Month: October 2016

Halloween Shortbread Cookies

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Hello! And a Happy Halloween to all ghouls, goblins, and whatnots.

Halloween Shortbread Cookies | Sempre Dolce

Can you believe how close we are to November?? Wow. Time just needs to stop. Like, right now.

I’ve mentioned before to you how much I love Halloween but dislike the gruesome side of it – which, maybe you’re thinking “what exactly do you think the point of Halloween is?” Uh, cute costumes, pumpkins, festivals and, well, all that the holiday is just without the oozing blood and extreme obsession with death and darkness. This, of course, is coming from the person who went into a Halloween store once and was totally freaked out by the room they had dedicated to the darker side of things. Hey, I can take spook but in moderation, please. And let’s keep it family friendly, k?

Halloween Shortbread Cookies | Sempre Dolce

Really though, I think I always envisioned and loved the idea of Halloween being what I read about in children’s picture books; sort of a celebration of fall with the aforementioned cute costumes, candy… and all that good stuff.

Can I hear an amen?

Halloween Shortbread Cookies | Sempre Dolce

I tell you what though, one place I’ve been to and would not want to be on Halloween is Salem, MA (totally cheesy). I visited Salem several years back with high expectations and came away sorely disappointed (I wasn’t there on Halloween and sure wouldn’t want to be either!). It was nothing but a tourist trap.

Sooo, are you a Halloween fan or do you think it’s overrated?

Halloween Shortbread Cookies | Sempre Dolce

I don’t know what your plans are and whether you’ve had everything planned for weeks, or are more like me and tend to be running around like a chicken with its head cut off (← there, my attempt at Halloween gore) trying to make sure everything’s ready in time, but regardless you need these cookies in your life asap. And, they’re good for the planned and less planned as they are so easy (I ♥ easy!) and oh-my-goodness delicious. This shortbread is a family recipe and you’ve seen no shortage of it around here and won’t anytime soon. (Of course, I must note that to have it the authentic way, you need to experience it plain with nothing inside and nothing on top – this version will be coming your way soon! – but it is also a very versatile cookie and fun to create with.)

This version I have for you today is extremely easy to make. And if you are still in need of a Halloween treat, these will come together and be ready for eating in time for your parties or after-trick-or-treating crash. We all need a little ease in our life, don’t you think? Especially during these next two months – oh, these next two months… #notready

Halloween Shortbread Cookies | Sempre Dolce

The Lowdown: Rich, buttery shortbread covered in a marshmallow buttercream and topped with chocolate Halloween designs will beat any treat on the block! 

Halloween Shortbread Cookies
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  • 6 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1 C. granulated sugar
  • 2 C. (4 sticks or 1 lb) butter softened and cut into 1 tbsp. slices
  • 2-3 egg yolks (please see note below!)
  • Marshmallow Buttercream:
  • 1 ½ C. powdered sugar
  • ½ C. (1 stick) butter, softened
  • ½ C. marshmallow creme
  • ½ tsp. Vanilla extract
  • For Decorating:
  • ½ C. chocolate chips (I used semisweet)


