Monday, December 22, 2014

Marshmallow Gingerbread Kiss Blossoms.

Pillowy-soft gingerbread cookies topped with puffy marshmallows, white chocolate Hershey's Hugs, and caramel Kisses. 

It's December (for a few more days)... and that means we can add marshmallows to absolutely anything.

Lately I've been thinking about the gingerbread bundt cake I baked two years ago. Or, as I like to call it, the bundt cake that finally made me fall in love with all things gingerbread. Not the crispy cut-out, iced, old-fashioned gingerbread men (my least favorite Christmas cookie ever), but actual molasses-rich, spicy, cakey gingerbread.

Or maybe I'm just blinded by the creamy cheesecake center and sprinkles of merry-Christmas-to-me powdered sugar. Either way: it's love.

But it's not the time for the cake (even though it's always the time for cake). I'm deep in peppermint and chocolate, baking every holiday cookie ever to gift this season this week and you just can't put a bundt cake on a cookie platter.

These bite-size gingerbread blossoms were just what I needed to add some Christmas sass to my cookie platters. They're pillowy-soft, rolled in sparkling sugar, and full of holiday spice. To top these cookies off, literally, we're throwing mini-marshmallows in the mix, just before they're finished baking, giving them enough time to puff up nice and toasty.

On top of it all: a frozen Hershey caramel Kiss or white chocolate Hug (you could also use milk or dark chocolate Kisses!). The frozen Kiss is my secret/not-so-secret way of keeping your chocolate from melting.

It's a s'mores twist on a holiday favorite. You know... just without graham crackers. Gingerbread, white chocolate, and marshmallows. It's exactly everything I want this Christmas.

I'm obsessed with baking blossom cookies. This is just one of my many Hershey-kissed cookies:

Marshmallow Gingerbread Kiss Blossoms

Printable Recipe

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup mini marshmallows
60 Hershey Kisses, unwrapped and frozen (For mine, I used Hershey's Hugs and Caramel Kisses)

Whisk. In a large bowl, whisk together the first six ingredients (flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt). Set aside.

Mix. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add molasses, egg, and vanilla, and mix until nearly combined. Mix in the flour mixture and beat until full combined. 

Chill. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill for 2-4 hours or overnight. 

Prep. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with a baking mat or spray with baking spray. Remove dough 20 minutes prior to baking- dough should be firm,but still easy to work with and roll. 

Roll. Roll dough into 1-inch balls, roll in sugar, and place 2-inches apart on baking sheet. 

If topping with just Hershey Kisses: Bake 8-10 minutes (mine were perfect at 8 minutes). Remove from oven and immediately press a frozen chocolate Kiss into the center of each cookie. Allow to cool completely.

If topping with marshmallows and Kisses: Bake for 6 1/2 minutes. Remove from oven and gently press 3-4 mini-marshmallows into the center of each cookie. Return to oven and allow cookies to finish baking for another 1-2 minutes, or until marshmallows begin to puff up. Remove from oven and immediately press a frozen chocolate kiss into the center of each cookie. Allow to cool completely.

Makes about 4 1/2 dozen cookies.

Source: Adapted from Baked by Rachel.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Brown Butter Cranberry Bliss Bars.

One of my favorite Starbucks holiday treats- soft, chewy, buttery blondies full of cranberries and chunks of white chocolate, all under a layer of white chocolate-spiked cream cheese frosting, cranberries, a hint of orange, and white chocolate drizzles.

As much as Pinterest would have me believe, December isn't always all twinkle lights and snow days.

It's also a dizzying blur of holiday parties, family, presents, tradition, getting things done, celebrating, spreading peace and joy, and, let's just be real with it: that balance of too many late-night peanut butter blossoms and rainy days spent running.

How do you make time for yourself in these twenty-five days of rushing and wrapping? I handle my holiday stress in one of two ways (if we're not counting champagne. And we're not... since we all know champagne doesn't count in December): either immediately find my way to a coffee shop and a sugar-free peppermint iced coffee with too much cream or I stress-bake.

These white chocolate blondie bars combine both of those simple, guilty pleasures: my favorite Starbucks holiday treat (cranberry bliss ) and just enough time spent in my tiny kitchen browning butter, zesting an orange, and breaking white chocolate into chunks to distract myself from everything else I should really be doing.

The base for these cookie bars is a buttery-soft, chewy blondie full of dried cranberries, chunks of white chocolate, and just enough cinnamon to know they mean business. The original recipe called for melted butter whisked together with brown sugar. I went one step further (because it's December and all) and baked these with brown butter.

