Holiday Baking

Between cooking and baking, family visiting (missing them already), Black Friday shopping, and decorating for Christmas, I am finally feeling like myself again. I’m ready to start thinking of all the baking I want to do for Christmas. While I gather all sorts of new things to make, I will give you a roundup of some really good recipes to make now. Happy Baking!

First up are these chocolaty brownies with a peppermint topping

Oreo Truffles

Jam Thumbprint Cookies

Holiday Biscotti (our favorite)

Candy Cane Kiss Cookies

Mint Patty Cupcakes



Outrageous Brownies with Crushed Candy Cane

Before I get into the brownies, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend like I did. My parents and brother were here and I couldn’t have asked for a better time with them and the rest of the family. My mother-in-law and father-in-law gave me a new camera and I can’t wait  to start using it. I got some of the most thoughtful gifts from my husband and sister-in-law. I have to share them with you, their gifts made me cry.

My wonderful husband worked together with his cousins to get this for me. His cousins are very talented and do beautiful embroidery work. I now have an apron and an awesome tote with my website name and url embroidered on it. As soon as I opened it I started to tear up. The thought put behind it meant more than the gift itself.

My sister-in-law and her husband gave me the next most thoughtful gift. A recipe book that has some of my recipes and family photos all through it.

She did a beautiful job on it, which I’m not surprised. The girl is a scrapbook professional!

There was one page that made me cry like a baby. For years I have been bugging my mother and my Aunt for my great-grandmother’s pierogi recipe. I had never gotten a copy of it. Christmas Eve I find that my mother and Mandi have been talking and she had the recipe printed in the book. I can’t even begin to explain how much that has meant to me.

The final gift was passed on to me from my mom. She developed her fudge recipe about 25 years ago. I have only made it once or twice in my life because it was always my mom’s fudge and it just tasted better when she made it. She has given me everything she ever uses for making the fudge. She gave me the pot, candy thermometer and most of the ingredients needed. My dad wrote a beautiful poem about how this will be passed to me and then onto my kids.

Thank you to all my family who made this a memorable Christmas. I love you all!


Were you wanting a recipe for these yummy looking brownies?

I made the brownies for the huge Christmas Eve gathering we had. My husband’s family is really big and every Christmas Eve everyone gathers in one place. I wanted something special for the evening and I turned to Ina Garten. I took Ina’s outrageous brownies recipe and kicked it up a bit. I added white chocolate chips to the brownies as soon as they came out of the oven. I let the chocolate chips sit on the hot brownies for a few minutes to melt. I then took an off-set spatula and spread the white chocolate all over and added the crushed candy cane. I honestly think the brownies tasted better the next day. These would be great for a New Years Eve party!

Outrageous Brownies with Crushed Candy Canes

  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 6 extra-large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 11.5 oz bags white chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli)
  • 34 mini candy canes, crushed (place them in a ziplock bag and lightly pound them till crushed)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Butter and flour a 12 x 18 x 1-inch baking sheet.
  3. Melt together the butter, 1 pound of chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature
  4. In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the 12 ounces of chocolate chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of flour, then add them to the chocolate batter. Pour into the baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake! Remove from oven and add the white chocolate chips evenly on top of the brownies. After 4 minutes, or until the white chocolate is soft, spread the white chocolate evenly over the top of the brownies. Sprinkle the crushed candy canes evenly on top.
  6. Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut.


Slightly Adapted from Ina Garten via Food Network


Oreo Truffles

I’m going to be super busy the next couple days. My parents and brother will be here on Thursday. If I don’t have the sugar cookies done, I will be grounded. Why is it your parents still scare you even after you are all grown up and moved away? I wanted to get one more recipe out to you before I head back in the kitchen and slave away on a few more desserts.

I saw these Oreo Truffles the other day and got so excited about them. Oreo cookies, Cream Cheese and melted chocolate, what could go wrong? Well, let me tell you! Processing the cookies and cream cheese gave me no troubles. It was the melted chocolate and dipping those darn Oreo truffles into it. Every which way I tried would not work. I did not want a huge pool of chocolate on the bottom of each truffle. I finally decided to take my clean hands and go straight for the chocolate. With tons of melted chocolate on my hands I took the Oreo truffle and gently rolled them around so they would have chocolate all over. It was very messy and I was really wishing I had latex free gloves to use. I think the chocolate would work better with the gloves. Later that night, I realized a toothpick inserted into a truffle would probably have worked. It would allow the chocolate to drip nicely off the Oreo truffle. I’ll save that for next time.

