8th Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Recap

Here is a quick recap of our yearly baking madness! Scroll to the end for links to even more cookie deliciousness.

A very Merry Christmas to family and friends far and near!

Snow Capped Christmas Trees

DAY ONE: Snow Capped Christmas Trees

 Chocolate Toffee Cookies

DAY TWO: Chocolate Fudge Toffee Cookies

Cinnamon Pecans 2

DAY THREE: Cinnamon Pecans

 Molasses Crinkles

DAY FOUR: Molasses Crinkles

 Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

DAY FIVE: Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

 Butter Pecan Spiced Cookies

DAY SIX: Butter Pecan Spiced Cookies

 Nutella Fudge

DAY SEVEN: Nutella Fudge

 Stained Glass Christmas Cookies

DAY EIGHT: Stained Glass Christmas Cookies

 Almond Toffee Triangles 2

DAY NINE: Almond Toffee Triangles

 Cream Cheese Mints 
DAY TEN: Cream Cheese Mints

 Maple Cream Sandwich Cookies

DAY ELEVEN: Maple Cream Sandwich Cookies  

 Homemade Caramels

DAY TWELVE: Homemade Caramels

 

#LIGHTtheWORLD

 

More Christmas Cookies and Treats:

1st Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2009)

2nd Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2010)

3rd Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2011)

4th Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2012)

5th Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2013)

6th Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2014)

7th Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2015)

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (and Treats): Easy Homemade Caramels

Homemade Caramels

DAY 12: Homemade Caramels

Soft and chewy homemade caramels. This recipe uses sweetened condensed milk, so they come together faster than starting with a true caramelized sugar base. This method also produces very consistent results, with little chance of gritty caramels or seizing.

If you don’t have (or don’t want to use) sweetened condensed milk, try this recipe for Salted Caramel Sauce, and cook it to about 245°F.

The hardest part of making these is not popping one in your mouth every time you walk past their container.

This recipe (cooked to a lower temperature, about 235°F) can also be used to make a homemade filling for these Chocolate Caramel Thumbprints:

DSC05126-2

RECIPE:

Homemade Caramels

Homemade Caramels

1 cup unsalted butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups brown sugar (light or dark)
1 cup light corn syrup
2 Tbs heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract, or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
½ tsp sea salt

Line an 8×8” pan with parchment paper, allowing the paper to hang over the edge on 2 sides.

Combine butter, sweetened condensed milk, brown sugar, corn syrup and heavy cream in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Place a candy thermometer on the side of the pan. Reduce heat to medium low, maintaining a low but continuous simmer, until caramel reaches 245°F, stirring occasionally. This will take about 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and salt.

Pour hot caramel into lined pan (do not scrape the sides of the cooking pan when you pour it into the square pan). Cool, uncovered, at room temperature until completely cooled and firm. Remove from pan and cut into pieces. Wrap individual pieces in waxed paper.

 

CARAMEL FILING OR SAUCE: To use as a filling for thumbprint cookies, or as a caramel sauce, cook caramel to 235°F (soft ball stage) for caramel filling, or slightly lower for a caramel sauce.

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Maple Cream Sandwich Cookies

Maple Cream Sandwich Cookies

DAY 11: Maple Cream Sandwich Cookies

Today’s cookie is a bow to the Canadian heritage here in our home.

Tiny maple cookies filled with a maple cream cheese frosting. You could always make them bigger, but I love these cute little bite-sized cookies.

My big mistake with these cookies, however, was in thinking that my cookie cutter was symmetrical. Turns out it is not quite the same on both sides! (As you can see if you look closely at the top of the cookies.) This didn’t bother my kids at all. They all disappeared before any made it onto cookie trays.

Lesson for next time: if your cookie cutter is not perfectly symmetrical, before baking, flip half of your cookies over. Then you can put the back-sides of two different cookies together and your edges will line up.

