Tag Archives: Chocolate

Almond Cake with Chocolate Frosting

12 Feb

This is more of a concept than a recipe, but I’ll at least post enough for you to re-create it on your own, if you were so inclined.

I’d really like to work more on my presentation skills, but I’m pretty terrible at decorating. Any time I serve up a dessert that looks like a big ole delicious mess of chocolate, I typically huff and puff and said something like, ‘It doesn’t matter what it looks like, it only matter that it tastes delicious!’ But seriously, it’s time to step it up a notch. Though I do believe that taste is more important than looks, it also doesn’t hurt to look pretty.

I got this idea from a blog whose picture I saw on Pinterest. (Oh, Pinterest. You are responsible for my craftiest of urges.) The blog is in Swedish, but you’ll get the gist.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison so you can see how good mine looks compared to the original. Considering that’s a top-notch Swedish creation, I’m pretty proud of mine. I mean, Swedish and flawlessly executed design are practically synonymous. We’re talking about a people who have brought us Ikea, Volvos, and meatballs.

Not bad, huh?

When I saw that picture, I decided I needed to try out that frosting technique. And ever since I bought some almond extract, I’ve been meaning to use it for more than just the truffles that I messed up so badly I had to throw away. Enter almond cake with chocolate frosting.

I couldn’t find a recipe for almond cake that pleased me well enough, so essentially I just made a white cake and added almond extract instead of vanilla. So here’s the recipe: Use whatever cake recipe or mix you like, add some almond extract, and taste the batter until you like it. I baked it in a springform pan so the sides would be straight.

Then I whipped up some of my Best Chocolate Frosting Ever. I spread a liberal amount onto the finished almond cake and then loaded the rest into my decorating bag. I used a #32 tip because that’s the biggest one I had, but really, you could use any large decorating tip. Betsy helped me out with this one by piping big dollops in a line around the rim of the cake while I went behind her with a spoon to flatten the drops out and spin the cake. Handy with two people, but certainly do-able on your own.

Dollop!

 

Spooning.

We left the center of the cake flat, free of dollops. I could say it was for effect, but really, we ran out of frosting. Looks good, though, huh?

Voila

I toasted some sliced almonds and pressed them into the sides, and voila – finished! (Actually, that’s not true. I burnt the first batch of almonds, toasted a second batch, and then voila.)

Yum yum

Enjoy this fancy cake served up right on fancy china.

 

Simpler German Chocolate Cake

22 Jan

A couple months ago, I volunteered to bake my dad’s birthday cake. Probably his favorite dessert would be anything fruit-related, but he’s also a huge fan of German chocolate cake, which I’ve never attempted before. And he hasn’t had one for his birthday in years. According to my sister, who hates German chocolate cake, he requested it “every single year,” but I don’t remember this – must have been before I was around. I started researching recipes and wow were they complicated. Most included buttermilk and a complicated process, and I didn’t intend to go to the grocery store or work that hard. So maybe this isn’t an authentic German chocolate cake, maybe I took a few shortcuts, but it’s still pretty awesome.

I decided to save a little time by going with a cake mix but a scratch-made frosting and filling. I started by making a chocolate cake according to its package directions. I baked it in a 9″ springform pan so that the sides would be straight up and not slanted, easier for slicing and stacking into layers. Since I did the entire batch in one pan, it took about 40 minutes to bake. If you did two 8″ rounds, it would bake faster, and you wouldn’t have to worry about slicing. Just fyi.

While it baked, I worked on the frosting/filling. I separated the yolks of 3 eggs and added them to a medium saucepan. (I saved the whites for breakfast the next day.) I added in 1/2 cup white sugar1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 1 cup evaporated milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. I stirred everything up well and then turned on the stove to medium heat. I recommend stirring things well before you turn the heat on and continuing to stir well, because I had some issues with eggs cooking too fast. Egg chunks in frosting is not ideal. 

