A simple enriched yeasted dough, plus classic cinnamon rolls and snowflake bread

cinnamon rolls
snowflake bread

Popping in for the last time this year to share my go-to enriched dough recipe, along with a couple festive ways to use it. While I will forever love my sourdough enriched breads, I know not everyone has a sourdough starter; and even if you do, there are days when you need something a little faster. This is the dough for you! I’ve made it both with a stand mixer and by hand and it works beautifully either way. You can make and bake it all in the same afternoon, or let the dough rise in the fridge for up to a day before shaping and baking. It’s the versatility we all need any time of year, but especially now. I hope it brings you a little joy this holiday season.

Baker’s notes:

  • I’ve tested this dough with a few different flour combinations, and my preference is a mix of bread and all purpose for a balance of rise and texture. You can use all bread flour; the dough will be a little chewier. I haven’t tried with just all-purpose, but that should work as well. I would hold back 10-20 grams of the milk in the final dough to start — you can add it in during mixing if the dough seems dry.
  • If you want to include a whole grain flour such as spelt or whole wheat, I would use 275g bread flour and 50g whole grain flour in the final dough. Depending on your flour, you may need 10-15g additional milk in the final dough — add it in during mixing if the dough seems dry.
  • Nonfat milk powder is one of my “secret weapon” ingredients for a beautiful enriched bread that is extra fragrant, high-rising, and bronzed. I urge you not to skip it — it’s readily available at grocery stores and online. I promise, I have plenty of recipes that use it so none will go to waste.
  • This dough uses the tangzhong technique, which involves pregelatinizing some of the flour by cooking a portion of it with milk. Using tangzhong allows us to add a higher percentage of liquid to the dough, which increases the softness and shelf life of the bread. I add cold milk and an egg directly to the tangzhong so there’s no waiting for it to cool down before mixing the dough.
  • This dough isn’t overly sticky and I never use flour to roll it out. If you have a silicone or pastry mat, you can roll it directly on there; a lightly greased surface works fabulously as well. Just don’t cut directly on a silicone mat, as they’re easily damaged.
  • This bread tastes best the day it’s baked. But with a light rewarming, this bread remains soft for several days after baking. To reheat, cover with foil and bake at 350F for ~10 minutes or until warmed through. Or you can microwave individual portions for ~15 seconds. I recommend only icing the portions you plan to eat right away.

Classic Cinnamon Rolls and Snowflake Bread

Makes 9 large rolls or one large snowflake bread | Adapted from Baked to Order

Ingredients:

Tangzhong:

  • 25g bread flour
  • 125g milk

Final dough:

  • All the tangzhong
  • 100g milk, straight from the fridge
  • 50g egg (about 1 large), straight from the fridge
  • 225g bread flour
  • 100g all purpose flour
  • 35g granulated sugar
  • 21g (3 Tbsp) nonfat milk powder
  • 7g (1 3/4 tsp if Diamond Crystal) kosher salt
  • 6g (2 tsp) instant yeast
  • 56g (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature

Filling:

  • 56g (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 100g (½ cup) brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

Cream Cheese Frosting (for cinnamon rolls):

  • 90 g (6 Tbsp) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 56 g (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 68 g (½ cup plus 1 Tbsp) icing sugar

To finish (for snowflake bread):

  • 1 large egg, whisked with a splash of milk or water and a pinch of salt
  • Granulated or coarse sugar, for garnish (optional)
  • Icing sugar, for garnish (optional)

Method:

Make the Tangzhong: In a small saucepan, whisk the flour and milk together until smooth. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens enough for the whisk to leave lines on the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Alternatively, if mixing by hand, transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Mix the Final Dough: Whisk the cold milk into the tangzhong, followed by the egg. Whisk in the remaining final dough ingredients.

Knead on medium-low speed until the gluten is moderately developed, about 5 minutes. The dough will start out sticky and rough but should gradually come together and feel quite smooth and stretchy. Turn the mixer to low and add the butter about 14 grams (1 tbsp) at a time, incorporating each batch before adding the next. Turn the speed back up to medium-low and continue kneading until the gluten is very well developed and the dough passes the windowpane test, about 10 to 15 minutes. The dough should be smooth and supple.

If mixing by hand, follow the same mixing order as above but note that mixing times will take longer. I like to use the slap-and-fold method to knead this dough. (See an example in my instagram highlights.)

Shape the dough into a smooth ball and transfer to a lightly oiled container. Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled, 60-90 minutes. (Alternatively, allow dough to rise in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or up to 24.)

Make the filling: In a small bowl, make the filling by creaming together the butter, sugar, cinnamon, and salt to form a spreadable paste.

To make cinnamon rolls:

Shape, Proof, and Bake the Rolls: Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) with a rack in the middle.

Lightly grease a 9 x 9-inch (23 x 23-cm) baking pan or a 9- or 10-inch (23- or 25-cm)-round cake pan (preferably aluminum, not glass). Take the dough out of the fridge and transfer to a lightly greased surface or a silicone/pastry mat. Roll into a 14-inch (36-cm) square, doing your best to maintain an even thickness.

Spread the filling mixture evenly over the dough, going all the way to the edges.

Roll the dough up like a jelly roll, pinching to seal. Turn the roll so the seam side is down.

Cut into nine even pieces using a sharp knife or unflavored dental floss (my preferred method). Transfer the rolls, cut side up, to the prepared pan, leaving space between each (they will grow into each other during proofing).

Cover the rolls with a piece of lightly oiled plastic wrap. Proof at warm room temperature until the dough is very puffy and nearly doubled, 30-60 minutes. If you poke a roll gently the indentation should fill back very slowly.

Bake until the rolls are lightly golden and register 195 to 200°F (91 to 93°C) in the center, about 20 minutes.

Prepare the Cream Cheese Frosting: While the rolls are baking, combine the cream cheese, butter, salt, and vanilla in a medium bowl and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add half of the icing sugar and beat to combine. Add the remaining icing sugar and beat for 1 to 2 minutes, or until fluffy.

Allow the rolls to cool on a wire rack before spreading with frosting. Serve immediately.

To make snowflake bread:

Shape, Proof, and Bake the Bread: Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) with a rack in the middle. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Turn the dough onto a lightly greased surface or silicone/pastry mat. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces, about 180g each. Form each piece into a ball, cover with oiled plastic wrap, and rest for 10 minutes.

Working one at a time, roll each ball into a 10″ round. Rotate the dough frequently to keep the shape round and prevent sticking. Transfer one round to the prepared baking sheet. Spread with about 1/3 of the filling, leaving a 1/2″ border around the edge. Top with a second round. Spread with another 1/3 of the filling, leaving a 1/2″ border around the edge. Repeat process with a third round. Finish by placing the final round on top.

Place a 2 to 2 1/2″ round cookie cutter (or similarly shaped round item, such as a glass) in the center of the circle to act as a guide. Using a sharp knife or bench scraper, cut the circle into 16 equal portions, like the rays of a sun. For each cut, you’ll cut from the outer edge of the center guide to the outer edge of the dough circle, cutting through all four layers each time. I find it easiest to cut into quarters first (at the north, south, east and west positions), then divide the quarters in half to make eighths, then divide each eighth in half to make sixteenths.

