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Goodbye, goodbye 2016! Let’s savor that for a moment and perhaps throw some confetti. There’s never been a year that’s made me feel my humanity – our humanity – more than this one. It felt more heavy than light, and that made me dive head first into my favorite distractions: Netflix marathons of Sci-Fi and Fantasy TV shows and too many baking books - but I was no slouch! It was my 8th year of making sweet things for this blog and I worked more than ever! I felt lucky to collaborate with the likes of HGTV and Food Network and so many others. Here are some highlights and happenings from my 2016.

As I prepare to ring in the New Year, I find myself gravitating toward cheerful things. 2016 felt like a year that took more than it gave, but it wasn't all bad. Still, little creature comforts like sugar pearls and silver leaf on pink champagne donuts makes me smile. They are even prettier perched atop a shot glass of champagne panna cotta and together they taste like a bubbly celebration.

Merry Christmas Eve!

Each year this day is the same for me. I bake all day long while listening to holiday music, then I go to my mom's for her Christmas Eve open house. I get to see my favorite little kids open presents, and then I go home and stay up until 2 a.m. wrapping more gifts. I always put off wrapping until the last minute. Procrasti-wrapping. It's totally a thing!

Maybe you've got your wrapping in order, and instead are a procrasti-baker (also a thing!). If so, you may appreciate this recipe. It's simple and delicious - chocolaty and chewy! It has a buttercream topping that can be made festive with holiday confetti sprinkles.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and that just doesn't seem possible! I've really enjoyed posting these treats for you each day - and so have my well-fed friends and family!

This is a great little recipe that yields a big pan of candy caramels. They are packed with chocolate chips and salty cashews so eating one is a little bit like eating a candy bar!

I'm not sure if this recipe falls in the category of cookie or candy because it's a little of both. It's similar to 'Christmas Crack, which I'm sure you've seen because it is omnipresent on social media and all corners of the blogosphere. Unlike that version which is made with saltines, this one is made with graham crackers which gives the candy a little more sweetness. It lives up to its name - quick - with just 8 minutes of bake time in the oven.

I've been a builder of gingerbread houses for many years but I've never made a sugar cookie house. This was my first, and it won't be my last! To get started I used neon pink food color and my favorite sturdy sugar cookie recipe. The end result was a fun vibrant-hued dough that I felt was destined to create a cozy, mid-century modern cookie retreat.

This is a great recipe when you're short on time and you need delicious, meaningful gifts for your favorite people. I mean, SPIKED. HOT. FUDGE. SAUCE. Who wouldn't love that? You can put it on any sweet thing or eat it from the jar - and you totally should!

There are only a few days to go before Christmas, but the cookie-making is still going strong here! These are so easy to decorate because you don't even have to make frosting. The embellishing is done with a light brush of corn syrup on the cookies and then they get dipped in rainbow nonpareils (my #1 favorite of all the sprinkles!).

I often poach pears in winter months because it's a warming kind of thing to do. I like to sit on a stool right beside the stove with a book in one hand and a stirring spoon in the other. The cook time varies with the firmness of the fruit, but on average it's 30-ish minutes of reading and spiced pear aromatherapy. There are worse ways to spend half an hour, I tell ya!

I've used poached pears in cakes before but I've never used them in quick bread recipes. I adore fruit desserts so I was pretty optimistic about this pear-lager version. It's nice. The batter is less sweet than cake and nuanced with lager flavor. The glaze and poached pears will satisfy your sweet tooth without overwhelming it.

I've dedicated a good portion of this blog's content to baklava-inspired treats. First there was Baklava Cheesecake, then Baklava Pull-Apart Bread (swoon!), Greek Honey-Nut Pie, and finally, Baklava Cigars.  I figure it's about time that I post the genuine article!

Baklava is not hard to make, but filo can be a little fussy to work with sometimes because the dough sheets are so thin. Make sure your dough is properly thawed and cover it with a damp towel once you open the packages. This will greatly help with handling the dough.

My best friend usually gets me a box of fancy chocolates each year for Christmas. It's such a thoughtful and pretty gift. There's always an assortment of shapes and flavors, and I love looking at them almost as much as I love eating them.

I decided to try my hand at making chocolates with a magnetic mold and chocolate transfer sheet. Both are used by professional chocolatiers and together they create the most gorgeous little bites.

This recipe is proof that baking doesn't have to be fussy or complicated to yield delicious results. You'll need 3 ingredients for the macaroons, not counting the dip in chocolate which is optional (but when is chocolate ever optional?).

This recipe marries two of my favorite things in all of baking and pastry: chocolate and bread. These little loaves pack a triple chocolate punch with chocolate incorporated into the batter and mini chocolate chips speckled throughout. The third and final chocolate flourish is on top - making this bread a real looker!

Happy St. Lucia Day! This is the day that our Scandinavian friends celebrate St. Lucy, an ancient martyr with an abiding role as a bearer of light in dark winters. On this feast day young girls dress in her honor wearing white robes with a red sashes. The girls form a procession that is led by a young lady selected to portray St. Lucia, who wears a crown of candles while carrying a tray of baked goods.

