Hot Cocoa Christmas Cookies

IMG_20181219_123956 (1).jpgThese will be your new favorites. I have tried a lot of new Christmas cookie recipes over the past two years and I was already starting from a very solid foundation (the Devine family takes Christmas cookies very seriously- there is even a recipe book (limited edition print)). And while I love trying new recipes, nothing ever seemed to top our family favs. Until these. They are everything I never knew I needed and I can say with almost 100% certainty that they are the best thing I have ever made.

The cookies are fudgey and the tops look almost like the top of a macaron and the frosting is sweet with a blast of mint at the end of the bite. I can’t say enough good things about them and they aren’t tricky at all to make!

Makes about 20 sandwich cookies.

HOT CHOCOLATE COOKIES

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 oz dark chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 2 large eggs, room temp
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 5 large candy canes, crushed

PEPPERMINT WHITE CHOCOLATE FROSTING

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 oz of white chocolate chips, melted
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of finely crushed peppermint candies (I put mine in the food processor so they were super fine)
  • 1 tablespoon milk

 

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat butter over very low heat. Add chocolate, and melt together, stirring frequently to prevent chocolate from scorching. Cook until mixture is warm to the touch but not hot. Add in cocoa, and whisk until combined. Remove from heat and keep warm.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat eggs and sugar on high speed until very light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.
  4. With mixer on low speed, add oil and vanilla, beating until just combined. Add warm chocolate mixture, beating until combined.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. Gradually add flour mixture to egg mixture, beating until combined. Using a spatula, finish stirring batter. Let stand until batter firms to the consistency of a thick brownie batter, about 5 min. Drop batter by heaping 2 tablespoonfuls at least 2 inches apart onto prepared pan.
  6. Bake one batch at  time, until puffed and cracked an edges are set, 8 to 12 minutes (mine took 9 1/2 min).
  7. While the cookies are baking, whip up your frosting! All ingredients can go straight into the bowl of your stand mixer with whisk attachment. Beat until smooth and creamy on low speed for about 2 minutes.
  8. Group cookies in pairs of almost equal sizes (if you’re like me your cookies won’t all be the same exact size!) and spoon frosting onto flat side of one of the pairs. Gently press together and then roll the edges in crushed candy canes.

These are best right out of the oven or still warm, but I froze mine and defrosted a few at a time throughout the holiday season and they still tasted amazing.

YOU ARE WELCOME. Happy Holidays all!

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Adapted from Sarah Kieffer’s recipe in Bake from Scratch Magazine – I substituted my own frosting recipe instead of the suggested mint meringue filling.

 

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A Pregnant Lady’s Guide to the Best Ice Cream in New York City

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Is there a better judge of ice cream than a pregnant lady? I had my fair share of pickles and Shake Shack when baby Alice was still in my belly, but ice cream was a constant. I made my own, stocked up at Whole Foods (there was always a min. of 3 flavors in my freezer), made time to try new places when traveling and became an expert on the scoop shops available in grand ol’ New York City. I ate so much ice cream that there is no possible way this little baby girl will ever have a dairy intolerance.

I’ll get right to it! Because why waste your time, when you could be well on your way over to Morgensterns? But there are a few parameters I structured my search with that you should know before you read on:

  1. Manhattan only. I did not want to sit in a hot subway car for longer than necessary so Brooklyn ice cream visits will have to wait – I know! – a bummer! There are some good ones, but you have to draw lines in the sand somewhere.
  2. I was in search of homemade ice cream only – no major chains, and no Instagram hot spots famous for piling as much sugar on a cone as possible.
  3. My rating system is completely made up based on how I felt after that first taste of ice cream. The most unscientific rating system you’ll ever see, but one you should trust with all your gut.

THE BEST ICE CREAM SHOPS IN NYC:

Morgensterns Ice Cream NYC1. Morgensterns (SoHo/Bowery): One word of caution – go during the day to avoid to 45 min line! (I normally do not do lines. But for Morgensterns… yes.) But besides that — AMAZING ice cream. So many flavors and love how they are organized by ice cream base on their menu. It’s a cute shop (you will need to ignore some disgruntled employees) and they only let you have one taste. Don’t let that get you down! I had the caramel tahini pretzel with hot fudge and oh boy did it hit the spot. I also tried the black coconut ash (so much sweeter than you’d imagine) and the cardamom lemon jam was also amazing. I also loved the perfect scoops on their cones, perfect for sharing to social. This is my all time favorite spot in NYC. They keep all their ice cream in containers so it’s not icy. It does slow down the line, but #worthit.

 

Ice and Vice Ice Cream NYC2. Ice & Vice (Lower East Side): AMAZING! Tried most of their flavors (thank you so much to their patient scoopers!), settled on Milk & Honey which was so refreshing after an afternoon running around town. Their 9am is very strong and had I not been pregnant I would have indulged in that as well but alas, need to monitor that caffeine intake. My husband loved the Basic B (why was I not surprised!?). We both got their homemade cones which are fun bright colors (I had the coconut almond macaron which turned out to be pink – Surprise!). Cones did break down easily so get a cup if you get a cone to go.

