Entertaining, Holiday

Christmas Cookies and Tea

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Tea is one ritual that I try to include in each day. Just the gesture of taking a break, catching your breath and enjoying an occasion that is steeped in history and custom provides exactly what one needs as the clock approaches 4:00pm.

Christmas Tea & Cookies

It is also my default for getting together with friends versus lunch or breakfast; especially at this time of the year when a warm fire in the library makes it all the more inviting.

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So you can imagine that, for me, a Christmas tea is the best of all worlds. Plus, with all the evening parties during this busy season, it’s tricky to find a time to entertain that isn’t squeezed between so many other festive options (if one feels so inclined, tea time provides flexibility by finishing up about 6 in the evening–just in time to skip off to a cocktail party).

Though many of us are trying to keep our baked goods consumption down, it’s difficult to resist creating a collection of beautiful cookies at the holidays, each a different shape and flavor offering…from espresso and brown sugar to candied ginger and pineapple to rich chocolate ganache.

Christmas Tea & Cookies

The focus of this small tea was just to have been cookies, but then my incredible gardener appeared with a platter of dark chocolate truffles covered in eight different  coatings–yes eight! Pistachio, Dutch cocoa, candied orange peel, toasted coconut, “Mexican” chocolate (with chili powder), cardamon w/ toasted almonds, white chocolate and espresso (shown from left to right.) Did I ever mention that in addition to being the best gardener, she also makes French macaroons that can rival Ladurée?

Christmas Tea & Cookies

So the cookies were joined by the truffles to become both the stars of the tea and the coffee table centerpieces…displayed on heirloom, Victorian era tole trays embellished with layers of gold.

Spending time with friends is a gift we should give ourselves at Christmas. A tea is my favorite opportunity.

I always include one of my old standbys, known affectionately as “Toffee Fingers” (see post, “Thanksgiving Naturally,” for the recipe and more entertaining ideas).

Christmas Tea & Cookies

At first, I was going to have little boxes of cookies available as take-home gifts, but when the truffles arrived, a better idea came to mind…why not let my friends individually select the cookies and truffles they wanted.

Christmas Cookies Recipes

I’ve chosen four of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes as my gift to you. Please enjoy!

Christmas Tea & Cookies

(And here’s a resource for personalized recipe cards: Williams-Sonoma, in case you’d like to pass them along to your friends, also.)

Coffee Thins

Prep: 20 minutes plus chilling
Bake: 12 minutes

Makes about 28 cookies


  • 5 ½ oz. (1 ¼ cups) all-purpose flour
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • Pinch table salt
  • 4 oz. (½ cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. instant coffee or espresso powder, dissolved in 2 tsp. coffee-flavored liqueur or water


    1. Combine the flour, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl.
    2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer until well blended; stir in the dissolved coffee.
    3. Add the flour mixture; mix until the dough is blended and begins to clump together (if you’re using an electric mixer, set it on low speed).
    4. Pile the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Using the wrap to help shape the dough, form it into a squared-off log 7 inches long. Chill until quite firm, at least 6 hours and up to 3 days.
    5. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
    6. Cut the dough in ¼-inch slices; set them 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until the tops look dry and the edges are slightly browned, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
(From Fine Cooking Magazine)

Christmas Tea & CookiesChewy Ginger Triangles

Prep: 20 minutes plus cooling
Bake: 30 minutes
Makes about 32 cookies


      • 2 cups all-purpose flour
      • ¾ cup margarine or butter (1 ½ sticks), softened
      • ¾ cup sugar
      • ½ cup chopped candied pineapple (about 2 large rings)
      • ½ cup chopped crystallized ginger (about 2.7-ounce jar)
      • ½ teaspoon salt


      1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Into large bowl, measure all ingredients. With hand, knead ingredients until blended.
      2. Pat dough into ungreased (spray with Pam) 13” by 9” metal baking pan. Bake 30 minutes or until edges are golden. (Note: Do not overcook or cookies will shatter when cut.)
      3. Remove pan from oven; immediately cut lengthwise into 4 strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 4 pieces to form 16 bars. Cut each bar diagonally in half to form 32 triangles.
      4. Cool cookies in pan on wire rack. When cold, carefully remove cookies from pan. Store in tightly covered container.
(From Good Housekeeping Magazine)

