With the holiday season quickly approaching, I’m on that family email chain (you know which one I’m talking about) that’s rounding up my extended group of kin. And the question that sends me into a full-blown panic usually starts with: What are you bringing to the party this year?
Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, or a Secret Santa celebration, the thought of baking a delicious treat seems like an insurmountable challenge. But the holiday season is a great time to try your hand at baking. There is always a party or family gathering that could use more baked goods. By easing yourself into the baking game, you may find that it’s something you enjoy, and you won’t fear that “what are you bringing to the party?” question next year.
While I know I won’t win the final rounds of America’s Next Great Baker series, I still want to impress those who know me best: my family and friends. If you’re feeling the same way about your potluck proposal, hoping to pass a basic dessert dish that packs all the holiday feels, then you’re in the right place. Here, we’ve rounded up some of the easiest and tastiest beginning-baker recipes that will surely be the centerpiece of your next party or dinner gathering.
Good, old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies
Nothing says comfort like a warm chocolate chip cookie and the Toll House recipe is unequivocally one of the best ones to try. Almost fail-proof, these cookies are a staple to have on hand for a holiday party or any basic get-together. Easy to make in large batches, chocolate chip cookie dough can be frozen and used when needed. So whether you have an unexpected visitor dropping by or you need a quick dessert to pass at a party, you can throw some dough in the oven and have fresh-baked cookies readily available.
2 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp. of baking soda
1 tsp. of salt
1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, softened
¾ cup of granulated sugar
¾ cup of brown sugar, packed-down
1 tsp. of vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups of Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (mini or regular size)
- Preheat the oven to 375°F
- Combine: flour, baking soda, and salt in small bowl
- Beat: butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla in a mixing bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, making sure to beat well after each egg is added.
- Next, add the dry ingredients slowly and then stir in the chocolate chips.
- Roll the dough into balls, either tablespoon size or smaller, and place on ungreased baking sheets or sheets covered in parchment paper.
- Bake: for 9 to 11 minutes until golden brown.
Dough can be stored in the refrigerator for one week or frozen for up to eight weeks.
Irish Guinness Brown Bread
Here’s a simple recipe for a hearty bread that will accompany a soup or stew for dinner just as well as it can carry butter and jam for breakfast. And there’s no yeast involved, so you don’t have to worry about rising the dough — just mix and bake. If you’re headed to a friend’s house as a dinner guest, you’ll earn high praise for showing up with warm bread, and you won’t go wrong by bringing the rest of the Guinness, either. (Recipe from The Food Network)
1 cup of old-fashioned oats (not instant), plus extra for sprinkling
2 ¼ cups of whole wheat flour
¼ cup of all-purpose flour
½ cup of dark brown sugar, lightly packed
2 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 tsp of baking powder
2 tsp of kosher salt
1 (11- to 12-ounce) bottle of Guinness extra stout beer at room temperature
1 cup of buttermilk, shaken
5 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for brushing the pan
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
- Start by preheating the oven to 450°F.
- Next, in a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients: oats, whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the beer, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla — you can use a whisk or a fork to do this.
- Then, make a “well” in the dry ingredients, which is basically a small indent in the flour mixture, and pour the wet ingredients into it.
- Using your fingers, stir the batter from the middle of the bowl to the outside, until everything is mixed well and incorporated. This dough will look more like a loose cake batter than a thick bread dough.
- Next, brush a 9 x 5 x 2 ½-inch loaf pan with melted butter. Pour the batter into the pan and sprinkle the top with oats. Put the bread in the oven, and immediately turn the oven down to 400°F.
- Bake the bread for 45 minutes, until a toothpick or knife comes out clean and without any batter on it.
- Cool the bread and slice and serve with butter.
Fall and apple crisp seem to go hand-in-hand, although this dessert can really be made year-round. Apart from peeling some apples, this recipe is not incredibly time consuming, and the sweet crumbles of the crisp topping mixes with the tartness of the apples for a great flavor combination. This is another great party dessert, because it can be reheated or even baked on site and served with vanilla ice cream. Go the extra mile and add the caramel sauce, too. (Recipe taken from the blog Completely Delicious)
4 apples, peeled and sliced (best apples to use include Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Gala, or Pink Lady)
1/3 cup of light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup of butter (1/2 stick), room temperature
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
Ice cream and caramel sauce (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375°F and spray your 8-inch baking dish with cooking spray, preferably butter. You can also use the end of a stick of butter to lightly smear the baking dish.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, oats, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir to combine. Add the room-temperature butter and using a fork, mix it into the dry ingredients until the combination is crumbly.
