You didn't really think I would let the holidays go by without baking cookies, did you? There are so many good reasons to bake cookies this time of year: they make great homemade gifts, they make the house smell amazing, and having the oven on warms up the kitchen for a few hours. Not that I need any of these reasons, since I love to bake, but if you usually shy away from homemade cookies, let me try to change your mind.
    In past years I've gone all out with gingerbread, sugar cookies, chocolate drop cookies, and shortbread. And those are all excellent choices to give as gifts or to eat yourself. If you offered me a plate of them right now, I definitely wouldn't say no. But I feel that they have gotten a little...overdone. I'm tired of baking the same old predictable cookies again and again. That's why I went with a slightly unorthodox peanut butter cookie yesterday when I decided to satisfy my hankering for cutout cookies. The dough is egg-free and easy to mix up and roll out. After cutting shapes, a quick 10 minutes in the oven delivers a versatile cookie that can be spread with jam to make the cookies pictured above, drizzled with chocolate for your inner Reese's lover, or eaten straight.

*makes about 24 sandwich cookies, or 48 individual wafers.

1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup softened butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1+1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup water

    Cream together the peanut butter, butter, sugars, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon. Pour half the flour mixture into the peanut butter mixture. Add a few tablespoons of water to mix in the flour until no more white streaks are showing. Add the rest of the flour, and just enough water to fully mix it in. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic, and chill for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.
    After one hour, remove the dough from the fridge. On a floured board, roll it out 1/8 inch thick, and cut it into shapes. The dough is fairly sticky, so it may be helpful to coat the dough ball with flour before rolling it out. If you plan to make sandwich cookies, use a symmetrical cookie cutter and cut 2 of each shape. Leave one of the shapes intact, and cut a window out of the middle of the other shape. Reroll the dough and cut out shapes until it is used up. Place the cookies one inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake the shapes at 375 degrees F for 10-15 minutes, until the edges of the cookies darken slightly. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool on a cookie rack.
    To make sandwich cookies, spread 1 teaspoon of jam onto the back each whole cookie, then place a window cookie on top. Place them on a baking sheet and return them to the 375 degree oven for 2-3 minutes. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool before eating.