Baking up some holiday cheer

Growing up, the baking and decorating loads and loads of Christmas cookies was one of those things that was a very big part of celebrating the holidays in my family. These days, it's not much different, although I think in the last few years, I've mellowed a little bit and stopped making eleventy-zillion different varieties of cookies. Last year I think I made 9, and this year I've whittled it down even further to just 7: wagon wheels, peanut butter balls, snowballs, sugar cookie cut-outs, festive fudge cookies, salted caramel brownie cookies, and muddy buddies. I always like to give a little something homemade to teachers and neighbors and such, and while I feel like this holiday season has been a lot busier than the last few, I couldn't pass up doing some holiday baking over the weekend.

Festive Fudge Cookies - super easy holiday recipe on my blog today

Before I started sewing, baking was my hobby of choice. My mother taught me to bake as a little girl, and it's something I've always enjoyed - in large part due to the yumminess that baking yields! I've baked less and less over the last few years, especially this past year as I've been working on eating healthier and losing weight. Christmas baking is different, though, and I don't see myself ever giving that up. On the bright side, I've noticed that I've eaten far fewer cookies thus far than in years past, so I guess I've learned something this year in my quest for healthier eating!

Nothing like some good old-fashioned child labor!

I wanted to share the easiest holiday cookie recipe that I make - something I call Festive Fudge Cookies. I've made them since the kiddo was a teeny tiny baby, and they're insanely easy to put together. I've made several different varieties, some with Andes mints in the center, some with plain Hershey kisses in the center (for chocolate lovers like me), some with Hugs in the center, and some with the candy cane Hugs. They all taste wonderful, but the Hugs make them look awfully cute, and when you're giving holiday cookies, I like to think you get bonus points for cuteness, so I like to use them.

Festive Fudge Cookies - recipe on the blog!

Festive Fudge Cookies
makes about 60-80 cookies

1/3 cup butter
6 oz unsweetened chocolate squares
1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1 pouch/box sugar cookie mix, 17.5 oz
60-80 Hugs, kisses, or mix, unwrapped

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl in the microwave, for about one minute, and stir until smooth.
2. Stir in condensed milk. Stir in the cookie mix. This will take some effort, as the dough will get quite thick. Use a wooden spoon or firm spoonula for this step.
3. Shape and roll dough into 1/2" balls. Place on a cookie step about 1" apart. The cookies do not spread much while baking.
4. Bake for 6 minutes. When you take the cookies out of the oven, immediately press 1 candy into the center of each cookie. Let the cookies sit on the hot cookie sheet for about 3 minutes, then gently push the candy down, to spread the candy across the top of the cookie. Wait another 3 minutes, then squish the top of the candy to flatten the candy.
5. Let cookies cool thoroughly before storing. I like to place mine on an unused cookie sheet and pale it in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour before storing, to solidify the candy.

Note: I usually make a lot of cookie dough in advance this time of year, freezing it until I'm ready to make the cookies. I don't recommend that with this recipe, it takes a crazy amount of time to thaw and is positively unusable while frozen.

Happy Wednesday to you all! Have a great day :)