Traditional recipes

Festive baking tips

Festive baking tips

I love baking any time of the year – it’s my happy place. But there is something extra special about baking at Christmas. It’s magical – everything just feels more opulent and dramatic, even when it’s really simple.

Treats you would normally decline are suddenly deemed acceptable – it is Christmas after all! If you are anything like me, it’s a chance to go OTT on decorations, flavours, ingredients… well, pretty much everything! Even the most basic of cakes can suddenly become a showstopper.

LAST-MINUTE FRUITCAKE

Now, if you haven’t been terribly organised and baked your fruitcake months in advance, panic not. You may not get the insanely boozy effect that months of soaking in brandy would give you, but you can still achieve a delicious, soft and relatively boozy Christmas cake. Simply take your favourite fruitcake recipe and blitz half the soaked dried fruit in a food processor with some of the alcohol before stirring it into the mixture. This will give you a delicious damp sponge that you can either ‘feed’ with alcohol for a couple of weeks or a couple of months. It’s still wonderful!

Top this easy-peasy Christmas cake with soft and peaky royal icing for impressive results

FESTIVE CAKE DECORATING

When it comes to icing, don’t worry if your skills aren’t all that, just make a royal icing and spread it over your cake, making it as spiky and peaky as possible for a lovely snowy effect. Or top your cake with a layer of apricot jam and large pieces of candied fruit for a striking yet simple finish.

Another way of pimping up your cakes and making them more festive without breaking the bank is by crystallising berries, flowers and leaves (make sure they are all edible first!) for decorations. Lightly whisk an egg white until very slightly foamy, then brush it over fresh cranberries, bay leaves, rose petals or whatever you have. Dust them evenly with white caster sugar and leave to dry on a cooling rack. You can then simply pile them on iced or butter-creamed cakes for a beautiful frosty feel.

All these ideas will look beautiful, but if I’m really honest, I love nothing more than the traditional little plastic figurines you can still buy in baking shops. They remind me of being a kid, when my mum would always make a chocolate log with us and decorate it with plastic trees and a holographic “Merry Christmas” sign. Don’t be afraid to go retro! They’re cheap, fun and look great. You can also pick up cheap treats such as edible glitter for only a few pounds, which transforms pretty much every cake and sweet treat into something special! White glitter on a coconut cake looks like something from a snow globe.

These gluten-free cranberry cookies are a real emergency crowd-pleaser

EMERGENCY BAKING

And while you’re looking to impress guests, a clever Christmas tip is to always have a rolled batch of your favourite biscuit dough in the freezer, ready to bake. Dried cranberry and white chocolate dough is a wonderful combination for a Christmassy feel and works a treat. When you need some biscuits in a hurry, just slice as many even-sized discs as you need from the log and pop them on a baking sheet. Bake from frozen, a few minutes longer than you would normally, et voila! Domestic god/goddess in an instant.

So there you have it – a few of my top Christmas baking tips. And remember: you don’t have to be a sugar-craft wizard to create something impressive – just go for it and have fun! What will you be baking this Christmas?


How to create a festive cookie plate

As we ring in the holiday season, we've officially declared this week to be Cookie Week. To celebrate, we're covering all things cookie-related, from decorating to gifting to going gluten-free. Join us for festive inspiration and plenty of holiday cheer.

This time of year is all about giving. And while I can’t tell you which present to buy for a picky parent or finicky sibling, I do know one gift that always fits …

Sharing a beautiful cookie plate that you’ve crafted with love and care can be one of the most heartwarming (and delicious) activities to partake in this month.

Especially this year, when holiday parties are on hold, we can remind our loved ones how much we care by dropping off a plate of their favorite cookies to enjoy all week long.

Any homemade treat will be received with joy by a friend or neighbor, whether it’s a simple batch of Easy Peanut Butter Cookies or elaborately decorated sugar cookies. But if you want to take your cookie plate to the next level this season, we’ve got some advice on crafting your best one yet.

1) Understand what makes a great cookie plate

When building a cookie plate, your primary goal is to create something that:

  1. Looks visually stunning
  2. Appeals to different palates
  3. Most importantly, tastes amazing!

So keep these objectives in mind as you plan out your plate and select the recipes you're going to bake. Ask yourself questions like which cookies will look good together? Do I have something that appeals to both chocolate-lovers and gingerbread-devotees?

And the biggest question of all: are each of these recipes absolutely delicious? (If the answer to this last question is yes, you can be guaranteed a successful cookie plate.)

2) Include cookies that are seasonal and nostalgic

This time of year is shaped by memories and traditions that stretch back years. So it’s the perfect opportunity to bake up classic cookies that represent the season.

