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Easy no-bake holiday recipes: Christmas tree cheesecake pops, peppermint patties, more

Creating festive, gift-worthy treats for the holidays is

Creating festive, gift-worthy treats for the holidays is simplified with this no-fuss, no-bake recipe for nut butter cups. Credit: Doug Young

Don’t know how to bake? Don’t even have an oven? That doesn’t mean you can’t make gift-worthy holiday treats. The following recipes rely on store-bought candy, frozen cheesecake, melted chocolate, and a whole lot of sprinkles to produce festive sweets with personality and flavor.

They make great family projects (no raw eggs, no hot ovens). Older kids with a little bit of experience won’t need much supervision if they want to work on their own. No-fuss, no-bake peanut butter cups, cheesecake Christmas trees, and chocolate bark may be a gateway to more complicated holiday baking in years to come. Or you may find a recipe here that becomes your signature holiday sweet, reserving your oven for the holiday roast.

White Chocolate and Holiday Candy Bark

12 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup crushed candy canes

½ cup mini gum drops

1/4 cup crumbled gingersnaps

1. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil.

2. Put 1 inch of water in the bottom of a double boiler or a medium saucepan and bring to a bare simmer. Place the chocolate in the top of the double boiler or in a stainless-steel bowl big enough to rest on top of the saucepan, and set it on top of the simmering water, making sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Heat, whisking occasionally, until most of the chocolate is completely melted. Remove from heat and whisk until completely smooth.

3. Use a small metal spatula to spread the chocolate in an even layer across the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with the crushed candy canes, gum drops, and gingersnaps. Let stand until solid, about 45 minutes. Break into pieces before packing in an airtight container.

Makes about 1 pound candy

Sea Salt Caramel Turtles

One 11-ounce bag Kraft caramels

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pinch salt

12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

120 pecan halves (about 2 cups)

Edible gold glitter or gold sanding sugar

1. In a medium pot, bring two inches of water to a simmer. Unwrap caramels and place them in a stainless steel bowl that will fit on top of the pot. Add the cream and vanilla. Heat, stirring occasionally, until melted. Remove from the pot and let cool slightly.

2. While the caramels are melting, place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high until half-melted. Stir until smooth.

3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon a teaspoonful of melted chocolate onto the paper and use the back of the spoon to spread into a 2-inch circle. Arrange five pecan halves on top of the chocolate to create the turtle head and legs. Repeat with the remaining chocolate and pecans, making four rows of three. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set, about 5 minutes.

4. Remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator and spoon a teaspoon of caramel on top of each turtle. Refrigerate again for 5 minutes.

5. Remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator again and spoon a teaspoon of chocolate over the caramel, smoothing it to cover the caramel. Sprinkle with edible glitter and refrigerate again until set. Repeat with fresh parchment paper and remaining ingredients. Store in the refrigerator, between layers of parchment in an airtight container.

Makes 24 turtles

Christmas Tree Cheesecake Pops

One 7-inch round frozen cheesecake

6 ounces green candy melts

2 ounces white candy melts

Sprinkles, nonpareils, and other sugar decorations

4 small candy canes, broken into 1-inch lengths

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the cheesecake into 8 wedges.

2. Place the green candy melts in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high until half-melted. Stir until smooth. Spread a thin layer over the frozen cheesecake triangles and place back on the baking sheet.

3. Place the white candy melts in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high until half-melted Stir until smooth. Dip a fork into the bowl and then one at a time, wave over each cheesecake triangle and then decorate with sprinkles, nonpareils and other sugars.

4. Gently press a candy cane piece into the short end of the triangle and glue it in place with a little bit of meted white chocolate. Freeze until firm and then drape with plastic and keep frozen until serving, up to 3 days.

Makes 8 pops

Homemade Peppermint Patties

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

1 16-ounce box confectioners’ sugar

16 ounces bittersweet chocolate

¼ cup crushed candy canes

1. Combine the cream cheese and peppermint extract in the work bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium high, scraping down the bowl once or twice as necessary, until smooth. Add the confectioners’ sugar, in 1/2-cup increments, until well-combined. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon tablespoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture onto the parchment (for perfectly round patties, use a small ice cream scoop). Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours and up to 1 week.

3. Put 1 inch of water in the bottom of a double boiler or a medium saucepan and bring to a bare simmer. Place the chocolate in the top of the double boiler or in a stainless-steel bowl big enough to rest on top of the saucepan, and set it on top of the simmering water, making sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Heat, whisking occasionally, until most of the chocolate is completely melted. Remove from heat and whisk until completely smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

4. Flatten each cream cheese ball into a 1/4-inch-thick disk with the palm of your hand. Place the tines of a fork underneath one of the disks and place the disk into the melted chocolate. Flip it over in the bowl, using the fork, to coat completely. Slide the tines of the fork under the chocolate-covered disk and lift from the bowl, letting the excess chocolate drip back into the bowl. Place the disk on the parchment-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with crushed candy canes. Repeat with the remaining disks.

5. When all of the disks have been dipped in chocolate, place the baking sheet in the refrigerator again until the chocolate has hardened, at least 1 hour. Homemade peppermint patties will keep in the refrigerator, separated by layers of wax paper and placed in an airtight container, for up to 1 week.

Makes about 20

Nut Butter Cups

6 tablespoons nut butter

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

16 ounces best-quality milk chocolate, chopped

Flaky sea salt or sprinkles for sprinkling

1. Line a muffin tin with 10 paper liners. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. With an electric mixer, beat together the nut butter, butter, and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Roll heaping teaspoons into 10 balls and flatten slightly. Place on prepared baking sheet and refrigerate.

3. Place half of the chocolate in a large microwave-safe glass measuring cup and microwave in 30-second increments, stirring in between, until just melted and smooth, 1 to 2 minutes depending on the strength of your microwave oven.

4. Pour the chocolate into the muffin cups. Lift the tin a few inches from the countertop and drop. Repeat several times until the chocolate is distributed in an even layer on the bottom of the paper liners. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

5. Place the remaining chocolate in the measuring cup and melt in the microwave as before. Place the nut butter disks in the muffin cups, cover with melted chocolate, and drop on the counter as before to distribute chocolate. Sprinkle with sea salt or sprinkles. Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Makes 10 large nut butter cups

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