    For the shortbread:
  1. In a large bowl using a large spoon, mix together flour and sugar.
  2. With your hands, knead butter into flour mixture until well blended, about 5 minutes. It will be done when dough forms a moist crumb and there are no visible chunks of butter.
  3. Using your hands, mix in egg yolks. Start with two, mix and form a small ball. If the dough is too dry and falls apart add the extra yolk. Keep in mind that this is a very crumbly dough in general, but it should still hold together when you squeeze some together in your hand.
  4. Preheat oven to 350° f.
  5. Form about 7 baseball-size balls of dough.
  6. On a lightly floured surface, take one ball at a time and lightly roll to about 1/4 in. thickness with rolling pin (you can also pat it out with your hands - I used a combination of the two). Again, keep in mind that this is a crumbly dough, so as you roll you might need to do some patching.
  7. With a 3 in. round cookie cutter (mine was a little over 3 in. round), cut out cookies, re-rolling/patting dough as needed.
  8. Repeat with remaining dough balls, re-flouring surface as needed. In all, you should get 22-23 cookies total.
  9. Place rounds on a non greased cookie sheet (they can be placed fairly close together as they won't spread while baking).
  10. Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until bottoms begin to brown and cookies are firm to the touch.
  11. Remove cookies from oven and transfer pan to cooling rack for about 10 minutes.
  12. After 10 minutes, remove cookies from pan and transfer directly to cooling rack to finish cooling. Make sure cookies are completely cool before frosting
  13. For the frosting:
  14. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar for 2 minutes, scrape down sides as needed.
  15. Add marshmallow creme and vanilla and beat for an additional 2 minutes, scraping down sides as needed.
  16. To decorate:
  17. Spread a thin (not too thin! I would say a little less than a tablespoon) layer of frosting evenly on each cookie. Place cookies on a surface for decorating (tray, sheet of parchment or wax paper, etc.)
  18. Once cookies have been frosted, melt chocolate chips. Place chocolate into a piping bag with small tip (or do what I did and place in a sandwich-size ziploc with a small piece snipped of the corner, and use that :). Using chocolate, decorate cookies with Halloween-themed decorations - I went the easy route (decorating is not one of my strengths) and did spider webs and a boo! message.
  19. If you’ve added 3 egg yolks and still feel the dough is too crumbly to work with, add an egg yolk more until you feel you have the right consistency (this last time I ended with 4 yolks - 5 if I count the double yolk).
  20. Yields: 22-23 Cookies


If you’ve added 3 egg yolks and still feel the dough is too crumbly to work with, add an egg yolk more until you feel you have the right consistency (this last time I ended with 4 yolks - 5 if I count the double yolk).


Frosting recipe adapted from The Kitchen Magpie.


Pumpkin Spice French Hot Chocolate

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Have you ever tried French hot chocolate?

Pumpkin Spice French Hot Chocolate | Sempre Dolce
I remember the first time I did. It was experienced at Thinking Cup on a very chilly day in Boston.

We were visiting family for Thanksgiving (Boston is one of the best places to be for Thanksgiving, btw) and on the day of our departure home, we visited Thinking Cup Coffee Shop somewhere in Boston’s North End. It was a cozy place with an enjoyable atmosphere; unfortunately I haven’t been back since then. :( Anyway, while there, my brother and I ordered the French Hot Chocolate – now I must break here to say that before then, I hadn’t of heard of French Hot Chocolate and therefore did not know what I was in for. And hot chocolate from a coffee shop, bakery, etc. can be very hit or miss (and it’s usually the latter). But this hot chocolate, this French Hot Chocolate, was a hit – a big hit. It was the most decadent hot chocolate drinking experience e.v.e.r. My brother and I were in pure chocolate bliss, and probably in a state like something out of Willy Wonka. It was so luscious and rich – I had never been so happy drinking a cup of hot chocolate!

Pumpkin Spice French Hot Chocolate | Sempre Dolce

Pumpkin Spice French Hot Chocolate | Sempre Dolce

After that trip, I had to find a recipe for enjoyment at home. I’ve tried David Lebovitz’ recipe and more recently a recipe from Well Plated – both delicious. I mean, like you could ever go wrong with heavy cream and melted chocolate, right? So it should come as no surprise that when trying to figure out how I was going to execute a pumpkin spice hot chocolate, I ended up with this recipe as a result.

Pumpkin Spice French Hot Chocolate | Sempre Dolce

It took me a few tries, lots of chocolate (over one pound!), milk, cream, and pumpkin to get this where I wanted it, but I’ve finally put together a recipe for a rich, pumpkin-chocolaty experience I think you are going to ♥.