 

VanLeewens Ice Cream NYC

3. VanLeeuwens (West Village, UWS): Never thought you’d like vegan ice cream? Think again! Both vegan and dairy options are creamy and the perfect balance of flavor and sweet. Shared a three scooper with my husband which is a great portion for two to share: salted caramel, peanut butter marshmallow crunch and the winner of the evening: honeycomb.

AMAZING. Creamy. Totally hit the spot. I’ve never had anything like their honeycomb (which has actual chunks of honeycomb in it) – not too sweet and I don’t think I can ever order anything else there, except that I will, because they have interesting vegan flavors too which taste just as good for when I feel like being dairy free (on those rare days).

 

In total, I tried out 22 Manhattan shops and countless others along my travels those 9 months. Here is a Google doc I created with my thoughts on all NYC shops – a few notable mentions: Ample Hills, Emack and Bolio, Milk & Cookies and 10 Below. In the next tab you can see a list of other shops on my radar. Next up: The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory because I ran out of time when the baby came a week early!

I made a Google Map view here so you can see which of my fav scoop shops is closest to you as you’re exploring Manhattan. Did I forget any places that you’re shocked aren’t on my list? TELL ME! OMG PLEASE TELL ME. This new mama still loves ice cream just as much as I did pre-baby, and I don’t want to miss a thing!

Need an ice cream rec? Hit me up on IG @victoriadevine! I’m your girl!

-V

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Blueberry Muffins

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Blueberry muffins just feel right on a Saturday morning. As Alice went down for her first nap of the day, Madison joined me in the kitchen to make the french press coffee and I recruited him to mix up the dry ingredients so we could get the muffins in the oven as fast as possible. What a team! I even had time to shower while they baked! Small victories.

I don’t think I’ll ever stop trying new recipes for blueberry muffins. It’s too fun testing new combinations of flavors. Plus I never have exactly the right ingredients in the fridge and pantry when I wake up with a craving for homemade muffins.

On this particular sunny spring day (it’s hitting 60° today!!) I happened to have crème fraiche in the fridge after using some for garnish on pea soup last week & in a shallot & dijon sauce for roasted chicken last night. So into the muffins went the crème! Mostly working off Bon Appetit’s recipe, I came up with this recipe and Madison called it my “best ever” so I guess I’ll be making it again. So here we are:

INGREDIENTS

  • Butter for the pan (I was out of PAM)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup ground flax seed
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 2 large eggs beaten to blend
  • ½ cup crème fraiche (you could also use sour cream)
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons sugar mixed with 1 tsp cinnamon

DIRECTIONS

  • Preheat oven to 425°. Lightly coat cups of a standard 12-cup muffin pan with butter or nonstick spray. Whisk all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, ground flax seed, granulated sugar, baking powder, and nutmeg in a large bowl to combine. Add blueberries and gently stir until evenly distributed.

  • Whisk eggs, crème fraiche, butter, almond milk, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla in a medium bowl until combined and creamy, about 30 seconds. Gently fold egg mixture into dry ingredients just to combine (be careful not to overmix).

  • Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mix.

  • Bake muffins, rotating pan halfway through, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 25–30 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let muffins cool in pan 5 minutes. Turn out onto rack and let cool completely.

    Voilà!

 

Banana Oatmeal Cookies

banana oatmeal cookies

We had some bananas in the fruit bowl who had seen better days. I was browsing through my Better Baking cookbook looking for a healthy banana bread recipe when I came across Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chippers. Done and done. Except… something was missing. PEANUT BUTTER. Match made in heavennn.

So these became Banana Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies… my modified version with flax seed and whole wheat flour :

INGREDIENTS

Made 2.5 dozen BIG cookies

  • 2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 large egg, room temp
  • 1 cup mashed overripe banana (I used 3 medium)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces mini chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

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

Whisk the oats, flour, flax seed flour, baking soda, cinnamon in a medium bowl. Beat the butter and both sugars with an electric mixer on low speed until well blended, then raise the speed to medium-high and beat until smooth. Scrape the bowl. Turn the speed to medium and beat in the egg until incorporated. Scrape the bowl again. Turn the speed to medium-low and beat in bananas, peanut butter and vanilla until incorporated. Scrape the bowl and mixing on low speed, gradually add in dry ingredients, beating just until all streaks of flour disappear. Add the chocolate and beat until evenly dispersed.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto prepared sheets spacing them 1 inch apart.

Bake until the cookies are golden brown, about 15 minutes.

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I made these cookies in 40 degree weather on a Sunday, following the most glorious 75 degree sunny day in the park with this little cutie. With that weather change I needed something exciting and these cookies got me through the day. SPRING COME BACKKKK.