Brown Butter Blondies…no, that’s NOT code

Why yes, it is Wednesday.  As you read this, TD and I are on a teeny tiny plane headed to Montana.  If his predictions are correct, at some point we will get snowed-in.  To hear TD explain it,  this will trigger the zombie apocalypse whereupon only the strongest (or least best tasting) will survive to see spring.  Yeah, I don’t really understand either.  But, just in case, here is this week’s post.

Depsite my agonizingly detailed planning, about 2/3 of the way through my holiday baking, it became clear to me that I was going to need a bigger boat.  And by bigger boat, I mean more baked goods.  As my caramel crunch square supply quickly dwindled, I sprang into action with a recipe I’ve been playing with for a couple of months: the brown butter blondie.

Here is the flavor profile: brown butter, roasted walnuts, white chocolate.  The BBBs also have the added benefit of a neat cut.  You know what I mean, no sloppy edges or oozing middle (not that, provided the appropriate context, sloppy edges and oozing middles are a bad thing).  This is a slightly fancy bar that comes together relatively quickly and is made from ingredients that are generally on-hand.  Plus and plus.  In fact, these went together so easily that I knocked out two batches in the early morning hours before work.


I am officially signing-off until the 28th.  That’s assuming I’m not lobotomized by a brains seeking Santa Claus along the way.  Which would be sad because I’m all set to pontificate on the 2013 Pantone color of the year and what it has to do with a cognitive condition I never knew I had until TD scientifically proved I am statistically weird.

Brown Butter Blondies


  • 1/2 LB (16 TBS) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 C golden or light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 1/4 C all-purpose flour
  • 10 ounces chopped white chocolate or white chocolate chips
  • 1 C roasted walnut pieces


  1. To brown butter: in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, add butter.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the butter takes on a deep golden color.  Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temp.  This step can be done in advance.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9X13 inch baking pan with parchment and butter the parchment and sides.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking powder.  Set aside.
  4. In a standing mixer, add sugar to brown butter and cream until smooth, roughly 2-3 minutes.  You will not get the same consistency as you would with regular butter straight from the stick.  Don’t worry about it.
  5. With the mixer running on medium, add eggs one at a time allowing them to be completely incorporated after each add. Let the mixer run for another minute and add vanilla until mixed- in.
  6. Add-in flour mixture.  With the mixer on its lowest setting, run until the flour is just incorporated.  Watch carefully, this will happen quickly.
  7. By hand, fold-in chocolate and walnuts.
  8. Gently press the dough into the prepared pan.
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top is pale gold and the edges are just starting to turn a deeper gold.
  10. Allow to cool completely before cutting.



Curiously Peppermint Brownies…a mash-update

I knew that I wanted to include my take on the famous Altoid Brownie in this year’s batch of goodies.  However, it wasn’t until I encountered these festive beauties that inspiration hit on how to make them holiday worthy.

Don’t get me wrong, the original recipe is lovely.  I just happen to prefer my own brownie recipe…with baby chunks of chocolate added.

After cutting the truffle-like treats into roughly 1X1 inch squares, I dropped each into a mixture of peppermint sprinkles and powdered sugar.  Slightly pink and smelling of (curiously strong) peppermint, these little cadeaux will be included in my holiday baking for years to come.


Handel’s Messiah.  This piece of music (in its entirety) is easily my favorite holiday tune.  As a child we would see a production of it at the local college nearly every year.  As a college student and into graduate school, I would play this on my Walkman (yes, Walkman) on loop throughout final.  Now, starting the  Monday after Thanksgiving, the Messiah is my most oft played playlist.

Second favorite holiday album?  John Denver and the Muppets.

If you like this, you might like these

Altoid Brownies 

THE Brownie

Holiday Altoid Brownies


  • 1 package peppermint Altoids, pulverized (I used my mini-prep)
  • 16 TBS (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 18 ounces bitter or semi-sweet chocolate chopped in or chips
  • 2 C granulated sugar
  • 2 TBS cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 eggs, room temp
  • 1 TBS vanilla
  • 2 C flour
  • 12 ounces mini chocolate chips
  • peppermint sprinkles (I found mine at Bristol Farms, also available here)
  • powdered sugar for dipping (2-4 C)


