Category Archives: Christmas

Peppermint Mocha Brownies

It’s a little late for a Christmas recipe, but frankly I can do whatever I want on this website. And what I want is a pan of Peppermint Mocha Brownies.

Peppermint Mocha Brownies

Made with my tried and true Cocoa Brownie base, these holiday treats come together super easily. Their already-deep chocolate flavor is punched up with semisweet chocolate chips, then accented with just enough peppermint extract and granulated espresso to evoke everyone’s holiday coffee shop fave.

Peppermint Mocha Brownies

But flavor’s only half of the equation here—Peppermint Mocha Brownies have to look the part, too! These are drizzled with a melted mix of chocolate chips and butter, and sprinkled with as much crushed candy cane as your heart desires. (My heart desires a lot.)

Peppermint Mocha Brownies

Peppermint Mocha Brownies are rich and satisfying; a little square goes a long way. I, however, have no self control and cut these on the larger side. I regret nothing.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Whatever and wherever you’re celebrating, I hope you’re safe, warm, and with people you love.

Peppermint Mocha Brownies
Peppermint Mocha Brownies
adapted from Alice Medrich's Cocoa Brownies
makes one 8- or 9-inch square pan

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (natural or dutch process)
2 large eggs, cold
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract (not mint extract)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons granulated espresso or coffee
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

For Garnish:
3 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
crushed candy canes or starlight peppermints

Preheat oven to 325F. Butter the inside of an 8- or 9-inch square pan. Line the bottom with parchment and butter again. Set aside.

In a small pot over medium-low heat, melt butter, granulated and brown sugars, and cocoa powder together, stirring frequently, until a thick, grainy mixture forms. Remove from heat and let mixture cool 5-7 minutes.

Add vanilla, peppermint extract, and eggs to the pot, and stir/whisk to combine. Add flour, granulated espresso, and salt, and stir/whisk to combine. Fold in semisweet chocolate chips. Transfer batter to prepared pan and spread to the edges. Tap the full pan on the counter a couple of times to release any air bubbles. Top with pecans, if desired.

Bake brownies 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs (not wet batter). Let cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Garnish the brownies. Combine chocolate chips and butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until smooth. Use a fork to drizzle over brownies. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes.

Refrigerate brownies for 15-20 minutes, until chocolate sets.

Slide a knife around the edges of the pan before using parchment overhang to lift brownies onto a cutting board. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice brownies into 16 or 25 pieces. Serve.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days or in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Cinnamon Sugar Puff Pastry Christmas Tree

Between the burnout and a holiday case of COVID that set me way behind, this year has not had my best Christmas content. Not every December can be a winner, you know? But I’m back this week with a couple more recipes before the real festivities begin. I’m doing my best in this moment, and my best is this Cinnamon Sugar Puff Pastry Christmas Tree.

Cinnamon Sugar Puff Pastry Christmas Tree

It’s flaky. It’s tasty. It’s CUTE.

Cinnamon Sugar Puff Pastry Christmas Tree

It can be served in place of cinnamon rolls at your Christmas breakfast, or it can be a part of a tea or dessert spread.

It can be made savory by swapping the pfilling with pesto or pimento cheese.

It can be made even easier with ready-made puff pastry instead of homemade rough puff.

Cinnamon Sugar Puff Pastry Christmas Tree

Basically it can do it all, even when I can’t. That’s the kind of Christmas treat (tree-t?) I can get behind.

Cinnamon Sugar Puff Pastry Christmas Tree
Cinnamon Sugar Puff Pastry Christmas Tree
makes one tree

Rough Puff Pastry (makes 2 sheets):
2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
10 ounces (20 tablespoons) unsalted European-style butter, very cold, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup water or milk, very cold

Cinnamon Sugar Filling:
1/4 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Egg Wash:
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water

Garnish (optional):
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar

If you do not wish to make the Rough Puff Pastry, you may use two sheets of frozen all-butter puff pastry that you have thawed according to package directions. Begin the recipe at “Make the cinnamon sugar filling.”

Make the rough puff pastry. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Use a pastry blender or two forks to cut butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Pour in cold water or milk and stir with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms.

Use your hands to give the dough a couple of kneads in the bowl, then divide it in half. Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Place one half on the floured surface. Place the other in the bowl in the refrigerator.

Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Turn dough out onto surface, and use your hands to pat it into a rough rectangle. Roll the dough into an 8x10" rectangle. Fold dough in thirds, and give it one quarter turn. Roll into an 8x10" rectangle again, fold, and turn. Repeat rolling, folding, and turning until it has been done six times total. Wrap folded dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 48 hours. Repeat the mixing, rolling, folding and chilling process with remaining half of the dough.

Make the cinnamon sugar filling. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, and salt. Mix in melted butter until a paste forms. Set aside.

Make the tree. Place an oven rack in the center position. Preheat oven to 400F. Line a rimmed half-sheet pan with parchment.

Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Unfold one sheet of dough. Roll out to 12x15-inch rectangle, or a bit larger. Transfer to the parchment lined baking sheet.

Use a knife or straight edge to score a large tree shape in the dough. Spread the cinnamon-sugar filling into the tree shape, leaving 1/2-inch border on all sides. Brush a tiny amount of water on the exposed border.

Retrieve the other sheet of dough and repeat the rolling and transfer process. Press down the dough so that you have “sealed” the filled tree shape. Use a large sharp chef’s knife or a straight edge to trim off all the excess dough, leaving behind the tree shape. If desired, return dough scraps to the floured surface and cut out stars or other shapes for decoration. Otherwise refrigerate dough and save for another purpose.

Use a straight edge to score a 1-1 1/2-inch length vertically down the center of your tree. Starting at the base of the tree, use a sharp knife to cut 1-inch strips all the way up on both sides, leaving them connected in the center.

Taking one strip of dough at a time, gently twist it a few times. Repeat with all strips up to the top; as they get shorter, they will accept fewer twists.

Make egg wash. Combine egg and water in a small bowl and whisk together with a fork. Use a pastry brush to paint egg wash over the entire tree. If you cut stars from the excess, add them to the pan and paint with egg wash.

Bake tree for 28-30 minutes, until completely golden. Let cool 10 minutes before carefully removing to a serving plate. I found this easiest to do by lifting it on the parchment, placing it on the serving dish, then sliding out the parchment from underneath. Arrange stars, if using.

Sift confectioners sugar over all or part of the tree (I did the stars and then placed them). Serve warm or at room temperature.

White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Wedges

White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Wedges​

Hi there! I am sorry I left you hanging for a few weeks there—COVID finally got me—but I am very happy to be back with a new recipe in time for the Sweetest Season Cookie Exchange. This event, which I am participating in for the fifth year, is a food blogger-lead fundraiser and awareness campaign for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. This organization is a 501(c)3 non-profit with the express mission to raise funds for innovative pediatric cancer treatments and research through bake sales and cookie swaps. Supporters (“Good Cookies”) can do this throughout the year, but I am delighted to lend support as part of my holiday giving especially right now when OXO is matching donations up to $100,000! If you’d like to learn more and/or make a charitable donation to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, click here. For White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Wedges, keep scrolling!

White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Wedges​

I would like to give a high five to whichever person decided white chocolate, dried cranberries, and pistachios is a Christmas combination. I don’t believe it was a part of any holiday parties or cookie exchanges I took part in while growing up, but I am all for it now. Aside from just being festive—love that red, green and white—it’s delicious, and a welcome departure from the chocolate, peppermint, and spice-heavy fare that seems to be available 24/7 in December. Not that I’m complaining.

White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Wedges​

Today’s White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Wedges are the perfect vehicle for showcasing this new holiday classic combination. They’re simple to make, require just a few ingredients, and are incredibly cute—things cut in wedges automatically have Christmas tree vibes, you know?

These buttery shortbread treats come together just as simply as the classic cookies. The dough is mixed in one bowl in just a few minutes. It’s got all the usual shortbread suspects (granulated sugar, softened butter, all-purpose flour), plus confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and salt for smooth texture, flavor and balance. Oh, and white chocolate chips, chopped dried cranberries and pistachios for pizzazz!

Once mixed, the dough is spread into a cake pan lined with an extra-large piece of parchment. It’s docked (vented) with a fork all over before baking for about 40 minutes, until just turning golden at the edges. Fifteen minutes later, that extra-large parchment is used to lift the whole disk of shortbread onto a cutting board and slice it into wedges while it’s still warm. I love those clean edges.

These shortbread wedges are thick and substantial, with a slight softness to their crunch, and plenty of color and flavor from the mix-ins. My favorite bites are the ones with white chocolate—it caramelizes in the oven and is outrageously good. I like to dot a few extra white chocolate chips on top after baking for diversity of flavor (and obvious cuteness). And the chewy cranberries and crunchy pistachios? So good!

