Boxed-mix brownies may be easy, but for the holidays, homemade brownies deliver an oh-so-special touch.

By Zoe Denenberg
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Reindeer Brownies
Credit: Southern Living

For us, all the joy, nostalgia, and coziness of the holiday season can be distilled into one favorite childhood dessert: brownies. Mom's brownies undoubtedly made an appearance at every school bake sale and potluck, and we'll say it, we may have just taken them for granted. Brownies were the treats that were always there for us. That's why, this year, brownies will be starring on our holiday tables.

But these aren't just any run-of-the-mill bake sale brownies. This holiday season, we're adding a very festive touch to our classic homemade brownies. That's right: Rudolph is officially in town. Not only do these Reindeer Brownies look downright adorable, but they're also extremely easy to bake with the kids' help. Holiday baking can be stressful, but we're here to walk you through the whole process, from start to finish.

This recipe for Reindeer Brownies can be broken down into baking and decorating stages. Each stage presents opportunities for the kids to get involved.

Get the Recipe: Reindeer Brownies

Step 1: Prepare to Bake

For these Reindeer Brownies, we opt for homemade brownie batter, which makes this dessert feel extra special and festive. If you're in a pinch, it's totally acceptable to use boxed brownie mix (a few simple tricks can help you really gussy it up). Brownies are a great starter recipe to get your kids in the kitchen—after all, who can resist fudgy, decadent chocolate?—but we've got a few tasks that you can complete ahead of time to ensure that the baking process runs smoothly.

First thing's first: the butter. Since this recipe calls for softened butter, you'll want to remove 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter from the fridge and let it sit on the counter overnight, or at least a couple of hours before baking.

Next up is the chocolate. Whether you melt your chocolate over a double-boiler or in the microwave, the process of melting chocolate can be finicky, so this is a step we recommend executing by yourself 5-15 minutes before you're ready to get baking. This will also allow the chocolate time to cool slightly before you add it into the batter.

While your chocolate cools down, you can measure out your sugar and flour, placing them in their own small bowls to ensure precision (and reduce the clutter of measuring spoons on your counter).

Step 2: Involve the Kids

Once you've prepped these main ingredients, it's time to call the kids into the room and get baking. If you've already set out the quantities of butter and sugar that you'll need, little Susie can combine them in the stand mixer.

While the butter and sugar cream, ask the kids to help you crack eggs into a small bowl. This may make a bit of a mess, but it's all part of the fun. Plus, cracking the eggs into their own bowl will allow you to fish out any shell fragments before adding the eggs into the batter.

Streaming in the melted chocolate is the fun part. Make sure your kids have a good view of the rich chocolate marbling with the fluffy white butter, sugar, and egg mixture. Then fold in your flour, salt, and vanilla, and mix until just combined (overmixing your batter at this stage will result in a cakier texture; mixing until just incorporated will give you a fudgier brownie). This technique results in a super-rich, fluffy brownie with that coveted cracked top.

When we say to choose your pan wisely, we really mean it. Although brownies may be traditionally baked in a square or rectangular pan (hello, crispy corners), this recipe calls for a circular baking dish—a rounded cake pan or a scone baking dish work perfectly—allowing you to easily slice your brownies into triangles.

Before slicing, you'll want to let your brownies cool for at least 30 minutes. This allows the interior to set—plus, piping on hot brownies will result in a melted mess. In this time, you can toss on a holiday-themed TV episode or read the kids a Christmas story.

Step 3: Get to Decorating

Luckily, your brownie decorations won't require much set-up. You'll only need a few ingredients that you can find at the grocery store, like black gel icing, candy eyes, cinnamon candies, and pretzel twists. Black gel icing acts as glue to bind candy eyes and a cinnamon candy nose to your reindeer brownie. Your kids can break the pretzel twists in half—these will become the reindeers' antlers.

For these treats, keep the design simple and effective. Slice the brownies into triangles yourself, then show your kids how to pipe two small dots of gel icing one-third down from the thicker edge of the brownie. Have them pipe another small dot of icing on the brownie's tip. It's important to keep these dots small so that icing doesn't leak everywhere—in this recipe, the icing merely acts as an adhesive for the fun decorations. Your kids can place the candy eyes on the two upper dots of icing and the cinnamon candy on the lower icing dot, then stand the two pretzel halves up above the eyes. Face these pretzel halves in opposite directions so they'll look like real antlers.

And voilà—your family has worked together to create a perfectly festive holiday dessert. When you make these treats with your kids, share a photo and let us know how it goes. We're eager to see your results!