Saturday, March 30, 2013

Creamy Coconut Bars

Creamy Coconut Bars - made March 19, 2013 from Confessions of a Semi-Domesticated Mama
I discovered this recipe on pinterest and it led me to a blog called Confessions of a Semi-Domesticated Mama.  Normally I just link the recipe and the blog and try out the recipe but something on her blog caught my eye and I ended up reading the "About" section.  I'm glad I did because it gives such a clear picture of a nice, loving family who extend that love to their adopted children, their birth children and each other.  Take a look when you have the chance; it's well worth reading.

By now, when you see that I've made something on a weeknight, it's usually because I need to use up some ingredient before it expires and it's not going to make it to the weekend.  I think more than half my recipes are tested just for that reason.  In this case, of course, it was milk.  This recipe uses 2 cups of milk so it was perfect. Plus I like anything coconut and this reminded me of my mom's bibingka recipe, in that it seemed like a coconut custard.  This turned out to be not quite a custard, not quite a bar.  It wasn't as firm as bibingka but not as soft as a custard.  The Bisquick part of the batter (no matter how you mix it in) sinks to the bottom during baking and forms a thin crust. The coconut stays on top. It was pretty good....but then again, did I mention how much I love coconut?  I think I prefer the bibingka recipe though for something with a firmer texture but this was a great recipe for something quick and super easy that takes care of my coconut fix.

1/2 cup Bisquick
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup shredded coconut
4 eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds until combined.
  4. Pour mixture into greased 9" x 9" baking dish.
  5. Bake for 50 minutes.
  6. Let cool then slice into bars.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Caramel Overload Blondies

Caramel Overload Blondies - made March 17, 2013 from Something Swanky

This recipe was initially going to be my homage to an Easter dessert.  The original recipe from Something Swanky called for using the Cadbury caramel eggs in the blondie.  I love those caramel eggs (not the Cadbudy creme eggs that try to make it look like you're eating an egg-looking sugary thing inside a chocolate shell but the caramel-filled chocolate eggs).  But every time I looked at them covetously at Target, they're pricey for a pack of 3, considering (insert snobbery here) they're "grocery store chocolate".  And I needed 24 of them.  Fortunately, I had those Cadbury caramel-filled milk chocolates from my last trip to London.  I conveniently ignore how much those things cost me at Heathrow duty-free because, hey, they taste better.  But really, you can use any caramel-filled chocolate you wish for this recipe, including Rolos, Milky Way Caramels, Caramellos, etc.
For added caramel goodness, I did succumb to grocery store chocolate and added chopped up Milky Way caramels on top during the last 5 minutes of baking.  You can never have too much caramel, I say.  These were freaking to die for.  I probably could've baked them a few minutes longer than I did although the toothpick did come out clean when I tested it.  If you want your blondies a bit more cakey, bake them longer.  If you want them gooey-chewy (like me, myself and I), don't overbake them.  If this had had chocolate in the batter, it would've been like fudge.  As it is, it was like chocolate-less fudge in texture. Ecstasy.
2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 dozen mini caramel Cadbury Eggs (rolos or caramellos or Milky Way caramels would work too)
  1. Mix all of the ingredients, except for the mini cadbury eggs, in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.
  2. Add 1 dozen of the Caramel Cadbury Eggs into the dough.
  3. Press the dough into a greased or lined 9×9 pan.
  4. “Squish” each of the remaining 1 dozen Caramel Cadbury Eggs and press them into the dough.
  5. Bake at 350ยบ for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely before cutting and serving.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Caramel Coffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

Caramel Coffee Chocolate Chip Cookies - made March 20, 2013 from A Lil Country Sugar

If this cookie looks familiar, it's because it is.  I made a modified version earlier.  This time around, I found the Starbucks Via caramel coffee packs at Target pretty easily so I thought I'd make the cookies as they were originally intended, with the caramel coffee flavor.  I don't drink coffee but don't mind coffee-flavored baked goods.  Caffeine doesn't really boost me up either although there are days like today, which I started off with a 7 am meeting with my colleagues in Asia, where I almost wished it did.