White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Wedges​

White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Wedges are perfect for any upcoming party or cookie giving (eating?) occasion. They’re as satisfying to make as they are to eat, and the dough is a perfect blank slate for any festive mix-in your holiday heart desires. What would you put in shortbread wedges? Let me know in the comments!

White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Wedges​
White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Wedges
makes 12-16 wedges

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/3 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
1/3 cup pistachio meats, finely chopped
1/3 cup white chocolate chips, plus more for garnish

Preheat oven to 325F. Cut a large (12-14 inch) circle of parchment paper. Grease a 9-inch cake pan with butter. Line the pan with parchment circle, leaving the overhang for ease of removal. Grease again. Set aside.

Place softened butter in a large mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add granulated and confectioners sugars and vanilla, and beat until incorporated. Beat in half of flour and salt, followed by remaining flour. Add chopped dried cranberries, pistachio meats, and white chocolate chips.

Transfer dough to prepared pan and press into an even layer. Use the tines of a fork to dock the entire surface of the dough. If you hit a big piece of pistachio (or whatever), simply pull it off the fork and press it back into place.

Bake shortbread 38-40 minutes, until golden at the edges and set on top. Dot with additional white chocolate chips, if desired.

Let shortbread cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes. Then use the overhang to remove the still-warm shortbread to a cutting board. Use a large sharp chef’s knife to cut into 12 large or 16 smaller wedges. Gently transfer wedges back to the rack and let cool completely. Serve.

Leftover shortbread will keep covered at room temperature for a few days.

Easy Homemade Almond Croissants

Easy Homemade Almond Croissants

I make almost every baked good I consume from scratch with the best ingredients available to me. I’m a bit of a snob when it comes down to it. Even at the height of the pandemic, I was inspecting different brands of flour to see their protein counts because I care that much.* That said, when it comes to store-bought baked goods, I have one glaring weakness: Costco croissants.

*4% or bust. King Arthur, Heckers & Trader Joe’s only.

Easy Homemade Almond Croissants

I will go out of my way for a Costco croissant. They are shockingly delicious, especially when eaten like a wild animal mid-shopping trip, somewhere between produce and electronics. I was introduced to them by my friend and certified Costco enthusiast, David, and I’ve been ruined ever since. The finest French pastry they are not, but I defy you not to enjoy one while it’s still warm, as they almost always are when I sling them into my cart. For $6 (and a Costco membership) you too can have 12 big, buttery Costco croissants in a giant clamshell package. Twelve seems like a lot, but if you’re anything like me, that means one for now, one for later, two for tomorrow, and eight to sit out on my counter to get stale for Easy Almond Croissants.

You see, Almond Croissants, while a bakery favorite, are frequently just another way to use up leftover bread; think of them as the even more sophisticated cousins of French toast and Bostock. Imbued with almond flavor inside and out, they’re deceptively simple to make and even easier to eat.

Stale croissants are split and soaked in simple syrup, smeared with homemade frangipane, sandwiched together, and topped with sliced almonds before baking. They emerge from the oven fragrant and flaky with the best crisp almond edges and rich, dense centers. You may leave them plain—as if there’s a way for Almond Croissants to seem plain!—or you may dust them with a little confectioner’s sugar for flair. I like flair.

Easy Homemade Almond Croissants

While I am a Costco croissant purist, these may be made with any pre-baked or store-bought croissants you may have on hand. Please keep in mind that your croissants may differ in size from mine, so you may end up with a larger or smaller quantity of Almond Croissants than I have. Not that I’ve ever found such a thing to be a problem. It is the summer of frangipane, after all.

Easy Homemade Almond Croissants
Easy Homemade Almond Croissants 
makes 8-12 (I made 8)

Simple Syrup:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup water

Frangipane*:
2 cup blanched almond flour or 8 ounces blanched almonds
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold-ish room temperature, cut into cubes
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure almond extract

For Assembly & Garnish:
8-12 store-bought croissants (I used 8), preferably a little stale
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar, optional

The simple syrup and frangipane may be made up to a day in advance. Just cover and refrigerate until you are ready to bake.

Make the simple syrup. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and stir until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool until you can comfortably hold your finger in it. Transfer to a bowl or dish (I used a pie plate) that is slightly larger than your croissants.

