Why you should care

Bake these and you’ll know. 

From our family to yours, OZY staff share their favorite time-honored holiday recipes to keep you warm, stuffed and slightly buzzed all season.

Grandmother Amelia was a culinary genius. Had she not come of age in the dark shadow of the 1940s, she would likely have become a brilliant chemist. But the professional prospects were few for Spanish women after the country’s civil war. And so she directed all her brilliance toward being a top-rate mom … and, lucky for us, a masterful chef and baker.

Every Christmas — her favorite time of the year — she transformed her tiny whitewashed kitchen with only a single window into a culinary lab of deliciousness. And since she always liked to do things her own way, recipes were regarded as mere suggestions. The mother of two would ditch any ingredients she didn’t have on hand and substitute on a whim. This is how her (soon-to-be) world-famous chocolate marzipan cookies came to be.

Marzipan is a Spanish staple around Christmas time. Figurines made of the buttery almond-based sweet stuff can be found in pretty much every single household here. But my abuelita found the secret ingredient for making these sweet treats even better: chocolate. (Duh.)

As a child, I spent hours standing on a chair at her marble counter, cutting the dark-brown paste into little stars and trees and hearts and the occasional dog, which always ended up looking like a cow. And the tradition lives on; more than 20 years later, my mom and I are true cookie-cutting pros (snowflake anyone?). The shapes are so beautiful sometimes guests hesitate to eat the cookies … until they smell them.

Ingredients:

10 1/2 ounces flour

1 ounce pure unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon fine salt

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 an orange’s zest

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 pinch ground ginger

1 pinch nutmeg

1 ounce minced marzipan mass

5 ounces unsalted butter

1 large egg

Directions:

Melt the butter and let cool slightly. In a large bowl, mix the flour with the yeast, cocoa, salt, spices and powdered sugar.

Add the minced marzipan, orange zest, slightly beaten egg and butter. Mix well until smooth. The dough should be moist but not sticky. Split in half, form two discs and wrap in plastic film. Cool in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 338 degrees Fahrenheit. Stretch half of the batter with a roller to a thickness of about a tenth of an inch and cut using your favorite Christmas-themed cookie cutters.

Arrange the cookies on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and bake 10 to 12 minutes.

Let cool on a rack before decorating. You can prepare a simple glaze with powdered sugar and water or use fancy colored icing or sugar decorations like small stars.

*Cookies will keep for up to one week if stored in an airtight container.

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