Kid-Friendly Christmas Cookies Sure to be a Hit



I love to make cookies for the family, but due to the average age of my kids (2 years old), I tend to make them during naps or after bedtime, just so I can get it done and not have to deal with a litany of eager "helpers." Helpers though they wish, the kids really can't do much with exact measurements and a heavy duty mixer at play.

Then I found this recipe, which several other bloggers have written about. I did a little digging and I believe that the originator of this glorious recipe is King Arthur Flour. All I know is that the cookies are amazing, kid-friendly and a crowd pleaser. While probably not intended to be Yuletide cookies, I don't see why they need to be left out in the cold. I have deemed them Christmas worthy, especially given the name of the cookie. I give you:

Magic  in the Middle  Cookies 
Fresh from the oven, too pretty to resist!

From the start, these cookies have a lot going for them. To begin with, there is a heaping amount of cocoa involved and since we don't skimp on cocoa in this house (only high quality, raw varieties), the outcome is always outstanding.

Secondly, there is perfect blend of peanut butter. I know within my own sphere of influence that peanut butter is a hot/cold item and some people can't stand it in anything but their sandwich while others can only take it if the spread is blended in well enough. I have taste tested these cookies on a couple people from both sides of the table and 100% went back for more cookies!

Finally, and the main reason I am reprinting this recipe at all, is the kid friendly nature of these little morsels. There are a lot of hands-on steps to these cookies and most of them require just that: your hands. A bit of rolling and forming and flattening and sugaring. With a couple of eager palms, you can work out an assembly line in no time, with everyone enjoying their task and reaping the rewards as they work. (See below!)

Ethan shows that even a 2 year old boy can focus on this recipe...and the sugar.

Admittedly, the whole process takes about an hour from ingredient list to oven, which may turn some of you off. But if you have a desire to spend some quality time with the kids and sneak some baking skills in to boot, this recipe is for you!

 Chocolate Dough 
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I'm sure whole wheat would be great too)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder, unsweetened baking cocoa or raw cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (plus extra for dredging)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • [optional] three tablespoons milk (if the dough seems too dry or crumbly; I recommend this step)

Peanut butter filling

  • 3/4 cup peanut butter, crunchy or smooth, your choice
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets. 
To make the dough: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In another medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the sugars, butter, and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and the egg, beating to combine, then stir in the dry ingredients, blending well. 
To make the filling: In a small bowl, stir together the peanut butter and powdered sugar until smooth. [Personal Note: This was harder than it sounds. The powdered sugar is really light and the peanut butter really thick. It took a lot of folding, scooping and pressing with a spatula to get the two to blend well. Be prepared for poofs of white to escape and possibly inhale into your nose! Or maybe I'm just clumsier than most] 
With floured hands or a teaspoon scoop, roll the filling into 26 one-inch balls. Be sure not to make them any larger as the next step will be more difficult. 
Elly makes her peanut balls on her own tray.
Counting and ordering.
Bonding and learning.

To shape the cookies: Scoop 1 tablespoon of the dough (a lump about the size of a walnut), roll it into a ball and place it on an extra cookie sheet. Make an indentation in the center with your finger or a spoon and place one of the peanut butter balls into the indentation.  

Chocolate dough balls squished and peanut balls set in place.
Bring the cookie dough up and over the filling, pressing the edges together cover the center; roll the cookie in the palms of your hand to smooth it out [You can see in the bottom left corner of the photo above, we have completed one ball]. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. And please don't freak out if you have peanut butter filling peaking out in a few corners. It won't affect the flavor in the end. 
Roll each rounded cookie in granulated sugar, and place on the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between cookies.  
Sugared balls, waiting for the last steps. Definitely not 2" between these yet.
Ball of goodness, just getting better...
Ethan woke up from his nap and jumped right in with the ball rolling.

He and Elly rolled nearly all the balls for me. Look how serious they are!

 Grease the bottom of a drinking glass, and use it to flatten each cookie to about 1/2-inch thick. 
Flattened and fresh from the oven.

 Bake the cookies for 7 to 9 minutes, or until they're set and you can smell chocolate. Remove them from the oven, and cool on a rack. 

I could say, The End, but it's really not. After an hour of fun, we then got to eat a wonderful cookies that the kids were really proud of making by themselves. They kept for an amazing 5 days as we were saving them for Thanksgiving and family. Had there been no purpose, I'm not sure they would have lasted more than two. For an even more in-depth process with complete step-by-step photos, follow this link to King Arthur Flour's blog page. Enjoy!

And shiny-eyed Liam just got to mill about our feet. Sorry, Baby Fatz! You can't try these for another month!

Rebekah Sell lives on a small plot of land with her husband, Andy, on which they are hoping to build a sustainable homestead. With a small business and four kids, life is always interesting as Becky and Andy live fully the idea that the journey is the reward. Find her on .

Chuck Mallory
12/12/2011 8:00:17 AM

This is a good recipe, and actually different from other peanut butter-and-chocolate cookies I've found. Great pix of your cute kids, too. It's so nice to see kids having a good family time like we did back in the day instead of sitting in front of the TV or videogames. None of us can remember everything in our childhood, but anyone who baked cookies with Mom at Christmastime remembers that!

Nebraska Dave
12/10/2011 9:07:33 AM

Becky, what a great way to spend time with your family on Christmas cookie baking day. You are building memories that will stick with your kids their entire life. Well, with Mom too. Kids just seem to like to put their hands in sticky stuff. I expect it was a great time for them. I do like chocolate and peanut butter so those cookies would be a hit with me. That's for sure. As for me, I'm just not a baker. My daughter is the baker and she has kept us well supplied with delightful Christmas morsels of all types. Have a great Christmas baking season.

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