Rookie Christmas Baking Assistance Saught

So, in spite of my modest baking experience, I have bravely decided that I’m going to BAKE everybody’s presents this year.

I am not the greatest baker but I have a little experience under my belt, and I have a big kitchen and a good stove and a grocery store around the corner and [checks calendar] a little time to spare.

The only thing I don’t have are ideas and recipes. I have a few unimpressive recipe books (and of course, unlimited access to the internet) but am hoping for some recommendations. I’m committed to making shortbread and nuts and bolts; beyond that, I am limited only by my somewhat limited baking skills.

So, folks, any recipe ideas? Considerations:

  • Not too difficult or demanding of new obscure ingredients or equipment (e.g. I have no double boiler or candy thermometer, or fancy icing piping things, nor do I have any desire to obtain them)
  • Yummy (in this crowd, that means “the more chocolate, the better”)
  • Can store and transport well (I have a very small freezer)

Any other tips from inveterate Christmas bakers?


Maybe this is too simplistic, but amongst the people I know, you can NEVER go wrong with Tollhouse Cookies. Follow the recipe on the package; use real butter; put in 1.5 times the amount of official Nestle Tollhouse Morsels. A dozen per person should suffice, if there will be other goodies present. :smiley:

I would also suggest always using real vanilla (you can get a big bottle at Costco for the price of a small bottle at the grocery store) for everything. In the Nestle cookies, I always put double the vanilla (in most things I do this, actually) and get tons of compliments. I think the recipe on the bag calls for 1 Teaspoon or maybe 2- either way, double it for the tasty. The only thing I don’t follow on that recipe is that I don’t put nuts in my cookies, because only bad people who hate America and kill babies do that. You don’t hate America, do you? :dubious:


The other fun thing about those Nestle cookies is that they have so many kinds of “chips” you can use. They have ones that are chocolate peanut butter swirl and those make GREAT cookies that people love.

Let’s see. . . oh, little Hershey Kiss cookies are popular this time of year. The upside for gift giving is that they are pretty, too. A recipe here. .

Fudge is also a good one- the recipe is on the back of the marshmallow fluff jar. Last year I made one bath of chocolate fudge, then put a layer of peanut butter fudge over that. Be careful, though- one batch of the stuff is a LOT. I made a double batch and we were literally handing it to anyone who would take it (this was our entry way).

This year will be my first attempt at peanut brittle! Wish me luck! (Actually, if anyone has any tips about that, those would be awesome).

I think old-fashioned gingerbread people are wonderful for the holidays. There’s something so Christmas-y about them. Get a good recipe and don’t over-cook them. You can pipe an icing outline , buttons, faces, bow ties and skirts, pretty easily and quickly. Then pop them in clear cellophane bags and tie the bags shut with pretty ribbon. Viola! :slight_smile:

Another thing that’s super-easy to make, but a little expensive in the ingredient department: Peppermint bark.

Buy a bag of striped peppermint candies, unwrap them and bash them into little pieces.

Melt a big ol’ bag/ several bars of white chocolate and pour it in the bottom of a square greased pan. Sprinkle in the peppermint candy pieces and refrigerate until it’s solid and very cold.

Melt a big ol’ bag/ several bars of dark chocolate, let it cool until it’s barely pourable – you don’t want it too hot or it will melt your white chocolate base – and pour it over the white chocolate. Sprinkle with more peppermint pieces and refrigerate until it’s solid.

Try to cut the bark out in neat squares, which you can then bisect into small neat triangles. Realize that’s not working and bash the bark into random bite sized pieces.

At least that’s how it works for me. :slight_smile:

Golly, no! I don’t hate America! I’ve been omitting the nuts for about 45 years now and I just didn’t realize they were actually in the recipe. (Mom got us started cooking when we were pretty little kids.) And I agree about the real vanilla, too. Good luck on your peanut brittle (mmmmmmmmm…) Don’t know how to make it, but I sure love to eat it.

I’ve been following the recipe and advice for peanut brittle on this site for a few years. Makes yummy brittle!