Christmas Tea & CookiesLemon Madeleines

Prep: 20 minutes plus cooling
Bake: 10 to 15 minutes per batch
Makes about 24 madeleines


  • ½ cup margarine or butter (1 stick)
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • confectioners’ sugar


  1. In small saucepan over low heat, melt margarine or butter; set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease 1 madeleine pan (twelve 3 3/8” by 2” shells).
  3. In large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat eggs, sugar, yogurt, lemon extract, and vanilla extract until blended, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Increase speed to high; beat until very light and lemon-colored, about 5 minutes, occasionally scraping bowl. Reduce speed to low; beat in flour, grated lemon peel, salt, and melted margarine or butter until blended. Spoon 1 tablespoon batter into each madeleine shell.
  4. Bake 10 to 15 minutes until madeleines are golden brown. Immediately remove madeleines from shells to wire racks to cool. Repeat until all batter is used, greasing madeleine pan each time. Sprinkle madeleines lightly with confectioners’ sugar. Store madeleines in tightly covered container if not serving right away to prevent them from becoming soggy.
(From Good Housekeeping Magazine)

Christmas Tea & CookiesSpice Cookies

Prep: 45 minutes plus 1 hour chilling plus cooling
Bake: 10 to 12 minutes per batch
Makes about 24 cookies


  • ½ cup hazelnuts (also called filberts) or walnuts
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons margarine or butter (¾ stick), softened
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place hazelnuts or walnuts in metal baking pan. Bake about 20 minutes or until toasted. Wrap hot hazelnuts in clean cloth towel. With hands, roll hazelnuts back and forth to remove skins (if using walnuts, it is not necessary to remove skins). Turn oven off.
  2. In food processor with knife blade attached or in blender at high speed, blend cooled nuts with brown sugar until finely ground.
  3. Into a large bowl, measure nut mixture, flour, margarine or butter, cinnamon, vanilla extract, allspice, salt, and egg. With mixer at low speed, beat until just mixed, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Divide dough in half; pat each half into a 1-inch-thick round. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour or until firm enough to roll. (Or, place dough in freezer 30 minutes.)
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 large cookie sheets. On well-floured surface, roll half of dough 1/8 inch thick. Using floured 3” by 2” cookie cutter, cut dough into as many teapots as possible, reserving trimmings.
  5. Place cookies, about ½ inch apart, on cookie sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until edges of cookies are golden, rotating cookie sheets between upper and lower racks halfway through baking time. Remove cookies to wire racks to cool. Repeat with remaining dough and trimmings. Store cookies in tightly covered container.
(From Good Housekeeping Magazine)

Warm Christmas greetings from our home to yours–

Christmas Tea & Cookies

“Have yourself, a merry little Christmas…”

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About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

12 thoughts on “Christmas Cookies and Tea

  1. What a “sweet treat” to share your favorite Christmas cookie recipes with your followers, thank you! As always, I thoroughly enjoy your beautiful and tasteful newsletters, while anxiously awaiting the next! Wishing you a merry-merry, and a cheers! to 2016!

    1. Oh Judy, I’ve been thinking of you and our wonderful lunch. Are you around over the holidays? I’d love to share some cookies with you!

    1. I would adore to have tea with you…missing you and “the man.” Christmas hugs, B & J

  2. Merry Christmas Bettie! Will toast a cup of tea to you and thanks for these lovely posts… Barbara

    1. Merry, Merry FL Barbara…and here’s to sharing garden ideas in the New Year. xo

  3. Thank you Bettie Beardon Pardee, I so enjoy reading your posts and agree that taking time for tea is a gift to oneself, as well as friends. Whether alone, with a loved one or cherished friends its especially festive at this time of year. Thank you also for including several recipes, I plan on adding one or two selections to my repertoire. Wishing you a joyous & memorable Christmas Season !

    1. Thank you so much, Helen. It’s so nice to share these “sensibilities.” Merry, Merry to you and yours!

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