Getting through the holidays and actually enjoying them means being prepared, and that mindset doesn’t only extend to getting on top of your holiday shopping. It also means getting into the kitchen and doing a little pre-holiday baking.
Yes, I know it’s early, but there are Christmas trees in the store, someone was playing Holiday music on the radio, and I swear I saw Santa walking out of the Whole Foods just the other day. He was looking on the thin side, so I know he’ll appreciate some holiday baking.
You can get started with your holiday baking months ahead of time if you know what freezes well, and nothing freezes better than holiday bars. The best part of making holiday bars early is you can freeze them and whip them out whenever you need them. That way you’re never caught off guard when you need a treat in a pinch.
Here are a few great bar recipes you can make now, freeze for later, or just eat immediately if you feel inclined.
Raspberry Maple Bars
When you add anything maple to a recipe, you have the perfect Canadian treat. I’ve added maple to muffins, pancakes (obviously), and even bacon, and it’s always a winner. These raspberry maple bars are great because the frozen raspberries are slightly sour and the maple syrup sweetens them right up. These freeze great too, so make a double batch and put them away for the holidays. Photo and recipe from Better Homes and Gardens
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
2/3 cup butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup frozen raspberries
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup raspberry preserves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over edges of pan. Grease foil; set pan aside.
In a medium saucepan cook and stir brown sugar, the 2/3 cup butter, and the 1/2 cup maple syrup over medium heat until butter is melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Stir in eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour, baking powder, and baking soda until combined. Gently stir in raspberries.
Pour batter into the prepared baking pan, spreading evenly. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack.
For frosting, in a medium bowl stir together powdered sugar, the 1/4 cup maple syrup, the 2 tablespoons softened butter, and the milk until smooth. Spread frosting on cooled bars. Spoon raspberry preserves in small mounds on top of frosting. Using a narrow metal spatula or a table knife, swirl slightly to marble. Using the edges of the foil, lift uncut bars from pan. Cut into bars.
Chocolate-coconut holiday bars
I always go to Martha Stewart’s web site every fall and see what she’s up to for the holidays. She always seems to have some of the best ideas, and I’ve noticed she goes heavy on bar recipes. These chocolate-coconut bars remind me a something I’d find on the shelves of a bakery, and they’re great to share with friends or family. Photo and recipe from Martha Stewart.
3 cups finely ground cookies (12 ounces), such as graham crackers or chocolate wafers, or a combination
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup pecan pieces
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly splash a 15-by-10-inch rimmed baking sheet evenly with water, then line with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, stir together cookie crumbs, sugar, and butter until combined. Evenly press onto bottom and up sides of prepared baking sheet. Bake, rotating halfway through, until firm, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; cool, about 20 minutes.
Sprinkle cooled crust evenly with pecans and chocolate. Pour condensed milk over the top, spreading to cover completely (do not let it drip over the edges). Sprinkle with coconut.
Bake until coconut is toasted, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool completely. Trim edges, if desired, and cut into equal-size bars.
Holiday Cheesecake Lemon Bars
Lemon bars are great any time of the year, but they seem to really shine during the holidays. I always choose a lemon bar from a table before I’d pick any other, and this recipe gives you a little bit of cheesecake, a little bit of lemon bar, and a ton of holiday goodness. If you are going to freeze them, don’t sprinkle on icing sugar. You can do that when you defrost them. Photo and recipe from the Kitchen Magpie.
1 cup all purpose flour
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ cup butter or margarine
Cream Cheese Layer:
8 oz package of cream cheese
½ cup sugar
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1⅔ cups granulated sugar
⅔ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
⅔ cup flour
additional confectioners’ sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9 x 9 baking sheet.
Cut out a 9×9 square of parchment paper and lay on top of the greased bottom of the pan. Trust me, you will thank me for this step later.
For the crust, pulse the flour,cornstarch, sugar and butter in a food processor until it’s coarse crumbs.
Press the dough into the greased baking sheet, on top of the parchment paper. Bake the crust for 15 minutes, until very lightly browned.
Leave the oven on.
For the cream cheese layer use a mixer with a paddle to beat the ingredients until light and creamy. Pour onto the hot crust.
For the lemon layer, whisk together the ingredients. Gently pour over the cream cheese layer, trying not to disturb the cream cheese.
Bake for 30-35 minutes the filling should be just set in the centre.
If you used a 9×13 pan, the time will be less, more like 25 minutes.
Cool at room temperature, sprinkle on powdered sugar and then refrigerate.
Slice into squares to serve.
To serve, cut into squares or triangles. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.
Are you ready to bake up some holiday bars? Here are a few things for your kitchen you’ll need to get started.
KitchenAid has everything you need to whip up some holiday bars
Bake and store your bars with this glass baking set
Cool your bars on Wilton metal baking racks
Main image from examiner.com