Mint M&M Brownies

I debated saving this recipe for another day since my last post was also a chocolate mint recipe. But, thanks to St. Patrick’s Day, I kept seeing minty green treats pop up all over my feeds. And every time I did, I started thinking about these brownies again. So, I think it’s only fair I share these brownies today, while mint and shades of green are on your brain.

IMG_3308Mint M&Ms are pretty incredible. They taste a bit like Andes Mints, and a bit like those pastel mint candies some restaurants keep in a dish at the hostess table. They have a nice crunchy shell, and then a deliciously smooth, chocolate mint center. Plus, they come in a variety of green hues, so they add a fun bit of color when you bake with them.

I bought these M&Ms a while ago without a real plan, and decided they’d taste great mixed into brownies. I turned to a trusty brownie recipes from Sally’s Baking Addiction and simply mixed in my M&Ms instead of chocolate chips. These are very fudgy, dense brownies, with a rich chocolate base. They were the perfect base for Mint M&Ms!

These are a one bowl recipe and pretty quick to whip up, so they’re a great “brownies on a whim” recipe too. And if you don’t happen to have Mint M&Ms on hand, you could just use chocolate chips or swap in any other baking bits you like. I bet you Reese’s Pieces would be awesome–or caramel bits!

Mint M&M Brownies

Original recipe:  Sally’s Baking Addiction. I’ve made some swaps and rewritten things a bit. 

Yield: 30 brownies

Total Time: ~50 minutes 

Cook Time: ~30-36 minutes 

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 oz of a semi sweet chocolate bar, coarsely chopped (you need 4 ounces total, but add the chocolate in two increments at two different points!)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened natural or dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 oz of a semi sweet chocolate bar, coarsely chopped
  • 1 and 1/4 cups Mint M&Ms, chocolate chips or any other mix-in!

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Grease a 9×13 pan with foil or parchment paper, leaving a little hanging over the sides so it’s easier to pull them out later
  3. Use a microwave safe bowl to melt your butter and 2 ounces of chopped chocolate. Melt in 30 second increments, whisking after each increment to make sure the ingredients to make sure the ingredients are mixed together. Do this until your mixture is smooth but be careful not to go too far–chocolate can burn!
  4. Whisk in your sugar until the mixture is completely combined
  5. Whisk in your eggs and vanilla. At this point the batter will be light brown
  6. Add in your cocoa powder, flour, salt and the other 2 ounces of chopped chocolate. Fold it all together with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula
  7. Mix in your M&Ms or other baking bits. Do this gently with your spoon or spatula, and be careful not to overmix the batter
  8. Pour your batter into the prepared pan. It will be super thick so you’ll need to use your spatula to spread it around and even it out
  9. Bake your brownies for about 30-36 minutes. Check on them as soon as you smell that telltale smell of brownies float through your kitchen, even if it hasn’t been 30 minutes yet. Use a toothpick in the center to check if they’re done. You’re looking for a few moist crumbs on the toothpick. If there is still wet batter on the toothpick, keep the brownies in the oven a bit longer. Mine took 35 minutes altogether
  10. Let the brownies cool completely on a wire rack before you cut them. If you try to cut brownies before they’re cool, they tend to crumble all over the place!

These will keep in an airtight container for about a week. Or, freeze them!

 

 

Mint Oreo Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have a friend who’s pretty passionate about Oreos. He tries every flavor he can get his hands on, from limited editions (like Peep Oreos) to international releases (like Strawberry Cheesecake). He’s my go-to source for flavor intel, and for recipe scheming, too.

Some of my Oreo experiments haven’t turned out very well. Certain flavors hold up better in baking than others. I had a string of failed attempts to bake with the Cookie Dough Oreos last fall: the Oreo layers kept dissolving in the oven, whether I stuffed them into brownies or cookies. Meanwhile, Halloween Oreos were a perfect baking ingredient.

This Mint Oreo Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe plays off the classic mint chocolate flavor combo, with a bunch of added texture. Mint Oreos are one of my all-time favorites, and I just knew they’d taste good in a dark chocolate chip cookie. I picked one of my go-to chocolate chip cookie doughs, from Jenny over at Picky Palate. It’s an incredibly flavorful base and holds up really nicely in the oven. I’ve used it for a range of recipes over the years, from Thin Mint-Stuffed Cookies to brownie-stuffed cookies.

