Tag Archives: Christmas

Peppermint Bark Cookies

Peppermint Bark CookiesHow have I never put peppermint bark on here? It’s chocolate, it’s peppermint, it’s festive, it’s iconic, and yet it’s never graced this blog. That is, unless you count assembling it on top of a giant sheet of chocolate cookie and then breaking it into a zillion jagged pieces, which I very much do.Peppermint Bark CookiesOoooh y’all, these have been a long time coming. Over the years, I have tested putting peppermint bark on a cookie cake, shortbread bars, potato chips and brownies, none of which have made to on the blog, but these Peppermint Bark Cookies? These are where it’s at. If you make one new cookie recipe this holiday season, let this be it. It’s the best of two worlds (peppermint bark and cookies, duh), surprisingly simple, and so, so good.Peppermint Bark CookiesThe dough comes together in a flash. It’s just my chocolate cut-out cookie recipe, but instead of stamping out cookies with graduated cutters, it’s divided in two and rolled into big rectangles. Each one gets a 15 minute freeze, a 17 minute bake and then has to cool completely before the peppermint barking. <—Sounds weird, keeping it anyway.

The way the recipe is written, these big cookies retain a good amount of softness, but aren’t gooey or underdone at all. Once baked and cooled, you can wrap them in plastic and wait a day or two before assembly, or you can get right to it.Peppermint Bark CookiesPeppermint Bark CookiesThis part—the peppermint bark part—is easy, but I still have a few tips for you.

Use good quality pure white chocolate, like Ghirardelli or even Baker’s. Please don’t use white chocolate chips. Just don’t. Melting white chocolate is always a little finicky, but white chocolate chips? Forget it—too many stabilizers. I’ve outlined a microwave method for melting white chocolate in the recipe; it’s easy, but involves a few stops and starts and adding more chopped white chocolate at a certain interval. You may be wondering if any of that matters and if you can’t just chuck it all together and call it a day. And yeah, you can, but your white chocolate will never be as smooth and spreadable as what you see here. Heat and time, y’all. They’re important.

After your white chocolate is melted, add 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract. This will make your white chocolate seize slightly for a few seconds, but just keep whisking and it will smooth out. Could you skip the extract? Sure. But that extra hint of peppermint is wonderful.Peppermint Bark CookiesAnd speaking of peppermint, I like to use starlight peppermints in my Christmas baking. Some bakers prefer candy canes, but peppermints are cheaper ($1!) and look the exact same as candy canes when all bashed up. Oh, and unpopular opinion? They taste better than your average candy cane. Fight me.Peppermint Bark CookiesPeppermint Bark CookiesTo make the peppermint bark, spread the melted white chocolate all over the big chocolate cookies and scatter on the bashed peppermints. Then give your cookies a 20 minute freeze to set the bark. You can also let it set at room temperature, but it will take a couple of hours and that seems like a lot when cookies can be had so much sooner.Peppermint Bark CookiesThe last step in this process is the most fun: breaking the big cookies into shards! Just like with traditional peppermint bark, make the pieces as big or small as you like. Try to let go of the outcome—the charm here is that each piece is different. If you need uniformity with your Peppermint Bark Cookies, you can obviously slice the big rectangles into squares.Peppermint Bark CookiesAfter that, it’s time to treat yourself! These cookies have it all: a soft chocolate base, a layer of smooth, snappy, peppermint-spiked white chocolate, a smattering of candy, and a whole lot of holiday cheer. They’re so delicious that you could easily hoard the whole batch to yourself, but I think they’d be amazing packed up in tins and gifted. And speaking of food gifting, that’s what we’re talking about on Friday. See you then!Peppermint Bark Cookies

Peppermint Bark Cookies
makes lots

Chocolate Cookie Base:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch process)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For peppermint bark:
40 starlight peppermints
16 ounces pure white chocolate (not white chocolate chips)
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract (not mint extract)

Special Equipment:
rolling pin
2 12×16-inch sheets parchment
2 quarter sheet pans or jelly roll pans
small hammer/meat tenderizer/heavy object

Place oven racks in central positions. Preheat oven to 350F.

Make chocolate cookie base. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in granulated and light brown sugars, followed by the egg and vanilla extract. Add dry ingredients in 3 installments, combining completely after each. Use your hands to knead dough into a mass, then divide it in two.

Lightly flour your rolling pin. Place one half of the dough on a sheet of parchment. Gently pat it into a rectangle shape before rolling it out to an 8×12-inch rectangle. You may need to slice off edges and patchwork your corners together—this is fine. Transfer dough (on parchment) to one rimmed sheet pan. Freeze 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining half of dough.

