Peppermint Fudge Cookie Sandwiches

.  Okay, this is getting serious.

Christmas is less than 5 days away and I still have some serious Christmas recipes to share.  So in part to the fact that I have little to no time to pump out these posts...let's get right to it.  Short and sweet.

First.  These cookies are ah-maze.  And I'm not joking.  They very much remind me of the dark chocolate lava cookies that seem to melt away in your mouth.  I mean, I named these 'fudge' cookies for a reason, right?  And for an extra special touch, you're getting a double dose of chocolate with the mini chocolate chips studded throughout.  Because who doesn't need more chocolate?  Plus they add a subtle crunchy texture to these luscious, seemingly creamy, cookies.

But the true holiday spirit comes when you get to that buttercream.  The candy cane buttercream, mind you.  Yes, real candy canes are crushed and added to a classic vanilla buttercream, upping the holiday ante.  And who would have guessed the chocolate/peppermint combo was so downright addicting?  Because neither Robbie or I could stop eating these little things.

Not to mention they're just too darn cute.

Well, I hope that everyone has a wondrous holiday and ends 2013 with a bang.  I'll be spending the last couple of weeks of the year in Minnesota and Arizona with family and friends, so odds are this will be my last post.  For the year, I mean.

I already have loads to catch you all up on, particularly with wedding planning, so I can't wait for the New Year to roll around.

Love you all, see you in 2014!  .

Fudge Cookies:
1 c. plus 1 tbsp. all purpose flour
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
8 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
1/4 c. sugar
1 c. mini chocolate chips

Peppermint Buttercream:
3/4 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2-1/2 to 3 c. powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 to 2 tbsp. heavy whipping cream
1/2 c. candy cane dust (about 9 candy canes)

  1. For cookies, stir together flourcocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Melt chocolate in the microwave for about 1 minute, stir, and continue to melt in 30 second increments until fully melted and smooth; set aside.  In a small bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla extract; set aside.  With electric or stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute).  Beat in brown sugar and sugar, scraping down the sides, until mixture is granular.  Mix in egg mixture until incorporated.  Add chocolate and beat until combined.  Add dry ingredients on slow speed.  Fold in the mini chocolate chips (do not overmix!).  Chill dough for 30 minutes.
  3. Heat oven to 350°F.  Scoop 1 Tablespoon of dough and roll into a slightly flattened ball.  Place onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake 10 minutes or until cookies have just begun to set with the centers still appearing very soft (they will set as they cool).  Move to wire rack to cool completely.
  4. Meanwhile, for buttercream, place candy canes in food processor and crush to a fine dust.  
  5. In a medium bowl, beat butter for 1 minute.  Add 2-1/2 cups powdered sugar and mix on low speed.  Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream.  Beat for 1 minute.  Stir in candy cane dust with a spatula and add heavy whipping cream as needed if buttercream requires loosening.  
  6. Frost half of cooled cookies and top with remaining half of cookies to create sandwiches.
Yield: 2 dozen cookie sandwiches

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Caramel Apple Streusel Pie

.  How has Thanksgiving already come and gone?  I haven't even had a split second to catch up with everyone to see how their food-filled day went.  And now it's almost Christmas...

But let's recap.  My Thanksgiving was spent out in Naperville, Illinois, where my aunt and her family live.  My parents [in Minnesota] and my brother [currently in Missouri for Army training] also made the trek to the Chicago suburb.  We're all over the place, huh?  But fortunately we were all able to be under one roof for one of my favorite holidays, if even for a short while.

But my Thanksgiving was off to a great start the moment I got to my aunt's house.

Right before our early dinner, my aunt asked me to grab the wine.  Unbeknownst to me, I snagged a bag in the fridge and brought it out to the table.  The next couple of seconds were a bit of a blur but I remember my mom asking me what kind it was.  I casually shrugged and started reading the label.

'Jess.'  'Bridesmaid.'  'Melissa.'

Those are basically the only three words I remember reading.  But as the utter confusion passed, I started piecing it all together.  My best friend, and Maid of Honor, was asking me to be in her wedding!

Mel is a huge wine connoisseur, so her 'invitation' was so completely her.  Absolutely perfect and I couldn't be any more honored to stand by my beautiful best friend on the biggest day of her life.

See?  A great start to my Thanksgiving.

Comically, the rest of the holiday went by rather quickly.  We apparently got right down to business and the first round of 'Thanksgiving' was over in all of about 35 minutes.  If that.  But I guess that only alludes to the delicous-ness of the our meal: we were all heads down, forks to mouths.  And then once we were done, we got back to catching up with everyone.

The aftermath of Thanksgiving.

And of course, there was dessert.  Made by me.  Unfortunately dessert is the only contribution I will ever have to any dinner party.  But I think everyone agreed, this recipe didn't let me down.

From the crunchy toffee crumble to the luscious caramelized-apple filling overflowing in a homemade crust, what's not to love?  And the fact that we only had a modest sliver left by the end of the night signifies there wasn't much we didn't love about it.  Plus my papa requested this pie for Christmas.  Musta been good then, huh?!

Well I hope everyone's enjoying the holidays, they always seem to fly by faster each year.  Like I said, it's been busy our way, too, and hopefully I can get caught up sharing everything.  But in the mean time...enjoy this pie!

Happy baking!  .

Adapted from Handle the Heat

1-1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 c. cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
2 tbsp. cold sour cream
2 to 3 tbsp. cold water

Caramel Apple Filling:
6 large apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 c. heavy whipping cream
4 tbsp. butter

Toffee Streusel Topping:
1/4 c. all purpose flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. cold butter, cut into chunks
Scant 1/3 c. toffee bits

  1. For the crust, in the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, salt, and sugar until combined.  Add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with larger chunks of butter remaining.  Add sour cream and pulse to combine.  Drizzle two tablespoons of ice water over mixture and pulse until it just comes together without being wet, sticky, or crumbly (if dough doesn’t hold together when pinched between your fingers, add another tablespoon of water and pulse).
  2. Place the dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a disk.  Chill in refrigerator until firm, at least 1 hour or up to 3 days.  
  3. Let the dough sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before rolling out on a lightly floured work surface (keep turning dough after every roll to ensure it doesn’t stick to the counter and is of even thickness).  Roll out into a 1/8-inch thick 13-inch circle. Gently place the dough over a 9-inch pie pan and press into the tin.  Trim the dough, leaving a 1-inch overhang.  Crimp or decorate edges and pierce the bottom of the crust all over with a fork.  Freeze for 30 minutes, or until very firm.
  4. Heat oven to 375°F.  Remove the pie shell from the freezer and place a double sheet of foil over the shell, pressing the foil gently across the bottom and up the sides of the pie.  Place two cups pie weights or dry beans over the parchment.  Bake 20 minutes or until crust is dry and light in color.  Carefully remove the parchment and weights and continue baking for another 12 minutes, or until just turning golden.
  5. Meanwhile, for the filling, combine apples, lemon juice, light brown sugar, sugar, flour, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, vanilla extract, and heavy whipping cream in a large bowl. Melt butter in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the apple mixture and cook 8 minutes or until the apples begin to soften.  Pour the apple mixture into the pie crust.
  6. For the topping, in a medium bowl, combine flour and sugar.  Cut butter into the flour with a fork to form coarse crumbs.  Stir in the toffee bits and sprinkle over apple mixture.  Wrap the edges of the pie crust with a crust shield or foil.  Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  Let cool before serving.
Yield: 8 servings

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