(NC) Delicious baked treats and holiday gatherings go hand-in-hand. A cookie exchange – where everyone brings a baked treat to share – can be the perfect way to enjoy a wide variety of homemade treats without having to make them all yourself. It also introduces even the most experienced bakers to great new recipes.
What’s more, baking for a cookie exchange engages everyone from grandmothers to the kids, especially when the roles of chief taste-tester and decorator come up. So this year, why not put a twist on your traditional cookie exchange? Here are just a few new tips to make this holiday event that much sweeter:
• Encourage your family to bake together – Baking for a cookie exchange is an activity you can share and enjoy with the whole family. It’s as simple as booking an hour in your schedule and preparing for the fun. According to the baking experts at Robin Hood, the key to a great family baking activity is choosing a recipe that everyone will enjoy making together.
• Bake something different – Opt to bake a delicious square or another bite-size dessert instead of a cookie. A unique melt-in-your mouth recipe, like Sweet and Salty Chocolate Caramel Squares, is sure to be a new treat that will be an instant crowd-pleaser.
• Get children involved in the preparation – No cookie exchange is complete without decorative boxes to take home everyone’s delicious treats. During the get-together, get the kids to decorate cardboard baker’s boxes. It’s amazing how creative they can get with holiday wrapping paper and ribbon. The best part is that everyone will receive a one-of-a-kind cookie box.
• Capture the memories in a fun way – Kids will love taking photos of all the treats. These can double as holiday greeting cards or better yet, be a perfect scrapbooking activity. Just download or print off the photos and let the children create their very own picture album of the experience.
Here’s a crowd pleaser:
Sweet and Salty Chocolate Caramel Squares
Prep: 20 minutes | Bake: 30 minutes | Makes: 36 squares | Freezing: Excellent
2 cups (500 mL) Robin Hoodall purpose flour
½ tsp (2 mL) baking soda
¾ cup (175 mL) butter, melted
½ cup (125 mL) brown sugar, packed
½ cup (125 mL) granulated sugar
2 tsp (10 mL) pure vanilla extract
10 oz (300 g) chopped swiss milk chocolate, divided
1 can (300 mL) Eagle Branddulce de leche caramel flavoured sauce
1 tsp (5 mL) sea salt, divided
• Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a 9” (23 cm) square baking pan with parchment paper, overlapping the sides for easy removal.
• In a medium bowl, combine flour and baking soda.
• In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars until just combined. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add flour and baking soda and mix on low, until dough is formed. Stir in half of chocolate (150 g).
• Bring caramel flavoured sauce to a boil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Stir constantly, cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
• Divide dough in half.
• Press half into prepared pan. Spread thickened caramel flavoured sauce over dough. Sprinkle with ½ tsp (2 mL) sea salt. Drop remaining dough over caramel flavoured sauce and spread until covered.
• Bake 25-30 minutes or until light golden brown. Melt reserved chocolate (150 g) and pour evenly on top of bars. Sprinkle with remaining ½ tsp (2 mL) sea salt. Let cool. Cut into squares.