For those of us who love to bake, the holiday season really can be the most wonderful time of the year. We cooks and bakers are well versed in expressing love through food, and this time of year there are plenty of reasons to do exactly that. A thoughtful bag of handmade treats is a nice gift for almost anyone. It works just as well for your closest friends and family as it does for coworkers, teachers, etc. Many of you have been requesting a post about my favorite edible items for holiday gifting as well as packaging suggestions. Here we go! I’ve got you covered.

My general approach to composing edible treat packages is to include 3-5 different items to incorporate a variety of different flavors and types of treats. Typically for me this would be 2-3 types of cookies, a candy or two, and possibly hot chocolate mix. When selecting the recipes you will use, it is important to consider not only how the flavors play together but also the relative ease or complexity of the recipes. You don’t want to be making hundreds of sugar cookies with intricate royal icing decoration. (Trust me, I’ve done it before. Not recommended.)  I try to limit myself to only one or two recipes that require rolling/cutting of cookie dough or any sort of decorative icing beyond drizzling or spreading icing on top.  If you are only making a few gift bags, making more involved items will be more accessible, but when you are cranking out a large volume, keep things on the simpler side.

Of all holiday treats, cookies are the clearly the most synonymous with holiday baking. Rolling and cutting the dough, decorating with icing or sprinkles – it is simply a holiday requirement for me. Here are some of my most favorite cookies for holiday baking, all suitable for packaging and gifting. I’m listing these from most to least involved, so you can choose a level that best suits your needs.
Snowflake Cookies (Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing)
Peppermint Bark Cookies
Gingerbread Cookies
Pecan Linzer Cookies
Toasted Coconut Shortbread
Chocolate Raspberry Almond Rugelach
French Butter Cookies
Iced Oatmeal Cookies
Sugar Sparkled Gingersnaps
Espresso Dark Chocolate Coconut Cookies
Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies
Chai Chocolate Sables
Vanilla Sables

I always make candy during the holidays, and I always wonder why I don’t make it more often during the rest of the year. It is fun, it is easy (as long as you have a reliable recipe) and one batch usually makes many servings meaning a lot of gift yield for your efforts. Truffles, fudge and marshmallows are my go-to options for gifting. Again, these are listed from most to least involved.
Cookie Dough Truffles
Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles
Apple Cider Caramels 
Vanilla Bean Caramels
Apple Cider Caramel Corn
Nutella Cherry Hazelnut Fudge
Cappuccino Fudge
Peanut Butter Fudge

Though this sort of fits into the candy category, I tend to put cocoa and marshmallows in their own category AKA “Must Make”.  Both the hot chocolate mix and the homemade marshmallows make a large batch so they are great for gifting, and people LOVE them. I am planning to share a few flavor variations on marshmallows later this week but for now, let’s focus on the classics!
Vanilla Bean Marshmallows
Hot Chocolate Mix

Although sweets abound at the holidays, keep in mind that gifting savory foods is also a fantastic option. (Side note – If savory gifting is more your thing, check out my contribution to the online magazine Grate Pair Share as well as those from other bloggers. Lots of good ideas in this issue!)

Though I wouldn’t recommend shipping this, gifting a jar of sugared cranberries along with some brie, crackers, and perhaps a bottle of wine would be a lovely idea.

If sweets aren’t your thing or if you have a recipient trying to keep things on the healthier side, keep in mind that there are healthier baked goods that work for gifting as well.
Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bites
Pumpkin Spice Granola Bars
Cherry Chocolate Coconut Granola (perhaps with some greek yogurt and a jar of the cranberry curd from this recipe for making awesome parfaits)
Whole Grain Pancake Mix (with a bottle of good maple syrup and any other topping options)

Once you’ve got all of your goodies made, you need packaging supplies to pull it all together. As many of you have noticed (and many have contacted me about), my former favorite resource for packaging has changed a lot about the products they offer and most of what I used to love is gone. Don’t worry though, there are lots of other good packaging resources out there! Some other sites I love for boxes, bags, and other pretty packaging include:
Shop Sweet Lulu
TomKat Studio Shop
Layer Cake Shop
King Arthur Flour
Sur La Table

I hope you find this post helpful as you get your holiday baking on! The rest of this week I’ll be sharing one non-food homemade gift idea, a simple cake that would be a lovely end to Christmas Eve or Christmas dinner, and a couple more festive treats. There is so much I want to share but so few days left before Christmas. Hopefully we’ll be able to fit it all in!

  • Jessie Senese

    Thanks so much for including a link to Shop Sweet Lulu! We’d love to help you package up all your yummies!

  • A mail day from Annie would be a very happy mail day indeed!

  • Lydia

    Thank you for sharing some sites for food packaging! I was sorely disappointed when I went to garnish and they barely sell anything anymore. And shop sweet lulu is freaking adorable! I kind of want everything they sell. How adorable are those milk jars? I may not be able to resist! :)

  • Elizabeth

    Perfect timing! I made three batches of Vanilla Sables yesterday (I did these last year, too – for anyone considering them, JUST DO IT. They’re so easy, and so nice for gifting) and was planning on making Nutella Cherry Hazelnut fudge tonight; however, now that I see the recipe perhaps I’ll try the Cappuccino fudge this year, too. Thanks for your great posts and beautiful photography; it’s great inspiration to get in the kitchen and make pretty/delicious things!

  • Jennifer Pekny

    OOH! Thank you! I’ve been going back to your blog repeatedly to gather my gift ideas and recipes. I have never been disappointed in any of your recipes and often people ask where I’ve gotten them. This Christmas will be no different with some new recipes to gift and prepare! Thanks!

  • annieseats

    Thank you! So glad you like it :)

  • annieseats

    Thank you Elizabeth! So glad you like it!

  • Beth

    Annie

    I wanted to thank you for taking the time to post this. I ended up making so many of your recipes. I gave the granola to my coworkers to rave reviews. The neighbor gifts were the hot chocolate with the peppermint and vanilla marshmallows and the two sables. I even ended up making the vanilla bean caramels and fudge which my kids have been enjoying. Thank you for your time and talent in sharing these win us. Merry Christmas to you and yours. Hope you have a wonderful 2015

  • annieseats

    Aw, I love to hear that so much! Have a wonderful holiday!

  • Chelvi

    These are so beautiful and mouthwatering. I come to your website almost every day and want to make them. But then I always wonder will it come this good and never make them. You are amazing. Probably I should make this as my new year resolution – make the recipes.