Compared to cooking, baking isn't something I naturally gravitate towards. I have to work at it, and often mess up if I'm not extremely careful. At the same time, baked goods are some of my favorite gifts to give during the holiday season. They're a perfect budget-friendly gift for your party host, boss, or secret Santa exchange. For the fall, I've narrowed down three recipes I'll be making on repeat, from easy to expert, that I guarantee will make anyone happy (yourself included!).
Some people scoff at a box mix, but I think they're missing out. The key is to find a box mix that you can easily enhance. After following the instructions on the back of this mix, I add half a can of pumpkin, several shakes of cinnamon, and chocolate chunks to the mix, then bake as instructed. The bread is so moist and delicious, it will be difficult to give it away.
- box mix
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup of water
- 1/2 can pumpkin
- a few shakes of cinnamon
- 1 bag of chocolate chunks
1. Combine the oil, water, and eggs in a large bowl.
2. Fold the dry box mix into the mixture.
3. Add in 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin and chocolate chunks.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes.
I'm absolutely obsessed with Tieghan Gerard's second cookbook, Half Baked Harvest Super Simple. The recipes are easy to recreate and are full of rich, hearty ingredients that are perfect for winter meals and parties. When it comes to holiday functions, I like to have frozen homemade cookie dough on hand to whip up a gift at a moment's notice. They're sweet, doughy, and relatively easy to make again and again. Plus, who doesn't love a splash of eggnog and cinnamon?
For the snickerdoodle:
- 1 1/2 cups salted butter at room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the cinnamon sugar:
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
For the eggnog frosting:
- 1/2 cup salted butter at room temperature
- 2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 2-4 tablespoons eggnog
Make the dough:
1. In a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla for 3 to 5 minutes.
2. Add the eggs and beat until combined.
3. Add the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon and beat until a dough forms.
4. Separate the dough into 2 balls and shape each ball into a 10-inch log.
Make the sugar:
1. Combine the sugar and cinnamon.
2. Coat each log in the cinnamon sugar dusting.
3. Reserve excess sugar and wrap each log in wax paper.
4. Let the dough rest in the fridge from 1 hour to 3 days.
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.
3. Unwrap the dough and slice each log 20-24 times to make equal shaped rounds.
4. Space them 1/2 inch apart and bake for 8-10 minutes.
Make the frosting:
1. Beat together butter and confectioner's sugar in a stand mixer.
2. Add in eggnog and beat to combine.
Finish the cookies:
1. Once the cookies are cooled, top each cookie with the eggnog frosting.
2. Top with remaining cinnamon sugar.
3. Add a few flakes of sea salt on each cookie (this is my addition–not 100% necessary!)
4. Refrigerate iced cookies for up to 1 week. They are best served cold!
These fritters were easily the most delicious things I have ever eaten. They're from the Bestia cookbook, which is notably both delicious and insanely difficult to use. Although this recipe is definitely more suited for an "expert" level baker, I was able to make it while guests were over, so it isn't as time-consuming as other endeavors. The end product, ricotta fritters with maple butter, has such an interesting flavor profile and texture that it will blow your mind.
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup + 3 tablespoons maple sugar
2 tablespoons whole milk ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, at room temperature
Grapeseed oil for frying
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Whisk together cornmeal, cake flour, baking powder, & salt. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat ricotta, maple sugar, lemon zest, & vanilla. Add the egg and whisk until combined.
3. Gently fold in dry ingredients until combined.
4. Pour grapeseed oil into a heavy saucepan (we used a dutch oven) and warm to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Working in batches, drop small scoops into the hot oil. After 1.5 minutes on one side, use a spoon to flip the fritter and cook until it's golden brown. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
5. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with maple butter (mix listed butter ingredients for 10-15 minutes).