How To

Holiday Baking on a Budget

Holiday Baking on a Budget -- Includes links to homemade holiday gifts!

Christmas baking can be as integral to holiday festivities as picking out the tree or singing carols. It doesn’t need to put you over your budget, though.

Cooks have plenty of tricks available to them to cut the costs of holiday baking — using leftover Halloween candy in cookies and to adorn gingerbread houses, and participating in a cookie swap to get a wide variety of treats without needing a laundry list of ingredients and hours in the kitchen, to name a few.

Budget-minded recipes help, too. Here are six to try from chefs and other foodies:

Poppy Seed Bread

This poppy seed bread recipe from Debbie Anderson of Christmas By Debbie, “tastes like a 
sugar cookie drizzled with a citrusy orange glaze.”

She suggests baking them in inexpensive ceramic pans, which can cost as little as 99 cents at craft stores, for a gift-worthy upgrade from the usual disposable aluminum ones.

Not-So-Basic Chocolate Chip

Think of these cookie recipes — including one from Frugal Foodie — as a one-chef cookie swap.

You start with a base recipe and then divide into smaller batches. Each gets its own mix-ins, resulting in multiple varieties of cookies in roughly the same amount of kitchen time as a single batch would take.

Magic Danish Bites

“If you do any ‘basic baking,’ you will have most or all of the needed ingredients right in your pantry,” says recipe creator Christina Sleeper, Chief Operating Officer of SleepersGourmet.com.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix one cup of flour and a half-cup each of packed brown sugar, chilled butter and chopped nuts. Mix all ingredients until crumbly. Set aside.

In another bowl, mix together two cups of flour, one cup of sugar, three teaspoons of baking powder, a teaspoon of kosher salt, a third of a cup of softened butter, a cup of milk and an egg.

Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Once everything is well incorporated, beat another two minutes on medium, scraping bowl regularly.

Spoon the batter into mini muffin pans, filling each space a third of the way full. Layer a half-teaspoon of your favorite jam on top of the batter and then sprinkle with a half-teaspoon of crumbly topping.

Then, sprinkle the remaining crumbly topping on all the mini muffins. Bake 25-35 minutes.

While bites are baking, mix together a cup of powdered sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla extract and two to three teaspoons of lemon juice until all lumps dissolve and the consistency is syrupy.

When bites have baked, let them cool for five minutes and then lightly drizzle with the glaze.

Sweet Jewel Box Cookies 

Maggie Louise of “Maggie Louise Bakes” uses food coloring and sprinkles to create colorful holiday cookies.

“They require a few 
steps, but not a lot of ingredients,” she says. “Any color combination is possible, so 
these cookies are just begging for some kitchen creativity.”

Raspberry-Coconut Chiffon Cake

A combination of peppermint and raspberry makes for a standout party cake, without substantial cost.

Cookie Jars

No time to bake? In lieu of a fresh-baked treat, take a stab at making these homemade holiday gifts, which includes a recipe for mason jars filled with pre-measured dry ingredients for recipients to make their own baked goods.

Try a standard recipe, or get creative.

Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her on Twitter through @MintFoodie http://www.twitter.com/mintfoodie