Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread [and behind the scenes!]

Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread

I’m usually the one behind the camera when I’m blogging. I cook in my no-so-photogenic kitchen and shoot the finished product using a simple setup in my dining room. With three little ones running around, I don’t always get a chance to get in front of the camera or snap many process shots.

A couple months ago, friends of ours stayed at our house while they were in town for a wedding—and since one of those friends is a super talented photographer, I took advantage. Despite my outdated cabinets and the fact that it was dark in my house that morning due to impending thunderstorms, I love what Taylor Rae Photography captured. You can see my little ones running around and my flour covered counters. I’ll admit my kitchen usually looks way messier, and I often wear yoga pants and a top-knot. But other than that, this is basically what it looks like when I’m trying to capture recipes for the blog. (What you can’t see in pictures, though, is the chaotic noise level from my kids.)

We shot my recipe for Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread. I based it off my Mix + Match Shortbread and used almond extract instead of vanilla. Originally I intended to dip the cookies in white chocolate but made a last minute adjustment using chocolate chips I had on hand. It’s a flexible recipe, though, so use whatever you want! You can also drizzle on both white and milk chocolate instead of dipping for a different look, try pistachios instead of almonds, or top them with a little sea salt.

Scroll down for the recipe!

Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread

Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread
Makes about 2 dozen cookies
Adapted from Ina Garten

3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon almond extract
3½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
6-8 ounces dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips
A handful of almonds, roughly chopped (just eyeball it)

Using a mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until combined. Mix in the almond extract along with two teaspoons of water.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly pour the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Mix until ingredients are fully incorporated.

Place the dough on a floured surface and form into a log shape. Wrap the log in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap the dough and slice it into about ½ inch slices. Place cookies on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies turn golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool on a wire rack.

While the cookies are cooling, melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in 20-second intervals in the microwave, stirring frequently. Dip the cooled shortbread cookies into the chocolate and then lay them out on parchment paper.

Sprinkle on the chopped almonds, gently pressing them into the melted chocolate so they stick. Allow the chocolate to harden completely before serving. (You can place the cookies in the refrigerator to speed up this process.)

Serve and enjoy!


All the photos in this post were taken by Taylor Rae Photography. Head over to her website to see more of Taylor’s incredible work!


Cold Brew Granola with Chocolate, Walnuts + Chia Seeds

Cold Brew Granola with Chocolate, Walnuts + Chia Seeds | Sarah J. Hauser

Happy Tuesday! How’s your week going? Yeah, I realize we’re only a few days in, but anyone else feel like this week has been about a month long? My kiddos are fighting sickness, and the weather here is still gloomy (although about 40 degrees warmer than last week!). We’ve read all the books, played with Play-Doh, watched movies, spilled Cheerios, snuggled on the couch, and laughed a lot (four-year-olds are hilarious, by the way). And now I need to refuel with coffee and chocolate.

I make recipes with that combination a lot, and maybe it’s overdone…or maybe it’s just that good. Whatever. May coffee and chocolate enjoy a long and happy life together, because they truly make the perfect pair.

I shared this granola recipe a few years ago on an old blog I had, and I decided it was time to give it a facelift. It’s made with cold brew coffee concentrate (I use FreshGround Roasting’s Black Ice Brew), but in a pinch you could use regular strong coffee. This time around, I added in cacao nibs instead of chocolate chips in an attempt to be more healthy, but use whichever you prefer. Throw in some dried cherries, extra nuts, or a hint of cardamom for even more flavor options.

Scroll down to get the recipe!

Cold Brew Granola with Chocolate, Walnuts + Chia Seeds | Sarah J. Hauser
Cold Brew Granola with Chocolate, Walnuts + Chia Seeds | Sarah J. Hauser
Cold Brew Granola with Chocolate, Walnuts + Chia Seeds | Sarah J. Hauser
Cold Brew Granola with Chocolate, Walnuts + Chia Seeds | Sarah J. Hauser
Cold Brew Granola with Chocolate, Walnuts + Chia Seeds | Sarah J. Hauser
Cold Brew Granola with Chocolate, Walnuts + Chia Seeds | Sarah J. Hauser

Cold Brew Granola with Chocolate, Walnuts + Chia Seeds
Yields about 4 cups

3 cups rolled oats
½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
½ cup cacao nibs or semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup cold brew coffee concentrate or strong coffee
⅓ cup honey (sub maple syrup for vegan)
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons olive oil (preferably “light tasting”)
1 Tablespoon chia seeds (optional)
¼ teaspoon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, add all the ingredients and mix well.