I let this cook, stirring almost continuously, until it was nice and thick. I removed the pot from the heat and stirred in 1 1/3 cup coconut flakes and 1 cup chopped pecans. I let it cool on the stove top for a while and then cooled it even more in the fridge, till it was a spreadable consistency.

Layer 1

Layer 2 on Standby

All that was left was to assemble. I sliced the cake in half to get two round layers. I spread a thick layer of the coconut-pecan mixture all around and then carefully set the top layer back onto the cake. Then I spread the coconut-pecan frosting all around the top. All that was left was the birthday candles.

Deutscher Schokoladenkuchen!

Brownie Caramel Cheesecake

13 Nov

I was recently invited to a friend’s birthday party, and the birthday lady requested to hang out with friends, play games, and eat cheese. Sounds like a perfect celebration to me. All the guests were asked to bring some dish to share that had cheese. Of course I wanted to bake something, which logically led to cheesecake. But then I heard that another party-goer was bringing baked goods. What? Excuse me? Does he have a baking-themed blog that he painstakingly updates every few months? I don’t think so. Clearly, I needed to up the ante. No more plain classic cheesecake. Enter… brownie caramel cheesecake. Perfect. (You can see the original recipe I found here.)

Betsy came over to help me out with this one, and we started off by preheating the oven to 350 F and greasing my 9″ springform pan. In a medium bowl, we mixed together 1 package brownie mix, 1 egg, and 1 tablespoon cold water. We spread that into the pan and baked it for 25 minutes.

That's not my arm!

While it baked, we worked on the caramel. We unwrapped a whole bag of individual caramels. This is where I deviated from the recipe a bit. It called for a 5-oz can of evaporated milk, which I didn’t have. So instead I mixed in about 5 tablespoons butter and a few spoonfuls of sweetened condensed milk to thin it up a bit. This worked out pretty well, except it was a bit tough, so I recommend testing out the evaporated milk route and see if that works better. Once everything was all melted together, we set aside about 1/3 cup of the caramel mixture in a bowl and got to work on the cheesecake part.

Mmm... melty caramel

In a large bowl, we beat 2 (8 oz) packages softened cream cheese, 1/2 cup white sugar, and 1 teaspoon of almond extract until smooth. I’ll be honest, the only reason I used almond is because I ran out of vanilla. We then added 2 eggs, one at a time, beating just slightly between each one. The key to a good cheesecake, as Betsy says, is to not beat it too much, which allows air to get into the batter, causing cracks when it bakes.

Cheesecake Batter

This was just in time to pull the brownie base out of the oven. I poured the caramel mixture into the pan, keeping that small amount I set aside for later. Then I poured the cream cheese mixture overtop the caramel, spreading evenly to the edges. We popped it into the oven.

Caramel LayerCheesecake Layer

The recipe says to bake it for 40 minutes. We baked it probably a total of 50 because the center looked like it wasn’t finishing. The problem was, the crust over-baked. Next time, I’ll bake the brownie crust for probably half the time. Anyway, the results were still amazing.

After we pulled the cheesecake out and popped the ring off the springform pan, we set out to top it with caramel and chocolate. Betsy poured the caramel in, but it was really thick, so we ended up with large globs instead of a pretty stream. No matter. I spread the caramel into wide zig-zap stripes. (If you use the evaporated milk instead of the butter like we did, your caramel may not be thick enough for this, but you should be able to pull off a nice drizzle.)

That caramel is not really pouring so well

Next I melted 1/4 cup chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons butter in the microwave on 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until it was perfectly smooth. Then I spooned chocolate on top of the cake in between the caramel zags. We made a few drips of chocolate — whoops! So to cover them up, we just decided to drip chocolate polka dots all over the caramel. Perfect. By the time we were done, the entire top of the cake was covered in either caramel or chocolate, and it looked simply amazing.

