Leftover Christmas cookies may seem sad upon first glance, but these stale morsels can actually serve as a jumping off point for something great.

By Darcy Lenz
December 31, 2020
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We’ve reached that point at the tail end of the holiday season. You know, when instead of looking like a cheerful beacon of bright spirits, the Christmas tree just reminds you that you need to get off of the sofa and un-decorate/do away with it. By this point, the remaining cookies left from your holiday baking extravaganza are likely quite stale. But this is not a moment to lose hope. 

There’s actually quite a bit that can be done with cookies that are a bit past their prime. And up-cycling your festive confections is a great way to carry a touch of holiday magic and creativity with you as we transition into a new year. 

Cookie Crumb Crust

For pie, bars, cheesecake, and wherever else you may use a press-in, crumb crust — your leftover holiday cookies are the answer. All you need to do is pick one cookie variety (or two if their flavors work well together, like shortbread and ginger snaps) that will be a good match for the filling you plan on making, blitz them in the food processor to form crumbs, stir in melted butter, and press into your pan. If you don’t have a food processor, you can pulverize your cookies into crumbs manually by placing them into a plastic, zip-top bag and going at it with a rolling pin. And if you like your desserts very much on the sweet side, add a couple tablespoons of granulated sugar to the mix.

The amount of crumbs you’ll need for your project will depend on what you’re making and the size of your pan. For a standard 9-inch pie, this basic Butter Cookie Crust recipe is a great template. 

Cookie-Blasted Milk Shakes

If there’s a way to make a milkshake even more amazing, trust me, this is it. A cookie-spiked milkshake is the perfect opportunity to impress your loved ones with a custom creation. Choose an ice cream flavor that pairs well with the cookies you have on hand, drop that in the blender, add milk, plus a few cookies, and let her rip. 

This Oreo Milkshake recipe is a good place to start in gauging your measurements, but you can use just about any cookie to make your one-of-a-kind shake. 

DIY Cookies-n-Cream Ice Cream

The remaining cookies left on your holiday platter may not look impressive now, but they sure can give a container of plain vanilla ice cream an upgrade. Simply allow the ice cream to soften a bit at room temperature, then fold in your crumbled cookies. Return the ice cream to the freezer to firm back up, and you’re ready to party. You can really use any flavor of ice cream for this, but I’d recommend going with something that doesn’t already have mix-ins. 

Cookie Crunch Frosting

People mix nuts into frosting for crunch, so why not cookies? Honestly, this is one of my favorite tricks for utilizing leftover cookies. By incorporating finely crumbled cookie pieces into a frosting, you give a whole new world of texture and flavor to the cake you’re about to assemble. You can go with your favorite buttercream frosting recipe or use your cookie crumbs to upgrade a can of store-bought frosting. I picked this savvy move up years ago from my mom, who in her quest to never waste a bite, folded crumbled ginger cookies into a batch of orange-cream cheese frosting. I couldn’t even tell you what flavor the layers were, but I can tell you that cake became the stuff of legends in our family. 

Cookie Truffles

Store-bought cookies tend to take the spotlight in decadent cookie bite creations, like these Oreo Balls or classic bourbon balls, but that doesn’t mean you can’t swap in crumbs from your homemade holiday cookies. In fact, you can and very much should. 

Cookie Butter

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, it’s like nut butter … but made with cookies. And yes, it’s every bit as delicious as it sounds. Typically, cookie butter is made with Speculoos cookies, but trying a version made with your own homemade shortbread sounds like an excellent adventure to me. This Homemade Cookie Butter recipe is all you need to get started. 

Or Just Save Them

Still not so sure? Totally understandable. Heck, you’re likely tired (and tired of baking) after all of the holiday hoopla. So here’s one final thought — crumble those cookies into a plastic, zip-top bag and stash them in the freezer for now. Obviously, cookie crumbles have a lot of potential, so hold onto the goods until you’re ready to make good use of them. It doesn’t have to be some big project either. Just topping off scoops of vanilla ice cream with cookie crumbs and a drizzle of chocolate sauce could make a typical January weeknight at home feel like a special occasion. 

Therein lies the lesson I’d like to take along into 2021: Rather than strive for a whole lot of picture perfection, aim to see the possibility in every mess that lands in your lap. After all, if there’s inspiration to be found in a plate of stale cookie crumbs, just imagine where else it could be waiting.