This is the ultimate Holiday Brownie and Bar Box! A twist on the classic cookie box and packed full of brownie and bar ideas for you to make for the holidays, this treat box has something for everyone.
Table of contents
Holiday Bar Box
Hi hi! Mike and I are back with another holiday treat situation - this Holiday Bar Box! The Thanksgiving doughnuts that we collaborated on were so fun to make together, we decided that we needed to do something holiday themed. Mike has an incredible book, 'Even Better Brownies' that just came out, and he is the Brownie, Bar and Slice King of the internet (I just assigned him this role), so it was a no-brainer when deciding what we should make!
We made three recipes each (except one of mine is from his book!), and popped them all in a super cute box. We tried hard to come up with a great selection of bars so that there is a variation in recipes to give you some ideas if you're still looking for that holiday baking inspiration. If you break up the workload over a day or two, or enlist the help of a friend or family member, it would be super easy to make these all if you wanted to, and they all go together so well to make the perfect Holiday Bar Box.
Recipes in Holiday Bar Box
Here's what we ended up with in our Holiday Bar Box (listed from top to bottom in image, left to right)
- Peppermint Patty Brownies
- Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats
- Birthday Cake Blondies
- Oaty Ginger Crunch
- Espresso Carmelitas
- Brown Butter Salted Caramel Slice
Peppermint Patty Brownies
Mike developed this recipe for the Holiday Cookie Issue of Bake from scratch magazine, and to be honest, they are everything that I want in a holiday treat. There is a layer of brownie, topped with a peppermint icing layer, and then a smooth layer of chocolate. Brownie, Peppermint, and extra chocolate? Just the best.
Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats
You can't go wrong with a Rice Krispie Treat, ESPECIALLY if it has brown butter in it. Mike's recipe has a healthy dose of brown butter and salt, which makes these gooey and delicious but with an incredible depth of flavour. To make them holiday themed he popped some festive sprinkles in them and also sprinkled on top before leaving them to set. These are just SO GOOD - I made up a few little treat bags for friends after we shot this Holiday Bar Box, but left all the Rice Krispies for me. Too good to share. The recipe for these is from Mike's Book.
Birthday Cake Blondie Bars
These come from Mike's new book! I made them a few weeks ago to help celebrate the book launch, with regular rainbow sprinkles. They are so, so good, that I just had to make them again, this time switching up the sprinkles for something a little festive. These Birthday Cake Blondies are soft and chewy, and just so, so good. I used white chocolate chips in them per Mike's recipe, but you could absolutely switch it up a little. Caramelised white chocolate or milk chocolate would go so well in these too.
Oaty Ginger Crunch
This is a favourite recipe of mine and a New Zealand bakery classic. I was absolutely not mad about making it again. It's an oaty ginger base, topped with a super sweet, spicy ginger icing. It's really easy to make - you assemble the base and bake, then put together the icing top while the base is baking. The icing is poured over the hot oaty base, and left to set. Super, super easy.
You can slice them into bigger bars if you like, but my favourite way to eat bars / slices is to cut them up into tiny little bits and snack on them, so we did that with the ginger crunch. It is super sweet and very spicy so having a tiny bit at a time is just the best. I left these plain, but you could also finish them off with some more caramelised ginger, chopped nuts, or a little lime zest.
Espresso Carmelita Bars
I had no idea what Carmelita bars were until Mike made them, and I'm pretty mad I didn't know about them until now. They are made up of an oaty base mixture, which gets divided in two. Half is pressed into the pan, then a layer of chocolate and espresso caramel (!!) is added, and then the rest of the base mixture. The result is these super gooey, SUPER delicious bars, with caramel and chocolate. The espresso just takes the edge off the sweetness a little. They are just so, so good. This recipe is from Mike's book but I am so stoked he's also sharing it here because you need these.
Brown Butter Salted Caramel Slice
This is another favourite of mine and a twist on the NZ classic bakery staple. Brown Butter Shortbread is topped with a chewy brown butter caramel layer, and finished with a smooth chocolate topping with some white chocolate feathering. This Brown Butter Salted Caramel Slice keeps super well in the fridge for at least a week, so can be made well ahead of time.
FAQ for Holiday Bar Box
Yes, all of them can be made ahead of time! Store the peppermint patty brownies and the brown butter salted caramel slice in an airtight container in the fridge. Store the others in airtight containers at room temperature.