If you’re baking cookies for your family, incorporate any recipes full of your own traditions, like the Shortbread Grandma used to make or Dad’s favorite Snickerdoodles.

Gingersnaps taste like the holiday season in cookie form. (Photo by Liz Neily)

Including cookies full of seasonal flavors is another great way to capture the spirit of the holidays. Spiced Chocolate Molasses Buttons are full of rich, cozy molasses flavor, while the Gingersnaps above have plenty of warming spices like cloves and ginger.

3) Focus on variety

The beauty of a cookie plate is that you get to share a bunch of different recipes instead of sticking to just one batch of the same cookie. So use that to your advantage and showcase as much variety as possible.

Think about all the different elements to play around with, such as:

  • Flavors
  • Shapes
  • Textures
  • Colors

By incorporating each of these factors, you’ll create a cookie plate that’s exciting and unexpected. Not to mention, it will look gorgeous with so many different cookies cozied up next to each other.

Pictured clockwise: Dark Chocolate Buttercrunch, Shortbread, Chocolate Crinkles, Pumpkin Biscotti, Jam Blossoms, Gingersnaps, Gingerbread Cookies (cut into snowflakes and topped with glaze), and Spiced Chocolate Molasses Buttons (with a sprinkle of crushed candy cane)

For instance, Classic Pizzelle offer a unique pattern that will stand out against log-shaped Pumpkin Biscotti, while Jam Blossoms provide a nice visual contrast with their vibrant bursts of color.

Or you can include the sunny, bright taste of Lemon Snowball Cookies alongside richly flavored Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies. (Just be careful about cookies with extra strong flavor, like peppermint, as these can sometimes perfume the cookies around them. Consider waiting to add strongly flavored cookies to your plate until just before serving or gifting.)

Peppermint Crunch Bark adds a distinct visual and textural contrast to any cookie plate. (Photo by John Sherman)

When it comes to assembling everything together, try pairing gooey cookies next to crunchy ones, and stamped ones next to rolled ones. With so much variety, your plate will look amazing. And think of how much fun a loved one will have discovering all the different delights laid out for them!

Baker’s tip: Baking so many different recipes can be a lot of work, so start early and stock up your freezer with cookie dough or even fully baked cookies. That way you can break down the work across days and simply bake or defrost cookies when you’re ready to assemble your plate. And if you don't want a ton of leftover cookies, we have tips on reducing a recipe.

4) Add allergen-friendly options

Make sure everyone can partake in the cookie fun by ensuring you serve some allergen-friendly options on your plate.

If you know the person you’re gifting your cookies to has a specific dietary restriction, you can customize your entire plate accordingly. Meanwhile, if your plate is being gifted through a cookie exchange, served in another home, or shared with a friend’s family, it’s good to bake a few recipes that are vegan, nut-free, and/or gluten-free to ensure everyone will be able to enjoy.

For example, these nut-free Vegan Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies can easily be made gluten-free by substituting Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour, making them an excellent allergen-friendly option.

Note: If someone has a strong sensitivity to gluten, consider putting together a cookie plate that's entirely gluten-free. See our recipe site for plenty of options, or consider substituting Measure for Measure Flour into your all favorite recipes.

These Gluten-Free Roll-Out Gingerbread Cookies look and taste like classic favorites, and will be enjoyed regardless of whether or not someone follows a gluten-free diet. (Photo by Shilpa Iyer)

And make sure to include a label or note with information on which cookies are which! If you’re artistically inclined, you can even have fun drawing up a little index with illustrations of the different cookies and their corresponding descriptions.

5) Dress things up

To make your plate even more festive, add decorative flourishes like ribbons, bows, and tags full of holiday spirit.

When it comes to the plate itself, you can choose one that’s holiday-themed for maximum cheer, or a minimalist, neutrally colored platter that allows your cookies to shine. To arrange your cookies on the plate, try nestling them into festive cupcake liners so they stay neatly arranged.

Photo by John Sherman

If you’re going to be transporting your plate, you can slide it into a Baker’s Bread Bag, which is easier to use than fussing with plastic wrap, then tie it with some ribbon or Red and White Baker’s Twine for a decorative finishing touch.

Finally, use a holiday tag like our Christmas Village Gift Tags to write a festive note and wish season’s greetings to the lucky person who'll be enjoying your cookies.

6) Gift with an extra treat

'Tis the season of giving, so serve an extra little gift alongside your cookies plate for an added dose of holiday cheer.

A batch of hot chocolate mix makes the perfect addition to your gift — imagine your loved one enjoying a homemade cookie alongside a steaming cup of hot chocolate by the fire. There might not be a better gift you can bestow all season!