These cookies are an incredible flavor explosion of mint, buttery dough and chocolate. During Girl Scout cookie season, you could swap some Thin Mints in there. This is also a great recipe for some St. Patrick’s Day fun with the little hints of green popping out of every cookie!

Mint Oreo Chocolate Chip Cookies

Original recipe: The dough and technique came from Picky Palate and I just swapped a few things around. I’ve also rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: ~36 cookies

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: ~13 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1.5 cups crushed Mint Oreos (I broke each Oreo into ~4 pieces. This creme gets super messy, but it will taste great!)

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Use your mixer to beat the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until it’s light and fluffy
  3. Add in the eggs and vanilla, then beat again until it’s well combined
  4. Use a separate mixing bowl to combine your flour, salt and baking soda
  5. Slowly add your dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Make sure to use a spatula and scrap the sides of the bowl from time to time–sometimes dry ingredients like to hide at the bottom, and then they don’t get incorporated properly!
  6. Use a wooden spoon to mix in the chocolate chips and Oreo bits. I switched to a spoon at this point because the dough got pretty tough, and it was just easier than keeping it in the mixer
  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  8. Shape your cookies to your preferred size. I eyeball mine vs. using a scoop
  9. Bake for 12-15 minutes, depending on your oven. Mine were perfect at 13 minutes
  10. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for a few minutes, then move them to a rack to cool completely

 

Biscoff Gooey Butter Cake

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: gooey butter cake is one of America’s most underrated desserts. Its name actually makes total sense: the bottom layer is cakey, and the top layer is gooey. That texture combo makes every bite interesting… and the ingredient list makes every bite yummy, too. Gooey Butter Cake definitely lives up to its name, and you just have to try it to understand.

file_0032And then once you try it… what’s next? Experimenting with flavors and mix-ins, obviously. I found this Biscoff Gooey Butter Cake recipe by a stroke of luck. I was planning to bake for a birthday and someone suggested I use cookie butter. I do that pretty often and didn’t want to make a repeat, so I turned to Pinterest for some new ideas. Up popped this recipe that marries my love of cookie butter with my love of gooey butter cake.

There are a few types of Gooey Butter Cake recipes out there. This one uses a pretty standard cake base, and I liked it more than some yeasted versions I’ve tried in the past. You mix cookie butter straight into the “gooey” layer, giving it that signature almost-caramelized, sort-of-gingery taste. Every bite rewards you with a decadent gooey start and a soft, cakey finish.

Biscoff Gooey Butter Cake

Original recipe: Butter Baking. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: ~30 bars

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: ~1 hour

Cook Time: 35-40 min

Ingredients

Cake layer:

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Gooey layer:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten (beat them before you even use them!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup Biscoff spread, or other brand of cookie butter (ex. Trader Joe’s sells one)
  • 16 oz powdered sugar

Directions

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350F
  2. Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper
  3. Start with your cake layer: mix your flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl
  4. Add your egg, butter, milk and vanilla, then stir until it’s just combined
  5. Pour your cake layer into the prepared pan, and smooth it out so it’s nice and even
  6. Then comes the gooey layer. Start by beating your cream cheese until it’s smooth
  7. Add eggs, Biscoff and vanilla, then beat it again until it is completely smooth and looks creamy
  8. Add your powdered sugar in small batches, a bit at a time. Beat each batch at a low speed until it’s combined
  9. Pour your gooey layer over the cake layer, and spread out evenly
  10. Bake for 35-40 minutes (mine took the full 40 minutes). Your edges will look golden. The center may look a bit underdone, but it will set as the pan cools. The top should look a bit shiny–mine ended up flaking quite a bit, but it didn’t affect taste at all!
  11. Once the pan is cool, cut it up into bars

Sour Cream Cut Out Cookies

There’s something so delightful about cut out cookies. The mere act of using a cookie cutter gives cookies a little something extra–a dash of personality, if you will. I always want to buy cookie cutters, but tell myself it’s a bad idea since my kitchen is already crammed to the brim. For now, I own exactly two cutters: a heart and a bow, both pilfered from my mom. Since Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, it seemed like the perfect time to take out my cutters and whip up some cut out cookies.

