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Archive for Cookies/Cake/Pastry

STOCKING STUFFER: Sara Snacker Cookies

If you’re Sara Snacker (legally, Sara Leand), your entrepreneurial journey began in college, where you built and ran a snack company out of your college dorm room, selling cookies and treats across the campus as well as to local merchants.

Sara now has an an entire cookie company, focusing on the nostalgic flavors of childhood. They’re different, fun and above all else, tasty.

The all-natural line includes:

  • Chipn’Etzel Original Cookies, made with potato chips & pretzel bits.
  • Chipn’Etzel Dark Chocolate Cookies, with chocolate chips added to the potato chips and pretzels.
  • Hot Chocolate Cookies, baked with rich dark cocoa, chocolate chips and mini marshmallows.
  • Ice Cream Cone Cookies, chocolate and vanilla chips and sugar cone bits.
  • Lemonade Cookies, baked with real lemonade.
  • S’mores Cookies, combining crushed graham crackers, mini marshmallow, and chocolate chips.


    Sara Snacker: nostalgic cookie fun for the holidays. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

  • Vanilla Milkshake Cookies, baked to taste like a real vanilla malt.
    Looking for a fun stocking stuffer? Check out
    We’re especially partial to the new flavors: Hot Chocolate, Ice Cream Cone and S’Mores.



    STOCKING STUFFER: Brownie Brittle

    What a fun riff on conventional brownies.

    Brownie Brittle was invented by Sheila G. Mains, who liked the crispy, crunchy edges the brownies made in her bakery, decided to make things even crisper.

    She worked on the recipe until she had crispy square—the same rich chocolate taste as the brownies, but wafer-thin with an amazing crunch. They’re brownies turned into cookies.

    Today, Sheila G’s Brownie Brittle snacks are available in:

  • Chocolate Chip Brownie Brittle
  • Mint Chocolate Chip Brownie Brittle
  • Salted Caramel Brownie Brittle
  • Toffee Crunch Brownie Brittle
    A piece of Brownie Brittle is delicious by itself, with ice cream and with hot and cold beverages. As a stocking stuffer, the richly-hued bags are suited for festivities.



    One of four delicious varieties of Brownie Brittle. Photo courtesy Sheila G’s.


    You can punch hole in the top of the bag and add a ribbon.

    You can find Brownie Brittle at retailers nationwide, or at

    Five-ounce bags are $3.99, one-pound bags are $8.99. There are gift boxes, samplers and variety packs.

    —Steven Gans



    TIP: Christmas Pie Crust Cutters


    Use pie crust cutters for a professional effect. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.


    Make your holiday pies Christmas-special with decorative crust cutters. The cutters make it easy to add seasonal fun to your pies.

    Just press them into the dough to form appliqués to go atop the pie, or to create cut-out designs in a pie’s top crust.

    You can also use them to garnish soups and salads. Or, cut out cookie dough for a dessert garnish.

    This year’s exclusive cutter set from Williams-Sonoma includes a Christmas tree, reindeer, Santa in sleigh and a snowflake.

    The shapes change yearly; you can build a collection of festive shapes over time.

    The durable spring-loaded cutters are designed for maximum precision, safety and easy of use. The spring mechanism creates delicate shapes embossed with fine detail. Even a child can use them.


    Get yours at Williams-Sonoma stores or at

    Give a set to your favorite pie baker.


    For fun, color the dough red (for Santa), green for leaves, etc.

    Here are lots of tips for making pie crust cut-outs from King Arthur Flour, including helpful photos.



    A Thanksgiving pie using fall-themed cut-outs. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.




    RECIPES: Strawberry Santa Hats & Santa Hat Cheesecakes


    Fun for kids and adults alike. Photo courtesy CandiQuik.


    Here are two fun ideas for Christmas. The first, strawberries decorated as Santa hats, is from Sarah at the CandiQuik blog.

    Prep time is 30 minutes. For best results, prepare no more than 2 hours in advance of serving.


    Ingredients For 30 Pieces

  • 30 fresh strawberries
  • 30 mini marshmallows
  • 6 ounces Vanilla CandiQuik Candy Coating
  • White pearl dragées (sprinkles)

    1. WASH the strawberries and pat completely dry. Slice off the stem of each strawberry, creating a flat bottom.

    2. MELT the CandiQuik in a tray according to package directions. Dip the bottom of each strawberry in the CandiQuik, allowing the excess coating to drip off.