To form the star, work with two side-by-side strips at a time. Twist the strips away from each other twice, then pinch the ends together firmly to form a point. Continue until you’ve twisted all the strips; you should end up with 8 points total. Brush the entire surface with egg wash and cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap. Proof at room temperature until noticeably puffy, about 30-45 minutes. Right before baking, brush with a second coat of egg wash and sprinkle the center with sugar, if desired.

Bake until golden and the center measures 195F, about 20-30 minutes. Rotate the sheet halfway through baking for even coloration. Cool bread on the sheet for about 15 minutes. Dust with icing sugar before serving, if desired.

Storage:

Bread tastes best the day it’s baked. But with a light rewarming, this bread remains soft for several days after baking. To reheat, cover with foil and bake at 350F for ~10 minutes or until warmed through. Or you can microwave individual portions for ~15 seconds. I recommend only icing the portions you plan to eat right away. If you do want to bake the bread the day before serving, you can brush the finished bread with melted butter as soon as it comes out of the oven — this will help keep it soft and moist for longer.

jam rolls

Mocha Oreos

mocha oreos

Introducing one of the new additions to this year’s holiday treat boxes: Mocha Oreos! While peppermint or matcha were also flavor contenders, I already had peppermint marshmallows and peppermint bark brownies and matcha shortbread. And although coffee is one of my favorite flavors ever, it was not yet represented in my edible box of happiness. So it was decided. I think they’re a winner and definitely contend for a permanent place in the year-round cookie jar.

Baker’s notes:

  • It’s important to roll the dough to 1/8″ thickness or your yield will be significantly less. The ratio of cookie to filling is ideal when the wafers are fairly thin. My favorite hack for uniform dough is to use brass dowels — I found them at the local hardware store, but they’re also online (1/4″, 3/16″, and 1/8″ are my most used thicknesses). You can watch a demonstration of the technique on my Instagram highlights.
  • Do NOT substitute natural or black cocoa for the Dutch-processed cocoa. I like Cacao Berry Extra Brute.
  • As with my pumpkin spice latte pie, the key to a rounded coffee flavor here is a mixture of infusion and espresso powder. For the filling, I infuse the butter with whole coffee beans then add a little espresso powder during mixing.
  • The filling must be used as soon as you’re done mixing — it sets quickly. It may seem slightly loose and warm but that’s ok.
mocha oreos top down

Mocha Oreos

Makes about 45 small sandwich cookies | Adapted from Bravetart

Ingredients:

For the chocolate wafers:

  • 115g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 55g golden or light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
  • 165g all purpose flour
  • 35g Dutch-processed cocoa powder (I like Cacao Berry Extra Brute)

For the coffee filling:

  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 30g whole coffee beans
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
  • 1/2 tsp espresso powder
  • 240g icing sugar, sifted
  • 7g (1 Tbsp) Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted

Method:

Make the chocolate wafers: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter, sugar, golden syrup, baking soda, and salt. Mix on low until combined, then turn the speed up to medium and beat until fluffy and light, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the the bowl and paddle a couple times during this process to ensure even mixing.

Sift together the flour and cocoa powder. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Continue mixing on low until a smooth dough forms. Turn off the mixer and use a flexible spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, ensuring there are no patches of flour remaining.

Roll the dough: Split the dough in half (about 235g each). Flatten each half into a disc. Wrap one with plastic and keep at room temperature. Transfer the other half to a large piece of parchment. Place another piece of parchment or plastic wrap over the top and roll to 1/8″ thick. Lift the top piece of parchment/plastic occasionally to avoid forming creases in the dough.

When the dough has reached the desired thickness, transfer, still sandwiched between parchment/plastic, to a sheet tray. Refrigerate while you repeat with the other half of the dough. Slide the second piece on top of the first and continue chilling until both pieces of dough are firm, about half an hour.

Cut and bake the wafers: Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove one sheet of dough from the fridge (keep the other refrigerated). Flip the dough over so the bottom is on top. Peel off the parchment, then replace the parchment and flip the dough right side up (this will help prevent the dough from sticking to the parchment). Peel off the top layer of parchment/plastic.

Using a 1 1/2″ round cutter, cut as many rounds as possible out of the first sheet. Using an offset spatula, transfer the rounds to a prepared baking sheet, spacing about 1/2″ apart (they won’t spread much). Repeat with second half of dough. Gently press together scraps, reroll, and cut more rounds — you should end up with about 90.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the cookies are dry and firm to the touch, 10-12 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack before filling.

Make the coffee filling: Prepare the cookies for filling by turning half of them upside down. The filling sets quickly and must be used right after mixing. Prepare a pastry bag fitting with a 1/2″ piping tip.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, stir in the whole coffee beans. Continue heating the coffee-butter mixture, stirring frequently. It will foam and sputter, then eventually fall silent. We’re not trying to brown the butter, so if you notice the milk solids starting to brown, turn the heat down. (We’re basically making coffee-infused ghee.)

Strain the coffee-butter into a clean, heatproof bowl; discard the beans and solids. Measure out 140g butter and place in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

Add the vanilla, salt, espresso powder, icing sugar, and cocoa powder. Mix on low to combine, then turn the speed up to medium. Beat until creamy and soft, about 5 minutes. It may still be a bit warm; that’s normal. Immediately scrape into the prepared pastry bag.

Pipe a dollop of frosting onto the upturned cookies (about 6-7 grams, if you want to be precise). Sandwich with the remaining cookies. Let cookies stand at room temperature until set, about 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week; freeze for longer storage.

mocha oreos angled

Marbled Peppermint Marshmallows

peppermint marshmallows
Note: This post contains affiliate links.

I believe everyone should try making marshmallows at least once, whether or not you think you like them. Why? First off, homemade marshmallows taste miles better than anything store bought — pleasingly bouncy texture, and real flavor (vanilla and peppermint here, or perhaps you’d prefer honey and sea salt?). Second, you’ll feel like a magician as you witness the clear syrup transform into a billowy white cloud.

Peppermint marshmallows just might be my favorite flavor — probably because if I’m making them, it’s getting close to Christmas and a festive playlist is almost certainly filling the air. These are a must-include in my holiday treat boxes each year, and usually one of the first treats I make (stored airtight, marshmallows have a great shelf-life). Use them to top your hot cocoa or put out a tray of these instead of after-dinner mints at your cookie exchange!

