Peppermint Chocolate Cookies

IMG_9369-2.jpg

Time is fleeting during these December days. The calendar continually grows fuller, as events and errands are penciled in for the evenings and weekends. With shopping to do and friends to meet, the holiday season is passing by too quickly. After realizing earlier this week that there are only two weekends before Christmas, I panicked. How would I be able to fit in everything without being overwhelmed? I stepped back for a minute, took a deep breath, and scheduled in time for myself.

Time is one of the most precious gifts we have to share—with ourselves and others. As an introvert, I enjoy keeping my free time to myself, but I often remind myself the value of sharing time with the people I care about the most. Phone calls and coffee dates often carry more meaning than we anticipate. I'm holding onto those important moments this season.

peppermintchocolatecookies1.jpg
IMG_9410-2.jpg

One of my personal holiday traditions is baking and decorating holiday cookies. Each year I look forward to putting on a cheesy holiday movie marathon and spending time in the kitchen doing something I love. Though decorating may grow old after several long hours, the joy of being able to share the results is enough to keep me going. Even though I blocked out time for myself next weekend, I started the holiday baking early with these Peppermint Chocolate Cookies.

Buried in a pile of recipe drafts, I found a loved, but forgotten recipe for double chocolate chip cookies. I dressed up the cookies with a chocolate glaze and crushed candy canes. To suit your tastes, feel free to leave the chocolate chips out of the batter for less intense chocolate flavor, or add a hint of peppermint extract to the batter to boost the candy cane flavor. Either way, it's difficult to go wrong with this recipe.

IMG_9322-2.jpg
IMG_9375-2.jpg

Peppermint Chocolate Cookies are a seasonal delight. Double chocolate cookies are half-dipped into a rich chocolate glaze. Before the cookies set, they are sprinkled with crushed candy canes and crunchy chocolate sprinkles. For extra peppermint flavor, add 1/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract to the cookie batter. These cookies are perfect for cookie exchanges, holiday gatherings, or dipped into a tall glass of cold milk.

One Year Ago: Poached Pear Gingerbread Loaf & Cinnamon Star Bread
Two Years Ago: Swedish Tea Ring 
Three Years Ago: Almond Espresso Cookies 
Four Years Ago:  Cranberry Upside Down Cake & Peppermint Marshmallows
Five Years Ago: Persimmon Cake, Lemon Cranberry Scones, Chocolate Pomegranate Tart, & Almond Cardamom Rolls
Six Years Ago: Pumpkin Granola Bars, Banana Cocoa Smoothie, Honey Cookies, & Peppermint Pinwheels
Seven Years Ago: Blueberry Brownies, White Chocolate Truffles, Pear Chips, & Candy-Striped Meringues

Peppermint Chocolate Cookies

Yields 2 dozen cookies

Chocolate Cookies
1/2 cup (113 grams) butter, room temperature
2/3 cup (130 grams) brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup (170 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (40 grams) cocoa powder
6 ounces (170 grams) semisweet chocolate chips, optional

Chocolate Glaze
6 ounces (170 grams) semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup ( mL) heavy cream
Candy canes, crushed
Chocolate crunch sprinkles, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and continue beating until smooth. Gradually add the baking soda, salt, flour, and cocoa powder, mixing until uniform. Stir in the chocolate chips, if desired.

Drop dough by the tablespoon onto a cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until set. Allow the cookies to rest on the cookie sheet for a few minutes. Then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

For the chocolate glaze, bring the heavy cream to a near boil in a small saucepan. Immediately remove from heat and pour over chopped chocolate, allowing the chocolate to melt for 5 minutes before stirring until smooth and uniform. Set aside. 

To decorate cookies, dip half of the cookies into the chocolate glaze. Sprinkle crushed candy canes and chocolate crunch sprinkles over the chocolate. Allow cookies to rest until set before eating.

Oatmeal Fudge Bars

I have held an affinity for houses since I was young. Growing up, I had recurring dreams of houses filled with endless rooms. I would explore them, opening door after door, impatient to see what the next one held, disappointed when I finally awoke. Nowadays, my love for houses reveals itself in less subtle manners. Along with a standing date to watch This Old House on Sunday mornings, I regularly go on home tours for no reason other than a curiosity to know what's inside. In the summer, my boyfriend and I go on long walks around the lakes scattering our Minnesotan city. The lake walks are our compromise; he prefers to take in the beauty of nature and I prefer to take in the beauty of the lakefront properties. 

