Sweet Treats for the Holiday Spirit

A noise echoes through the dark, prompting a search for the culprit. A light haze of dust drifts down from the chimney. You pause, and suddenly, out pops Santa Claus, the jolly gift-bearer on his annual delivery route!

The red-coated icon stoops to place his presents under the tree and turns to depart. But a glimmer and twinkle catches his eye. There, on the table, lies a silver platter of fresh cookies and cool milk. A smile creases the corners of his eyes and he takes the cookies before dashing off to finish his yearly voyage.

Perhaps you’ve never seen Santa Claus come through your chimney, but that’s no reason not to celebrate the holidays with a myriad of sweet treats! This time of year, the intoxicating smell of baked goods lures many in from the cold to attend parties and gatherings filled with warmth, friendship, and fellowship.

This year, you can be the star of the show by bringing a sweet treat that will have everyone’s mouth watering. Check out the five decadent recipes below to get started!

 

Hot Chocolate

Warm up on those frosty winter nights with a piping hot mug of rich cocoa. This delicious recipe strips the drink down to its basics, leaving you free to add your favorite mix-ins. Like marshmallows? Toss them in there. Prefer peppermint? Add a splash of mint syrup! Whatever route you take, this recipe is excellent when topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

Borrowed from our friends at Bon Appetit.

Grocery List
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, preferably Dutch processed
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • (Optional) Whipped cream, for serving
  • (Optional) Chocolate shavings, for serving
How it’s done:
  • Bring ¾ cup water to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  • Whisk in 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder until no lumps remain, then add milk and return to a simmer.
  • Whisk in chocolate and sugar and cook, whisking frequently, until mixture is smooth and creamy and chocolate is melted, about 5 minutes.
  • Divide hot chocolate among mugs. Top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

Peppermint Bark

A staple of any holiday party is peppermint bark. This classic dessert is bursting with cool peppermint flavor and rich, velvety chocolate, all in a sheet that easily snaps apart for bite-size morsels of goodness. This recipe has just three ingredients that you may already have in your pantry, making it a great choice for last-minute preparation.

Borrowed from our friends at Brown Eyed Baker.

Grocery List
  • 16 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 16 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 (6-ounce) package candy canes, unwrapped and crushed
How it’s done:
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
  2. Place the dark chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl and set it over a small saucepan of barely simmering water over low heat. Melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally, until completely smooth. (You could also microwave on 50% power in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until completely melted.)
  3. Using an offset spatula, spread the melted chocolate in an even layer on the prepared cookie sheet. (The melted chocolate doesn’t need to cover the entire pan.) Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator while you prepare the white chocolate.
  4. Place the white chocolate in a clean medium heatproof bowl and set it over a small saucepan of barely simmering water over low heat. Melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally, until completely smooth. (Again, you could also microwave on 50% power in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until completely melted.)
  5. Remove the cookie sheet from the refrigerator and, using an offset spatula, spread the melted white chocolate in an even layer on top of the dark chocolate layer. Immediately sprinkle the crushed candy canes on top of the melted white chocolate and gently press into the chocolate to adhere. Refrigerate until completely hard and set, at least 30 minutes. Store the peppermint bark in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
  6. Using a large sharp knife, break into pieces and enjoy!

Caramel Corn

Sweet, crispy, and all around delectable, caramel corn is a treat that’s best enjoyed next to a fireplace during the coldest months of the year. While store-bought caramel corn may be convenient, homemade caramel corn is downright delicious, knocking the socks off any pre-packaged varieties. For a phenomenal stocking stuffer, fill small treat bags with your homemade caramel corn!

Borrowed from our friends at Gimme Some Oven.

Grocery List
  • ½ cup (1 stick) salted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ cup light or dark corn syrup
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 cups popped popcorn (about 1 cup kernels before popped), preferably warm from being freshly popped
How it’s done:
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan with aluminum foil, and grease with cooking spray.
  2. Melt butter in a large stockpot pot over medium-high heat. Add brown sugar and corn syrup, stir to combine.
  3. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce the heat to low and let simmer undisturbed for 5 minutes. Stir, then continue to cook for an additional 4 to 6 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until the mixture is a deep golden color.
  4. Turn off the heat and slowly whisk in salt, baking soda, and vanilla, being very careful as the mixture will bubble.
  5. Stir in the popcorn and toss until it is evenly coated with the caramel, being sure to scrape the caramel off the bottom of the pot.
  6. Spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet or pan in an even layer. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring to toss every 5 minutes, until the caramel corn has turned a deep amber color. Remove the caramel corn from the oven and transfer to a surface covered with parchment or wax paper to cool.
  7. Once it reaches room temperature, use your hands or a spoon to break up the caramel corn, then store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Gingerbread Cookies

“Run, run, run, as fast as you can! You can’t catch me, I’ll eat the gingerbread man!”

The original poem doesn’t go like quite that, but it’s certainly what you’ll be saying as you try to keep these sweet and spicy cookies away from others. Gingerbread is a Christmas tradition in many households and the best way to enjoy it is with reasonably-sized cookies. This recipe takes a bit of time, but the cookies will last for several days so you can prepare them a day or two ahead of time.

Borrowed from our friends at Genius Kitchen.

Grocery List
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 ¾ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • (Optional) 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
How it’s done:
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves until well blended.
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter, brown sugar, and egg on medium speed until well blended.
  3. Add molasses, vanilla, and lemon zest and continue to mix until well blended.
  4. Gradually stir in dry ingredients until blended and smooth.
  5. Divide dough in half and wrap each half in plastic and let stand at room temperature for at least two hours or up to eight hours.
  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.
  7. Grease or line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Place one portion of the dough on a lightly floured surface.
  9. Sprinkle flour over dough and rolling pin.
  10. Roll dough to a scant 1/4-inch thick, sprinkling additional flour if dough begins to stick.
  11. Cut out cookies with desired cutter.
  12. Space cookies 1 ½-inches apart on baking sheet.
  13. Bake one sheet at a time for 7-10 minutes, until desired crispiness.
  14. Remove cookie sheet from oven and allow cookies to stand until firm enough to move to a wire rack.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

We can’t forget about the grandfather of all cookies, the classic chocolate chunk. Perfect for parties and even better for Santa, this recipe is extra-soft thanks to the use of coconut oil, while decadent dark chocolate chunks will have your guests begging for more. As a bonus, this recipe is free of dairy and eggs, making it a delicious and easy way to cater to guests with food allergies or dietary restrictions!

Borrowed from our friends at Oh, Ladycakes.

Grocery List
  • 2/3 cup (148g) light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons (20g) potato starch (can substitute corn or tapioca starch)
  • 1/3 cup (75g) refined coconut oil, melted but not hot
  • ¼ cup (56g) unsweetened almondmilk, room temperature
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/3 cups (185g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ ounces high-quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • Coarse Kosher or sea salt, for sprinkling
How it’s done:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper; set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar and potato starch until evenly combined. Stir in the coconut oil and whisk for 30-45 seconds, just until the mixture starts to thicken.
  4. Add the almond milk and vanilla extract; whisk until combined then let set for about 1 minute to thicken, before mixing again.
  5. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; mix with a wooden spoon or spatula, just until combined then quickly/gently mix in the dark chocolate.
  6. Using a ¼ cup cookie scoop, drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheet then roll into round balls, if desired.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-11 minutes, then remove from oven, very lightly sprinkle with coarse salt, and let cool on baking sheet for ten minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

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