Simple gingersnap crinkles. Recipe, courtesy of Camilla Saulsbury, is below.

Feeling intimidated by the thought of making Christmas cookies from scratch? Don’t be.
According to Camilla V. Saulsbury, author of “The Ultimate Shortcut Cookie Book” (and winner of the Food Network’s “Ultimate Recipe Showdown” best cookie recipe) you can make any cookie recipe using refrigerated cookie dough mix, brownie mix or ready-to-eat cereal as a base.

“Starting with a mix is a great way to get novice bakers started,” she said. “It’s a great confidence booster.”

Saulsbury contends that the 745 recipes in her book taste just as good as cookies made from scratch, and sometimes better, because she adds so many ingredients— such as spices, butter, extracts and zests — to boost the flavors of store-bought items.

Her general rule of thumb when using cake or brownie mixes is to add 1 cup of extras, such as chocolate chips, nuts or dried fruits.

The most helpful of all the shortcut mixes? “Brownie mix,” Saulsbury said. “It’s so easy to amplify the flavor by substituting alcohol or buttermilk instead of water, throwing in chocolate chips or substituting butter for oil.”

But cereal can be a great help too, she said. She uses Special K and puffed wheat to make no-bake cookies. “They’re great for people with tiny New York city ovens. They’re basically all a spin on the classic Rice Krispie treat.

Recipes:

Cranberry Eggnog Biscotti

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•    1 (16.5-ounce) roll refrigerated sugar cookie dough
•     1/3 cup all-purpose flour
•    3/4 cups dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
•    2 tablespoons grated orange zest
•    3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
•    1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
•    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Break up the cookie dough into large bowl; let stand for 10–15 minutes to soften. Add flour, cranberries, orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla extract to the cookie dough; mix well with your fingers, the paddle attachment of an electric stand mixer, or a wooden spoon. Divide dough into two equal halves. On the cookie sheet, shape each dough half into a 12 x 2-inch rectangle, 3/4-inch high, spacing the dough halves about 3 inches apart. Bake for 26–28 minutes or until the logs are deep golden brown and spring back in the center when touched. Remove sheet from oven; keep oven on. Using two pancake turners, lift logs, one at a time, from the cookie sheet to a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut one of the logs into 3/4-inchwide slices. Note: for longer biscotti, cut at a deep diagonal; for shorter biscotti, cut log crosswise. Repeat with second log. Place slices on the same cookie sheet (do not worry about the spacing). Bake slices for 5 minutes; remove from oven and turn over all of the slices. Return cookie sheet to oven and bake for 5 minutes longer. Remove sheet from oven and immediately transfer biscotti to a wire rack; cool completely.
Makes 28 biscotti.

Snickerdoodles

•    1 (18.25-ounce) package white cakemix
•    1/4 cup vegetable oil
•    2 large eggs, lightly beaten
•    1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
•    1/4 cup sugar
•    2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Position oven rack in middle of oven. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick cooking spray. Place the cake mix, oil, eggs, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon until just blended and all dry ingredients are moistened (dough will be stiff). Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a shallow dish or bowl. Form dough into 1-inch balls; roll in cinnamon sugar. Place 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 10–12 minutes, until set at edges and just barely set at center when lightly touched. Cool for 1 minute on cookie sheets. Transfer to wire racks with metal spatula and cool completely.
Makes about 48 cookies.

Gingersnap Crinkles

•    1 (18.25-ounce) package spice cake mix
•    2 large eggs
•    1 3/4 cups frozen whipped topping, thawed
•    1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
•    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
•     1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
•    3/4 cup turbinado sugar

Place the cake mix, eggs, thawed whipped topping, ginger, cinnamon, and black pepper in a large bowl. Blend for 1–2 minutes with an electric mixer set on medium speed until well blended and all dry ingredients are moistened (dough will be stiff). Refrigerate dough, covered, for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°F. Position oven rack in middle of oven. Set aside ungreased cookie sheets. Place the turbinado sugar into a small, shallow dish. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll cookies in sugar to coat. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10–12 minutes or until cookies are puffed in appearance and firm at edges (centers will still be slightly soft). Let cookies rest on cookie sheets for 2 minutes (cookies will fall, giving them a cracked appearance). Transfer cookies to wire rack with metal spatula and cool completely.
Makes about 60 cookies.