In any case, if you like coffee, this original version of the cookie might be a good pick-me-up.  I have to admit, I preferred my plainer version.  The texture on both is the same since I had increased the flour in the first recipe to compensate for the coffee powder but the added coffee flavor didn't do anything for me.  The caramel flavor was a bit more masked since it competed with the coffee flavor.  I have a stronger preference for caramel than for coffee so I would probably make the plain caramel version rather than the caramel coffee version.

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup caramel syrup (I used salted caramel from Williams Sonoma)
3 3/4 cup bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package Starbucks VIA ready brew caramel flavor coffee
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups chocolate chunks
1 cup caramel bits
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars until well combined. Beat in eggs, vanilla, and caramel sauce until well combined.
  2. Place all dry ingredients in a bowl (flour, salt, Starbucks VIA, baking soda) and whisk together. Add slowly to wet ingredients mixing until everything is combined. Mix in chocolate chunks and caramel bits.
  3. Using a large cookie scoop (ice cream scoop will work) place on baking sheets. Using a fork or the pointy side of a meat mallet, press cookie down in a crisscross fashion. Lightly sprinkle with fleur de sel or salt before baking. Bake 10 - 12 minutes.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Cookies and Creme Cookies

Cookies and Creme Cookies - made March 16, 2013 from The Picky Palate

I was meeting my cousin and her son, Vanilla King, for dinner last weekend and I didn't have any vanilla cookie or snickerdoodle recipes on hand to try since it was a last-minute get together because one of my nieces was visiting me for the weekend.  But I did have this recipe from The Picky Palate that I wanted to try.  While Vanilla King doesn't care for chocolate as a general rule, it turns out he does like Oreos.  Praise be.  Something I can work with.

The Picky Palate's original name for this recipe was Oreo Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I had to rename it because I did modify it by omitting the chocolate chips.  I couldn't call them just Oreo Cookies since technically they're not actually what everyone considers Oreo cookies to be.  Anyway, I left out the chocolate chips because when Vanilla King is confronted with a chocolate chip cookie, he picks out the chocolate chips before he eats it.  I saved him the trouble by leaving them out in the first place.

If you look at the recipe closely, it's essentially a half recipe of a typical chocolate chip cookie with Oreos added in.  Mine spread more than the ones pictured at The Picky Palate so I'm not sure what that's about.  But they still came out pretty well and the Oreos stayed crisp which I liked since it added some texture to the cookie.  They also passed Vanilla King's taste buds and he had one after dinner before we'd even left the parking lot of the restaurant. Success.
1 stick softened butter
6 Tablespoons sugar
6 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 ¼ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
8 broken pieces Oreo cookies
1 cup chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream butter, and sugars until well combined. Add egg and vanilla until mixed well.
  2. Place flour, baking soda and salt into a large bowl, stir to combine. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients then stir in oreos and chocolate chips until just combined.
  3. With a medium cookie scoop, scoop onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Bake for 7-9 minutes or until golden at the edges and the middles no longer look raw or doughy. Let cool on baking sheet for 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Almond Joy Brownie Easter Nests

Almond Joy Brownie Easter Baskets - made March 23, 2013, brownie recipe from The Art & Soul of Baking from Sur La Table and combination inspired by Flour Me With Love 

For those who celebrate Easter, it's Palm Sunday today which means Easter is only a week away.  I was trying to figure out what to make this year that was "Easter-y" that hasn't already been done (especially by me).  I've done the Chocolate Easter Baskets out of chocolate-coated pretzel sticks and the Nutella Rice Krispies Easter Baskets so I thought I should do something other than a basket.  That was the intent anyway but at the end of the day, I stuck to something still basket-ish although I'm opting to consider it a "nest".  Probably because I have this dessert shell pan and it just cries out for something basket-like.  Not to mention, in case you haven't noticed, doing a basket-like container is just an excuse to use Cadbury mini eggs, my favorite (and only) Easter candyI buy a bag every year and make it last for a few months.  This year, in a Freudian slip, I must have forgotten I'd already bought one because when I went to put this year's bag into the pantry, lo and behold, there was a bag already there.  I must've *cough* forgotten *cough* that I had bought one earlier this season.  