Bake frozen dough rectangles 17-18 minutes, until puffed and no longer raw looking. Watch the edges to make sure they don’t burn. Let cool completely on their pans on racks.

Prepare the peppermint bark. Place starlight mints in a ziptop bag and seal. Place bag on a cutting board, or other surface that can take some light bashing. Use a small hammer or other heavy object to smash peppermints into small pieces (follow your preference). Set aside.

Chop 12 ounces of the white chocolate and place in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between, until melted (this takes 60 seconds in my microwave). Chop remaining 4 ounces of white chocolate and add to melted white chocolate. Microwave in 15 second increments, stirring between, until melted (this takes about 30 seconds in my microwave).

Add peppermint extract to white chocolate and stir until smooth. White chocolate may appear to seize at first, but just keep stirring and it will smooth out.

Divide white chocolate mixture onto the two rectangles and use the back of a spoon or offset knife to spread it to the edges, leaving a narrow border if desired. Sprinkle crushed peppermints over the top. Freeze cookies for 20 minutes to set white chocolate.

Remove cookies from freezer and let thaw a few minutes before breaking into pieces. Serve.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container for a few days. Peppermints may degrade over time.Peppermint Bark CookiesPeppermint Bark Cookies

Brown Butter White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

Brown Butter White Chocolate Macadamia Nut CookiesA few years ago, I put out a call for holiday cookie ideas and got a list ten miles long out of the deal. I have slowly worked my way through it for the last several Christmases and am getting close to the end now…and what’s down there? Oh! It’s white chocolate macadamia nut cookies.Brown Butter White Chocolate Macadamia Nut CookiesYou might be thinking “are white chocolate macadamia nut cookies a holiday cookie?” To that I say…sure, why not?! If someone puts them out at the holidays, I think they’re a holiday cookie. Just because a recipe doesn’t match our own personal experience and nostalgia doesn’t mean it doesn’t align with someone else’s.

To that end, most of my personal experience with white chocolate macadamia nut cookies has not been holiday-related, but instead in shopping mall food courts and some Otis Spunkmeyer set-ups that my school’s PTO had. That said, I firmly believe than any cookie can be a holiday cookie with a little belief (Christmas spirit?), some brown butter, and maybe a decorative plate, if you’re a little more organized than I am.Brown Butter White Chocolate Macadamia Nut CookiesSo, here we are with my second holiday cookie of the season: Brown Butter White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies. Yes, that name is seven words long but it is #worthit—brown butter takes this chewy, nutty classic cookie recipe from good to WOW! Like, why have we not been doing this all along?Brown Butter White Chocolate Macadamia Nut CookiesBrown Butter White Chocolate Macadamia Nut CookiesThe cookie dough is straightforward and doesn’t require a mixer or anything fancy. I’ve made these with both white chocolate chips (about a cup) and chopped white chocolate, and prefer the chopped stuff every time. It has more cocoa butter, fewer stabilizers, and it just tastes better, period. As for the macadamia nuts, you can use roasted-salted or raw. I love control and have access to raw macadamias through Sahadi’s, so those are what I used here. If you are using roasted-salted, just skip the roasting step and reduce the salt to 1/2 teaspoon (unless you like very salty cookies). As with most of my cookie doughs, this one requires a chill, but it’s pretty short. Once your dough has rested, just scoop/roll/bake/cool/eat eat eat.Brown Butter White Chocolate Macadamia Nut CookiesAnd maybe, just maybe, share a few and spread a little holiday cheer.Brown Butter White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

Brown Butter White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies
makes about 2.5 dozen cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup macadamia nuts (I used raw)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 ounces white chocolate, chopped (I used Ghirardelli)

If using roasted salted macadamia nuts, skip the first step. Chop them before beginning the recipe at “Brown the butter.” Also reduce the salt to 1/2 teaspoon.

Preheat oven to 350F. Scatter pecan halves on a dry rimmed baking sheet and roast 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant. Do not burn. Let cool completely and give them a rough chop.

Brown the butter. Place butter in a light-colored saucepan over medium heat. Let butter melt. Butter will bubble and crackle as the water content evaporates. Swirl the pan frequently for 5-7 minutes, keeping an eye on the color. When the solids are turning brown and the butter is nutty and fragrant, remove the pot from the heat and immediately pour the brown butter into a large mixing bowl and let cool 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.

Retrieve the large mixing bowl full with the brown butter. Whisk in light brown and granulated sugars. Mix in eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla. Add dry ingredients in two installments, mixing until combined. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in white chocolate, followed by chopped macadamia nuts. Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 90 minutes, or up to 3 days.

Place oven racks in the central positions. Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Set aside.

