chocolate bark

Photo: Andrew Purcell

Crispy Chocolate Bark Recipe
Customize these crunchy chocolate-dipped crackers for every sweet tooth on your holiday list.

Get the recipe: Crispy Chocolate Bark
holiday cookies

Photo: Johnny Miller

Glazed Holiday Cookies
"I've always been better at fixing a meal in a skillet than executing meticulous cookie-decorating techniques," says Ree Drummond, host of the Food Network show The Pioneer Woman. Luckily, Drummond learned a foolproof, nonfussy method from her mom, Gee, who would make these painted sugar cookies for almost any holiday year-round. Rather than frost after baking, Drummond brushes on a colored egg wash before the cookies go in the oven, which creates a stained-glass effect. "The trick is to use really soft bristles, like those on a watercolor paintbrush, so you don't scratch the dough," she says. The result is vibrant, even color that transforms a simple dough into a sophisticated gift.

Get the recipe: Glazed Holiday Cookies
holiday cookies

Photo: Johnny Miller

Chocolate Decadent Bites
These two-bite treats—a cross between a chocolate-ganache truffle and a gooey, fudgy brownie—grew out of Carla Hall's early days as a caterer. "They were easy to make in huge batches, and they looked effortlessly impressive," says Hall, now cohost of the ABC talk show The Chew and author of the new cookbook Cooking with Love. When she stopped catering, Hall continued baking the bites to give to friends. "There's a trail of thoughtfulness that goes into cooking for someone—thinking of them while you pick the recipe, buy the ingredients, select the perfect packaging," she says. "I think people can feel that extra love when they open thegift. And who doesn't like chocolate?"

Get the recipe: Chocolate Decadent Bites
holiday cookies

Photo: Johnny Miller

Dessert Topping Quartet
"Food gifts feel more meaningful to me than most store-bought things," says Barbara Lynch, the chef at five celebrated Boston restaurants, including No. 9 Park. "My favorites pack a double whammy: They encourage people to cook and make them feel like rock stars in the kitchen." These toppings can elevate almost any dessert, from a scoop of ice cream to a slice of pound cake. "I keep the serving suggestions really loose so nobody feels pressured," she says. "Like, the pineapple-vanilla topping pairs really well with snowy days."

Get the recipe: Pineapple Topping with Vanilla and Rosemary

Get the recipe: Salted Caramel Sauce

Get the recipe: Chocolate Sauce

Get the recipe: Candied Praline Pecans
holiday cookies

Photo: Johnny Miller

When a fellow cook introduced Anita Lo to polvorón, a Filipino milk candy, in the 1990s, she was instantly obsessed. "It's everything that everyone adores: malty and nutty, loaded with brown butter, with a melt-in-your-mouth texture," says Lo, chef-owner of Annisa in New York City. Later, during a year she spent traveling around the world, Lo stopped in the Philippines and learned to make the crumbly sweets, adding toasted walnuts to create her own version. (Her wrapping, though, is traditional: colorful waxed paper that's twisted at the ends.) "For me, food gifts tell a story—about a culture or about where you learned to make it or about what you love," Lo says.

Get the recipe: Polvorón
holiday cookies

Photo: Johnny Miller

Bacon and Cheese Quick Bread
You might expect a pastry chef to give sugary confections for the holidays, but Christina Tosi usually opts for savory. "At Christmastime, everyone is surrounded by sweets, so they crave something a little salty," says the chef of Momofuku Milk Bar in New York City. Studded with smoky bacon, caramelized onions, and sharp Gruyère cheese, this quick bread has been Tosi's go-to gift for the past few years. "Sometimes the easiest recipes are the most delicious," she says. "For this, you literally mix wet and dry ingredients together—no kneading or rising involved."

Get the recipe: Bacon and Cheese Quick Bread
holiday cookies

Photo: Johnny Miller

Spicy Pumpkin-Seed Brittle
Food Network Star Alton Brown's pumpkin-seed brittle packs an addictive fiery punch, thanks to a generous pinch of cayenne pepper.

Get the recipe: Spicy Pumpkin-Seed Brittle

Next: 7 holiday desserts that decorate themselves


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