Here are a few tips for marshmallow success:

  • Read the recipe through completely a couple times before starting. Marshmallows aren’t difficult to make, but they do require close attention to temperatures and working with hot syrups. Syrups wait for no one and once you hit the right temperatures you need to move on quickly to the next step. Measure everything ahead of time and prep all your equipment. This is a project best done without small children or animals underfoot.
  • Use a digital probe thermometer for gauging temperatures. I have both a Thermoworks DOT thermometer and Polder digital probe thermometer; both work beautifully. Make sure that the tip of the probe is fully immersed in the syrup but not hitting the bottom of your pot to ensure accurate readings.
  • Most marshmallow recipes are pretty similar in terms of ingredients. The biggest differences you’ll notice are in the temperature for cooking the sugar syrup — I’ve seen everything from 225F to 250F. I’ve been using this method from Bravetart for years (first from her sadly archived blog and then her cookbook). Though cooling the syrup may seem like an extra step, it’s safer than pouring boiling hot syrups into a mixer. Plus it ensures that the setting power of the gelatin won’t be compromised through overheating.
  • The small amount of butter is optional — it adds a little extra flavor and tenderness.
  • While you want to whip the mixture sufficiently so your mallows are nice and fluffy, don’t whip too long or the mixture will start setting in the bowl. This makes an already sticky process even messier, plus you end up losing more marshmallow than necessary to the bowl and beater. I like to pan the mixture when it’s fluffy but still sliiiightly warm and a little fluid. A greased flexible bowl scraper is by far my favorite tool for scraping the marshmallow out of the bowl and into the prepared pan.
  • Use pure peppermint extract for the best taste — a little goes a long way. Do not use peppermint oil as that can cause the marshmallow to deflate.
  • Watch me make these marshmallows in my Instagram highlights and this reel!

Marbled peppermint marshmallows

Makes one 8×8 pan | Adapted from Bravetart

Ingredients:

  • 21g (3 Tbsp) powdered gelatin
  • 115g (1/2 c) cold water, for blooming gelatin
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 115g (1/2 c) water, for the sugar syrup
  • 140g (1/3 c plus 2 Tbsp) corn syrup
  • 340g (1 3/4 c minus 1 Tbsp) granulated sugar
  • 1g (1/4 tsp) kosher salt
  • 14g (1 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp pure peppermint extract
  • A few drops red gel food coloring (optional, for marbling)
To finish:
  • 30g cornstarch
  • 30g icing sugar

Method:

  1. Prepare the pan: Lightly grease an 8×8 square pan with cooking spray.
  2. Bloom the gelatin: In a small, wide bowl, mix the gelatin with 115g (1/2 c) cool water and the vanilla extract. Stir to combine, making sure all the gelatin is saturated. Leave to bloom while you prepare the sugar syrup.
  3. Cook the sugar syrup: In a 3.5 or 4 L heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the remaining 115g (1/2 c) water, corn syrup, sugar, and salt. Stir to combine. Place over medium heat. Stir occasionally with a heat-proof spatula or fork until the mixture starts bubbling, then stop stirring (stirring a boiling sugar syrup can encourage crystallization). Clip on a digital thermometer and continue cooking the syrup until it reaches 245-250F.
  4. Cool the syrup: Once the syrup reaches temperature, pour the syrup into the bowl of a stand mixer, using a flexible, heat-resistant spatula to scrape the pot. Let the syrup cool until it registers 212F, about 5-6 minutes.
  5. Whip the marshmallow: Once the syrup has cooled to 212F, scrape the bloomed gelatin into the bowl. Carefully transfer the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium low until the gelatin has melted, then increase the speed to medium-high and whisk until the mixture is fluffy, thick, and roughly tripled in volume, about 8-10 minutes. The bowl should be slightly warm to the touch. Reduce the speed to low and drizzle in the melted butter, if using, and the peppermint extract; then increase the speed back to medium high and mix for a few seconds just until incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer and add a few drops of red food coloring, if desired. For the marbled effect, fold the mixture just a couple times with a greased spatula — most of the marbling will happen naturally as you pour the marshmallow into the pan, so don’t fold too much.
  6. Pan, cure, and cut the marshmallow: Use a greased spatula or flexible bowl scraper to scrape the marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan. Let sit, uncovered, for at least 4 hours (preferably overnight) to “cure” or set the marshmallow.
  7. When ready to cut, sift together the cornstarch and icing sugar to make the marshmallow dust. Sift some of the dust over a cutting board, then invert the pan with the marshmallow onto the board, gently tugging it free with your fingers. Sift more of the marshmallow dust over the marshmallow. Use a sharp, oiled knife to cut the marshmallows into 6 strips (or whatever size you’d like); then cut each strip into 6 even pieces. Clean the knife between cuts for best results. Toss each marshmallow in the remaining dust to ensure it doesn’t stick. Store marshmallows in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Related recipes:

Gifts for Bakers (that they’ll actually use)

Note: this post contains affiliate links.

This gift guide for bakers includes the tools I use most regularly in my home kitchen. I aim to be a minimalist in terms of kitchen gear, but I either can’t imagine baking without these things or truly relish the bit of luxury it provides. For even more product recommendations, see my Amazon storefront. None of these products are sponsored, though with some links I may earn a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting this blog!


Digital Scales

Standard digital food scale: A digital scale is a must for any serious baker. Using a scale instantly improves accuracy and consistency; plus, it is cleaner and faster than measuring with volume cups. I have used an OXO digital scale for years and highly recommend it. My pick: OXO Good Grips 11-Pound Stainless Steel Food Scale with Pull-Out Display


High precision scale: For bakers who work with measuring salt, yeast, and gelatin frequently, I also recommend a high precision scale. These highly sensitive scales will measure these ingredients accurately to the tenth of a gram. My pick: Starfrit T092726 High-Precision Scale, One Size, Silver


Sheet Pans

Quarter sheet pans: I use quarter sheet pans for everything from holding prepped ingredients to toasting nuts to baking off a test cookie (or two). Get a lidded one and they’re also a convenient cookie or brownie storage container. My pick: Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Baker’s Quarter Sheet with Lid


Two-thirds sheet pans: Two-thirds sheet pans are the largest sheet pans that fit in standard home ovens (at least in North America), and I pull them out much more frequently than the standard half sheet pan. Use two-thirds sheet pans for anything from roasting turkeys to making an extra-large batch of cookies. My pick: Winware 2-Piece Sheet Pan, 16 x 22-Inch, Aluminum


Specialty pans

Pullman pan: I have long been a fan of this straight-sided loaf pan, not just for beautiful sandwich loaves but also for elegant loaf cakes and quick breads. My pick: USA Pan Bakeware Pullman Loaf Pan With Cover, 9 x 4 inch, Nonstick & Quick Release Coating, Made in the USA from Aluminized Steel


Bundt pan: Every baker needs at least one fancy bundt pan to make even the simplest pound cake an elegant affair. NordicWare makes the best quality bundt pans I’ve used — they come in a variety of beautiful shapes and sizes. My pick: Nordic Ware 75th Anniversary Braided Bundt Pan (large) or Nordic Ware Heritage Bundtlette Cake Pan, Metallic, Silver (mini)


Cookie scoops / dishers

Dishers are perfect for scooping out cookie dough or portioning out loose batters (think waffles, pancakes, cupcakes). These come in all sizes, but I especially like the 1/2 oz (for small cookies or filling tartlets) and the 1 5/8 oz (for cupcake batter and medium-size cookies). My picks: Vollrath 47402 Pink Handled .54 Ounce Squeeze Disher and Vollrath (47144) 1-5/8 oz Stainless Steel Disher – Size 20


