For some people, the holidays bring visions of sugarplums, gingerbread and pfeffernüsse. Spices are nice, most chocolate lovers would agree, but chocolate is better. So we are not going to wait until Valentine’s Day to indulge in our favorite flavor. 

In the past, I’ve spent several days constructing fancy Yule log cakes. But chocolate is such a powerhouse ingredient that it doesn’t require a lot of preparation to please. This year, I’m relying on chocolate cookies and candies to spread holiday cheer. 

Here are a few tips for making chocolate cookies with ease:
Store-bought shortbread, pretzels and potato chips can quickly become holiday treats when dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with nonpareils or other holiday décors. Or slice a frozen cheesecake into thin wedges, dip each wedge in chocolate, top with a few sprinkles, and you’ll have a bunch of tree-shaped pops to keep in the freezer.

If you are pressed for time, buy chips instead of bars. They melt more quickly and evenly than bars, without any prep. Spend a few extra pennies on a luxury brand such as Ghirardelli, which will give your holiday cookies impressive flavor without fuss.
Holiday-tinted M&Ms are an easy way to add color along with chocolate to your cookies. Crushed peppermint combines well with any chocolate cookie.
Some of the richest, most intensely flavored chocolate cookies are made with unsweetened cocoa powder. Either Dutch process or natural cocoa will work in the recipe for chocolate-caramel thumbprints because the dough has no leavening. Be aware that in recipes calling for baking powder (or mostly baking powder and a little bit of baking soda), natural cocoa powder is the right choice. Recipes calling only for baking powder, which is acidic, require alkalized Dutch cocoa to rise properly. 

Chocolate-Peppermint Marshmallow Pops

Credit: Doug Young


12 extra-large marshmallows 
12 lollipop sticks or small candy canes
1/2 cup peppermint candies or broken candy cane pieces 
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips


1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Insert a lollipop stick or candy cane into each marshmallow and place on the baking sheet. Put baking sheet in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes. 

2. Place peppermint candies in the work bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped. Place in a shallow bowl. 

3. Place the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and heat until melted, stopping the microwave and stirring every 30 seconds. 

4. Remove the marshmallows from the freezer, dip halfway in chocolate and coat in crushed peppermint candy. Return to the parchment-lined baking sheet and repeat with the remaining marshmallows, chocolate and crushed peppermint candy. Let stand until chocolate has hardened, 5 to 10 minutes. Makes 12 pops. 

Chocolate M&M's Biscotti

Credit: Doug Young


2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (10-ounce) package M&M’s mini baking bits, divided
2 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Stir in all but  1⁄4 cup of the M&M’s. 

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it in half. Shape each half into a flat log about 18 inches long by 2 inches wide. Place the logs on the prepared baking sheet several inches apart.

4. Bake the logs until they are firm to the touch, about 35 minutes. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool completely.

5. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Transfer the logs to a cutting board and cut them into  3⁄4-inch-thick slices. Lay the slices, cut-sides down, on the baking sheet and return them to the oven. Bake them until they are crisp, 9 to 12 minutes. Transfer sliced cookies to wire racks and let cool completely.

6. Drizzle the tops of the cookies with melted chocolate and sprinkle with the remaining M&M’s. Let stand until set, about 20 minutes, before serving. Makes 26 biscotti.

White Chocolate and Cherry Rugelach

Credit: Doug Young


For the dough: 
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 (8-ounce) package chilled cream cheese, cut into pieces
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

For the filling: 
1⁄2 cup sugar 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1 cup whole blanched almonds
1/2 cup cherry preserves 
6 ounces white chocolate chips 
3/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup heavy cream


1. Make the dough: Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor, and pulse to combine. Add the cream cheese and butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal (do not overprocess). 

2. Turn mixture out onto a lightly floured work surface and press it into a ball. Divide the ball into 4 equal pieces and shape each piece into a 4-inch disk. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours and for up to 2 days. (The dough can be frozen for up to a month; defrost overnight in the refrigerator before using.) 

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

4. Make the filling: Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Place the almonds in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Transfer the chopped almonds to a medium mixing bowl. Place the preserves in the food processor and process until any large chunks are broken up. Transfer to a separate small bowl. 

5. Remove 1 dough disk from the refrigerator and, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the dough into a 9-inch circle on a lightly floured work surface. Using a 9-inch plate or pie plate as a guide, trim the edges to make a neat circle. 

6. Spread 2 tablespoons of the preserves over the dough. Sprinkle with 4 tablespoons white chocolate chips. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of the cherries. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the cinnamon sugar. Sprinkle with 4 tablespoons almonds. Pat the filling firmly with your fingertips to secure it to the dough. Cut the dough circle into 8 wedges. Roll each wedge into a crescent and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough disks. (Rolled rugelach can be wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to a month. Place the rugelach in the oven directly from the freezer.) 

7. Brush the frozen rugelach with the heavy cream and bake them until they are golden, 24 to 25 minutes. Transfer them to wire racks with a metal spatula and let them cool completely. Makes 32 rugelach.

Chocolate-Cinnamon Crinkle Cookies

Credit: Doug Young


2/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips 
4 tablespoons unsalted butter 
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour 
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar 
1 large egg 
1 large egg yolk 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder 
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/2 cup granulated sugar 
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar


1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small saucepan, heat the chocolate chips and butter over low heat, stirring, until just melted. Set aside to cool slightly. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. 

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, egg, egg yolk, vanilla, espresso powder and cinnamon. 

3. Whisk the chocolate mixture into egg mixture until combined. Stir in the flour until just combined. Do not overmix. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. 

4. Place granulated sugar and confectioners’ sugar in separate bowls. Coat small scoops of dough, one at a time, first in the granulated sugar and then in the confectioners’ sugar. Place dough balls on prepared baking sheets and bake until puffed and crackly, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool completely on baking sheets before serving. Makes 24 cookies. 

Chocolate-Caramel-Sea Salt Thumbprints

Credit: Doug Young


2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened 
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar 
1 large egg 
2 tablespoons milk 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
6 tablespoons caramel sauce 
Fine sea salt for sprinkling


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder and salt in a medium-size bowl. 

2. Cream together butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in egg, milk and vanilla until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add flour mixture a little bit at a time until incorporated. 

3. Roll tablespoonfuls of dough between your palms and place on prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Use back of a small measuring spoon to make an indentation in each cookie. Bake until just set, about 10 minutes. Press indentations with a spoon again as soon as cookies come out of the oven and are still hot. Let cool completely on baking sheets.

4. Spoon caramel into a small microwave-safe bowl and heat until just liquid (do not boil), 10 to 20 seconds. Fill the center of each cookie with about  1⁄2 teaspoon caramel. While the filling is still warm, sprinkle with some sea salt. Let stand until centers are firm. Makes 32 cookies. 

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