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I’ve tried several cut out recipes over the years, including one that I tracked down from my 5th grade teacher. The recipe I’m sharing today is pretty standard. They’re basically sugar cookies, but sour cream adds moisture and makes the cookies especially soft and chewy. This frosting is pretty sweet, so I used a thin layer rather than slathering it on thick. You could swap in a different frosting, of course…. I won’t tattle.

Make sure to allow at least six hours for your dough to chill before you bake. The recipe says you can freeze unfrosted cookies, but I preferred these fresh out of the oven. It seemed like something changed texturally when I froze extra cookies.

You can obviously use any cutter you’d like, for any occasion. I especially loved my heart cookies (the bows were a little puffier than I expected). They’re perfect for school parties, your Valentine… or a little self-love for yourself.

Sour Cream Cut Out Cookies

Original recipe: Chocolate with Grace. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary.

Yield: About 50 cookies (original recipe says 60 but it obviously depends on your cookie cutter)

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: 2 hours to make the cookies, at least 6 hours to chill the dough 

Cook Time: ~12 minutes

Ingredients

Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup sour cream

Frosting

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 2-4 tsp milk or heavy cream, at room temperature

Directions

Make your dough 

  1. Cream the butter and sugar together until it’s light and fluffy
  2. Beat in the eggs and vanilla
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk your flour, salt and baking soda
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, alternating each dry addition with some of your sour cream. This is when things got messy, so I recommend using a mixer guard if you have one
  5. Stir the ingredients until they’re fully combined
  6. Chill your dough at least 6 hours–overnight is better if you can!

Bake your cookies 

  1. Preheat your oven to 325F
  2. On a well-floured surface, roll out your dough to about 1/3 inch thick. Make sure to keep things floured up, since this is a pretty sticky dough. Keep extra dough in the fridge until you’re ready for it
  3. Cut out your cookies, and place them on a lined cookie sheet
  4. Bake your cookies 9-14 minutes. Bake time will depend on your cutters: my hearts baked quicker than my bows. The cookies will still be a little pale when they’re done, so be careful not to overbake
  5. Let the cookies cool for a minute on the sheet, then remove them to a rack so they cool all the way

Frost your cookies 

  1. Beat your butter 2-3 minutes, until it’s fluffy
  2. Beat in the powdered sugar and vanilla, plus enough milk or cream to achieve your desired consistency. I used two teaspoons of milk
  3. You can tint your frosting if you’d like, but I chose not to
  4. Frost your cookies and decorate as you’d like!

Gingerbread Brownies

Looking for something a little different for your holiday dessert tray? Have I got the treat for you!

These Gingerbread Brownies combine the best parts of their namesake baked goods. You get the molasses depth of gingerbread, and the richness of chocolate. This is basically a brownie recipe, with molasses and brown sugar in there to create a new take on gingerbread. It’s a simple recipe, too: you just use a single saucepan to create these beauties.

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Remember how I waxed poetic about the spicy dough in last week’s gingersnap recipe? This recipe is pretty much the opposite take on gingerbread: molasses is now the star. The molasses flavor is pretty intense, so be warned if you don’t actually like how molasses tastes! You can use light brown sugar instead of dark to tone it down a bit, if you want… but I didn’t. Mine turned out super chewy and dense with an amazing chocolate start, and a deep, molasses finish.

I made these the night before a holiday event, and they kept just fine in an airtight container. The flavor got more intense over time. I didn’t mind that, but you might want to make these the same day you plan to serve them (or freeze them ’til you’re ready to enjoy!). While these aren’t cookies, you could probably get away with bringing them to a cookie exchange with some sort of logic about how gingerbread often IS a cookie. I don’t think people will reject your logic once they take a bite!

