Christmas baking challenge

I got a message from my dessert-loving friend, Lucia:

“…I have a challenge for you too… My office holiday party is on Thursday morning, and I will be coming back from travel late on Wednesday afternoon – what can I make this weekend that can freeze or keep well in the refrigerator that I can just pop in the oven Wednesday night and bring to the party Thursday morning? Chocolate chip cookies is one for sure, I’ll make the dough and have the balls ready… anything else you can think of?…”

Lucia’s right that chocolate chip cookies are the easiest treats to make ahead, freeze and bake as you need them. There’s a lot you can do with the original chocolate chip recipe to vary up the flavor and texture too.  

Here are some of my favorite make-ahead desserts:

Chocolate Chips Cookies

2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, measured correctly
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1.5 cup  chocolate chips or chocolate chunks. (I sometimes combine chocolate chips with crumbled heath bar fora more interesting cookie)

**ADD additional flavoring and/or food colors for a more exciting chocolate chip cookie.  I sometimes add few tbsp cocoa powder and 1/4 tsp mint extract for a mint chocolate chip cookie. Yum!

Mix the flour, baking soda, and cornstarch in a large bowl. (Some may add 1/2 tsp of salt.  I leave the salt out for a mildly sweet cookie)  Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk the melted butter, brown sugar, and white sugar together until no brown sugar lumps remain. Whisk in the egg, then the egg yolk. Finally, whisk in the vanilla, along with 1/4 tsp additional flavoring, if desired. (I’ve made mint chocolate chip cookies with a bit of mint extract.)

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together with a large spoon or rubber spatula. Mix completely before folding in the chocolate chips. Cover or bag the dough and chill for at least 3-4 hours. You can even shape the dough into balls and freeze them in an airtight don’t for future bakin.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and allow to slightly soften at room temperature for a few minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325F degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.

Roll the dough into balls.  Bake the cookies for 11-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them sit on the cookie sheet until cool to the touch. Then, move them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Lemon bars

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (you’ll taste the difference)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Additional confectioners’ sugar

In a bowl, combine the flour, butter and confectioners’ sugar. Pat into an ungreased 8-in. square baking pan. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes.

For filling, in a small bowl, beat eggs. Add the sugar, flour, baking powder, lemon juice and zest.  Beat well. Pour over the crust and bake for another 25 minutes. Cool on wife rack or stove top. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before cutting.  Will keep up to a week in the fridge.



1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract, optional
**Feel free to add a half cup of chocolate chips, walnuts and/or other ingredients to make more interesting blondie.
Heat oven to 350 F. Line an 8-inch by 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, stir melted butter and brown sugar until blended. Add the egg, vanilla, almond extract (optional) and salt then stir vigorously until smooth. When the batter looks well blended, add the flour and stir until no more streaks of flour remain. Stir in chocolate chip, nuts or dried fruit (if using).

Spread the batter evenly in lined pan and bake 20 to 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out relatively clean. Cool then cut into 16 squares.