'Tis the season (of peppermint bark)

In the spirit of Peppermint Bark season, I baked these wonderful brownies. As if two bags of Ghirardelli's peppermint bark squares isn't enough, our home just has to have more! Inspired by Dying For Chocolate's blog, I made my signature brownie recipe and added white chocolate and peppermint candy to turn it into peppermint bark brownies.

For this recipe it's important to use good quality white chocolate so that every component of the brownie tastes great and so that the white chocolate melts properly. (I prefer Guittard which can be found in any grocery store.)

If you're more of a package baker, here is Ghirardelli's recipe:

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup water
1 egg
1- 20 oz package or 1 pouch Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix

In a medium bowl, blend together oil, water and egg. Add the brownie mix and stir until moistened. Pour the batter into lightly greased 13x9 pan. Bake 24-26 minutes. Let brownies cool completely.

My Brownies
4 blocks Baker's unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sifted all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler over (not in) simmering water. Allow to cool until barely warm.

Preheat oven to 350°F. 
Whisk the eggs and salt until light and creamy in color in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in the sugar and vanilla. Mix in the chocolate with only about 3 stir (there can still be streaks in the batter).
Pour in all of the flour and mix until just combined (don't over mix the batter). Pour the batter into lightly greased 13x9 pan. Bake 20-25 minutes. Let brownies cool completely.

Peppermint Topping

2 cups white chocolate chips
1 tsp canola oil
1/3 cup crushed peppermints (about 16 round candies, or six candy canes) I used a mini food processor to chop the candies really tiny.

Melt the chips in the top of a double boiler, over simmering water, stirring often. Or gradually melt the chips in the microwave at half power stirring every 20 seconds. Mix in the oil once the chips have melted.

Poor the melted white chocolate over the cooled brownies and sprinkle the crushed candy over the top. Let the topping set on the counter or in the fridge, then cut and enjoy!

"more peppermint!"


Peanut Butter Jam Bars

Inspired by The Food Networks 12 Days of Cookies, I decided to mix up my favorite peanut butter cookie dough and add the home-made strawberry jam from jelly doughnut night and bake it all in a pan to create delicious peanut butter jam bars.

Peanut Butter Jam Bars
  • 1 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325F. Butter a 9X9 baking dish.

In a separate bowl, mix the baking soda and salt into the flour.

With a hand mixer or KitchenAid, beat the butter then gradually add both sugars until very well blended. Mix in the egg and vanilla. Mix in the peanut butter. Slowly add the flour mixture.

With damp fingers, press 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the baking dish (if the dough is too sticky, put it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes). Spread the jam over the dough. Crumble the remaining dough evenly over the top of jam. It will bake for a longer time then cookies, about 25-30 minutes.

I didn't layer the dough and jam the best way, and used too large of a pan, so they should turn out even prettier baked the proper way.


Epicurious Red Velvet Cake

It seems like everyone loves red velvet cake, but for the longest time I didn't know why it was called red velvet cake and it turns out I wasn't the only one that wondered; what's in it that gives red velvet cake its distinctive flavor and color?

Red velvet cake is like a rich white cake with buttermilk and a little bit of unsweetened cocoa powder- that's how the cake gets its distinctive flavor. In the baking process, the alkali in the cocoa powder reacts with the acid (in the teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar), and turns the batter slightly red (like a light brownish/red tinge). So to really get it red, not one but two teaspoons of red food coloring are added to the batter. I definitely want to try making the recipe without any food coloring and see how the cake turns out.

I don't actually have a picture of the finished cupcakes with frosting and I even bought a new frosting piping tip so that the frosting comes out big and fluffy :( They got eaten at the party before I had the chance to find a camera.

Red Velvet Cake
Makes 2 layers of a 9-inch cake or 24 cupcakes


    •    2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (sifted, then measured; 9oz)
    •    2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (0.5oz)
    •    1 tsp baking powder
    •    1 tsp baking soda
    •    1/2 tsp salt
    •    1 cup buttermilk (8 oz)
    •    1 tbsp red food coloring
    •    1 tsp distilled white vinegar or lemon juice
    •    1 tsp vanilla extract
    •    1 1/2 cups sugar (10.5oz)
    •    1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature (2oz)
    •    2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a two 9-inch-diameter cake pans or put paper liners in a 12-cup muffin tin.  Sift the sifted flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl.

Whisk buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla in small bowl until blended.

Using electric mixer or Kitchenaid, beat sugar and butter until well blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. Mix in dry ingredients in 4 additions alternately with buttermilk mixture in three additions. * Always begin and end with the dry ingredients.

Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 27 minutes (Cupcakes baked for about 18 minutes)

Cool in pans on racks 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks; cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar (I used only about 2 cups)
Beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in vanilla.

Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on platter. Spread 1 cup frosting over top of cake. Top with second cake layer, flat side down. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. This cake can be made one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.


The Miracle of Oil: Latkes and Jelly Doughnuts

For special occasions I stray from baking and write about other recipes, and in light of Hanukkah I have to pay tribute to my dad's wonderful latkes he made us every year on the first night of Hanukkah- A simple but delicious, full-proof recipe. You can make them for the any of the next seven nights of Hanukkah!

Dad's Latkes
 Serves 4
(The recipe says it serves eight, we had two guests and between the four of us they were gone, and so where all the jelly doughnuts, but it does make about eight latkes!)
  • 4 medium baking or Russet potatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp matzo meal (found in the kosher section of the grocery store)
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 6 tbsp oil for frying- you'll need to add more as you go

1. Peel potatoes and either grate withe a cheese grater or use the grating disc attachment of a food processor. Transfer to a large bowl and with your hands or a cheese cloth squeeze as much moisture as you can out of the grated potatoes

2. Grate onion and add to the potatoes

3. Add all other ingredients

4. In a heavy, 12-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Create a mound of potato and put it into the oil. Flatten mounds slightly with a spatula. Fry for 3-4 minutes or until dark golden brown on the bottom. Turn with spatula and fry until the other side reach the same color.

5. Drain on a paper towel lined plate and keep warm in a 200F oven until ready to serve

Serve with sour cream and applesauce

The Hanukkah holiday celebrates the rededication of the Jewish temple after the Greeks took violent control  during the reign of Alexander the Great. A short story of the Hanukkah story can be found at Judaism101.com

According to Joan Nathan's The Children's Jewish Holiday Kitchen, "the young State of Israel has created many of its own customs. One is serving jelly doughnuts at Hanukkah, which are fried in oil to symbolize the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days instead of one."

I also made Jelly Doughnuts with real strawberry jam and a recipe from Gourmet cookbook. I'm not totally wild about and will try Mark Israel's of The Doughnut Plant in NY, next!

Easy Strawberry Jam
Adapted from allrecipes.com
  • 3 cups hulled, mashed strawberries (about 2 small baskets)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Juice of two small lemons
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, mix together the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice. Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to high, and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil, stirring often, until the mixture reaches 220F (really important-If you don't heat it enough, the jam will not gel!) Transfer to a hot sterile jar, leaving 1/4 to 1/2 inch space at the top and seal. Since the jam will be eaten right away, refrigerate it. (You don't need to process it in a water bath first.) Follow this link for a yummy recipe and easy-to follow guide to make jelly doughnuts.

Though I am not religious, Hanukkah is a wonderful cultural tradition, reminder of my ancestors history, and a fun way to get friends together to enjoy delicious fried foods.