Make the frangipane. In a food processor (or very good blender), pulse almond flour, all-purpose flour, salt and sugar together. Pulse in butter. Pour in eggs and almond extract, and process until frangipane is a homogenous paste. Set aside.

Arrange oven racks in central positions. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line two rimmed sheet pans with parchment.

Assemble the almond croissants. Slice each croissant in half equatorially.

Working with one sliced croissant at a time, dip each half in the simple syrup, making sure to coat all sides. Place the bottom halves cut-sides-up on the prepared pans, and set the top halves on plates or another surface while assembly continues.

Use an offset icing spatula or the back of a spoon to spread about 2 heaping tablespoons of frangipane on the bottom half of each croissant. Top the frangipane with the top halves of the croissants, cut-sides-down. Press down lightly on each to adhere.

Spread about a tablespoon of frangipane on top of each filled croissant and sprinkle sliced almonds over the top. Bake croissants for 20-22 minutes, or until the frangipane is golden.

Let croissants cool on the pans for 15 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Sift confectioner’s sugar over the tops, if desired. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Almond Croissants are best eaten the day they are made.

Note: You will have some leftover frangipane after making these. Refrigerate it and use it for these or this.

Mint Chip Buttercream Bars

Mint Chip​ Buttercream Bars

It seems impossible, but we’ve reached the last recipe of the year.

With three days to go until Christmas, I wanted this one to be easy enough that you could add it to your menu at the last second, but not so in-your-face Christmasy that you couldn’t make it for New Year’s Eve or any other time. These Mint Chip Buttercream Bars certainly fit that bill. With just ten minutes of actual baking, a flavor that’s universally beloved, and a high yield, they’re exactly the sort of recipe you want to have in your back pocket during the holidays.

Mint Chip​ Buttercream Bars

Oh, they look fancy with their three layer presentation, but they’re dead easy. The thick Oreo crust is the only thing that requires baking; the creamy mint chip buttercream and chocolate topping are simply whipped up and layered on.

Mint Chip​ Buttercream Bars

You can make these all in one go or do them in steps, making the crust one day and applying the other layers a day or two later. Once assembled, put them in the fridge for a couple of hours for optimal sliceability, and that’s it!

Mint Chip​ Buttercream Bars

I like to cut these really small, because they pack a wallop. With layers of crumbly Oreo crust, chocolate chip studded mint buttercream and glossy chocolate, they’ve got texture and flavor all over the place. I only need a bite or two to be satisfied—that doesn’t stop me from going back for more though!

Mint Chip​ Buttercream Bars

Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas to those who celebrate! I am taking Christmas Eve off, but will be back next week with some end of year wrap up stuff.

Mint Chip Buttercream Bars
makes 2-2.5 dozen depending how small you cut them

Oreo Crust:
24 Oreos
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Mint Chip Buttercream:
1/2 cup (1 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups confectioner's sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extrac
1/4-1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream
2-3 drops green food coloring (I used gel)
6 tablespoons mini chocolate chips

Chocolate Topping:
6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square pan with butter. Line with parchment, leaving overhang on two sides for removal. Grease again. Set aside.

Make the crust. Place Oreos in the bowl of a food processor and blitz until they are crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse until the mixture can be pinched together. Press it into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake 10 minutes to set. Let cool completely. At this point, the pan and crust may be wrapped with plastic wrap and stored for a day at room temperature.

Make the mint chip buttercream. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in confectioner's sugar in two installments, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Beat in salt, vanilla and 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract. Add in heavy cream until desired consistency is reached. Add 1-2 drops gel food coloring (or a few drops of liquid) and use your electric mixer to beat until combined. Adjust color as necessary. Fold in mini chocolate chips.

Spread mint chip buttercream over the crust, smoothing into an even layer. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.


Make the chocolate topping. Combine chopped chocolate and butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 15 second increments, stirring in between, just until melted. Drop chocolate over filling one spoonful at a time. Use a small offset icing knife (or a silicone spatula) to carefully spread it over a section of the filling. Continue dropping and spreading chocolate until it’s all used. Freeze until chocolate has hardened, about 15 minutes.

Use parchment overhang to remove bars to a cutting board. Carefully peel off and discard parchment. Use a lightly-greased sharp chef’s knife to slice bars (mine are 1x1 1/2-inch). pieces).

Bars may be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week (check the date on your heavy cream). Layer them with parchment if they are to be stacked.