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12 Days of Holiday Baking

Take a deep breath, gather the household, and create something fun. If not edible.

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| December 10, 2020
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If being stuck at home during the pandemic has provided me with any silver linings, it’s the fact that I’ve been gifted the opportunity to find a new way to entertain and express myself and interact with my kids in ways the hustle-bustle of ‘normal’ life didn’t allow.

Like with many households across the US, baking has taken center stage. How’s your sourdough starter doing, by the way?

Unlike some other creative outlets, like painting or gardening, baking doesn’t require investment in things you likely don’t have around the house or are dependent on our fickle weather.

In my household, baking serves as a wonderful intersection of some of our pandemic needs, like stress relief and a means of connection.

The repetitive, somewhat leisurely nature of kneading dough and mixing ingredients have a meditative quality. Having a tangible consumable outcome, even when they go, literally or figuratively, pear-shaped, has been reassuring. Top that off by being able to pass down or create new traditions with the kids and it’s easy to understand why baking has been a godsend as we continue to cope with the pandemic and what seems to be an ever-looming lockdown.

Now that we’re diving headfirst into the holiday season, I’ve put together this list. It combines both favorites and recipes I’ve vowed to try over the next two weeks.

Everyone here hopes you find some inspiration in our picks and enjoys the process, regardless of whether the final product is done well or a bit well done.

12 Days of Holiday Baking Cinnamon Chess Pie

1. Cinnamon Chess Pie

Key Words: Comfort food, nostalgia, southern classic.
Difficulty: 2/5 pie slices

If you like custard or pudding with bonus crust, then this is for you. I had forgotten about his simple treat until someone brought it up on a podcast. I was about to put together a straightforward version with a lemon twist to cut the richness when I came across this holiday spin by the Ace of Cakes himself.
As a sucker for cinnamon just-about-anything, this one scratched the chess-pie-itch. Not only is it suitable as a holiday treat but also for a Queen’s Gambit virtual viewing party. 😉

Photo from Food Network

12 Days of Holiday Baking Wookie Cookies

2. Gingerbread Wookiee Cookies

Key Words: Out-of-this-world, kid-friendly, versatile.
Difficulty: 2/5 cookies

These May the 4th go-to’s can easily double for the standard holiday gingerbread person. The pop-culture tie-in and easy recipe make this super kid-friendly. Also, if not all of your kiddos are future Jedi, smugglers, or galactic bounty hunters, the starting point for the Wookiee cookies is the generic gingerbread person cut-out so you can split the batch accordingly.And if you were already making a gingerbread Millennium Falcon or Mos Eisley then adding our favorite hero from Kashyyyk is a no-brainer.

Photo from Disney Family

12 Days of Holiday Baking No Bake Mini Cheesecakes

3. No-Bake-Mini-Cheesecakes

Key Words: Perfect portion, kid-friendly, semi-homemade.
Difficulty: 1/5 cookies

This is one of my mom’s holiday go-to’s. They’re easy to make, versatile, small portions that are equally tasty as a post-feast treat for cookie & pie-averse visitors or as a nice-sized bite when you curl up in front of your favorite holiday flick.

Not a fan of the nilla wafer crust? You can sub in crushed graham crackers or use pre-made graham cracker mini-crusts.

12 Days of Holiday Baking Candy Cane Pie

4. Candy Cane Pie

Key Words: Taste of the season, stove-top cooking, semi-homemade, nostalgia, once-a-year treat.
Difficulty: 2/5 pie slices

Granted it’s not for everyone, but for me it conjures warm fuzzies from my childhood trips to a family’s house, Christmas Day, or pot luck dinner. Itchy sweaters and socializing with distant relatives were worth it for a slice of this pie.

Photo from Taste of Home

12 Days of Holiday Baking Eggnog Pie

5. Eggnog Pie

Key Words: Taste of the Season, once-a-year treat.
Difficulty: 3/5 pie slices

Like the flavor of egg nog but not the texture? Have the last 3rd of a container that needs to be killed, but everyone is a little burned out on this holiday must? Revitalize your nog by turning it into this pie! Or keep mixing it with Fireball or spiced rum. I get it. No judgment.