Brownie Caramel Cheesecake

And I must say, later that night, after the birthday lady blew out the candles, it tasted amazing. It was very rich, so everyone just needed a small slice, which really helped make such a small cake go a long way. And as I mentioned above, the crust was a little tough, but that’s easily remedied next time. Definitely a recipe I’ll be coming back to.

I'm ready for my close-up

Cauldron Cakes, Cockroach Clusters, and Licorice Wands

14 Jul

Oh, bittersweet day. The last film of the Harry Potter series will be released at midnight, and I am both incredibly excited, but also sad that after I see the film… well, that’s it. No more movies, no more books. A character — no, an entire universe — that I grew up with will come to an end.

When I say that my generation grew up with Harry Potter, I mean my generation. Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone was released in 1997, 2 months after my 11th birthday; within the first few chapters, Harry celebrates his 11th birthday. I am the HP generation.

In my humble opinion, I am intense about Harry Potter, but I’m not insane about Harry Potter. I attended one midnight book release party once with my cousins, I think maybe for the 6th book. I’ve never been to a midnight movie release, but I have always seen the movies within a week of their release, and I own all the so-far released DVDs. I was briefly addicted to two different HP computer games. When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final installment of the series, was released, I read the entire book in two days, which was may attempt to pace myself and savor it. And I dragged the BF to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter a couple months after it opened at Universal Studio’s Islands of Adventure. So… maybe a little crazy.

In honor of the end of an era, I have a few Harry Potter-themed recipes to share with you. I have planned entire HP-themed Halloween parties in the past, and trust me, if you need more HP recipes, there are plenty online. These three will get you started though. I’ll be taking these with me to an outdoor screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, which will set me up perfectly to see Part 2 in a few days. If you haven’t seen the Hogwarts Express tea trolley come by and you don’t have time to run over to Honeydukes, try out these recipes yourself. And if any Muggles ask you for the recipe, just tell them they were made with magic.

Cauldron Cakes

Chocolate cupcakes (cauldrons) filled with liquid chocolate are the simple concept behind these cakes. You can use whatever recipe you’d like, homemade or boxed. This recipe is for a basic chocolate cake. 

I started by preheating the oven to 350 F and lining a cupcake pan with papers. Then I whisked together 1 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp baking powder, and 1/4 tsp salt.

In another bowl, I beat 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter with my hand mixer on medium for about 30 seconds. Then I gradually added  1 1/4 cup sugar, scraping the sides of the bowl, mixing for 2-3 minutes. I added 2 eggs, one at a time, beating after each one. Then I beat in 1 tsp vanilla. To finish the batter, I alternated adding the flour mixture and 1 cup milk, beating until well incorporated. 

Cauldron Cake Batter

I filled cupcake tins not too full — I didn’t want a muffin top puffing out from the cupcakes. This batch made for about 20 cupcakes. I baked them for about 18-20 minutes, rotating halfway through.

I used my magic wand to fill these evenly and perfectly.

I pulled the cupcakes out and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Then I removed them from the pan and let them cool completely. Now for the contents of the cauldron: chocolate ganache. My ganache recipe is a simple 2:1 ratio of chocolate to butter. So for this recipe, I melted 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips and 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter with my simple microwave technique: dump it in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave it on 20-second intervals, stirring well after each round, until it’s smooth.

I used a cupcake corer to scoop a hole out of the middle of each cupcake. I spooned some ganache in and let it cool. The butter will allow it to firm up without getting hard. Abracadabra! A chocolate cauldron filled to the brim with liquid dark chocolate.

You won't need a Vanishing Spell to clear out these Cauldron Cakes.


Cockroach Clusters

These are super easy and make a great addition to a Harry Potter or Halloween spread. Only 2 ingredients, and very few steps.

First start out by melting some chocolate — I used Ghiradelli semisweet chocolate chips. Same process as for the ganache above: microwave on 20-second intervals, stirring well after each round, until it’s smooth.

Melting some chocolateOnce I had smooth chocolate, I mixed in a handful of dried chow mein noodles. (You can use wheat or rice, either works fine).

