Holiday Baking

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This year’s holiday baking brought the return of some favorites as well as some experimentation. The recurring trend among the recipes? Easy. While I love the classics like iced sugar cookies, there wasn’t a lot of time for baking this year so I targeted delicious simple recipes (and shortcuts by adapting box mixes).

For all of the recipes that call for chopped Andes Peppermint Crunch, here are a few tips:

  • Use a food processor on the pulse setting to chop the candy easily and quickly.
  • The only store in my area that consistently carries this candy near the holidays seems to be Target (check the seasonal candy section).
  • If you can’t find it, Hershey’s Peppermint Kisses are a good substitute. I’ve tried these before (and ironically these are what I was actually looking for the first time I made a peppermint chocolate recipe) with success, but they don’t have as much peppermint flavor.
  • And finally, if you’re lucky your store might carry pre-chopped Andes Peppermint Crunch. I saw this for the first time at HEB this year but had already stocked up on the unchopped kind by the time I ran across them. Maybe next year!

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Rocky Road Bars

For an easy baked contribution at a holiday potluck, I tried a variation on the Betty Crocker box mix for chocolate chip cookie brownie bars (sorry, no photos of this one). Sprinkle mini marshmallows and chopped pecans on top to make them rocky road bars.

Chocolate Peppermint Chip Mini Muffins

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I also baked mini versions of my chocolate peppermint chip muffins for a holiday cookie exchange. Again, these are easy because they’re an adapted box mix.

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Chocolate Peppermint Chip Cookies

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I modified these from When a Brownie Meets a Chocolate Chip Cookie, which was originally a recipe from allrecipes.com (see post for link). The peppermint chip version comes out like your traditional flat cookie (not the round brownie-like shape), but it’s still chewy and delicious.

To make this recipe low-sodium, remove the salt and swap out the baking soda for no-sodium baking powder (I discovered this alternative and found some at Whole Foods thanks to this blog post). The cookies will hold their rounded shape a little more and will have a slightly different but still delicious taste.

Makes about 36 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 C butter, softened
  • 1 C white sugar
  • 1 C light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 C cocoa powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 C Andes Peppermint Crunch candy, chopped (about 15 pieces)

Directions:

  1. Beat butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth.
  2. Beat in eggs (one at a time) and vanilla extract.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
  5. Stir the chopped peppermint candy into the dough.
  6. Drop teaspoon-sized balls of cookie dough onto a cookie sheet spaced an inch or two apart. I recommend using one small spoon to dish out the dough and a second spoon to scrape that onto the cookie sheet.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges of cookies are just firm. The cookies will firm up a bit upon cooling, so to keep them chewy you want the middle to be very soft when it comes out of the oven.
  8. Let cookies cool enough to firm up on the pan, then transfer to wire racks to finish cooling.

Pumpkin Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

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These are also incredibly easy, modified from a recipe on allrecipes.com. In fact, my version is mostly doubled to take advantage of the full can of pumpkin (because my grand plans of using the leftover pumpkin never happen so I might as well use it and have more cookies to share) and the full bag of dried cranberries.

Makes about 90 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 C butter, softened
  • 2 C white sugar
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin purĂ©e (not quite 2 C)
  • 4 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 4 t baking powder
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 6 oz bag dried cranberries (not quite 2 C)
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 C semisweet chocolate chips (I used Nestle)

Directions:

  1. Cream butter and sugar.
  2. Beat in vanilla, egg, and pumpkin.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  4. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
  5. Fold the cranberries and chocolate chips into the dough.
  6. Drop teaspoon-sized balls of cookie dough onto a cookie sheet spaced an inch or two apart. I recommend using one small spoon to dish out the dough and a second spoon to scrape that onto the cookie sheet.
  7. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes or until the cookies start to brown along the bottom and on the pointy bits that stick out of the cookie.
  8. Let cool on wire racks.
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