Meet Zac and Make His Amazing Cookies and Cream Peppermint Bark
This nostalgic recipe will take you straight back to the holidays of your childhood.
The holidays are steeped in nostalgia, representing a time where we dust off old decorations, ugly sweaters, and beloved family recipes to celebrate and make new memories. Nostalgia also happens to be the driving force behind Zac’s Sweet Shop, an LA-based, direct-to-consumer dessert shop helmed by Zac Coughlin, a 24-year-old entrepreneur who’s been obsessed with sweet treats since he was a kid.
“I create bite-sized nostalgia by taking different flavors that you grew up eating and reinventing them in modern desserts, confections, and truffles,” Coughlin says.
Coughlin credits his grandmother for instilling his love of baking at an early age, but while she favored Italian desserts like lady locks, black bottom cupcakes, and apricot cookies, Coughlin describes his style as “artistic and just a little bit left of center.”
That means taking classic desserts like Oreos, chocolate chip cookies, cookie dough, and peppermint bark and gussying them up by dipping and drizzling them in an array of condiments ranging from peanut butter to dark chocolate to sprinkles and more.
The idea for Coughlin’s sweet shop came when he was just 13-years-old and still living in his hometown of Pittsburgh, when he was asked to bring a dessert to a holiday party. But, given his legendary sweet tooth, he knew he had to make something one-of-a-kind.
He describes that fateful grocery store adventure, saying that, “I found some chocolate melting wafers, and I bought those along with some Oreos, pretzels, and strawberries. I bought some colored chocolate as well, dipped some stuff in chocolate, and drizzled them up. I brought them to the party and everyone was like, ‘Where did you buy these from?’ That was when it clicked for me.”
Coughlin wasn’t the first person to dip strawberries in chocolate, but he was confident that he could offer similar treats that were cuter, more inventive, and more affordable than what he was seeing in stores. Three months after that holiday party, Coughlin approached his mom with his business idea and, following an in-depth PowerPoint presentation arguing his case, Zac’s Sweet Shop was born.
Now almost a decade later, Coughlin has expanded from selling to family and friends to a Los Angeles facility where he still bakes everything himself, but is able to ship nationwide. He’s even earned a fan with Beyoncé herself, who listed him as one of her favorite Black-owned businesses in 2020, giving his small business a much-needed boost of popularity.
Coughlin graduated from USC this past year and is looking ahead to 2022, which will mark a decade of Zac’s Sweet Shop, a milestone he plans on celebrating with more in-person activations, pop-ups, and merch.
“Being a direct-to-consumer company has its restraints and I’m really excited for people to sample and experience Zac’s Sweet Shop in person,” he says. He teases that, “There’s definitely going to be a campaign around our 10-year anniversary, including a new sweet release, so stay tuned.”
In the meantime, impress everyone at your holiday parties or go all out for a night in by whipping up Coughlin’s cookies & cream peppermint bark recipe, which takes the traditional holiday dessert up several notches.
Zac’s Cookies & Cream Peppermint Bark
• White chocolate wafers
• 1 box of candy canes (finely crushed)
• Mint candies
• Mini chocolate chips
• Chocolate sandwich Cookies (finely crushed)
- Melt six cups of white chocolate wafers in five 45-second intervals in the microwave (stirring the chocolate every 45 seconds).
- After two 45-second intervals add mint candies.
- Melt for two to three more 45-second intervals, stirring after each interval.
- Once the chocolate is fully melted, add 1½ cups of finely crushed chocolate sandwich cookies, ½ cup of mini chocolate chips, and one cup of crushed candy canes. Stir until well combined.
- Take your full sheet pan and line it with wax paper.
- Pour chocolate bark and use spatula to even out the bark on your pan.
- Put the finished tray of bark in the refrigerator for ten minutes.
- Break bark apart and enjoy!