These holiday cookie recipes will impress your friends – and they’re ridiculously easy to make

Bettyanne's Florentines.
Bettyanne's Florentines.PHOTO: JENNIFER CHASE FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

Even if you bake only for special occasions, this is the time of year you’re most likely to preheat the oven and stir up some doughs. The latest editions to our 13th annual holiday cookie collection are more accessible than ever. By way of introduction, in alphabetical order, they are:

Bettyanne’s Florentines 

Makes 36 to 40 cookies
From Winnipeg, Manitoba, home baker Bettyanne Hershfield.

These buttery-tasting, crispy-crunchy cookies (photo above) couldn’t be easier to make. Some folks coat the florentine bottoms with dark or white chocolate, but we like these just as they are.

You will need a non-stick, 12-well muffin pan, or you can use a regular muffin pan and foil baking cup liners.

Make ahead: Store between layers of parchment or wax paper in an airtight container at room temperature. These freeze well, for up to three months; bring to room temperature before serving.

Ingredients
225g unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup heavy cream
4 1/2 cups skinless, sliced, blanched almonds

Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 deg C.
  2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the sugar and honey; stir until dissolved and smooth. Stir in the heavy cream for a few minutes, forming a light caramel. Turn off the heat. Stir in the almonds until they are all well coated.
  3. Use about a third of the mixture to fill the bottoms of the muffin wells, compacting each portion into a disk. Bake (middle rack) for eight to nine minutes, until bubbling and just golden brown at the edges.
  4. Let cool in the muffin pan for seven to 10 minutes, then use a small offset spatula or table knife to release each florentine; some may still be a little flexible. Transfer to a sheet of parchment or wax paper to cool and set completely.
  5. Repeat with the remaining almond mixture. If you are using foil liners, replace with new ones for subsequent batches.

Beer and Pretzel Truffles


PHOTO: DEB LINDSEY FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

Makes 14 to 16 pieces
Adapted from Baker’s Royale: 75 Twists On All Your Favorite Sweets.

The ganache for chocolate truffles is typically made with heavy cream, but beer is used here instead – adding a rich, deep flavour.

Make ahead: The truffle mixture needs to be refrigerated for two to three hours, so it sets up firmly.

Ingredients
225g bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup stout
55g salted pretzels

Steps

  1. Place the chopped chocolate in a large shallow heatproof bowl. Pour the stout into a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook for five to seven minutes, or until it has reduced by half. Pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for two minutes, then gently stir until smooth. Cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for two to three hours, until set.
  2. Seal the pretzels in a zip-top bag. Crush them to the consistency of coarse crumbs.
  3. Line a quarter baking sheet (33x23cm) with parchment paper.
  4. Use a melon baller to scoop out 3cm-wide balls of the truffle mixture (14 to 16), then coat each one with the crushed pretzels, arranging the truffles on the small baking sheet. If the truffle mixture becomes soft as you work, pop it back in the refrigerator until it is well chilled again.
  5. Cover and refrigerate the truffles to firm them up; for best flavour, let the truffles sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.

Biscochitos


PHOTO: DEB LINDSEY FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

Makes 60 to 72 cookies
From the December 2001 issue of Martha Stewart Living.

These not-too-sweet, anise-flavored Mexican treats happen to be New Mexico’s official state cookie. Lard makes for an especially crisp and light texture, but vegetable shortening can be used instead.

You’ll need one or two 5cm cookie cutters, preferably stars and half moons. You may get an even greater yield depending on which shapes you use.

Make ahead: The dough needs to be refrigerated for at least an hour, and up to one day in advance. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week, or frozen for up to one month. You may have cinnamon sugar left over; it’s not tough to find ways to use that up.