Pumpkin Spice French Hot Chocolate | Sempre Dolce

Before you go any further, though, I must note that this recipe is not for the faint of chocolate hearts; it’s like drinking pure chocolate (heaven for chocolate lovers!) and is extremely rich – to be enjoyed in small quantities only. You have been warned…

When making, I would recommend having all of your ingredients ready so nothing gets burnt. Every time I made this, I had my milk and cream measured out and all other ingredients ready to go. It’s not necessary, but highly recommended!

Pumpkin Spice French Hot Chocolate | Sempre Dolce

The Lowdown: This fall/winter beverage combines all that there is to love about pumpkin spice and hot chocolate: pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice blended with chopped chocolate, heavy cream, along with vanilla and a touch of espresso powder, take this French Hot Chocolate to a new level.

Pumpkin Spice French Hot Chocolate
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  • 6 tbsp. pumpkin puree
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. espresso powder (coffee granules can also be used)
  • 1 1/2 C. milk (I used and would recommend whole milk)
  • 1/2 C. heavy cream (or heavy whipping cream)
  • 1 C. bittersweet (or dark) chocolate, finely chopped


  1. In a medium-sized saucepan (no smaller than 1 qt) set over medium heat, cook pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice for 2 minutes, whisking constantly.
  2. Add sugar and stir until it forms a thick syrup, about 30 seconds.
  3. Whisk in milk, heavy cream, espresso powder, and vanilla. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-high heat until very warm (what I mean is not boiling hot but definitely not lukewarm), about 7(ish) minutes.
  4. Remove pan from heat and add chopped chocolate, whisking until completely melted. (If chocolate is not melting all the way, put pan back on burner and whisk mixture until chocolate is thoroughly melted.)
  5. Ladle into mugs and serve with desired toppings - whipped cream with chocolate shavings is extremely tasty, just saying... :)
  6. This recipe serves 3-4


If you can get it, I highly recommend using Trader Joe's 72% dark chocolate bar (bittersweet) or their dark chocolate bar (I get the pound plus bars - so good for baking!).




Spiced Marshmallows

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Marshmallows and spice make hot chocolate so nice… sorry, that was extremely corny.


I have to confess that I’ve given in (and given up). I can’t fight it any longer and will not wait for the cold weather to come to me; if I do, I will sadly be waiting an eternity.

The fall cravings have hit in full force, and it is a terrible thing to be living in Texas when these cravings hit. For cravings of soup and chili, hot chocolate and pumpkin spice lattes, one must be where the air is brisk and leaves are starting their autumnal change. NOT, in a place where you can experience summer, spring, and fall in the span of one week.

Spiced Marshmallows | Sempre Dolce

This is Texas. This is fall in Texas – not ideal, to say the least. However, since this is where I happen to live, I just have to make due. So, from inside my house, the warm wind blowing outside becomes a cool one, and the golden sunshine, which only makes for warmer temperatures, instead becomes a glow of warmth to cut through the cool wind… like I said, I have to make due. This includes food as well: as I hold my cup of hot cocoa or bowl of soup I  have to try and forget the weather outside. As long as I’m inside, it’s fall.

What sort of climate do you live in? Do you live in a place where there’s four seasons, or a place with one season and the other three pop in here in there? Also, do you like your fall on the warm side or more the cool side? (< the latter for me!)

Spiced Marshmallows | Sempre Dolce

I don’t know how the weather is where you live, but I do know that no matter what, it’s time to celebrate the season with appropriate food and drink. On Monday, I posted a recipe for deliciously easy Apple Hand Pies, and now today we’re going to make marshmallows – spiced marshmallows, that is. (I must note here that in a way, this recipe is a prelude to the one I will be posting this upcoming Monday as we will be sticking with the hot chocolate theme.)

Homemade marshamllows. What I love about these little puffs of joy isn’t just the fact that they are 100 x 100 better than store bought. No, what I love most is the melt factor. You place homemade marshmallows on top of hot cocoa and before long you have the most heavenly layer of marshmallow bliss to accompany your every sip, down to the last drop. #yesplease

Spiced Marshmallows | Sempre Dolce

For these marshmallows, we are going to take a blend of spices (cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, cloves) to add a touch of fall goodness and to also add an instant pop of spice to your cup of hot cocoa (or any other beverage you would top with marshmallows).

