Melanie Barnard is a genius baker. She’s also my friend and former co-author, which hopefully makes this bold statement more credible instead of less.

We collaborated fully on the dozen or so books we did together, but when working on dessert chapters, Melanie’s enthusiasm was unwavering and the ideas never stopped flowing, whereas I would begin to flag when faced with sweet after sweet after sweet.

In 1999, Melanie wrote “Short and Sweet: Sophisticated Desserts in No Time at All” (Houghton Mifflin), a book that became an instant classic. She pared down classic recipes to just a few essential ingredients without compromising the delicious results (Simple Peanut Brittle, Hot Fudge Pudding Cake), she used high-quality convenience products to scrumptious effect (Milk Chocolate Toffee Bars

, Mango and Macaroon Sundaes), and she devised many delectable confections that are completely original (No-Bake Ginger-Orange Cheesecake, Tuscan Rosemary and Pine Nut Bars). It’s been my go-to dessert book for years, most especially at this busy time of year.

Here, slightly adapted, are two holiday favorites.

“Short and Sweet,” by the way, is still available online.

Cranberry-Orange

Shortbread Squares

Flavors of the season enhance these buttery shortbread squares.

Makes 16 to 36 squares, depending on how you cut them

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into about 8 pieces

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Remove pan from the heat and stir in orange zest, cranberries and sugar. Then stir in flour to make a stiff dough.

Spread and pat dough into an ungreased 8-inch square baking pan with a flat bottom, using the bottom of a measuring cup or the heel of your hand to make dough even.

Bake until shortbread is golden and firm at the edges, about 20 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then use a sharp knife to cut into as many squares as you desire. Continue to cool in the pan for at least 15 more minutes before removing with a small metal spatula.

Store, tightly covered, for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.

Milk Chocolate Toffee Bars

The irresistible combination of milk chocolate and crunchy, buttery toffee bits, now available in the baking section as toffee chips, are the basis for this genius candy bar-like bar cookie.

Makes 16 to 36 squares, depending on how you cut them

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup toffee chips, such as Heath or Skor

2/3 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat, brown the butter, stirring until it melts, turns light brown and has a nutty aroma, about 3 minutes. Watch carefully to prevent burning. Remove pan from heat and stir in brown sugar and vanilla. Stir in flour to make a stiff dough, then stir in the ½ cup toffee chips.

Spread dough into an ungreased 8-inch square baking pan with a flat bottom, using the bottom of a measuring cup or the heel of your hand to make dough even. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with the chocolate chips. Wait 1 minute to allow chocolate to melt, then spread evenly to form an icing. If chocolate does not melt, return pan to the oven for a few seconds and then spread. Sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup toffee chips.

Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, and then use a sharp knife to cut into desired number of squares. Place pan in refrigerator for about 15 minutes to set chocolate before removing squares from the pan with a small metal spatula.

Store, tightly covered, for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 2 months.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Lobster!” She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at:

facebook.com/brookedojny