Ingredients
1 1/4 cups lard, at room temperature (may substitute vegetable shortening)
1 cup sugar, plus 3/4 cup for sprinkling
1 large egg
2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur such as Grand Marnier or Triple Sec
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 navel orange
3 cups flour, plus more for the work surface
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 to 4 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons anise seed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Steps

  1. Combine the lard and cup of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or use a handheld electric mixer; beat on medium-high speed for about three minutes, until lightened. Add the egg, liqueur, vanilla extract and zest; beat on medium speed until well incorporated. Stop to scrape down the bowl.
  2. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder onto a sheet of parchment or wax paper. On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to the bowl, then just enough of the water to form a dough. Add the anise seed and beat (low speed) just until well distributed.
  3. Divide the dough into two equal 2.5cm-thick disks. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, and up to one day.
  4. Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 175 deg C. Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
  5. Lightly flour a work surface. Unwrap and roll out one disk of dough to a thickness of 6mm. Use the cookie cutters to cut out shapes, transferring the cookies to the baking sheets and spacing them about 2.5cm apart. If the dough is still fairly chilled/firm, it can be rerolled a few times; otherwise, gather together and refrigerate for 15 minutes before rerolling scraps.
  6. Stir together the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon in a bowl. Sprinkle some of the cinnamon mixture over each cookie cutout.
  7. Bake (upper and lower racks) for 10 to 12 minutes, until just set and lightly golden, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before serving or storing. Repeat with the remaining disk of dough.

Brown Butter Blondies


PHOTO: GORAN KOSANOVIC FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

Makes 12 pieces
Adapted from a recipe at SeriousEats.com.

Here, brown butter boosts the blondies’ caramel flavour.

To decorate these for the holidays, you could press red and green or blue and white M&Ms into the dough before baking.

Make ahead: The blondies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days; to freeze them for up to three months, wrap individually in plastic wrap, then stash in a large, freezer-safe zip-top bag.

Ingredients
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 175 deg C. Use a little butter to grease a 20cm square baking pan.
  2. Melt the eight tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. It will foam; continue to cook until the melted liquid smells nutty and turns brown. Watch closely to avoid burning or scorching, and reduce the heat as needed. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a heatproof bowl; let cool.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. Add the brown sugar to the cooled brown butter, whisking until smooth, then add the egg and vanilla extract. Whisk until well incorporated. Stir in the flour mixture to form a smooth, soft dough. Transfer to the baking pan and smooth into an even layer. Bake (middle rack) for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  5. Cool for 15 minutes before cutting into 12 equal pieces.

Cardamom and Currant Snickerdoodle Skillet Cookie


PHOTO: JENNIFER CHASE FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

Makes 8 to 10 servings
Adapted from a holiday recipe at TheFeedFeed.com.

This recipe combines the snickerdoodle spice so many people love with the ease of a skillet cookie.

Make ahead: Wedges of this skillet cookie should be cut as soon as you can, rather than storing the uncut slab from the skillet.

Ingredients
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (a scant 1/2 cup) dried currants

Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 175 deg C.
  2. Whisk together 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar, all the cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of the cardamom in a medium bowl. Sprinkle half this mixture in a 20cm cast-iron skillet.
  3. Combine the butter, the remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and the brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or use a handheld electric mixer. Beat on medium-low speed until well incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla extract. Stop to scrape down the bowl.
  4. Add the flour, cream of tartar, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of cardamom, the baking soda and salt; beat on medium speed to form a dough that gathers together. Reduce the speed to low; add the currants and beat until just evenly distributed.
  5. Gently press the dough into the skillet in an even layer, trying to keep that bottom coating of spiced sugar in place. Sprinkle the remaining spiced sugar mixture evenly over the top. Bake (middle rack) for about 40 minutes; if it seems like it’s browning too quickly, lay a large piece of aluminum foil over the top.
  6. Let cool in the pan (where it will continue to bake a little) for at least 15 minutes before cutting into wedges.

Chestnut Cookies With Pomegranate Glaze


PHOTO: JENNIFER CHASE FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

Makes 16 to 18 servings
Based on a recipe from the Little Plantation blog, in collaboration with TwiggStudios.com.

The deep, seasonal goodness of chestnut plus spelt flour make this vegan cookie especially rich-tasting. The glaze adds a nice sweet-tart aspect to every bite.

You’ll need a 7.5cm, or slightly larger, round cookie cutter.

