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by Caitlin Saniga

Mocha muddy buddies

Java addicts, this mix is for you! A hint of peanut butter seems to add only to the consistency, not the flavor, here — which leaves these muddy buddies with a rich, dark chocolaty, coffee flavor. Just a whiff of this stuff will perk you up!

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by Caitlin Saniga and Sarah Steimer

Included in the box Caitlin sent Sarah were mocha chocolate chip cookies, rosemary shortbread cookies, a couple of sticks of peppermint mocha biscotti (recipe here) and orange-almond biscotti (recipe here).

Included in the box Caitlin sent Sarah were mocha chocolate chip cookies, rosemary shortbread cookies, a couple of sticks of peppermint mocha biscotti (recipe here) and orange-almond biscotti (recipe here).

We love making cookies for the holidays and sharing photos and recipes of them on the blog (most notable was our 2010 Holiday Dozen guide). We often email or text each other to rave about how good the other’s photos look, or to say how good our own cookies tasted. On a few very rare occasions, we’ve been able to try each other’s creations. This year, we decided to send cookies directly to one another so we didn’t have to be too jealous when the pictures and recipes hit the Web! 

Below are the recipes for the cookies Caitlin sent to Sarah this year. She got sick before she could finish a third batch, which would have been some sort of crunchy pignoli cookie. Oh, well! There’s always next year, right?

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Rosemary shortbread cookies

Caitlin: I had just inherited a robust rosemary plant from a family friend, so I was ecstatic when I found this cookie recipe that included the herb. The flavor intensifies over time for this cookie. Delicious!
Sarah: I fully expected the mocha chocolate cookies to be my favorite — for obvious reasons — but these ended up being my top pick. The cookie is flaky without being dry, and there is literally just the right amount of rosemary in it.

Rosemary shortbread cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar for decoration
Rosemary shortbread cookies

Caitlin:  I haven’t tried this trick yet, but I’ve heard that you can save time by rolling out cookie dough between sheets of wax paper or parchment and placing it on a baking sheet before sticking it in the fridge to chill. I’ll definitely be trying this the next time I make cutouts!

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and 2/3 cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the flour, salt and rosemary until well blended. The dough will be somewhat soft. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Use small cookie cutters to make cutouts. Place cookies 1 inch apart on the lined cookie sheets. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the tops.

Bake for 8-10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden at the edges. Cool on wire racks, and store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Recipe adapted from: AllRecipes.com

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Mocha chocolate chip cookies

  • 2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons ground espresso
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Mocha chocolate chip cookies

Caitlin: I wonder if Sarah realized there was a sparkle of cayenne in this recipe. I added a few heavy shakes at the last minute.
Sarah: Again with the great texture! Chewy and crispy in all the right spots.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at time, mixing after each addition to make sure they are well combined.

In a separate bowl mix together dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, cayenne and ground espresso.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix everything until the ingredients are fully combined, but do not overbeat. Using a wooden spoon, stir in chocolate chips.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a teaspoon, drop rounded balls of dough on the sheet 2 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and serve.

Recipe adapted from: Food 52

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So one of the best things Caitlin sent was actually a baggie of Chex mix. One night in college while we decorated and made cards for Christmas, Caitlin made a big batch of the mix and I probably ate almost all of it. She also sent along a recipe book on seasonal pies and a French baguette-scented candle. I could have happily curled up in this box. Too bad she fattened me up with those biscotti before I even had a chance to try.

Sarah: So one of the best things Caitlin sent was actually a baggie of Chex mix. One night in college while we decorated and made cards for Christmas, Caitlin made a big batch of the mix and I probably ate almost all of it. She also sent along a recipe book on seasonal pies and a French baguette-scented candle. I could have happily curled up in this box. Too bad she fattened me up with those biscotti before I even had a chance to try. Rude.

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by Caitlin Saniga

I couldn't make up my mind when it came to decorating the biscotti. I tried brushing melted chocolate on one cut side of some sticks and drizzling it over others.

I couldn’t make up my mind when it came to decorating the biscotti. I tried brushing melted chocolate on one cut side of some sticks and drizzling it over others. Still others I left plain because, let’s face it, these bad boys are pretty decadent as it is.

