The Best of CaliGirl Cooking: Top 15 Holiday Baked Goods

Wow, what a week it has been!

Chocolate Panettone | CaliGirl Cooking

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!

Chunky Monkey Cinamon Rolls with Chocolate Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com

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.

These Chocolate, Butterscotch and Coconut "Grutch" Bars are a holiday favorite and are so easy to make!

1. CHOCOLATE, BUTTERSCOTCH AND COCONUT GRUTCH BARS
2. CHOCOLATE PANETTONE
3. CHOCOLATE DIPPED CRANBERRY WALNUT BISCOTTI

Homemade Caramel Covered Scotch Kisses are the perfect holiday gift.

4. HOMEMADE CARAMEL COVERED MARSHMALLOW KISSES
5. PEPPERMINT BARK BROWNIES
6. SAVORY PROSCIUTTO-SAGE-GRUYERE BREAD PUDDING
7. CHUNKY MONKEY CINNAMON ROLLS WITH CHOCOLATE GLAZE
8. CHOCOLATE BRIE DESSERT PIZZA WITH ALMOND ORANGE SHORTBREAD CRUST

Chocolate Brie Dessert Pizza with Almond-Orange Shortbread Crust | CaliGirl Cooking

9. PEPPERMINT CHOCOHOLIC COOKIES
10. WEEKEND HAZELNUT STICKY BUNS WITH DATE CARAMEL
11. BUTTERSCOTCH APPLE OATMEAL COOKIES WITH BOURBON GLAZE
12. PUMPKIN POPOVERS

A batch of easy Pumpkin Popovers fresh out of the oven and ready to be eaten!

13. SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE BABKA
14. CREAM CHEESE-Y PUMPKIN PIE
15. CRANBERRY CHOCOLATE CHUNK MUFFINS WITH CHOCOLATE STREUSEL

What are your favorite baked good recipes for the holidays? I’d love to give some a try while we’re on our #evacuationvacation so leave the links or recipes below!

Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Walnut Biscotti

Continuing on with the sweet holiday treats today!

These Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Walnut Biscotti are fantastic dipped in coffee or a hot toddy!

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.

These Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Walnut Biscotti are the perfect holiday cookie to add to your baking repertoire.

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.

Set out a plate of Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Walnut Biscotti at your holiday get-together and guaranteed they'll be gone in an instant!

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 are the perfect holiday cookie to bake up this season.

Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Walnut Biscotti
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
50 mins
Total Time
1 hr 10 mins
 

This classic cookie gets fancied up for the holiday season with tart cranberries, toasted walnuts, and a generous coating of chocolate. 

Course: Dessert
Servings: 2 dozen
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) chopped toasted walnuts
  • 14 ounces dried cranberries
  • 20 ounces chopped semisweet or dark chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

  2. 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.

  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

  4. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat on low until combined.

  5. Add the nuts and cranberries.

  6. 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. 

  7. Remove from oven and let cool 15 minutes. With a serrated knife, slice the logs on the diagonal, about 2/3-inch thick.

  8. Bake the slices, cut side up, for an additional 18 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool.

  9. 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.

  10. 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. 

Chocolate, Butterscotch and Coconut Grutch Bars

Sharing a holiday family favorite today!

These Chocolate, Butterscotch and Coconut "Grutch" Bars are a holiday favorite and are so easy to make!

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!

These Chocolate, Butterscotch and Coconut "Grutch" Bars are insanely delicious and bound to be an instant hit over the holidays.

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
Flaked coconut
Chopped walnuts or pecans (you choose your fave! I love both.)
Butterscotch chips
Chocolate chips
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?

So many layers of goodness in these Chocolate, Butterscotch and Coconut "Grutch" Bars!

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.

Give the gift of these indulgent Chocolate, Butterscotch and Coconut "Grutch" Bars this holiday season!

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

Chocolate, Butterscotch and Coconut Grutch Bars
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
45 mins
 

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.

Course: Dessert
Servings: 24 bars
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup butter (one stick)
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (325 degrees Fahrenheit if using a glass pan.) 

  2. Melt butter in a 9-by-13 inch baking dish and sprinkle on graham cracker crumbs. Press down lightly to form a crust.

  3. Sprinkle, in layers, the coconut, nuts, butterscotch chips and chocolate chips.

  4. Drizzle condensed milk evenly over the top, trying your best to avoid getting any on the inside of the pan.

  5. Place in preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. 

  6. 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. 

  7. Keep in a resealable container either at room temperature (if it’s not too warm wherever you are) or in the refrigerator. 

“Boo-zy” Oreos

Boy, have I got a fun Halloween treat for you today!

This fun take on the classic cookie features a bright orange, boozy filling. The perfect Halloween treat!

