Rhinos’ Favorite Holiday Cookies

December 17, 2018 at 12:01pm

Not being a baker, the holiday tradition of cookie swaps, doesn’t play to my strengths.  But a plate of mixed holiday cookies is so pretty, fun, and well, tasty.  So I pull out my recipe for coconut macaroons and go “fancy” and dip them in chocolate.  This year I thought it might be time to try something new and who better to ask than our foodies in the R&D lab.  They’re experts in ready-to-eat cookie dough; they certainly have mastered baked cookie dough.

Rob Douglas, Dale Conoscenti, and Don Holly kindly agreed to share one of their favorite cookie recipes.  Then I asked them to bake them–for this blog of course, not me–and let me take photos and take a few video clips . . .  They graciously obliged and wedged my request into their busy schedules creating new doughs and cake pieces for our ice cream customers.  Here are the results of their work.  I can attest they all are delicious; I had to eat them to ensure I wasn’t leading anyone astray.  Enjoy.

Stained Glass Cookies

Makes 18 cookies
Active Time: 1 hour
Chilling Time: 1 to 24 hours

Rob suggests these cookies for their colorfulness and broad flavor appeal. They can also be used as ornaments, just don’t eat them later.  Rob used a 4-inch and 2-inch star cookie cutter to create what you see in our photos. There are many versions of this recipe; the one below is adapted from Food Network’s recipe.


  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 bag of assorted Jolly Ranchers (you can also use colored Lifesavers)


  • Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixer until smooth.
  • Add one egg to the bowl, mix until incorporated and then add the second egg, mix well again.
  • Add the vanilla and salt to the bowl, mix to incorporate.
  • Add the flour into the mixer slowly, giving time for it to mix in. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides as needed to result in a smooth dough.
  • Take the dough from the bowl, wrap in plastic food wrap tightly and stick in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour to firm up. It can be left there up to 24 hours.


  • When you’re ready to make the cookies, line two baking sheets with parchment paper. These sheets will be going into your fridge to chill, so best to make room for them now.
  • Separate the Jolly Ranchers by color. Crush each color in separate plastic bags wrapped in a kitchen towel or use a mortar and pestle.
  • Take out the refrigerated dough, cut in half, rewrap one half and return to fridge.
  • Dust your work-surface and top of the dough with flour. Roll out until 3/16 inch thick.
  • Cut out as many large stars as you can and place on your sheets allowing some space between each cookie. Re-roll the remaining dough and cut out more stars until the sheets are filled.
  • Cut out the small star from each cookie on the sheets and remove them.
  • Wrap the remaining dough in plastic wrap and stick back in the fridge.
  • Pop the cookie sheets into the fridge for 20 minutes to chill.


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a rack in the middle of the top half and a second one in the middle of the bottom half.
  • Remove the sheets from the fridge and fill each star window 2/3 full with the crushed Jolly Ranchers. Push the crushed candy into the star’s points with a butter knife to ensure the window is filled.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes until the cookie is light golden brown and the candy has melted.
  • Remove from oven and let the cookies cool on the trays to give the candy time to set before completing the cooling on wire racks.
  • Remember that half ball of dough still in the fridge? Pull it out and repeat the above steps to make more cookies.
  • Store cookies in a covered container once fully cooled.

Crinkle Chocolate-Espresso Christmas Cookie

Makes 18 cookies
Active Time: 1 hour
Chilling Time: 45 minutes

This recipe of Dale’s has been a favorite of his for many years.  He mentioned that kids enjoy making them as they’re hands-on and they come out of the oven looking very different than they went in.  I’ll add that with the espresso, these are likely best consumed by adults or fed to children that aren’t your children.  The soft texture, the chocolatey flavor, with the hit of coffee, and pop of sweetness from the confectioners’ sugar is delightful.


  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 teaspoons instant espresso
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • ½ to 1 cup of Confectioners’ sugar for coating


  • In a medium bowl sift together flour, cocoa, espresso, baking powder, and salt.
  • With an electric mixer using a paddle, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in egg until well combined.
  • Mix in cooled chocolate.
  • With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture.
  • Beat in milk until just combined.
  • Flatten dough into a disk; wrap in plastic wrap. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
  • Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Pour confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl; working in batches, roll balls in sugar two times, letting them sit in sugar between coatings.
  • Place dough balls on prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart.
  • Bake until cookies have spread and coating is cracked, 12 to 14 minutes. The cookies will still be soft to the touch. Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Mohn Swirl Cookies

Makes about 24 Large Cookies
Active Time: 45 minutes
Total Time (including chilling ingredients): 2 hours
Chilling Time: 10 minutes

Don’s recipe is a twist on the Mohn Torte the German mother of a business partner used to make for special occasions. As Don was in the coffee business, and remains a devotee of the mighty coffee bean, it isn’t surprising to find 8 shots of espresso in this recipe.  The flavor of this cookie is complex and not that sweet, which I enjoyed. No idea what they taste like cool, as I happily ate mine warm from the rack.


Poppy Paste

  • 1 cups poppy seeds
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 1/2 cup espresso (about 4 double shots)
  • 1/2 cup roasted unsalted almonds, chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla

 Cookie Dough

  • 1 cup butter
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp vanilla


Make the Poppy Paste:

  • Grind the poppy seeds with a coffee mill or food processor. Place ground seeds in a bowl, add the rum, espresso, and chopped almonds and mix well.  Cover and let sit for 1 hour.
  • Beat the butter in a mixer until smooth, about 1 minute. With mixer running add egg yolks one at a time and continue beating for 2 mins after adding the last egg yolk.
  • Beat the egg whites in a clean bowl, adding a pinch of salt, until they form soft peaks.
  • Lightly stir the egg whites into the butter mixture.
  • Add in the poppy seed mixture and blend.
  • Add the sugar, cream, and vanilla and mix until well blended.
  • Place the bowl in the fridge for ½ hour to gel.

Make the Dough:

  • In a mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in lemon peel and eggs.
  • Stir in flour, baking soda, and vanilla.
  • Roll dough between waxed paper into a ¼ inch thick rectangle on a large (15” x 18” or larger) cutting board to ¼” thick.
  • Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Make the Cookies:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place rack in the center of the oven.
  • Remove waxed paper from one side of dough. Spread poppy paste about ¼” thick to edges of rectangle, leaving one long edge un-coated about ½”
  • Roll up the dough along the longer side toward the un-coated edge tightly with the paste on the inside of your roll, pulling away the other side of wax paper as you roll. If the dough is too cold it will crack, let it warm up for a few minutes and try rolling again.
  • Pinch the un-coated edge of dough to seal well.
  • Cut the rolled dough into 1/2 inch thick slices and place on non-stick (or parchment paper) cookie sheet about 1 inch apart.
  • Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges are lightly brown.
  • Cool slightly and remove from cookie sheet.