Holiday Treats Recipe Round-Up 2013

Baking has really started to grow on me, and I think my friends and family find that to be all the better for them. After all, my short-attention-span sweet tooth (if I even really have one) usually calls it quits after one or two bites. Since you don't really make desserts in single batches, the extras have to go somewhere and that somewhere is usually to others around me. When it comes to the holidays, the amount of baking and dessert-making seems to triple in volume by everyone around. People will dust off their stand mixers to whip up something cute and homemade they can package to give out. Passed down homemade recipes will come out of their secret hiding places. While you could go the regular ol' cupcakes, cookies, and brownies (and oh no, fruitcakes!) route, it would not necessarily give the same pizzazz as desserts off the beaten path will. I've pulled together in a recipe round-up some treats you can make for the holidays to gift/enjoy and the kind of personalities you might consider them for!

Chambord Swirl Cheesecake Bars - sophisticated
These are a bit of a decadent treat that satisfy those looking for a bit more "class" and adulthood reminders. With a syrup made from Chambord raspberry liqueur and a savory filling, these cheesecake bars are sultry on top (make sure to create a swirl design!), smooth in the middle, and superb on the bottom. If you're thinking of packaging these up for others, consider a designed glass food container with cellophane wrapped around...or just have it out in bite-size bars at your parties.

Thai Basil Lime Shortbread Cookies - funky
When I say funky, I mean funky. These cookies may not jive with everyone because their tartness from lime zest and juice can be a bit overwhelming to those not expecting it. The Thai basil adds a fun vegetal flavor to it all as well. Because the base of these cookies is shortbread, they really do melt easily in your mouth and can sometimes crumbly when being picked up. Think of a funky person in your life who may enjoy the surprise of citrus in a shortbread or maybe just someone who loves a little bite with tea. They stack fairly well so you can easily make towers to give away but don't try to unevenly stack any of them - the shortbread will crumble with enough pressure.

Peanut Butter Bars - playful
I'd reserve this treat for those that in your life that 1) aren't allergic to peanut butter and 2) have a good, playful attitude. Since these are such nostalgic treats (remember these in the elementary school cafeteria?), it seems right to bring these to those who are still jumping around and jabbing at you, facing the world with childlike wonder. My version has a bit of a crunch to them inside but a lovely smoothed-out chocolate topping to create a fun texture with each bite. Make sure the chocolate has harden before you share these with anyone!

Salted Chocolate Chip Caramel Cookies - classic
It's a spin on a classic actually but well worth the extra effort and ingredients. Take a regular chocolate chip cookie and add in a buddy - caramel. Then highlight all of those flavors with a sprinkling of black lava sea salt (or sea salt of choice) for a whole new level. Cookies seem easy to give out as gifts because of their unique size and easy-to-manage shape. I think you should give these grown-up versions to those who love chocolate chip cookies just to see what they think!

Peppermint Bars - cheery
Well, in a holiday recipe round-up, I can't forget about my holiday-oriented desserts! The peppermint bar post is several years old but the recipe still stands well (I'll get new pictures soon!). These have both crushed peppermint candy on top and ground bits inside the filling. Refreshing and still dense, these bars carry forth the holiday spirit in color and taste. I'd suggest that these are mainly for occasions when you can lay out their jagged crushed candy cane tops in a fun holiday display for all those to partake as desired (versus wrapping them up to give out).

Hope these help you as you start to brainstorm ideas on what to give out during all these upcoming holiday parties and gift-giving occasions!

Photography by Minerva Thai and Duc Duong.