Freeze-dried raspberries are available in the dry-goods section of grocery store produce departments.

Make ahead: The chestnuts can be roasted several days in advance. The decorated cookies can be stored between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container for up to 10 days. You may have glaze left over, which can be used on banana bread or even pancakes.

Ingredients
For the cookies
1 cup (about 85g) vacuum-packed peeled chestnuts
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttery vegan spread, such as Earth Balance
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
2 1/2 cups spelt flour, plus more for the work surface
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice

For the glaze and toppings
About 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, or more as needed
2 tablespoons pomegranate juice, or more as needed
Freeze-dried raspberries, finely chopped (optional; see headnote)
Handful pomegranate seeds (arils; optional)

Steps

  1. For the cookies: Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 220 deg C. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
  2. Arrange the chestnuts on a baking sheet and roast (middle rack) for about 10 minutes, or just until fragrant and lightly browned, being careful not to burn them. Let cool, then crumble or chop them. Reserve a few tablespoons for the topping; see below.
  3. Combine the butter substitute, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer, or use a handheld electric mixer; beat for about five minutes, until creamy. Reduce the speed to low, then add the spelt flour, chestnut pieces, cinnamon and allspice, beating until just incorporated.
  4. Lightly flour a work surface with more spelt flour. Transfer the dough there and roll it out to an even 6mm thickness. Use the cookie cutter to cut out as many rounds of dough as you can, then reroll and cut more, spacing them on the baking sheets at least 2.5cm apart. Bake (upper and lower racks) for 10 to 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through. The edges of the cookies should be just starting to brown. Transfer the cookies to wire racks (with wax paper or parchment paper under them) to cool completely.
  5. Meanwhile, make the glaze: Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and pomegranate juice in a deep medium-size bowl until smooth, adjusting those amounts as needed to yield a fairly thick and dark pink glaze.
  6. Dip one half of each cookie into the glaze, letting the excess drip off. Return to the wire rack; immediately sprinkle the glaze with the bits of freeze-dried raspberries, if using, and the reserved crumbled/chopped chestnuts or some pomegranate seeds, if desired. Let set before serving or storing.

Cranberry Divinity


PHOTO: DEB LINDSEY FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

Makes 24 to 30 pieces
Adapted from Betty Crocker Lost Recipes: Beloved Vintage Recipes For Today’s Kitchen.

This creamy sweet confection first appeared in the 1950 edition of Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book.

Chopped pecans are typically mixed in, but we’ve used dried cranberries instead for a festive Christmas touch.

You’ll need an instant-read or candy thermometer.

Make ahead: The divinity can be stored between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container at room temperature for a week or two; it will become chewier over time.

Ingredients
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup dried cranberries, chopped

Steps

  1. Line two baking sheets with wax paper.
  2. Beat the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer (paddle attachment) or use a handheld electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form.
  3. Combine the water, corn syrup, sugar and salt, if using, in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Cook, without stirring, for eight to 10 minutes or until the temperature of the mixture registers 120 deg C on an instant-read thermometer.
  4. While the egg whites are being beaten on high speed, gradually add the syrup mixture. Beat for nine or 10 minutes, or until stiff peaks form. The surface of the meringue mixture will turn from glossy to textured.
  5. Use a spatula to fold in the vanilla extract and dried cranberries by hand, then quickly create 24 to 30 rounded teaspoonfuls on the baking sheets. Let stand for about 30 minutes, or until completely set, before serving or storing.

Ginger Ginger Cookies


PHOTO: JENNIFER CHASE FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

Makes 24 cookies
Adapted from Slice And Bake Cookies: Fast Recipes From Your Refrigerator Or Freezer.

These slice-and-bake cookies are crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. They have the added zip of crystallized ginger.

We found that chilling a wrapped log of dough seated inside a cardboard tube (from a paper towel roll) that has been split open end-to-end will ensure the logs keep their rounded shape.

Make ahead: The logs of dough need to be refrigerated for three hours, or up to overnight. The logs also can be frozen for up to three months; defrost frozen logs for three hours in the refrigerator, or overnight. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days.

