I Tried Baking Like Martha Stewart, and It’s Harder Than It Looks
On the scale of celebrity chefs, Martha Stewart falls on the more relatable side. Sure, her name is basically synonymous with elegant dinner parties and crafty gifts, but in a cute, not showy, way. Heck, she hosts a show with Snoop Dogg and has even been known to post the occasional unflattering food photo.
So when Marley Spoon asked me if I’d like to try baking Stewart’s four favorite holiday cookies, I didn’t hesitate. Stewart collaborated with the meal kit service to create her first-ever holiday cookie box kit, which comes with pre-portioned dry ingredients and recipe cards to help you bake like Martha, all for $38.99. The box also comes with parchment cookie bags and red and white baker’s twine, so you can package up your goodies to share.
I’m a fairly skilled baker, and Martha Stewart is no Julia Child—I wasn’t going to lose sleep over these recipes, Julie and Julia-style. I accepted the challenge and Martha’s box soon arrived on my doorstep.
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Upon reading through the four recipes, I quickly realized they were more involved than your average Christmas cookie. Stewart asked you to use a double boiler rather than melt butter in the microwave, advised strongly against using the refrigerator as a tool to bring boiling hot ingredients down to room temperature, and didn’t pre-chop the ingredients. While I totally understand the appeal of chopping them myself, cutting candied ginger isn’t something I’d wish on my worst enemy. That stuff is sticky as hell.
Before I go any further, I should clarify that I was trying to bake all four cookie recipes within 24 hours for the sake of a story, something that most sane humans probably won’t be attempting. The total time for each cookie ranges from 45 minutes to 2 hours and 45 minutes, and trying to bake more than one different batch simultaneously turned disastrous when I couldn’t remember which pre-measured bag of sugar or flour was meant for which recipe.
And while I may have cursed Martha once or twice—particularly when I found myself in my freezing cold garage, hammering peppermint candies into tiny pieces—I’ve got to say she knows her stuff. Each and every cookie was utterly delicious and unexpected. From ginger to cardamom, they were filled with unique ingredients that I’d never think to use, but will now be putting on repeat throughout the holiday season.
Keep scrolling for my review of each of Martha Stewart’s signature holiday cookie recipes.
Double-Chocolate Peppermint Brownies
As I mentioned earlier, I would have loved for these peppermint candies to come pre-chopped. Martha recommends that you use a meat mallet or rolling pin to crush the round candies into smaller pieces. After a few blows with a rolling pin, I escalated to a full-on hammer (and the concrete floor of my garage). But while the crushing method was effective, it kept making rips in the plastic bag. I must have triple-bagged the peppermints by the time they were sufficiently crushed, and I still had sticky residue leaking out of the bag onto my hands.
Moving on to the batter, Martha instructed us to use a double boiler to melt the butter and chocolate, something I would have just done in the microwave. Committed to baking just like Martha, I took her advice, and it didn’t turn out to be that much more work, though I can’t say for sure whether the microwave method would have had a negative effect on the brownies overall.
The recipe card also called for lining your baking pan with parchment paper, something I never usually do for brownies, but turned out to be super helpful. In fact, I used parchment paper for all four recipes as Martha advised, and it definitely made clean up easier.
The brownies came out fudgy and delicious—far more rich than any brownies I’ve made from a box. My one qualm was that the peppermint was super melted and thus not aesthetically pleasing. When I make these again, I’ll put the peppermint sprinkle on top when the brownies have already been baking for a while, rather than before they go in the oven.
Chewy Chocolate-Gingerbread Cookies
Martha, Martha, Martha: Next time, I beg you, give us the candied ginger pre-chopped. Because of its texture, it sticks to your knife every time you try to cut it, making it impossible to “finely chop” in an efficient matter.
Similarly, the chocolate should have come in a bar rather than round chips, which are also difficult to chop. A bar at least stays steady for you to cut quickly, whereas the chips kept popping around.
While making this recipe, I also found a discrepancy in the ingredient list versus the contents of my box. The recipe called for baking soda, while my box came with baking powder (or at least something labeled as baking powder). I used it anyway, and the world didn’t end.
Grievances aside, these cookies were incredible. Even my dad, who claims to hate sweets, couldn’t help but love them.
Noel Nut Balls
This is the recipe I was most skeptical about, but might just be my fave. Martha was right: Roasting the pecans really does bring out their flavor, and it wasn’t too much extra work.
My one qualm was the need to refrigerate the dough for an hour, meaning these cookies aren’t something you could whip together in a pinch. But boy were they good.
Brown Butter Cardamom Shortbread Cookies
Before Martha, I had never baked with cardamom, and she made a serious case for incorporating the fragrant spice in baked goods and not just savory dinners.
Every aspect of this recipe was relatively easy to execute, but there was a lot of waiting time in between. After forming the dough, I was instructed to roll it into a ball and let sit for 10 to 12 minutes. Then, I was told to unwrap it, roll it into a log, and let it sit for 15 minutes. Next up, the instructions said to “form a tight cylindrical log” (which was already formed) and pop it in the fridge for 5 to 10 minutes. All that had to happen before I could prepare it to go into the oven.
I’m not positive how different the cookies would have turned out if I didn’t let them sit for these intervals, but considering how they turned out, I’d say they were worth the wait.