Baking up season's greetings

Cookie plates are a wonderful way to flex your creative muscles while also making a homemade gift that's sure to bring a smile to someone's face. Use it as an opportunity to try out new recipes and recreate classic favorites, experiencing all the different possibilities that cookie baking can offer. And at the end of the day, put it all together into a stunning gift that looks delightful and tastes even better.

If you're in the cookie baking spirit, see our other Cookie Week posts here. We also have an entire classic cookie collection, full of nostalgic recipes and family favorites so you can start planning out your festive cookie plate.


5 festive baking recipes to try at home this holiday season

With people stuck at home these holidays due to provincial restrictions, some Saskatchewan bakers have tips for baking recipes to try. CBC Saskatchewan put together a list of stories and recipes to help inspire you to get baking. And while you're here, why not try our Christmas cookie poll?

Regina baker Jodi Robson made a name for herself last year when she was a finalist on CBC's Great Canadian Baking Show. Robson baked herself into hearts across the country and has since been testing out new recipes.

She's been testing out making marshmallows lately, she said, but also working on the classics.

"My go to recipe when making stuff with the kids is an easy sugar cookie. Because the dough comes together very easy, then they get to do the whole rolling it out, cutting it and then decorating," Robson said.

"It's a nice artistic process and there's a lot of creativity involved with it."

Sharon McLaughlin from Swift Current shared her neighbour's puffed wheat cake recipe. She said it's special because of a few choice ingredients.

"It's the only one I've ever found that has many marshmallows in it," "McLaughlin said. "That's what makes it gooey, it is really, really good."

Her neighbour uses Rodger's Golden Syrup for a special flavour.

"Everybody else likes it as much as I do. And it is goopy," she said. "You have to be careful you don't over-boil it. You just barely bring it to a boil and then you have this stuff, otherwise it gets too hard."

Renée Kohlman is a professional baker and author of two cook books.

Kohlman shared her caramel popcorn recipe. She said it's originally her mother's and can also be found on Page 262 of her cookbook All the Sweet Things.

Dorothy Hewson from Langbank shared a special Norwegian dish that she makes each year.

"I really make quite a few things for Christmas, but I'm partly Norwegian," she said. "Definitely a tradition for Christmas, sort of like a flat potato bread."

Lastly, here's a whipped shortbread sure to create family memories. CBC Producer Nichole Huck shared her generations-old family recipe after making it with her children at home.


Sugar Cone Christmas Trees

These sugar cone Christmas trees make an excellent activity for kids because there are no raw ingredients or hot stoves involved. They also do double duty as decorations and desserts, so make them ahead to dress up the table and then enjoy them after the meal ends.


Zebra Cake

Chocolate or vanilla, chocolate or vanilla? It's an eternal debate for bakers trying to please a crowd. This fun and festive recipe combines chocolate and vanilla batter in the pan to create "zebra" stripes satisfying everyone, especially those who love a touch of whimsy. This cake also bakes up light and tender, ready to accept your favorite icing, and is the perfect size for a small gathering or after school snacking.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (298g) granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup (227g) milk (whole, 2% or 1%)
  • 3/4 cup (149g) vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon (14g) vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, optional for enhanced flavor
  • 2 cups (241g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons (16g) Dutch-process cocoa
  • 3/4 teaspoon espresso powder, optional for enhanced flavor

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9" x 2" round baking pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a circle of parchment, and spritz again. Set the pan aside.

In the bowl of your mixer, beat the sugar and eggs until lightened, about 2 minutes. On low speed beat in the oil, milk, vanilla extract, and almond extract until smooth.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk to remove any lumps. Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients. Combine on medium speed 1-2 minutes or until the batter is smooth and lump free. Be sure to scrape down the bowl halfway through mixing.

Remove 2 cups of the vanilla batter and place it in the measure you used for the liquid ingredients. Sift the cocoa and espresso powder over this batter, and stir well to combine. Be sure to use a sifter to avoid cocoa lumps in the batter.

Perfect your technique

How to make a zebra cake

Now for the stripes. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of vanilla batter into the center of the cake pan. Next, spoon 3 tablespoons of the chocolate batter into the center of the vanilla batter. This causes the vanilla batter to spread out. Continue to alternate batters, in bulls-eye fashion until all batter is used. You will now have thin rings of each batter on the outer edges of the pan, thicker rings towards the center.

Bake the cake in the center of the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, and then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Frost as desired we're partial to the frosting paired with our Vanilla Cake Pan Cake recipe.