Small pastry tools

Small offset spatula: Small but mighty, the 4.5″ offset spatula is one of my most frequently used kitchen tools. Perfect for leveling batter and icing cakes. My pick: Ateco 1385 Offset Spatula with 4.5-Inch Stainless Steel Blade, Wood Handle, 4.5 Inch, natural


Mini spatulas: How many mini spatulas does a baker need? At least one more than s/he has right now. These little guys are incredibly handy to have around — I use them for feeding my sourdough starter and scraping down pots and bowls, among a dozen other things. My pick: GIR: Get It Right Premium Silicone Spatula – Non-Stick Heat Resistant Kitchen Spatula – Perfect for Baking, Cooking, Scraping, and Mixing – Mini – 8 IN, Red


Bicycle cutter: OK, this one is a bit of a luxury but I love it so! Use this multi-wheeled cutter for evenly sized pie lattice strips, perfectly uniform pastries, or evenly dividing brownies. My pick: Ateco 7 Wheel Stainless Steel Cutter, 2 1/8 Inch Wheels


Graduated round cookie cutters: I love this versatile set for cutting out dough in various round sizes and scooting cookies into shape after baking. My pick: Round Cookie Biscuit Cutter Set, 12 Graduated Circle Pastry Cutters, Heavy Duty Commercial Grade 18/8 304 Stainless Steel Cookie And Dough Cutters


Mixers and small appliances

Stand mixer: My most beloved kitchen appliance. It has saved my wrists and hands by kneading enriched breads, whipping up egg whites, and creaming lots of butter and sugar. I personally use a 6-quart bowl lift style and appreciate the generous capacity. Yes, it’s an investment; but take good care of it and it’ll last you decades. My pick: KitchenAid KP26M1XMH 6 Qt. Professional 600 Series Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer – Milkshake Color


Hand mixer: Despite having a stand mixer, I still pull out my trusty hand mixer frequently for small batch baking and whipping up petite batches of cream or egg whites. My pick: KitchenAid KHM512WH 5-Speed Ultra Power Hand Mixer, White


Immersion blender: I like this budget-friendly immersion blender for making purees and emulsifying ganache and glazes. The mini food processor attachment is handy for chopping small quantities of nuts or herbs. My pick: Hamilton Beach 59765 Immersion Hand Blender with Blending Wand, Whisk and 3-Cup Food Chopping Bowl, 3-Piece, Silver and Stainless Steel


Thermometers

Oven thermometer: Most home ovens don’t run true-to-dial, and an oven thermometer is the only way you’ll know exactly what temperature you’re working with. I prefer a digital one for speed and ease of reading. My pick: The Thermoworks DOT thermometer paired with a high temp probe with grate clip.

Instant read thermometer: Fast and accurate digital probe thermometer for checking internal temperatures of baked goods and dough, or for monitoring temperatures during chocolate tempering or candymaking. My choice: Thermapen One

thermapen one

Bits and bobs

Fancy sprinkles: Luxe sprinkles can really make your special occasion baked goods pop! My pick: Sweetapolita

Gourmet tweezers: For perfectly placing aforementioned sprinkles and other delicate kitchen tasks. My pick: Wusthof Gourmet 8″ Pinzette

Campbell’s Dough Knife: This non-stick dough knife/bench scraper is the best I’ve ever used. Makes handling bread dough even more enjoyable! My pick: Campbell’s Dough Knife

Freshly milled flour: Organic freshly milled flour brings depth of flavor to any baked good, sweet or savory. My pick: Flourist Starter Flour Bundle or Flourist Specialty Flour Bundle

Pre-cut parchment paper: Having perfectly cut parchment paper to line my pans anytime I need them feels like such a luxury. My pick: Kana Goods 9″ Parchment Rounds, Kana Goods Half-Sheet Parchment

Baked to Order: My cookbook, with 60 sweet and savory recipes. I think it’s a great gift for bakers of any level (not that I’m biased or anything 😉 )! My pick: Baked to Order

Tips for creating beautiful holiday treat boxes

Christmas cookies selection
Note: this post contains affiliate links.

For the better half of the past decade, one of my favorite parts of the holiday season has been creating treat boxes for our friends, neighbors, and families. I don’t remember a lot of the gifts I received as a kid, but I do remember the couple annual homemade cookie packages we’d receive every Christmas. While I didn’t have a clue about baking then, I admired the care and time required to create something so special.

Once I started baking, I knew I wanted to start my own tradition of spreading cheer through edible gifts. If you want to do the same but don’t know where to start, have no fear! This post lays out all my best practices for creating beautiful treat boxes, stress-free. In this guide, you’ll find advise on:

  • Treat selection
  • Scheduling, including a suggested timeline
  • Packaging supplies
  • Storage
  • Shipping cookies
  • Bonus pro-tips
  • Recipes to get you started

Treat Selection

Variety

For the most interesting treat box, variety is king. I aim for 8-12 different treats; but even 4 to 6 varieties will dazzle. Variety can be visual — think different shapes, colors, and sizes. But also consider varieties of texture and flavor. For example, I aim for a range of chewy, crunchy, and melt-in-your-mouth buttery textures.

When it comes to flavors, I like including at least one treat in each of the following categories:

Think Beyond Cookies

In addition to cookies, I love adding chewy caramel candies, marshmallows, English toffee, peppermint bark, and even little packages of savoury crackers in my holiday treat boxes. An added bonus is that many confections last for several weeks when stored properly, so you can make these ahead of time.

Familiar vs. new recipes

I know how it is. Your favorite blogger or foodie magazine publishes a dozen new holiday recipes. You want to make All. The. Cookies.

If you are trying to make holiday treat boxes on a somewhat large scale (i.e. more than a dozen), I HIGHLY recommend making a test batch of any new recipe you want to include. There’s nothing more disappointing than having a flop right in the middle of production with no time, ingredients, or energy to replace it with something else. At the very least, bake one test cookie for new batches so you can determine the proper bake time and temperature for your oven. King Arthur Baking has an excellent article on how to effectively bake test cookies.

I usually make about 2/3 familiar favorites and 1/3 new recipes each year. If you do treat boxes year after year, eventually you’ll build up a varied repertoire of cookies that you can mix and match to keep things fresh for both you and your recipients.

Time and Energy

Are you swamped every December with barely any time to bake? That doesn’t mean you can’t pull off a beautiful treat box, but you’ll need to plan your baking schedule carefully and choose recipes that aren’t too time-consuming. For example, bar and drop cookies are faster to make than cutout or sandwich cookies.

Do you genuinely like decorating individual gingerbread men with royal icing or do you lose steam after the first cookie (*raises hand*). Go for treats that you actually enjoy making and add flair with simple flourishes like sparkling sugars, festive sprinkles, or dipped glazes.

In the end, creating these boxes is about bringing cheer to others. It’s hard to do that if you’re stressed and overcommitted, so take some time to plan a selection that’s appropriate given your time and skill. Have fun!