Ingredients
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup crystallised ginger, coarsely chopped

Steps

  1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg in a medium bowl.
  2. Combine the oil, molasses, brown sugar and egg in the bowl of a stand mixer, or use a handheld electric mixer; beat for about 20 seconds on medium speed until smooth. Reduce the speed to low; add the flour mixture, beating just long enough to form a dough with no trace of dry ingredients.
  3. Divide the dough in half, and place each portion on a large piece of plastic wrap. Shape each one into a 30cm log, then sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar over each one, rolling it back and forth until evenly coated. Next, use half the chopped crystallised ginger to sprinkle over the logs; roll them back and forth to press in and coat evenly. Wrap in plastic wrap and seat each log inside one of the split cardboard tubes. Refrigerate for three hours, or up to overnight.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 175 deg C. Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
  5. Unwrap the logs. Cut each one into 12 equal slices, spacing them on the baking sheets at least 2.5cm apart. Sprinkle them with the remaining granulated sugar and the remaining chopped crystallised ginger. Bake (middle rack) one sheet at a time, for 10 minutes, until they flatten a bit and cracks form on the tops. Let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Hazelnut and Caramel Squares


PHOTO: JENNIFER CHASE FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

Makes 25 cookies
Adapted from The Artful Baker: Extraordinary Desserts From An Obsessive Home Baker.

Smart idea here: By baking cut and topped squares of dough, you get cookies that have better coverage, with less crumbling. The nut topping caramelises while it’s in the oven.
If you can’t find whole hazelnuts that are skinned, it’s pretty easy to do it yourself. See the note below.

Make ahead: The dough needs to be frozen for 30 to 40 minutes. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days.

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups whole skinned hazelnuts (see note below)
1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel or flaky sea salt, such as Maldon brand

Steps

  1. Line a 20cm square pan with parchment paper, with some overhang. Crumple the paper a few times so it becomes soft enough to fit into the corners.
  2. Combine one cup of the hazelnuts, all the flour and six tablespoons of the sugar in a food processor; process for about two minutes, or until finely ground. Add the butter; process for about one minute, or just until a ball of dough forms. Press the dough evenly and smoothly into the lined pan.
  3. Coarsely chop the remaining 1 1/2 cups of hazelnuts, aiming for mostly halves and leaving some whole.
  4. Combine the remaining sugar and the heavy cream in a small deep saucepan over medium-high heat; cook, stirring for at least three minutes or until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat; add the coarsely chopped nuts, then spoon the mixture evenly over the dough in the pan, pressing them in gently. Sprinkle the salt over the surface. Freeze the dough, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 175 deg C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
  6. Lift the frozen dough out of its pan; cut it into five equal strips in each direction to create 25 squares. Arrange as many as will fit on the baking sheet, with at least 2.5cm between them. Return the remaining squares to the refrigerator.
  7. Bake (middle rack) for about 30 minutes, or until the tops are caramelised and the hazelnuts are golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before serving or storing. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Note: To skin hazelnuts, bring a few inches of water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add about 1 teaspoon of baking soda and then the hazelnuts. Boil for several minutes, until the water turns dark brown and the skins begin to easily peel off the nuts. (You can test one by removing it from the pot, running it under cool water and seeing how well the skin slips off.) Drain the nuts from the water.


Lemon Ricotta Buttercream Sandwich Cookies
 


PHOTO: JENNIFER CHASE FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

Makes 30 sandwich cookies
Adapted from MasterChef Junior Cookbook: Bold Recipes And Essential Techniques To Inspire Young Cooks.

The best of sweet and tart flavours work together here, in the glaze on top and the whipped filling sandwiched between tender, lemon-infused cookies.

Make ahead: The sandwich cookies can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to three days; for longer-term storage, we recommend keeping the single cookies (half of them with glazed tops) stored separately at room temperature for up to 10 days, and refrigerating the ricotta buttercream filling for up to one week; assemble just before serving.