A large, sharp knife is the best way to get super clean cuts on your bars. For some recipes like the ginger crunch it is helpful to heat the blade of the knife up first by running it under hot water and drying with a paper towel so that it is warm but dry. This helps cut through the topping neatly. I have a chef's knife with a 12" blade on it which is so helpful for this, but a good sharp regular sized chef's knife would work great too.
The Ginger crunch, Rice Krispies, Carmelitas and Birthday Cake Blondies would all ship super well. Just make sure they are securely packed in a ziploc bag and fill the box so they aren't banging around. The Peppermint Patty Brownies and the Salted Caramel Slice are best stored in the fridge because of the chocolate topping, so probably would get a little banged up in shipping.
I use this box, and then Rich made me some dividers on the laser cutter and I glued them in with a hot glue gun. You could either make your own dividers with craft wood and a craft knife, or you could just arrange all the bars in the box nicely too, or use things like cupcake liners to separate out the treats from one another.
All of these can be made ahead super easily, so you can make them over the course of a day or two. Just make yourself a list and go for it, and check things off as you go. Alternatively you could divide and conquer with a family member or friend, and make a few recipes each, then split them up. The recipes can be easily doubled and made in a 9"x13" pan too if you wanted to make more. They all keep so well, that they are great to make ahead.
For more treat box recipes, check out:
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These Peppermint Patty Brownies are the perfect holiday treat. They have a brownie base, topped with a peppermint icing and a smooth chocolate topping. See more notes on the recipe here
- 200 g granulated sugar
- 60 g all-purpose flour
- 25 g unsweetened natural or Dutch process cocoa powder
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp fine sea salt
- 115 g unsalted butter melted
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 300 g powdered sugar sifted
- 15 g unsalted butter softened
- ½ tsp peppermint extract
- ¼ tsp vanilla bean paste
- 30 to 60 g boiling water
- 100 g 70% cacao dark chocolate chopped
- 60 g unsalted butter
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease and line an 8×8-inch pan with parchment paper, letting the excess extend over the sides of the pan. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter, eggs, and vanilla until well combined. Add the butter mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour the brownie batter into the prepared pan and spread it into an even layer.
- Bake for 30 to 33 minutes. Test the brownies with a toothpick at the 30-minute mark. Insert it into the center of the pan; if it comes out with wet batter, the brownies are not done. If there are only a few moist crumbs, the brownies are done. Keep checking every 2 minutes until you have moist crumbs. Allow brownies to cool completely to room temperature in the pan before proceeding.
- Place powdered sugar, butter, peppermint extract, and vanilla bean paste in a medium bowl. Add 3 tablespoons (45 grams) of boiling water, and stir until incorporated. (It should resemble a thick paste). Add additional boiling water 1 teaspoon (5 grams) at a time, if needed, to help get to correct consistency.
- Immediately top the cooled brownie layer with the peppermint filling. Use a damp offset spatula to help smooth the peppermint filling into an even layer. Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes.
- In the top of a double boiler, combine chocolate and butter. Cook over simmering water, stirring frequently, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
- Immediately top the chilled, set peppermint filling layer with the chocolate topping. Slam pan on a kitchen towel-lined counter to release any air bubbles. Refrigerate until topping is set, about 2 hours.
- Using excess parchment as handles, remove from the pan and cut into bars. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Keywords: Peppermint Patty, Brownies, Peppermint Patty Brownies
These Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats are gooey and super flavourful. They come together quickly with only a few ingredients, and have holiday sprinkles added for a festive twist. This recipe comes from Mike's new book.
- 170 g unsalted butter
- ½ tsp kosher/coarse sea salt
- 1½ tsp vanilla extract
- 285 g mini marshmallows (1-10oz bag)
- 170 g Rice Krispies cereal
- 80 g festive sprinkles (½ cup)
- Line a 9 x 9–inch (22 x 22–cm) pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper, leaving an overhang on all sides. Set it aside.
- Place the butter in a light-colored skillet. (The light-colored skillet will help you determine when the butter begins browning.) Melt the butter over medium heat, stirring constantly. Once melted, the butter will start to foam. Keep stirring. After 5 to 8 minutes, the butter will begin browning; you’ll notice lightly browned specks begin to form at the bottom of the pan, and you’ll start to smell a nutty aroma. Once browned, immediately remove from the heat, then stir in the salt and vanilla.
