Yes, Virginia…

Latke Cookies

Santa isn't expecting these...

I recently received an email from a precocious youngster named Virginia questioning the existence of Santa Claus. Kids these days! Skeptics in a skeptical age. I replied by telling her to watch the coverage of the Kardashian wedding again. Watch that and, trust me, you’ll believe in Santa Claus. And flying reindeer. And elves.

Funny. I’ve never questioned the existence of Santa Claus. Sometimes you just have to roll with it. No, I’ve never actually met the guy. But I’ve never met George Clooney either, and no one questions his existence. Anyway I think the world is a better place with Santa Claus in it.

Therefore, every year Christmas week presents me with one crucial decision: what kind of cookie to leave for Santa Claus. Yes, I always leave him cookies and milk. I also leave carrots for the reindeer, although I doubt they’d turn their noses (so bright) up at the cookies. No, JOSN (Jolly Old Saint Nick) doesn’t indulge, but I suspect that has more to do with the fact that he’s in a hurry than with my cookies. It is strictly unofficial, but leaving goodies for Santa wins you points when it comes time to decide whether you belong on the naughty or nice list—whether or not he eats them.

This is an extension of something I learned from the folks on Wall Street: hedge your bets. (Santa has always been very generous with them. He must have quite a bit of cash tied up in derivatives.)

Over the years I have left different kinds of cookies for the old guy, usually reflecting whatever I had baked for the season’s parties, although there have been times when I baked a batch of Chocolate Chip cookies especially for Santa so that he would smell that they’d just come out of the oven.

This year with Hanukkah and Christmas overlapping I thought it might be fun to help Santa celebrate the festival of lights. I suppose I could leave him a plate of latkes; surely he doesn’t find those waiting at the base of most chimneys. But I don’t know if he’ll like cold latkes and somehow it just didn’t feel right to leave him anything other than cookies. Why not a latke that is actually a cookie?

This kind of trompe l’oeil / kitsch baking isn’t my usual calling. Yes, it is just this side of Sandra Lee, but as we are in the hap-happiest season of all, it really adds up to a bit of harmless fun.

I got the idea last week when I went to a daytime holiday potluck. People brought things ranging from Devil Dogs to Toll House Cookie bars. (Trust me, my eyes went right to those Devil Dogs.) But sitting amongst all the sweets was a platter of latkes. They were hot, and I was hungry, so I could smell every ingredient, the potato, the onion, the egg, the matzo meal, even the oil in which they’d been fried. (I must have been really hungry.) Still, it was a “one of these things is not like the other” moment, and the thought flashed through my mind, “The latkes should be cookies.”

Back in my kitchen I pondered how I could “make it so.” It seemed as though the best way to do this would be to decide on the flavor. Obviously onion is out of the question. But many folks enjoy their latkes with applesauce, or sour cream. Some like them sprinkled with sugar. The latter felt right. ‘Tis the season for a sugar cookie, and for that extra “zetz” cinnamon and sugar seemed even better.

The technique of making the cookies look like latkes was actually the easy part. The best latkes are made by shredding the onions and potato on the side of a box grater. Why not shred the cookie dough the same way? Then, just arrange the shreds on a cookie sheet. I couldn’t use just any dough, though, because certain cookie doughs would spread too much, losing the shredded look as they bake. My standby “I Heart Shortbread” recipe was enlisted.

The trick is to be extra gentle with the shredded dough when arranging it on the cookie sheets. Also, as great as the cinnamon and sugar is when baked on the cookies, I may experiment by dusting a mixture of cinnamon and confectioners’ sugar on the cookies just as they come out of the oven. I think the result would have a sort of a crunchy / dough-nutty flavor.

I really think this may be the year Santa actually eats the cookies I leave for him. But if not, more for me!

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!


Click here for the recipe for Latke Cookies.

For your holiday baking you may also like my Christmas Fruitcake (for fruitcake haters), my Gluten-free Chocolate Crinkles, and Gingerdoodles, all perfect for your holiday table.


Here’s the link to the Butter Flour Eggs Holiday Cookie Baking Primer 101. It also includes a recipe for Chocolate Pepper Cookies and some technique and equipment suggestions. Don’t start your holiday baking without it!


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I saw three tweets on Christmas Day…

One Response to “Yes, Virginia…”

  • Laura M.:

    Thank you for the recipe; I love it! The cookies really do look like latkes and keep their shape well. Plus, you get that familiar and authentic discomfort of having to grate frozen-hard cookie dough ;) . I wanted to add what I felt was a little more authenticity to the “latke’ness” of the cookies, so I sprinkled the tops with crushed potato chips (= potatoes), formed an indentation on the top, and filled it with apple jelly (= applesauce). They tasted delicious!
    Happy Holidays!

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