- Next, spread the sliced apples into the baking dish and sprinkle the topping evenly over the top.
- Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and the apples are soft. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped topping.
Beginner tip: Don’t have time to make the crumble? Use boxed oatmeal cookie mix instead. Cut apples and mix with a little lemon juice, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and set in the 8-inch baking dish. Dump the cookie mix into a separate bowl and add the butter only, making a quick crumble to place on top of the apples. Bake the crisp according to directions on the cookie box, or until the crumble is golden brown.
Truffles are the kind of dessert you make when you’re ready to show off your baking skills in a nonchalant kind of way. The name says wow, while the recipe couldn’t be easier. And really, you can’t go wrong when you take crushed Oreos and cover them in melted chocolate. With so many ways to decorate them (don’t you love a good theme?), these truffles can even be made into DIY cake pops. (Recipe from Kraft)
36 Oreo cookies, finely crushed and divided
8 ounces (1 package) of cream cheese, softened
4 ounces of semi-sweet melting chocolate (you can also use white chocolate, peanut butter, or dark chocolate wafers, too.)
- Crush the Oreo cookies: you can do this many ways, but the easiest method is to put the Oreo cookies in a gallon bag and use a spoon or mallet to crush the pieces until they are finely crumbled.
- Keep ¼ cup of the cookie crumbs on the side and mix the rest of the crumbs with the cream cheese until combined.
- Shape the mixed cream cheese and Oreo mixture into balls the size of a tablespoon.
- Refrigerate the Oreo balls until chilled, or freeze for up to 10 minutes.
- Next, melt the chocolate on the stove or in the microwave. If on the stove, double boil the chocolate by boiling water slowly in a sauce pan and placing a Pyrex glass bowl over the boiling water. Make sure not to have the heat too high or else the chocolate will burn. Place the chocolate wafers in the bowl until completely melted.
- Taking two forks, place the chilled Oreo ball into the melted chocolate and roll around until covered. Then, take the covered Oreo ball and place it on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Repeat this step until all the Oreo balls are covered in chocolate. Sprinkle the leftover crumble reserves over the chocolate balls for decoration.
- Next, chill the covered truffles in the refrigerator until the chocolate has hardened.
- Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
Easy Sticky Buns
Some beginner bakers may be hesitant to take on sticky buns because they look, well, complicated. All that cinnamon and sugar rolled so perfectly can seem like an intimidating task, but Ina Garten has created a recipe that is easy to recreate. These sticky buns are great served warm on a chilly morning, or they are easy to bring to a bunch celebration. With or without raisins, Ina’s sticky buns will become a classic in your home too. (Recipe from The Food Network)
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) of unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup of light brown sugar, lightly packed
½ cup pecans chopped in large pieces
1 package of frozen puff pastry sheets (2 sheets), defrosted
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup of light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1 cup of raisins (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F and set a 12-cup standard muffin tin on the counter, ready to use (or two 6-cup muffin tins).
- Using an electric mixer or hand-held mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the 12 tablespoons of butter and the 1/3 cup of brown sugar.
- Place 1 tablespoon of the mixture in each of the 12 muffin cups.
- Sprinkle the pecans evenly among the 12 muffin cups on top of the butter and sugar mixture.
- Next, lightly flour a wooden board or surface. Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry, with folds going from left to right.
- Brush the sheet with the melted butter, leaving about a 1-inch border on the puff pastry.
- Sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 cup of brown sugar, 1 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon, and ½ cup of raisins (optional) over the section with the melted butter.
- When the ingredients are spread out on the puff pastry, it’s time to roll. Starting with the end closest to you, roll the pastry up snugly like a jelly roll around the filling, finishing with the seam side down.
- Trim the ends of the roll and discard. Then, slice the roll in 6 equal pieces, each about 1 ½ inches wide. Place each slice, spiral side up, in the 6 muffin tins and then repeat the process with the second sheet of puff pastry.
- Bake for 30 minutes, until the sticky buns are golden to dark brown. While they are baking, spread parchment paper over a cookie sheet.
- Pull the buns out of the oven and let them to cool for 5 minutes only. Then turn the muffin tin upside down over the parchment paper to ease the sticky buns out of the tin (use a spoon if needed). Serve!