Scheduling

I give myself about a month to plan out and execute treat boxes. A slow and steady approach allows me to enjoy the process without getting stressed out. Here’s how I break it down:

  • 4 weeks out
    • Create recipient list
    • Make treat selection and calculate number of batches needed per recipe
    • Do test batches for new recipes
    • Inventory and shop for packaging supplies
    • Can start making and freezing cookie dough
  • 3 weeks out
    • Inventory and shop for ingredients
    • Continue making and freezing cookie dough
  • 2 weeks out
    • Make and package confections
    • Bake longer shelf-life cookies
    • Continue making and freezing cookie dough
  • 1 week out
    • Print any labels or lists to include inside boxes
    • Finish making all cookie dough (freeze or refrigerate per recipe instructions)
  • 1-2 days before delivery
    • Bake shorter shelf life cookies
  • 12-24 hours before delivery
    • Assemble packages

Storage

Once you’ve baked your treats, cool them completely before storing. Keep each type in a separate container. If you store everything together, dry-textured cookies will pull moisture from chewier cookies; and individual flavors will all start melding into each other (peppermint-flavored gingerbread, anyone?).

To keep everything as fresh as possible, I try to package treat boxes within 24 hours of delivery. Let your recipients know that the contents are best consumed ASAP!

treat boxes

Packaging

While there are a myriad ways to package your treats, I like using bakery-style window boxes. They’re professional-looking, budget-friendly, and available in various sizes. I buy mine from a local packaging company here in Toronto. Check your local baking supply store for options. If you go with any paper style box, lay down some tissue or parchment paper on the bottom to prevent grease stains.

Here are some other packaging materials I use every year:

  • Clear candy bags for confections or anything that needs an extra layer of protection. These come in many sizes.
  • Twisting wax paper for individually wrapping caramels or other sticky candies. A huge time saver!
  • Cupcake liners of different sizes to separate different treats. Get them in festive patterns to add some color!

I also like to include a list of all the cookies included (noting any that contain nuts or other allergens) so that people have an idea of what they’re getting.

Execution

The freezer is your friend

Most cookie doughs freeze well for several months, so you can actually prep many recipes well in advance. You can freeze some fully baked cookies, though avoid any with a sugar coating or glazes — those elements don’t hold up well in the freezer. In general, I prefer freezing unbaked dough vs. already baked goods. I try to bake off dough within two months for optimal freshness.

Whether you freeze your cookies baked or unbaked, keep them well wrapped and sealed, and label everything clearly. The biggest enemies of frozen goods are freezer burn and unwanted scents.

Create a game plan

Once you’ve selected what treats to include, determine the approximate order of when items should be prepared. Many recipes include shelf life and make ahead information; if not, google is your friend. I like make all my confections (marshmallows, caramels, toffee) first, as they have a longer shelf-life than cookies. Next come sturdy/drier cookies, such as shortbread and biscotti. Bake drop-style cookies last as they usually are at their peak for 3-5 days.

Assembly line

If you’re packaging up more than a couple boxes at a time, have each item prepped before doing your final assembly. Confections should be sealed up, and cookies can be portioned out and placed in cupcake liners. Put together one sample box to make sure everything fits the way you like, then use that as your guide for packaging all the other boxes.

Shipping cookies

While I don’t mail cookies, I’ve often flown across the country with packages of baked goods. My best advice is to pack your baked goods in airtight, sturdy, non-crushable boxes — tins are great. Wrap pairs of cookies like sandwiches in plastic wrap and use plenty of padding material so they can’t move. If the cookies can rattle around, they’ll probably break. Stick to sturdy cookies and bars. Here are a few excellent articles for more information on shipping cookies successfully:

Bonus Pro-Tips

If you’re changing a recipe’s batch size, write out the new ingredient quantities.

If you’re halving, doubling, or tripling a recipe, calculate and write out the new ingredient quantities before starting. Do not depend on your mental math in the moment. At some point you will forget you’re not making the recipe as written and ruin your batch of cookies by not properly scaling the sugar, raising agent, or flour. I SPEAK FROM EXPERIENCE.

On big baking days, bake recipes starting from low oven temp to high oven temp.

To maximize efficiency when baking multiple types of cookies, take a minute to check the oven temperatures for each recipe. Start with the cookies that require the lowest temperature, then work up to those with the highest oven temperature. As always, I recommend an oven thermometer to make ensure your oven is running true to dial. My favorite is the ThermoWorks Dot coupled with a high temperature probe and clip.

Take notes during and after assembly.

If you want to make treat boxes an annual tradition, your future self will appreciate your taking good notes about the process each year. Beyond a basic thumbs up or down for each new recipe, I like to include logistical details (i.e. Only include x number of cookies per tray or they’ll spread into each other! Cut marshmallows into an 8×10 grid so you have enough for everyone!) and links to products I found especially useful. Every year I learn something new and the entire process feels more efficient.

christmas cookies on sheet tray

Recipes to get you started

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bundt Cake with Maple-Olive Oil Glaze

pumpkin bundt cake
Note: this post contains affiliate links.

Several years ago, while looking for a new way to use up some pumpkin puree (in Canada, a typical can size is almost twice as big as the 15-oz. can in the States, so I ALWAYS have some leftover after making pumpkin pie) I stumbled upon Yossy Arefi’s beautiful pumpkin bundt cake recipe in the New York Times. After the first bite I remember thinking, “This is it, this the only pumpkin cake I need.” It’s perfectly textured and spiced (please use freshly ground cardamom and black pepper — it makes such a difference!), simple to make, and keeps like a dream.

I’ve been meaning to remake and post about it every year since then; it’s taken a few years, but better late than never. Of course I couldn’t help tinkering a bit, as am wont to do. I swapped in some barley flour, my most recent obsession in sweet baking. Pick up a bag if you have a chance — barley flour is sweet and nutty and subs really well for all purpose, particularly in tender baked goods as it has a low gluten content. I’ve been using it in pancakes/waffles/banana bread/cookies with great success (start with a 1/3 swap and try more the next time if that works out well).

I also added a cream cheese filling because pumpkin and cream cheese are BFFs. And though the brown butter glaze in the original recipe is delicious, I went for an even easier, no stove required maple-olive oil glaze (another Yossy recipe) to echo the olive oil in the cake itself. The addition of olive oil makes an especially rich, glossy glaze — save extras for drizzling over individual slices, if you like.

