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Best of the Best: Holiday Cookies From Around the World

About.com Holiday Cookie Exchange

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Every year the Guides of the about.com food and drink channel compile a list of holiday cookie recipes to share with our readers. This year we have contributions from Eastern Europe, Italy, Mexico, Spain, South America, Holland and Germany. From our own back yard come local, southern, low fat, easy, kid-friendly and whole foods recipes. We hope there is something for everyone here; these tempting goodies make great gifts if they make it out of your kitchen!

1. Biscotti

From Jen Hoy, Whole Foods Cooking:

I come from an Italian family, and biscotti are part of my holiday baking tradition. Try Chocolate Walnut Biscotti, rich Double Chocolate Biscotti, classic Cherry Almond Orange Biscotti, or Vegan Cherry Almond Biscotti. These cookies are easy to make and keep well, so they are perfect for cookie gift boxes.

2. Italian Cookies:Ricciarelli di Sienna

Ricciarelli are classic orange-laced Sienese almond paste cookies that were once a Christmas delight, but are now enjoyed year-round. They closely resemble soft amaretti. In preparing ricciarelli, you will need to add the ingredients in four distinct steps, labeled in the ingredients list A through D. The recipe makes a healthy number, but don't worry: They'll go quickly.

3. German Christmas Cookies

Goodies from our Guide to German cooking: German Christmas cookies are popular all over the world, and for good reason. Beautiful to look at and delicious too, they embody Old-World ideas and flavors: spices, nuts, jams, marzipan and chocolate. Jennifer McGavin, guide to German food, has put together this list of German cookie recipes for you to check out. A new favorite is sure to be among them!

4. A Spanish Christmas

Christmas in Spain is a time of merriment and plenty of sweets! Many traditional Spanish Christmas cookies are made with almonds, honey, anise, sugar and/or fruit. Lisa & Tony Sierra, About's Guides to Spanish Food give us this list of favorite Spanish Christmas cookie recipes - Top Traditional Spanish Christmas Cookies from various regions of Spain.

5. Bohemian Czech Desserts

Barbara Rolek, About.com's Guide to Eastern European Food, says, "Czech Christmas Cookies or vanocni cukovri take center stage on the dessert table for the holidays. From pinwheels to checkerboards to bear paws, home bakers take great pride in the seemingly endless varieties they make."

6. Cookie Recipes for Busy Cooks

Our Guide for Busy Cooks offers this:

This year make a lot of Christmas cookies! That's easier than you think with my fast and simple recipes. Top 10 Christmas Cookies are all tried and true heirloom favorites. And here's a hot tip: Make the doughs for the cookies one day and refrigerate them. Then, over the next few days, shape and bake. Decorate another day, and you'll have a kitchen stuffed with cookies before you know it.

7. Festive Dutch Holiday Treats

From About's Guide to Dutch Food, Karin Engelbrecht: "cookies are a crucial component of the Dutch holidays. After all, cookies are part and parcel of Dutch food culture. In fact, so much so that Dutch settlers in North America actually gave the American language the word 'cookie', from koekje ('little cake')." Karin's favorite festive cookies include spiced gingerbread-like treats called speculaas and their small sibling kruidnoten.

8. Regional American Treats

Our Guide to Local Foods, Molly Watson, likes to bake up cookies with specific regional associations, like these Bizcochitos, traditional cinnamon anise sugar cookies from New Mexico. See all of her Christmas Cookie Recipes for more ideas to help fill out your cookie plate this year.

9. Mexican Wedding Cakes

This recipe for delicate shortbread-style cookies made with chopped, roasted pecans, rolled in powdered sugar consistently get rave reviews. They are a must-have for any holiday cookie exchange. And for those that would like to see more details, here is the recipe, as well as a step-by-step:

10. Home Baking

Carroll Pellegrinelli, our guide to baking says, "making sugar cookies is the ultimate holiday activity for the family. They'll be entertained for hours. The younger children can decorate, middle aged children can roll-out and cut the dough leaving the teenagers to make the dough and bake it."

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