The ingredients.Don’t worry about specific measurements, just mix in what looks right. You want them to be sufficiently crunchy without any of the noodles sticking out too much. As I stirred them together, I used the spoon to crunch up some of the bigger pieces. Then I just scooped out spoonfuls and plopped them on a cookie sheet covered in wax paper and left them to harden. I had a tiny bit of chocolate left in the bottom of the bowl, so I added a few dollops to the clusters that looked like they could use some extra glue.

Cockroach Clusters

Licorice Wands

These are also super easy. With the same chocolate melting process, I melted some white chocolate chips: microwave on 20-second intervals, stirring well after each round, until it’s smooth. I seem to have more difficulty with white chocolate than regular chocolate, so make sure you’re doing shorter intervals and stirring a little more vigorously.

Then I coated one end of a piece of licorice, making sure it was quite thick so it would resemble a handle.

Licorice WandsObviously these would look more convincing with black licorice, but I can’t stand the stuff, so I went with Twizzlers instead.

Safety first! Keep those wands pointed away from grabbing hands.

Now enjoy your cakes and candies, grab your wand, and practice your spells!

Broccoli Brownies

20 May

Sounds disgusting, right? But much like the spinach cupcakes, they were actually pretty good! Since I committed to creating one meal and one dessert for each seasonal crop in North Carolina this year, I was again at a bit of a loss for broccoli. I Googled “broccoli dessert” and had very little success with fitting results. A search for “Broccoli cake” turned out a little better. My favorite result was this Broccoli Forest Cake, which I may have to try out one day. But from reading the recipes, I wasn’t quite convinced that any of my findings would be sweet enough if I truly focused on the broccoli.  So instead I decided to pull another Jessica Seinfeld and just hide that broccoli in a delicious dessert. Brownies it is.

Fresh Broccoli

I started off by pureeing fresh broccoli florets in my food processor (best kitchen purchase EVER). It resulted in a consistency kind of between powder and sand. I pureed enough to make 3/4 to 1 cup broccoli and set it aside. I preheated the oven to 350 F and got to work on my batter.

About to get processed

In a large bowl, I whisked together the dry ingredients: 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup cocoa, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Dry Ingredients

In a separate bowl, I combined 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 2 eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. I stirred it by hand till it was just blended.

Ew, Wet Ingredients

Then I slowly added the wet mixture to the dry mixture, stirring by hand till it was just blended. Last, I stirred in the chopped broccoli and 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips.

Broccoli & Chocolate

Broccoli Brownie Batter

I greased an 8×8 pan and poured the batter in evenly. I baked the brownies for about 25-30 minutes. When you poke it, the brownies should indent just slightly. I let it cool in the pan before I cut it into slices.

Broccoli Brownies

How Sue Sees It:

  • Since the broccoli was pureed super fine, these look like normal brownies. You can’t see any green at all, just chocolate. Perfect!
  • Everyone who actually tasted them really liked them. I’d say about half of my tasters thought they were good and didn’t have any comment at all. The other half thought they were good, but did ask something like, “Hmm… this is good, but what is that?” They couldn’t quite place what they were tasting, but they did like them.
  • For a couple people, including my 16-year-old drama queen of a sister, the thought of broccoli was too much of a barrier. She ate the first half of it just fine and told me it was delicious, but when I told her there was broccoli in there, she refused to eat the rest. My brother was a similar story. I think they were being babies, but it was a good lesson: just don’t mention the broccoli at all.
  • Definitely take the time to completely puree the broccoli. If you don’t have a food processor, go get one. I got mine at Walmart for 30 bucks. The broccoli is pureed so small that you can’t taste or see it. It barely alters the flavor, and it doesn’t affect the texture at all.
  • I thought they were very tasty, especially with the chocolate chips added in for good measure. I just tasted chocolate. But similar to the spinach cupcakes, though they tasted relatively normal, they did have a bit of a funky smell to them. Store them in an airtight container to keep them moist, but open the container and let them air out a bit for a few minutes before you serve them. If someone gets a whiff of these as soon as you open the container, they may not be willing to taste them.
  • A perfect dessert for picky kids and spouses who aren’t getting enough vegetables in their diet!
  • If you would rather incorporate zucchini instead of broccoli, follow the same method, but increase the amount of flour to 1 cup to balance out the extra water content.

Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate Cake

20 Feb

This is my favorite cake ever. It has 3 different kinds of chocolate. And it may have more, depending on the variation you choose to make — I’ve had up to 5 before! And this cake is always a crowd pleaser, so if I’m heading somewhere new and not sure what people will appreciate, this is my go-to recipe. I’m a little worried about posting this one because it’s actually only semi-homemade, and I don’t want people to think I’m a slacker. But oh well — all my secrets shall be revealed here sooner or later. The pictures for this one are awesome, so I’m including quite a few more than usual. Compliments to the BF/amateur photographer. So feast your eyes, and I’ll go feast my belly.

I start off by moving the rack to the middle of the oven, pre-heating it to 350 F, and buttering a bundt pan. I like using a bundt for this particular cake for a few reasons: One, because it looks fancier without any extra effort. Two, it has a drizzle instead of a full icing, and I think that looks nicer on a bundt. And three, it’s pretty rich, and it’s easier to cut a bundt cake into smaller, neater slices than it is a round or sheet cake.

So after the prep, I dump almost all the ingredients rather unceremoniously into a large mixing bowl: 1 box devils food cake, 1 package chocolate instant pudding mix, 4 eggs, 1 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup warm water, and 1/2 cup vegetable oil.

Batter IngredientsI blend it with a hand-mixer on medium-low for 2-3 minutes. Then I fold in  1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, and once it’s well-mixed, pour it evenly into the bundt pan.

Mixing the BatterChips!Batter in the pan

I bake it for 45-50 minutes. The cake slightly pulls away from the sides of the pan, and it should pass the toothpick test. I let it cool it on a wire rack for about 20 minutes, and then remove it from the pan. If you don’t cool it long enough, it’s more likely to crack when you try to remove it. And if you’re having a hard time getting it to pop out of the pan, take a long wooden skewer and run it around the edge of the cake before flipping it over. This will loosen it up without cutting your cake or scratching your pan.

Plain cake
Once it’s completely cool, I add the ganache-y chocolate topping — the same one I put on top of the Banana Butterscotch-Chocolate Cake. The rule for this topping is a 2:1 ratio of chocolate to butter. So I melt about 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips and 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of butter in 30-second intervals, stirring well in between. While it’s still warm and runny, I drizzle in back and forth over top the cake. As it cools, it will firm up but not harden.

DrizzleChocolate Chocolate Chocolate Cake

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I just have to say it again: seriously, this is the best cake ever. The other reason I love this cake is because it’s sooo easy. There aren’t any silly rules about beating in eggs one at a time or anything like that. And aside from the sort-of long cooking time, it’s really quick and easy to throw together. Actually, I try to keep the ingredients for this on hand at all times in case I need a last-minute cake.

I also like that this cake is so versatile and easy to make your own. I’ve substituted the semisweet chips for milk chocolate chips. Once I did half semisweet and half white chocolate chips. You could get even more wild and crazy and use butterscotch or peanut butter chips, or maybe a caramel topping. I haven’t tried those yet, so if you do, let me know how it goes.

If you’re worried about it, it’s okay to swap light sour cream for regular sour cream. But if you’re honestly counting calories, that seems like a waste of time when it comes to this cake. I haven’t tried the whole swap your oil for applesauce thing, so I don’t know how that would work out with this particular recipe. If you try it, let me know!

Yum

Triple Chocolate Cake

Cake:

1 box devils foods cake mix
1 package instant chocolate pudding mix
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Topping:

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a bundt pan with cooking spray and set aside.