- Working quickly, add half of the marshmallows and stir until thoroughly melted. Add the remaining marshmallows and stir until melted. (The residual heat from the butter should be enough to melt them without adding the heat, but you can return the pot to medium-low heat for a few minutes if the second addition of marshmallows isn’t melting quickly.) Note: After you add the marshmallows, keep the heat on low or below medium-low. If your marshmallow is exposed to heat that’s too high, you’ll end up with treats hard enough to break your teeth!
- Add the cereal and about ¾ of the sprinkles and gently fold in with a rubber spatula coated in nonstick cooking spray until the cereal is completely covered with the marshmallow mixture. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Using the rubber spatula, gently press the mixture into an even layer. Sprinkle the remaining sprinkles on top.
- Let the treats stand at room temperature until set, about 1 hour, before cutting into bars. The treats can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Don’t pack the Rice Krispie Treats into the pan too tightly; gently spread them evenly into the prepared pan. If you pack them too tightly, they can end up dense and difficult to bite through.
Keywords: Brown Butter Rice Krispie, Rice Krispie Treats, Brown Butter, Holiday Rice Krispie Treats
- 180g All-Purpose Flour
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 115g unsalted butter, melted
- 165g dark brown sugar
- 100g granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
- 4 Tbsp holiday, plus 1 tsp for the top
- 90g white chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 350°f / 180°c. Grease an 8"x8" (20cm x 20cm) square cake pan and then line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on all sides. Grease the parchment paper then set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk the melted butter, dark brown sugar, and granulated sugar together for about a minute. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until lighter in colour, about 4 minutes (I used a handheld electric mixer). Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
- Gently fold in the sprinkles and the white chocolate chips until evenly incorporated. Transfer the batter to the pan and top with the 1 tsp rainbow sprinkles.
- Bake until the top and edges are set and golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the blondies to cool in the pan for 45 minutes before removing and slicing.
- Cover and store leftover blondies in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 to 3 days.
Keywords: Birthday Cake Blondies, Blondies, Holiday Blondies
Ginger crunch is a classic 'slice' or bar recipe from New Zealand. A chewy, gingery, oaty base is topped with a sweet, spicy ginger icing and left to cool before being sliced into bars. It is sweet but spicy, and makes the perfect treat!
- 300g all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 300g brown sugar
- 135g rolled oats (old fashioned oats)
- 225g unsalted butter, cold from the fridge is fine
- 90g golden syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract.
- 135g unsalted butter, cold from the fridge is fine
- 125g golden syrup
- 2 Tbsp ground ginger (dial back to 1 1/2 Tbsp if you don't want a super intense ginger flavour)
- 325g icing sugar / powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350°f / 180°c. Grease a 9" x 9" (23cm square) tin, and line with two pieces of parchment paper, so that there is paper sticking out of the tin on all sides, forming a 'sling'.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and ground ginger. Add the brown sugar and rolled oats, and mix well to combine.
- In a small pot, melt together the butter, golden syrup and vanilla. Add to the dry ingredients, and mix well. Press the mixture into the tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until lightly golden on the edges. Five minutes before the base is done, prepare the topping.
- For the topping, add all of the ingredients to a medium pot in the order listed. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. Pour over the hot base, and leave to set at room temperature until set. Slice into pieces with a hot knife.
- Store in an airtight container. Can be kept in the fridge, but bring to room temperature before eating.
Keywords: ginger crunch, oats, old fashioned oats, new zealand, slice, bar, ginger slice
These Espresso Carmelitas have an oaty base, and a chocolate espresso caramel filling. They come together quickly and are gooey and perfect with a cup of coffee. This recipe is from Mike's new book
- 200g granulated sugar
- 85g unsalted butter
- 120g heavy cream
- 1½ tsp espresso powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 170g unsalted butter, melted
- 165g light brown sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 120g all-purpose flour
- 80g old-fashioned oats
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- 175g semisweet chocolate chips
- 55g pecans, chopped
- 1 batch espresso caramel
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the granulated sugar, stirring with a high heat–resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon. The sugar will form clumps and eventually melt into a thick, amber-colored liquid as you continue to stir. Be careful not to burn it!