    3. POUR the pearl dragées into a small bowl. ROLL the bottoms of the strawberries in the pearls. Dip the very bottoms of the mini marshmallows in the coating and attach to the tips of the strawberry hats.

    4. PLACE on wax paper to set.




    This Christmas cheesecake treat is from Rachel of The mini eggnog-flavored cheesecakes have a chocolate cookie crust, topped off with fresh whipped cream and strawberry Santa hats.

    Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes.

    Ingredients For 12 Pieces

    For The Crust

  • 20 chocolate wafer cookies or 10 chocolate sandwich cookies*
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
    For The Filling

  • 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup eggnog
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
    For The Whipped Cream

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

  • 12 strawberries


    Eggnog cheesecake with strawberry Santa hats. Photo courtesy

    *Instead of the 20 chocolate wafer cookies, you can substitute 10 whole Oreo cookies minus the cream filling.

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease the 12 wells of a mini cheesecake pan.

    2. BLEND the cookies in a food processor until only fine crumbs remain. Combine the crumbs with the butter and sugar. Divide among the greased cheesecake wells, adding 1 small cookie scoop of crust mixture to each cavity. Press down firmly to create an even layer. Bake for 5 minutes.

    3. REDUCE the oven temperature to 325°F.

    4. BEAT together in a large bowl or stand mixer the cream cheese and granulated sugar, until fluffy and smooth. With the mixer running on low, slowly add the eggnog, flour, vanilla and salt. Gradually increase the speed, mixing until no lumps remain. Finally, add the egg, mixing until combined with no streaks remaining.

    5. DIVIDE the batter among the cheesecake pan cavities using a medium scoop. Add roughly 1 and 1/4 scoops (a heaping scoop) to each cavity. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the cheesecakes are set.

    6. COOL the cheesecakes in the pan on a wire rack until they are room temperature. Transfer them to the refrigerator to chill overnight or until chilled through.

    7. BEAT together the heavy cream and powdered sugar in a medium bowl, until stiff peaks form. Cover and chill until ready to use.

    8. CAREFULLY REMOVE the cheesecakes from the pan, removing the pan discs from the crusts. Top off with whipped cream and strawberries. Sprinkle with optional powdered for a snow dusted look.
    Find more delicious recipes at



    GADGET: Customizable Cookie Stamp

    Thanks to Hannah Kaminsky for tipping us off to this great cookie stamp.

    Whether for the experienced baker who’s looking for something new, or the newbie who wants to surprise friends, this little gadget rocks!

    Interchangeable letters, numbers, and symbols offer endless possibilities for personalized messages that you create within the frame of the stamp.

    Spell out names and messages (Congratulations, Happy Birthday, whatever) to make your next batch of cookies memorable.

    The Customizable Cookie Stamp is $15.00 at



    We love the possibilities of messages on cookies. Photo © Hannah Kaminsky.




    RECIPE: Mini Eggnog Cheesecakes

    Here’s a cheesecake recipe developed for Christmas and New Year’s Eve: Eggnog Cheesecake! These mini cheesecakes with a gingersnap crust are from

    For a clean presentation, invest in a mini cheesecake pan (with removable bottoms); or bake the cheesecakes in festive paper baking cups (also known as cupcake or muffin papers) in a standard muffin pan.

    Prep time is 30 minutes, cook time is 15 to 18 minutes.


    Ingredients For 12 Servings

  • 3/4 cup ground gingersnap cookies (about 14 cookies)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 36 fresh raspberries (about 1 cup)


    Ho ho ho: mini eggnog gingerbread cheesecakes! Photo courtesy Driscoll’s Berries.

  • 1-1/2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup eggnog

  • 1 mini-cheesecake pan with removable bottoms ((12-cups, 1-1/2-inches by 2-inches) or a 12-cup muffin tin


    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. Lightly spray the wells of the mini-cheesecake pan with non-stick spray. If using a muffin pan, line the cups with the paper liners.

    2. PROCESS the cookies into fine crumbs using a food processor. Combine the crumbs and butter in a small bowl. Press 1 tablespoon of the cookie mixture into each cup in the pan and pat down firmly (for the muffin tin, press the cookie mixture into the paper liners).