Maple Cream Sandwich Cookies 2

 

RECIPE:

Maple Cream Sandwich Cookies

Maple Cream Sandwich Cookies
—–
(adapted from Bon Appetit, December 2005):

Maple Cookies:
2 ½ cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 tsp maple extract

Maple Cream Cheese Filling:
4 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese, softened
2 Tbs pure maple syrup
½ tsp maple extract
¼ tsp salt
2 cups powdered sugar

Cookies:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and maple extract until combined.

Add flour gradually and mix until just blended. Divide dough into two balls and flatten each ball into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap (or place in a Ziploc bag) and refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to about ¼”. Use small maple leaf cookie cutter to cut out cookies. Place cookies on prepared sheets.

Note: If your cookie-cutter is not perfectly symmetrical,  turn half of your cookies upside down before baking.

Bake for 8-10 minutes (exact time will depend on size and thickness of cookies). Remove from oven and place on wire racks to cool.

Filling:
In a mixing bowl, beat butter, cream cheese, maple syrup, maple extract and salt until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in powdered sugar.

Spread the backside of cooled cookie with about ½ Tbs filling.  Top with another cookie. (If cookies are not symmetrical, be sure to pair cookies with their inverted match.)

 

Makes about 3 dozen sandwich cookies (using a 2” cookie cutter)

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (and Treats): Cream Cheese Mints

Cream Cheese Mints

DAY 10: Cream Cheese Mints

Melt in your mouth cream cheese mints.

Making these mints is like playing with scented edible Play Doh. The hardest challenge will be keeping your kids from playing with it and eating it before you can roll the mints.

Cream Cheese Mints 2

RECIPE:

Cream Cheese Mints

Cream Cheese Mints

4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 Tbs butter, softened
1 lb powdered sugar (plus additional, if needed)
¼–½  tsp peppermint extract (or a few drops of peppermint oil)
Red and green gel food coloring

Place cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar in a food processor and process until smooth. Add ¼ tsp peppermint extract or a few drops of peppermint oil. Taste mixture and add additional flavoring, if desired. (Mixture can also be mixed and kneaded by hand.)

Divide dough into thirds and place in separate bowls. Add red and green food coloring to two of the bowls. Knead in coloring until color is consistently smooth. Add additional powdered sugar if the dough is too sticky. It should be Play Doh consistency.

Shape dough into small balls and then flatten with a fork. Place on a sheet of parchment paper. Allow mints to dry for 2 hours (longer in humid locations) at room temperature before storing in a covered container.

Candy molds can also be used to make shaped mints. If you are using candy molds to shape the mints, roll the balls in granulated sugar before pressing into the candy molds to keep them from sticking.

Makes about 50 mints.

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Almond Toffee Triangles

Almond Toffee Triangles

DAY 9: Almond Toffee Triangles

A shortbread crust, topped with a sliced almond caramel mixture and then baked to perfection.

Easy peasy!

Almond Toffee Triangles 2

 

RECIPE:

Almond Toffee Triangles

Almond Toffee Triangles

Crust:
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla
2 ¼ cups flour
¼ tsp salt

Topping:
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup (light or dark)
¼ cup butter
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups sliced almonds

Crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom and sides of a 15×10” pan.

Use a mixer to cream butter and powdered sugar. Beat in vanilla. Slowly beat in flour and salt. Press evenly into greased pan.

Bake for 11-12 minutes.

Topping:
While crust is cooking, prepare topping. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, butter and cream. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and almonds. Pour topping over HOT crust; spread evenly.

Bake at 350°F for 12-15 minutes, or until topping is set. Cool completely. Cut into 2 ½ inch squares. Cut each square in half diagonally.

Makes 48 triangles

 

**To prepare in a 17×13” pan, prepare 1 ½ times the recipe.

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Stained Glass Cookies

Stained Glass Christmas Cookies

DAY 8: Stained Glass Christmas Cookies

Here is a fun Christmas treat to make with kids that is easier than your traditional frosted sugar cookies. All you need is a good sugar cookie recipe, a package of Jolly Rancher hard candies and two different sized cookie cutters.

To begin, you will need to line your baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper so that the candy centers don’t stick.

Prepare your dough and cut out large Christmas shapes (my cookie cutters were about 3” tall). I usually like to make nice thick sugar cookies, but these need to be about 1/8” thick, or the center “window” will be too thin compared to the cookie.