  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Line a 9X13 inch pan with parchment and butter both paper and sides of pan.
  2. In a heavy-bottom saucepan, melt butter over low heat.  Once melted, add chopped chocolate.  Let sit for 2-3 minutes and whisk until smooth.  Set aside an allow to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, cocoa and salt.
  4. Whisk-in eggs one-at-a-time.  Whisk in vanilla.
  5. Fold-in cooled chocolate and butter mixture.  Fold to combine.
  6. Sift flour over bowl of batter and gently fold until the flour is just incorporated.
  7. Add mini chips and fold a few more times to incorporate.
  8. Transfer to pan and into the oven.  Bake until an inserted skewer comes up with fine crumb (35-45 minutes).
  9. Remove from oven and allow brownies to cool completely.  I like to like them sit over night and settle.
  10. In a large ziplock bag combine peppermint sprinkles (to taste) and confectioner’s sugar.  Seal bag and shake for even distribution.
  11. Cut brownies as desired.
  12. Gently emerge a couple of cut brownies-at-a-time into the sugar mixture.  Gently shake-off excess sugar.  Store in air-tight container.


Piece of pie!

I’ve made my fear of pate brise no secret. I blame certain family members who suckled me on the crust of incredibly flakey and light pie crusts during my formative years.  As a result, I will generally do anything I can to avoid making pie crust.  This has included, using passable proxies like shortbread or graham cracker to just baking a cake instead.


TD asked for an apple pie to go with the Gobbla’ Cobbla.’  And since I knew they he would be recruited to roll about 250 Schweddy Balls earlier in the day, I had no choice but to acquiesce.  I began with Dorie Greenspan’s Good for Almost Anything Pie Dough.  Her recipe calls for a mix of very cold butter and shortening.

It also uses food processor…which made it a winner in my book.

I cheated just a little and when it was time to form the two disks of dough for refrigeration, I rolled-one-out, fit it to the pie dish and then put it in the fridge.

You know how reading a recipe the entire way through is like baking rule #1.  Well, I didn’t and so, when I went to prepare the filling I realized the Ms. Greenspan calls for quick-cooking tapioca.  Quite possibly the single baking-type ingredient I did not have in my pantry.  Undeterred, I jumped over to my cooking and baking bible, the Joy of Cooking and perused their apple pie recipes.  This is when I discovered a recipe that cooks the apples before putting them into the pie.  Intrigued (and having all the ingredients), I jumped in.  The core of the idea (ha) is to saute the apple chunks in butter until nearly cooked.   I like an apple pie with lots of apples and so, adjusted the filling recipe up.

Then they cool.

And only THEN do they go into the chilled pie-crust.

At this point, I still had very little faith in my pie baking skills and so, went rustic on the crust.

Oh but wait…what is this I see before me?  A pretty gorgeous pie with what certainly looked like flakey crust.

After enjoying our Gobbla’ Cobbla’ and martinis, the moment of truth was upon us.  A few cautious cuts and the resulting piece looked like a presentable piece of pie.  Then I took a bite.  My reaction was to employ an expletive involving a reflexive verb, a number larger than one and a day of the week beginning with T.  Was this it?  Had I finally stumbled across the holy grail of apple pie?  Just to be on the safe side, we conducted further research the next day.  In fact, the picture below was taken the next day.

I fully intended on making this pie again before posting the recipe.  Sadly, time has not been on my side.  And so, I leave it to you dear readers to vet what I think might just be a very excellent pie recipe.


New Mumford and Sons

If you like this, you might like these

Russian Grandmother’s Apple Pie-Cake

Tarte de Pommes a la Normande

Misanthropic Hostess Apple Pie

adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Good for Almost Everything Pie Dough and Joy of Cooking’s Apple Pie II recipes

For the Crust

Ingredients (this is for a double crust)

  • 1 1 /2 C all-purpose flour
  • 2 TBS sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 10 TBS frozen unsalted butter cut into 1/2 TBS sized-pieves
  • 2 1/2 TBS frozen vegetable shortening, cut into 2 pievs
  • 1/4 or so of iced water


  1. Place flour, sugar and salt in the food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse to just combined the ingredients.
  2. Drop-in butter and shortening and pulse only until both are cut-into the flour–think un-even bits ranging from to pea-to-orzo sized.
  3. Pulsing the processor on-and-off, add about 6 TBS a little at a time by pulsing and repeating.  Then, use a few longer pulses to incorporate the water into the flour.  Big pieces of butter in the dough, are fine (and encouraged).  If needed, continue to add water a few drops at-a-time until the dough sticks together when pinched.
  4. Scrape dough out of processor and onto a floured surface.  Divide the dough in half, form two disks (or cheat like I did and roll-out one and place it in a deep pie dish).  Wrap everything in plastic and refrigerate at least an hour before using.