Add all the cake ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Blend with a hand-mixer on medium-low for 2-3 minutes. Fold in 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean and the sides spring away from the edges of the pan. Let cool for about 20 minutes before inverting onto a platter. Top with chocolate ganache topping.

For topping, place 1/2 cup chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Chop butter into rough chunks and add to bowl. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring well in between each interval. Do not over-cook. Once thoroughly melted without any chunks, pour over top the cooled bundt cake. Let cool.

 

Banana Butterscotch-Chocolate Cake

16 Feb

I don’t know why, but I have been having some issues in the kitchen lately. Burnt butterscotch,  chocolate blooms, spilled food, cracked cakes, depleted food stores… you name it. I’m in some kind of food funk, so I guess I’ve been avoiding the kitchen for a couple weeks. I re-entered carefully a few nights ago, trying out a new semi-homemade recipe I got off the back of a bag of Nestle Tollhouse butterscotch chips. Even this proved challenging for some reason, though the end result turned out tasty. I edited the recipe a little bit to include chocolate, since a dessert isn’t really a dessert unless chocolate is involved (and I ran short on butterscotch). I’ll go through how I made it, but word of warning: be sure to have quite a few medium and large bowls on hand, and preferably someone to wash all these dishes for you.

I started by pre-heating the oven to 375 F and buttering a bundt pan. Then I filled a large mixing bowl with a box of yellow cake mix, 4 eggs, 1/2 cup vegetable oil1/4 cup water, and 1/4 cup white sugar. I also added in 2 mashed bananas — I didn’t worry too much about mashing them well. I just kind of shmushed them with a fork as I dropped chunks of banana into the bowl. I figured the hand mixer would take care of them.

Ingredients

Then I mixed everything together with a hand mixer in medium-low speed for about 3 minutes.

In a medium-sized, microwave-safe bowl, I melted 3/4 cup of butterscotch chips by cooking at 20-second intervals in the microwave, stirring in between each round. I did the same thing with 3/4 cup of dark chocolate chips in another medium-sized, microwave-safe bowl. I added about a cup of the banana cake batter into each of the melted chips bowls.

Banana-Butterscotch BatterBanana-Chocolate Batter

So then I had: a bowl of banana batter, a bowl of chocolate-banana batter, and a bowl of butterscotch-banana batter.

3 Batters

Then I set about filling the bundt pan in a way that would give me a great marbling effect. I just dropped random spoonfuls of each batter into the pan: spoonful of banana, spoonful of chocolate-banana, spoonful of butterscotch-banana… repeat. The bowl looked pretty cool, with yellow, brown, and tan spots everywhere.

Marbled Cake Batter

Once the pan was full, I put it in the oven for about 35-40 minutes, until I poked it with a toothpick and it came out clean.

Hot Cake

Once again, I was too impatient, and I tried to take the cake out of the pan too soon, resulting in a cracked cake! And this time I didn’t have an icing to hide the cracks! BAhhh what was I gonna do!? Easy — I just cut it into two halves, and served it as two separate cakes. Where the cracks were messy, I just sliced off a bit of crumbled cake and ate it, so that the edges would be smooth cuts. This worked out really well since I was taking some to the office, and they never eat it all anyway. So I sent one to my office and one to the BF’s office.

But first — the topping! The recipe called for drizzling melted butterscotch over the top of the cake. Unfortunately, I completely burned and ruined the last bit of butterscotch I had, so that was a fail. (Told you I’ve been having kitchen issues lately.) So instead I topped it with melted chocolate, which is a fantastic substitute. (Even that took two tries though. Issues.) This is the same ganache-y topping I use on my Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Cake. The general rule is one part butter to two parts chocolate. So I melted about 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips with 1/4 cup (1/2 a stick) butter, heating in the microwave in 20-second intervals, stirring well in between each round. While the chocolate is still warm and smooth, drizzle it over the top of the cake, evenly all around. As it cools, it will firm up to be solid, but it won’t get hard, thanks to the butter. Tasty!

