In my opinion, nothing beats a homemade, edible gift. And over the years I’ve given my fair share, from homemade candy to approximately one million cookies. I’ve shipped food gifts across the country, boxed them up and sent them to school with my children, and distributed sugar-dusted loaves of stollen far and wide. Not only are homemade food gifts a way of showing my love, gratitude, and care (in the form of butter and sugar), but in this year of creeping inflation and rising costs, it’s an affordable way to celebrate the people in your world who make life sweeter.
If you’re looking to bake your gifts this year, here are my picks for the best recipes to make for everyone on your list.
For your kid’s teacher, who has the patience of a saint and the energy of a thoroughbred
I can’t afford to give my sons’ teachers the millions of dollars I think they deserve, but I can bake them something to show our appreciation. Given that teachers tend to receive a lot of edible gifts, I like to give them something that doesn’t have to be eaten right away, and that my kids can help me make.
My favorite recipes for teachers: Chocolate and Cherry Granola, Peppermint Crunch Bark
For your far-flung friend living across the country
I moved from San Francisco to the East Coast two years ago, leaving lots of friends behind. Sending food gifts is one way I stay connected. Some baked goods fare better in the mail than others (see our ten tips for the best way to ship your baked goods), so I send sturdy treats that won’t arrive crumbled or stale. And if you’re really worried about perishability, consider using our DIY vanilla kit to make bottles of “liquid gold”; the kit makes six bottles, so you’ll have plenty to share.
My favorite recipes for shipping: Dark Chocolate Buttercrunch, Malted Brownie Biscotti, Mom's Caramels
For the hosts of the best holiday parties
I have a handful of friends who throw epic holiday parties that I look forward to all year. I’d never show up empty-handed (note: Champagne makes a wonderful perennial gift), but this year I’m making some treats for the hosts to enjoy the morning after the party.
My favorite recipes for party animals: Chocolate-Hazelnut Stollen, Homemade Whole Grain Pancake Mix
For your mail carriers and delivery people
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep the postmen from their appointed rounds.” Thank your mail carriers and delivery people for their efforts with a bag (or two) of cookies that will help fuel them, no matter the weather. And if you’re planning to make a lot of cookies this holiday season, consider picking up this scoop, which makes portioning the dough quick and easy.
My favorite recipes for these real-life Santas: Magic in the Middles, Whipped Lemon Shortbread
For the friend who always chooses savory over sweet
We all have that one friend who opts for cheese over chocolate. For them, the solution is clear: A baked good made with (or intended to be served with) a fine cheese board.
My favorite recipes for cheese-lovers: Panforte and Fruit and Nut Granola Loaf (to serve with cheese), Flaky Cheese Twists (made with cheese)
For the friends with kids
My children like to start every chilly morning with hot cocoa, and who am I to argue? Use this DIY kit to make six jars of cocoa mix to share, and pair it with homemade marshmallows and beautiful iced cookies for the ultimate gift.
My favorite recipes for kids: Peppermint Crunch Marshmallows, Roll-Out Sugar Cookies
For my friends who don’t eat gluten (but still love treats)
Generosity is the spirit of the season. Make sure all of your friends feel included in your holiday bake-a-thon by preparing some gluten-free treats.
My favorite gluten-free holiday recipes: Microwave Nut Brittle, Easy Microwave Fudge, Gluten-Free Chocolate Molasses Thumbprints, Gluten-Free Gingerbread
For your neighbors, who lend you tools or shovel your walk
I’ve become reliant on our neighbors: They always have the right size of adjustable wrench, the correct spark plug for my mower, and a willingness to help dig us out after a snowstorm. I plan to bake them a few things as a show of gratitude (and, OK, maybe a preemptive bribe for next time).
My favorite recipes for neighbors: Gingerbread Bundt Cake, Chocolate Babka
Looking for holiday gifts of the non-edible kind? We’ve got a guide for that.
Cover photo by John Sherman; food styling by Liz Neily.