Gingerbread Brownies

Original recipe:  I heart eating. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: 16-25 depending on how you cut your brownies

Total Time: ~55 minutes

Cook Time: 30-35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/3 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed (dark brown for more intensity, light brown if you want to dial down the flavor a bit) 
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Use a large saucepan to melt your butter and chocolate together. Use low heat for this, and stir the mixture frequently so it’s properly mixed
  3. Once it’s fully melted together, remove the saucepan from the heat
  4. Add in your molasses, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Try to use a whisk, but be careful not to scratch your pan! I used a rubber whisk to play it safe and you’d probably be fine with a wooden spoon, too
  5. Whisk in your eggs until fully combined
  6. Add your flour, salt, cinnamon and ginger, then whisk again until the dry ingredients are just incorporated
  7. Grab a 9-inch square pan and grease it so your brownies don’t stick
  8. Pour your batter into the pan
  9. Bake for 30-35 minutes, depending on your oven
  10. Let cool fully in the pan
  11. Dust with powdered sugar right before you serve the brownies. If you do it too early, the sugar will dissolve and you won’t even see it!*

*I literally carried around a bag of powdered sugar all day so I’d have it to dust my brownies right before putting them out at an afternoon party. The things I do for baked goods…

 

Cookie Swap Tips and Tricks

Cookie swaps are one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. What’s better than seeing friends and eating cookies at the same time? I’ve hosted a few cookie exchanges over the years, and hope the tradition continues. But this isn’t Martha Stewart’s cookie swap: my take on this classic event is light on rules, and heavy on flexibility.

I host a few potluck-like events every year and my approach is pretty much always the same. I want to make it as easy as possible for people to come, enjoy themselves and want to come again. I’d rather someone show up to my party than worry about bringing the right dish for a theme, or following the right rules for cookies. So, I keep it simple.

Here are my tips for a fun holiday exchange with less stress… but lots of dessert.

It’s about nibbling, not gifting: Martha tells you to bring a dozen cookies per swap attendee so they can take home lots of cookies, and maybe even re-gift them later. That’s a lot of batches! Instead, I tell people to simply bring 1 batch of whatever they decide to bake, regardless of the yield. Trust me: there are always enough cookies to go around. And there are always extra cookies, too, which usually end up at my office the following Monday (you’re so welcome, team!).

old-cookie-swapMake it easy to contribute: I make sure to clarify that any kind of treat will do: homemade, semi-homemade or even purchased. No snobbery allowed! For some people, this is the only time they bake all year and they get really excited. Other people think baking sounds terrible, or they just don’t have the time– and I want them to come, too.

Label your goods: I put out paper so people can label their cookies. I don’t write out the full ingredient list, but of course you could. I do write if something is allergen-free, though, so those people know what’s safe to eat. This year we had a couple people who don’t eat dairy so I made these rosemary chocolate chip cookies with dairy-free chocolate, and labeled the batch “dairy free.”

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Tons of cookies… and meat

Ask some people to NOT bring cookies: My first year hosting a swap, I only bought one party-sized bag of Chex Mix to accompany all the cookies. Rookie mistake! You need to have some savory snacks on hand to balance all the sweetness. This year we specifically asked people to sign up for savory things to make sure we had a good mix–and people brought everything from jicama to hummus.

Help people get their cookies home: I’ve been providing baggies so people can take cookies home, but I do think Martha is right here, and boxes are better. Next year I’ll get boxes so the cookies aren’t smushed in transit.

Eat lots of cookies: This is obviously the most important rule! You don’t have to eat a full cookie of every single type. We usually end up cutting cookies into pieces and sharing them so we can try more varieties.

And one extra tip if you plan to bake a lot–plan, plan plan: Whenever I host an event, I contribute a lot of food. I made 5 different recipes for this year’s cookie exchange, so I carefully planned ahead. I am super organized about it, and think through the right order of operations  based on things like equipment needed, time to bake, prep needs, etc. I also look at which doughs have to chill, which cookies can be made the night before, etc.

Here are the recipes I made for this year’s cookie exchange, plus some past favorites:

And if you want even more recipe ideas, check out my Cookie Swap Season board.