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons ground espresso
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup Hershey’s candy cane kisses (or another white chocolate with peppermint flavor), roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup crushed peppermint candy canes
  • 2 cups chocolate discs (the kind used for candy coating)
I think that the mini candy canes are easier to crush than the full-size ones because A.) They're more delicate, and B.) They're tend to come in small bags instead of being shrink-wrapped and impossible to peel open. To crush my mini candy canes, I left them wrapped while I used a flat-bottom glass to gently hammer them. About three blows did the job. Then I used a pair of scissors to open the bag. This method left very little mess.

I think that the mini candy canes are easier to crush than the full-size ones because A.) They’re more delicate, and B.) They tend to come in small bags instead of being shrink-wrapped with plastic and impossible to peel open. To crush my mini candy canes, I left them wrapped while I used a flat-bottom glass to gently hammer them. About three blows did the job. Then I used a pair of scissors to open the bag. This method left very little mess.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl cream together sugar and butter until well combined. Mix in eggs one at a time, and add the peppermint extract. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, espresso, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips, kisses and candy canes.

This is about how big each log should be. Arrange them two per pan.

This is about how big each log should be. Arrange them two per pan.

Divide the dough into four equal parts and mold into fat, long logs, 2 per baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through the cook time. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Allow the biscotti logs to cool for about 15 minutes.

With a long serrated knife, slice the logs into 1/2 inch-thick slices, return to the baking sheets and bake for about 10 minutes. Remove the biscotti from the oven and flip each slice. Return to the oven to cook for another 10 minutes, or until the centers of the slices are cooked through.

In the meantime, melt the chocolate discs in a double broiler then dip the bottom of the biscotti in the melted chocolate or drizzle the chocolate over a cut side of each slice. Place on a cooling rack, allow chocolate to set, then store in an airtight container. Biscotti will keep in a sealed container for about a month.

Makes about 2 dozen biscotti.

Recipe adapted from: Daydreamer Desserts

*During the month of December, we’re offering some simple biscotti recipes that can be quickly snatched for breakfast with coffee or enjoyed with tea after a long day of holiday preparation. All of our Crunch Time recipes can be found here.

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by Caitlin Saniga

There's all sorts of ways to dress up Kahlua — pour it over ice cream, serve it with ice, etc. — but this mocha will keep you warm and buzzy. And homemade Kahlua makes a great gift. My mom saves glass bottles throughout the year, and then fills them with Kahlua to pass out.

To make your own Kahlua, or coffee-flavored liquor, you’ll need:

  • 1 quart water
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup instant coffee
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups vodka
  • small glass bottles

In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the sugar and coffee, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer down for one hour with the lid cracked partway. Remove the liquid from the heat, and let cool completely. (Mom usually sets the pot on the snowy porch for an hour or so.)

Add the vanilla and vodka, and stir to combine. Use a funnel to pour the Kahlua into the bottles to store. The alcohol should keep in the bottles for a long time.

Makes about 5 cups.

Recipe adapted from: my mom’s recipe

To make the frothy Kahlua mocha, you’ll need:

  • 1 cup milk
  • chocolate syrup
  • 1 cup Kahlua (If you don’t want to make your own, you can buy this stuff at the liquor store.)
  • chocolate shavings

Back when I was a barista, I learned that milk begins to burn beyond 160 degrees. The best temperature to froth the milk to is between 140 and 160. I've found that 150 and higher tends to burn my tastebuds, though.

If you have an espresso machine (like me), use the milk steamer attachment to froth and heat the milk to a maximum temperature of 160 degree (about 145 is best, though). If you plan to froth the milk sans machine, pour the milk into a jar. Be sure to fill the jar only halfway to reserve room for the foam. Tightly screw on the lid, and shake the jar of milk about 30 seconds, or until the milk had doubled in size and become frothy. Remove the lid and place the jar in the microwave for 30 seconds. Repeat this process until you have enough milk for your drink. Set aside.

Pour enough chocolate syrup into a serving glass to cover the bottom of the glass. Fill the glass halfway with Kahlua. Microwave for 30 to 40 seconds, or until the Kahlua is hot.

Using a spoon to hold back the froth, pour the milk over the Kahlua, and then stir the mixture. Spoon the froth on top of the drink, and top with chocolate shavings.

Serve immediately.

Makes 1 drink.

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