One last Christmas treat. Just one, I promise! Because by the time you read this, I’ll very likely be running around like a crazy woman just before our trip to Indianapolis to see the Texans & Colts play. A trip that heavily relies on the weather to keep us from celebrating Christmas snowed-in in an airport in Missouri, without our kiddo. As soon as I finish packing, I plan on taping all of my fingers crossed.
So you remember that cookie exchange that I went to a couple of weekends ago? The one I’ve been talking about nonstop? Well, these brownies are one of the reasons I can’t shut up.
My friend Viula’s contribution to the exchange were brownies, topped with a peppermint frosting, ganache, and candy cane pieces.
If you are a chocolate + peppermint fiend like I am – and will continue to be for approximately another 5 days – you’re going to want to give these a try. They’re really easy to pull together, I didn’t even use a mixer. You simply bake up your favorite brownie (I used the box of Ghiradelli brownies that I keep hidden in the back of my pantry for emergencies. Because this was clearly an emergency.) and top it with a peppermint frosting, melted chocolate, and some crushed candy.
Your friends will love you. Your family will, too. And you’ll get a little more mileage out of those stretchy-waisted pants until the new diet starts on January 2nd.
Peppermint Frosted Brownies
Your favorite brownie dressed up for the holidays: topped with peppermint frosting, ganache, and peppermint candies.
Your favorite brownie recipe or mix (for an 8x8 pan), baked and cooled
For the mint frosting:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 Tbsp milk (I used skim)
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1-2 drops red or pink food coloring
For the topping
3/4 cups chocolate chips
3 Tbsp butter
12 peppermint candies, roughly chopped (optional)
Bake your favorite brownie recipe/mix in an 8x8 pan, according to package directions.
Remove from oven and let cool to room temp.
Melt butter in a medium bowl and add milk and peppermint extract.
Whisk in the powdered sugar until smooth.
Add 1-2 drops of food coloring, just enough to tint the frosting pink.
Spread over the brownies in an even layer and let sit until the frosting has crusted, about 10 minutes (it won't stick to your finger when you touch it).
Melt remaining butter and chocolate chips in a small bowl.
Pour over the frosted brownies and spread evenly, and then sprinkle with candy pieces, if using. (When stored, the candy will absorb moisture and start to melt. If not serving by the next day, consider adding the candy pieces just before cutting and serving or omitting.)
Refrigerate until set. Cut with a sharp knife, dipping in hot water and wiping dry between cuts for a crisp, clean cut.
Will keep 5 days in an airtight container without candy pieces, 3 days with.
Some days, regardless of how bright it is outside, are just… gray. A dear friend I made through blogging lost her father recently. We’re all just so heartbroken for her and her family’s loss.
Grief and comfort is so very individual and we all cope differently. Often you just can’t find the right words. Or when you do have plenty to say, sometimes the words themselves just seem so insignificant. Or they tumble out in a heaping mess. We pray for peace and comfort and then we often turn to acts of service to better say the things we feel. A lot of people, including me, cook.
When it’s a gray day, I often reach for my favorite mug. It’s easy to spot, it’s the cracked one with the Colts logo on the side and the crooked handle held in place with super glue. A steamy mug of hot tea has a way of temporarily replacing that cold, empty feeling to warm you from the inside out. Or when it’s cold out, a mug of hot chocolate topped with whipped cream or marshmallows.
Many of us wanted to do something to show our support for our friend, to let her know that we were still thinking of her. And because we all cook, you’ll see comfort foods popping up all around our friends’ blogs. I’d love to give Annie a hug and then pass her a mug (the un-cracked one!) of hot chocolate with a melty layer of homemade Baileys marshmallow on top.
Fluffy homemade marshmallows spiked with Baileys Irish Cream. Add them to a mug of hot chocolate or use them in grown-up S'mores.
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup Baileys
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
Powdered sugar, for coating and dusting
Place Baileys in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and sprinkle gelatin over top. All of the powder should absorb within a few minutes - you might need to swirl the liquid in the bowl if powder remains on top.
In a medium sauce pan, heat sugar, corn syrup, salt, and water over medium heat and stir constantly until the temperature reaches soft ball stage (240F).
Add the heated sugar mixture in a slow, thin stream to the stand mixer while on low. Add vanilla and increase speed to high and whip for ~15 minutes, until thickened and mostly cooled.
Spray an 8x8 pan with baking spray and coat with powdered sugar.
