Eggnog Cheesecake Cookie Bars

IMG_2086I’ve realized this was probably the best time of year to get in to baking. There are so many holiday flavors that are fun and easy to experiment with.

Eggnog is one of those things I’ve never loved. We didn’t grow up with it around, and it’s never been something I’ve tried to grow fond of. But, these eggnog cheesecake bars definitely flip the script on how I think of eggnog.

My favorite part of eating and making these is the cookie layer. See, you could easily just dollop little balls of cookie on top of the cheesecake layer. But that’s not fun. When you make this recipe, get hands-y with your dessert, and spread that cookie layer so that it becomes engulfed by the cheesecake. Then, it turns in to like an eggnog sandwich filled with cookie.

Here’s the other thing about doing that: the baking powder in the cookies will make it seem like the cheesecake is also expanding, and the final effect looks like a creme brûlée. Definitely the way to go.

One note: I had some mascarpone cheese left from our fudge recipe last week, so I went half and half between cream cheese and mascarpone. Definitely not a must do, but I like the bite that mascarpone gives. IMG_2082



  • 8-10 graham crackers
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 tsp rum extract (we’re going to carry that eggnog flavor through the whole dessert)


  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese (can just do 16 oz cream cheese and scrap mascarpone)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp rum extract (you can also just use rum)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Cookie – think snickerdoodles:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup milk (I used whole, but 1-2% works as well)

Cinnamon sugar topping:

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking pan with baking spray. I used a 13×9 Pyrex, so that’s what I’m going off of here.
  2. In a food processor, run graham crackers until they turn to crumbs. Add in melted butter and rum extract and pulse until combined.
  3. Line the bottom of your baking dish with your crumb crust. Press firmly in to the pan.
  4. Bake the crust for 5 minutes – this gives the crust an extra chance to form before you add layers to it.
  5. For the cheesecake, beat cream cheese and mascarpone (or just cream cheese, if that’s how you went) with sugar, eggs, rum extract and nutmeg using the whisk attachment of your mixer. Beat for 3-4 minutes on medium speed until nice and fluffy. Pour over crust and spread evenly.
  6. For the cookie, I used a hand mixer, but the electric mixer is fine as well. Beat butter with sugar until well mixed. Add egg and vanilla and beat together. Add in baking powder, salt, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg and beat until fully combined. Add milk and beat until well blended. The milk will make it nice and moist.
  7. Pour dough on to the cheesecake layer. Now give that cookie a massage. Spread it with your fingers until you get it spread over the entire pan. Your cookies will be more dense than your cheesecake (SCIENCE!), which is what we want. Get that cheesecake layer to pour over your dough until you can’t see the dough anymore.
  8. The top layer is essentially a cinnamon sugar. In a bowl, whisk together the sugar and spices. Sprinkle generously over the cookie layer.
  9. Bake for about 35 minutes.
  10. Cheesecake layer might still wiggle, but that’ll change as it cools and sets. Remove from the oven to cool.
  11. Once completely cooled, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 4 hours.

Orange Gingerbread Fudge Bars


Growing up in South Florida, this was the time of year where we went in to our backyard and picked all the fresh oranges off our trees. We’d take them inside, juice them, and be drinking fresh orange juice for the next couple months.

Now, I’ve never been a huge gingerbread fan, but I don’t think there’s a holiday flavor that pairs better with orange, so I figured it was worth my toying with.

This week, things got a little experimental. I’ve been toying with substituting milk-based liquids for each other in a lot of my recipes with the hope that I might find some combo that I really enjoyed. What I’ve learned is that the mother nature doings involved with baking care less about the liquid involved and much more about the fat. With that in mind, I decided to use mascarpone cheese instead of heavy whipping cream. The result….a phenomenal texture that goes really well with the orange and gingerbread spices. 

Disclaimer: I’ve got two different recipes in here. The first, at least to my palate, was a little too heavy on the white chocolate with not enough gingerbread flavor. The second tasted spot on to me. But, the first was still a crowd pleaser, so I figure I’ll include both versions in here.



  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 10 graham crackers (can also use gingersnaps)
  • Zest from 1/2 orange


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses (1/3 cup for second recipe)
  • 3/4 cup mascarpone cheese (just do it)
  • 6 ounces marshmallow cream
  • 1 12 oz bag white chocolate chips (8 oz for second recipe)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • Zest and juice from 1/2 orange
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare your baking dish by lining it with parchment paper. I’m not going to tell you what size to use because it doesn’t matter much. Set aside.
  3. Making the crust: Melt your butter. In a food processor, begin to grind together your graham crackers. Start to pour in melted butter, followed by orange zest, and grind until combined.
  4. Pour crust in to your baking dish. Bake for 5 minutes.
  5. Add marshmallow cream, white chocolate chips, orange zest + squeezed orange, and spices to a large mixing bowl. Set aside. We’re going to essentially make a ganache with this (pouring hot liquid over something to make it melt).
  6. In a large saucepan, add butter, sugars, molasses, and mascarpone. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring consistently, for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat and pour over ingredients in mixing bowl. Blend until chips are melted and mixture is smooth.
  8. Pour over crust.
  9. Refrigerate for at least two hours.
  10. Enjoy.