Banana Butterscotch Chocolate Cake

How Sue Sees It:
– If you prefer only butterscotch and not the added chocolate (not sure why you would, but whatever), just replace all the chocolate with more butterscotch.
– Reviews for this cake were mixed — some loved it, some liked it, some didn’t care for it. I think it totally depends how the taster feels about banana. If you like banana, you’ll love this cake. If you don’t, you won’t. Duh.

Double Chocolate Brownies 3 Ways

22 Jan

I had the day off on MLK Day, so what better way to celebrate than make a batch of brownies from scratch? I cracked open my Martha Stewart Holiday Cookies magazine and got to work. (You can see a similar recipe of hers here, but the one in my magazine is slightly different, and that’s what I’ll outline below.) With one batch of brownies, I prepared 3 different types: double chocolate, chocolate chip, and rocky road.

I got to work by preheating the oven to 350 F and preparing my bar pan. I decided to use a bar pan instead of a traditional 9×13 pan for a few reasons: 1) It would make uniformly shaped brownies, 2) I would more easily be able to make multiple types of brownie without them running together, and 3) I got a bar pan for Christmas and hadn’t used it yet. I tried lining the bars with parchment paper because I was worried about them sticking, but that got really annoying after a while, so I gave up on that and just spread a little butter in the pan cups.

Parchment Paper
In a medium bowl, I whisked together 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Dry Ingredients
In a large bowl, I melted 1 1/4 cups Ghiradelli semisweet chocolate chips and 1 stick of butter. I think the easiest way to do this is just microwave it in 30-second intervals, stirring well in between. (DON’T try to microwave it longer than that without stirring — the chocolate will seize up and become an unusable consistency. Then you’ll have to throw it away and start over, and there’s nothing much sadder than throwing away chocolate.)

Once it was melted, I stirred in 1 1/4 cups white sugar and then 3 eggs. Once those were incorporated, I slowly stirred in the flour mixture, stirring just until moistened. Then I filled six of the bar pan cups.

Batter
Halfway through, I stirred 1/4 cup Ghiradelli semisweet chocolate chips and 1/4 cup Ghiradelli white chocolate chips into the batter. (If you want chips in all your brownies, stir in about 1 cup of whatever combo of chips you like before you fill the pan.) I filled in the rest of the bar pan cups with this chocolate chip batter.

Filling the pan
I filled another bar pan with the rest of the batter — it only filled another 6 bar pan cups. For these, I baked them about 13 minutes.

Mmm... Brownie Batter
While I waited, I cut up 3 marshmallows into eighths and chopped up a handful of pecans.

MarshmallowsMarshmallows are so sticky! They kept sticking to my fingers, and when I tried to shake them off, they’d fly off and stick to the counter!

Pecans

I pulled the brownies out, topped each one with a few marshmallow and pecan pieces, and then baked them about 5 more minutes.

Rocky Road Brownies

For the plain and the chocolate chip brownies, I baked them about 18 minutes, until a toothpick I inserted into the center of a couple of them came out with only a few moist crumbs (unlike cakes and cupcakes, which should come out clean).

I ended up with 6 double chocolate brownies, 6 chocolate chip brownies, and 6 rocky road brownies. Delicious!

Brownies

How Sue Sees It:

– It’s pretty easy to impress people with an array of brownies by just adding various toppings in different stages of the baking process. Definitely try this! And create your own!
– Lining with parchment paper was a waste of time. It was difficult to get the paper to squeeze in there, and then since it wasn’t perfectly flat, the brownies came out all deformed because they oozed in between the folds of the paper. And it turns out that the pan is non-stick enough to not matter. A little butter in the pan just in case, and I only crumbled two brownies when removing them from the pan.
Deformed Brownie– When you pull the brownies out of the oven, let them cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes. Then remove them from the pan: Run a butter knife along the edges to loosen it up and then scoop them out with a fork. If they mush in on themselves, let them cool a little while longer before attempting to remove any more. (I think the two I crumbled were because I was too impatient and needed to wait for them to cool a bit more.)
– Eat one or two brownies yourself, with a fork straight out of the pan, while they’re still warm. The brownie is nice and warm, and the chips are all melted inside. OMG so good.