I know. I'm already asking you to zest an orange and make cream cheese frosting with white chocolate drizzles. But in the time it would take you to order a Starbucks latte and wait in the drive-thru on a rainy Saturday afternoon is the exact amount of time it will take you to brown your butter. It's an extra step, but it is so, so worth it. The brown butter adds a rich, nutty flavor that complements the brown sugar and cranberry flavors so perfectly.

All that white chocolate. These Starbucks copycats have officially nestled their way onto my must-bake Christmas list, right between the peanut butter cup treats and cut-out sugar cookies.

Brown Butter Cranberry Bliss Bars

Printable Recipe


3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dried cranberries
6 ounces white baking chocolate, coarsely chopped


1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
6 ounces white baking chocolate, melted
1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon grated orange zest

Prep. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13-inch with nonstick spray or line with parchment paper.

Brown your butter. Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly, until golden brown. Once butter is browned, remove from heat. Stir in brown sugar and pour into the bowl of an electric mixer. Allow to cool to room temperature. (For more information on how to brown butter, see my post here.)

Whisk. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. 

Mix. When brown butter mixture has cooled to room temperature, mix in eggs and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add flour mixture to the butter mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until smooth. Stir in cranberries and chopped chocolate (batter will be thick!) 

Bake. Spread blondie batter into prepared pan. Bake for 18-21 minutes (I baked mine for 19 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Be careful not to over bake! Cool completely before frosting. 

Frost. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar until combined. Gradually orange zest and half of the melted chocolate; beat until blended. Frost blondies. 

Sprinkle + cut. Sprinkle with chopped cranberries and drizzle with remaining white chocolate. Let frosting set before cutting into triangles or squares. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. 

Source: Adapted from Taste of Home.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Madeleines.

Light, puffy pumpkin spice cookies full of brown butter and fall spices, the signature sponge cake-texture of French madeleines, and all the flavor of a pumpkin spice scone + how to make your own pumpkin pie spice at home for baking.

Last Christmas I asked for a madeleine pan (just let it happen. My Christmas wishes always end up being baking-related.) ... and now, ten months later, I've finally used it!

These cakey, pumpkin spice cookies literally only happened because I found my madeleine pan while packing up my kitchen life. If fall is supposed to be the calm before the storm or the hush before winter, then whoever said that never had a lease up in November.


Because I'm moving... again!

Okay, underneath all that stress, I'm excited. I am. I secretly love new places, that feel of starting over and creating a home, finding new places for everything, and totally justified every other day trips to Pier 1 and Target. The part I don't like is right now. Just... BOXES. So many boxes. Boxes on boxes. Everything feels a little upside down. I have absolutely no idea where anything is.

What I do is know is if there were ever a madeleine I could fall in love with it would be pumpkin-spiced. I've never really understood those buttery, bite-size, sponge-cake cookies Starbucks tries to sell me with my coffee. Seems like I could I just eat a vanilla cupcake instead. But my boyfriend is obsessed and I'm obsessed with pumpkin spice, so this seemed like a good place to start.

I cannot believe I put off making madeleines for so long. I was so intimidated by the sponge cake batter, piping it into fancy, French pans, and the delicate, seashell shapes, that my new madeleine pan immediately went the way all my other forgotten baking things I "had" to have (which, if you're wondering, includes a handheld heart-shaped pie press and heart-shaped springform pans.)

These light, puffy pumpkin cookies are full of brown butter and fall spices and taste exactly like a soft, cakey pumpkin spice scone. My boyfriend swears they're just fancy, bite-sized pumpkin breads and calling them a "cookie" is a baking lie.

Either way, they're the perfect spiced cookie to start your fall mornings with. Pair them with pumpkin coffee. Dip them in white chocolate. Glaze them with a sugar and spice glaze like your favorite coffee shop scone. Live your fall life.

P.S. If you're like me, you never have anything convenient like pumpkin pie spice just waiting in your cupboards... because if you did, you would already be out because you've been spiking your coffee with it since the last day of summer. You do, however, have every other spice that you could ever possibly need at a moment's notice ... and that calls for pumpkin spice math, which is totally a thing and looks a lot like this... because yes. On top of baking fancy French cookies, we're also making our own pumpkin pie spice:

2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice = 

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon 

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves 

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg.

This recipe only calls for 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice. You now have an extra tablespoon to shake on your lattes and hot chocolate. You're welcome.

