I am listing. 

Possible Add-Ins:

Ingredients to mix into your cookies – the combinations are unlimited!


  • Add 1 tsp cinnamon to the master dough
  • Add 1/2 tsp of pumpkin pie or apple pie spice to your dough (optional but will give your cookies more flavor)
  • Mix together  1/4 cup of white sugar and 1 tbsp of cinnamon together in a bowl separate from your dough.

Once you have added the cinnamon and spices to your dough roll each cookie into a small ball.  I personally use a cookie scoop. You can purchase a cookie scoop here. You can do it by hand and by eye though. Roll each ball into the cinnamon sugar and place on a cookie sheet topped with a silicone baking sheet or parchment paper 3 inches apart.

*Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 12 minutes until cookies are lightly browned on the edges and the middle still looks soft. Remove from the oven and cool. Cool for 5 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. This is the baking instructions for all of the cookies.

Chocolate Chip – MnM – Cinnamon Chocolate Chip – Orange Cranberry White Chocolate Chip, Mint chocolate chip – Butterscotch pecan – Heathbar  – Black and white cookies – Candy Cane Chocolate Cookies

*Important note* Chocolate chips are important to the quality of your cookie. I like using the Ghiradelli Chocolate Chips for mine. The chips are bigger than the other brands and the quality of the chocolate is better with great melt and flavor. 

Seen on the plate are traditional chocolate chip, snickerdoodles and sugar cookies all made from the master recipe.

For Traditional Chocolate Chip Cookies:

Add in the following ingredients into your master dough:

Not enough chocolate for you? add 2/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa to your master dough, then add chips of your choice. Add 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips for Black and White Cookies.

This plate includes MnM cookies, Dark Chocolate peppermint chip cookies, and Orange white chocolate cookies – These cookies are the result of our very own Disaster Chef Audrey – didn’t she do well?

For Non-Traditional “Chip” Cookies:

Add your choice of the following ingredients into the master dough:

  • 1 1/2 cup of one of the following:  Mint Chips, Heath Bar Chips,  Peanut Butter Chips, Crushed candy cane bits.  The combinations here are unlimited.

White Chocolate Chip Orange and Cranberry Cookies

Add the following ingredients to the master dough:

  • Add in 1 1/2 cup of White Chocolate Chips
  • 3/4 cup of dried cranberries
  • zest of one orange

For Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

Add in the following ingredients to the master dough:

  •  1 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cup of chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup of chopped pecans.

Roll into balls and place 3 inches apart before baking.

For Peanut Butter Cookies:

Look at these beautiful peanut butter cookies! I added different chocolate and peanut butter chips for variety and flavor.

Add the following ingredients to the master dough:

  • 1 cup of CRUNCHY (I personally like Extra Crunchy) peanut butter.  Do not use smooth, and do not use Natural peanut butter that you have to stir. This will make your cookies be too oily and mushy.

Scoop cookies onto the silicone mat or parchment paper covered cookie sheet.  Place cookies about 3 inches apart. With a fork, make a # on the top of each cookie before baking.

Bake for approximately 12 minutes until cookies are lightly browned on the edges and the middle still looks soft. Remove from the oven and cool. Cool for 5 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Double peanut butter chocolate chip cookies – Delicious!

Note:  Want more peanut butter flavor?  Add 1 1/2 cup of peanut butter flavored chips.  Chocolate chips taste great too.  Why not add half and half for a truly spectacular cookie! If you can find them try 1 1/2 cups of the mini Reeses Peanut Butter cups for baking or Reese’s Pieces.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies:

Traditional Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Add the following ingredients to the master dough:

  • 1 3/4 cups of rolled oats – I like the Gluten Free Oats from Trader Joes
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 cup of raisins
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Optional Nuts of your choice.

For Oatmeal Raisin Cookies I take the extra step of flattening the balls with my palm to help them spread evenly during baking. See the picture below:

Oatmeal Craisin white chocolate cookies

Note: Substitute raisins for Chocolate Chips for another riff on this yummy cookie.  You can also add in 1 1/2 cup of white chocolate or dark chocolate chips and 1 1/4 dried cranberries.

Cowboy Cookies:

Add the following ingredients to the master dough:

  • 1 3/4 cups of rolled oats
  • 1 cup of chocolate chips
  • Add 1 cup of flaked coconut
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup of chopped pecans

Adding an extra layer of yum and beauty:

Melt 1 cup of either white chocolate or regular chocolate chips.  You can do it in a bowl over hot water or in the microwave at 2-minute intervals mixing and watching carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn. Add to the white chocolate 2 tsp of neutral flavored oil – canola, corn, sunflower to help it melt easier and smoother and to prevent burn.

Once baked, you can dip the cookie halfway into the melted chocolate and then sprinkle with colored sprinkles, silver balls, crushed candy canes, mini MnM’s, mini marshmallows, or anything you can think of.

The finished product:

Once cooled, serve with a big glass of milk, coffee, or bubbly. I bet you can’t eat just one!

I’d love to know how this recipe works out for you.  P.S., Baking is always more fun if you are drinking wine or champagne as you bake.  Just make sure you set your timer so your cookies don’t burn..  lol

Looking for other Christmas treats?  Check out April’s Cranberry Orange Blissful Bars or Champagne Cupcakes.



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.