Fresh Peppermint Crinkle Cookies

So, I’ve been diving in to one of Alton Brown’s books, and his take on recipes is interesting. With that, I’m going to try to be more specific with why certain things are important. If they’re not that important or are flexible, then I won’t really put the details there.

Anyways, I’ve been told these cookies are also called cow patties, which sounds a lot more fun than just crinkle cookies. The batter and order of incorporating ingredients is going to feel sort of like a brownie, which makes these cookies soft and moist.

I love these cookies for a couple reasons: they’re fun to make (rolling stuff in powder sugar is as entertaining for me as it is a 5 year old) and they show off some of the fun science going on in baking.

The reason these cookies get their fun shape and texture seems obvious now that I write it, but such a mystery as I’m making it: the dough expands as the baking powder reacts to heat, and the powder sugar is only on the outside. Therefore, as the dough expands, the non-powder sugared areas are exposed. Just a fun little bit of magic for Christmas time.

On to the recipe!


  • Peppermint mixture
    • 6 candy canes and 6-8 leaves of fresh mint
  • 1 cup cocoa powder (I prefer dark chocolate, but to each their own)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar


Things get pretty easy from here.

  1. Make your peppermint mixture. Put your candy canes and fresh mint in a food processor and grind until only little chunks of peppermint are left. As a rule of thumb, it’s almost always better to pair something processed with something fresh, and the extra kick of fresh mint really elevates these cookies.IMG_2059
  2. In the bowl of a mixture, beat together the cocoa powder, sugar and butter. Add in the eggs 1 at a time on low speed until fully combined.
  3. Add in the vanilla, peppermint mixture, salt, baking powder, and flour. Mix the together until you can’t see any more traces of the flour.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 2 hours.

2 hours later

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line cookie sheets with wax paper.
  3. Roll 1/2-1 inch balls of the batter in powdered sugar, then place on the baking sheets.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes.
  5. Let rest for 1 minute in their pan, then move to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Try not to make yourself sick eating every one of them in 1 sitting!


Bourbon Caramel Apple Pie

Alright, this was my ultimate creation of my Thanksgiving pies. If you want a real crowd pleaser, this pie looks and tastes great. Not to mention, the bourbon caramel sauce can be used to make anything fantastic.

A couple key tips before we start: DON’T take the skin off the apples. The texture of having the whole apple really adds a nice crunch. DO use 2 different types of apples – one that is sweeter and one that’s a little more bitter.


  •  Pie Dough (bourbon included)
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 4-6 apples
    • half Granny Smith
    • half Golden Delicious
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 cup bourbon

Start with the dough we’ve made. On a floured surface, roll the dough in to an 11-12 inch disk. If you did the frisbee trick, your dough is probably already in this shape. Toss in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.

Cut your apples in to 1/4 inch slices. Toss them in to a bowl and pour the lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and bourbon. You can use ground cinnamon, but I preferred grating cinnamon sticks over a microplane.

We’re going to do the apples in two waves, because one heap is going to be too much to cook evenly in the pan. In a medium saucepan on high heat, start to melt half of the butter. Pour half of the apples in to the pan, then toss in half of the sugar. Keep stirring until the sugar dissolves, then lower heat to medium temp until the apples become soft, about 5-7 minutes.

Pour all contents in to a bowl, then repeat process with the rest of the butter, apples and sugar. Strain the apples of the liquid, but keep that liquid.

Take your crust out of the fridge and place in pan. Brush the crust with your strained apple/bourbon/spices liquid. This will keep the crust moist and soft after baking.

Start to layer the apples in a circular formation around the crust. Slowly work your way towards the middle of the dough, then start again making a second layer. Your apple formation will look like this:


Drizzle the apples with any of your strained liquid that’s left, and dust a small amount of sugar on top.

Place on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for 50 minutes.

Now it’s bourbon caramel time. I’m telling you: this is by far the best thing I’ve made. It’s addicting. Beyond addicting.

Use my caramel recipe found here. Pour 1/4 cup of bourbon in to the heavy cream before adding it in. If the caramel is a little bit too liquid-y, put in freezer for about 15 minutes before starting to drizzle it all over the pie.


And now you’ve got yourself a Thanksgiving pie stunner.