I imagine the lives held within those four walls—what the mothers hope, what the fathers fear, what the children dream.

Now that I've recently started the search for a home, the excitement I've kindled has faded somewhat as the reality has sunk in. The market is difficult, the region I'm searching is one of the highest priced in the city, and the houses I can afford will need a lot of love. I understood there would be compromises, but it wasn't until I was actually faced with the tangible decisions that I realized how difficult this process would become. Do I choose the house with the beautiful yard, but disappointingly tiny kitchen? The house with the pleasing fit and finish, but dysfunctional layout? While a good coat of paint can go a long way, it cannot cover up the unchangeable.

Right now I am looking for a beautiful place, a beautiful place to grow my family, a beautiful place that needs only a good coat of paint and little else. It doesn't exist—not for me and not right now—which has been a hard realization to swallow. Adjusting my expectations has left me with complicated feelings, especially when reality still comes at such a high price.

A house doesn't make a home, as my mother reminds me. And she's right, of course. It will be up to me to make a place beautiful, to put in the love and the work and the hope, to build a home.

Oatmeal Fudge Bars are a sweet, chewy bar to satisfy your cookie cravings. The bars feature rich dark chocolate sandwiched between chewy oatmeal cookie layers. The cookie layers are more pronounced than the chocolate, creating a balance between flavors. Enjoy with a tall glass of milk.

One Year Ago: Quick Puff Pastry & Traditional Challah
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Orange Cake & Blackberry Coconut Scones
Three Years Ago: Almond Cake & Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake
Four Years Ago:  Blueberry Lemon Pancakes, Lavender Lemon Shortbread, Lemon Pudding Cake, & Chocolate Oat Muffins
Five Years Ago: Rosemary Focaccia, Swedish Visiting Cake, Chocolate Toffee Scones, & Rosemary Crackers
Six Years Ago: Lemon Chocolate Tart, Coconut Cream Cupcakes, Yeasted Waffles, & Vanilla Almond Cupcakes

Oatmeal Fudge Bars

Yields 16 servings

Oatmeal Bar
1/2 cup (113 grams) butter
1 cup (200 grams) brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (180 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups (170 grams) old-fashioned oats

Chocolate Filling
5 ounces (140 grams) semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1/3 cup (80 mL) heavy cream or full-fat coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line an 8 x 8-inch pan with parchment paper and lightly grease.

In a medium bowl, beat together butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla until uniform. Gradually add flour, baking soda, salt, and oats, mixing until uniform. Press 2/3 of the dough into the prepared pan evenly. Set aside the remaining 1/3 of dough.

In a microwaveable safe bowl, combine roughly chopped chocolate, heavy cream, and espresso powder.  Heat in 30-second increments in the microwave, stirring between each increment until smooth. Pour over dough and smooth.

Crumble remaining 1/3 dough over the top and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting and serving.

Sprouted Wheat Vanilla Chai Bars

The world is powered through small acts of compassion: a simple text message to say thinking of you to a friend, taking time to truly listen to another person, giving a voice to the needs of others, a genuine smile towards a stranger. Though compassion comes in many different methods and is as varied as people themselves, showing compassion does not come easily to me. I am sometimes awkward with words, the right order often failing to appear. Instead, I channel my feelings and thoughts of goodwill into the food that I bake. I may not be able to speak away the worry or ease the pain, but I can pull up a chair to the table and share burdens and bars alike.

Compassion towards others, in acts both big and small, comes in many forms—even dessert—which is why I wanted to bake up something sweet and special using one of my new favorite flours: sprouted wheat.

Sprouted wheat flour is a fine, soft textured flour with a mild, nutty flavor. The flour is made from white whole wheat berries which are sprouted, dried, and milled. The process of sprouting enhances the nutritional benefits of the 100% whole grain flour, improving the digestibility and providing a good source of fiber. With an inherent sweetness and creamy appearance, the flour is quickly becoming a pantry staple in my kitchen.

For everyday use, sprouted wheat flour can be substituted 1:1 for whole wheat flour or up to 50% for all-purpose flour in your favorite recipes. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of all-purpose flour, you can use 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup sprouted wheat flour instead.

