If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you probably already know that I am currently up at my parents’ house in Santa Cruz with Baby Raia avoiding the smoke and fires that have descended on our poor little city of Santa Barbara since last Monday evening. We stuck it out until last Thursday, but when the air got so bad that I could see and smell the smoke seeping into our house I knew it was time to take baby girl and her precious new lungs and hit the road.
As of right now our home is not in an evacuation zone, although many of our friends’ and family’s homes, including my brother’s have been under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders for going on five days now. Santa Barbara has turned into a virtual ghost town and looks alarmingly apocalyptic. Who knows how long we’ll be up north breathing in as much fresh air as we can (a bit of the smoke has even made its way up here, but nowhere near as bad as it is further south), but in the meantime we’re trying to pass the time with getting as ready for Christmas as we can, which includes baking up a ton of delicious holiday goodies!
That being said, since my normal schedule has been thrown for a bit of a loop, I thought it would be fun to spend this week rounding up some of my top holiday recipes in different categories. Today I’ll be sharing my most popular holiday baked goods, Friday we’re talking all things cocktails (and mocktails!) and on Monday we’ll go for appetizers. I had a ton of fun looking through my archives to put these lists together, and I know you’ll find at least one thing you’ll want to add to you holiday cooking and baking list in the next two weeks!
So, without further ado, I bring you The Best of CaliGirl Cooking: Top 15 Holiday Baked Goods.
Continuing on with the sweet holiday treats today!
And these Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Walnut Biscotti live up to every expectation you may have about what a holiday cookie should be. The flavors meld together perfectly to form a delightful cookie that tastes just as good with your morning coffee as it does with an evening hot toddy in front of the fire. It’s a real crowd-pleaser, that’s for sure, and should make it on to your holiday baking list ASAP.
To be completely honest, this version of Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Walnut Biscotti was my own attempt at copying a similar biscotti recipe from back in my Hawaii days. When I was living there and working for an event production company, my boss’ wife would make THE most insanely delicious biscotti every Christmas. I distinctly remember how all of us in the office would impatiently await that first day sometime around Thanksgiving when my boss would bring in the first batch of the season, which would subsequently get devoured before the workday was through.
I don’t remember the exact ingredients (and the specific recipe was a highly coveted family secret), but they were something along the line of chocolate, dried cranberries and either walnuts or almonds. What I do remember is that, after the initial crunch, they just melted in your mouth and were the perfect accompaniment to any warm beverage that was suitable for dunking.
So this year, I decided I needed to make my best attempt at making my own version, and let me just say that although they’re not exactly the same as my boss’ wife’s version, they’re pretty darn close and just as tasty.
If you’ve never made biscotti before, there’s no need to be intimidated. The biggest difference from other cookies is the baking technique, since you bake them off twice – once as a log (almost in the shape of a loaf of bread) and then again after you slice the log into the appropriate biscotti-sized pieces. Being the chocolate-lover that I am, of course I had to go ahead and dip the biscotti in it, but if you’re not such a big fan you could easily omit that step. Or, if you still want some chocolate but don’t feel like tackling the dipping process, go ahead and throw some mini chocolate chips into the dough! Tons of possibilities.
The other thing I love about these Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Walnut Biscotti is that the recipe yields quite a few, which makes it perfect for all of your holiday cookie plate gifting needs. Since I was making all my holiday recipes back in September before baby, I threw Ziplocs of these into the freezer and am just now getting into the stash. They’ve held up beautifully (and we’ll see if there are any left for me to gift people 😉
Whether or not you decide to make Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Walnut Biscotti for your friends or you decide to keep them all to yourself, you definitely need to give them a shot. Because who doesn’t need a delicious cookie they can pull out of the freezer and enjoy at a moment’s notice during this crazy holiday season?
Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Walnut Biscotti
This classic cookie gets fancied up for the holiday season with tart cranberries, toasted walnuts, and a generous coating of chocolate.
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
1 1/2cupscold unsalted butter, cubed
2 1/2cups (10 ounces)chopped toasted walnuts
20ounceschopped semisweet or dark chocolate
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in the eggs.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat on low until combined.
Add the nuts and cranberries.
Roll the dough into six 10-by-1 ½-inch logs. Arrange the logs on the prepared baking sheets and bake until golden, about 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool 15 minutes. With a serrated knife, slice the logs on the diagonal, about 2/3-inch thick.
Bake the slices, cut side up, for an additional 18 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool.
Melt chocolate and coconut oil together in the top of a double boiler until smooth. One at a time, dip one end of the biscotti into the chocolate mixture.