Coconut Cupcakes

20 Jan

I recently brought cupcakes to a coworker’s going away party. I tricked her into telling me that one of her favorite desserts is coconut cupcakes — well, not sure I had her fooled, I think she just went along with it, but that’s cool — then I set about finding the perfect recipe to test out. I adjusted a basic cupcake recipe to include both flaked coconut and coconut milk in the batter, and topped half with (what else?) a coconut cream cheese frosting and the other half with a chocolate coconut frosting.

For the cake: In a large bowl, I used the hand mixer to cream together 2 cups white sugar and 3/4 cup butter. I added 3 eggs and beat well. In another bowl, I whisked together  2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and  2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder. I added this mixture into the butter mixture, alternating with adding 1 cup coconut milk. I added in 1 teaspoon vanilla and then beat the entire thing well.

Coconut Cupcake Batter
I filled a muffin pan with cupcake paper liners and filled the muffin tins about 2/3 of the way with the batter. Then I baked them at 350 degrees for about 18-20 minutes (a toothpick came out clean when I poked them).

Cupcakes in the Oven
I let them cool completely and then covered half of them with a coconut cream cheese frosting. This was super easy: I made my standard cream cheese frosting, adding 2 tablespoons coconut milk when I mixed it up. After it was mixed, I stirred in 1/2 cup shredded coconut. Yum!

The 4 Cs!
For the other half of the cupcakes, I covered them with a super-rich chocolate coconut frosting. Double yum! To make sure the coconut flavor was strong enough, I topped all the cupcakes with extra shredded coconut. Don’t skip this step! The flavors of the cake and the two frostings can really outweigh the coconut flavor without the extra on top.

Chocolate Coconut Frosting
At the party, I set up my cupcake tower and alternated the cupcakes in a black-white-black-white pattern. It looked super awesome!

Coconut Cupcakes

How Sue Sees It:

I really like these because the coconut is there, but not too strong. They also looked really cool alternating between black and white cupcakes on display. But frankly — and this may just be the chocoholic in me — the best part of this project was the chocolate frosting.

Best Chocolate Frosting Ever

17 Jan

I mixed up this chocolate frosting to cover some coconut cupcakes, and it is TO DIE FOR. It tastes like a chocolate bar turned into cream on top of a cupcake. I will mos def be using this for future baking projects.

With a hand mixer, I creamed 1/2 cup softened butter in a large bowl. I added in  2 1/4 cups powdered sugar and 3/4 cup cocoa. Then I added 1/4 teaspoon vanilla and blended in enough milk to make it a spreadable consistency — about 1/4 cup milk.

[UPDATE: I was making this with Betsy for a cake the other day, and she pointed out that I don’t read very well. Apparently I’ve been using ground sweetened chocolate, which is totally different than cocoa powder. As in, one has additional sugar, and one doesn’t. No wonder this frosting tastes amazing! It’s got about a million times more sugar than an average frosting. SOOO…. if you want a super delicious frosting that may induce diabetic shock, I recommend using Ghiradelli Sweet Ground Chocolate. 01/21/12]

DELICIOUS. This is just the classic version. To cover my coconut cupcakes, I decided they needed more of a coconut flavor, so I whipped up another batch…

Chocolate Frosting

CHOCOLATE COCONUT FROSTING: In this one, I substituted  1/4 cup coconut milk for the regular milk, and then stirred in 1/2 cup shredded coconut. Still mostly a chocolate flavor, with a slight hint of coconut. Perfect for my cupcakes!

Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes

How Sue Sees It:
All I have to say is: try this on EVERYTHING!