Scoop chilled dough in 2 tablespoon increments, and roll into balls. Place dough balls at least two inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake cookies 9-10 minutes, until puffy. Let cool on baking sheets for five minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat process with any remaining dough, letting the baking sheets come back to room temperature between batches.

Cookies will keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Brown Butter White Chocolate Macadamia Nut CookiesBrown Butter White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

Molasses Crinkles

Molasses CrinklesI’ve been a bit lost trying to decide what to make for Christmas this year. In the past, I’ve really gone for it with elaborately iced/stacked/painted/glammed up cookies, but that seems a bit frivolous in a year where I will be spending the holidays alone. There is certainly something to be said for going big & going (staying) home with holiday baking as a way to emotionally survive the next 30 days or 30 weeks or whatever, but today I don’t feel like mixing up a giant vat of royal icing and coloring my world. Today I feel like getting in bed and staying there until I can see my friends again or until flying doesn’t seem insane or until every first date doesn’t involve asking someone from the internet if he is willing to take both of our lives into his hands to have an outdoor, distanced coffee.

That got dark quickly. Oy.Molasses CrinklesAnyway, this Christmas is going to be simpler around here. I’m not saying there won’t be sprinkles or a buttercream flourish—I’m still me, duh. It just may be a month of less…involved…holiday sweets.

That doesn’t mean they’re any less special or delicious, of course. I mean, look at these Molasses Crinkles! They’re a classic winter cookie that comes together in a snap and are very difficult to stop eating, especially if you have a pot of coffee and some twinkle lights nearby. I’m speaking from experience here.Molasses CrinklesAs far as the recipe goes, my path to chewy Molasses Crinkle glory is pretty straightforward. I used my Maple Sugar Cookies as a starting place, swapping the maple for molasses, adding big hits of ginger and cinnamon, quadrupling (!) the baking soda, and rolling the cookies in sugar for a textured appearance.Molasses CrinklesMolasses CrinklesMix your dough in a pot on the stove and let it relax at room temperature while your oven warms; this will give the gluten time to develop for extra-chewy results! Scoop the dough into balls and roll them in sugar (granulated or a mix of granulated and coarse) before baking for ten minutes. The big crinkles will begin to form during the last two or so minutes of baking, when the dough has spread pretty dramatically and puffs to the point that it breaks the sugar coating. Then, just when you remove the hot cookies from the oven, give the pan a good thwack on the counter and…bam. Crinkle city.Molasses CrinklesThese cookies, y’all. They’re on the thin side, but have tons of surface area and chewy texture and crinkles and a crisp coating, and that’s to say nothing of the molasses and ginger and cinnamon! And make no mistake, these are molasses cookies. Sure, the ginger and cinnamon are quality background flavors, but sticky, bittersweet molasses? She’s the star of this show.Molasses CrinklesI’ve made three batches of Molasses Crinkles since Thanksgiving, and I’m here to tell you that they keep like a dang dream. Seriously. I keep thinking I’m going to reach into a bag to discover a bunch of molasses frisbees, but nope—chewy as ever.

Brighter days ahead.Molasses Crinkles

Molasses Crinkles
makes about 20 medium-large cookies

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
1 large egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

For coating:
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Melt the butter in a medium pot over medium-low heat. Remove from heat and stir in brown sugar and molasses—mixture will not be homogenous. Let rest 10 minutes. Add the egg to the pot and whisk to combine. Whisk in the vanilla, followed by flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Let dough sit for 30 minutes.

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

Place sugar (for coating) in a small shallow bowl.

Scoop dough in 1 1/2 tablespoon increments (I use a medium cookie scoop). Roll into balls and then roll the balls in sugar before placing them at least 3 inches apart on prepared pans. Bake cookies about 10 minutes, or until puffed.

Remove pan from oven and give it one good thwack on a flat surface. Crinkles will fully develop as the cookies cool. Let cookies cool for 8-10 minutes on the pans before removing to a rack to cool completely.

Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.Molasses CrinklesMolasses Crinkles

Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers

Turkey and pie may take all the Thanksgiving glory, but I’m on a mission to nab a tiny bit of it for holiday cheese plates. You know, the stuff you snack on while you make…everything else. They’re frequently overlooked or taken for granted, which is a shame because the holiday cheese plate says something about the person who made it. Specifically, that they like cheese.

