When the holiday season arrives we immediately feel the urge to tie on our aprons, turn on our ovens, and breakout our favorite baked good recipes, then promptly hand them out to all our neighbors, friends, and co-workers. The trouble is where do we find the time? Luckily with a few shortcuts and a little creativity we can pull together holiday sweets that would make great-grandma proud, in half the time.
Quick Breads: Not a big baker? Quick breads are the best way to fake-out baking skills. Quick breads are typically simple, as they require little more than mixing wet ingredients with dry ingredients, and, if you are feeling fancy, adding things like nuts, citrus zest, and chocolate chips. Best of all, they require no decorating– frosting or dusting with powdered sugar is optional, and they are a delicious and appropriate treat for anytime of the day. Pumpkin bread, cranberry bread, and banana bread are sure holiday crowd pleasers, but try any of these for an easy holiday sweet.
Sugar Cookies: The highly decorated holiday favorite sugar cookies are often not attempted by non-bakers, or people who simply do not think they have the time. The secret is, sugar cookies are easy to make–it is the decorating that gets tricky. Once you gather your simple sugar cookie dough, (if you choose to use store bought, we won’t judge) and press them into your favorite cookie cutters, the pressure to have a steady hand is off because we have few easy decorating ideas for you: chocolate dipped and sprinkled cookies always look pretty, or cookies with white frosting and crushed candy canes. For a little extra bling take round cookies, frost, and press rows of M & M’s for an instant cookie ornament, or simply brush with egg whites before baking and dust with colored sugar. Look here for other easy decorating ideas.
More on Cookies: There is nothing wrong with cookies anytime of the year, but some make special appearances during holiday season. Think thumbprints with jelly or Hersey’s Kisses, Mexican wedding cookies (also known as snowballs), gingerbread, and chocolate crinkle cookies seem especially tasty during the holidays. The best part about any of these is no decorating required (gingerbread man face and buttons are optional), dough can be made ahead of time, and they always look effortlessly good.
Brittle: Basic method- Melt sugar, butter, corn syrup, add nuts, possibly dried fruit, and a sprinkle of salt. Pour into baking pan let cool, crack into pieces, done. Easy. More on holiday brittle can be found here.
Chocolate: In our humble holiday opinion, nearly every dessert tray, cookie tin, or sweets display should contain chocolate. Luckily recipes like fudge are fairly easy. Our favorite trick is to double the recipe and make two different types such as one peppermint, and one toasted walnut. For oh-so-easy chocolate fixes, try Chocolate turtles. With a few simple ingredients as a base (chocolate, nuts, and non stick spray) nearly any combo of turtles can be made! We like adding pretzels, caramel, or dried cranberries. Another holiday indulgence is rich chocolate truffles. Yes, these can be bought, but with a few ingredients, simple technique, and no baking required, they are too easy not to make at home and more delicious than anything out of the wrapper. Simply dust in cacao powder, toasted nuts, sugar, or sprinkles and you have made an excellent holiday gift as well!
There you have it, holiday baking at its best and easiest! Happy Holiday Baking!