There are a few commonalities within the human race that are historically universal. These are the elements that bind our species together, and create a sense of community in an otherwise combative world. Cookies, recorded as being baked and consumed since the 7th century C.E., have evolved into being one of these mutual components. Cookies weren’t historically produced for the satisfaction of our international sweet tooth, though. They were created as miniature cakes, to test early wood-fire oven temperatures, before the thermostat was invented. This led to the discovery that smaller portions with less moisture produced baked goods that remained fresh for longer periods of time, and took better to travel. This has always been important around this time of year, as traveling to our annual festivities is another tradition that has been celebrated historically. Long before holidays were commercialized, winter solstice festivals took place, the last celebration before deep winter set in. While the merrymaking of the past didn’t include tacky sweaters and Michael Bublé’s Christmas album, one element has always remained the same: the celebration of food and the gifting of cookies. So when you drive by Gatchell’s light display and the Betty Crocker inside of you says to get going on those holiday cookies, just know that this feeling is more primitive than gluttonous.
I thought I should honor the timeless tradition of trading and sharing holiday recipes, so I sought out some Islanders with a knack for baking. In doing so it was proven once again that our community is full of talent and ability. These recipes have been gathered from (literally) all over the map, with contributions from an Island-grown and California-based dietitian, a retired Tisbury School kindergarten teacher, a family kitchen all the way down in Cordoba, Argentina, and more. However, I didn’t completely lose sight of my own culinary roots and traditions, which is how my mom’s macaroons made their way into this article. Because while there is nothing like a little something that can transport you to anywhere in the world, there is also nothing like a little something that tastes like home.
Sarah Kadison’s Ketogenic ‘Brookies’
Sarah grew up on the Vineyard, and has loved baking for as long as she can remember. After graduating college in 2015, she found out that she needed to remove gluten from her diet. This inspired her to create her own baking recipes that not only eliminate common allergens, but that are nutritional enough to consume daily. She shared these recipes on her Instagram account, and received such positive response that she decided to take a leap of faith and start her own business. She has since published five healthy baking cookbooks, manages multiple social media accounts and her own website, and participates in sponsored collaborations with a number of outside companies. In order to make traditional recipes more nutritious, Sarah suggests using unrefined flour and sugar, such as almond flour or coconut palm sugar. She also suggests using grass-fed butter, coconut oil, or ghee in place of refined vegetable oils. She aims to create baked goods that can be consumed daily by using healthy ingredients in such a way that doesn’t sacrifice taste or texture.
Per serving: 170 calories, 15.5g F/2.3g C (net)/ 4.5g P/4g fiber
1⅓ cups blanched almond flour
⅓ cup erythritol or sweetener of choice*
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
¼ cup grass-fed butter, softened
½ tsp. vanilla extract
⅓ cup sugar-free chocolate chips*
⅔ cup blanched almond flour
½ cup erythritol or sweetener of choice*
¼ cup cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. grass-fed butter, softened
3 Tbsp. sugar-free chocolate chips*
* Note: Non-impact carbs from erythritol not included in nutritional info. If you do not need these to be keto, feel free to use any granulated sweetener, and regular chocolate chips.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or line an 8 x 8 in. square pan with parchment paper. Start with cookie layer: Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add butter and stir until distributed. Add egg and vanilla and stir until combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
Spoon about ⅔ of the cookie dough into the bottom of the pan. Use damp fingers to spread dough evenly. Follow the same instructions as cookie layer to assemble brownie ingredients.
Spoon brownie batter into the pan, and use either the back of a spoon or damp fingers to spread brownie batter evenly over cookie dough. Distribute remaining ⅓ of cookie dough on top of brownie batter. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Bake on the lower end of this range if you’d like to keep the center gooey!
Allow to cool, slice, and enjoy!