For the Filling

  • 4 LBS apples (I used a mix of Granny Smith and Fiji)
  • 4 TBS unsalted butter
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1/2 TSP ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 TSP salt
  1. Peel and core apples, cutting as desired (I used a rustic chop with pieces about the size of large almonds).
  2. In a very large skillet or pot, heat butter over high heat until sizzling and fragrant.
  3. Add apples and toss until glazed with the butter.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium, cover tightly and cook, stirring often. until the apples are softened but still slightly crunchy.
  5. Stir in the sugar, cinnamon and salt.
  6. Increase heat to high and cook at a rapid boil until the juices become thick and syrupy (about 3 minutes)
  7. Immediately spread the apples i na thin layer on a baking sheet.  Let cool to room temperature.

To Assemble and Bake

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
  2. On a floured surface, roll-out your bottom layer of dough.  Be sure to turn the dough often.  Gently place dough into the pan, do not stretch dough.
  3. Fill with apples and place in fridge while rolling-out second crust.
  4. Roll out second crust.
  5. Remove filled-pan from fridge and trim the edges of the dough so there is about 1/2 inch overhang.
  6. Center the second piece of dough over the pie and press it against the bottom crust.
  7. Trim the top crust to overhand just slightly over the bottom crust.
  8. Pinch the crust (or roll up) to create a sealed edge.
  9. Cut vents for steam and brush with egg wash if desired.
  10. Bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes until the crust is a rich, golden brown.
  11. Let cool and then sit for at least 4 hours before cutting.




SFHB: Final Edition

And here we are.  The cookie cutters have been put away.  My fridge is devoid of all but a single stick of butter.  And with couple of special exceptions, all goodies have been delivered or shipped. Here is how it went down in the last week.

The dining room was staging area one.

I think some of you thought I was kidding when I said I use workbooks for planning.  Dear Excel, I would be nothing without you.  This shot is of the distribution list.  The colored columns were different categories of treats.  The rows, recipients.  Lines were greyed-out when packaging was complete on the individual unit (a final column indicates status of delivery).

If it’s business in the dining room, it’s party in the kitchen.  Once the goodies were in a box they went to the kitchen for trimmings.

Which included this year’s label.  Erin Condren gets all the credit for the design work here.

Because most people got anywhere from six-to-nine different treats, I packaged them individually and then labeled the ones with stronger flavors.

Here we are about 2/3 of the way through the process.  This year, because I had an unusually large volume of packaging to do, I actually spread it across two evenings and a Saturday.

Finally, FINALLY, it’s all over but the eating.  This is actually only about 2/3 of the packages (I made an early delivery to USC last Friday).  TD helped me to package all that needed to be shipped and we were in-and-out of the LAX Post Office in five minutes (on a Sunday no less).

For those of you who got goodies, it probably would have been smart to take a picture of each, label it and then add the recipe link.  Coulda’, woulda’, shoulda’…didn’t even think of it until today.  In lieu of that, here is a breakdown and links to the recipes:

Sugar Cookies (sprinkled and iced)

Rum Butter Nuts

Sour Cherry and Pistachio Sables (a variation on this recipe)

Chocolate Cayenne Cookies

Caramel Crunch Bars (which should really be named Toffee Crunch Bars)

Schweddy Balls

Fleur de Sel Caramel

Altoid Brownies (you’ll have to stay tuned until Thursday for my updated take on this recipe)

Brown Butter Blondies (the recipe for these will post on 12/20).


And now the moment we’ve all been waiting for.  The poundage.


To give some context, those 20 lbs translated into just under 1500 individual cookies, bars, brownies and candies.

Jeanette was the big winner with a guess of 20 lbs. Jeanette, my dear, you should have gotten your prize on Friday.  If not, I have a notion of who may have abducted your bag of Schweddys.

Amber, Nancy and Ann, there is a little something headed your way as well.  Normally, I am a strong believer in meritocracy.  BUT.  You three have been long standing supporters of the Misanthropic Hostess and I couldn’t resist a little thank you.

…and that’s all I have to say about that.

I’m late, I’m late, I’m late

So here is the skinny.  TD and his laptop had a little…falling out…and needed to spend some time apart.  He’s been on the road this week and took my laptop with him…which means no Thursday post.  It also means three posts next week (like anyone but me is counting).

A little spoiler:


We did quite a bit of decorating this week.

Hot pink penguins not pictured.

At this writing, I am one item away from completing butter consumption…but you’re going to have to wait one more week for the final tally.

Total butter to-date: 18.375 Lbs

To put it into perspective, that’s about 1 1/2 fluffy kitchen gods.