Here’s what I found out from ruining many batches of peanut brittle:

[li]Don’t be afraid of it turning brown. That’s a good thing! It makes it tasty![/li][li]Unless you’re really familiar with making candy and gauging the stages of the syrup, DEFINITELY use a candy thermometer. My mom doesn’t use a candy thermometer and it comes out great for her every single time, but mine never turns out right unless I’m watching the thermometer go up.[/li][li]Be patient! This is important in all candy making and is my biggest weakness. I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems like the cooking process will slow down in the middle of the process. Just be patient and it will get there.[/li][li]You can substitute out a little of the white sugar for brown sugar, and it gives it a slightly different flavor and texture that I really like. Some people might not like it though. [/li][li]Here’s the most important tip of all: the ingredients are really cheap, so if it turns out terrible, don’t feel bad![/li][/ul]
As for cookies, I really love making Snickerdoodles. My only change to the recipe is that I add a little cinnamon to the dough as well. Yum… I think I’ll be doing some baking this weekend!

Peanut brittle can only get better if you dip it in chocolate. Or fancy it up by using other nuts, like cashews or macadamias.

Other things you can do with nuts are to make spiced or sweetened nuts, recipes can be found online.

Personally, I love coconut macaroons. Not the cookie kind but the kind that’s an actual hunk of baked shredded coconut. I might try dipping them in chocolate, too.
ETA: Another idea. Buy some pretzels and some good white and milk or dark chocolate. Melt the chocolates and dip the pretzels in one or the other chocolate or half in white and half in the other or completely in one and drizzel with the other. Let cool and quick, easy treat. Check online for chocolate melting instructions.

I don’t make peanut brittle but I do make butter toffee and it is simply the easiest thing in the world.

  1. Get a pan and butter a clean cookie sheet
  2. Mix equal volumetric parts (ie 1 cup - 1 cup) butter and sugar in pan over high heat (electric) or medium heat (gas)
  3. Stir constantly. Mix will blend, then foam up, the start to pull together looking like sticky foam
  4. When it turns the color of toffee, quickly mix in 1/2 cup of chopped pecans (if desired) and just as quickly pour out onto cookie sheet.
  5. Cool in fridge or on widow ledge if its cool outside
  6. Cover with chocolate if desired, break into chunks.

My sister and my son and I made chocolate-dipped pretzel rods this past weekend, and it was ridiculously easy. We used Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate bars, but I’m not that crazy about Hershey’s chocolate. It all tastes the same to me.

Anyhoo, melt the chocolate of your choice. If I were going to do it again, I’d pour the melted to chocolate into something narrow and deep, like a drinking glass. Dip the pretzels, shake off the excess chocolate, lay on waxed paper, and sprinkle with whatever you like – colored sugar, candy sprinkles, chopped nuts.

If you want to pipe and don’t have the bags and tips, just put your icing in a ziplock bag and snip the tip of one bottom corner. Don’t overfill the bag - you can add more later. Twist into a cone and squeeze.

I second tollhouse cookies. Here’s are some tips from Alton Brown to tweak cookies to make them thin, puffy or chewy.

Dipped pretzel rods are good and attractive and easy, especially if you dip them in caramel then chocolate, then nuts if desired.


Those are a favorite around here, but if you want them to look prettier and taste better (my husband better not see this), use chocolate stars. Do remember that the stars get gooey when you put them on the hot cookies and then they set up again, so don’t touch them too soon.

You can make candy cane shaped cookies out of sugar cookie dough. Color one part red and leave the other part plain. Roll these into ropes, cut them into shorter pieces, twist them around each other, and curl one end down. Cute but easy. You’ll probably want to pinch the ends together to keep them from separating.

Have fun with the baking.

You can do this with dried apricots, too. Dip them in about 3/4 of the way (outstanding with dark chocolate). Super easy, super impressive and people will think you spent a bundle.

I’m also a baking newbie. Since last year was my daughter’s first Christmas, I figured I’d do the stereotypical mom thing and give baking a try.

When it comes to cookies, I found that anything you don’t have to bake is the easiest. I found a great recipe for Viennese Coffee Balls that were a big hit with everyone last year.

I also made the traditional No-Bake Cookies that my mother always makes.

I also make a peanut butter fudge that my grandmother made, which doesn’t require a candy thermometer. I’ll post the recipe later when I’m at home.

Have fun baking, or in my case, not baking.

Kraft now has cheesecake filling in a tub. I believe all you have to do is get a pie crust and the filling, empty tub into crust, and bake.