I’m a firm believer in consumables as gifts and homemade treats are the ultimate in consumables. In addition to providing instant gratification and not taking up much space, the recipients of your thoughtful baking will glow in the knowledge that you put the thought, time and skill into creating just the right confection with their tastes in mind.
But there are a number of pitfalls that can cause even the most thoughtful gift-giver to founder, from dietary restrictions to a sheer aversion to sweets. I’ve rounded up a list of cookies, candies and bars that should see you through a number of challenging gifting scenarios.
For the Chocolate Fiend: Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps
I can’t even remember how many years I’ve been making these extraordinarily rich and complex cookies from Martha Stewart. They boast a soft, chewy, brownie-like center, surrounded by a delicate and crisp crinkle coating from a roll in powdered sugar pre-bake. I recommend rolling the sticky dough into balls ahead of time and freezing them and rolling in the powdered sugar just prior to baking.
For the Health Nut: Breakfast Cookies
The holidays can feel like sugar overload even to the most avid cookie lover. That’s where these breakfast cookies from Boston baked good powerhouse Flour comes in. Loaded with whole grains and sweetened with just a touch of maple syrup and ripe bananas, they’re about as virtuous as cookies get.
All-Purpose Deliciousness: Turtles
If you’ve been looking for an excuse to flex your candy making skills, turn to turtles. An underrated confection, in my opinion, turtles are clusters of nuts, often pecans, studded in a soft but sturdy caramel and topped with chocolate. They feel festive and special, taste great, keep well at room temperature, are hearty enough to pack and transport. They’re also highly customizable. Feel free to swap in different nuts or use a milk, white or dark chocolate. Top them with flaky sea salt if you’re feeling extra classy! Yes, it’s a bit more of a project than a slice-and-bake cookie, but they are so worth it. Bonus - these guys are gluten-free.
Savory: Rosemary Parm Cookies
It can be difficult to find a savory option with all of the qualities that make a cookie or candy so giftable, but alas, some people just don’t like sweets. And that’s ok! There’s a whole world of savory shortbreads, sables and biscotti starring herbs, cheeses and other, less frou frou flavors. Try these rosemary and parmesan numbers from cookie queen Dorie Greenspan and amaze your friend who thought they’d be offloading unwanted snickerdoodles all holiday season.
For the History Buff: New England Hermit Squares
These bars have a long shelf life and an even longer history - hermit squares originated in the 1880 New Cook Book. The wealth of warm spices, and yes, raisins, really lean in to the holiday spirit, as does the yield, leaving you with a generous 48 squares to gift or keep to yourself (you scrooge). Read more about the fascinating history of the hermit square over at Bon Appetit.
For the Aesthete: Linzer Cookies
Some say you eat first with your eyes, and Linzer cookies, with their bright spots of jam against a pale frame of cookie, are definitely eye-catching. This recipe from Martha Bakes takes the Linzer a step further with a gorgeous flower design that really makes the glass-like jam pop. The bright acidity from the jam and delicate cookie help these cookies from feeling too heavy.