Aren’t the cookies above, from baker Molly Yeh, stunning?! My skills are nowhere near there, but the colors and designs were inspiring!
Sharing some of my absolute favorite holiday baking recipes here:
MY CUT-OUT SUGAR COOKIES (RECIPE REPRINTED BELOW — MY SISTER CLAIMS TO DREAM ABOUT THESE MULTIPLE TIMES A YEAR)
MY GRANDMA CARM’S HORNS (RECIPE REPRINTED BELOW — JAM-FILLED BUTTER COOKIES)
MARTHA STEWART’S GINGERBREAD COOKIES (I LOVE THESE BECAUSE THEY ARE SOFT AND PILLOWY RATHER THAN BRITTLE/HARD)
INA GARTEN’S PECAN SQUARES (HEAVEN HEAVEN HEAVEN — I LOVE TO GIVE THESE AWAY AS GIFTS)
CRACKER TOFFEE (RECIPE BELOW)
CORNFLAKE CHRISTMAS WREATH (RECIPE BELOW — MY MOM HAS MADE THIS EVERY YEAR FOR AS LONG AS I CAN REMEMBER AND IT IS THE PERFECT BAKING ACTIVITY FOR SMALL HANDS TO HELP WITH — WILL ABSOLUTELY BE DOING THIS WITH MINI THIS YEAR!)
Magpie Sugar Cut-Out Cookies.
Cream 1 cup butter and 1 cup sugar. Mix in 2 eggs and ¼ tsp salt. In a small ramekin, dissolve 1 teaspoon baking soda in 4 tablespoons milk. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla to the dough and add milk mix alternately with 4 cups all-purpose flour. Roll out dough. Cut with cutters. Bake at 350 for 8-10 mins.
Grandma Carm’s Christmas Horns.
Work 3 tablespoons sugar into 5 cups flour and add 1 pound butter. Mix in ½ cup sour cream and 2 dry yeast packets. Add 3 beaten egg yolks and two tablespoons vinegar. Knead. Store in fridge over night. Shape dough and roll in circles. Fill with 1 tablespoon apricot jam and roll like crescents. Brush with beaten egg white and sprinkle with chopped walnuts. Bake 15-20 minutes at 350 and sprinkle heavily with powdered sugar.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment and then place saltine crackers in a single layer on top — as many as will fit, edge to edge. In a small pot, combine 1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter and 1 cup light brown sugar (packed) and bring to a boil. Once bubbling/boiling, continue to boil for three minutes, until deep caramel color. Immediately pour over saltines and spread to cover crackers completely. (Work quickly, the sugar-butter mixture hardens fast!) Bake in oven for 5-6 minutes and sprinkle 2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips over top. Let sit a few minutes to melt and spread over top. If chocolate does not melt, you can return pan to oven for a few minutes and spread then. Sprinkle with chopped pecans. Cool completely, break into pieces, and eat.
Cornflake Christmas Wreaths.
Melt 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter in a large pot. Add 1 10-oz package marshmallows and stir until melted. Mix in green food coloring. Stir in 4.5 cups cornflakes. Form into either one large round wreath on a serving platter or multiple small wreaths on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Dot with red M&Ms or red hot candies and finish with red velvet bows. Let cool completely.
Holiday Baking Supplies and Accoutrements.
+This enormous bin of plastic cookie cutters is the absolute best. For $15, it covers every holiday as well as nearly any theme you could want (letters! sports! animals!) and I find them better than the more expensive/fancier-seeming metal ones — they do not bend or rust like their metal counterparts! I also like that even within a given holiday, the set includes bigger sizes and smaller ones — we have proper enormous gingerbread men (they are like 6 inches tall!), which is so fun for a dramatic presentation. Did I mention the entire kit is $15?! I’ve had mine for over a decade and will never part ways with it.
+I had a recent inquiry about sprinkles! I have really liked the sprinkles from India Tree, which I first discovered at Sur La Table. I especially like their sanding sugar. However, I did recently discover this fun brand, Sprinkle Pop, which does over-the-top themed sprinkle mixes and I think I will order some for decorating with mini.
+My favorite way to gift baked goods is in cellophane bags tied up with an enormous velvet, grosgrain, or satin ribbon and a pretty gift tag. If you’re serving a bigger set of cookies, I love to gift on melamine plates like these or even stoneware plates like these (that my girlfriend Inslee designed for Anthro!!!) that friends can just keep! (In that case, wrap in cellophane and tie off with ribbon.)
+Alternately, Martha Stewart used to make the most charming treat boxes/bags, and you can still find a handful if you look hard online (also here), though I don’t think she’s produced these for a few years. Too bad — I loved her stuff!
+Williams-Sonoma Gold Touch baking pans and sheets are my favorite to bake with. They are heavy, non-stick, and do not warp. I feel like I always talk about “not warping” as the ultimate marker of quality in cookware, but I’m haunted by some of the inexpensive stuff I bought in college, where the baking pans never actually laid flat, and were therefore always yielding uneven cooking results and at risk of toppling onto the floor.
+That said, my head has been turned by these Great Jones sheet pans that I’ve been seeing all over. Has anyone tried? The dishwasher safe element intrigues me — you aren’t supposed to put most baking sheets in the dishwasher and as a result they can be difficult to keep pristine.
+Upgrade your baking game this season with Nielsen Massey vanilla and almond extracts — the best. Or splurge on Guittard chocolate chips or Scharffen Berger chocolate. I also always and only bake with Plugra or Kerrygold unsalted butter. It’s expensive, but especially in baking, you can really tell the difference. It yields the richest flavor!
+Also, take it from me: buy your peppermint and almond extracts now. I have in years past had the HARDEST time finding these in the run-up to Christmas, and I anticipate this year will be particularly scarce with more people at home looking to celebrate any way possible.
+I’ve written about this recently, but this cake dome (double as a punch bowl if you invert the stand and place the dome on top of it!) has been a true MVP in our house for a decade. I nearly always keep something in it, whether baked goods, store-bought treats, or — inverted — an enormous bowl of fruit. I also find the pedestal handy on its own for creating dimension in a tablescape, i.e., you could elevate a pie on it around a bunch of other baked goodies. I also have always loved the cake stands from Mosser, which are usually made of milk glass, and this green would be so elegant if you go with a green/blue theme for the holidays. Also a fun way to showcase your baked goods on a pedestal!
+Peppermint crunch sprinkles! Would be fun to mix these into chocolate-peppermint cookies.
+This nordicware mini Bundt tin would be such a special way to serve up your aunt’s classic bundt cake. Would look gorgeous on a small appetizer-size melamine plate, wrapped in cellophane, with a big ribbon to tie it off.
+Don’t forget the apron! This one gets rave reviews (and boasts that it has been worn by chefs with Michelin stars!), this one makes me feel nostalgic/as if I am Zooey Deschanel, and of course WS is always a classic (this tartan one is fun, and BONUS: you can twin with your mini. Alternately, you can get a mommy and me set in a classic stripe for much less here or here). You can even get an apron for your little one’s AG doll!
P.P.S. If you’ve been eyeing the Nintendo Switch for your children, quick! I found it restocked in this limited edition pastel colorway here, and available with free shipping.