‘Tis the season to bake cookies, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la. Then we eat them by the dozen, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.
As December marches by and we scramble for last-minute gift ideas, deck the halls, and trim the tree, we also spend more time in the kitchen whipping up seasonal sweets and indulging in others at the office, family parties and get-togethers. Some are ambitious and organized and already have seven dozen of seven different kinds stocked away in the freezer. Others whip out the plastic at the bakery to save themselves time and hassle.
|This tree gave its life to make our living room look awesome last year.|
But if there’s anything my family rocks at, it is Christmas baked goods! I was raised in a sugar-filled, flour-covered kitchen during the holidays and would have it no other way. We have plenty of unique cookies due to our Hunkie heritage (is that a real word? It means Slovak/Polish/Hungarian) like the finger-scalding Lily my aunt and brother sacrifice layers of skin for each year, the much-fought-over Clothespins using actual wooden clothespins which have the spring air of yesteryear soaked up inside them, the hours-long, love-filled process in which you can NEVER have too much apricot filling that creates epic Kolachi rolls, and my personal favorite sugar-filled and sugar-coated diabetes-inducing dream, the simple, buttery, Cracker Cookie.
|Christmas dessert spread, awwyeah.|
I personally have assisted in the making of each of these treats in years past as well as several others, and as I’m sure you know there is quite a variety of difficulty levels in cookie-baking. But let me assure you that no matter how pressed for time, nor how tiny your kitchen, you can create some Santa-worthy treats in no time.
Your first option is of course the pre-mixed dough you cut and stick in the oven. I am definitely not going to scoff at that, most are darn tasty, plus you can save some in the fridge to just nibble on. Chocolate chip is of course a favorite, but sugar and other types have a strong presence too. They have rolls of it, blocks, whole tubs if you have an appetite or lots of guests. You can get creative with cut-outs and shapes, add your own mix-ins like coconut, mint, or toffee, or just go old-school.
Brickles and Brittles
Brickles and brittles are typically any liquid syrupy mixture poured over a solid base. The syrup hardens, and you then break it apart into chunks. There are many variations, and most are quite simple and quick. Here are three favorites:
Saltine cracker simple brickle
This disappears faster at our house than the paper wrapping off of gifts. It is overwhelmingly rich and sugary. You might want to make two batches…
1 box of saltine crackers
1 cup sugar
1/2 pound butter
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups chocolate chips
1. Line a pan with heavy-duty foil and preheat oven to 350. Lay out the saltines in a single layer.
2. Melt the butter and sugar in a pan, stirring constantly. Once smooth and bubbling, remove from heat and stir in vanilla, quickly pour over the layer of crackers.
3. Bake for 7 minutes, the sugar and butter will melt and bake into the crackers. Spread the chocolate chips evenly over the hot butter with a spatula and it will melt. Bake another 2 minutes, then let cool. Place in the freezer overnight, then break into pieces. Store refrigerated or frozen.
For those who like white chocolate and enjoy the minty symbol of the season, the peppermint, this is a perfect present. With only five ingredients and two steps, you can have a batch of this made in about two hours. Just in time for guests to arrive, or to wrap up some in pretty packages for a party hostess gift.
2 tbsp oil, divided
8 oz semisweet or dark chocolate
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
8 oz white chocolate, divided
25 crushed peppermint candies or 10 canes
1. Grease a 9×9 pan and line with wax paper. In a double boiler melt the dark chocolate and 1 tbsp oil until smooth. When completely liquid, add 1/4 tsp peppermint extract and pour evenly into the covered pan. Spread half the peppermint over the chocolate and refrigerate until hard.
2. In a double boiler melt the white chocolate and other tbsp oil. When smooth, add the other 1/4 tsp peppermint extract. Pour over the dark chocolate layer, and add the rest of the peppermint and press in. Refrigerate until fully hardened, and break into small pieces.
This one is a bit more time intensive, but still simple. It is also a great frugal gift, everyone loves homemade candy. Be sure to have all the ingredients ready and measured out, you have no time to waste once begun. From BettyCrocker recipes.
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 cup water
3 tbsp butter
1 pound unroasted peanuts
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp water
1 tsp vanilla
1. Mix 1 tsp water, 1 tsp vanilla, and 1 1/2 tsp baking soda and set aside. Heat oven to 200 and keep two cookies sheets warm inside the oven.
2. Mix sugar, water and corn syrup in a pan. Stir over medium heat until 240 or a small amount dropped into cold water forms a ball.
3. Stir in butter and peanuts, cook further until 300 degrees or a small amount dropped into cold water forms brittle threads.
4. Remove from heat, and quickly stir in baking soda mixture. Pour half mixture onto each heated cookie sheet, and let cool completely. Break into pieces and store in air-tight container.
My favorite no-bake recipe:
This chocolate peanut butter no-bake cookies recipe from AllRecipes is one of my favorites.
1 3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
4 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 cups quick-cook oats
1 tsp vanilla
1. Combine sugar, milk, butter and cocoa in a pot and bring to a boil for 1 1/2 minutes. The recipe cautions against boiling too long, or not long enough.
2. Remove from heat, stir in the peanut butter, oats and vanilla. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto wax paper and let cool.
Simple chocolate chip cookies
Chocolate chip, the classic all-American cookie. Amazing any time of the year, they are a crucial part of any holiday dessert spread. You can use semi-sweet, sweet- or dark chocolate chips, or get real crazy and use butterscotch, white chocolate, or a mixture. This quick recipe from Cookie-Smart makes about 2 dozen.
2 cups flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup chips
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
1. Preheat the oven to 375. Mix the flour, sugars, chips, salt and baking soda in one bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the egg, melted butter and vanilla.
2. Mix both bowls together well, use your hands if you don’t mind. Dough should be slightly sticky yet firm.
3. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto a greased cookie sheet or wax paper. Bake at 375 for 8-9 minutes until golden brown.
Simple sugar cookies
Endlessly versatile, sugar cookie dough can have any number of mix-ins added to it. But it is also a classic on its own. Adapting to cookie cutters as though made for each other, sugar cookies can become blank canvases for snowmen, Santas, wreaths, and tree creations. This recipe from RealSimple is real simple.
2 1/2 cups flour plus extra
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1. In a bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, beat the butter and sugar until smooth, then whisk in the egg.
2. If you have a stand mixer, lucky you! Use that and slowly add in flour while mixing. Otherwise, loosen up those biceps and slowly mix the flour into the sugar/egg/butter mixture. Dough should be stiff. Refrigerate about an hour before rolling out to 1/4 inch thick and cutting into shapes.
3. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes, until beginning to brown. Let cool and decorate.
|Turn round sugar cookies into snowmen with big marshmallows and creative decorating!|
What about vegetarian/vegan goodies?
In case you are vegetarian/vegan or someone in your family is, there is this vegan, gluten-free version from TwoPeasAndTheirPod. By using almond milk and coconut oil it eliminates the butter and dairy products. I think shredded coconut comes from the devil, but if that’s your thing then enjoy!
The website OhSheGlows also has oodles of vegan, raw, lowfat, gluten-free, etc recipes so check it out!