After letting them sit and harden, I finally tried one. Everything I had been feeling earlier about the truffles melted away. They were amazing! It was worth all the swearing.

Mom, I’m done and will go work on the sugar cookies.

Oreo Truffles:

  • 1 Package Oreo Cookies
  • 8 oz Cream Cheese
  • 2 bags Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 12 oz good-quality white chocolate, chopped (optional)
  • red and green food coloring (optional)
  1. Add Oreos and cream cheese to food processor. Pulse 2-3 minutes until sticky and shiny.
  2. Refrigerate for 1 hour or more to harden.
  3. Roll into 1-inch balls. Refrigerate till chocolate is ready.
  4. Stir the semi-sweet chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until the chocolate melts.
  5. Coat Oreo balls in chocolate, place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  6. If using… Melt white chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until the chocolate melts. Transfer to two bowls.
  7. Add the green food coloring to one of the bowls with the white chocolate. Use as much as you like to get the color you want. Do the same for the red food coloring. Drizzle over the truffles.
  8. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Source: slightly adapted from The Culinary Couple

Parkerhouse Rolls

These rolls are amazing! I made them for Thanksgiving and I can’t wait to make them again for Christmas dinner. I was worried a little during the “rise” process. The dough didn’t seem to double in size as fast as I thought it would. I gave it an extra 30 minutes and in that 30 minutes the dough finally doubled in size. What I love about this recipe is that you allow the dough to rise only once. After the initial rise you can start forming the rolls and bake them. That makes it nice when you are making them the same day as your dinner.

I have been wanting a go to recipe for rolls and I’m happy to say that I found it. They tasted even better the next day smothered in mayonnaise and left over turkey.

Parkerhouse Rolls:

  • 1 1/4-ounce packet active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 7 1/2 to 8 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus softened butter for brushing
  • 2 cups whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
  1. Measure out 1/2 cup warm water and check the temperature: It should be between 110 degrees F and 120 degrees F (comfortable bathwater temperature). Sprinkle the yeast into a large bowl, add the warm water and whisk in the sugar. Let sit 1 minute (it should bubble and froth slightly), then gently stir in 1 cup flour. Set aside near the stove while you prepare the dough.

Make the dough.

  1. Mix the melted butter and milk in a mixer with the hook attachment on low speed. Add the eggs and mix until blended. Scrape in the yeast mixture and mix until incorporated. Add 6 1/2 cups flour and 1 tablespoon salt; mix until the dough forms a ball, 2 to 3 minutes, adding up to 1/2 cup more flour if the dough is too wet and sticky.
  2. Brush a large bowl with softened butter. Transfer the dough to the bowl, cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place, 2 hours to 2 hours, 30 minutes. The dough should double in volume.

Shape the dough and bake.

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Dust a clean flat surface with flour and turn the dough out onto it. Flour your hands; gently press the dough into a 16-by-8-inch rectangle, about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick (don’t use a rolling pin).
  2. With the short side in front of you, cut the dough in half lengthwise with a floured knife. Then slice crosswise into 12 strips.
  3. One at a time, fold each strip of dough unevenly in half so the top part slightly overlaps the bottom half, then tuck the overhang underneath. Place the rolls seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet in 3 tightly packed rows. (If making in advance, wrap the baking sheet tightly in plastic wrap and freeze up to 3 weeks.)
  4. Bake until the rolls are bursting at the seams and golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. (If frozen, bake 25 minutes at 325 degrees F, then 10 minutes at 375 degrees F.) Remove from the oven and brush with softened butter. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

Source: Alexandra Guarnaschelli via Food Network Magazine Nov Issue 2010

Eggnog – No Sugar Added

Have you ever looked at the sugar content in store bought eggnog? I don’t even want to talk about how much sugar is in it, it’s mind blowing. Even the “light” eggnog has a lot. My husband is diabetic and enjoying one of his favorite drinks during the holidays, has been hard. That’s where SPLENDA® and I come in. Making eggnog is very simple and doesn’t have a lot of ingredients. If you can devote about 10-15 minutes of stirring at the stove, than you can make this.