Ingredients
For the cookies

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon finely grated zest plus 3 tablespoons juice (from 1 lemon)

For the filling
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons heavy cream
200g whole-milk ricotta cheese
Scrapings of 1/2 vanilla bean

For the glaze
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated zest plus 3 tablespoons juice (from 1 lemon)

Steps

  1. For the cookies: Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 205 deg C. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Combine the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, or use a handheld electric mixer; beat on medium-high speed for about three minutes, until lightened. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the lemon zest and juice, beating to incorporate. Stop to scrape down the bowl.
  3. On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture until just incorporated. Transfer the dough to a large piping bag fitted with a 1M open star tip; alternatively, fill a 3.8-litre zip-top bag with the dough and cut off one bottom corner. Pipe a dozen 5cm rounds on each baking sheet, and the remaining six rounds on the third baking sheet, spacing the rounds at least 5cm apart (these cookies will spread). Bake (upper and lower racks) for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through. The cookies will be pale and barely golden at the edges. Repeat with the remaining dough to create a total of 60 cookies.
  4. For the filling: Combine the butter and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a balloon-whisk attachment, or use a handheld electric mixer; beat on medium-high speed until creamy. Stop to scrape down the bowl. Add the heavy cream, ricotta and vanilla bean scrapings, then beat on low speed until well incorporated.
  5. For the glaze: Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, lemon zest and juice in a medium bowl, until smooth.
  6. When ready to assemble, invert half the cookies. Spread a heaping tablespoon of the filling on each one. Top with the remaining cookies. Use a pastry brush or your clean finger to coat the top of each sandwich cookie with the glaze. Wait for it to set before serving or storing.

Neapolitan Nice Crispy Bars


PHOTO: DEB LINDSEY FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

Makes 12 to 16 bars
Based on a recipe from Yum Universe Pantry to Plate: Improvise Meals You Love – From What You Have/Plant-Packed, Gluten-Free, Your Way! by Heather Crosby.

Just a few store-bought ingredients upgrade no-bake, crisped rice bars into tri-color treats.

You’ll need an 20-by-10cm or 23-by-13cm loaf pan, preferably with square corners.

Make ahead: The slab of bars needs to be refrigerated for one hour before cutting. The bars can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Freeze-dried strawberries can be found in the dry-goods section of grocery store produce departments.

Ingredients
3 cups gluten-free crisped rice cereal or brown rice cereal
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup freeze-dried strawberries, crushed to a powder (see headnote)
Cooking oil spray or liquefied coconut oil
3/4 cup corn syrup, such as Karo brand (may substitute brown rice syrup)
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Sea salt
2 tablespoons strawberry jam

Steps

  1. Place 1 cup of the cereal in each of two medium bowls. Add the chocolate chips to one bowl and the strawberry powder to the other bowl. Use cooking oil spray or the coconut oil to grease the loaf pan; alternatively you could line it with parchment paper.
  2. For the bottom layer: Combine 1/4 cup of the corn syrup, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of the honey, 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla extract and a pinch of the salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once it comes to a full boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and stir for three minutes, or until thickened. Turn off the heat; stir in the chocolate chip-cereal mixture, until well blended, then transfer it to the loaf pan and spread it to cover the bottom evenly. Cool for two minutes, then use your lightly greased hands to press it into a firm, even layer.
  3. For the middle layer: Rinse and dry the saucepan. Combine 1/4 cup of the corn syrup, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of the honey and 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla extract in the saucepan. Add a pinch of salt and the strawberry jam. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and stir for three minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the strawberry-flavored cereal mixture until well incorporated (and pinkish). Spread this evenly to cover the previous layer. Cool for a few minutes, then use your lightly greased hands to press into a firm even layer atop the chocolate layer.
  4. For the top layer: Rinse and dry the saucepan. Combine the remaining corn syrup, honey and vanilla extract and a pinch of the salt in the pan, over medium-high heat. Once it comes to a full boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and stir for three minutes, or until well thickened. Turn off the heat and stir in the remaining cup of cereal (without flavoring). Cool for two minutes, then use your lightly greased hands to press the mixture into a firm, even layer atop the strawberry layer.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or until quite firm. Cut into 12 to 16 bars of equal size before serving or storing.

