Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Holiday Baking Bonanza


One of my favorite things about the holidays are the treats, so it pleases me to no end that I'm seeing TONS of delicious recipes on all of my favorite blogs lately. We decided to test some of these, along with one of Em's favorite standby holiday desserts, during a baking bonanza this past weekend!

On the menu:
Looks like we will need more bourbon. 
First up, this caramel sauce sounded like a perfect accompaniment to our hot chocolate, plus it makes a great gift for anyone with a sweet tooth (so tasty on ice cream). I had never made caramel before, and will tell you now that I totally ruined the first batch. They all say it is so easy to make, but obviously not that easy! No matter, eventually I got it down and it was delicious.


Look how cute it is in this little jar we upcycled!


Next, I made some whipped cream from scratch for the hot chocolate - this really is super easy so there is never a reason to buy it from the store as long as you have a bowl and a whisk.

Hard at work
Just pop in the fridge until you need it!
Then it was time for the main ingredient - the hot chocolate! I didn't follow Christy's recipe exactly, mostly because I didn't know where to find all her fancy ingredients. I did spring for some Ghirardelli white chocolate though!

Don't forget the nutmeg!
We needed heavy cream for other recipes, so I used that in place of the fat free half & half, but it ended up being wayyy too rich. Next time I will listen to Christy, or maybe even just use milk. I bet it would also taste great with almond milk, and would be a little more vegan (I don't think the chocolate I used is vegan). I happened to have a vanilla bean laying around, so I scraped the seeds into the batch, but only added coconut flavoring to my cup, because Em doesn't care for it.

Drizzling that yummy bourbon caramel, look at it overflow!
Taste test!
Cream moustache approved!
With our tasty drinks made it was on to cookies. I had some "cookie butter" (it's really called Speculoos and tastes kinda like gingerbread cookies) leftover from an impulse purchase at Trader Joes that I wanted to try in Joy's Chocolate Chip Nutella Candy Cane Cookies, in place of the Nutella. We love Nutella too, so I just made two versions!

Left: Nutella dough. Right: Cookie Butter dough. Equally delicious.
Getting a little overzealous, I failed to measure the candy canes and ended up using a lot more than intended, but the cookies were still that perfect balance of gooey and crunchy, minty and chocolatey. When I brought some home to all the boys watching football at my house, you can imagine how quickly they disappeared.


Finally it was time for Em to take over and show me how to make her Peppermint Bark Brownies. I'll let her tell you all about this one:

Each year I do some serious Holiday baking to show some love to my colleagues at school.  Since I am in education I know how important it is to keep the custodial staff and secretaries feeling loved and appreciated.  I mean, more often than not it is these people that keep the school running smoothly and make sure I have what I need.  So, why not shower them with a homemade sugary treat to show my gratitude?  My go to quick recipe is for Peppermint Bark, super easy to make and super delish.  All you need is Trader Joe's white chocolate chips and some candy canes.  Melt those suckers down nice and slow (either using a double broiler or the microwave), spread it nice and think on wax paper and sprinkle crushed candy canes (I pound them with a mallet in a double zip lock baggy) on top... done!  Let it harden, break into shards and bag.  So quick, so few ingredients and yet oh so holiday-ish!


The past few years however, I have decided to take it up a notch and just do that bark right on top of a decadent fudge brownie.  Same basic idea, but for some reason, I started to like the idea of giving people a perfectly square, gorgeous brownie instead of the usual bark.  All  you need to do is cook the brownies as you would normally (I am using box mix, please don't judge).  As soon as you pull the brownies out of the oven, take the chocolate chips and dump evenly across the top of those hot hot brownies.  


The chocolate will start to melt and using a spatula, you just smoooooth it out.  I like to make it a bit thick, so I use about 3/4 to a full bag of white chocolate chips.  


Once those are all melted I take my crushed candy canes and sprinkle evenly across the top.  Once that is done, I usually spice it up with some red and green sprinkles to really make it full blown Christmas-ed out.


Let those puppies harden over night and cut the next day.  You have to be pretty careful when cutting or the chocolate will crack and leave you with some not so pretty ones (which is perfect to give to my TH who is usually drooling and waiting for me to make a mistake as I cut).  Once cut, gingerly place in a cellophane bag, add pretty ribbon, personalized tag and viola, you are done!!


Got any holiday treat recipes you can't wait to try? I know I still have a few left, but I am always looking for more!

P.S. Thanks to all the bloggers who shared these yummy recipes with the world!


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16 comments:

  1. oh my goodness everything looks so delicious! cannot wait to try these recipes :)
    tiffany
    www.hydrangeasandhandbags.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tiffany,

      Thank you! Please let us know how it goes after you give them a try!

      Strive to thrive,
      Em

      Delete
  2. Yay! So glad you liked the bourbon caramel sauce - that stuff is addictive!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dana,

      We didn't like it, we LOVED it! I swear, I almost started drinking it straight, phenom! Thank you!

      Strive to thrive,
      Em

      Delete
  3. OMG sign me up for the bourbon caramel sauce!

    www.austenhill.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kelly,

      Oh we will! I urge you to try it as you could literally put it on anything. I am planning on juicing some fresh apple juice and putting it right there. Maybe a shaken caramel bourbon appletini for the holidays?

      Strive to thrive,
      Em

      Delete
  4. Yum, I want to try it all!! Nice :)

    xo, April

    http://www.evokela.com/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks April!

      It was all amazing! Nic is quite the baking master if I do say so myself!

      Strive to thrive,
      Em

      Delete
  5. Oh I love that you made all of those tasty treats! Wish I could have been there to sample all of them :) I love your N & E coffee mugs too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, sadly there is no technology for sending baked goods through the internet (yet). The mugs are from Anthropologie!

      Strive to Thrive,
      Nic

      Delete
  6. that caramel sauce--wow!


    xoxo from nyc & http://www.the-beautiful-things.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Vittoria,

      You have GOT to try it, simply amazing!

      Strive to thrive,
      Em

      Delete
  7. Your food pics make us hungry. Love the silly season.

    http://www.eyeseyeseyeseyes.com/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you!

      I am happy to hear our pics were hunger provoking. Everything was truly delish!

      Strive to thrive,
      Em

      Delete
  8. First let me say I suck for taking so long to come and comment. Sorry. So much going on around here I haven't even had a chance to sit down at my computer for anything work related (or fun for that matter) in ages. I did see the post when you it came out though and love it. Such a great idea to actually make all the things in your round-up instead of just posting the links. Thank you so much for including me. Hope you had a wonderful holiday and happy New Year!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Christy,

      First and foremost, suck you do not. Good for you taking some time off to be with friends and family. Thank you for the great idea and we were so happy to share our experience! Have a wonderful 2013 and we look forward to seeing your great ideas next year.

      Strive to thrive,
      Em

      Delete

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