Pour marshmallow into the prepared pan and let sit at room temperature for at least 4 hours (I always do overnight).
Dust your work surface with powdered sugar and turn the marshmallow out of the pan (pull up one of the corners of the marshmallow, flip, and let gravity do the rest).
Using a greased pizza cutter or knife, cut the marshmallows into 1-inch squares, dusting the cut edges with powdered sugar to prevent sticking.
Store the marshmallows in a gallon zip-top bag with a few additional spoonfuls of powdered sugar (shake the closed bag to evenly distribute the powdered sugar).
Pay Day candy bars are one of my guilty pleasures. When we take a road trip, there are three things that we have to grab at a quick pit-stop before getting on the highway: A bag of Funyuns, a Diet Pepsi, and a PayDay. When it comes to sitting in the car for hours, I prefer to spend the time honing my “empty calorie intake” skills.
It ain’t fancy. It’s probably more than a little shameful. And it’s a lot salty. But it’ll serve as lunch between here and Austin, a trip that takes far too long when you’ve got a big bowl of Kerbey Queso in the front of your mind and a teething toddler in the backseat.
These Salted Caramel Peanut Bars are a dressed-up version of a treat we saw in an issue Everyday Food a while back. We used homemade salted caramel that was studded with pretty flecks of vanilla bean, added more peanuts, and added a chocolate layer. It’s fancier. And still probably more than a little shameful. But it’s delicious.
Salted Caramel Peanut Bars
A simple candy bar gets a makeover with salted caramel, chocolate, and vanilla bean.
Liberally grease the bottom and sides of an 8x8 pan.
Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups of peanuts over the bottom of the pan (the bottom should almost be completely covered).
Pour caramel sauce over the peanuts, tilting the pan to spread it evenly.
Heat chocolate in the microwave in 30 second bursts until completely melted. Pour over the caramel layer and spread evenly.
Immediately top with remaining peanuts and let completely cool. Cut into 8 bars (or 16 squares) and store individually wrapped for a to-go treat. (I kept them in the fridge.)
Inspired by Everyday Food
Estimated time: 30 minutes
*If you want a faster version, the original recipe called for cooking 50 unwrapped caramels, 1 cup mini marshmallows, and 1 Tbsp of water over medium heat until melted and combined. You can still add a pinch of salt and vanilla bean scrapings to the quickie version for a more flavorful caramel.
We couldn’t do a whole series on chocolates and not cover truffles. Sure they’ve been done, but they’re far too delicious and far too easy to skip over!
My favorite part of making truffles is that we get decide what goes in them. ‘Cause nothing says I love you quite like a heart-shaped box full of mystery-filled candies (I think that coconut filled one is the worst). Plain chocolate with a traditional coating of cocoa powder or fancier crushed nut/candy coatings.
And that’s before even considering opening up a cabinet full of booze. Raspberry, orange, cherry – or a splash of any other flavored liqueur that you have on hand are perfect to flavor truffles.
Making truffles couldn’t be easier: melt, cool, roll into balls, roll in cocoa powder. Done! It takes longer to clean up the chocolate and cocoa powder from my counter and floor than it does to make the truffles. And no one feels guilty about tossing a box full of one-bite-missing candy.
A quick and easy homemade truffle recipe.
5 oz of your favorite dark chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp Grand Marnier (or other flavored liqueur, optional)
Cocoa powder or chopped nuts for rolling (I used three types of cocoa for color variation: unsweetened, Special Dark, and dutch process)
Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place into a small bowl. Heat cream, salt, and liqueur (if using) over medium heat until bubbles began to form along the edges. Pour cream over chocolate and let sit for a couple of minutes. Stir chocolate until smooth. If there are still unmelted pieces, microwave in 10-15 second bursts, stirring in between until all pieces have melted.
Scrap down the sides of the bowl and place in the fridge for 45 minutes to an hour. Once completely cooled, use a buttered melon baller, spoon, or small dough scoop to portion the chocolate in ~1 Tablespoon balls. (I cleaned up the shape by placing the ball of chocolate into my buttered palm and lightly rolling with the spoon.) If you have problems with the chocolate becoming too soft while you work, place the bowl in the freezer for ~10 minutes and then continue.
Place the truffle into cocoa powder (or chopped nuts) and roll to coat. Store in the fridge in an airtight container (I actually keep mine in the freezer and cover the bottom of the container with a dusting of cocoa powder).