    3. MIX the cream cheese, sugar and flour in an electric mixer on low speed until blended, scraping down the sides of bowl. Add the eggnog, vanilla extract, nutmeg and salt and mix until blended. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, on low speed until blended.

    4. DIVIDE the batter among the cups in pan. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or 18 to 20 minutes for the muffin pan and paper liners. The edges should be set and center slightly jiggly. The cheesecakes will puff slightly above pan.

    5. COOL completely on a baking rack. Then refrigerate at least 4 hours or until chilled throughout. To serve, carefully remove cheesecakes from pan and top each with 3 raspberries.



    GIFT: Teesy Weensy Microchip Cookies


    It’s raining microchips: Hallelujah! Photo
    courtesy JK Chocolates.


    Tiny cookies, 1/2-inch in diameter. When we first received them as a gift, we thought: What to do with these? Sprinkle them on ice cream? We’d rather eat one big cookie than fuss with tiny ones.

    But we were the minority opinion. Squeals of delight from kids and adults alike. So: Heres a holiday gift that is way different and sure to please.

    Since 1984, Julie and Karleen, the J and K of JK Chocolates, have been creating delicious chocolate sauces. What started as homemade teacher gifts evolved into a business, as people asked to buy them year-round.

    Over the years, as word circulated about the chocolate sauce flavors, they subsequently developed Microchip Cookies, teensy weensy little bites. To imagine the Chocolate Chip Microchip, think of a chocolate chip covered in just enough cookie dough to bury the chip. It’s a half inch wide.

    We received a gift set of two flavors, Chocolate Chip and Pecan Sweeties (like sandies). Our original reaction was, “These are cute, these are tasty, but for the money ($14.75 for a 4.75-ounce jar), we’d just as soon have some standard size cookies.”

    We were the minority opinion. Everyone else oohed and ahhed over them.

    So there you have it: a gourmet chocolate chip novelty that delights.

    But Chocolate Chip isn’t the only Microchip in town. the line includes:


  • Cheddar Cheesies with Texas Heat
  • Midnight Chocolate Chip
  • Original Chocolate Chip
  • Peanut Butter Chip with Sea Salt
  • Pecan Sweeties
  • Six-Spice Gingersnap
  • White Chocolate Chip Crunch
    You can purchase individual jars or gift sets, the latter packaged in a reusable black gift box with a ribbon and a gift card.

    In addition to the single jar option, there are numerous other options, some of which are:

  • A four-jar gift box for $56 and a seven-jar box tower for $84
  • A stack of three smaller jars for $26
  • Single flavor tins for $38 and $62
  • Tin towers for $48, $114 and $186


    An individual jar of Microchips is a unique treat. Photo courtesy JK Chocolates.


    Get yours at



    RECIPE: Award Winning Walnut Cake


    Ready for a party! Photo courtesy California
    Walnut Board.


    This past Spring, the California Walnut Board teamed up with Food52 to challenge its cooking community to create their best recipes with walnuts. With almost 200 entries that included everything from muhammara dip* and creamy asparagus walnut pasta to a goat cheese walnut pizza, the results were varied as well as delicious.

    The first place win went to a baker with the screen name Aliwaks, who created The Walnut Variation: A Cake. A sophisticated confection layered with meringue, whipped cream and flavored with maple syrup, vanilla and plenty of crunchy walnuts, this is a cake for a gourmet cake lover—or for a holiday party or other special occasion.

    Says Aliwaks, “Recently, I discovered The World’s Best Cake—a lovely vanilla affair with whipped cream, meringue and almonds. Ever since I made this soft, chewy, crisp, crunchy, and billowy cake, I’ve been pondering variations on the theme. This is the Walnut Variation: coffee-flavored cake, cinnamon meringue, toasted walnuts, and maple vanilla whipped cream.”

    While we’d never call this “health food,” the good news is that walnuts are the healthiest of nuts. Here’s the scoop.
    *A hot pepper dip originally from Aleppo, Syria.

    Ingredients For 1 Cake/16 Servings

  • 1-1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 10-1/2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2/3 cups brown sugar
  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • Optional garnish: dark chocolate sauce punched up with a few dashes of walnut bitters


    The night before:

    1. SEPARATE the eggs and let the egg whites sit on the counter overnight, covered with a clean cloth.

    2. POUR the cream into a saucepan. Split and scrape a vanilla bean into the cream and heat until just boiling. Remove from heat and let cool. Cover and chill in the fridge overnight.