These vanilla chai bars are similar to a sweet, spiced blondie. The recipe starts by whisking together sprouted wheat flour with a leavener, chai spice, and salt. The dry ingredients are set aside and the liquid ingredients are prepared.

In a saucepan, butter and brown sugar are melted together until they form a smooth paste. Once the mixture cools, eggs and vanilla extract are stirred into the mixture. The flour is gradually added and the batter is stirred until uniform. Sprouted wheat flour absorbs liquids and holds water better than other flours, resulting in a final product that stays moist.

The batter will be quite stiff when fully mixed. I recommend using a spatula to transfer the batter to a prepared 9" x 13" baking pan. Once there, use your hands to press the batter into an even layer. Using any other tool here is a fool's errand; the batter sticks to the tool and pulls away from the pan, making a simple task into a more complicated process.

The texture of the bars can be customized to fit your taste. For chewy bars, bake for 17-21 minutes, and for bars with a cake-like texture bake between 23-27 minutes. For my ideal texture, I baked the bars for 22 minutes, achieving the best of both worlds.

When the bars come out of the oven, they should be cooled for at least 15 minutes, or until warm to the touch, before adding the topping. The bars are brushed with a layer of butter and sprinkled with chai-spiced sugar. Then, the pan is shaken until the sugar forms an even layer and left to cool completely before slicing. Alternatively, the bars can be topped with a drizzle of white chocolate. However, I prefer the crunchy texture and contrast the sugar adds to the bars. The opportunity to lick granules of chai-spiced sugar from the tips of my fingers and corners of my lips is a source of joy.

For more recipe inspiration or to learn how to incorporate sprouted wheat flour into your favorite recipes – both savory and sweet – take a look at King Arthur Flour’s complete guide.

Sprouted Wheat Vanilla Chai Bars are a sweet, spiced version of a blondie. The bars are moist and chewy due to the addition of brown sugar. Covered with a layer of butter and chai-spiced sugar, the crunchy top and dense interior provide a contrast in textures. The recipe yields two dozen bars. With plenty to go around, these bars are a sweet treat to bake and share with family and friends, or perhaps as a token of compassion. 

One Year Ago: Chocolate Almond Cake & Coffee Eclairs
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Raspberry Tarts & Rosemary Soda Bread
Three Years Ago: Banana Cacao Nib Muffins, Chocolate Almond Biscotti, & Grapefruit Rum Cocktails
Four Years Ago:  Bruleed Grapefruit, Bacon & Chive Beer Bread, Pomegranate White Wine Panna Cotta, Toasted Almond Fig Cookies, Coconut Raisin Granola, Chocolate Pudding, & Black Tea Honey Cake
Five Years Ago: Cheddar Dill Biscuits, S'mores Brownies, Beer Bread, Flourless Chocolate Rum Cake, & Mocha Pancakes
Six Years Ago: Vanilla Rum French Toast, Banana Bread Oatmeal, Chocolate Blueberry Ice Cream, & Chocolate Coffee Cake

Sprouted Wheat Vanilla Chai Bars
Recipe from King Arthur Flour

Bars
2 cups (227 grams) King Arthur Sprouted Wheat Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons chai spice*
2/3 cup (150 grams) unsalted butter
2 cups (425 grams) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Chai Spice Topping
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon chai spice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and chai spice until well blended. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the brown sugar and heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes together and forms a fairly smooth, shiny paste, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the hot mixture to a medium bowl and allow it to cool for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mix in the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir until well combined; the batter will be stiff. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake the bars for 17 to 21 minutes (for chewy bars) or 23 to 27 minutes (for cakier bars), until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it; the top crust will have risen and fallen.

Remove the bars from the oven and allow them to cool for 15 minutes.

For the topping, mix together the sugar and chai spice in a small bowl.

Gently brush the melted butter evenly over the surface of the warm bars, then sprinkle on the spiced sugar, shaking and tilting the pan to distribute the sugar evenly.

Allow the bars to cool completely, then cut them into squares.

*To make homemade chai spice, mix together 1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ginger, 1 teaspoon cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon cloves, 1/4 teaspoon finely ground white pepper, and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon orange zest

This post is sponsored through a partnership with King Arthur Flour. All thoughts and opinions are my own.