- Once the sugar is completely dissolved, about 10 minutes, immediately add the butter and stir until melted, about 2 minutes. (Be careful with this step, because the caramel will bubble rapidly when the butter is added.) Very slowly drizzle in the heavy cream while stirring. Allow the mixture to boil for 30 to 45 seconds, then remove it from the heat. Stir in the espresso powder and salt and set it aside until needed.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray an 8 x 8–inch (20 x 20–cm) pan with nonstick cooking spray and line the pan with parchment paper with an overhang on two sides. Spray the parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray and set it aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the melted butter, light brown sugar, vanilla, flour, oats, baking soda and salt. Stir everything together with a fork. Press half of the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the top evenly with the chocolate chips and pecans, and then with the espresso caramel. Crumble the remaining oat mixture over the caramel. Return the pan to the oven and continue to bake for 18 to 20 minutes, just until the edges are lightly browned.
- Remove from the oven. Cool in the pan on a wire rack at least 3 hours before removing and cutting into bars. Cover and store leftover bars in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 to 3 days.
Keywords: Carmelitas, espresso caramel, espresso carmelitas
Toasty brown butter shortbread is topped with a chewy, silky brown butter caramel, and finished off with a smooth layer of chocolate.
- 380g unsalted butter, cold from the fridge is fine
Brown Butter Shortbread Base
- 170g brown butter, at room temperature, spreadable consistency (see notes)
- 85g dark brown or light brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 3/4 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- 275g all-purpose flour
Brown Butter Salted Caramel Filling
- 1 14oz (400g) can Sweetened Condensed Milk
- 185g dark brown or light brown sugar
- 100g brown butter
- 50g golden syrup or corn syrup
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt (drop to 1/2 tsp if you don’t like your caramel super salty)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 180g dark chocolate
- 30g neutral flavoured oil
- Optional for feathering - 50g white chocolate melted with 1/2 tsp neutral flavoured oil
- Place the butter in a medium saucepan, and place over medium heat. Cook until the butter has melted, and then continue to cook, swirling the pan often, until the butter foams and turns golden brown and nutty - this should take 3-4 minutes.
- Transfer to a bowl, allow to cool slightly, then transfer the bowl to the freezer and chill the butter until solid. Remove from the freezer and bring to room temperature, stirring often, until soft and spreadable.
BROWN BUTTER SHORTBREAD BASE
- Preheat the oven to 325°f / 165°c. Grease an 8” (20cm) square pan and line with two pieces of parchment paper that extend over the sides of the pan to use as handles.
- In a medium bowl, cream together the spreadable brown butter and brown sugar using a spoon or spatula. Add the salt, vanilla, and flour, and bring together to form a soft, homogenous dough. Pat the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan, smoothing down with a flat bottomed measuring cup or offset spatula. Prick all over and chill for 10 minutes.
- Bake the base for 30 to 35 minutes, until set and evenly golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
BROWN BUTTER SALTED CARAMEL FILLING
- Place the Sweetened Condensed Milk, brown sugar, brown butter and golden syrup in a medium sized heavy bottomed saucepan.
- Place over a medium heat and stir until melted together, then cook, stirring constantly with a whisk or rubber spatula (I like to use a whisk then switch to the rubber spatula), until the mixture registers 220°f / 105°c on a candy thermometer. Watch the bottom carefully to avoid the mixture catching, turning down the heat if needed.
- Once the caramel has reached the correct temperature, add the vanilla and salt, mix well to incorporate, and pour it over the cooled shortbread base and smooth off by shaking the pan and using an offset spatula if needed. Transfer to the fridge and allow to set for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until you can no longer feel heat in it.
- In a heat proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt together the chocolate and the oil, stirring frequently, until smooth. Alternatively, melt together in the microwave in 30 second increments, stirring well after each.
- Pour over the set caramel filling, and tilt the pan to evenly coat. Bang the pan on the counter several times to smooth out the topping and eliminate any bubbles. If you would like to add the feathering, pipe horizontal stripes of the melted white chocolate across the surface, then feather using a skewer by dragging it up and down the surface of the chocolate, perpendicular to the lines that you piped.
- Chill in the fridge until completely set, at least an hour or up to overnight. Remove from the pan by using the parchment paper slings. cut into slices using a sharp knife, wiping between each. Store in an airtight container.
Keywords: Caramel Slice, Brown Butter, Salted Caramel, Millionaire's Shortbread