Not long ago a friend, invited to dinner, arrived with a small box tied with a big bow. When I opened it to find beautifully iced butterfly-shaped cookies, I was touched and honored. No fancy bouquet or fine bottle of wine could come close as a house gift. These cookies had been made with the thoughtful care that's becoming all too rare in our over-scheduled lives. Whether given as comfort, in celebration or gratitude, the gift of homemade sweets is always special and welcome all year round, going way beyond customary Christmas cookies and fruitcake. Judith Sutton, a former chef and cookbook editor who has always baked for friends, has now gathered her favorites in Sweet Gratitude: Bake a Thank-You for the Really Important People in Your Life, charmingly illustrated with her own watercolors. You'll find cookies, cakes, bars, brownies, pies and tarts, a few mousses and puddings, and small confections that can be packaged in imaginative ways. All of them can be made entirely ahead, so you'll find the necessary info on storing and freezing, wrapping and shipping, plus suggestions for last-minute garnishes and preparation notes. None of these luscious treats are difficult and some are supremely quick and easy, like Amazing Toffee Thins, Caramel-topped Turtle Brownies, Instant Chocolate Mousse and Ginger-Ginger Petticoat Tails. The giving, you'll discover, is as much fun as the getting.

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