71 thoughts on “Holiday baking!

  1. I have, unfortunately, significantly curtailed baking. DH and I are older and watching our carbs. The kids are grown. I love baking, so I’m a bit sad about this.

  2. I have already made my crispy triple ginger cookies, peanut butter brittle cookies (new this year), funfetti shortbread bites and fruitcake cookies (yuck….but my DH loves them and I am at no risk of eating them, so kind of a win-win). I make chex mix all season long. This week, I’ll still make some boys’ requests….chocolate mint and chewy chocolate chip. The chocolate mint look a lot like chocolate crinkle, but you melt an andes mint on top and it turns into magically easy mint icing – that rehardens as it cools. I have probably made these chocolate mint cookies for 25 years now, and only at Christmas. My chex mix “secret” is that I up to the seasonings by 50%.

  3. DD has become the primary baker in our household. She’s very good. Last week’s offerings were a red velvet cake* followed a few days later by pumpkin bread. The week before she did holiday-shaped sugar cookies.

    *The red velvet cake wasn’t actually red, because she declined to add red food coloring to it (a decision I wholeheartedly agreed with — I get grossed out by food coloring). It was more of a light-brown velvet cake. But still delicious!

  4. Oh, man, DD is KILLING me! She is baking every single day, and it’s all delicious, and I have zero willpower when the smell of warm, freshly-baked treats is wafting through the air. She makes excellent challah and focaccia (last night was focaccia to go with our truffle dinner). She made a caramel and banana pie from the Ooni pizza oven guys, except she baked it in the oven, and it was so good I made her do it again the next night. ;-) Today she is making cookies for the mailman, the trash guys, my acupuncturist, and her friends. We’ve already had the peanut butter cookies with the chocolate kisses on top, a round of snickerdoodles, and several rounds of chocolate chip cookies. I am going to be lucky if I can roll out the front door by the time she goes back to school!

    But my favorite treat was a bar cookie my mom made from the Washington Post. It’s basically like a shortbread chocolate chip cookie, so basically flour and butter and sugar pressed into a pan with chocolate chips on top. SO much better than the kind with the eggs in it! I love shortbread, and this was amazing, particularly while it was warm and still chewy.

    I love the idea of Andes mints as icing!! Will need to make some chocolate cookies and try that!

  5. @Sunshine – I now have a taste for homemade chex mix (the only good kind – the bagged stuff is far inferior).

    I don’t do a ton of holiday-specific baking, although I make monkey bread from scratch (yeasted dough) every Christmas morning. I made old school M&M cookies this weekend, and they are delicious! I like making cookies because there are only 3 of us, and I can freeze the uncooked cookie balls to bake them off later. I also have some half-sized pans for cakes and stuff, but I mostly get those out for birthdays.

    For Christmas dinner, I am making a maple syrup cheesecake. I am hoping to drop half of it off with the IL’s along with some other food for Christmas since we aren’t getting together.

  6. “But my favorite treat was a bar cookie my mom made from the Washington Post. It’s basically like a shortbread chocolate chip cookie, so basically flour and butter and sugar pressed into a pan with chocolate chips on top. ”

    Can you share the recipe? My MIL doesn’t eat eggs, so I’m always looking for yummy egg-free recipes.

  7. I decided to expand my picky eaters’ tastebuds. I’ve been baking chocolate banana muffins (with lentils), donuts, different smoothies, red (beet) and green (spinach) pancakes. Different kinds of muffins (eggs, cheese, different veggies). Some things have gone over well… other things not so much. But it’s giving me something to do outside of work. So I’ll take it. I want to make gingerbread cookies, or pfeffernuese. So I don’t know if I’ll do those ahead of Xmas or after (I’ll see how I feel on Wednesday or Thursday).

  8. DW has cut way back this year. 4 cookie types vs the usual 8. But since I got off my butt and bought raw peanuts we’ll be adding peanut brittle. That used to be part of the mix every year until maybe 10 years ago and I love it more than the cookies.

    I am trying, trying to be careful what I eat since I have a doc appt on the 29th and am planning to get my labs done in a couple of days. After (I game) that I’ll loosen up in re the sweets. But I still have to watch overall calorie consumption so I can be at the same weight I was 6mos ago.

