These are a true holiday classic.
There are tons of old favorite holiday recipes that no one seems to be talking about anymore. Sure everyone loves a sugar cookie shaped like Santa Claus, but there are quite a few oldies-but-goodies out there that are definitely due a revival- like these festive pecan cream cheese cookies that radiate Christmas cheer with their red and green colors.
The first time as an adult that I made these cookies for my siblings they all had the same reaction of joy, surprise, and comfort. You see, they had forgotten that my mom used to make these every year – I guess until she thought it had become an outdated recipe. Even I had forgotten that she used to make them until I saw a photo of these little treats and had a very strong flashback to age 8 and helping her roll the dough log in colored sugar. So, I can say from personal experience this is a good cookie to make with kids despite the tiny wayward grains of sugar that are involved.
Each cookie has a delicate texture and enchanting flavor thanks to a whole block of cream cheese in the dough. This gives the cookies a bit of tang but also means they have a lovely chewy bite to them.
The high amount of cream cheese and butter in the dough means it’s soft before baking, so you’ll need to roll them into 4 logs, wrap each one in plastic, then place them in the refrigerator to chill. I found it easiest to tear off my plastic wrap and stick it down to my silicone baking mat. Then I used an ice cream scoop with a release button to plop down 4 scoops of dough in the middle of the plastic.
After that I took the baking mat and rolled it over the dough to even it out and to form a log shape. Then I rolled the dough up in the plastic and I was good to go.
Once these are chilled fill a pan or tray with about half a jar of colored sugar crystals. Roll the logs in the first color, then cut into slices before baking. You will need to change (or wash) your utensils, tray, and cutting board before switching to the second color, as well as washing your hands. If you mix the colors it can make things muddy looking.
There are chopped pecans in the dough as well a single pecan half on top of each cookie. This adds a lot of nuttiness and crunch, but if you need to make them nut-free these cookies are still amazing without the nuts.
Bake these up and then get ready for a flood of compliments on these wonderful cookies. One more thing to note: the finished cookies freeze extremely well, which means you can bake them ahead of time with no problems at all! This is perfect for those of use who want to really maximize our holiday baking!
I guess we can call then “retro” now, but I will always think of them as a holiday classic.
Pecan Cream Cheese Christmas Cookies
Makes 48 coooies
2h 20m prep time
18m cook time
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 (2.25 oz) container green sugar crystals
- 1 (2.25 oz) container red sugar crystals
- 1 cup pecan halves
- Cream together butter, cream cheese, and sugar. Add in egg and vanilla and stir well. Add 1 cup of flour to wet ingredients at a time, stirring each time. Then add salt and stir. Fold in chopped pecans.
- Divide batter in half. Roll into 4 logs each about 2" across. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to firm up for at least 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 325˚F. Place red crystals on a plate or tray, and green sugar on a separate plate. Roll 2 logs in red sugar and remaining logs in green sugar. Using a very sharp knife cut each log into slices 1/4" slices. If reusing same tray, knife, and other tools wash and dry them well between colors to avoid accidentally mixing the red and green.
- Place on lined baking sheet 2" apart. Place a pecan half in the center of each cookie and bake for 15-18 minutes or until bottom of cookies begins to brown slightly. Do not overbake.
Recipe adapted from Southern Living.