Place dipped biscotti on a baking rack over a large piece of parchment paper (to catch drips.) Let chocolate set and transfer biscotti to a resealable container or bag. Store in the refrigerator or freezer.
We’ve officially entered the month of December, which means it’s officially okay for me to start sharing all of the cookie and bar recipes I’m loving this year, and these Chocolate, Butterscotch and Coconut Grutch Bars are no exception.
I mean, these bars have so many layers of goodness, packing tons of indulgent, delicious flavor into every bite. They are incredibly rich (which is why they are dubbed “grutch” bars in our household) so a little serving goes a long way, but they are just too decadent to pass up. There’s a reason these are my mom’s most requested baked good from us kids once Christmas rolls around!
So here’s what all goes into said Chocolate, Butterscotch and Coconut Grutch Bars (since I couldn’t reasonably fit every ingredient in the recipe title):
A layer of OG graham cracker crust
Chopped walnuts or pecans (you choose your fave! I love both.)
And, finally, a hefty drizzle of condensed milk
Now, if that doesn’t make you just start drooling already, I don’t know what will!
Seriously though, this combination is deadly and I’m thinking I need to find multiple other ways to combine all these flavors in different types of baked goods to whip up throughout the year. Once every 12 months is not enough. What do you think? Any ideas?
The other thing I love about this recipe (besides how insanely tasty it is) is how easy it is to make. I mean, you don’t even need a mixing bowl, people!! That’s right, we layer everything right into the baking dish and pop it into the oven. And seeing as I have a newborn attached to me prettttty much 24/7, this is just the kind of recipe I need if I have any hope of baking up any sweet treats this year.
One little bit of advice: As tempting as it may be, practice all your will power not to cut into these bad boys before they are completely cool. In fact, you may want to pop them into the refrigerator for a little bit to reset after they are done baking and before you slice. Otherwise, you may have a bit of a crumbly mess on your hands (although if this ever happens to me I use it as an excuse to “taste test” and proceed to probably eat the equivalent of one or two entire bars in crumbs.)
I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love all of the sweets and treats recipes that show up on blogs, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. this time of year. I find that I’m always super ambitious at the beginning of the month and bookmark tons of recipes to try, only to fall back on a few favorites once I realize how little free time I actually have. This year, I’m already being forced to slow down a bit with the baby and all, and I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself as far as getting in the kitchen. I try to cook or bake a little something every day, but if it happens, great and if it doesn’t, I’ve got a beautiful baby girl to spend this special time with.
The good news is, I know mom will be making plenty of Chocolate, Butterscotch and Coconut Grutch Bars to keep us satisfied, at least until the New Year when it will really be time for me to get my butt back into pre-pregnancy shape!
Until then, do you have any favorite family recipes to share with me for the holiday season? I’d love to see them or Pin them for future, so please leave ‘em in the comments below! Xx
5 from 1 vote
Chocolate, Butterscotch and Coconut Grutch Bars
These decadent bars are full of so many layers of goodness they're bound to be a hit with your friends and family this holiday season.
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
1/2cupbutter (one stick)
1 1/2cupsgraham cracker crumbs
1cupchopped walnuts or pecans, toasted
1cupsemisweet chocolate chips
114-ounce cansweetened condensed milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (325 degrees Fahrenheit if using a glass pan.)
Melt butter in a 9-by-13 inch baking dish and sprinkle on graham cracker crumbs. Press down lightly to form a crust.
Sprinkle, in layers, the coconut, nuts, butterscotch chips and chocolate chips.
Drizzle condensed milk evenly over the top, trying your best to avoid getting any on the inside of the pan.
Place in preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes.
Cool completely before cutting into bars. You may want to refrigerate the bars once they have cooled slightly to speed the process along and prevent the bars from becoming too crumbly.
Keep in a resealable container either at room temperature (if it’s not too warm wherever you are) or in the refrigerator.
And I can guarantee you won’t be able to eat just one. If you’re at all familiar with a certain popular candy store’s holiday offerings, these little nuggets of heaven I’ve dubbed “Homemade Caramel Covered Marshmallow Kisses” likely look like something you’ve seen before gracing their shelves before. If not, then prepare to be wowed by a delicious homemade holiday goodie that will put your standard cookie and fudge platters to shame. You’ve been warned.
I generally claim to have no preference between cooking and baking (yes, I’m one of those rare birds), but when the holidays roll around, all I want to do is bake up tasty treats and goodies. I’m a sucker for everything from cookies to coffee cakes, and would happily give up candy bars in exchange for baked goods any day of the week.
