Baking Expert Carole Walter Offers Up Five Delightfully Unexpected Additions to Your Holiday Cookie Collection

But just because you bake cookies each year doesn't mean you have to bake the same cookies year after year. Classic sugar cookie cutouts of Santa and his reindeer decorated with red and green royal icing are cute and appropriate, but expected. This year try your hand at something new. Here, cookbook author Carole Walter gives us some cookie recipes that would make an unexpected addition to your holiday baking regimen. We've provided you with recipes for some not-so-typical holiday cookies that will take your traditional baking in a new direction. These five delicious cookies will be a welcome addition to your family get-togethers and cookie swaps.

Browned Butter Cashew Crispies are thin, sweet and nutty. The butter is melted and then cooked for a long period of time, allowing its milk solids to burn slightly. This lends a depth of flavor to the cookies and enhances the nuttiness of the cashews. Be careful when browning the butter, because while browned butter is fragrantly nutty and delicious, black butter is bitter and inedible. A crunchy sugar and cashew topping lends extra crunch and texture contrast.

Instead of using a complicated, hard to clean cookie press for Christmas sugar cookies, try the Chocolate Sugar Cookies recipe, in which delicate chocolate sugar cookie dough is rolled out and cut. By using Dutch-processed cocoa powder, the cookies will have a deeper, smoother chocolate taste. Dutch-processed cocoa has an added alkalai, which neutralizes the bitter tasting acid in regular cocoa powder, and turns the cocoa a luscious dark brown color. These cookies trade the classic sugar cookie glaze made with milk and confectioners' sugar for a silky, rich chocolate ganache. Add a touch of dark rum for a little extra flavor - hey, it's the holidays.

And for the chocolate-lovers in the family, velvety Fudge Nut Drops combine two kinds of chocolate with crunchy walnuts and almonds, and sweet chewy coconut. Think of it as an Almond Joy in the form of a melt-in-your-mouth cookie.

After facing down many heavy, over-the-top holiday meals, you may be in the mood for a lighter cookie. Carole Walter's Lemon Wafers are just the ticket. They are thin, light, crisp, and because they use both freshly grated lemon zest as well as lemon oil, they are bursting with citrus.

To round out your non-traditional holiday cookie plate, try the Maple Oatmeal Meringue Squares. These chewy while crunchy cookies have a warm, homey flavor, combining brown sugar, maple syrup, oats and butter with a light, crisp maple meringue. They will definitely change the way you see typical Christmas cookies.

All of these cookies are easy to make and have very unique and pronounced flavors. They are also ideal companions to cups of steamy hot chocolate and fragrant Earl Grey tea all-year-round. And if you have any left over after your holiday celebrations, you can leave a few by the fireplace with a glass of milk for Santa. Who knows - he may even leave you a few extra presents.

Carole Walter, a New Jersey-based baking expert and teacher, is the author of Great Cookies (Clarkson Potter, 2003), Great Cakes (Crown, 2001) and Great Pies and Tarts (Clarkson Potter, 1998).

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