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Give the gift of goodies

Holiday cookies, baked goods can serve as a last-minute gift or a long-distance treat

POSTED: December 8, 2010 1:00 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA /The Times

These cranberry orange and peanut butter cup cookies are a great idea for an inexpensive Christmas gift.

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If unexpected names pop up on your gift list, or if you're interested in giving something more thoughtful than a store-bought gift, baked goods may be the way to go.

If you're short on time, or even baking know-how, cookies are a nearly fool-proof option. They're easy to make in bulk, can be mixed in advance and are easy to transport.

One of the easiest ways to make a crowd-pleasing array of goodies is to find a single recipe that you can create variations of, like our recipe for the shortbread mix-in cookies.

These cookies start with a simple recipe — only eight basic ingredients — that can be altered a countless number of ways.

By adding ingredients like dried fruits, nuts and additional spices, you could make a bountiful platter of goods with minimal effort.

Another simple baking option is to make cookie bars — think blondies. The only technical capabilities that these goodies require is a little hand-eye coordination to work a mixer. You simply make the batter, pour it in a pan, bake and then slice them into pieces once they cool.

If baking just really isn't your cup of tea, you can still give the gift of home cooking. You'll still do the measuring and pouring, but you can leave the baking to the recipient.

Simply layer the dry ingredients in a see-through container, such as a canning jar. Seal the container, cover the lid with a piece of festive fabric or tissue paper, and secure with a ribbon.

On a decorative card, attached to the ribbon, include the wet ingredients that they will need to add to the mix and baking instructions. You'll also want to add a complete list of ingredients.

This is also a great option for long-distance relatives who can't make it home to sample your world-famous snickerdoodles in person.

While packaging the ingredients, you'll want to keep a few things in mind:

n You should blend items like flour, salt and baking powder before packaging.

n To reduce chances of the ingredients blending, pack the ingredients in the container as tightly as possible before adding the next layer.

n White sugar, cocoa and flour tend to seep down to other layers, so it's best to put those ingredients at the bottom.

n For the most visual impact, pack contrasting colored ingredients next to each other.

If stored in a cool, dry place, most mixes will last at least six months. If the mix contains nuts, which can go rancid, it should be used sooner.

Besides cookie mixes, jarred recipes work well with other items like soups, cocoa and specialty coffee.

McClatchy Newspapers contributed to this article.



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