Posts in Desserts
My Favorite Christmas Cookies

I've been making these cookies every Christmas since I was about 12, and came across them in an old Martha Stewart holiday cookbook. They're a favorite in my family, with perfect Christmas-y flavors. These keep well, but are especially delicious the day they're baked, when the sugar tops are nice and crunchy. Adapted from the original Martha Stewart recipe here.


  • 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon (188 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 stick (112 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup (106 grams) packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsulphured molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, 3/4 teaspoon of the ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cocoa powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (you really need the power of a stand mixer for this dough), beat butter well. Add brown sugar, and beat until lightened in color, about 3-4 minutes. Add molasses and mix well.

Place baking soda a small bowl, and pour 1 1/2 teaspoons of boiling water over to dissolve. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter and mix until just combined. Mix in baking soda, followed by the rest of the flour mixture. Again, mix just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips with a wooden spoon. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, and chill until firm, at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix granulated sugar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of ginger together in a small bowl. Roll cookie dough into 1 1/2-inch balls, then roll in sugar mixture to cover. Place on a baking sheet, 2 inches apart, and chill for 20 minutes. Bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until the surfaces are just starting to crack. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Salted Peanut Butter Cookies
salted peanut butter cookies

These are such awesome peanut butter cookies..... super peanut butter-y and melt in your mouth. They also hold up really well for several days without getting dried out because there's so much peanut butter in the dough, so they're definitely a good contender for mailing or giving. And I love that they look like cute little ice cream scoops of cookie.

Adapted from NY Times


  • 113 grams (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 75 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
  • 85 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) dark brown sugar
  • 255 grams (1 cup) natural unsweetened creamy peanut butter (I like Whole Foods brand)
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 120 grams (1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • coarse sugar and flaky salt for the tops

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Cream until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the peanut butter, egg, and kosher salt, and mix well. Add the flour, and mix just until you can't see any more dry flour. Cover and refrigerate the dough until well-chilled, about 2 hours (or longer).

Preheat oven to 350° and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using a small ice cream or cookie scoop, form cookies - these are made with a 1 1/2 tablespoon scoop. (You can also just roll the dough in little balls, but you won't get that nice craggy top.) Roll the tops of the cookies in coarse sugar, and then sprinkle the tops with a little flaky salt. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the tops are nicely browned. (I often pull cookies out of the oven when they're just barely done, but you can leave these in a little longer, until they're nice and golden; since they're so thick, it takes a while to bake them all the way through.)

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

*This dough also freezes really nicely; I usually form the cookies (don't roll them in sugar yet), and then freeze them well-wrapped. You can bake them directly from frozen - they just might take a minute or two longer in the oven.

salted peanut butter cookies
Brown Butter Hazelnut Cake (Two Ways)
Brown butter hazelnut cake

This cake has finally cured me of my fear of whipped egg whites. I've avoided whipped egg white recipes ever since I first subscribed to Martha Stewart Living (in about fourth grade), and tried to make a wedding cake for my aunt. It was a genoise without any chemical leavening, and was a total bust. The cake layers came out totally flat, and we ended up buying a grocery store cake. Since then, either my baking skills have greatly improved, or this cake is much more forgiving. I've now made it twice, and it came out light and fluffy and delicious with no difficulty both times. And didn't seem that scary at all.

The recipe comes from Deb of Smitten Kitchen; I've adapted it to fit an 8-inch cake pan because that's what I have, and also because it makes a really nice small dinner party (4-6 people) size, but if you'd like a 10-inch cake, you can use her quantities and directions in the link below. We couldn't decide whether to use the chocolate ganache or not, so I covered half the cake, black-and-white cookie style. It's delicious both ways - without the chocolate ganache, you get a nice, crunchy, sugar top, and I served it with caramel sauce and ice cream. And with the chocolate, well, it's chocolate.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen


  • 95 grams (about 2/3 cup) hazelnuts
  • 140 grams (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 100 grams (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) powdered sugar
  • 30 grams (1/4 cup) all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 25 grams (2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
  • coarse sugar for sprinkling and/or chocolate ganache (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet, and toast 12 to 15 minutes, until they’re golden brown and smell nutty. Wrap them in a clean dish towel, let them steam for 5 minutes or so, and then rub to remove as many of the dark skins as possible. Let them cool.