For this year's edible Easter nest, I drew inspiration from Flour Me With Love's recipe for Almond Joy Brownie BitesExcept I made the brownie from scratch from The Art & Soul of Baking, a recipe book I've long coveted but wouldn't let myself buy because I already had enough cookbooks.  Fortunately, I got it for free from  It only took 2 years of being on the waiting list but hey, at least I finally got it a couple of weeks ago.  It pays to be patient....and to have over 200 other baking books to use in the meantime.  Anyway, I made the brownie batter and it was just enough for the 6 dessert shells in my pan.  The only tricky part though was I had to bake the brownies long enough so that they'd hold their shape when I took them out of the oven (I let them cool for a few minutes before turning them over onto a baking sheet) then spooned the coconut topping on top and put them back in the oven for the topping to bake and brown.  I was afraid of overbaking the brownies so I hovered over the oven.  After about 7-10 minutes, when the coconut topping was just barely tinging golden at the edges, I put the oven setting on broil and stared at it until I was satisfied they had browned just enough.  They could've used a bit more baking and the brownies were fudgy enough to have withstood a longer baking time but I wasn't going to risk it.  

I let the dessert shells cool a bit before pressing the Cadbury mini eggs on top.  Oh my.  Decadence.  Pure decadence.  Even I, an avowed coconut-lover, chocoholic and Cadbury mini egg fiend, was almost defeated by this year's "basket".  It was good.  Really good.  Food coma, chocolate overload good.  I don't advise buying a form-fitting Easter outfit and making these in the same year.  Or else split one basket/nest with 6 of your closest friends.

Classic Fudgy Brownies
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
½ cup (2 ½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

Coconut topping*
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 14-ounce bag coconut
1/4 cup milk
Whole toasted almonds
*Note - you can easily use only a 1/4 recipe of the topping for 1 full brownie recipe.  Or, if you make the whole recipe of topping, use the rest for the Toffee Squares recipe I will be putting up later this week.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.  Lightly spray a 6-cavity dessert shell pan (or a muffin tin if you don't have one) with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Melt butter and chocolates in the top half of a double boiler set over hot, not simmering, water.  Whisk until smooth.
  3. Remove chocolate mixture from the heat and stir in sugar. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, stirring well to incorporate the first before adding the second. Stir in the vanilla extract. Whisk in the flour and salt.  Continue to stir until batter is smooth and shiny-looking, about 1 minute.
  4. Pour the batter evenly into the dessert shell or muffin cavities.  Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with a few moist crumbs, not raw batter.
  5. Mix the coconut, sweetened condensed milk and milk together.  
  6. Remove brownies from the oven and let cool for 3-5 minutes.  Run a thin spatula around the outer edges of the brownies.  Flip pan over onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Place one or two whole toasted almonds inside each cavity (or press gently into center if using muffin tins). Spoon topping over almonds.  If using muffin tins, leave them in the tins and, using the back of a spoon, press lightly in the center to make an indentation.  Spoon filling on top, making a slight impression in the topping for the "nest" and spread out to the edges.  Bake brownies an additional 7-10 minutes or until coconut topping is no longer runny and is lightly browned.
  7. Remove from oven, let cool completely and press Cadbury mini eggs on top.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Fudgy Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars

Fudgy Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars - made March 16, 2013 from Family Bites

I needed another bar cookie for my niece's care package and this seemed like a good candidate.  It's like a cross between a magic cookie bar (sans coconut) and a chocolate chip bar, combining elements of both.  There's a graham cracker crust studded with toffee bits, a fudgy chocolate layer of melted chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk, a chocolate chip cookie layer mixed with more graham cracker crumbs, all topped with sprinklings of more toffee bits.  My only issue with the original recipe is it used ready-made chocolate chip cookie dough.  I couldn't bring myself to buy that tube of Pillsbury cookie dough so I used a from-scratch recipe from The Bite-Sized Baker (link in the ingredient list below) without the nutella stuffing.  Wow.  It was well worth that little extra effort.

