Last minute Christmas confections

Cookies and treats that Santa and your family might enjoy

Sarah Henning's Christmas cookies.

Sarah Henning's Christmas cookies.

Putting out milk and cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve is almost as old a tradition as the bearded jolly man himself.

That said, if you’ve been too focused on shopping to figure out a plan for fueling St. Nick’s journey round-the-world, then here’s our present to you: last-minute recipes for Christmas Eve goodies.

They’re relatively easy, enormously festive and pretty darn tasty — perfect to set out for Kris Kringle or, ahem, enjoy yourself.

Brownie Christmas Trees

Brownie Ingredients:

1 (19.8 to 21.5-ounce) package plain brownie mix

1/2 cup butter, melted

Frosting Ingredients:

3 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 to 4 tablespoons milk

3 to 4 drops green food color

Decoration Ingredients:

Edible glitter and/or dragees, if desired

28 (1 to 1/2-inch) plain pretzel nuggets

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare brownie mix as directed on package except substitute 1/2 cup melted butter for oil. Line 9-by-13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, extending foil 2 inches over short ends. Grease foil; spread batter over foil. Bake for 30 to 33 minutes or until edges begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely.

Meanwhile, combine powdered sugar, 1/2 cup softened butter, vanilla and enough milk for desired spreading consistency in small mixer bowl. Stir in enough food color for desired color.

To remove brownie from pan, invert pan onto cutting surface; carefully remove foil. Frost cooled brownie. Cut long side into four (3-inch) rows. Cut each row into seven triangles. (The base of each brownie tree should be about 1 3/4 inches.) Decorate with glitter and dragees as desired. For each tree attach pretzel, using small amount of frosting, into 1 3/4-inch side to resemble tree trunk.

— Recipe from

Holi-date Nut Cookies

1 pound pitted dates (chopped)

8 ounces candied fruit like pineapple or cranberries (chopped)

2 ounces crystallized ginger (chopped)

1 1/2 cups macadamia nuts (coarsely chopped)

2 cups slivered almonds (lightly toasted)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon (ground)

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 sticks butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment. Combine dates, candied fruit, crystallized ginger and nuts in bowl. Add 1/2 cup flour and mix to separate pieces. Combine remaining 2 cups flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in small bowl. Beat butter in large bowl until light. Gradually add sugar, beating until fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Fold dry ingredients into butter mixture. Mix in fruits and nuts.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Bake until cookies are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheets. Transfer to rack and cool. (Can be prepared 1 week ahead. Store in airtight container.)

— Recipe from

Cinnamon Hazelnut Cookies

8 ounces butter, very soft

3/4 cup plus two tablespoons sugar

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Scant 1/2 cup whole hazelnuts

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Beat butter until it is pale. Gradually add sugar and beat until smooth, 5-7 minutes. Stir in flour. Briefly knead batter until soft dough forms. Roll into small balls; place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten each ball on one side so that half of the cookie is flattened and the other is not. Press a hazelnut into middle of the higher side. Bake 20 minutes. Cool completely before serving.

— Recipe from

Buttery Crystallized Ginger Shortbread Hearts

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup candied ginger root, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl cream together (with an electric mixer) the butter, brown sugar, and ground ginger until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the flour and sea salt. Blend the dough until it is just combined. Mix in the vanilla extract and chopped crystallized ginger.

Divide the dough in equal parts, roll out each half 1/4-inch thick between sheets of wax paper. Freeze the dough on baking sheets for 10 to 15 minutes, or until it is very firm.

Working with half the dough at a time, remove the top sheets of wax paper and cut out cookies with a 2 1/4-inch heart-shaped cutter.

Please note: The dough should be chilled enough that the cookies retain their shape.

Arrange the cookies 2 inches apart on large baking sheets. Place baking sheet in the middle of the oven, and bake for 20 minutes, or until they are pale golden, and transfer them to a cooling rack. Let the cookies cool completely and decorate them as you wish.

— Recipe from

Almond-glazed sugar cookies


1 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt


1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon almond extract

4 to 5 teaspoons water

Sliced almonds

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine all cookie ingredients in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten balls to 1/4-inch thick with bottom of buttered glass dipped in sugar. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until edges are very lightly browned. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets. Cool completely.

Combine all glaze ingredients except almonds in small bowl with wire whisk. Decorate cooled cookies with glaze and sliced almonds as desired.

— Recipe from

Buttery Cut-Out Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups all-purpose flour

Combine all cookie ingredients except flour in large mixer bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy (3 to 4 minutes). Reduce speed to low; add flour. Beat until well mixed (2 to 3 minutes).

Divide dough in half; wrap in each half in plastic food wrap. Refrigerate until firm (at least 2 hours).

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface, one-half at a time (keeping remaining dough refrigerated), to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut with 2 1/2-inch cookie cutters. Place 1 inch apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until edges are very lightly browned.

— Recipe from

Choco-Pecan Pie Bars

1-1/2 cups organic all-purpose flour

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup (1 stick) organic unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

3 large eggs, well beaten

1/2 cup agave nectar

3/4 cup sucanat

2 tablespoons organic unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

1-1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1-3/4 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toast the chopped pecans for 5 minutes or so on a cookie sheet. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan. Using your fingertips or a pair of forks, blend the flour, 1/2 cup chopped pecans, butter and brown sugar together until crumbly. Press evenly into the baking pan and bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly brown. Cool completely.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Beat together the eggs, sucanat, agave, butter and vanilla. (The sucanat will dissolve during this process.) Mix in the chocolate chips and remaining 1-1/2 cups chopped pecans.

Pour over the baked crust and bake for 35-45 minutes or until set.

Cool the pan on a wire rack. When completely cooled, cut into bars.

— Recipe from


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