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Brownies with Peppermint Bark

Ramona King

Brownies with Peppermint Bark

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25 holiday-ready recipes for Southern cookies, brownies, pies and more

In my household, we're not much for baking (hey, there's nothing wrong with preferring a good steak!), but there is just something about the holidays. When December rolls around, I cannot stay out of the kitchen and I really cannot stop eating cookies. 

The holidays are almost synonymous with cookies, pies, cakes and sweet breads. Their scents alone are worth whipping up a batch of baked goods just have have your home filled with whiffs of cinnamon, brown sugar and butter. 

There is absolutely no shortage of dessert options when it comes to this time of year. You can make anything you heart desires — the more carbs the better. This baking guide rounds up a few holiday classics as well as some new recipes that are sure to be a hit among your family this year and next.

Cookies
Peppermint Brownies

These fudgy brownies are wonderful on their own, but the addition of crisp peppermint bark makes for a delightful holiday treat. Make sure to spring for the good white chocolate for your topping — it really makes a difference here and shows your family and friends how much you care about their quality sugar intake.
Get the recipeVirginia Willis' Chocolate Snowcap Cookies
With the perfect double whammy of cocoa and bittersweet chocolate, these cookies, which come to us courtesy of Virginia Willis, are a chocolate lover's dream. One tip for a perfect bake? Pop them in the oven immediately after rolling in powdered sugar; if they sit, the sugar absorbs into the dough and the rich chocolaty cookies lose their snowcapped look. (They'll still taste great, though!)
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Pecan Sandies
Every year after Thanksgiving I have at least two big bags of pecans left over from all of my turkey day pies. Making cookies with all of these leftovers is the perfect way to put them to good use, especially when it's an extra-special twist on a sandie. Yep, while the traditional recipe offers a melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookie dotted with pecan pieces, this recipe takes those pecans and candies them for a deliciously sweet and crisp result. You will have extra candied pecans, but we're pretty sure you can figure out what to do with them.
Get the recipe Classic Shortbread Cookies
The absolute perfect combination of butter and sugar, shortbread is best served with a cup of tea, coffee or really anytime you need a quick, sweet pick-me-up. And we've made these shortbread cookies even better by eliminating as much liquid — and therefore gluten — in the dough as possible, resulting in an ultra tender, crumbly cookie. Coarse sugar adds a final punch of sweetness and an extra crunchy texture on top, but if you can't find it, you can certainly sprinkle your cookies with just a touch more granulated sugar. 
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Foolproof Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies
A favorite from our Saving Southern Recipes project, this recipe has been around for over 100 years, so you know it's good. These thin, crisp, slightly-sweet sugar cookies are perfect for a holiday cookie platter, and for holiday decorating with kids. You (or your toddlers) can mix and mush the dough up any which way and they'll still come out tender, crisp and golden brown. And while we don't typically decorate them, these cookies will also take well to icing and other decorations if that's what your Santa prefers.
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Want more? Try these five favorites:
Butter Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing
Virginia Willis' Spicy Golden Gingersnaps
Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cookies
Light and Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Bourbon Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

Breads and Cakes
Holiday Gingerbread
Fewer confections scream holidays like traditional gingerbread. This European-inspired version is sweeter and denser than its American cousin. Make one loaf for yourself and give the second as a holiday gift — your friends will be very pleased.
Get the recipe 

Bread Pudding With Praline Sauce
This family recipe was served at Village Cafe from the day it opened in 1990 until it closed. "It's still the most popular dessert we sell, " owner Tom Shaver said. "It's certainly a comfort food, but you're not going to find it on other restaurant menus. It's more like what you're going to get at Grandma's house." 
Get the recipe Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing
In my family, cinnamon rolls are a Christmas morning treat baked fresh by my mom and this ooey gooey treat will give her recipe a run for its money. Packing in everything you're looking for — brown sugar, lots of butter, cream cheese icing — our cinnamon rolls are still relatively easy to make. Just be sure to allow the dough enough time to proof so the yeast can work its magic. To speed up the process, place a kitchen towel under the bowl of dough and place it on top of a heated oven or a heating pad.
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Cranberry Upside Down Cake
Perfect for any holiday dinner or party, this brightly colored cake has a gooey topping that will have you scraping the skillet for the leftover sticky-sweetness. Best served warm, this recipe can also be prepared in a 9-inch cake pan instead of a skillet. It is delicious all by itself, but a dollop of fresh whipped cream never hurt anybody.
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Or try one of these four recipes: 
Cast Iron Pound Cake
Cinnamon Swirl King Cake
Pumpkin Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Red Velvet Cake

Pies
Upside-Down Apple Pecan Pie
This clever recipe comes courtesy of Southern Kitchen reader Joann Conway, who won our holiday pie recipe contest in 2017. Conway said she was first inspired to make the pie while traveling and picking up a free booklet containing a similar recipe. The original recipe, by Elizabeth Deer, was a winner of the North Carolina Consumer Apple Recipe contest in 2004. Conway, however, has upped the molasses flavor by using all brown sugar and increased the sticky-sweet sauce by adding more butter to the base. Home-mixed apple pie spice also helped to build flavor and a lighter touch with the pecans makes for a more elegant presentation.
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Chocolate Pecan Pie
Or if you'd prefer your pecans sans apples, try this chocolate-filled pie. Known in some circles as a "Derby pie," this is basically a pecan pie studded with chocolate chips. For that extra Kentucky kick, add 2 tablespoons of bourbon to the filling as the syrups are heating.
Get the recipe Butternut Squash Pie with Pecan Crust
If you are looking for a subtle change in the traditional holiday pumpkin pie then this butternut squash pie is just for you. The simple gluten-free pecan crust comes together in minutes and adds texture to the sweet custard filling. This recipe can be ahead of time, and you can easily jazz it up with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and sprinkle of cinnamon. 
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Even more holiday pie recipes, right this way: 
Campfire Peach Cobbler
Quick Apple Hand Pies
Sweet Potato Cobbler
Sweet Potato Pie with Marshmallows and Pecan Streusel

Photo (snowcap cookies): Virginia Willis
Photos (shortbread cookies, gingerbread, cinnamon rolls): Ramona King
Photo (apple pie): Maura Friedman
Photo (squash pie): Catherine Baker


Author image

Ryan Hughley is an associate editor at Southern Kitchen. Though originally from Los Angeles, she has lived in Atlanta since early 2017 and cannot imagine calling any other city home (except maybe New Orleans). Before joining Southern Kitchen's staff, Ryan worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on public policy issues. When she's not at work, she enjoys hunting down the best Mexican food in the city and drinking whiskey, obviously. 

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