One of the many things I love to do this time of year is bake: sugar cookies, gooey fudge, sweet breads and colorful confections are must-haves in our home. As you can probably guess, the #4 gift on my 12 Days of Gift Giving list is baked goods! Baked goods are the perfect gift to give to neighbors, co-workers, teachers, local fire-fighters and police officers, your mail carrier, the paper boy, etc., etc. My mom and I plan a Saturday at the beginning of each December specifically for baking. We invite over a few people, enjoy brunch, mimosas, holiday music and lots and lots of baking! We have such a wonderful time making a mess, laughing (sometimes arguing), telling stories and just spending time together as women – I look forward to it every year! Today I am going to share with you recipes for the two baked goods that receive the most praise when I give them as gifts…
Peppermint Cream Bars
Makes 36 bars – Recipe courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, 2010
- 1 17.5 oz. package of sugar cookie mix
- 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ cup softened butter
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
- ½ teaspoon peppermint extract
- ½ cup peppermint candies – crushed
- ¼ cup whipping cream
- 6 oz. white baking chocolate with cocoa butter – chopped
- 13 x 9 x 2 baking pan
- Aluminum foil
- Pastry blender
- Wire rack
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F., line baking pan with aluminum foil (extending the foil over the edges of the pan. Lightly grease foil; set pan aside.
- For crust, in a large bowl, stir together cookie mix and flour. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Press mixture evenly onto the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Bake in the reheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until ledges are lightly browned.
- For filling, in a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, and peppermint extract. Stir in crushed candies. Carefully pour filling over hot crust. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes more or until filling is set. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 1 hour. Cover; chill for 30 minutes or until cool.
- Pour white chocolate ganache (recipe below) over top of baked mixture, spreading evenly. Cover and chill about 1 hour or until firm. Using the edges of the foil, lift bars out of the pan. Cut into squares.
White Chocolate Ganache:
- In a medium saucepan, bring ¼ cup of whipping cream just to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat.
- Add 6 oz. chopped white baking chocolate (do not stir). Let stand for five minutes.
- Stir until smooth, cool for about 5 minutes.
To store: Layer bars between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store the bars at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Makes 36 cookies – Recipe courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, 2010
- 1 teaspoon dried lavender (check the spice aisle of your local health food store)
- 1 Tablespoon water
- 1 cup butter, softened
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- Granulated sugar for sprinkling
- Mortar and pestle
- Electric mixer
- Cookie sheets
- 1 ¾ inch paper muffin cup
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Using a mortar and pestle, grind and crush the lavender. In a small bowl, combine lavender and water. Set aside for 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add powdered sugar. Beat until combined, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat in lavender mixture and vanilla extract. Gradually add flour, beating on low speed until combined.
- Divide dough into 36 equal portions. With floured fingers, press each portion of dough evenly into the bottom of the muffin cups.
- Bake for about 20 minutes or until the edges are very lightly browned. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Remove from muffin cups and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- Lightly sprinkle with granulated sugar
To store: Layer cookies between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store the cookies at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
**To keep any cookies you make from going stale, store them in an airtight container with a piece or two of fresh bread – the bread keeps the cookies hydrated. Replace the bread as it dries out**
People love to receive yummy cookies and candies for the holidays because not everyone has the time to bake. Make these items gift worthy by presenting them in beautiful packaging. For example, put cookies or bars in a mason jar wrapped with bakers twine and a pretty label. The lavender pillows would go especially well with coffee or tea so I decided to present them in a tea cup! I added a label and will wrap it with cellophane to keep it contained. You could also make homemade sleeves with an old atlas, sheet music or pages from a book or magazine; just make sure to wrap each cookie individually with saran wrap to keep them clean. Search your local dollar store for cookie tins, clear bags or decorative boxes, add a label and there you have it! In one fun-filled afternoon you made enough delicious treats for everyone on your gift list!!