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.