Well, I’m back from the Never Where – the place where you don’t sit at your computer for more than a week due to work and craziness – and oh, that thing you do each year where you bake non-stop for three days and then host a dinner party.
Ever since our first Christmas together in 2009, Mark and I have made boxes of holiday cookies for loved ones (with the exception of 2012, when we paid for surgery for our cat, Maggie, which ate up the budget for the boxes). We usually go all-out on both variety and quantity. And this year was no different.
Definite Santa’s Workshop Explosion at Next Gen House.
So here’s a look at what we made this year. Starting with what our dining room table looked like when I brought the ingredients home from the store. (And that’s not even everything.)
Aunt Barbara’s Favorite Macaroons
When we lost Mark’s Aunt Barbara in November, we knew we needed to include vanilla macaroons with the boxes this year in her honor. It was her favorite of our cookies, and she would never say no to me bringing her a batch when we visited. They’re a really easy cookie, made in the food processor.
Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate and Cranberries
These are one of those classic cookies that gets a holiday touch with its special add-ins. Mark makes a mean oatmeal cookie, and I had a hard time not stealing all of these when they came warm out of the oven. Plus the little bags I found with the circle bottoms to hold a stack of cookies were just too festive.
Grandma Stiffler’s Molasses Cookies
My grandma Stiffler (paternal grandmother’s mother) apparently made some mean cookies, which is where my own grandma learned it. I have several of my grandma’s cookie recipes, and I put a tribute to her in the box every year, since she was the best cookie baker I’ve ever known. These cookies are nearly like gingerbread, but they are soft and melt in your mouth. They are also fantastic frozen and then dipped in coffee. I think the powdered sugar stencils jazz up their appearance a little, but stencil or no stencil, these remain one of my favorites.
We decided when looking at our list of potential cookies, that we were missing something citrus, so we went with a light, lemon shortbread cookie. These are refrigerator cookies, so you make the dough, shape it into a log and refrigerate it for awhile. Then roll it in egg yolk and coarse sugar and slice off pieces.
This fudge turned out really deep and rich. Delicious, but you need it in small bites or you will have an instantaneous sugar coma.
Muddy Buddy/Puppy Chow Knockoffs
These were a no-bake rip off of the muddy buddy/puppy chow paradigm – Butter crackers with peanut butter and vanilla dipped in chocolate and coated in powdered sugar. Easily the easiest thing we made, but super delicious. Plus, having a few no-bake items really helps make our list manageable.
Mark’s Famous Fruitcake
This fruitcake requires a 10 gallon food-grade Lowe’s bucket. It’s a crazy old recipe that barely makes sense, but each year Mark hobbles through it and literally gets up to his elbow in mixing batter. You can get a contact high from the rum in it, but that’s what makes it fruitcake that you want to eat, and not one you want to use as a door stopper.
Bacon Almond Vanilla Brittle
Our first batch actually didn’t turn out that well, since we were following the recipe too closely, and not relying on our guts when it comes to the sugar. We’ve made candy before, so we should have waited for it to get to the right temp instead of going by the time in the recipe, which is always so variable. So the first batch ended up as misfit ice cream topping chewy stuff. But the other batches? Holy cow, so delicious. And our house smelled like bacon for days, which is nothing but positive.
Peanut Butter Truffles
Another good no-bake recipe, these are those decadent cereal bites that are filled with peanut butter and sugar and crunch and then dipped in those weird colored fake chocolate wafers. Which aren’t real food, but whatev. It’s Christmas.
Chocolate Peppermint Biscotti with White Chocolate and Candy Canes
I made life easier this year and bought peppermint candy cane sprinkles instead of going through the nightmare of unwrapping candy canes (which is so hard! why?!) and then putting them in the food processor which is the most awful noise in the world. This biscotti is a favorite because it lasts forever (purposely stale baked goods for the win!). And it’s festive.
Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing
Of any of the cookies we made this year, I think I’m most proud of these. We try to only do one cut-out-and-decorate cookie each year because they are ridiculously time consuming. So we left gingerbread for next year and did classic sugar cookies. I always make each box a name tag cookie, with their names piped on, for a personal touch. I’m always so happy once we finish them all that we did them. Especially because this recipe? ROCKS.
And because I’m so proud of them, commence gratuitous photos.
The angel cookie cutter above (she’s flying toward the left, holding her hands out, wing on the back) and the Santa head above are old family cookie cutters that I inherited and I’m always so happy to make use of them each year.
Posting will be a bit sparse here through the holiday season, since I’m spending most of my available free time working on a rather epic homemade gift for a special almost three year old niece. That and I’m busy stuffing my face with the extra cookies we put in the freezer and getting that contact high I mentioned from the fruit cake.
Are you baking anything for the holidays? I’m always looking for more ideas for next year’s boxes!
(P.S. – If you want the recipes for any of these, I am happy to share. Just leave a comment!)