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This year’s bounty

Nutella-Stuffed Gingersnaps

This is my all-time favorite gingersnap recipe. Yup, I said it: I’m playing favorites.

img_2578I’ve made many ginger cookies over the years, but this one takes the proverbial cake (cookie cake, maybe?). Because when it comes to gingersnaps, I like ’em spicy. And thanks to a generous dose of fresh ginger, this gingersnap gives a good bit of bite in every, well, bite. Fresh ginger, cloves and cinnamon work together for a truly excellent dough. Then you roll these cookies in sugar and ground ginger so they get a nice crackly top.

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Check out that Nutella center!

All that goodness… and we haven’t even talked about the Nutella middles yet! The gingersnap dough would be great on its own, but Broma Bakery blogger Sarah didn’t stop there: she also stuffed the dough with balls of Nutella. So every time you chomp into a cookie, you get your spicy ginger base and then a surprise wallop of hazelnut, chocolatey goodness.

Now, if you read this blog regularly, you know I love stuffing cookies. I’ve stuffed cookie butter, caramelsThin Mints–all winners! And yet, this Nutella-Stuffed Gingersnap is one of my favorite cookies of 2016. I brought these to a cookie swap last week, and my friends commented that it’s an unusual combo, but just makes so much sense when you think about it. So why don’t you think about it for a minute… then race to the store for some fresh ginger, and make these cookies!

Make sure to follow the step where you freeze your Nutella for a bit. This makes it much easier to stuff the cookies, since room temp Nutella can be a nightmare to work with. You can play around with the size of Nutella balls to achieve your desired cookie/Nutella ratio.

One last tip: If you have extra ginger when you’re done with these, go make these Chocolate Ginger Cookies next. You’ll be the hit of your next cookie exchange!

Nutella-Stuffed Gingersnaps

Original recipe: Broma Bakery. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: 18 cookies if you use 1/2 tablespoon of Nutella per cookie. Depending on your cookie/Nutella ratio, you’ll get a different number of cookies out of this. 

Total Time: 50 minutes, including the time to freeze your Nutella balls

Cook Time: 9-10 minutes 

Ingredients

Dough 

  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp Nutella
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup dark molasses
  • 1 large egg at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp chopped, peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cloves

Topping 

  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp powdered ginger

Instructions 

Prep your Nutella 

Line a flat plate with parchment paper. Scoop 1/2 tablespoon balls of Nutella onto the cookie sheet, squishing down each ball a bit so it’s a little flatter. Repeat until you’re out of Nutella. Put your plate in the freezer at least 15 minutes, until the balls are fully firm.

Make your cookies 

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Prep your ginger: peel it, then chop it into tiny bits and measure it out
  3. In a large bowl, combine butter, sugar, molasses, egg, vanilla and fresh ginger
  4. Use a separate bowl to mix your flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and cloves
  5. Fold your dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients, stirring with a wooden spoon until combine
  6. Take out your plate of Nutella balls, and let’s start stuffing!
  7. Scoop out about an ounce of dough and break it apart into two halves, then put the Nutella ball inside. Pinch around the edges so the Nutella is totally sealed in the middle. You might need to “patch” your dough with additional dough to get the Nutella totally sealed in there. Once it’s sealed, roll it in your hands a little to make sure it’s round. Then, place the dough mound on your cookie sheet and press down flatten it slightly. Each mound should be about 3/4 inch thick
  8. Repeat this process until you’re out of Nutella or dough… whichever comes first. I got 18 cookies, but had a couple extra Nutella balls because of the dough/Nutella ratio
  9. Mix together your sugar and ground ginger topping
  10. Dip each flattened cookie into the coating, then place it back on your prepared baking sheet. Try to do 1 cookie sheet at a time so your cookies crack properly
  11. Bake each sheet of cookies for 9-10 minutes. Mine took 9. Watch your bake time so the cookies stay soft!

Straight out of the oven, the Nutella is warm and gooey. These keep really well–the Nutella firms up a bit over time, but you can always pop it back in the microwave for a gooey center. These also freeze nicely so you can keep a few around for later!

I’ll share more cookie ideas next week, but you can check out my Cookie Swap Season Pinterest board in the meantime!