Baker’s notes:

  • I used my 6-cup heritage bundt cake pan for this cake (a scaled down size of the original recipe). You can double the recipe but make sure to use a 12-cup or larger bundt pan; many large bundt pans are only 9 or 10-cups and I’m pretty sure a double batch would overflow in that size.
  • The eternal question of how to prep a bundt pan…these days I favor cake goop for prepping my bundt pans, but use whatever method works for you! Make sure to get every nook and cranny and don’t forget the middle tube! Let the cake cool for 10 minutes in the pan before turning it out.
  • For the minimalistic glaze drizzle I only needed a tiny amount of glaze (I still had extra, which we drizzled onto slices). If you have a bundt shape that handles more glaze or you want a generous drizzle, make 1.5x the amount listed.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bundt Cake with Maple-Olive Oil Glaze

Makes one 6-cup bundt cake | Cake barely adapted from the New York Times | Glaze recipe from Yossy Arefi

Ingredients:

For the cream cheese filling:

  • 113g cream cheese, softened (about half a block)
  • 30g granulated sugar
  • Dash of vanilla extract
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • Squeeze of lemon juice

For the pumpkin bundt cake:

  • 57g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 200g light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Scant 3/4 tsp kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom (preferably freshly ground – I use 6 pods)
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • Few cracks of black pepper
  • 55g extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 213g pure pumpkin puree
  • 60g sour cream, at room temperature
  • 125g all purpose flour
  • 67g barley flour (or substitute spelt or more all purpose)

For the maple olive oil glaze:

  • 50g icing sugar, sifted
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 12g (1 1/2 Tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
  • 15g (1 1/2 Tbsp) maple syrup
  • 1 tsp hot water, plus more as needed

Method:

Make the cream cheese filling: In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients until smooth. Transfer to a piping bag and set aside while you prepare the cake batter.

Make the pumpkin bundt cake: Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Grease and flour a 6-cup bundt pan (or brush it with cake goop), making sure to get all the crevices and the middle tube, where cake especially likes to stick.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. Mix on medium speed until smooth and combined, 1-2 minutes (the mixture will be thick). Scrape down the bowl and paddle and add the olive oil. Mix on medium-high until light and thickened, 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and mix on medium for 20 seconds. Scrape down the paddle and the bowl. Add the pumpkin and sour cream and mix until well combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer.

Whisk the flours together in a small bowl, then add to the wet ingredients (sift them in if lumpy). Use a flexible spatula to fold the flour in until smooth and no dry bits remain. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure the batter is well combined.

Add about half the batter to the prepared bundt pan. Tap to level and dislodge any air bubbles. Snip the end off the piping bag and pipe the cream cheese filling on top, leaving a 1-inch border on each side (try not to touch the edges of the pan). Add the remaining cake batter on top and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Place the bundt pan on a baking sheet.

Bake until the cake is puffed and a skewer inserted near the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, 40-45 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and cool completely before glazing.

Make the maple olive oil glaze: When the cake has cooled, make the glaze. In a medium bowl, whisk together all glaze ingredients to make a thick and pourable glaze. (Add hot water a 1/4 tsp at a time if needed to thin the consistency). Pipe, spoon, or drizzle glaze onto the cake. Let glaze set for 10 minutes before serving. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for 4-5 days; bring to room temperature before serving.

pumpkin bundt cake slice

Related recipes:

Pumpkin Spice Latte Pie

pumpkin spice latte pie

This pumpkin spice latte pie celebrates the perfect match that is pumpkin and espresso. To ensure the pie is equally about the coffee as it is the pumpkin and spice, I use a triple threat of coffee-infused dairy, espresso powder, and brewed coffee to inject a well-rounded and potent espresso kick into the custard. Using just espresso powder can be overly harsh and bitter; brewed espresso/coffee typically isn’t strong enough to make an impression on its own. So I prefer to steep my cream and milk with whole coffee beans to establish a solid baseline flavor, then use espresso powder and brewed espresso to adjust the strength.

But I encourage you to choose your own level of coffee forward-ness in this pie: before adding espresso powder and raw eggs, taste the custard and adjust to your liking. If you’re more of a latte drinker, you may want to not add any powder or just a touch. If you lean towards espresso shots or black coffee, add more to taste.

pumpkin spice latte pie in pie plate

Baker’s notes:

  • The whole coffee beans will absorb some of the dairy during steeping, so I start with 15% more dairy to account for loss. Measure the amount after steeping and top up as necessary — every batch will yield a slightly different amount due to different coffee bean size/shapes, how well pans are scraped out, etc.
  • To avoid cracks in your pie, use the spoon bouncing technique to rid your custard of any errant air bubbles (see an example in my Instagram reels). Note: if you’re doing this once the filling is in the crust, don’t bang the pan to avoid cracking your crust! These bubbles can rise to the surface during baking and cause little fissures. Also, don’t overbake the pie! Take the pie out when there’s still a wobble in the center — it will continue to bake and set as it cools.
  • Make sure to allow time for your pie to completely cool and chill. I like baking my pumpkin pies a day ahead of serving; the spices meld a little and the custard firms to the texture I prefer.
  • You can find a more classic version of pumpkin pie (along with my favorite pie crust recipe) in my cookbook!

Pumpkin Spice Latte Pie

Makes one 9″ pie | Adapted from Baked to Order

Ingredients:

For the coffee-infused dairy (start the night before baking the pie):

  • 200g heavy cream (35%), plus more as needed
  • 145g whole milk
  • 42g (1/2 c) whole coffee beans, preferably espresso roast

For the pumpkin spice latte pie:

  • 425g pure pumpkin puree (one full 15 oz can)
  • 150g (3/4 c) light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal)
  • 300g coffee-infused dairy, cold
  • 1/2-2 tsp espresso powder (to taste)
  • 15g freshly brewed strong coffee or espresso (optional, or substitute bourbon)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, cold
  • 1 large egg yolk, cold
  • One par-baked 9″ pie crust (regular or graham cracker; homemade or store-bought)

For serving:

  • Softly whipped cream, lightly sweetened
  • Freshly grated nutmeg or finely ground coffee, for garnish

Method:

Make the coffee-infused dairy: In a medium saucepan, combine the heavy cream and milk. Heat on medium-low until steaming, then remove from heat. Stir in the whole coffee beans, cover, and refrigerate overnight (or up to 24 hours).

When done infusing, strain out the coffee beans with a fine mesh sieve. Measure out 300g infused dairy (top up with more heavy cream, if you’re a little short). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Make the pumpkin spice latte pie: Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Place a baking stone or sheet pan in the oven while it preheats; baking the pie on this preheated surface helps ensure a crisp bottom crust.

In a medium saucepan, combine the pumpkin puree, sugar, spices, and salt. Bring to a sputtering simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently with a heatproof spatula to avoid scorching. Continue to simmer the pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly, until thick and shiny, about 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the coffee-infused dairy until smooth. Taste and add espresso powder until you reach your desired coffee strength (2 tsp will give you an intense coffee kick; start with 1/2 tsp if you want something more subtle). Whisk in the brewed coffee, vanilla, eggs and egg yolk. Strain the mixture into a medium bowl using a spatula to press the solids through the strainer — this takes a little time and effort but ensures a silky-smooth texture.

Place the par-baked pie crust on a foil-lined sheet pan. Re-whisk the filling mixture and scrape it into the crust. Bounce a spoon across the top of the pie to encourage any air bubbles to rise to the surface and pop. Continue bouncing until no more bubbles appear.