Nutella Stuffed Skillet Cookie


PHOTO: JENNIFER CHASE FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

Makes 10 to 12 servings
Adapted from Cast Iron Gourmet: Amazing Recipes With Less Fuss And Fewer Dishes.

Skillet cookies are popular for a reason – there’s little or no portioning of dough, and the resulting wedges are fun to serve.

We recommend using a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet here, or an oven-proof non-stick skillet. The dough can also be assembled by hand.

If Nutella isn’t your thing, use fudge or caramel instead.

Make ahead: The cookie is best served when barely warm, but once it’s completely cooled, it can be transferred to a plate, covered with aluminum foil and stored at room temperature for a day or two.

Ingredients
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup Nutella or other chocolate-hazelnut spread (see headnote)

Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 150 deg C. Have a 25cm cast-iron skillet at hand.
  2. Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer, or use a handheld electric mixer; beat on medium speed for about five minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract. Reduce the speed to medium-low; add the eggs one at a time, beating until fully incorporated. Stop to scrape down the bowl.
  3. Add the flour, baking soda and salt. Beat on medium-low speed to form a firm dough, then add the chocolate chips and beat on low speed just until evenly distributed.
  4. Press half the cookie dough into the bottom of the skillet. Spread the Nutella evenly over that dough, leaving a 1cm margin around the edge. (This is easy to do with an offset spatula.) Top with the remaining cookie dough, making sure to cover the Nutella completely at the edges – sealing them, if you can.
  5. Bake (middle rack) for about 25 minutes; the edges will be golden brown, and the top will look slightly underbaked, yet it should be fairly firm to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool; the residual heat from the pan should continue to cook the cookie for a bit. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Pecan Sandies


PHOTO: GORAN KOSANOVIC FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

Makes 24 cookies
Adapted from Zingerman’s Bakehouse.

The combination of sweet toasted nuts, butter and sugar is a winner; the variation included below adds smoky bits of bacon. This is an egg-free dough that doesn’t need chilling time.

If you decide to use bacon, be sure to use a good-quality brand, such as Nueske’s or Benton’s.

Make ahead: The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to five days, or frozen for up to one month.

Demerara sugar is a raw, coarse-crystal brown sugar that delivers nice exterior crunch and colour. It is carried in most supermarkets.

Ingredients
1 1/4 cups raw pecan halves
18 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
Sea salt, for sprinkling
Demerara sugar, for sprinkling (see headnote)

Steps

  1. Preheat the oven 160 deg C. Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
  2. Spread the pecans on one of the sheets; toast in the oven (middle rack) for 10 to 12 minutes, checking on them after eight minutes. They should be fragrant and lightly browned. Cool completely, then coarsely chop to pea-size.
  3. Combine the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or use a handheld electric mixer; beat on medium speed for about three minutes, until creamy and lightened. Stop to scrape down the bowl.
  4. Add the water and vanilla extract, beating (low speed) to incorporate, then add the flour and chopped pecans. Beat until evenly incorporated.
  5. Scoop the dough into 28g portions (or use 2 tablespoons’ worth) to roll into 24 equal balls. Arrange them on the baking sheets, pressing each ball slightly with the palm of your hand. Space the balls at least 4cm apart.
  6. Sprinkle each portion with a little of the salt and a liberal amount of demerara sugar. Bake one sheet at a time (middle rack) for 16 to 18 minutes, until light brown on top and golden brown on the bottom. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Variation: Cook three slices of bacon, starting in a cold skillet over medium heat. Drain on paper towels, then chop into 6mm pieces. Add to the dough along with the chopped pecans.


Smoky S’mores Bars


PHOTO: JENNIFER CHASE FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

Makes 24 bars
Adapted from Delightful Desserts: The Secrets To Achieving Incredible Flavour In Your Sweet Treats.

These may evoke campfire memories for you – with easy assembly. The smoky flavour comes from a sprinkling of smoked sea salt.