Pour mixture onto the baking sheet and spread into a thin layer.

Bake for 35-45 minutes until the granola is crisp, stirring gently 2-3 times throughout the baking process.

Remove the granola from the oven and let it cool completely. Transfer to an airtight container and store until you’re ready to serve. Serve with milk, yogurt, fresh fruit, or additional honey.


Swedish Tea Ring [and practicing remembrance]

Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser

Of the six kids in my family, three of us live in the Chicago area and three live in New Jersey where we grew up. Every year, a few weeks before Christmas, the girls who live nearby in the Chicago suburbs get together to bake. We make couple batches of family-favorite cookies—like chocolate mint cookies and krumkake, a Norwegian waffle-like cookie. Most importantly, though, we make my mom’s Swedish tea ring. Truth be told, it’s actually Betty Crocker’s recipe, but it’s the version we ate on Christmas morning every year as kids.

Swedish tea ring (at least the one we grew up with) is a pastry filled with cinnamon, brown sugar, and raisins and topped with a simple glaze. As kids, we always ate it with cheesy eggs—the two recipes yielding the perfect sweet and savory combination.

Now, the meal reminds me of my mom. It reminds me of our family. And it reminds me of so many Christmases over the years—like the one when we didn’t have money for gifts so we regifted our own things to each other (which still remains the best Christmas ever). Or when we attempted to buy the “tallest of allest” Christmas tree. It turned out to be way too big for our family room, and we chopped off the top to make it fit. Or the first Christmas my husband and I had as a married couple—the same one spent unexpectedly in the hospital with my mom as doctors performed surgery for pancreatic cancer, cancer which took her life just over two years later.

After my mom died, it seemed all the more important to me that we make Swedish tea ring. When life changes, sometimes traditions change with it. This needed to remain. I wanted to practice folding the dough perfectly and shaping it like she did. I wanted to savor those Christmas morning moments with my own kids the way I did years ago.

I have a few more Christmases to go before reaching her level of baking expertise. One year, I forgot that the dough recipe yields two tea rings. My husband and I went to church with his family on Christmas Eve, and I mixed the flour, sugar, and yeast before we left so the dough could rise while we were gone. When we came home, I noticed much to my horror it had risen so big and wide that it seeped over the sides of the pan, looking like Swedish tea blob. (Thankfully it still tasted good.)

But for as long as I can manage, Swedish tea ring will grace our table on Christmas morning. The tradition of making it with the women in my family is one I pray will continue. The pastry and the hands who make it serve as a tangible reminder of my mom, our family’s story, and all that God has done in our lives. It reminds me who we are and what we love. It reminds me that in both good times and hard times, God remains faithful. He was good when we ate this as a family decades ago, and he was good the first Christmas I ate it after my mom died. And he’s good now.

A couple weeks ago, my kids joined our annual tradition, alongside my sister, sister-in-law, and three of my nieces. My twins are just three years old, but they carefully rolled out dough and sprinkled it with brown sugar and raisins. They may not remember this Christmas, but the act of baking with them and others in my family flooded my mind with memories of how far God brought us. He’s brought us through seasons of grief and joy, weariness and flourishing. All along, he’s been faithful and good. May that be a truth I never forget.

Merry Christmas.

(Scroll down for the recipe.)

Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser

Before you bake, I want to give you a few notes on the recipe. This version yields two tea rings. If you don’t need both, this makes a great gift for a neighbor! You could cut the dough recipe in half, but I haven’t actually ever done that myself, so I wrote the recipe as I’ve always made it. Yeast doughs can be finicky, so I didn’t want to mess with what I’ve always done. Common toppings for this include maraschino cherries and nuts, but I usually leave off the cherries and just serve it with a simple glaze and plenty of butter.