Spiced Marshmallows | Sempre Dolce

While not one of the quickest things to make (not one of the slowest either, so don’t be scared off!), you won’t regret the time spent, as homemade marshmallows are absolutely worth it. And, unlike other recipes (at least other recipes made for my family), you will have them for hot beverage enjoyment for multiple days – so it’s really all worth it in the end.

Spiced Marshmallows | Sempre Dolce

The Lowdown: These luscious thick and fluffy marshmallows are flavored with a blend of spices to add instant pop to your cup of hot chocolate! 

Spiced Marshmallows
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  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. cloves
  • Powdered sugar (about 1 C.)
  • 3 1/2 envelopes (2 tbsp. plus 2 1/2 tsp.) unflavored gelatin
  • 1 C. cold water, divided
  • 2 C. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C. light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract


  1. In a small bowl, combine spices and set aside.
  2. Oil bottom and sides of a 9x13 in. rectangular metal baking pan; dust bottom and sides with some powdered sugar (make sure it's well coated!).
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl), sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 C. cold water; let stand to soften.
  4. In a 3-qt heavy saucepan, cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, remaining 1/2 C. cold water, and salt over low heat (I actually cooked it over medium-low), stirring with a spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium-high and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F, about 12 minutes. (Note: if you do not have a thermometer, I suggest using the ball test - see note below.) Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture. Stir until gelatin is dissolved.
  5. With a stand (or handheld) mixer, beat mixture on high speed until it is white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about six minutes (if using a hand mixer, about 10 minutes)
  6. In a separate medium-sized bowl using clean beaters (I used my handheld with the little whisk attachment), beat egg whites until they just hold stiff peaks.
  7. Then, beat the whites, vanilla, and spices into sugar/gelatin mixture until just combined, making sure the spices have been thoroughly mixed in.
  8. Pour mixture into baking pan and sift 1/4 C. powdered sugar evenly over the top.
  9. Chill marshmallow in refrigerator, uncovered, for about three hours, or until firm and up to one day.
  10. Once firm, run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert onto a large cutting board. Lifting up one corner of the pan, use your fingers to loosen marshmallow and ease onto cutting board.
  11. Using a large knife, cut into roughly one-inch cubes (or, to be fun, you can cut out small shapes :).
  12. Sift remaining powdered sugar into the baking pan, and roll marshmallows through it, making sure all 6 sides are covered. Shake off the excess sugar and store in an airtight container for up to one week (or plunk some directly into a steaming cup of hot chocolate).


If you do not have a candy thermometer, you can tell if it is at the right temperature by dropping some of the sugar mixture into cold water. If it is at the desired temperature (240° F.), it will form thick threads and when rolled between your fingers, will form a ball. The ball should be soft and easily flattened when pressed.

For cutting the marshmallows, the original recipe notes that you can also use an oiled pizza cutter.


Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

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Apple Hand Pies with Maple Glaze

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Hey – I’m back! And back with some fall goodies that I can’t wait to share with you in the coming weeks.


I don’t know about you, but fall has always been my absolute favorite season – there’s so much to love!

1. Pumpkin everything
2. The pleasant thoughts of cool weather, crisp air; walks crunching through the color changed leaves… (< Note: these thoughts exist only in my dreams because I live in Texas and, well, it’s still 80+ degrees)
3. The anticipation of Halloween then Thanksgiving
4. Pleasant aromas floating through the house
5. Loads of baking (loads of pounds gained…)
6. Fall baseball!! < That is, until your team gets knocked out of the playoffs early… (not going to go there – too much heartache (I’m looking at you Texas Rangers!))
7. Warm, golden sunlight
8. The Sate Fair
9. Pumpkin everything… oh wait, I said that already
10. My brother’s apple pie (not to mention my mom gets into pie baking mode – love!)