Make ahead: The slab needs to be refrigerated for one to two hours, until firm, before cutting into bars.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, plus 2 cups broken graham cracker pieces 
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup milk chocolate chips
2 cups heavy cream, heated to just below a full boil
4 cups mini marshmallows
3/4 teaspoon smoked flaked salt, such as Maldon brand

Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 175 deg C. Line a 23-by-33-by-5cm baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
  2. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and kosher salt in a mixing bowl, stirring until evenly coated, then press them evenly into the baking pan. Bake (middle rack) for 15 to 20 minutes, to form a lightly golden crust. Let cool.
  3. Combine the bittersweet and milk chocolate chips in a separate, heatproof mixing bowl. Pour the heated heavy cream over the chocolate chips; let sit for five minutes (so the chocolate melts), then whisk to form a smooth ganache.
  4. Add the mini marshmallows and graham cracker pieces, stirring to coat well. Pour this mixture over the baked crust, then sprinkle the top with the smoked salt. Cover loosely and refrigerate for one to two hours, until firm, before cutting into 24 pieces.

Strawberry Clouds


PHOTO: GORAN KOSANOVIC FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

Makes 35 pieces
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen Everyday: Triumphant And Unfussy New Favorites.

These are called clouds, author Deb Perelman says, because they are not as sweet as meringues and look like pink-tinged clouds at sunset.

In testing, we found that making the clouds small yielded a better result, in cookies that didn’t deflate once cooled.

Freeze-dried strawberries are typically located in the dry-goods section of a grocery store produce department.

Make ahead: The clouds will stay crisp in an airtight container at room temperature for a day or two; they will soften over time.

Ingredients
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons (15g) freeze-dried strawberries, ground to a powder (see headnote)
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Steps

  1. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat the oven to 150 deg C. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
  2. Stir together the sugar, salt and strawberry powder in a small dish.
  3. Beat the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a balloon-whisk attachment, or use a handheld electric mixer on low, then medium-high speed to form soft peaks. Gradually add the strawberry powder mixture, beating until the mixture has stiffened, then add the lemon juice, beating just until incorporated.
  4. Drop 17 teaspoonfuls of the cloud mixture on one baking sheet and 18 on the other, spacing the dollops at least 2.5cm apart. Bake (upper and lower racks) for 22 minutes, then turn off the oven. Let sit in there for 10 minutes, then transfer to the counter top to cool for another 10 minutes before serving or storing.

Toasted Marshmallow Brownie Krinkles


PHOTO: DEB LINDSEY FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

Makes 35 to 42 cookies
Adapted from a Mindy Segal recipe in America The Great Cookbook: The Food We Make For The People We Love From 100 Of Our Finest Chefs And Food Heroes.

As much as we love chocolate crinkle cookies, topping them with marshmallows that get melty and chewy makes these classic treats even better.

Make ahead: The dough needs to be refrigerated for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

Ingredients
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1/2 cup canola or sunflower oil
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
115g unsweetened chocolate, chopped and melted
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
35 to 42 marshmallows (not mini)

Steps

  1. Whisk together the eggs and vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup; whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and both salts in a medium bowl.
  2. Combine the oil and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, or use a handheld electric mixer; beat on medium speed to blend well, then add the egg-vanilla mixture in three additions, and the melted chocolate. Stop to scrape down the bowl.
  3. Add the flour mixture; beat for about 30 seconds on low speed, or just long enough to form a dough that looks like brownie batter. Do not overmix. Gather the dough together, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight.
  4. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 175 deg C. Line a few large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a 950ml zip-top bag.
  5. Working with four or five at a time, drop heaping tablespoonfuls of dough into the bag (or use a #40 disher), then shake gently until thoroughly coated. Shake off any excess sugar, then arrange them on the baking sheets spaced 5cm apart. Press on the tops of each one to form a large thumbprint/indentation, then press a marshmallow into that indentation. Bake (upper and lower racks) for 8 minutes, then rotate the sheets from top to bottom and front to back; bake for four to six minutes, or until the cookies develop cracks (crinkles) and the marshmallow deflates and browns a bit.
  6. Let cool on the baking sheet for two minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before serving or storing. Repeat with the remaining dough and marshmallows.