Place cookies on baking sheet before cutting out the smaller design in the center of each cookie. I used the inserts for linzer cookies to cut the center shapes. Cutting out the smaller shape after the cookie is on the baking sheet helps the cookie dough retain its shape. It is harder to move cookie dough with the center cut out.

Place half of a Jolly Rancher candy  in the center of each cut out. (Cut candy in half with a sharp knife)  If your openings are large enough to fit the whole Jolly Rancher, then use them whole. You can also crush the candies first, but I found that there are fewer bubbles in your windows if you leave the candies whole. And it is so much easier than crushing hard candy!

Stained Glass Christmas Cookies 3

While the cookies bake, the candies will melt and fill in the centers.

After baking, let the cookies completely cool and the candy window centers harden before removing from baking sheet.

Store covered between layers of waxed paper or parchment paper. The candy centers will stick together if they touch.

You could also make these using a Gingerbread Cookie Dough.

RECIPE:

Stained Glass Christmas Cookies

Stained Glass Christmas Cookies

3 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
About 7 – 7 ½ cups flour
1 package Jolly Rancher candies, cut in half for small openings

In a large mixing bowl, beat sugar, butter, sour cream and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs.  Mix in baking soda, salt and enough flour to make a moderately stiff dough (Start with 7 cups and add more if needed).

Chill for 20 minutes to 1 hour, if necessary, for easier handling.

Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Preheat oven to 375°F.

Roll out dough to about 1/8” and cut out with large  cookie cutters. Place shapes on lined baking sheets. Cut out a smaller shape inside of each cookie  (after placing on baking sheet).

Place half of a Jolly Rancher candy in the center of each cookie. Use a whole Jolly Rancher if the opening is large enough to lay the candy down inside the opening.

Bake at 375°F for 8 -10 minutes, or until candies have melted; cookies should not be browned on the edges.  They should look white when done. Cool completely on the baking sheet. When candy centers are completely cool and hardened, remove cookies to a sheet of parchment paper.

Store covered between layers of waxed paper or parchment paper. The candy centers will stick together if they touch.

Makes about 6 dozen (using a 3” cookie cutter)

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (and Treats): Easy Chocolate Nutella Fudge

Nutella Fudge

DAY 7: Chocolate Nutella Fudge

Can you ever go wrong adding Nutella to a dessert?

Here is a perfect example: a rich, creamy fudge made even more delicious by adding Nutella. Plus lots of toasted nuts. And nuts are protein, so that makes this healthy, right?

You can also make this completely smooth and creamy, but I love the addition of chopped toasted nuts. I like lots of nuts per bite, so I use 2 full cups of chopped nuts, but if you just want the nuts sprinkled here and there, use less. My ideal fudge would be a pile of nuts with just enough chocolate to hold the nuts together in one piece!

I used a small cookie scoop to scoop the warm fudge into miniature foil cups. You can also spread it into an 8” square pan and cut it into squares.

Nutella tip: to easily measure Nutella, warm the jar of Nutella in the microwave for 20-30 seconds (be sure that all of the foil seal is removed first!). Spray a measuring cup with oil or cooking spray, then pour warm Nutella into the measuring cup.

RECIPE:

Nutella Fudge

Chocolate Nutella Fudge

1 cup Nutella
8 oz bittersweet chocolate (about 1 heaping cup bittersweet chips)
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
3 Tbs salted butter
1/8 tsp salt (omit salt if using salted nuts)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 cups chopped toasted nuts, optional **

If you are making fudge in a pan, lightly grease an 8” square pan with butter. Line the pan with parchment paper, letting it hang over the edge on 2 sides. If you are making individual fudge cups, lay 48-64 miniature foil baking cups on a rimmed baking sheet or tray.

Place Nutella, chopped bittersweet chocolate, sweet milk and butter in the top of a double boiler. Heat water in the bottom of the double boiler to a simmer, reduce heat to low and place the top of the double boiler with the chocolate mixture over the water. Stir until mixture is melted and smooth. Stir in salt, vanilla and chopped toasted nuts.