Pumpkin Spice Madeleines

Printable Recipe

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/3 cup canned pumpkin
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon honey
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.

Brown your butter. Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly, until golden brown. Once butter is browned, remove from heat and pour into a bowl to cool slightly while preparing the rest of the cookie batter. For more information on how to brown butter, see this post

Eggs + sugar. Whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on high speed until light and fluffy and tripled in size, about 10 minutes (to the consistency & color of melted vanilla ice cream). 

Sift. Sift flour mixture over the mixer bowl in two additions, folding in with a spatula after each addition. 

Pumpkin. In a medium bowl, combine pumpkin and slightly cooled brown butter. Add in two additions, folding in after each addition, with a spatula. 

Chill. Fold in honey and vanilla, then cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours

Preheat + prep. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Let batter stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Spray madeleine pans with baking spray or grease with butter.

Pipe. Transfer batter to a pastry bag (or a Ziploc bag) and snip the end to create a 1/2-inch opening. Pipe batter into prepared molds, filling each about three-quarters full.

Bake. Bake for 8-11 minutes (10 minutes was perfect for mine), or until pale brown and darker around the edges. Immediately shake out madeleines scalloped-side down onto wax paper and allow to cool completely. Wash and re-grease molds and repeat with remaining batter. 

Makes 3 1/2 dozen madeleines. 

Source: Adapted from The Lung Family.

P.S. I recently ran in my 6th 5k this past weekend, a wine run in Napa Valley! It was one of the most challenging runs I've done yet... maybe it was all the wine or the rolling hills or the crazy, rocky, ankle-twisting gravel trails. Either way, it felt good to tie up my purple laces and pound out some moving stress on a vineyard path. Also: WINE.  

Monday, September 29, 2014

{The Only} Things Worth Baking.

A list of the only recipes ever worth baking of the nearly 200 I've shared in this sugary corner. And my first post of 2014! ... so of course it all starts with pumpkin spice.

If anything was ever going to pull me back into this crazy little baking corner of mine full of buttercream and bundt cakes, it would be fall. Something about the cooler weather, the changing leaves, the cozy, rainy afternoons spent reading with a pumpkin spice cinnamon roll candle, a homemade pumpkin spice latte with an unnecessary/totally necessary amount of whipped cream and cinnamon, and, if I can help it, just about everything ever pumpkin spice that I can find. 

Because this is a real thing and it's happening (P.S. I need this print in my life/kitchen!)

Fall, PSLs, that hint of Christmas popping up when you least expect it... it's all drawing me back in. Sparking that creative fire that burnt out at the end of last year. Well. That and my camera shattered, my computer died, and my jeans no longer buttoned. 

I blame the Christmas cookies. Possibly all the champagne.

Now? I just want to bake cinnamon cookies and pumpkin rolls and use the new madeleine pan I got last Christmas. I think I want to try baking doughnuts again. I definitely want to re-make more than a few recipes on this site. I want to make obsessive lists of things I'm in love with and share all the unimportant bits of my life on Instagram and tell you how I've run five 5ks this year and have lost my mind/am currently training for a Disneyland 10k. There's so much I have to say and so many ideas that I just can't keep quiet anymore. 

I think this print from Bring Joy says it perfectly. I miss this life! 

Maybe you've just found this blog or maybe you're a Day 1 follower. Either way, you look nice today and I'm glad you're here. 

I wanted to share everything worth baking on this blog with you so we all have a good place to restart this baking adventure. Out of the almost two hundred recipes I've shared with you, these are the ones I return to over and over, all the things worth baking

    Quick Breads 

    Cookies & Bars

    Cakes & Cupcakes


Coming Soon..

A pumpkin s'mores twist on a classic Christmas cookie.

A remake of one of my most Pinterest-ed recipes (any guesses?). 

And let's keep it simple: a pumpkin roll. It's been on my fall bucket list for years!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

150 Stocking Stuffers: The 2013 Edition!

It's here. It's officially Christmastime.

As I finish up my fifth and final week of work training, it's all I can do to stop myself from figuring out a way to bake sugar cookies and gingerbread in this  hotel room. There's a Christmas tree waiting at home, Hershey Hugs waiting in my freezer, and newly-bought Christmas ornaments in my car. At this point... I am literally fueling my Christmas obsession with daydreams, Pinterest, and peppermint iced coffees.  

A few years ago I wrote a post packed FULL of 150 stocking stuffer ideas. It was one of my favorite things to write... and everybody everywhere is pinning it right now (that and these peanut butter reindeer cookies).