Cut out a circle of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of an 8-inch round cake pan (I used a springform pan). Brush the pan with a little melted butter or spray with cooking spray and line the bottom with the paper, then butter the paper as well.

Place the 140 grams of butter in a medium saucepan. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise, and use a paring knife to scrape the seeds onto the butter. Add the vanilla pod to the pan, and cook until the butter browns and smells nutty (about 6 to 8 minutes). Set aside to cool to room temperature. Remove the vanilla pod and discard.

Grind the hazelnuts with the confectioners’ sugar in a food processor until they’re finely ground. Add the flour and salt and pulse to combine.

Place the egg whites and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix on high speed 4 to 5 minutes, until the whites form very stiff peaks. When you turn the whisk upside down, the peaks should hold. Alternate carefully folding the dry ingredients and the room temperature brown butter into the egg whites, about a third at a time.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the cake pulls back from the sides and a toothpick comes out clean. Sprinkle the top with coarse sugar. Cool on a rack 30 minutes. Run a knife around the inside edge of the pan, and invert the cake onto a plate. Peel off the paper, and turn the cake back over onto a serving platter. If desired, cover with ganache (below). Or do what I did, and go half and half.

Makes one 8-inch cake (about 6 servings).


For the chocolate ganache:

*Makes enough to cover half the cake; to cover the whole cake, double the amounts.

  • 60 grams (2 ounces) bittersweet chocolate
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream

Finely chop the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream, either in the microwave or on the stove, until just barely starting to bubble. Pour the cream over the chocolate, let it sit for a minute, and then stir to melt.

hazelnut brown butter cake slice
Salty Caramel Brownies

These brownies are definitely special. They're a bit of a project, but you can make the caramel ahead if you like and refrigerate it until you're ready to make brownies. The caramel in them is pretty subtle - it's just a thin layer in the middle of the brownie, and that's what makes these so delicious. You almost can't tell it's there, it just makes for a delicious brownie. I would also be sure to use the sugar and salt on top - it makes them deliciously crunchy and the salt is perfect. The recipe is adapted from the Baked Explorations cookbook. Go make brownies. Yum.


For the caramel:

  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky salt
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream

For the brownies:

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (75 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon (6 grams) dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 5 1/2 ounces (156 grams) bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I use 70% dark chocolate)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick/113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) white sugar
  • 1/4 cup (53 grams) brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons or so coarse sugar (or regular white sugar) for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon or so flaky sea salt for sprinkling

First, make the caramel: Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally and trying not to splash the sides of the pan too much. After 10 or 15 minutes, the sugar will start to brown - watch carefully, and take the caramel off the heat as soon as it's a deep amber color. (If you want to use a candy thermometer, this is about 350℉, but I usually just go by appearance.) Stir in the cream, and be careful - it will bubble up a little. Mix in the salt and sour cream, stirring until all the sour cream is melted in.

Next, make brownies: Preheat the oven to 350℉; butter an 8" x 8" pan and line with a strip of parchment for easy removal. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and cocoa powder. In a mixing bowl set over boiling water, melt the butter and chocolate together until smooth. Remove the bowl from the boiling water, and stir in both sugars. Stir in vanilla. The mixture shouldn't be too hot anymore; a little warm is ok, but if it still feels hot, let it cool for a few minutes. Add in the eggs and egg yolk. Last, mix in the flour/cocoa mixture, and be sure not to over mix at this point. 

Pour half of the brownie batter into the bottom of the pan. Next, pour the caramel over - you want just a very thin layer over the batter, leaving about a 1/2" border around the edge. I find that a little more than 1/4 cup or so is just about right. You want to avoid going out to the very edges, because it tends to squish out and can burn. Dollop the remaining brownie batter over the top, and spread with a spatula to even it out and cover the caramel. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. As soon as the brownies come out of the oven, sprinkle with a healthy layer of sugar, and the coarse sea salt. Let them cool fully before cutting.