Christmas is just days away, and for those of you who've been following along with the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies Party, your cookie jars, dessert trays, and even your freezer are probably filled to the brim with tasty treats. Of course, if you're like me, you *might* have tasted a few too many (quality control is important) and now it's time to replenish your supply. The party ended last week, but for those of you who need a refresher - myself included - I'm gathering all my contributions here in one place.
To be honest, I prefer to do my holiday baking just a few days before the Big Day, not just because it keeps me from eating all my treats, but also because baking is one sure-fire way for me to get into the Christmas spirit. I love filling the house with warm vanilla smells and the tang of wintry spices like clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
For the past several years, I've spent Christmas at my mum's old farmhouse in western New York. The house is over 100 years old so, needless to say, it's pretty drafty and the heat from a working kitchen is a welcome addition. This year, we're celebrating the holiday in South Carolina with Matt's family, but even in these slightly-warmer climes, I stand by my tradition of last-minute holiday baking!
Whatever your reasons, if you still have some holiday baking to do, here are a few of my favorite recipes to get you started. Check out the individual posts for recipes and links to all the other delicious desserts that were shared that week!
Week 1: Browned Butter Oatmeal Cranberry Bars
Possibly the healthiest of my 12 Weeks offerings, these delicious bars are based on a Cooking Light recipe. Consisting of a creamy yogurt layer, studded with dried cranberries and sandwiched between two crunchy oatmeal layers, these bars get a richness upgrade with the addition of nutty browned butter. Best of all they're quick and easy to make.
Week 2: Copycat Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies (i.e. one mega-good cookie)
What can I say, these are just the Best. Chocolate, Chip. Cookies. Ever. After a pilgrimage to the famous Levain Bakery in NYC, I just knew I had to try my hand at recreating those one-of-a-kind cookies. This recipe isn't exact, but it's pretty close and, really, just as good. Plus, you can make them in your own home - and no need to fork over the price of a place ticket to New York!
Week 3: Easy Caramel Turtle Bites
If it's Christmas Eve and you still don't have treats for your cookie tray, look no further than these ooey, gooey turtle bars. This recipe has a few shortcut options that make it perfect for last-minute baking (of course, you can take the from-scratch options for a more homespun flavor). From start to finish, they'll take you minutes to prepare - but they taste like a long afternoon spent in the kitchen.
Week 4: Colonial Williamsburg Gingerbread Cookies
If I could choose just one cookie to make for Christmas, these simple spiced goodies would be it. They've been a tradition in my family for almost 20 years - but their true history is much, much richer. The recipe comes from Colonial Williamsburg and makes the most tender cookies, deliciously spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, and rich with molasses. Shape the cookies into traditional rounds, or cut them into festive shapes for a touch of contemporary holiday flair.
Week 5: Midnight Chocolate Cake with Magic Ovaltine Icing
This simple, from-scratch chocolate cake is tall, dark, and oh-so-delicious, but the real star of this cake is the icing, which I stumbled upon on a whim. Rich Chocolate Ovaltine is the key ingredient, but the finished product tastes like Cadbury Mini Eggs, my favorite chocolate treat in all the world. Of course, the cake is pretty special, too (it contains coffee, Greek yogurt and buttermilk, for goodness sake!), but even if you don't make the cake, you must, must make this icing!
Week 6: Pumpkin Crunch Cake
Let me tell you, this unassuming little pumpkin cake has been the runaway favorite this holiday season. I've made it 4 or 5 times since posting the recipe, and I've been asked for the recipe every time. My mother-in-law brought it to a gathering, and she got asked for the recipe. I even passed out the recipe at Thanksgiving. All this is to say that this one is a real crowd pleaser, and a perfect choice for any holiday gathering - just be sure to bring along a few (dozen) copies of the recipe!
Week 7: All Butter Snickerdoodles
These Snickerdoodles are another holiday staple, and a true family favorite - they were included at the request of my 93-year-old grandmother! Most recipes call for a mixture of shortening and butter, but these are all-butter - which, I kid myself, makes them a little healthier. Add some colored sprinkles for an extra festive touch, or just eat them plain, in all their cinnamon-speckled glory.
Week 8: Chocolate and Peppermint Spritz Sandwich Cookies
Another Grandma-approved holiday treat, this recipe is a new twist on a old-fashioned favorite. Everyone loves spritz cookies, but I decided to do something a little different this year, and patterned them after Matt's favorite Cool Mint Oreos. The filling is pretty close to the real thing and the cookie are nice and chocolatey, even if all you do is sprinkle them with a bit of sugar.
Week 9: Czech Sugar Cookies
In all my years of cookie baking, I've never come across another recipe quite like this one. It's another heirloom recipe, with a nod to my family's Eastern European heritage. Of course, you don't have to be from the Czech Republic to find these cookies utterly irresistible. Full of vanilla flavor, and coated in a thin covering of powdered sugar 'icing' (the icing is formed while the cookies bake!), these are a great treat for cookie lovers of every kind.
Week 10: Seven Layer Magic Bars
I'm made these at Matt's request, but they're a universal favorite. Also know as 'Magic Bars' or Hello Dolly Bars,' these easy treats have all kinds of chocolatey, coconutty, ooey-gooey-caramel appeal. These were a hit at Thanksgiving with my sister's British in-laws, who aren't used to everything-but-the-kitchen-sink type treats, but be warned, they're incredibly rich so you'll want to slice them small (and make them often!!!).
Week 11: Saltine Cracker Toffee ('Crack')
This strange-sounding treat will appeal to lovers of the sweet-and-salty combo. It combines the buttery richness of English toffee with the smooth silkiness of molten chocolate, and the salty crunch of Saltine crackers. The use of Saltines gives it a 1950s-novelty-ingredient appeal, but the resulting candy tastes, and even looks, deceptively high-end and high effort! A box of this candy would make a great last-minute gift, and no one need know how little time you had to spend in the kitchen. We topped ours with coconut (our favorite), coarse salt, and chopped pecans, but the possibilities are nearly endless. Watch out, it's addictive!
Week 12: Best Sugar Cookies (and Icing)
This recipe comes from my little sister and it is my go-to sugar cookie recipe. It's consistent and delicious, and though the rolling, cutting and decorating is time-consuming, it delivers everything you could want from a sugar cookie. The icing is also pretty great - not cloyingly sweet in the way that powdered sugar icing can be, and the corn syrup gives is a great texture for decorating. It may not set hard like Royal Icing, but it tastes 50 times better! If you have time for only one festive cookie this holiday season, this recipe will give you the most Christmassy bang for your buck!
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies 2011 line-up. You can browse the recipes, drool over the photos, and share your favorites in the comments!
This recipe is shared at:
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