12 Days of Holiday Baking Thumbprint Cookies

6. Thumbprint Cookies

Key Words: Taste of the Season, kid-friendly.
Difficulty: 3/5 cookies

Everyone in my family loves these – except me. But I’m including it because, given the percentages, you’ll probably like them if you haven’t already formed an opinion. They’re simple and kid-friendly. My wife has fond memories of smashing her thumb into the dough, sharing the kitchen with her mom. Even if I only have one out of obligation, I’m looking forward to having my kids smash their thumbs into some dough to keep the tradition rolling.

12 Days of Holiday Baking Peppermint Bark

7. Peppermint Bark

Key Words: Taste of the Season, Once-a-year treat.
Difficulty: 2/5 pie slices

This low-effort recipe is super tasty and a great excuse to smash up some candy canes. Although there’s too much stove action for my little ones, I know they’ll love a piece when it’s done. And then be put outside to run in circles until the sugar wears off.

12 Days of Holiday Baking Pinwheel Cookies

8. Pinwheel Cookies

Key Words: Taste of the Season, kid-friendly, extended prep.
Difficulty: 2/5 cookies

Another low effort recipe with a high-effort looking outcome. It does require at least 8 hours of dough refrigeration so that it’s the right consistency to slice. Keep that in mind when involving children and perhaps bake another kind of cookie the day you prep so they don’t become saddened by the lack of instant gratification. Or teach them the lesson of patience by crushing their cookie dreams. Both are entirely valid approaches. You meany.

12 Days of Holiday Baking Chocolate Chip Cookies

9. Chocolate Chip Cookies

Key Words: Evergreen classic, Santa’s favorite.
Difficulty: 2/5 cookies

There are generally two schools of thought on the cookies you leave for Santa. The classic Christmas sugar cookie, usually decorated with icing & beyond, and the good-ole chocolate chip. Let’s face it. There’s a reason why we only make sugar cookies once a year. We know on Christmas morning which cookies on the Santa plate have actual bites out of them and which ones (spoiler alert!) we broke a small piece off and slipped the rest back in the tin with the other sugar cookies. Of the victorious chocolate chip cookies, this is my favorite recipe.

12 Days of Holiday Baking Toffee Bark

10. Toffee Bark

Key Words: Evergreen classic, should-be-once-a-year treat.
Difficulty: 2/5 cookies

I’m a sucker for toffee, so this one can only be allowed in the house once a year. Three times tops. Unless I get it as a gift, of course, because refusing it would be rude. My mom would make it when we hosted our traditional Christmas Eve Pizza Feast and the toffee wouldn’t make it to 9 PM.

12 Days of Holiday Baking Gingered Sugar Cookies

11. Ginger(ed) Sugar Cookies Option 1, Option 2

Key Words: Classy, fancy twist, Santa’s second favorite, generally kid-friendly, extended prep.
Difficulty: 4/5 cookies

Immediate caveats. These are some of the most delicious cookies I’ve ever made, however, as one would imagine with a Martha recipe, the preparation also makes me feel like I’m working another job. There are lots of set aside for X hours and attention to detail, but if you make a big enough batch, the deliciousness to effort ratio is well worth it.

Photo from Will Anderson

12 Days of Holiday Baking Gingerbread Thumbprint Cookies

12. White Chocolate Kissed Gingerbread Cookies

Key Words: Holiday classic, nostalgia, kid-friendly
Difficulty: 2/5 cookies

I know. We already have a gingerbread representative, but I can’t in good holiday baking conscience put together a list and omit this recipe. The smooth sweetness of the white kisses marries wonderfully with the chewy earthiness of the gingerbread. Kids will love both placing the kisses in the warm gingerbread and likely sneaking some for later. Check their pockets before putting their pants into the wash tonight.