Christmas is a time when family and friends get together, share gifts and food with each other, and reflect on the peace and tranquility in our lives (however sparse it may be). We’ve developed a ton of holiday traditions over the years, and I never saw Christmas as a religious holiday (although I do appreciate that it drives Christians to church). Personally, I just enjoy the pretty lights and ugly sweaters.
Winterhaven is Tucson’s premiere Christmas destination, with over 80 percent of the neighborhood participating in lavish, over-the-top decorations. Animatronics and holiday music and movies play while people from all over Southern Arizona gather to drink hot drinks, eat popcorn and churros, and enjoy the spectacle.
If you’re looking for the perfect gift, these traditional holiday treats are the perfect way to do it. Just buy any cheap holiday tins you can find, and fill them with winter sweets everyone dreams of. Click the pictures to read the full recipes, and here’s a quick guide to converting anything to a gluten-free version.
Fudge is the quintessential American holiday treat, and I don’t recall ever going a year without it. Chocolate peanut butter fudge is always a hit, and Martha Stewart’s recipe above is easy enough for even a noob cook to figure out. Carefully measured ingredients and carefully timed cooking are the keys to a successful fudge. Once you get the hang of it, you can try other flavors, like peppermint, egg nog, pumpkin, and more.
Say what you will about gingers, their bread is delicious! Think of it as pumpkin spice bread, because it’s basically all of those ingredients. Whether you’re building people, a house, or an entire village, gingerbread is the Christmas classic that’s sure to delight everyone. A little frosting and some candy is all it takes to awaken the inner artist – you can even build gingerbread boxes to store the rest of your treats.
Soft Sugar Cookies
Sugar cookies are a staple of any Christmas baking list. These basic cookies are molded with cookie cutters to look like trees, stars, and any number of holiday-themed shapes. Add colored frostings and sprinkles so the holiday spirit sparkles in the eyes of everyone who sees them. This particular recipe is for soft sugar cookies (my personal favorite), so feel free to find another (or overbake) to harden.
Thumbprint cookies are extremely diverse, due to the flavor combinations you can achieve with different jam and nut combinations. The cookies themselves aren’t very sweet, and they don’t have to be. They’re just the vessels for the sweet fruits and savory nuts. Thumbprints get their name from the method of creating that thumb-shaped cup at the top made to hold jelly. They’re crumbly and delicious, and you don’t even need deez nutz.
Peanut Butter Blossoms
Peanut butter blossoms are basically peanut butter cookies with Hershey’s Kisses pressed on top before baking. An ex girlfriend and I had an argument one Christmas while I was making these, because I don’t like how many of the recipes say to insert the Kiss after baking. I’ve done it before baking since I was a kid, and baking the chocolate changes the flavor in away that can’t be achieved after. She thought they would melt in the oven and ruin the cookies, but I knew from decades of experience she was wrong. That’s the difference between reading shit online and having actual applied knowledge.
Biscotti was created by the Romans as a way to preserve bread during long marches through unconquered lands. It’s since become synonymous with coffee, making it the perfect complement to any holiday tin. These treats can be flavored in a variety of ways, but I’m including a lemon almond recipe to keep a variety of flavors in the tin. And don’t be intimidated by its association with Starbucks – it’s a surprisingly easy recipe to make.
Fruitcake has a bad rap, and that’s mostly due to the rum soaking and complete density of the cake. You need a workbelt just to lift one. Stollen, on the other hand, takes the best parts of fruitcake and gives us something actually edible. This German staple is updated in the above recipe with the inclusion of marzipan. Feel free to substitute any dried fruits for the raisins, as variety is truly the spice of life.
Mexican Wedding Cakes
Mexican wedding cakes are actually crumbly butter cookies rolled in powdered sugar, and, despite the name, they’re also perfect for Christmas cookie tins. In fact, these cookies have a variety of names, including Polvorones in Mexico. They’re also called Russian Tea Cakes, Viennese Crescents, and even Snowballs. Whatever you know them as, be sure to measure the ingredients right, or they’ll end up flat.
Meringues have a unique texture and taste typically only found on a lemon meringue pie. This version is infused with peppermint and dipped in chocolate to create a flavor that’s the perfect fit for a winter holiday. They even have the signature red and white look of a candy cane, which is what we’ll learn to make next.
Making homemade candy canes is a lot easier than you’d think, and once you get it down, mixing different colors and flavors is natural. Ditch the store-bought versions for these DIY canes that show friends and family you really care. Just cook the ingredients to the hard crack stage then mix on a silicon mat. Be sure you have gloves, because you’ll be working with molten sugar.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Sticky toffee pudding is a sweet cake-like desert made with black treacle, dates, and dark sugar. As you can imagine, it’s quite sticky, especially with the sauce, so you’ll want to make the above recipe in cupcake tins and find condiment cups for the sauce. If you pull it off, recipients will be grateful. And you can always make it for dessert after Christmas dinner for guests that show up (or bring to surprise your host with dessert).
Plum pudding is a dessert you’ve likely sung about in a Christmas carol but never actually tasted. And you may be surprised to learn it’s closer to fruitcake than you’re imagining and contains no plums. The dried raisins, currants, and cherries however, taste better than a fruitcake, especially when topped with a caramel brandy sauce.