Swedish Tea Ring
Yields 2 Tea Rings
Slightly Adapted from Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, 1972

Traditional Sweet Roll Dough (Dough recipe yields 2 tea rings)*

2 packages active dry yeast
½ cup warm water
½ cup lukewarm milk
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
4 ½ - 5 cups all-purpose flour
Cooking spray or butter for greasing

Add the yeast to a large bowl. Pour in the water and stir until the yeast dissolves. Add the milk, sugar, salt, eggs, butter, and 2 cups of flour. Mix until smooth. Add in the remaining flour until the dough is easy enough to handle.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board or countertop. Knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. (You can also use a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.) Grease a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl, then turn it so the greased side is up.

Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place for about an hour and a half, or until double in size. (In the winter in my house, I usually turn the oven on about 300 and then place the dough near the oven. Otherwise, my cold house makes it take forever to rise.)

Punch down the dough and divide it evenly in half.

* If you don’t want to make two tea rings, you can also use the other half of the dough to make cinnamon rolls or other breakfast treats!

For the tea ring (these amounts are for 1 tea ring)

½ recipe of Traditional Sweet Roll Dough
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
½ cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ cup raisins
½ cup walnuts (optional)

On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a large rectangle, about 15x9 inches. Spread the butter all over and sprinkle on the brown sugar and cinnamon. Then add the raisins and walnuts (if using).

Roll the dough lengthwise, and pinch the edges of the dough together to seal it. You can also use a little butter to glue the edges together.

Grease a baking sheet or cover with parchment paper. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet. Shape it into a circle, stretching it to make it even and then pressing the ends together to seal (glue with butter if needed).

With a scissors, make cuts ⅔ of the way through the dough, about 1-inch apart. Gently turn each section on its side. Cover and and let rise until double, about 30-45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the tea rings for about 20 minutes.** Drizzle with vanilla glaze (recipe below) and serve warm with butter.

**We usually make the tea rings a few weeks in advance and then underbake them slightly (baking time is about 16-18 minutes). Then we defrost the tea rings in the fridge the night before and reheat in a low temp oven until warmed through.

Vanilla Glaze (this is enough for 1 tea ring)

1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 Tablespoons of whole milk (depending on how thick you like the glaze)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

In a bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla until smooth. Drizzle on the warm tea ring.


Cranberry Sauce Muffins

Cranberry Sauce Muffins | Sarah J. Hauser

I meant to post these muffins around Thanksgiving when, if you’re like me, you’re swimming in leftovers. But as maybe you can relate, the holiday craziness seemed to appear out of nowhere and suddenly trips to the post office, last minute errands, and making cookies for my kids’ preschool party became both urgent and important tasks. Freshly baked muffins don’t usually qualify as urgent—but hey, still important, right?

Thankfully, cranberry sauce is simple to make even when leftovers are long gone. I’ve also made this muffin recipe using the good ‘ol store bought stuff from the can, although I recommend buying the “whole berry” cranberry sauce instead of the jellied version. (Did anyone else’s grandmother serve the jellied version on a serving dish in the exact shape of the can? I usually buy a can every year and serve it like that in her memory. It’s funny how the random quirks can make such an impression.)

Anyway, here you go: freshly baked muffins with warm spices and festive cranberry sauce. I also highly recommend a generous pat of butter for serving, for obvious reasons.

What are you baking this time of year?

Cranberry Sauce Muffins | Sarah J. Hauser
Cranberry Sauce Muffins | Sarah J. Hauser
Cranberry Sauce Muffins | Sarah J. Hauser
Cranberry Sauce Muffins | Sarah J. Hauser
Cranberry Sauce Muffins | Sarah J. Hauser
Cranberry Sauce Muffins | Sarah J. Hauser

Cranberry Sauce Muffins
Yields 12 regular-sized muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup whole milk
1 egg
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
¾ cup prepared cranberry sauce*
1 Tablespoons turbinado (raw) sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a regular sized muffin tin, or use paper muffin cups.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and butter.

Slowly mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, being careful not to over mix. It’s okay if there are lumps. (If you overmix, the muffins get tough.)

Spoon about half the batter into the prepared muffin tin. Add a spoonful of cranberry sauce on top, distributing the sauce evenly between all the muffins. Top with the remaining batter and a sprinkle of turbinado sugar.

Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Serve warm with butter and enjoy!

*Note: I have also made these using jam, but in my opinion they turned out too sweet. I like the tartness the cranberry sauce brings. If you do use jam, I suggest decreasing the amount and skipping the turbinado sugar.