Drizzle melted chocolate across the tops of the Christmas Eve Cookies  after baking for an extra touch. (Mel Barber photo - mbarber@yorkdispatch.com)
Drizzle melted chocolate across the tops of the Christmas Eve Cookies after baking for an extra touch. (Mel Barber photo - mbarber@yorkdispatch.com)

Tradition is the foundation of holiday baking.

Our favorite cookies are ingrained in our palates from year after year of Grandma's shortbread or Mom's chocolate truffles or Aunt Jen's gingerbread men. Baking becomes a family event and strengthens bonds of Christmas cheer and goodwill among neighbors.

This recipe for Christmas Eve Cookies comes from reader Judy Geist of Springettsbury Township. The tradition started the year she and her husband, Jerry, celebrated the birth of their son, Nick.

"I made them for the first time on Christmas Eve 1981, when Nick was 6 weeks old, and took them to our neighbors," she writes. "I have made them every Christmas Eve since then with Nick helping bake and deliver them as he was growing up."

The maraschino cherries give these fudgey chocolate cookies a burst of candied sweetness, and the melted chocolate drizzled over the tops gives them an elegant appearance.

The sweet smell of the cherries can be intoxicating, so be careful not to eat too many (or swipe them for your pre-baking cocktails) or you'll run out. If the cherries pop up too far during baking, press them down when you remove the cookies from the oven while the center is still soft.

The recipe makes about three dozen cookies.

Christmas Eve Cookies

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1¾ cups uncooked oats

1½ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup cocoa powder

1 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

¾ cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup softened butter

2 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 10-ounce jars maraschino cherries, drained and patted dry

Christmas Eve Cookie dough has a fudgey consistency and rolls into balls easily after being refrigerated for an hour. Make a depression in the top similar
Christmas Eve Cookie dough has a fudgey consistency and rolls into balls easily after being refrigerated for an hour. Make a depression in the top similar to a jam thumbprint to hold the maraschino cherry. (Mel Barber photo - mbarber@yorkdispatch.com)

1. Microwave 1 cup chocolate chips for 1 minute until melted. Stir. Microwave at additional 10-second intervals to complete melting process if necessary.

2. Beat together sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla extract until smooth. Beat in melted chocolate.

3. Combine oats, flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder.

4. Combine dry mixture with wet ingredients.

5. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

7. Shape into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on non-greased baking sheet. Press a cherry into center of each cookie.

8. Bake 10-12 minutes. Wait 2 minutes and remove cookies to wire rack until cooled completely.

9. Microwave the remaining chocolate chips until completely melted. Drizzle back and forth over cookies.

-- Reach Mel Barber at mbarber@yorkdispatch.com.