And an “adult” fun Halloween treat at that….That’s right, I’ve made you “Boo-zy” Oreos in every sense of the word. Not only do they have a seasonally appropriate orange buttercream filling, but said filling is also spiked with a generous amount of orange liqueur. Jell-O shots, you’ve met your match.

Since we’re not too sure when Baby D will decide to make her arrival (we’re within the two-week mark!) I’ve decided to not hold back and start sharing as many of my Halloween-themed recipes as possible. I’ve got a few fun things lined up and want to be sure I share them all with you before I’m too busy cuddling up with a snuggly newborn. These “Boo-zy” Oreos are the perfect way to kick things off and I can’t wait to tell you all about them.

These "Boo-zy" Oreos are the perfect adult Halloween treat!

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery Cookbook, and his TKO recipe is one of the main reasons why. It’s the first recipe I dared to make after picking up a signed copy of what seemed like a fairly challenging cookbook at my local Napa bookstore when I lived there, but I soon discovered that, even though his recipes are long, they’re not as challenging as they look.

Since I first made the TKO’s (his name for those yummy chocolate shortbread cookies filled with white chocolate cream), I’ve ventured into a few more of his recipes, never to be disappointed. I’ve made his Chocolate Chunk and Chip Cookies and used a version of his Sticky Bun dough as my base for these Weekend Hazelnut Sticky Buns with Date Caramel. Plus, I’ve got a fun holiday recipe coming up next month using the base recipe for his homemade Vanilla Marshmallows. I guess you could say I’m officially a Bouchon Bakery Cookbook convert.

For these “Boo-zy” Oreos, I didn’t think twice about using TK’s TKO cookie dough as the base recipe for the chocolate shortbread, although I did venture out a bit with the filling in order to make it hold up better to all the booze I wanted to add. In all honesty, I tried riffing off his filling recipe at first, but the orange liqueur made it too thin and runny and the only way we could enjoy the cookies was straight out of the freezer (not that I was complaining about that or anything.)

A stack of "Boo-zy" Oreos ready to be enjoyed this Halloween!

For the second run at these cookies, I created more of a buttercream filling that turned out much thicker and creamier – it worked like a charm! The result was the perfect chocolate shortbread cookies I was used to with my beloved TKO’s, but with a creamy, boozy (and bright orange!) buttercream filling.

You can tell just by looking at these beauts that “Boo-zy” Oreos are the perfect special treat to whip up for Halloween. Even though the recipe looks long, if you just take it step by step it’s really not that difficult at all. Just be sure to read through everything first so you can plan accordingly. A couple of the steps require overnight (or very long) rests in the refrigerator, so you’ll need a couple of days to get everything prepared and ready to assemble.

Finally, I highly recommend that you invest in at least a mediocre kitchen scale (doesn’t have to be super fancy) for making these bad boys. Many of Thomas Keller’s recipes refer to weights instead of cup/tablespoon/teaspoon measurements and, as much as I’ve tried to round up or down to make it easy on you guys, I really have noticed the difference in using the EXACT amount he calls for of each ingredient.

"Boo-zy" Oreos are the perfect adult treat to bake up this Halloween.

Okay, that’s enough rambling from me. Read on for the recipe for “Boo-zy” Oreos and have a wonderful rest of your week!

"Boo-zy" Oreos
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
40 mins
 

This fun new take on the classic sandwich cookie features a boozy orange filling surrounded by delicious chocolate shortbread. The perfect Halloween treat!

Course: Dessert
Servings: 20 cookies
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the "boo-zy" buttercream:
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 pound (3 3/4 cup) sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur)
  • 12-15 drops orange food coloring
For the chocolate shortbread cookies:
  • 259 grams (1 ¾ cups + 1 ½ tablespoons) all-purpose flour
  • 87 grams (1 cup + 1 ½ tablespoons) high-quality unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Scharfenberger)
  • 1.6 grams (3/8 teaspoon) baking soda
  • 227 grams (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 6 grams (2 teaspoons) salt
  • 161 grams (3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon) sugar
Instructions
  1. First, make the filling. Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat at medium-low speed until light and fluffy. Transfer to a resealable container and refrigerate until just before you’re ready to use. 

  2. Next, make the cookie dough. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder and baking soda.

  3. Place the butter in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-low until smooth. Add the salt, beat for an additional 15-30 seconds, then add the sugar and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. 

  4. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in two additions, mixing until a crumbly dough comes together. 

  5. Dump dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and mold into a 6-inch square block. Wrap block up in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 2 days. 

  6. After dough has had time to set up in the refrigerator, remove both the dough and frosting so they have a little time to soften up. You’ll want the dough soft enough to roll out with a rolling pin and the frosting soft enough to scoop into a piping bag and pipe onto the cookies.

  7. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. 