  9. DD is the baker in our home and we finally added a scale to our kitchen. This small tool is one of the best purchases for a baker. She is waiting to do most of her baking during the break because she has exams through tomorrow. We splurged and purchased a gingerbread house from a local bakery for one of DD’s Hanukkah gifts. For years, she has met friends to decorate the pre made houses that you can buy in Costco, supermarkets etc. She always wanted the real gingerbread house with homemade icing etc from this bakery. I resisted because the price was four times as much AND it is essentially the same thing if she is just going to decorate it. I think she is planning to meet one friend on FaceTime so they can keep the tradition alive this year.

    I shared the tip about Andes mints when she came down for lunch. Great idea and it is so easy.

  10. Houston:

    2 sticks butter
    1 c. brown sugar (recipe calls for white, my mom used brown, which seems like a no-brainer)
    1 t. vanilla extract
    1/4 t. salt
    2 1/4 c. flour
    2 c. chocolate chips

    Cream butter and sugar, add salt and vanilla like any other cookies. Mix in flour — it will be sort of clumpy, not smooth. Grease a 9 x 13″ pan and press the dough into it until you have covered the entire pan. Sprinkly chocolate chips and press into the top. Bake at 350 for 18 minutes — less for soft, more for crispy.

  11. Thank you! Love that the recipe can be easily halved.

    Rocky, I make your butterscotch blondies all.the.time. Love them!

  12. Thanks for sharing the recipe LfB – I will definitely be making that at some point.

    Our Christmas baking tradition is to make bear claws which we then eat as part of breakfast on Christmas morning. My mom started making them from a recipe she found in Sunset Magazine in the 1970’s. Here’s a link to a blog with the recipe (not my blog) – but it’s the exact same recipe. They are delicious. The kids help me assemble them. DD requested we make a double-batch this year.

    https://lovelylittlekitchen.com/buttery-almond-bear-claws/

  13. I make a lot of Christmas specific stuff: babka (w/ raisins), cinnamon rolls (those are anytime but I always make them in December for sure), and a bunch of cookies: candy cane, mint shortbread with white and dark chocolate bark/coating, chocolate toffee, chocolate crinkle, ginger spice (chewy), and frosted sugar cookies. This week I also need to make a sweet bread with nut filling…my parents’ neighbors always made it when I was growing up and I miss it!

  14. I will make those chocolate shortbread bars. They sound so good.

    I marvel at those of you who bake so many different varieties. We rotate baking our favorite Christmas cookies, only making one or two each year. Yesterday we all decorated a batch of sugar cookies, with creative but amateurish results. I’ve been watching the Cooking Channel’s holiday cookies series and the contestants do amazing things with cookie dough and icing. They make it look so easy.

    We will also have our traditional Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie on Christmas. Only making one this year since we are not getting together with extended family.

    I’d like to try cinnamon rolls this year. Any easy recipes?

  15. We will also be making and decorating sugar cookies. Usually the kids each invite a friend over but this year it will be just the three of us (DH is happy to eat the cookies but doesn’t enjoy decorating). In addition to the usual Christmas shapes (tree, star, sleigh), we have a variety of non-traditional cookie cutters like a UPS truck, hand, foot. The kids’ decorating technique could be best summed up as “thoroughly decorated”. Our decorations include mini-chocolate chips, mini M&Ms, and various sprinkles. One year DS carefully covered the entire surface area of the UPS truck in mini chocolate chips.

  16. We decorate our cookies before they bake. I’m guessing most people decorate them after the cookies are baked?

    Kim, your cookies look beautiful. Ours will not look beautiful. But they will be thoroughly decorated (i.e. all available surfaces thoroughly covered with mini chocolate chips, M&Ms and sprinkles).

  17. “Our decorations include mini-chocolate chips, mini M&Ms, and various sprinkles.”

    My rule is nothing except frosting, especially no sprinkles! (We had a post earlier this year about things everyone else likes but that you don’t, and sprinkles is on my list.) :D

  18. My mom is a Christmas cookie fanatic. She makes, probably, 20 different kinds. A few years back, she started cutting back and was trying to limit it to just everyone’s favorites (which wasn’t terribly effective, since there’s a lot of “us” and everyone requested different cookies). But this year she was back on it – full throttle! My family will be the recipient of a massive tray on Christmas Eve.