To be honest, this was also somewhat of a self-challenge on my part. You see, homemade marshmallows (and heck, even homemade caramel) have been on my list of “Things That Intimidate Me” for quite some time now. But heck, that’s one of the reasons I started this blog, to not only challenge myself with new projects in the kitchen but also encourage you, my dear readers, to challenge YOURSELVES with cooking adventures that may have previously been holding you back.
Sure, homemade marshmallows require some special ingredients like silver gelatin sheets and acetate (thank goodness for Amazon Prime!) and a careful eye on the stovetop, but when you break things down they’re really not that complicated…and so much tastier than the store-bought stuff! And who better to turn to than the man Thomas Keller for guidance? I referred to his Bouchon Bakery marshmallow recipe for this first little foray into the ‘mallow world, and as usual was thankful for his overly detailed instructions and step-by-step guide.
To give the marshmallows an extra-special hit of flavor, I turned to the aforementioned Sonoma Syrup Co. Pure Vanilla Bean Extract “Crush”. I tell ya, it’s amazing what just a little dash of this stuff brings to the table when dressing up a holiday goodie! I’m not even exaggerating when I say you can easily tell that they use only the highest quality Madagascar and Tahitian vanilla as the ingredients. It puts any other mass-produced vanilla extract to shame!
So, after we have the marshmallows made and chilled (carefully following the instructions – I promise it’s not too hard!) we make our super-simple caramel coating. And when I say super simple, I mean super simple – we’re talking just two ingredients and a saucepan away from having a huge batch of Homemade Caramel Covered Marshmallow Kisses ready for all your holiday gift-giving needs. Simply melt together some store-bought caramels with a little bit of heavy cream, let it cool slightly, and you’re ready to dip!
It’s important that you start with the marshmallows frozen so that they don’t melt into a gloppy puddle as soon as you dip them into the warm caramel. It’s equally as important to use parchment paper rather than wax paper when letting your caramel-dipped marshmallows set in the refrigerator and for wrapping them once they are ready to go (I learned this the hard way!)
I know this may all sound intimidating and time-consuming, but I promise, promise, PROMISE these Homemade Caramel Covered Marshmallow Kisses are well worth the little extra TLC they require. I also pinky promise that throwing a handful of these on any cookie or treat platter you happen to be bringing over to a friend or neighbor this season will be very well-received. Don’t be surprised if you leave them asking for more!
You can find the recipe below, and head on over to Sonoma Syrup Co. to order their Pure Vanilla Bean Extract “Crush” ASAP for all of your holiday baking needs!
This post contains affiliate links.
Homemade Caramel Covered Marshmallow Kisses
Vanilla-laced homemade marshmallows are covered in a soft yet chewy caramel to make the perfect sweet treat for the holidays and beyond!
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
For the vanilla marshmallows*:
4sheetsSilver Leaf gelatin
1 tablespoonSonoma Syrup Co. Pure Vanilla Bean Extract "Crush" (or other vanilla extract)
1cupplus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2tablespoonslight corn syrup
Special equipment for marshmallows:
8inchsquare baking dish
8inchsquare piece of acetate
For the caramel coating:
22ouncesindividually packaged caramels
First, make the marshmallows. Combine the powdered sugar and cornstarch together in a small bowl.
Line 8-inch square baking pan with plastic wrap and sprinkle the wrap generously with the powdered sugar and cornstarch mixture. Set the rest of the powdered sugar mixture aside.
Place the gelatin in an ice bath to soften.
Spray one side of the acetate with nonstick cooking spray, set aside (sprayed side up.)
Prepare a bain marie by placing a metal mixing bowl over a saucepan filled with just two inches of water over medium high heat.
Remove the gelatin from the ice bath and squeeze dry, place in prepared bain marie. Cook until the gelatin is melted, the reduce heat and keep warm.
Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Combine sugar, water, corn syrup and vanilla extract in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and then simmer an additional 5 minutes or so, or until the temperature reaches 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
Let the syrup continue to cook and turn the stand mixer on medium speed to start whipping the egg whites. The goal is for the egg whites to be forming medium peaks around the same time the syrup in the saucepan reaches 281-284 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the syrup reaches this temperature, remove it from the heat. If your egg whites start forming medium peaks before the syrup is done, lower the speed on the mixer slightly.
Add the syrup to the egg whites by slowly pouring it down the side as you have the mixer on low.
