Back to the Kitchen: Recipes for Holiday Sweets

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As I continue to receive emails and teach classes on cookie baking, I  really get a sense of people’s interest levels.  Many people have fears about baking. I am often asked for tips on baking. When I talk about how easy it can be, people look at me like a reindeer caught in the headlights. This time of year gives us a great opportunity to do the one thing that will make us better. Practice! When using chocolate for baking I look for the highest percent of cacao for an intensely rich yet balanced chocolate sensation. All of the companies are making 60 percent or more. So practice away with your friends and family and share some warmth this holiday season.

Holiday Fudge

4 cups chocolate chips

1 14-0unce can sweetened condensed milk

2-tablespoon water

2 cups chopped pecans, toasted

1-teaspoon vanilla

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate pieces, sweetened condensed milk, and water. Microwave, uncovered, on 100% power (high) for 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 1 minute more, or until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, stirring every 30 seconds. Stir in nuts and vanilla. Spread mixture into 2 9×6-inch rectangular pans that have been sprayed with bakers joy. Chill fudge about 30 minutes or until firm. Cut fudge into 1-1/2-inch squares. Makes 48 pieces

Peanut Butter Fudge

4 cups brown sugar

2 cups evaporated milk

1-cup peanut butter

2-teaspoon butter

2-teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chopped peanuts

Put all ingredients into a saucepan. Bring to a boil and continue to boil gently until a little dab added to cold water forms a soft ball. Add peanut butter, butter, and vanilla; beat until the mixture begins to thicken. Add nuts. Spread in a buttered 9×6 inch pan; chill until fully set and cut into squares. Makes about 30.

Blueberry Lemon Crumbles

1 cup sliced almonds

1 ¾ cup flour

1-cup dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons lemon zest

1-teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ sticks butter

2 egg yolks

1-teaspoon vanilla

Juice of one lemon

1 cup dried blueberries

½ cup blueberry preserves

Preheat oven to 375.Place almonds on cookie sheet and toast stirring once until golden. Cool completely and leave oven on. In food processor pulse flour, brown sugar, 1-teaspoon lemon zest, cinnamon, and salt until combined. Add the butter and pulse until it resembles a course meal. Add yolks and vanilla and process until mixture comes together in clumps. Transfer 11/2 cups dough to a bowl and stir in almonds for the crumble topping. Gather remaining dough into a ball. Spray 2 mini muffin tins (24 minis all together.) with bakers joy. Press 1 tablespoon of into the bottom and up the sides of each muffin cup. Chill for 15 minutes. Meanwhile stir remaining zest lemon juice, blueberries and preserves in a small bowl. Spoon 1-teaspoon blueberry mixture into each muffin cup. Crumble 1 teaspoon almond mixture evenly into each cup. Bake until top is golden and filling is bubbling, about 20 minutes. When completely cool loosen edges with a sharp paring knife and carefully remove from pan.

Apple, Cranberry, Pear version

Follow the same recipe for the crust and crumble.

Peel and core 2 apples and a pear. Dice finely and in a mixing bowl toss with 6 ounces of dried cranberries, ½ teaspoon Chinese five spice, 1-teaspoon cinnamon, ½ cup sugar. Proceed as in the blueberry version.

Chocolate Dipped Hazelnut Sticks

2 sticks (1 cup) butter

1-cup sugar

2 egg yolks

2-teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups flour

2 cups chopped hazelnuts

2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

in a large bowl beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in yolks one at a time. Add vanilla and mix until smooth. Gradually add flour and mix well. By hand add the hazelnuts. Half the dough and place into two pieces of wax paper and shape into an 11x2inch loaf. Chill the dough for about 1 half hour. Cut the dough into 1/4-inch slices. Arrange on cookie sheet about one inch apart on cookie sheet. Half each slice lengthwise to form sticks and separate them. Bake in a preheated 350 oven for about 10 minutes until pale golden. Carefully remove sticks and cool completely. In a double broiler or a small saucepan over a larger saucepan of boiling water melt chocolate gently dip each stick into the chocolate covering half of the stick. Remove excess chocolate and place on wax paper for chocolate to harden.

Rum Balls

1 cup butter

1/2 cup powder sugar

2 1/4 cup flour

1-teaspoon rum extract

1-tablespoon dark rum

1-teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2-teaspoon salt

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in rums and vanilla.

Add flour and salt. Mix in nuts. Roll in teaspoon size balls. Bake at 325 for 14- 17 minutes. Roll warm balls in powder sugar.


1 cup butter

1 1/2 cups Sugar

2 eggs

2 3/4 cup all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt


1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375. Beat butter and sugar together untill creamy. Mix in eggs. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture. Mix well. Shape into balls about one inch in diameter. Chill one hour.

Combine topping ingredients in small bowl. Drop dough balls into topping mixture. Coat well. Place on greased baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks and let cool.

Basic Sugar Cookies

2 1/2 sticks Butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

31/4 cups Flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, soda and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Add the vanilia. Graudually add the flour mixture until well blended and smooth. Divide dough in two. Place each half in between large sheets of wax or parchmment paper. Roll out to a quarter inch thick watching for creases. Layer the dough on a cookie sheet and refriderate for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 375 and grease two cookie sheets.Remove 1 porton and leave the other until you are ready. Remove one sheet of wax paper and replace with a new one. (An old bakers trick to keep the dough from sticing when using cookie cutters. Throw away the second sheet and cut out the cookies using holiday cookie cutters. Gently place the cookies about one inch apart on the cookie sheet. Roll out the dough scraps and place bak in the fridge and mix with the second half scraps. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes; rotate half way through for even cooking. Place on a rack until they firm upand then transfeer to a wire rackand cool completely before using royal icing.

*Note- If you are working with kids, I like to do the baking a few days befor the decorating. The older kids can help and then all the cookies are done so you can just set out the icing and sprinkles and let the kids go to town.

Royal Icing

2 large egg whites

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

Combine the ingredients in a bowl. It really is handy to have a kitchen aide or standing mixer for this, but not essential. Beat together until stiff about 10 minutes. You don’t want it dry, but it has to be really stiff or else it does not harden. This makes over 2 cups so you can put in small bowls and add food coloring. Make as many colors as you like and use whatever sprinkles and or candy you like to decorate.

Spritz Cookies

3 sticks butter, softened

4 cups flour

1-cup sugar

1-teaspoon baking powder

1-teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add almond and vanilla egg, and milk and beat until well mixed. Whisk flour and baking powder together, and then add to dough Push dough into spritzer gun and press shapes onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 6 minutes. Then let cool on cookie sheets for 10 minutes and then remove and cool completely on rack.

About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.