    On our own, we made sugar cookies and ginger cut out cookies this weekend. My ginger dough was crumbly (too much flour?), so we were restricted to the smaller cookie cutters but they still tasted right. It makes a massive amount, so half the dough is wrapped up in the fridge and we’ll have more to smart down later. Cinnamon rolls are on deck for Christmas morning and I will make pumpkin pie for Christmas dinner.

  19. As RMS noted, I use a bread machine for dough to minimize cleanup. You can also use a Kitchen Aid mixer with dough hook if you don’t have a bread machine.

    A former colleague was impressed that I have worn out an Oster bread machine and purchased a replacement. He thought that bread machines were kitchen gadgets people don’t use. :)

  20. I use my Kitchenaid with the dough hook. It does fine with one batch of cinnamon rolls (3 c flour). It strains when I make babka (10 cups total flour and 6 eggs, fills up the whole 6 quart bowl).

  21. The weather has turned hot here (I know, y’all are filled with pity) and I just cannot get into baking. Also, we have been waiting 4 months for new floors (goodbye wall to wall carpet!) and they suddenly had time to tear out the old floors and promise (promise!!) that they will put in the new floors first thing in mid-January. So my kitchen is an utter disaster.

    In good news, I think I am getting a box from the US today and it is going to have poultry seasoning and pumpkin pie spice in it.

  22. Thanks for the cinnamon roll recipe! It does look like a bit of work. I have a stand mixer but no bread machine. IIRC we had a bread machine many years ago when they first became popular. Now we have a collection of little-used appliances stored in our cellar. I have not used our Instant Pot in over a year, so it should probably go down to join the other lonely appliances downstairs.

  23. One of my coworkers is of French Canadian descent and he brought in tourtiere (meat pie) to share today. It was delicious!

  24. Today was supposed to be cookie day for us. My son invited the new girlfriend. Yesterday I made dough for oatmeal trilbys with date nut spread, gingerbread cookies, and cardamom sugar cookies. I also planned to make curried nuts and cinnamon stars. They spent last Sunday afternoon together, but my impression was that a couple hours of fun activity together might get them over some awkwardness today. Nothing doing! He went and got her at the train station. Once they’d been here for a minute, I was all set to get started on cookies, but they were very snuggly on the couch, and asked if they could watch some football first (he’s teaching her about it), so I ran the errands I was planning for if they wanted alone time later.

    When I got back, we rolled out the stars, which need to dry for a few hours before baking, and eventually got the trilbys done and she did a great job tying ribbons around the jars for the nuts. But then they decided to look at SAT tests together and that somehow morphed into watching a Harry Potter movie, so I’ve just rolled out and baked the cardamom cookies myself. I don’t know if she wants to come back and do the gingerbread cookies (we always go a little crazy decorating them, like Kim’s sugar cookies) another day. I’ll ask him later.

    I’m giving cookies to the GF, the neighbor who lent me her mixer, and the neighbor whose daughter helped me with job app materials and now has Covid gets a double portion—she is doing the grocery shopping for the daughter, so I assume she can drop them off. I hope they can taste them!

    Aaaaaaand now, while I’ve been typing this, they’ve decided it’s time for her to go home. He’s walking her to the train now. Seems to me like a very successful evening, even though we didn’t get through all the cookies.

  25. Btw, the IKEA cookies didn’t happen :(
    We live 2 doors away from a copy shop, so we don’t have a printer. Turns out they are permitted to ship things, but not do even the simplest print job.

  26. I make the peanut butter cookies in mini-muffin tins them out a small Reese’s cup in the center when the come out. I mailed those to my siblings and parents and just left a few here for us. Same with the iced sugar cookies we made. I may do a little bit lire baking but like others, don’t want us to eat it all so I’ll have to find others to give to.

  27. I hope bake some lasagna sometime over the holidays.

    We still have a bunch of flour, having bought a big bag near the early of the pandemic. DD and DS did some baking during the summer, but once fall classes started that was the end of that. I’m hoping they’ll do some baking over their break.

  28. My mom used to bake a bunch of Xmas cookies every year, and for a while my sister would help her, when she was old enough to be helpful, but not old enough to be too busy.

    My favorites were the sugar cookies. She had some device that would press the dough out in Xmas shapes, e.g., Xmas trees, wreaths. She rarely made sugar cookies other than for Xmas, so they were a real treat.