Pour in the prepared gelatin and increase the mixer speed to medium-high, about 5 minutes, or until mixture is thickened and glossy, warm but not hot.
Spray a spatula with nonstick cooking spray and use it to spread the marshmallow mixture into the prepared baking pan that has been lined with plastic wrap.
Top the spread out mixture with the prepared piece of acetate, sprayed side down, and gently press it down.
Let mixture stand at room temperature for a few hours to set.
Once mixture is cooled and set, remove the acetate and coat the top with the reserved powdered sugar mixture as necessary.
Spray a chef’s knife with nonstick cooking spray and cut the marshmallows into squares, cleaning and re-spraying the knife between each cut.
Coat the marshmallows with more of the powdered sugar mixture as needed so they are not too sticky.
Place marshmallows on a cookie sheet or two lined with parchment paper and freeze for at least one hour before dipping in caramel.
Once marshmallows are sufficiently frozen (this will help ensure they don’t melt into nothing as soon as you dip them in the caramel), start preparing the caramel.
Remove the wrappers from the caramels and add them to a small saucepan with the heavy cream over medium heat. Stir occasionally as the caramels melt.
Once the caramels and heavy cream have melted together and combined to form a creamy caramel, turn off the heat. Using two forks (or spoons, or a combo of both) dunk the marshmallows in so they are sufficiently coated. Place dipped caramels back on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets and refrigerate until caramel is hardened even to remove the kisses from the parchment paper.
Individually wrap the caramels in small pieces of parchment paper and keep refrigerated until ready to serve. (They can stand a short period of time at room temperature, but for longer periods be sure to keep them cool.)
Because these Easy Pumpkin Macadamia Nut Muffins are incredibly worthy of your breakfast table this week and all the weeks remaining that are perfectly acceptable to eat all things pumpkin at every meal.
True to their name, these Easy Pumpkin Macadamia Nut Muffins are a snap to make. They are also incredibly moist (gotta love pumpkin in baked goods for that very fact alone) and not only loaded with the healthy orange stuff, but also tons of protein and Vitamin A from toasted macadamia nuts.
There’s also a fun twist to the base of these muffins that I stole from my friends at Big Sur Bakery – I used half good ol’ AP flour and half coconut flour to give them an extra tropical twist (and more healthy protein, fiber and fats.) Let me just tell you, if you haven’t tried baking with coconut flour yet, give it a shot! It adds a wonderful, crumbly texture and nice coconut-y flavor. I’m no expert in gluten-free baking, but I will say that I have found I still need to use some of the regular flour to hold everything together, otherwise everything just falls apart, but if any of you GF eaters out there have any suggestions on how to get things to hold together without it, I’m all ears!
I love these Easy Pumpkin Macadamia Nut Muffins because they are not overly sweet and therefore perfectly justifiable to enjoy for breakfast, a snack or even a healthy(ish) dessert. However, if you feel like adding a bit of indulgence, I think a dash of white chocolate chips would just be BOMB in these and if you end up doing this please bring me some because I really want to try it and right now I’m laid up in bed with the most adorable cuddly newborn ever with no heavy baking plans in my immediate future.
With the fall season in full swing, you most likely have all of these ingredients on hand or fairly readily available to you at a moment’s notice. You can find coconut flour at your local health food store (or gourmet grocery store) and the ½ cup of macadamia nuts the recipe calls for is well worth the little splurge (News Flash: Macadamia nuts are not cheap.)
Once you have all the ingredients, the muffins come together in just about 30 minutes. I would also like to mention that they freeze beautifully, so if you’re looking for a tasty make-ahead breakfast you can have ready in a flash on a busy holiday morning, these Easy Pumpkin Macadamia Nut Muffins are the answer.
Long story short: You need to make these muffins ASAP and tell me what you think. Be sure to tag me in all of your CaliGirl Cooking adventures on social media @caligirlcooking #caligirlcooking. Xx
Easy Pumpkin Macadamia Nut Muffins
These easy muffins are full of healthy ingredients like pureed pumpkin, heart-healthy macadamia nuts and fiber-filled coconut flour.
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
1teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1cupcanned pureed pumpkin
3/4cupunsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/2cupchopped macadamia nuts, toasted
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and either line a muffin tin with paper liners or spray it with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add both sugars and the eggs and mix on medium-low until combined.
Add in the pumpkin, almond milk and vanilla extract and mix again until combined.
Mix in the dry ingredients, then stir in the orange zest and macadamia nuts.
Scoop batter into prepared muffin tins and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes in pan then remove from pan onto a wire rack to cool completely.