  8. Place the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and, using a rolling pin, roll it out to approximately 1/8-inch thick, rotating the dough as you roll it to avoid cracking. 

  9. Once dough is rolled out, use a 2 ½-inch round cookie cutter to cut it into cookies. Place on prepared cookie sheets and bake for 9-11 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. 

  10. Remove cookies from oven and let cool completely before adding the filling. When cookies are cool, scoop the frosting into a piping bag and pipe a ring of frosting about ¼-inch in from the edge on every other cookie (the frosting will smoosh out to the edges once you top the frosted cookies with the plain cookies.) 

  11. Enjoy your “Boo-zy” Oreos right away or refrigerate them until ready to eat, up to a few days.

Recipe Notes

Chocolate shortbread cookie recipe adapted from the TKO recipe in Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery Cookbook.

"Boo-zy" Oreos | CaliGirlCooking.com

Dark Chocolate Coconut Granola

Vacation vibes right here ↓

A large batch of Dark Chocolate Coconut Granola is all you need for snack time cravings or the perfect breakfast.

We’re heading to Kauai on Thursday for our babymoon/make-up honeymoon (since we got stuck in a hurricane on the last one) so delicious, healthy travel snacks have been on this momma-to-be’s mind. And what better travel snack then homemade granola? Dark Chocolate Coconut Granola to be exact. We are headed to the tropics, after all!

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of granola, and especially any homemade version since I found my favorite base recipe, Andy’s Fairfield Granola. It’s THE perfect granola recipe as it is, and it’s served as the perfect guideline whenever I’ve had inspiration strike for a certain special flavor, like my Addicting S’mores Granola Clusters.

I’ve been dreaming of a Dark Chocolate Coconut Granola for quite some time now, and I figured what better time to make it than when I’m in need of some travel-friendly snacks for a five hour plane ride?

A delicious bowl of Dark Chocolate Coconut Granola just waiting to be consumed.

But before I get to the recipe, tell me, do you have any recommendations for us for while we’re in Kauai? I’ve been there before (although it’s been at least 10 years or so) but the hubs has never been. We’re staying in Poipu, and the only thing we have planned so far is a boat ride up the Na Pali Coast. Since I’m 25 weeks now, we’re obviously not planning on doing anything too strenuous, but any pregnancy-friendly recommendations you have are welcome (and, obviously, any food we must eat while we’re there!)

Okay, back to this granola. It’s really so easy, it doesn’t need much explaining. I (very) roughly followed the guidelines of Andy’s Fairfield Granola, but with some modifications to really make it pop with dark chocolate and coconut flavors. The original recipe calls for honey as a sweetener, but this time around I decided to try out maple syrup to change things up a bit, and I’m pleased to say it worked out fabulously.

Also, cocoa powder to coat all your oats is such a must in this recipe! Being the chocolate-lover that I am, I often find myself picking out only bites that involve it when I’m eating things like granola, trail mix, etc. With the cocoa powder coating on the oats, you get delicious chocolate in every bite! My kind of granola right there.

A bowl of Dark Chocolate Coconut Granola doused in almond milk.

Did I mention this recipe is SUPER easy to make? I mean, seriously, if you’re a novice baker, this recipe’s for you. All you have to do is mix the ingredients together in a bowl with a spoon, spread the mix out on a cookie sheet and bake for about 40 minutes. The trickiest part is the stirring and adding of the coconut you have to do partway through the baking process, but as long as you know how to set a timer, I think you’ve got this.

Mixing up a big batch of Dark Chocolate Coconut Granola.

Oh, you’re also going to have to have the patience to let your Dark Chocolate Coconut Granola cool back down to room temperature and let the chocolate harden again, which may in fact turn out to be the hardest part since the granola’s delicious smell will be permeating through your household the entire time. But wouldn’t you say a big batch of a delicious, nutritious snack is worth it?

Dark Chocolate Coconut Granola is the perfect on-the-go snack or breakfast.

Dark Chocolate Coconut Granola
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
50 mins
 

A classic granola recipe gets a decadent makeover with the addition of antioxidant-heavy dark chocolate and toasted coconut.

Course: Breakfast, Snack
Servings: 6 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 4 ounces unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cups flaked unsweetened coconut
  • 2 cups dark chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 310 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large jelly roll pan with parchment paper and set aside.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oats, applesauce, maple syrup, cocoa powder, cinnamon and sea salt until well-combined. Spread out evenly on the prepared jelly roll pan.

  3. Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, give the granola a stir and set the timer for 5 more minutes. 

  4. When the timer goes off again, add the flaked coconut and stir the granola again. Return to the oven for an additional 15 minutes. 

  5. Remove granola from the oven and add the dark chocolate chips to the pan, stirring to spread them out evenly. Let cool to room temperature before eating.

Dark Chocolate Coconut Granola | CaliGirlCooking.com