Spread warm fudge into the prepared pan OR use a small cookie scoop (or spoon) to drop about 1 tablespoon of warm fudge into each foil cup. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until fudge is firm.

If fudge was prepared in a pan: For easier cutting, run the knife under hot water, then pat dry before using to cut the fudge. Run the knife along the edges of the pan and use the parchment paper to lift out the block of fudge. Rinse knife in hot water again, dry. and cut the fudge into 1” squares (cut larger squares, if desired). Rinse and dry knife before each new cut.

Makes 48-64 servings

**To toast nuts: Coarsely chop nuts and spread into an even layer on a baking sheet. Bake at350°F for 5-10 minutes.

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Butter Pecan Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Butter Pecan Spiced Cookies

DAY 6: Butter Pecan Pumpkin Spice Cookies

These cookies look similar to Pecan Sandies, but are soft and chewy and have warm fall spices baked into the cookies. They do not actually contain pumpkin, just “pumpkin spice”. This recipe comes from Averie Cooks.

If I am totally honest, I prefer the plain Pecan Sandies and their crumbly shortbread texture, but some of my family prefers this version.

RECIPE:

Butter Pecan Spiced Cookies

Butter Pecan Pumpkin Spice Cookies
—————–(from Averie Cooks)

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 Tbs vanilla extract
2 Tbs cream or milk
2 cups flour
1 Tbs pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups chopped raw pecans
About ½ cup pecans halves

Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, sugars, egg, vanilla, and beat until well mixed. Mix in the cream.

Stir together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Add to mixing bowl and beat on low speed until just combined. Mix in chopped pecans.

Use a medium cookie scoop or tablespoons to drop rounded dough balls onto baking sheets. If desired, press a pecan half into the top of each dough ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate dough balls for at least 1 hour before baking.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Bake cookies for about 8 minutes, until edges just begin to set; don’t overbake. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for about 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack.

Makes 2-3 dozen cookies.

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

DAY 5: Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Balls of peanut butter cookie dough baked in a mini muffin pan and then squished by a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Definitely a kid favorite! Both to make and to eat.

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies 2

RECIPE:

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups flour
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 pkg (12 oz) Reese’s Miniature Peanut Butter Cups, unwrapped **

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a mini muffin pan (or spray with non-stick baking spray).

In a mixing bowl, beat together butter, sugar and brown sugar. Beat in peanut butter, egg and vanilla until light and fluffy.

Stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Add to mixing bowl and beat until well mixed.

Roll dough into 1” balls and place in greased muffin pan. Bake for 8-9 minutes, or until dough puffs and just barely begins to brown on the bottom.

Remove pan from the oven and immediately press a Peanut Butter Cup into the center of each cookie, pressing down until top of peanut butter cup is level with the top of the cookie. Cool completely in the pan and then remove to a wire rack. To remove cookies, hold the cookie by the top edge and twist gently.

Makes about 32 cookies.

**NOTE: A 12 oz package of peanut butter cups usually has 40 candy pieces. The recipe makes about 32 cookies, so you may have a few extra.

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Chewy Molasses Crinkles

Molasses Crinkles

DAY 4: Chewy Molasses Crinkles

These are a soft and chewy molasses cookie, similar in taste to gingerbread, but without the work of rolling and cutting dough.

I love the way the house smells while these are baking! Better than a scented candle any day.

RECIPE:

Molasses Crinkles

Chewy Molasses Crinkles

¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
¼ cup molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 ½ cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground allspice
½ teaspoon salt

Cinnamon Sugar: ½ cup sugar + 2 tsp cinnamon
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and brown sugar.  Add egg and egg yolk and beat until light and fluffy.  Beat in the molasses and vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl and beat until mixed.

Cover and chill dough for one hour. In a small bowl, stir together the ½ cup sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Roll the chilled dough into 1” balls and then roll the balls in the Cinnamon Sugar mixture. Place dough onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9–10 minutes.  Do not overbake, or they will no longer be chewy. Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Makes 3 dozen

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