This November, I've kept myself busy while work-traveling with an updated 2013 stocking stuffer gift guide. Stockings are a tradition in my family and our absolute favorite thing to shop for and open at Christmas... and today I'm sharing that obsession with you. 150 fun, creative ideas that men and women will actually want. You know. Like not oranges.

P.S. Links to the photos are in italics in the list below.  

For Women...

For Men...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies {with Sno-caps!}

These are my favorite chocolate chip cookies. 

For the longest time, they've been hidden away on my blog, nestled inside this Cheesecake Cookie Sandwiches Two Ways: Brown Butter Chocolate Chunk & Strawberry Shortcake post. How have I never just written about my go-to, most-baked, most boyfriend-demanded chocolate chip cookies? 

Probably the same way I missed National Bundt Cake Day. 

P.S. Do you need a bundt cake? I got you. Try my Buttermilk Banana Bundt Cake with Brown Butter IcingZebra Bundt Cake with Chocolate Ganache IcingPumpkin Buttermilk Bundt Cake with Brown Butter Icing, or my favorite: this Cheesecake-Filled Gingerbread Bundt Cake. It's never too late to celebrate... or too early for gingerbread.

Today we're baking Sno-caps into our chocolate chip cookies... because there are red cups and wrapping paper and twinkle lights in the world and Sno-caps (semi-sweet chocolate chips covered in white nonpareil sprinkles and resembling snow-capped mountains) are the perfect holiday twist for easing ourselves into Christmastime baking.

Tis the season, I know.. but I'm totally not ready just yet for candy canes and peanut butter blossoms. Let's start with festive chocolate chip cookies!      

What makes these my favorite chocolate chip cookies? 

 Brown butter. You know about my love for baking everything ever with brown butter and these chocolate chip cookies is where that love all started. Besides adding a nutty, caramel-rich depth of flavor, it gives these cookies a soft chewiness that can only found when you're baking with melted butter.    

Molasses + dark brown sugar. Molasses adds a warm, just-slightly gingerbread flavor to the dough, while keeping the centers of these cookies just-baked soft for days. The dark brown sugar (which is just light brown sugar with even more molasses) works with the molasses to create one perfectly-soft, chewy chocolate chip cookie.

 Fact: No matter what I'm baking, I almost always reach for the dark brown sugar over the golden brown.  

 Cinnamon. I'm almost always adding a little something extra to my cookie dough and that something is either in the form of cinnamon or bourbon. Bourbon accents the vanilla/caramel flavors from the brown butter and molasses and cinnamon makes the chocolate flavors really pop.

But be honest: who really keeps bourbon in their baking cabinet? I just don't have that kind of faith in myself.

   Triple chocolate chips. These cookies are similar to my Triple Chocolate Chip Cake Batter Cookies... they're full of semisweet chocolate, white chocolate chips, and crispy, sprinkle-covered Sno-Caps. My weakness? White chocolate chips in my chocolate chip cookies! 

Now if Nestle would just make a white chocolate version of their semisweet chunks.

Crispy edges. Soft, chewy centers that stay just-baked for days... if they even last that long. Plus those golden specks of brown butter I can't stop talking about, cinnamon, dark brown sugar, molasses, and as many types of chocolate chips as I can possibly bake into a cookie? 

It almost makes up for not having bourbon.


P.S. I made these cookies Saturday. They were gone within four days. 

Brown Butter Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

Printable Recipe

1 cup (2 sticks) + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon molasses
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips 
1 (3.1-ounce) package Sno-Caps

Brown butter. Brown 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon of butter by heating over medium heat, whisking constantly, until golden brown. Once butter is browned, remove from heat and pour into a bowl to cool slightly. For more information on how to brown butter, see this post

Mix. In a stand mixture fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the other stick of butter with the granulated sugar until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and molasses and beat until incorporated. Add the slightly cooled brown butter and the brown sugar and mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add the egg and egg yolk and mix until fully incorporated. 

Whisk. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda. Add all at once to the butter mixture and mix on low until just incorporated. Fold in the chocolate, white chocolate, and Sno-Caps with a wooden spoon or spatula.

Chill. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (Tip: The longer you chill the dough, the thicker they will become when they bake!) Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Scoop dough into balls using a small cookie scoop and place 2 inches apart on baking sheet.

Bake. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until cookies are just starting to turn golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Source: Adapted from the Joy the Baker cookbook.