The holiday season doesn't have to be full of stress or mess -- especially when it comes to festive fun in the kitchen -- and James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Christina Tosi has the perfect no-bake sweet treat to fit the bill.
The Milk Bar founder, cookbook author and mother of two created a new limited-edition No-Bake Milk Bar Holiday Mix with a "flavor story" that taps into Tosi's childhood favorite holiday cookie and another nostalgic treat -- puppy chow.
"My favorite thing is to take something that you know and love, a flavor that's delicious and calls you in -- a frosted sugar cookie is so seasonally appropriate for the holidays -- then figure out how to take that flavor and recreate it or evolve it into a new format," Tosi told "Good Morning America." "How do you take that nostalgia and make it the star again, in a way that you never thought?"
Tosi's favorite holiday cookie as a kid was her grandmother's "four-ingredient frosted cut out sugar cookies" made with "butter, light brown sugar, flour and salt."
"I think I liked it as a kid both because I got involved and because they're really fun to eat, because every bite is different," she added. "That's my childhood memory that I often use as inspiration this time of year."
Her bakery's first-ever spin on the popular powdered sugar-coated dessert is not only a no-cooking-required dish, but it's made even easier by using Ziploc bags to seal in the messy ingredients and combine them all without the use of mixers, bowls or ovens.
"We had flavored chocolates, the most dusty powdered sugar, all things that are a nightmare to clean up, and they stayed completely inside of that zip-top bag," she said of the easy shake and serve method, which is also perfect for transporting to a holiday party or packing up as a to-go snack.
Her sugar cookie-inspired holiday mix starts with square corn cereal, melted white chocolate combined with homemade cookie butter, sprinkles, and sugar cookie pieces. Check out the full recipe below, and as Tosi noted, add your own personal taste preferences to the mix. (She suggested other flavor combos like chocolate and peanut butter or chocolate and peppermint pieces.)
Additionally, throughout December, customers can pick up a bag of the No-Bake Milk Bar Holiday Mix at any New York City, Washington D.C. or Los Angeles Milk Bar store for $7, plus tax, while supplies last.
No-Bake Milk Bar Holiday Mix
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup Biscoff or any homemade cookie butter
4 cups square corn cereal
1 cup sugar cookie pieces, b-day crumbs, graham cracker bits, etc (or add more cereal!)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon colorful sugar sprinkles
In a large, microwave-safe bowl, melt the white chocolate and oil in 30-second spurts, stirring intermittently until fully melted. Stir in cookie butter and mix until smooth.
Stir in cereal and cookie pieces and continue stirring to coat all entirely in the chocolate-cookie butter mixture.
Pour contents of large bowl into a gallon-size Ziploc stay-open bag. Measure in powdered sugar, salt and sugar sprinkles. Zip the top of the bag closed and toss around until all pieces are coated entirely and look like a frosted, colorful sprinkled sugar cookie.
Toss in the fridge for 10 minutes to set the chocolate shell, then eat!
Store in the gallon size Ziploc bag in the fridge or at room temperature.
Tosi hailed Ziploc bags as a personal "favorite tool in the kitchen" since she first started baking for everything from "rolling out and freezing dough to ensuring my baked goods always stays fresh, there's no shortage of ways that I use Ziploc at home and in our bakeries."
In tandem with the launch of the new Ziploc Stay Open design, Tosi said she was "immediately reminded of mixing puppy chow" as a kid and concocted this riff on the confection that freed up her hands.
Christina Tosi's holiday entertaining and baking tips
Tosi also shared some additional cooking and baking tips to help everyone enjoy the holiday season with less stress.
Make and freeze cookie dough in advance: "When I'm doing cut-out cookie dough, I take the dough and I'll roll it out in the Ziploc bag. Then I'll literally file it in my freezer or stack it in my freezer until I'm ready to cut it out and bake it," she said.
Holiday cooking is more fun together: "Don't get stuck in the kitchen preparing everything alone," she said. "Instead, set up a build your own station and invite kids, family and guests to join in on the fun. There are so many possibilities."
A baker's best tool: "Holidays and frosting are synonymous in my kitchen -- and cookie, gingerbread and cake decorating moments can sometimes get messy and cumbersome," she said. "One of my secret moves is the Ziploc stay-open bags -- they're a great kitchen helper for prepping holiday icing because the bag stands up and stays open as you pour the good stuff in, which means you've got two free hands for getting it all done."
Store-bought is your friend: "When it comes to hosting and the holidays, I don't dare try to do everything myself," Tosi admitted. "There is no shame in the store-bought game. Pick up a fresh loaf of bread from your favorite bakery and a classic dip from the grocery store's fridge aisle, and you're ready to go. Plus, no one is mad when a pint of Milk Bar ice cream comes out for an ice cream social-style dessert that everyone can enjoy."