Blog Brownies and Bars
I think the best holiday gifts are the ones that really come from the heart, and that's why I always try to make at least some of the gifts that I give each year. Of course, baked goods are high on my to-do list. I love to look for new recipes each year and put together an assortment that offers a variety of textures and flavors. I don't have unlimited time to spend in the kitchen, but I can still create an impressive array of handmade goodies by choosing easy, big-batch recipes like bar cookies to complement the more labor-intensive ones.
If you have children or grandchildren, baking holiday treats together is a wonderful activity to get them into the spirit of giving. Easier recipes are a must when kids are involved, too, which makes brownies and bars a perfect choice. They can be frosted, cut, and decorated just like cookies, but more quickly and easily. The small cookie cutters that come with my cookbooks With Mommy's Help and With Grandma's Help are the perfect size for little hands to help cut shapes from soft brownies and bars (and eating the scraps is fun, too). Packed in a pretty tin with some parchment paper (and a bright bow with a metal cookie cutter attached), these make a thoughtful and delicious gift for anyone on your list.
And to dispel any notion that kid-friendly bars can't be sophisticated, here's a terrific recipe adapted from the wonderful Nantucket Open House Cookbook, by Sarah Leah Chase. I omitted the nuts in the original recipe and added a chocolate glaze that gives the bars a more polished look and can be dressed up with candies or icing. I also increased the ingredient amounts to make a large pan. This is my go-to recipe when I want a quick, yet elegant, finger-food type dessert for a crowd or when I want something special to add to a box of homemade goodies. These bars are moist, rich, and keep very well.