Bake, cool, and serve the pie: Bake the pie for 35-45 minutes, or until the edges of the pie are set but the center still wobbles like set jello. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and cool completely to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours (I prefer my pumpkin pie cold so I like chilling at least 4 hours or overnight). Serve slices chilled or at room temperature with dollops of softly whipped cream and a grating of fresh nutmeg or some finely ground coffee, if desired. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

pumpkin spice latte pie from above
pumpkin spice latte pie slice

Related recipes:

Toasted milk powder (extra-strength brown butter) chocolate chunk cookies

toasted milk powder cookies

Everyone has opinions about chocolate chip cookies. For me, it’s always been about the dough. If I’m going to the effort to make cookies, the cookie dough itself should be full of flavor and well-seasoned, worth eating with or without chocolate. I don’t like cookies that are more chocolate than cookie — if I want that much chocolate, I’ll just eat a chocolate bar.

My go-to base is in my cookbook, Baked to Order. I use brown butter, a mix of flours (including rye), and a hit of espresso powder for an extra flavorful cookie. I still make that recipe often, but lately I’ve been tinkering with it a little to really focus on one particular element: brown butter.

Brown butter has been the darling of the culinary world for…I don’t know, decades now? I’m sure you’re familiar with it. Browning butter is the process of heating butter until the water evaporates and the milk solids (which make up about 3-5% of the butter content) brown. In French, brown butter is called beurre noisette, or “hazelnut butter”, because the aroma resembles toasted hazelnuts. It’s a beautiful thing.

But what if you want to add more brown butter flavor? You can’t just add more brown butter, or the ratio of fat to everything else will result in a very different end product. Enter: toasted milk powder.

Milk powder is essentially a concentrated powder of milk solids, made by preheating, evaporating, and reheating milk. It’s a staple in my baking kit; I use it most often in my enriched sourdoughs to make extra tall and soft loaves (by increasing the protein and lactose without adding extra liquid). I first came across the concept of toasting milk powder on Francisco Migoya’s blog, where he talks about adding it to financier batter. It’s brilliant — by toasting the milk powder, you’re adding more of the tasty brown bits that give brown butter its flavor and aroma!

There are a number of ways to toast milk powder. If you want to make a large batch to have on hand, try the microwave method or the pressure cooker method. For these cookies, I decided to just toast the milk powder directly in the browning butter.

Baker’s notes:

  • When toasting the milk powder, keep the heat down and whisk constantly to avoid clumping. Normally I crank the heat up once the butter has melted, but I got more consistent results with the milk powder keeping the temp around medium-low. If your milk powder is clumpy, definitely sift it / break up any lumps before adding to the butter.
  • You can make these cookies straight from the melted butter stage, but these days I prefer the texture of the final cookies when the butter is brought back to a spreadable consistency. Creaming the butter also helps break up any bits of clumpy toasted milk powder that may have formed during the browning process.
  • I’ve added in a touch of liquid (usually coffee) to make up for the moisture loss from browning the butter. It helps the cookies spread more predictably, especially if you’re refrigerating/freezing the dough for more than a day.
  • To get perfectly round cookies, you can scoot them with a round cookie cutter just larger than the baked cookie or use an offset spatula or spoon to nudge them into shape IMMEDIATELY after the cookies come out of the oven. Totally optional; it’s just for looks.

Toasted milk powder (extra-strength brown butter) chocolate chunk cookies

Makes 12-14 cookies | Adapted from Baked to Order

Ingredients:

  • 113g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 45g nonfat milk powder
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 65g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3g (3/4 tsp) Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp espresso powder (optional)
  • 1 large egg, cold
  • 1 large egg yolk, cold
  • 18g coffee or milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 175g all purpose flour
  • 140g good quality dark chocolate, chopped (I like a mix of 55% and 70%)
  • Flaky sea salt, for garnish (optional)

Method:

Make the extra-strength brown butter: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the milk powder. Continue cooking on medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the milk solids darken and the butter takes on a toasty, nutty smell. Remove from heat and scrape the butter and all the toasty bits into a heatproof container. Refrigerate until spreadable, about 45 minutes. (You can speed up the process by stirring the butter over an ice bath or sticking it in the freezer, stirring every 5-10 minutes.) You can make the extra-strength brown butter up to a week in advance; bring to room temperature before mixing cookie dough.

Make the cookie dough: In a medium bowl, combine the softened extra-strength brown butter, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder. Using an electric hand-held mixer, mix on medium speed until well combined, 2-3 minutes (the mixture will be a bit crumbly). Scrape down the beaters and sides of the bowl. Add the egg and egg yolk and mix until smooth, then add the coffee or milk and vanilla. Mix until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour and mix on low until the flour is mostly mixed in, then add the chopped chocolate. Switch to a spatula and mix just until the chocolate is evenly distributed and no streaks of flour remain. Cover and refrigerate for BARE MINIMUM 1 hour, but preferably at least four hours (or up to 3 days).

Bake the cookies: Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Portion the dough into golf-ball sized portions (weigh them if you want perfectly even cookies — I usually make mine around 55g each, which gives me a baker’s dozen). Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets about 2½ inches apart and sprinkle the tops with flaky sea salt.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the edges are set and the centers no longer look wet, about 12 to 14 minutes. Rotate the sheet in the oven halfway through baking. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

toasted milk powder cookies

Related recipes and resources:

Sourdough Discard Cheese Crackers

sourdough cheese crackers

These sourdough discard cheese crackers are one of my “oops, got lots of discard that needs using up QUICK” back pocket recipes. But honestly, these crackers are also tasty enough that I’d build lots of starter just to make a batch. I made probably a dozen batches of these over Christmas, portioning them into little packages to include with my yearly cookie boxes as a savoury counterpart to all the sweetness; and nowadays I make a batch every couple of weeks to satiate all the hungry snackers in my house.

The original recipe for these crackers comes from the ever-excellent Bake from Scratch website; I’ve tinkered just slightly with the spices and salt level and developed some handy tips for baking them.

Baker’s Tips:

  • The starter in this recipe is primarily for flavor, not leavening, so its ok to use discard that’s a little old. I just try to use my discard within a week, before it starts developing a layer of alcohol on top or smelling too fermented. The original recipe says to use room temperature discard but I always use cold from the fridge without a problem.
  • A pasta machine is hands-down my favorite way to roll out these crackers thinly and evenly. Of course you can roll by hand — just go thinner than you think as the crackers do puff in the oven. I highly recommend rolling directly on parchment so it’s easy to transfer the dough to the sheet pan; it’ll be too delicate to move without tearing. You can roll on a silicone mat too; just be careful when scoring that you don’t accidentally damage your mat.
  • I prefer to bake crackers on convection setting — it’s a little quicker and I find the browning more even. Every oven is different, though — the first time you make these, I recommend baking one tray of crackers at a time to gauge how long they take in your oven. Also, how thinly you roll your crackers plays a major role in how long they’ll take to bake.
bowl of sourdough cheese crackers

Sourdough Discard Cheese Crackers

Makes about 2 sheet pans’ worth of crackers | Adapted from Bake From Scratch

Ingredients:

  • 65g white whole wheat or sifted wheat flour
  • 63g all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 5g (1 1/4 tsp) kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
  • 275g sourdough discard (100% hydration; straight from the fridge is fine)
  • 57g unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 60g freshly grated sharp cheddar

Method:

In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, spices, and salt.