  29. Every year I make two or three favorites and try a new one. I made the favorites, but just didn’t have it in me to make a new cookie. My kids love to bake anything and everything, so I suspect at some point over break they add to our sweets.

    My MIL typically makes 6-8 different kinds. She is an amazing baker, so we’ll get some from her at some point. She also freezes dozens of them, so when she goes down to Florida we raid her freezer throughout winter and spring.

    The big controversy this year was the local paper’s annual Christmas cookie contest. The winner was a bar. I say it counts, but many people say a bar is not a Christmas cookie.

  30. Instead of cookies, I used to make fudge. I combined nuts/dried fruit and liquor, e.g., Penuche, Pecans and Southern Comfort or Kahlua Chocolate Fudge. I would make 8+ different varieties. It was both a labor of love and very time consuming. I always very appreciate and enjoy the homemade goodies that I receive.

    On the college front, DS has now been accepted to Indiana and Clemson. He was also accepted by Penn St, but not his preferred campus. He is planning to submit one more application for a total of 18.

  31. SBJ, congrats to your DS! He seems to be casting a wide net.

    Will he need to wait until March for decisions on any of his applications?

  32. Congrats to your DS, SBJ. Is there a reason for so many applications ? Just trying to find out the thinking behind this.

  33. SBJ,
    Congratulations to your DS! I can’t wait to see where he goes! The Totebag College Tournament is one of my favorite spectator sports.

  34. Congrats SBJ! Wonderful colleges! Disney Plus has a new sports movie about the football team at Clemson called Safety. DH and I give it two thumbs up

  35. “Disney Plus has a new sports movie about the football team at Clemson called Safety. DH and I give it two thumbs up”

    They filmed the football game scenes at half time of one of the home games and that was really cool for the students and fans in the crowd.

  36. Congrats, SBJ!

    “The Totebag College Tournament is one of my favorite spectator sports.”

    Chuckling at this, HFN. :)

  37. Lauren — Re. cheating, in all likelihood, DS’ grade in his physics class this term will be at best mediocre, and more likely pretty lousy. I’m hoping (dreaming?) that this will be seen by college admissions committees as proof that he hasn’t been cheating this year — so, something positive!

  38. Lauren – I saw that, and was surprised to realize that they were talking about the spring semester final from last May. It’s disappointing, of course.

    Remember that the whole honor code/honor concept thing also extends to “stealing.” I remember in 1998, Napster was raging across college campuses. For a brief moment in the fall, I remember this common realization where everyone said “wait a second, what’s going to happen if someone interprets this as stealing…” and we were like “it’s about 90% of the student body, at least.” So the administration ignored, as best I can remember. It would have been dangerous to even acknowledge.

  39. I find at DS’s school each teacher has their own preferred way students can take a test. The German teacher allows the phone, so remote students can ask her questions during the test. Most require lockdown browser but one teacher doesn’t. And on it goes. And sometimes the initial grade will show low but then it gets updated. I have not got over giving extra credit points, points for correcting your work and anything else to bring your grade up. Home country did not allow such things.

  40. @Louise – DS’s teachers have pretty universally gone to just “open book/notes” tests this year since it is so hard to keep the kids from cheating anyway. They do some online quizzes in class to try to gauge what the kids do/don’t know too, but they can’t totally keep them from cheating on those either.

    I was also surprised by the culture of extra credit when DS transferred to public school. Extra credit and “participation” as a good chunk of the grade (20-25%). It feels like it is almost universally possible to get straight-A’s if a kid is willing to put forth effort and keep on top of assignments. The actual tests don’t make up huge amounts of the grade like InMyDay, and half the teachers let you do retakes. Retakes!!? But I suppose that is not true because even in the accelerated program, the “straight A” honor roll is only 1/4 of the class.

  41. DS’s teachers have pretty universally gone to just “open book/notes” tests this year since it is so hard to keep the kids from cheating anyway.

    I’m curious why you think open book/notes is cheating.

  42. Louise-lol, I am honored! It was really due to a lack of planning and an unwillingness to pay $$$ for multiple tiny jars at the local stores…we will try to buy online next year! (Also, it isn’t very hard to make the ginger, just takes a bit of time.)

