Marissa Allen grew up in Dallas baking cakes and pies with her mother and grandmother, but she had to go all the way to New York City to discover her passion for cookies.
In 2017, Marissa and her husband, Jeff Allen, then an offensive lineman for the Houston Texans, took a trip during the NFL off-season and stopped by a famous New York bakery. After tasting a chewy, tender, crunchy-around-the-edges cookie, Marissa was inspired to make her own version. “I was obsessed,” she says. “I was making dozens of cookies every week! I had to get them out of the house, so I sent them to the locker room with Jeff.”
It wasn’t long before Jeff’s teammates started making special requests, eventually offering to pay for custom orders. As the business grew, Marissa began selling online. Then, last April, the couple opened up the Cookie Society, a boutique bake shop in Frisco, Texas, just north of Dallas. That’s where you’ll find Marissa and Jeff, who is now retired from football, slinging sweets six days a week.
When they’re not at the shop, the couple are home with their two kids, Joy, five, and Jay, three—and it’s likely they’re all in the kitchen. “When I think about doing something with the kids, my first thought is, ‘Let me find a recipe that we can make together,’” says Marissa. “It drags them off their devices and it’s something for us to focus on together.” The kids like making savory stuff like smash burgers or butter chicken (Joy loves Indian food), but once December rolls around, treat season arrives. “It’s like a month-long bake-a-thon,” says Marissa. “Every weekend we’re making something.”
As a baby, Joy was passed around the kitchen when family and friends came over to visit and cook. Now that she’s older, she runs the show. “She’s very independent,” says Marissa. “She doesn’t want to watch; she wants to do something.” Though barely in kindergarten, she’s got the cookie-making process down, from egg cracking to dough scooping—and she’s not afraid to take credit for her work. “If she puts her hands on it at all, she’ll say, ‘Oh, yes, I made that,’ ” says Marissa. “She’s already told me she’s going to take over my job.”
While Joy helps make the dough, Jay keeps an eye on what’s coming out of the oven. “He just wants to eat,” says Marissa. “We have to watch him because he’ll be picking off bites.” To distract him from snacking, Marissa puts him on cookie cutter duty, stamping out rich toffee shortbread that she and Joy drizzle with melted chocolate.
Joining the shortbread are pans of pecan-studded cookies made with nutty brown butter. Marissa’s grandma had a pecan tree in her yard, so the nuts were a big part of the family’s holiday treats. There are also butterscotch bars inspired by Marissa’s uncle, who’s known for his oatmeal-butterscotch cookies. And it wouldn’t be Christmas without sugar cookies. Instead of classic cutouts, the kids press the dough into mini muffin cups, then decorate them with frosting and sprinkles.
Marissa chose this mix of recipes because there’s a little something for everyone, which is important because most of the treats will go to family and friends.
“I love cooking with my kids, but it’s about more than kitchen skills,” she says. “It’s also about giving. I love the joy I get from making food for other people, and I want my kids to have that same satisfaction. I hope it will help them be more selfless.”
Marissa Allen's Toffee Shortbread
Recipe: Try Marissa Allen's Toffee Shortbread
Marissa Allen's Brown-Butter Maple Pecan Cookies
Recipe: Try Marissa Allen's Brown-Butter Maple Pecan Cookies
Marissa Allen's Sugar Cookie Cups with Marshmallow Buttercream
Recipe: Try Marissa Allen's Sugar Cookie Cups with Marshmallow Buttercream
Marissa Allen's Butterscotch Cookie Bars
Recipe: Try Marissa Allen's Butterscotch Cookie Bars
These recipes originally appeared in our Holiday 2020 issue. Get the magazine here.