Home Made Whipped Cream

My wife brought home whipped cream for Thanksgiving pies. So, I made some anyway. It’s really easy. And tastes fresher than what you’ll get in a can.

Here’s all you need:

  • 3 T sugar
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • (Like the pie dough, add 1/4 tsp bourbon if making bourbon apple pie)

Tip courtesy of Alton Brown: place a metal bowl and hand mixer whisk attachment into the freezer for 15 minutes. It’ll help with how the cream stiffens.

Place the sugar in to the bowl, then add the whipping cream. Either hand whisking or using a hand mixer, whisk until the cream starts to peak.

I used this on top of this pumpkin pie recipe from Paula Deen. I didn’t even give any one an option to have it – put a nice helping of this whipped cream on top of your pie before you even bring it to the party.


Pie Dough

My first Thanksgiving as a home baker involved lots of dough making and experimenting with apples and pumpkin.

Here is going to be my recipe for the pie dough I made, and I’ll link it in any post I use it in.

Here’s the thing: I’ve never really liked pie dough. Hot take: Graham cracker crusts are better.

But, not every pie is made for a graham cracker crust. So, I bit the bullet and dove in to making a crust I’d actually eat. This recipe is a guaranteed winner – it comes out light and soft, yet still supportive of what’s inside.

Here’s what’s important: don’t use a mixer. Your hands are the best mixer you have. A tender crust needs a tender massage, not some plastic massage chair.


  • 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 14 tablespoons butter, diced
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten with 2 T cold water
  • (If making my bourbon apple pie, mix in 1/8 cup bourbon)

Alright here we go.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Using those phalanges, work in the butter until it starts to turn yellow with little droppings of butter inside. Add in your egg + water (and bourbon if that’s the way we’re going) and continue to mix by hand until you’ve got a big ball of dough.

Press the dough down in to a disc and wrap in plastic wrap to refrigerate. For real precision, put plastic wrap on the underside of a frisbee, then start to press dough until you press out to the rim. Plug it in to the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Baking will depend on the pie you’re making, but most likely 375 degrees for 50 minutes.

Chocolate chip cookie dough truffles w/ a salted caramel drizzle


I was looking for some inspiration for today and saw a recipe for truffles similar to these. I started reading through it and said, “Lol, I can make these but so much better.” So I did. These balls are no bake (aka egg free) and only take patience in terms of watching them harden in the fridge.

A couple things:

-If you don’t like dark chocolate, then use a different kind of cocoa powder and chocolate chips.
-If you don’t like dark chocolate, get out.
-I made about 40 balls with these measurements.


Cookie Dough
-1 stick of butter
-3/4 cups packed brown sugar
-2 cups flour
-1/2 tsp dark chocolate cocoa powder
-1 tsp vanilla
-1/3 cup heavy cream
-1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Chocolate coating
-1 pound (2 bags) dark chocolate morsels
-1 tsp dark chocolate cocoa powder
-Half and half as needed (probably about 1/2-3/4 cup)

-Last week’s Salted Caramel recipe, if you’re down for a good time 

  1. Easy money right here. Put the butter at room temperature in to the bowl, cut in to 1-2 tsp blocks for easier mixing, and add the sugar. Let that go on medium speed until mixed.
  2. Add the flour, dark chocolate cocoa powder, vanilla, and heavy cream, thoroughly mixing after each ingredient. Then, add the chocolate chips and mix together. Cover the batter and put in fridge for about 1 hour.IMG_2020
  3. Go watch TV or read a book for a while. Maybe even go to the gym for a quick workout.
  4. Grab that dough out of the fridge. Line a baking sheet with wax paper (you can just spray a pan, but this works a little better). Wash your hands with some flour. Don’t actually wash your hands, but take a pinch of flour and rub it between your hands to make it easier to handle the cookie dough.
  5. Roll in to little balls in the palm of your hand. Once you’re through the batter, put back in fridge to cool again for about 15 minutes.
  6. During this cooling time, lets make our chocolate sauce. Saucepan on medium heat, add your dark chocolate morsels and cocoa powder in to the pan. As it starts to melt, start whisking in the half and half. Keep adding half and half until you get a milky chocolate texture. It’ll be in the ballpark of half a cup. Too little, and the chocolate won’t spread on your cookie dough (just add more half and half). Too much, and you have chocolate soup (just add more chocolate).IMG_2016
  7. Take your balls out of the fridge, and use a fork to roll them in the chocolate. That’s it. Once they’re all covered, put back in the fridge to cool while you make the salted caramel.
  8. Party people: time to make that salted caramel!
  9. Once you’ve got the caramel finished, take your truffles out of the fridge, and use a spoon to drizzle the caramel over the truffles.
  10. Freeze for 30-45 minutes.