Molasses Cookies by ‘Tiny Baker’ Erica deForest
Erica’s baking career began by mixing “potions” with ingredients from the baking section of her grandmother’s kitchen. Later in life she moved out West, where she planned to finish cosmetology school. Being in an unfamiliar place, she found comfort in baking. She ended up moving back to the Vineyard, where she was welcomed into the kitchen at Mocha Mott’s to pursue her career in baking. She has since perfected her craft, and not only runs her own baking company, but co-owns the Vineyard’s newest hot spot, the Cardboard Box. In order to make home holiday baking appear more professional, she suggests using edible flowers and herbs, while she also emphasizes the importance of unique and presentable serveware. She also finds that desserts are spruced up easily with a dusting of powdered sugar. If you know Erica, you know that her baking style is as aesthetically pleasing as it is delicious, so this is valuable advice.
They’re thin, chewy, and have a hint of spice without being spicy. These can also be showered in sifted confectioners sugar, or iced with royal icing, either in a zigzag swirl pattern, or with holiday sprinkles on top.
¾ cup butter, melted
1 cup white sugar (or sub with brown)
¼ cup molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ cup white sugar
Preheat oven to 375°F. In a medium bowl, mix together the melted butter, 1 cup sugar, and egg until smooth. Stir in the molasses. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger; blend into the molasses mixture. Cover, and chill dough for 1 hour.
Roll dough into walnut-size balls, and coat them in the remaining white sugar. Place cookies 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until tops are cracked. Cool on wire racks.
Classic Argentinian Alfajores Cookies by Marnely Murray
Marnely’s love for food began in her family kitchen, growing up in the Dominican Republic. She says her mother baked quite literally every single day, and that’s what prompted her to obtain a baking degree from the Culinary Institute of America. She is currently a sous-chef, social media manager, food blogger, and not only creates recipes for national food brands but has been featured in multiple food publications. While her love for food is paralleled by her love for travel, all of her recipes are a beautiful representation of deliciousness and diversity. She describes these Argentinian delights as “the most perfect melt-in-your-mouth cookie in the world.” The recipe comes from her best friend’s mother, Susana Cordoba, and has become an annual holiday tradition for Marnely. She urges our readers to bake using metric measurements. “Baking is a science, and should be treated as one,” she says. And after trying these cookies, I have never loved science more.
Classic Argentinian Alfajores Cookies
Dulce de leche sandwich cookies, traditionally called alfajores, are a staple in Argentinian bakeries and households.
Serves: 30 medium sandwich cookies
200 g unsalted butter, softened
150 g granulated sugar
3 large egg yolks, room temperature
15 mL vanilla extract
5 mL fresh lime zest
200 grams (g) all-purpose, unbleached flour
300 g cornstarch
2.5 mL baking soda
10 mL baking powder
500 g (13 oz.) can dulce de leche
140 g shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 325°F. Sift flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
Make sure your butter is very soft! Not melted, not warm, just perfectly soft. This will achieve the dough texture we need. Cream the soft butter and sugar for five minutes. Add egg yolks, vanilla extract, and lime zest. Add all the dry ingredients at once and mix until completely incorporated.*
Roll dough out (in portions so it’s easier to work with) on a lightly floured surface** to ¼ inch, and cut into circles. Place on an unlined cookie sheet; no need to grease it. Also, you can place cookies pretty close together — they won’t spread at all, so make sure you’re cutting them out the size you’re going to want the baked cookie to be.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, and don’t let them brown. Cool before filling. Slather or pipe dulce de leche on the underside of a cookie, and sandwich using another cookie. Press together so the dulce de leche slightly seeps out, and roll the edges in shredded coconut. Store in an airtight container.
* You’ll think that it’s never going to incorporate, you’re going to want to add some water — don’t! Let it mix for a good 5 to 10 minutes, and I promise, it will come together.
** If you can roll out the dough with NO flour at all, even better. When working quickly with this dry dough, you will only need to flour your rolling pin, avoiding incorporating more flour into the already dry dough.
Peanut Butter Balls by Nancy Nevin
Nancy is a caregiver, retired teacher, Island matriarch, and mother to my best friend. These cookies have been a staple in my holiday celebrations for as long as I can remember. I still remember coming home for Christmas after my first semester in college, heading to Nancy’s house, and smelling the exquisite aroma of the rich chocolate and smooth peanut butter that paired together so well. My first bite instantly relieved my increasing homesickness, so I figured I would have to consume at least five more to assure my return to school. Nancy says she received these cookies as a gift about 45 years ago, and has been refining the recipe ever since. Every year her colleagues at the Tisbury School would ask for the recipe, which she promised to disclose upon her retirement. We are lucky enough to be the first recipients.
