Cookie Calendar: Sparkling Cranberry Gems


It's officially December 1, which sounds like an excellent date to kick off this year's Cookie Calendar!

While you likely aren't planning to start your holiday baking for at least another week or two, now's a great time to start browsing recipes. Check out last year's Cookie Calendar for instant inspiration.


I'm kicking off my holiday season with the cookies I baked for Thanksgiving this year. While they feature an ingredient most often associated with Turkey Day - cranberries - the red color and shiny sugar sparkles make them a perfect fit for Christmas as well.

While I loathe giving up control over my holiday dinners, I am pressed every year to outsource some dishes. I cave, of course, because it's terribly rude to refuse a guest's thoughtful offer to help out, plus it's not so nice on my part to hog all the spotlight.

Much as I adore it.

I opted to farm out dessert this Thanksgiving. As I mentioned before, I don't relish pie making. My crust dough is invariably disastrous in some way: It crumbles, sticks to the counter, tears, slides, sticks to the pan, or turns sodden.

But pie is a must on Thanksgiving! So I told people who asked to bring pie. Sure, I might also have mentioned cake or cobbler, but mostly, I talked pie.

And so, we ended up with three variations on streusel-topped apple pie at our Thanksgiving feast.

Whoops. But, lucky for me, it's my favorite!

I swear it was a coincidence.


The cranberry cookies I'd baked broke up the pie parade a bit, though the cookie dough bore a striking resemblance to pastry. Instead of creaming the butter and sugar, you "reverse cream" this dough by cutting the butter into the mixed flour and sugar.

Once you achieve pea-sized pieces of butter (I used the whisk attachment on my stand mixer to get there, but frankly I wonder if the whole business could have been completed in the food processor), you drizzle in milk to bring the dough together. If you've ever made biscuits or pie crust, you know the drill.

After dissing teaspoon cookie scoops in my last post, here I go stumbling onto a recipe that requires one. I eyeballed it and produced cookies that were generally even, but they must have been too large as I ended up with 25, not 36.


Do you need sparkling sugar? Regular white sugar would probably melt into the cookies, negating their sparkle. I could only find white sparkling sugar by making a special trip to the craft store. A commenter at King Arthur's site suggests using demerara sugar, but though it may be chunky, it is most definitely brown, not sparkly clear. You definitely need the extra sugar for taste and texture, but it's up to you whether to go with aesthetics or convenience.

My comments in [brackets].

cranberry-gems04.jpgSparkling Cranberry Gems
Source: King Arthur Flour [Visit the site for a picture of the ideal results.]
Yield: 36 cookies [I had 25.]

1 cup (4¼ ounces) King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour, organic preferred; or King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour [I used all-purpose flour.]
1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) dried cranberries, packed
2 tablespoons (½ ounce) confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into pats
3 tablespoons (1½ ounces) milk

⅓ cup (3 ounces) coarse white sparkling sugar
¹⁄₈ teaspoon tart and sour flavor (optional, but very good) [Good grief, it was hard enough finding white sparkling sugar. I didn't go here.]

Place the flour and dried cranberries in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the cranberries are coarsely shredded. Imagine a single dried cranberry cut into about 4 pieces: that’s your goal.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

Whisk together the flour/cranberry mixture, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the vanilla and butter, mixing until the butter is thoroughly distributed, but some pea-sized chunks still remain. Dribble in the milk while mixing; the dough will become cohesive.

Place the coarse sugar and tart and sour flavor in a jar, and shake to combine thoroughly. Pour the sugar into a roomy plastic bag; about ½-gallon size should do.

Using a teaspoon cookie scoop (or a spoon), scoop the dough by 1¾-teaspoonfuls (about 1¼" balls) into the bag, 6 or 8 at a time. Close the top of the bag, and gently shake to coat the balls with sugar. Place them on the prepared baking sheet, and use the bottom of a glass to flatten them to about ¼" thick (about 1½" in diameter). Repeat with the remaining dough.

Bake the cookies for 16 to 17 minutes, until they’re set and barely, BARELY beginning to brown around the very edge; the tops shouldn’t be brown at all. Remove them from the oven, and cool right on the pan.

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