Christmas is my favorite time of year! As a little boy I would count down the days until it was time to listen to Christmas music, decorate the tree, and of course Christmas Eve. I would leave cookies and milk for Santa, chocolates for his elves, and baby carrots for Rudolph. In the morning I would rush to the table to see if the goodies were gone, and sure enough each year there were crumbs left behind and a note from Santa thanking me for thinking of him! To this day I still leave Santa and his little helpers goodies on Christmas Eve, the tradition and magic lives on!
Brown Sugar Snickerdoodles
Ingredients (makes 24 cookies)
Butter – 1 stick, unsalted, at room temperature
Light Brown Sugar – ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons, divided
Granulated Sugar – ¼ cup
Flour – 1⅓ cups, all-purpose
Eggs – 1 extra-large, at room temperature
Vanilla – 1½ teaspoons, pure extract
Honey – 2 tablespoons
Cream of Tartar – 1 teaspoon
Baking Soda – ½ teaspoon
Sea Salt – ¼ teaspoon
Cinnamon – 1½ teaspoons
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
In a small bowl sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and set to medium speed cream together the butter, honey, vanilla, granulated sugar, and ½ cup of light brown sugar, about 5 minutes.
Add the egg and allow to mix until fully incorporated, about 2 minutes.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl making sure everything is well mixed.
In a shallow bowl or plate combine the cinnamon and remaining 3 tablespoons of light brown sugar.
Using a 1¼-inch metal scoop, scoop the dough and release each ball directly into the cinnamon/sugar mixture and gently roll it around.
Arrange the dough balls two-inches apart onto the prepared sheet pan. Lightly press down the tops of each ball.
Bake for 7 to 8 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.
Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
Tip: When baking, the light brown sugar on the outside will caramelize slightly adding a depth of flavor to this fresh take on an iconic cookie.
Winter Hot Chocolate
Ingredients (serves 4)
Light Brown Sugar – ¾ cup
Half and Half – 3½ cups
Sea Salt – ⅛ teaspoon
Cinnamon – ¼ teaspoon
Honey – 1 tablespoon
Vanilla – ¾ teaspoon, pure extract
Vanilla Bean – seeds of 1 large pod
White Chocolate – 5 ounces, roughly chopped
Cocoa Powder – unsweetened, for garnish
In a medium sauce pan set over medium-low heat add the half and half. Allow it to come to just below the simmering point.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the sugar, salt, honey, cinnamon, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, and the white chocolate.
In the pan, quickly whisk until the mixture is smooth and the chocolate is completely melted.
Gently reheat over low heat, and then carefully ladle into mugs.
Garnish each mug with a dash of cocoa powder and a marshmallow (or two)!
Tip: Make a BOOZY version by adding in a shot (or, two!) of Butterscotch Schnapps,, Caramel Baileys, or your favorite spiced liquor!