Some of you may remember my previous Lucia Day post from 2013. That's when I made traditional saffron buns (Lussekatter). Soon after I was introduced to powdered saffron, thanks to the advice of my Scandinavian readers. I had used saffron threads in the dough and my buns were only slightly yellow. Apparently, you should always need a pair of sunglasses to look at properly-hued saffron bread. In other words, the brighter the better!

(I think I got it right this time!)

It's hard to believe we're almost halfway to Christmas Day and I'm just now getting to the most important classic holiday flavor which is gingerbread!

Scones have always perplexed me. I suppose it's because I'm well studied in southern buttermilk biscuit-making and I'm accustomed to their fluffy texture. Each time I've split open a bakery-purchased scone I've had the same thought: "This is the worst, driest biscuit ever!" Perhaps I need to change my viewpoint on scones but for now I've remedied the problem with this flaky, soft gingerbread version.

'Tis the season for sugar and spice!

I love making a big batch of party nuts for snacking on, even if the 'party' is just at my desk. Recently they became an accidental lunch because I was too focused on work and not very inspired by the thought of another avocado toast.

These definitely make a great gift, especially for people who eschew super-sweet confections like fudge. These nuts are barely sweet with just a kiss of brown sugar and delicately spiced.

Here's another treat that makes a great gift for long-distance friends and family because it ships well. Biscotti are firm, crunchy cookies that are usually enjoyed with hot coffee or tea because their finger-like shape makes them perfect for dipping.

I recently developed a base recipe for biscotti that can be endlessly varied. This zesty orange version is my favorite so far. I've always loved the magic worked by cranberry and orange together, and the crunchy crystal sugar topping puts these head and shoulders above my favorite store-bought version.

Consider these the chocolate-hazelnut cousin of bourbon balls. The two candies have similar virtues, such as they are both made with very few ingredients and they both improve upon standing. They make a great holiday gift - and bonus - they ship well! I love sending these to my out-of-state friends because I know they'll survive the journey and taste even better after two days in transit. This 'snowball' version is covered in powdered sugar and I just love the wintry look it gives them.

Whenever I make hot cocoa for dinner guests or visiting friends, I make it the old fashioned way with whole milk and heavy cream blended with high quality chopped chocolate. It simmers on the stove-top until steamy and then it's poured into extra-large mugs. An obscene amount of whipped cream is usually the finishing touch.

Without guests to serve, I'm more likely to make myself a cup of instant hot cocoa. I'm the only one in the house who drinks it regularly, and I find it's more convenient to make (and there's no pot to clean!). I've developed a powdered formula that can be poured into a mug and roused into a satisfying treat with just the addition of hot water or hot milk.

Hello and welcome to my favorite candy of all time! It's true. Chocolate turtles have everything I need in life- toasty pecans, chewy caramel and rich chocolate. A sprinkle of sea salt on top makes these turtles absolutely irresistible. They are dangerously simple to make and take about 8 minutes in the oven. This crowd-pleasing treat disappears quickly on a candy tray so two batches may be in order!

There's something about these cookies that feels delightfully old fashioned. Maybe it's the unfussy way the dough is patted out into long batons and cut on the bias, or maybe it's that they taste like buttery shortbread which is indeed a very old type of cookie.

The recipe is simple, though it takes a little longer than their 'split second' name implies. I think the moniker refers to how much time it takes to cut the dough into cookies - or maybe how long it takes to eat them!

Have you ever heard of The Famous Peppermint Pig?  It's a Victorian holiday tradition in the form of hard candy molded to look like a pig. The candy is accompanied by a little pouch and hammer so it can be broken it into pieces and shared with friends and family. This tradition has come to symbolize good health, happiness and prosperity. Even though the hard candy pigs are still in production today, I thought a cookie version would be cute, too!

Much as I love to dive into a lengthy baking project (and oh, do I ever!) sometimes simple is best. There's no better example of this than our long-standing holiday favorite - fudge. This recipe uses just four ingredients and it's super quick to make. I always use my microwave to make this candy, but if you don't have one then a stove top will work just fine, too.

One of my biggest joys of the holiday season is making my dogs Christmas cookies. They know exactly what I'm making when I get a special bag of flour out of the pantry - PUPPY TREATS! They immediately start turning circles and barking. Even though they totally boss me around for 30 minutes while I'm making the cookies, I don't mind because I'm hard pressed to find anyone more appreciative of a homemade treat.

These pastel peppermint truffles will add festive color and flavor to your holiday candy tray, and as far as candy-making goes they are some of the easiest! The minty centers are made with the usual buttercream frosting ingredients - butter and powdered sugar - but a helping of cream cheese gives the truffles a delectable tang.

Hello December!

Today begins the advent of treats that I've been planning for all year! Some of you may remember that I did this last year, and the response was pretty awesome so I decided to do it again this year. That means you'll have a new recipe to enjoy each day until December 25th. This year the recipes will range from easy and accessible to creative and unique. Above all, these treats make great gifts! I've always felt that homemade gifts are the best gifts, so I hope you can use these recipes to spread some holiday cheer.

We're kicking things off with these fun and creative Spirograph cookies! Did you ever have a Spirograph as a kid? I did and I loved it! After finding these fine-tipped FooDoodler food color markers, I just knew they'd be fun to use with a spiral drawing tool.
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