  43. I do not agree that open book equals easier or cheating. DD had three exams yesterday. One of the three teachers gave an open book and DD said it was the most challenging of the three exams. Also, I think some kids don’t study as much when they hear open book so they might be unprepared when they sit to take the exam. My stats professor used to give open book exams and it didn’t make it easier because I still had to know how to do the problems.

  44. Finn, I believe “ She had some device that would press the dough out in Xmas shapes, e.g., Xmas trees, wreaths” is known as a cookie cutter.

    L, you keep careful inventory of your flour!

    Lemon Tree, not to Finn out on you, but on first read I thought you meant that a drinking establishment had submitted the winning entry. I can see that being controversial, but people who don’t think bar cookies should count are just sore losers.

    Sunshine, I love ginger. Can I have your triple ginger recipe?

    SBJ, impressive output on the fudge and college apps. Congrats on his first acceptances.

    The open secret when I started teaching was that open books doesn’t make for easier tests—students still have to be organized and know their stuff, or they’ll burn up test time flipping pages frantically. The way the multiple-choice questions at my son’s HS were written probably made them easier than a good open-book test. The IB tests are written differently.

  45. I think what Finn is describing is a cookie press. I have one and make little butter cookies that I decorate with sprinkles before baking. Different from the frosted sugar cookies that get rolled, baked, and then frosted.

  46. Reality, yes, from looking again, I think you’re right and it is a cookie press. Maybe that could be a post on a goof-off day; describe a common object with as much distance as possible, to distract from everyday nomenclature.

  47. “I’m curious why you think open book/notes is cheating.”

    I don’t at all! I think that the teachers are officially making everything open book/notes RATHER than just having half the class cheat. I think it’s more fair. I’m all for it!

    I’m not sure that I have a strong opinion about the culture of extra credit/retakes, etc either. It was a big surprise to me though.

  48. Finn – Yes, he applied to schools that don’t release their decisions until March.

    Louise – DS’s high school recommends applying to 3 safety schools, 3 target schools (where you are solidly in their acceptance demographics) and 3 reach schools. I think he applied to so many schools for a variety of factors:

    – He’s grown up hearing how competitive it is to get into college.
    – Uncertainty about the impacts of the pandemic on the college application process
    – His senior year in high school looks like it is going to be remote the full year, and applying to college is a positive thing that he can do to try and improve his future.

    RMS – He has said that he doesn’t plan to live in California, and sees Oracle’s and Elon Musk’s moves out of state as substantiating that plan. He has applied to UCs and CSUs, but I anticipate that college is going to give him experience living somewhere else

    S&M – You’ve asked before how to get your DS interested in the college application process. For DS it started with being interested in one college, and that college was part of the Coalition Application. So last summer he started to enter his data into the Coalition App, then he saw how many other schools he was close to having a complete application for, so he started to research those schools to see if they had a program that he was interested in. During the summer, I think he had a list of almost 30 colleges that he had some interest in. His school has SCOIR which showed the acceptance results for prior year’s students along with their test scores and GPA, so he could gauge where he would be competitive.

    Thank you all for your congratulations. This game is only at half-time.

  49. @SBJ – It sounds like your DS is going to have lots of great options to choose from. Good luck to him!! (You have my email if you end up looking at anything near me!)

  50. “I’m not sure that I have a strong opinion about the culture of extra credit/retakes, etc either. It was a big surprise to me though.”

    When my school went to that, I was strongly adverse; there were many literal eye-rolls involved. But I have become a complete convert. Because to retake the test, the kids first had to be current on all of their assignments and homework — and homework no longer counted toward a grade, and extra credit was limited. So a lot of kids lost the “easy” path toward high grades of just doing the homework and turning in some silly extra credit. Instead, the ones who were rewarded were the ones who put in the work — and their “reward” was to get to take another full test, which they couldn’t do better on if they didn’t actually study enough to learn whatever it was they missed before! My DD did this a few times, and it was not exactly an easy way out; they started this like her junior or senior year, and her calculus and physics tests were hard enough that even with a second try, her grade usually only went up a few points, because she’d mess something else up.

    And of course on the flip side, the advantage was that the Finn Jrs. who got everything in class didn’t need to waste time on homework for concepts they already understood. I’d have killed for that.

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