In a medium bowl, stir together the sourdough discard and melted butter until smooth. Stir in the cheese.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Stir/knead together until all the flour is incorporated and the dough has a clay-like consistency. Flatten and wrap with plastic. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 20 minutes (or up to 24 hours).

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F (I prefer convection, if possible; but 350F conventional works fine too) with racks in the upper and lower thirds. Have ready two large pieces of parchment paper and two large baking sheets.

To roll by hand: Divide the dough in half. Place one half in the center of one piece of parchment. Roll into a rectangle as thin as possible (aim for thinner than 1/8″ thick) doing your best to keep the entire piece even. Slide the rolled out dough, still on the parchment, to one of the baking sheets. Repeat with the second half of dough.

To roll with a pasta maker: Alternatively, roll out dough using a pasta maker (my preferred method). In this case, work with about 1/6 of the dough at a time. For my pasta machine, I roll to the 3rd (out of 6) settings. Transfer the strips of dough to parchment lined baking sheets, cutting the strips as needed to fit.

Dock the dough all over with a fork. Use a pastry wheel to score into desired sizes (or leave them whole, and break into shards after baking). If you want to make them look like certain popular commercial cheesy crackers, you can skip the docking, score them into roughly 1.25″ squares, and poke the center of each with a chopstick (this is easier if you’ve rolled with a pin vs. a pasta maker).

Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until the entire surface is evenly golden and the crackers are crisp. Timing will vary wildly depending on how thinly you rolled the dough; start checking around 15 minutes. Crackers can go from pleasantly golden to too dark very quickly; so once they’ve started to take on color keep a close eye on them. Crackers will also make it blatantly obvious where the hot spots in your oven are; so you may need to transfer some crackers to a cooling rack and let other pieces continue baking a little longer.

Cool crackers completely on a wire rack, then break into pieces and store at room temperature in an airtight container. They should keep for at least a couple weeks, though they’ve never lasted that long around here…

Related recipes and posts:

Simple and classic peach cobbler

peach cobbler
Note: this post may contain affiliate links.

It’s been a couple years since I made any kind of fruit cobbler. So when we were faced with a fridge overflowing with beautiful Red Haven peaches, I knew it was time. Cobblers exist in many forms; this is the good-old fashioned biscuit-topped style. Both the biscuits and fruit are lightly sweetened so you can enjoy it with a big scoop of ice cream, as God intended.

I usually make cobblers / crumbles / crisps when I crave a fruit-forward dessert but don’t have the time or energy to commit to a pie. To that end, I pack a pie’s worth of fruit into this peach cobbler — two whole pounds, weighed after pitting. My favorite peaches to bake with are ripe but firm — soft ones will turn to mush, and I like my filling to still retain a little bite. Save the extra juicy ones to eat over the sink.

Oh yeah — I don’t peel the peaches. You can if you want, but the skins don’t bother me. I don’t find them leathery or tough, especially after they cook down. If anything, the skins add some welcome texture and more vibrant color. Just make sure to scrub them clean before slicing into wedges.

I also take the speedy approach to biscuits and just chop them into square-ish pieces with a knife. No wastage, no re-patting dough together. Fast, easy, homey is the name of the game here. So enough talking; let’s make some peach cobbler.

peach cobbler pre-bake
peach cobbler side view

Happy baking! For more delicious recipes and baking content, follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. Purchase my cookbook, Baked to Order; or use the form on the right to subscribe to my email list to receive new recipes straight to your inbox (no spamming, I promise!). Tag your IG content @rushyama and #cooktildelicious so I can take a peep!

Baker’s notes:

  • You know I love some whole grain flour in my fruity bakes; this time I used spelt in the biscuits. Feel free to sub in something like einkorn, kamut, or whole wheat here; or use more all-purpose if you don’t have whole-grain on hand.
  • Feel free to sub in other fruits for the peaches. Berries, nectarines, plums would all be beautiful here without need for adjustment. If your fruits are particularly juicy you might want to add a little more cornstarch; but cobbler filling needn’t be too set — I prefer it a little runny so it’ll soak into the biscuits better.

Simple and classic peach cobbler

Serves 8

Ingredients:

For the biscuits:
  • 175g all-purpose flour
  • 40g spelt flour (or substitute more all-purpose)
  • 40g granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal)
  • 86g (6T) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 80g buttermilk, cold (regular milk should work here too)
  • 80g heavy cream, cold, plus more for brushing
  • Turbinado or coarse sugar, for garnish
For the peach filling:
  • 900g (~2 lbs) firm but ripe peaches, cut into eighths (weighed after pitting)
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • A pinch each of kosher salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger
  • 15g (2T) cornstarch 
  • Juice of 1/2 a medium lemon

Method:

Preheat the oven to 400F with a rack in the middle.

Start by making the biscuit dough. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Scatter the cold butter pieces over the top and, using your fingers or a pastry blender, cut it into the flour mixture until the butter pieces are roughly the size of peas.

Whisk together the buttermilk and cream. Drizzle the mixture over the top of the dry ingredients and gently fold it into the flour mixture using a fork or flexible spatula. Continue to fold the dough onto itself a few times, just until the dough holds together but is still a bit shaggy with a few dry spots. If the dough seems overly dry and won’t come together, drizzle in extra buttermilk or cream 1 tsp at a time, just until it forms a rough mass. Do not overwork the dough.

Turn the dough onto a piece of parchment paper and fold it gently a few times until cohesive. Use your hands to pat it into a rectangle about 1-inch (2.5-cm) thick. Using a bench scraper or sharp knife, cut the dough into quarters. Stack the pieces on top of each other, sandwiching any stray floury bits between the layers, then pat into a rectangle about an inch thick. Slide the dough still on the parchment onto a sheet tray or plate and refrigerate until well-chilled, about 20 minutes (or up to 2 hours — if longer than 20 minutes, cover with plastic wrap).

While the dough is chilling, prepare the peach filling. Place the peach wedges in a large bowl. Whisk together the sugar, spices, salt, and cornstarch and pour over the peaches. Squeeze the lemon juice over the top. Gently stir to combine. Scrape the filling into a 2-quart ovenproof dish (I used an 11×7 oval casserole similar to this Staub one).

Remove the biscuit dough from the fridge. Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 square-ish pieces. Arrange the biscuits on top of the peaches, leaving at least an inch between pieces. Brush the tops with cream and sprinkle generously (I mean it, don’t be stingy) with coarse sugar.

Bake until the biscuits are golden brown and the filling is bubbling vigorously, about 30-40 minutes. If the biscuits are browning too quickly, tent with foil partway through baking. Let cobbler cool for at least 20 minutes before serving. Cobbler is best served the day it’s baked (preferably still a little warm), but leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Rewarm before serving.

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peach cobbler with ice cream