Peppermint Chocolate Cookies

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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 shareβ€”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.

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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.

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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.

Peppermint Marshmallows

Peppermint Marshmallows

Peppermint Marshmallows

The past two weeks have been dreadfully cold, as winter fully sets in up here in the North. The air is so chilled that it seems to take one's breath away, burning down the windpipe fiercely. Everyone scurries around from place to place to do last minute shopping, bundled up from head to toe in coats and scarves and mittens until nothing but red cheeks are showing. Fashion has given way to practicality. Though the wind is fierce, the earth's thick coat of white is beautiful enough to make up for winter's ferocity, at least in part.

A few degrees of warmth might make the ice and snow a bit more tolerable.

Peppermint Marshmallows Peppermint Marshmallows Peppermint Marshmallows

With all of the below zero temperatures, I have spent my time indoors, cuddled up with a hot cup of tea and an overdone holiday movie. When I have a spare bit of time, I like to find an excuse to turn on the oven, whether making a batch of my boyfriend's favorite cookies or finding an excuse to treat my coworkers.

Last weekend, I had it in my head that I would make a batch of gourmet peppermint marshmallows for the holidays. Midway through the recipe, as the sugar was wildly boiling, I came to the unfortunate realization that my candy thermometer was broken. After trying to salvage the recipe, with the sugar certainly overcooked, I ended up throwing it entirely into the trash bin.

Peppermint Marshmallows

I have never come across a recipe for marshmallows that did not require a candy thermometer. In fact, the vanilla bean marshmallows I shared with you earlier this year is one of the few recipes where I insisted you needed one. However, suddenly candy thermometer-less and with no less of a desire to make marshmallows, I began the search for a recipe that didn't require one. And find one, I did.

With a red swirl and drizzle of dark chocolate, these Peppermint Marshmallows exceeded my expectations. While they are glorious on their own, I wholeheartedly suggest adding them to a mug of hot chocolate for a moment of divinity.

Peppermint Marshmallows

These Peppermint Marshmallows are easier to prepare and less fussy than other marshmallow recipes. The addition of extra gelatin ensures that the marshmallows will set without the worry of boiling sugar to a specific temperature (as there is with traditional marshmallows). Red food coloring is dropped on top and swirled with a toothpick before the marshmallows have a chance to set. Drizzled with dark chocolate and sprinkled with crushed candy canes, the marshmallows are elevated so that they could be given as a holiday gift or served at a holiday party.

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Candy Cane Cupcakes

Candy Cane Cupcakes

Candy Cane Cupcakes

It is snowing outside. Big, fluffy snowflakes are falling silently from the sky, piling up on window frames and tree branches. The world is covered with white, a blanket of fleece matching the stark ivory of the cloudy sky. Snug and warm in my house, I want to wrap a blanket around my shoulders with a cup of tea in hand, gazing at the postcard outside my window in the soft light of morning. Even though I live in a cold climate, where winter seems to compose half of the year's weather, it is moments like this that make the ice and the cold worth all of those chilled months.

I cannot imagine a winter without snow.

Candy Cane Cupcakes Candy Cane Cupcakes

The appearance of candy canes usually marks the beginning of winter for me. The occasional seasonal snow that comes and goes has finally settled in for a long visit and the time has come to bundle up with winter scarves and over-sized mittens. Candy canes were an intrinsic part of the holiday culture of my childhood. Candy canes weaved themselves into classrooms and daycare, sneaking into craft corners and making an appearance as ornaments on the tree. Even when I was small, I loved the idea of candy canes, enjoying the way the colored stripes twirled themselves up the length of the candy stick. I didn't, however, enjoy the taste. Each year I made it my mission to like candy canes, trying another one just to see if my tastes have changed.

Even now, years after my pursuit began, I may not have completed my mission, but I can assure you I have come so much closer.

Candy Cane Cupcakes

Though I may not enjoy a candy cane by itself, I adore it in combination with a few of my favorite treats, such as hot chocolate, ice cream, or even popcorn. After coming home for the holidays, I noticed a stash of candy canes hidden away in the candy cupboard. The timing seemed right to put them to good use. While some children may have visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads, I had visions of these cupcakes, with a candy striped peppermint frosting to bring in the flavors of the classic candy cane. Though the candy striped swirl may appear complex, I can assure you that the effect is quite easy to achieve.

This might be one of my favorite ways to enjoy candy canes yet.

Candy Cane Cupcakes

Candy Cane Cupcakes feature a rich peppermint buttercream on top of a chocolate cupcake. Though buttercream frosting has a tendency to get too sweet, this frosting has a good amount of salt to cut back on the sweetness. The stripes in the frosting are created with red gel food coloring to give it a genuine candy cane feel. Sprinkled with a few crushed candy canes, the cupcakes come together to create a festive holiday treat.

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