The recipe says it takes around 5-8 minutes for the temperature of the milk mixture to get to 175 degrees on low. But I’ve found that it takes a little longer and I kicked up the heat to medium-low. When you see the milk mixture start getting thicker, then you know you are getting close to the 175 degree mark. The hardest part about making eggnog is waiting for it to get cold so you can enjoy a glass.


  • 1 cup SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot or cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 7 egg yolks
  • 4 cups 2% milk
  • 2 cups fat-free half and half
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  1. Mix together first 3 ingredients in a large heavy saucepan. Set aside.
  2. Whisk egg yolks. Add to SPLENDA® Granulated Sweetener mixture whisking until blended. Gradually whisk in milk.
  3. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly until the temperature reaches 175 degrees approximately (10-15 minutes). Remove from heat and whisk in half and half; cool.
  4. Cover and chill 3 hours or up to 3 days. Stir in vanilla extract just before serving.


Source: Slightly adapted from Splenda Site Recipe

Jam Thumbprint Cookies

This time of year, one of the most popular cookies is the thumbprint cookie. There are so many different recipes out there and it’s hard to choose which one is the best. I’ve made several different kinds and I think Ina’s cookies are the best. They are a shortbread based cookie which lends a nice flakiness to the cookies. Once the dough is chilled they are rolled into balls and dipped into coconut. The coconut does not overpower the cookies.  People who don’t like coconut, generally like these. Just ask my son who kept saying ewww when I was making them.

I ended up bringing them to a cub scout Christmas party and learned that the raspberry flavor was the most popular. All I had leftover were several apricots. Which is fine with me, I have leftovers!

Jam Thumbprint Cookies:

  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  • 7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
  • Raspberry and/or apricot jam ( I used sugar free)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until they are just combined and then add the vanilla. Separately, sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until the dough starts to come together. Dump on a floured board and roll together into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
  3. Roll the dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. (If you have a scale they should each weigh 1 ounce.) Dip each ball into the egg wash and then roll it in coconut. Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet and press a light indentation into the top of each with your finger. Drop 1/4 teaspoon of jam into each indentation. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the coconut is a golden brown. Cool and serve.

Source: Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten

Holiday Biscotti

About 4 years ago I saw Giada De Laurentiis make these holiday biscotti on her show. I was always a little fearful of making biscotti and I have no idea why. These are so easy to make, but take a little extra time because they have bake twice. I made the biscotti as soon as I saw the recipe and added them to my regular holiday baking list. Everyone raves about them and it won’t be Christmas without having a plate of biscotti. I am sitting here and asking myself why I only make them during the holidays. The only thing that makes them “holiday”‘ biscotti are the red and green sugar crystals sprinkled on the white chocolate. Take those away and they are regular biscotti to be made all year round. I will probably start doing that.

Note: Please use really good white chocolate, like Baker’s, which can be found in every grocery store. I’ve found that using the white chocolate chips can be stressful. I’ve tried many times using just the chips only to have the white chocolate seize up on me. But using good white chocolate and chopping it up with a knife before melting, always works for me. I use the double boiler method. I take a glass bowl and place it over a pot of low simmering water. Works every time!

Holiday Biscotti:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 12 ounces good-quality white chocolate, chopped
  • Red and green sugar crystals, for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl to blend. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat just until blended. Stir in the pistachios and cranberries.
  3. Form the dough into a 13-inch long, 3-inch wide log on the prepared baking sheet.(Lightly wet your hands while you form the dough, it will make it easier)Bake until light golden, about 40 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes.
  4. Place the log on the cutting board. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the log on a diagonal into 1/2 to 3/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake the biscotti until they are pale golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer the biscotti to a rack and cool completely.
  5. Stir the chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until the chocolate melts. Dip half of the biscotti into the melted chocolate. Gently shake off the excess chocolate. Place the biscotti on the baking sheet for the chocolate to set. Sprinkle with the sugar crystals. Refrigerate until the chocolate is firm, about 35 minutes.
  6. The biscotti can be made ahead. Store them in an airtight container up to 4 days, or wrap them in foil and freeze in resealable plastic bags up to 3 weeks.

Source: Giada De Laurentiis via Food Network