This holiday season get ready to bake

Photos by Leah Devorak | Layout Editor

Photos by Leah Devorak | Layout Editor

By Leah Devorak | Layout Editor

The holidays are by far the busiest time of year. In between shopping for presents, finishing classes, taking finals, visiting friends and traveling home, there’s almost no time to do anything fun. When you do finally get a few free moments, they’re quickly filled up by last-minute holiday parties that you must attend — with food in hand.

But when you’re already booked full, how do you fit in cooking?

The common solution is to just hit up the grocery store a few hours before the party starts, get some packaged cupcakes and plop them down on the host’s counter when you arrive. Oh, and don’t forget to pick them back up on your way out, because nobody eats store-bought sweets at a Christmas party when there’s always some Martha Stewart who brings from-scratch, extravagant desserts.

Have no fear, though. Despite being booked solid, you can still create spectacular treats that won’t lay to waste on the counter of uneaten shame — and you can do it in the same amount of time as it takes to run to the grocery store. Just follow these simple recipes, and holiday hits are sure to be quickly had.


features_snowman2Sugar Cookie Snowmen and Polar Bears

A small project perfect for when there are lots of little helpers around, these tasty sugar cookies take the beloved classic to a whole new level. Not too soft but also not too hard, the dough is perfect for covering in chocolate and decorating however you please. And even though these treats take a little longer than the rest to make, the effort will be well worth it when a plateful of adorable winter characters make their way to the party.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Bake Time: 20 minutes
Decorating Time: 40 minutes
Makes: About 30 cookies (both snowmen and polar bears combined)

Ingredients:

- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 16 ounces white chocolate melting wafers
- ¼ cup chocolate chips
- Red and green holiday sprinkles or red and green chocolate candies

Directions:

- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
- In the bowl of a standard mixer, combine softened butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy.
- Beat in eggs and vanilla.
- In another large bowl, mix flour and baking powder.
- Gradually beat flour mixture in with liquids. Scrape sides as needed.
- Split dough in half.
- For snowmen: Roll one half of dough into 12 one-inch balls and 12 half-inch balls. Set on ungreased cookie sheet. Do not flatten.
- For polar bears: Take second half of dough and place onto a flat surface. With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 3/4 –inch thick sheet. Using a small, circular cookie cutter (about ½ inch in diameter), cut out circular cookies, and place onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Repeat until all dough is gone. For larger cookies, use a larger cookie cutter. Note, though, that this will require more dough than what the above ingredients make.
- Bake both shapes of cookies for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Remove from oven and let completely cool.

features_snowman1Decorating:

- For snowmen: Cover a cookie tray in parchment paper. Put about 8 ounces of white chocolate melting wafers into a microwave safe bowl. Place in microwave and heat for about three minutes, stopping every minute to stir until the chocolate is fully melted. More or less time may be needed. Once melted, dip one 1-inch ball into the chocolate, making sure not to cover the bottom. Place on tray. Then dip one ½-inch ball into the chocolate, also making sure not to cover the bottom. Place it on the tray touching the 1-inch ball just placed. Take two chocolate chips and put on the larger of the two balls, for buttons. Use red and green sprinkles or chocolate candies for eyes and the scarf (I opted for sprinkles). Colored icing may also be used as a substitute. Repeat until every snowman has been assembled.

- For polar bears: Cover a cookie tray in parchment paper. Put about 8 ounces of white chocolate melting wafers into a microwave safe bowl, but do not melt every single wafer. Save as many wafers as there are circular cookies that were baked, and set aside. Place bowl in microwave and heat for about three minutes, stopping to stir until the chocolate is fully melted. More or less time may be needed. Once melted, dip one of the circles into the chocolate, making sure not to coat the bottom. Place on tray. Then take one un-melted wafer and place it at the bottom of the cookie. Directly above the wafer, place two chocolate chips for eyes. Finally, dip the bottom of one chocolate chip in the melted white chocolate, and place on top of the un-melted wafer, for a nose. Repeat until each polar bear is assembled.

– Store all cookies in the freezer until 30 minutes prior to serving.


features_reindeer1

Ritz Cracker Reindeer

For an easy and tasty treat, try whipping up these cute reindeer for any holiday party this season. Fun and fast for all ages to make, this no-bake dessert will be sure to please the crowd.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Assembly Time: 30 Minutes
Makes: 28 cookies

Ingredients:

- 1 roll of Ritz Crackers (28 crackers total)
- 28 Rolo candies, unwrapped
- 28 mini pretzels

Directions:

- Take mini pretzels and break each one in half. If they do not break perfectly, that’s all right. Set aside.
- Place Ritz crackers in a circle on a microwave plate, making sure not to place any crackers in the center of the ring created. (If plate is not large enough to fit all crackers, this and the following steps must be repeated multiple times.)
- Place one unwrapped Rolo just below the center of each cracker, large end down. The bottom edge of the Rolo will be touching the bottom holes of the cracker.
- Microwave for about 20 seconds in order to soften the Rolos, but not fully melt them. (Note that actual microwave times may vary.)
- Remove from microwave. Stick one half of a pretzel in the top of each side of each cracker’s Rolo. If pretzels do not slide easily in, the candy needs to be heated more.
- Transfer the crackers to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and place in the freezer. Keep frozen until about 30 minutes before serving, but do not freeze longer than 3 hours.


features_chocolate2Hot Chocolate Cookies

If you love chocolate — or happiness and fun — then you will die for these decadent holiday treats. A fantastic twist on the classic chocolate cookie, this recipe creates a wonderfully moist homage to everyone’s favorite hot drink. For an even more authentic feel, add mini marshmallows instead of white chocolate chips. (Or in addition to them. No one’s judging.)

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Bake Time: About 12 minutes
Makes: 18 cookies

Ingredients:

- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup milk chocolate cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons dark chocolate cocoa powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cups brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup canola oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3-6 handfuls of chocolate chips, milk and white combined

Directions:

- In a large bowl, thoroughly whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and both types of cocoa powder. Lumps of unmixed cocoa powder may remain.
- In the bowl of a standard mixer, combine sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat for 30 seconds.
- Gradually stir in flour mixture, pausing between pours to let the flour thoroughly combine. Scrapes sides of bowl as needed.
- Once all flour is added and well mixed, stir in the chocolate chips. The dough will be a bit runny at this point. This does not matter.
- Cover with saran wrap and place dough in fridge for one hour.
- After one hour, remove dough from fridge. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease one cookie tray, or cover in parchment paper.
- Spoon out 1 ½ inch balls of dough onto the cookie sheet, placing them about one inch apart.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes or until thoroughly cooked.

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