Chocolate-Covered Peanut Butter Balls
Yields about 20 balls.
2 cups peanut butter
1 lb. box confectioners sugar
1 cup crushed vanilla wafers
2 sticks of butter
3 16-oz. bags of semisweet chocolate chips
½ bar Gulf Wax
Mix peanut butter, sugar, vanilla wafers, and butter. Roll into balls about 1 inch thick. Add chocolate and wax to a double boiler over medium heat and melt, stirring frequently. Dip the balls in the chocolate and let cool and set for at least an hour, or once the chocolate is firm. Nancy recommends making them in the evening and letting them cool overnight.
Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies by Ana Christina Jurczyk
Ana is another Island native, and achieved both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nutritional science. She is currently a registered dietitian in Southern California, where she also manages her highly popular website and social media accounts. Her earliest memories of baking took place when she was a little girl, helping her mom make what she says seemed like hundreds of cookies to distribute around the holidays. After graduating, she decided to pursue her career by combining her passion for cooking with her passion for nutrition. She works to teach people how to achieve optimal health through simple and tasty meal choices. When it comes to holiday baking, she suggests swapping traditional ingredients for healthier options, such as her use of cacao nibs (an antioxidant-rich and dairy-free alternative to chocolate chips) in this recipe. She also says you can sneak in a tablespoon or two of flaxseed to increase nutrient density.
Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
A spin on the classic, made with whole ingredients and low in added sugars. These simple chewy cookies are customizable and enjoyable for everyone!
Serves: 15-20 cookies, depending on size
2 cups almond flour
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ cup coconut sugar
Pinch of salt
(Optional) 1 tsp. cinnamon
½ cup organic butter or coconut oil, softened
1 large egg
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 cup organic dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs
Preheat oven to 350°F. Optional to grease your cookie sheet with butter or coconut oil.
Mix together almond flour, baking soda, sugar, salt, and optional spices in a bowl.
Add softened butter or coconut oil and stir by hand until mixed, it will form thick dough.
Add egg and vanilla to bowl and mix well, this should make dough easier to mix. Dough should be easy to form.
Add chocolate chips or cacao nibs and stir by hand until incorporated. Form dough into balls on sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until tops are starting to brown. Let cool for 5 minutes and enjoy!
Mom’s Macaroons by Joanne Lambert
No matter how high up on the nice list I happened to be that year, I always refused to leave these cookies out for Santa on Christmas Eve. They were far too delicious to share with anyone. Joanne learned how to bake from her grandmother in the ’50s, who she says achieved feats of magic by creating delicious goods with just a few ingredients. After living in Hawaii for a few years, Joanne started adding some island flavor to every aspect of her life, which resulted in the addition of coconut to these cookies. So Mom, if you’re reading this, just remember that it’s never too early to start your holiday baking!
Soft chewy coconut goodness with a touch of chocolate — perfection!
Serves: 15-20 cookies
⅓ cup butter, softened
1 (3 oz.) pkg cream cheese, softened
¾ cup sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tsp. orange juice
1 to 2 tsp. almond extract
1¼ cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
5 cups sweetened flaked coconut
Hershey’s Kisses — a mix of dark chocolate and peppermint works for Christmas!
Beat first three ingredients at medium speed until blended. Add egg yolk, orange juice, almond extract — beat until blended.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Stir in three cups of coconut. Cover and chill for at least one hour.
Shape chilled dough into one-inch balls. Roll balls in remaining coconut, and place on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake at 350° for 11 to 13 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned. While cookies are baking, remove wrapping from Hershey Kisses, one for each cookie (and a couple to eat). Remove cookies from oven and gently press one Kiss into the center of each warm cookie.Cool on baking sheet for one minute, remove to wire rack.
Tip: For a crunchier cookie, bake additional two minutes.