    The next day:

    3. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9 x 12-inch cake pan with buttered parchment. (Alternatively, you can prepare two 9-inch round cake pans.)

    4. CREAM the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, until creamy and fluffy—about 3 to 4 minutes.


    Walnuts have more health benefits than other nuts. Photo courtesy

    5. WHISK together the flour, baking powder, espresso powder and salt. Add the mixture to the butter and sugar in 3 increments, mixing fully between additions.

    6. WHISK together the egg yolks and milk. Add to batter in 3 increments, incorporating fully each time. Scrape batter into prepared pan.

    7. WIPE down they bowl and whisk attachment with vinegar. In a clean mixing bowl, whip the egg whites until foamy. Add the sugar and cinnamon and whip to soft peaks.

    8. SPREAD the meringue over the cake batter, cover with toasted walnuts and bake 35-40 minutes, until the meringue is crackly. Let cake cool completely. Meanwhile…

    9. REMOVE the vanilla bean from the cream. Add the maple syrup and whip the cream to soft peaks.

    10. CUT the cake in half and place one half on a cake plate, meringue side up. Cover with whipped cream. Top with remaining half, meringue side up. You will end up with a 2-layer square cake from your single- layer rectangular cake. (If you’re doing this in two round cake pans, just top one with the other.) Let sit 1-2 hours.

    To go completely over-the-top, serve with a dark chocolate sauce punched up with a few dashes of walnut bitters.



    PRODUCT: Nonni’s Biscotti In Holiday Flavors


    A holiday treat from Nonni’s. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


    We are fans of Nonni’s Biscotti, and even more so with the new holiday flavors.

    Nonni’s limited-edition holiday biscotti are available in Gingerbread and Pumpkin Spice, both with cinnamon icing. The biscotti are individually wrapped for easy grab-and-go.

    Delicious for snacking or for gifting, they also pair well with the season’s pumpkin and gingerbread lattes.

    Be sure to get enough for stocking stuffers!

    If you can’t find the biscotti locally, you can get them online:

  • Nonni’s Gingerbread Biscotti
  • Nonni’s Pumpkin Biscotti
    Don’t want spiced biscotti? Try the addictive Salted Caramel Biscotti, embedded with chunks of salted caramel.


    The biscotti are certified kosher by U.S Kosher Supervision. Learn more at



    RECIPE: Chocolate Pumpkin Tart

    One year we made pumpkin pie with a chocolate cookie crust. But here’s an even better filling for that crust, that marries pumpkin and chocolate.

    “There’s just something about the combination of pumpkin, spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, and chocolate that make me go a little weak in the knees,” says Annalise Sandberg of “This tart is almost equal parts pumpkin and chocolate and is sure to win over everyone.”

    The prep time is 15 minutes, cook time 1 hour. The yield: 8 servings.

    If you’d like to bake something with a special twist this Thanksgiving, go for it! Find more recipes at and


    Ingredients For The Chocolate Cookie Crust

  • 1-1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    For The Filling

  • 3 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups bittersweet or dark chocolate, melted
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream.


    The art of the tart: chocolate swirled into pumpkin. Photo courtesy Completely Delicious | Go Bold With Butter.




    Bittersweet chocolate disks from Guittard. The better the chocolate, the tastier the outcome. Photo courtesy King Arthur Flour.



    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F.

    2. MAKE the cookie crust: Combine the cookie crumbs, sugar, salt and butter together in small bowl and mix with fork. Press into a buttered 8-inch tart pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Set crust aside.

    3. MAKE the filling: Combine the eggs, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice and salt in bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Add the pumpkin purée and heavy cream and mix until incorporated. Measure 1 cup of the mixture and set aside.

    4. MELT the chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave.

    5. SET the baked crust on a sheet pan and pour the filling into the crust. Combine the melted chocolate with the reserved filling. Spoon it on top of the on top of the partially filled crust and swirl it into the existing filling.

    6. BAKE until the center is set and no longer appears shiny, 40-45 minutes. Let the tart cool to room temperature. Store in fridge until ready to serve.




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