assortment of cookies

This Holiday Season, Join the League of Cookies

When it comes to holiday cookies, think globally and you'll eat so very merrily.

Every holiday season, the instructors and staff from the League of Kitchens, a group of immigrant women who teach online and in-person cooking classes, make their way to their annual holiday party potluck. At founder Lisa Gross' Brooklyn apartment, they swap and sample cookies from Japan, Argentina, Lebanon, Greece, and Iran, and what's more, they share sweet bites of their stories, their history, and their homes. This season, we invite you to bake a batch or two of their recipes and share in the joy of this sweet connection.

Stuck in the Middle

"I grew up eating Alfajores, and any occasion was the right time to make them at home with my mom," says Argentina-born instructor Mirta Rinaldi. "We'd even hold heated contests to see who could eat the most cookies! Today, they're my signature gift, in part because it's a joy to make them but also ­because they hold up in the mail so well." —Mitra Rinaldi

Mirta Rinaldi learned how to make these delicate, melt-in-your-mouth sandwich cookies from her mother, and over the years she has probably made thousands. One of the most popular cookies in Arge tina, they're found in all sizes at bakeries there and are picked up by the dozens for special occasions and celebrations year- round. Because of the generous amount of cornstarch in the dough, the cookies remain tender and soft after baking. Dulce de leche repostero is nice and thick and won't squeeze out past the edges of the cookies in between bites.

Credit: Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Crescent Goals

"I got the recipe for these traditional Greek Christmas cookies from my niece about 30 years ago," Greek instructor Despina Economou explains. Since then, she says, "I've been making them whenever I visit friends or relatives and want to bring something with me; I love the buttery taste of the cookie combined with delicately toasted almonds." —Despina Economou

Traditionally a Greek Christmas cookie, tender and buttery kourampiedes can now be found in bakeries year-round. Some versions include orange zest, but Despina Economou prefers the simple version with butter, sugar, almonds, and vanilla. Economou's niece taught her how to make them 30 years ago, and they're one of her favorites to this day. The buttery cookies melt in your mouth, and the toasted almond pieces add a nice crunch. This recipe can easily be doubled.

Kourampiedes (Toasted Almond Crescent Cookies)
Credit: Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Winter Coats

"Dates have a storied place in Persian history," says Iranian instructor Mab Abbas. "In all of our big ceremonies and festivals, it's very common for religious people to serve dates with nuts and some sharbat. My sister is part of a new generation building off of these traditions, and she has a beautiful shop in Tehran. She created this recipe by combining date dough with nuts to make a little truffle. It's an homage to how our father liked to eat: He believed in the importance of using fresh, local, natural ingredients. It feels empowering to be able to make your own healthy confections at home." —Mab Abbas

Mab Abbas learned this recipe from one of her sisters, who owns a dried fruit and nut shop and a pistachio farm in Tehran. Traditionally, dates and nuts were consumed at spiritual gatherings and celebrations. (Many Muslims break their fast with a date during Ramadan.) Not overly sweet, these truffles are nicely balanced with the sweet dates, bitter tahini, and buttery walnuts. They firm up after chilling but remain fairly soft to bite.

Credit: Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Oh, Christmas Tea

"When I was growing up in Japan, it wasn't common for people to have ovens in their homes, which is why my mom didn't teach me much about baking," says Japanese instructor Aiko Cascio. "But after high school, a friend and I moved to Tokyo. She got a job at a bakery and was so excited to be making cookies every day; I learned different techniques from her, but I especially loved to make matcha cookies. We made a lot of these cookies to give to all of our friends at Christmastime." —Aiko Cascio

Aiko Cascio learned how to make these not-too-sweet matcha-flavored cookies from a friend in Tokyo, where the deep green confections are popular during the winter holiday season. Matcha powder is made from finely milled green tea leaves and is used frequently in Japanese desserts to impart a slightly bitter and earthy flavor; melted white chocolate boosts the sweetness and gives a festive look. Due to the high ratio of butter in the dough, it softens quickly at room temperature; chill it in between rolling and cutting for clean cuts.

Credit: Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Savor the Date

"I'm passionate about sweets," says Lebanese instructor Jeanette Chawki, who created this recipe based on traditional Lebanese date cookies. "I ended up teaching it to the women in my community in New York; everyone loved it because it's so easy to make. If a friend tells you she's coming over, you can have 20 to 30 of these cookies ready on a plate in no time. Plus, the ingredients are not too expensive, and most are things you always have at home—no need to run out for groceries. I prefer them in the morning with coffee, or just as a snack." —Jeanette Chawki

Jeanette Chawki started baking and cooking after she got married and over the years has developed several of her own creations. This cookie combines nutmeg and cinnamon with her favorite date filling, and they're topped with nigella seeds—typically found in savory foods. These are best on the day they're made, and they're the perfect treat to have with a strong cup of Lebanese coffee.

Credit: Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Let it Snow

"This recipe for Pandan Snow White cookies was created by my mom," says Indonesian instructor Shandra Woworuntu. "I'll make these cookies for Indonesian people in my community in New York City, mostly to enjoy during the Muslim and Christian holidays. When you bite into one of these morsels, the powdered sugar on top simply melts in your mouth, and the pandan has a special flavor that's hard to describe—I'd say it's something like honey and lemongrass combined. When I serve sweets using pandan, I get to start a conversation about my culture and my food, both of which many people in the United States don't know enough about." —Shandra Woworuntu

To Shandra Woworuntu, baking comes naturally. Not only did her grandmother own a baking supply and snack company in East Java, but Woworuntu and her mother ran a homemade cookie business in Jakarta in the late 1980s. Traditionally, these cookies are made with almonds, peanuts, or cashews inside and are popular during the holidays, including Christmas, Ramadan, and Chinese New Year. Her mother's version, and now the recipe Woworuntu makes all the time, adds pandan flavoring and omits the nuts, making them more cakey than crispy. Pandan, a tropical plant with fragrant leaves, has a vanilla-citrusy flavor and is a very popular flavoring in Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia.

Credit: Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Indian instructor Yamini Joshi's chai recipe is a favorite at parties. "Fresh ginger is the most important part—it's refreshing. The fresh mint is from Rajasthan, where my family is from. And every chai needs green cardamom!"