I think you get the point: me + fall = ☺


Speaking of apple pie though, I have a deliciously easy recipe that you need to add to your fall baking repertoire. I haven’t always been a big fan of apple pie; I loved my brother’s irresistible crust soaked with the juices from the filling, but the filling itself – not so much. However, over the past few years my taste buds have done some major changing and refining and will now accept some foods as likable and also try previously “no thank you” foods. This includes apple pie. So, I’m happy to say that my grandfather’s apple pie ♥ gene passed down to me after all: I now love apple pie – all of it.

(You hear that, Hunter?? That’s code for: it’s time to get baking! I’ll get some granny smith’s at the store this week, k?) < pardon the personal message to my brother there…

img_3478 img_3546

Last year I posted a killer recipe for fried apple pies (mmm… I could use one right now) and can’t wait for you to try these as well. What we are going to do is take some puff pastry – I love puff pastry, it’s so versatile – fill it with a luscious apple pie filling, bake, and top with a maple glaze to finish. And there you have it: fall, right in the palms of your hands.


I love this recipe as it is easy (I used prepared puff pastry to make life easier, but feel free to make your own and then send some my way, please?), and delicious – a combination hard to pass up. And the glaze on top provides us with a delicious prelude to the flaky, succulent goodness beneath. I didn’t time it, but from start to finish, you should have these pies from oven to mouth in 1 hour or less – can’t get much better than that.

If you make these pies (please do!) I would love to know how you liked them – so if you could comment, email, or tag me (@sempredolceblog) on social media, I would be a bundle of happiness!

Cottura felice!

The lowdown: These hand pies begin with a flaky puff pastry crust before biting into the luscious apple pie filling inside; topped with a spiced maple glaze and easy to make, these Apple Hand Pies are a treat hard to pass up! 



Apple Hand Pies with Maple Glaze
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  • 4 C. apples (about 3 large - granny smith work well), peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 C. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 C. brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 sheets puff pastry, thawed (I used 1 (17.3 oz) box of puff pastry sheets)
  • Glaze:
  • 3/4 C. powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp. milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground cloves


  1. In a medium/large bowl, toss apples with the lemon juice.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the next 4 ingredients.
  3. Spoon mixture over apples and toss gently to coat.
  4. Place apple mixture in a frying pan over medium-high heat, covered, for about 10 minutes; stirring occasionally until juices begin to bubble.
  5. Remove from heat and set aside.
  6. Preheat oven to 400° f. and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. Working on a floured surface, roll one puff pastry sheet to about 15 1/2 in. in length and 9 1/2 in. wide.
  8. Divide and cut into 3 (5 in. W) rectangles; then, divide and cut each rectangle in half.
  9. Finally, divide and cut each rectangle half into... 1/2. < all about the 1/2's here!
  10. Set halves aside in pairs of two (6 pairs per sheet). Repeat steps 7-10 with second pastry sheet.
  11. For each pair of puff pastry: on one half, spoon about 1 tbsp. of filling, leaving a little bit of room around the edges. Place second half on top and lightly press around the edges to seal.
  12. Then, take a fork and press around the edges to seal completely. Repeat with remaining pastry pairs - in the end you should have 12 hand pies.
  13. Divide pies between baking sheets, placing about 2 in. apart.
  14. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg with a small splash of heavy (or whipping) cream and brush over tops of pies.
  15. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
  16. Remove from oven and allow to cool. While pies are cooling, make glaze.
  17. For the glaze: sift powdered sugar into small bowl. Add remaining ingredients and whisk to combine.
  18. When pies are cool enough to handle, pour some glaze onto a dish (I used a medium-sized plate). Dip each pie top into glaze, making sure tops are completely covered. Refill dish with glaze as needed until all pies have been covered.
  19. Let pies sit for a few minutes to allow glaze to set.
  20. Serve warm.


The apple filling can also be made and used as a pancake/waffle topper - delicioso!

Filling adapted from Southern Living Glaze adapted from Epicurious