Czech gift-giving traditions

Wrapping paper and supplies for Christmas / photo via Rohlik

When it comes to gift giving Czechs traditionally go with small, useful gifts. In fact one study counts them among the most practical gift givers in Europe, with 70% saying they received a practical gift for Christmas last year. Gifts like socks and underwear are a big hit as are boxes of soaps and shampoos and scents and fragrances for men and women alike. This year market analysts predict a big boom in board games as everyone stays home. And, of course, in a nation of pet-lovers Ježíšek doesn't skip four-legged family members!


These are a super Christmassy treat that are perfect to have on hand when guests land on you over Christmas or when the kids are n the hunt for their sugar fix. Wafer thin, spicy, clove-scented gingerbread cookies allow you to live out your Mother Christams fantasies and creative by making your own festive figures. Use them for decorating the Christmas tree.


Austrian Linzer Cookies

Austrian Linzer cookies are an absolutely beautiful, traditional Christmas cookie recipe that adds something quite special to Christmas party tables and holiday cookie swaps. In this classic Linzer cookie recipe, buttery, delectable shortbread cookies are sandwiched together with a bit of jam the decorative cutout in the top half of the cookie allows for a peek at the fruit filling.


Christmas Recipes

Festive recipes for the ultimate Christmas dinner. Get cooking ideas and kitchen tips from celebrity chefs and experts for everything from cooking and sourcing the most delicious roast turkey through to how to make the best Christmas pudding. Plus, we will share the best supermarket deals and offers from champagne to brussel sprouts to help you get the most out of your budget.


83 Holiday Desserts You Absolutely Have To Make This Winter

'Tis the season to bake all the sweets. Cookies, cakes, pies, cheesecakes. you name it, we've whipped it up. From classics like gingerbread cookies and peppermint bark to over-the-top mash-ups like our candy cane cookie sandwiches, consider this your go-to guide for holiday baking. For even more festive treats, visit our holiday cookie central or try our twists on gingerbread and Christmas sugar cookies.

Master this classic recipe and make gingerbread men even Santa would be proud of.

The cake represents the yule log that families would burn starting on Christmas Eve.


Festive Christmas Recipes

The holidays are in full swing and we have 3 festive recipes that you and your kids can make at home! From reindeers to snowman and Christmas trees, these recipes are created using our English Muffins, Rustic Italian, and Mini Brioche Rolls!

PB&J Christmas Tree:
• 5 Rustic Italian slices
• Christmas tree cookie cutter
• Plastic drinking straw
• 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
• 1/2 cup red or green jelly or jam
• Pastry bag
S'mores Snow Man:
• 3 English Muffins
• Marshmellow creme
• 1 pound (4 cups) confectioners’ sugar
• ¼ cup of water
• 3 tablespoons meringue power
• 1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
• Food coloring (of your choice)
Sloppy Joe Reindeers:
• 8 Mini Brioche Rolls
• 1 pound ground turkey
• 1 cup ketchup
• 1/4 cup water
• 2 tablespoons brown sugar
• 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
• 2 teaspoons brown mustard
• 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt

PB&J Christmas Tree:
① Cut bread into trees with a cookie cutter. Using the straw, punch holes into six trees set aside. Spread remaining trees with peanut butter and jelly. Top with trees that have holes fill holes with additional jelly using the pastry bag.
S'mores Snow Man:
① Toast the English muffins and spread marshmallow creme or frosting on each half of the bread.
② Next place a marshmallow on each half of the English Muffins.
③ Mix confectioner's sugar, water, meringue powder, and clear vanilla extract in a medium bowl on low speed until mixed. Stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons more water if needed.
④ Continue mixing at high speed for 5 to 7 minutes until the mixture is glossy and forms stiff peaks. Divide the icing into small bowls and cover as you work to prevent from drying. Stir 2 teaspoons of water into 1 cup of icing. Next, divide the bowl into 3 and add food coloring (we chose black, orange, green), one drop at a time.
Spoon some icing in a parchment paper piping bag to decorate to create snowmen.
Sloppy Joe Reindeers:
① In a large saucepan, cook the ground turkey over medium heat and cook all the way through. Next drain the liquids and stir in the ketchup, water, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, mustard, garlic powder, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.
② Place the Mini Brioche Rolls on a platter and start preparing for the faces. Cut off the tips of the black olives (or tomatoes). Place the olives on the rolls for the noses.
③ Next cut small circles from the cheese slice using a round icing tip and place them in the from for the eyes. Cut raisins in half for the pupils and break the pretzel twists in half and place them on top for the antlers.
④ Fill the reindeer sliders with the sloppy joe mixture.


Watch the video: 10 Holiday Desserts to Eat While Waiting for Santa!! Yummy Holiday Cakes, Cupcakes and More! (December 2021).