While there is nothing wrong with just putting out cheese and crackers, I’ve made it a point over these last several Thanksgivings to turn my cheese plate game up to 11. These twists, shortbreads and slumping blocks of feta aren’t difficult or overly flashy—nobody has time for that on the fourth Thursday in November!—but they sure are delicious. Here is a definitive list of your favorite cheesy food blogger’s favorite cheesy appetizers.Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers Rosemary-Parmesan Cheese Straws

These flaky homemade cheese straws are the perfect thing to serve alongside an assortment of cheeses and fresh fruit. They’re perfumed with rosemary, have a little funk from grated Parmesan, can be prepped ahead (!), and they’re absolutely gorgeous.
Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers Baked Brie with Caramelized Onions

Baked Brie is a classic holiday party treat, and it couldn’t be simpler to make. Just wrap a wheel of brie in puff pastry and bake until golden and gooey—that’s it! This version has added sweetness and depth from caramelized onions and a smear of dijon mustard. Yum!Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers
Spicy Cheddar Shortbread

These shortbread are like Cheez-Its all glowed up. They’ve got a rich cheddar flavor with hits of spicy cayenne and black pepper, and are outrageously good. Serve them by themselves or pair with a tart apple for a bright, rich finish.Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers
Baked Feta with Sautéed Dates

I made a whole Christmas dinner for my family last year, including a porchetta, but this easy appetizer stole the show. An entire block of feta is painted with olive oil and honey before being baked until soft and slumping, then broiled to a golden finish. While Baked Feta would be delicious served on its own with water crackers, you’d be remiss to skip the sweet & savory Sautéed Dates. They’re chewy, caramelized, and get finished with a a good hit of coarse salt before being piled on the Baked Feta and fully devoured.Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers
Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil

This year’s cheese plate offering is low-brow and high-brow and completely delicious. Two sheets of flaky rough puff pastry are sandwiched together with southern pimento cheese, gently twisted into a sun shape (“soleil”) and baked until bubbly and golden. While everything else on this list works well as part of a cheese plate, this Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil *is* the cheese plate.

Have you made any of these or any of my other cheesy appetizers? What’s your favorite thing to put on a holiday cheese plate? Let me know in the comments or on social media!Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers

Chocolate Cranberry Ginger Blondies

Chocolate Cranberry Ginger BlondiesHello, it’s me, your completely exhausted food blogger friend!

I’m writing this post on Friday night (wild life I lead, huh?), but by the time you read it on Monday, I’ll be at my parents’ house in Texas assembling a Porchetta (!) and giving their dog as many scritches and snuggles as she’ll allow. I’m looking forward to the break and the family time, and to making holiday food.Chocolate Cranberry Ginger BlondiesIt’s been determined that our Christmas dinner dessert will be a Winning Hearts & Minds Cake, mostly for deliciousness and ease-of-preparation reasons, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to find an excuse to make these Chocolate Cranberry Ginger Blondies, too. Thanks to their quick prep time and my mother’s love for any and all dried fruit, I’m sure she won’t object. She may, however, not exactly love me kneading dinner roll dough on her counter, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.Chocolate Cranberry Ginger BlondiesThe blondie base is so simple to make that I have the recipe committed to memory. Well, almost. I reduced the flour by a couple of tablespoons for an extra dense and chewy result and I don’t regret it one bit!Chocolate Cranberry Ginger BlondiesYou could put 1 1/4 cup of any mix-in you like in this blondie batter and it’d bake up beautifully. I went with chocolate chips, dried cranberries and candied ginger because I had a little of all of those in my cookie mix-in cabinet—it’s as simple as that. It helps, of course, that chocolate, cranberries and candies ginger are both beautiful *and* sweet, tangy, delicious holiday fare. I mean, are these calling your name like they are mine?Chocolate Cranberry Ginger BlondiesI’ll be taking this Wednesday off posting because it’s Christmas (duh). I hope you have a wonderful holiday filled with good food and people you love. I’ll be back Friday with my last recipe of 2019 and probably some dog pictures.Chocolate Cranberry Ginger Blondies

Chocolate Cranberry Ginger Blondies
makes one 8-inch pan

1 cup water
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1/4 cup small-diced candied ginger
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish and line it with parchment, leaving overhang on two sides for easy removal. Grease again. Set aside.

Plump the cranberries. Bring water to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and add cranberries. Let sit about 5 minutes before straining out water.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter and brown sugar. Add egg and vanilla, followed by flour and salt. Stir in dried cranberries and candied ginger. Check to make sure the batter isn’t too warm to the touch before stirring in chocolate chips (you don’t want them to melt).

Spread batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-27 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. Let blondies cool in the pan on a rack until they reach room temperature. Run a small, thin knife around the edge of the pan, then use parchment to lift them onto a cutting board. Slice with a large, sharp chef’s knife, wiping the blade clean between cuts. Serve.

Blondies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for three days.Chocolate Cranberry Ginger BlondiesChocolate Cranberry Ginger Blondies