When using the from-scratch cookie dough, chill it first then when you're ready to use, break into chunks (not too small) and drop the chunks over the chocolate layer.  Don't worry about making it smooth.  I think it adds more character for it to be craggy.  Plus it gives it more texture. This was a really good bar cookie.  What made it so yum was the browned butter chocolate chip cookie dough - it was just good.  Like extra mile on the treadmill good.  Plus the chocolate layer would satisfy anyone with a chocolate craving and the toffee bits gave it a nice crunch.
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 cup graham cracker crumbs (32 squares, divided
1 8 oz. bag toffee bits
1 batch chocolate chip cookie dough or 1 roll refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough
1 12-ounce bag chocolate chips
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Make chocolate chip cookie dough and put in refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.  If using the ready-made cookie dough, have the roll of cookie dough sitting out for ~10 minutes to soften up.
  2. Line a 13x9 baking dish with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the 1/2 cup of melted butter, 1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs and 3/4 cup of toffee bits. Pour mixture into the greased pan and press evenly until mixture covers bottom of pan. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  4. In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips and the tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Stir frequently until the chips are melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Spread the mixture evenly over the graham cracker crumb mixture.
  5. In another medium mixing bowl, break up the chilled (from scratch) cookie dough and stir in the remaining 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs until blended. Crumble the dough (not too small) evenly over the chocolate layer and sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup toffee bits on top.
  6. Bake for about 25-35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before cutting.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Buckeye Brownies

Buckeye Brownies - made March 15, 2013 from Brown Eyed Baker
Peanut Butter Chocolate lovers, you will both love me and curse me with this recipe.  I found it from Brown-Eyed Baker so maybe you should love and curse her instead, lol.  This has a fudgy chocolate brownie base, covered with a peanut butter layer and topped with a chocolate peanut butter topping.  Think of it as a buckeye (peanut butter balls coated in chocolate) in brownie form.  I was tempted to add rice krispies to the chocolate peanut butter topping like I would for my nutella crunch topping but I decided to stick with the recipe as is.  Which worked out pretty well since it was just pure, unadulterated peanut butter chocolate flavor without a different texture to distract.
Let the topping set before you cut and wrap the pieces.  I didn't refrigerate it and let it come to room temperature instead for easier cutting but it still gets a bit messy.  If you want neater slices, wipe your knife with a wet paper towel then dry it before making the next cut.  This made a good care package brownie which is what I used it for after I had a taste test piece.  One of my nieces is in finals this week then has a long road trip coming up with her dragon boat team for their next race.  I dispatched some of these to her along with some Fudgy Toffee Chocolate Chip Bars and Caramel Coffee Chocolate Chip Cookies with the advice to "SHARE" with her carpool mates.  She swore she would.  I'm pretty sure I believe her, haha.

For the Brownies:
⅓ cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1½ teaspoons instant espresso (optional but I included it)
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2½ cups granulated sugar
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt

For the Peanut Butter Filling:
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup unsalted butter
Pinch salt
2¼ cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze:
1½ cups milk chocolate chips (I used semisweet for a darker chocolate flavor)
⅓ cup creamy peanut butter

  1. Make the Brownies: Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving about a one-inch overhang on all sides. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk cocoa, espresso powder, and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth. Melt butter and chocolate together; add oil and whisk until smooth. Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated. Add flour and salt and mix with rubber spatula until combined.
  3. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool 1½ hours.
  4. Make the Peanut Butter Filling: Beat together the peanut butter, butter and salt on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and alternate adding the powdered sugar and the milk, mixing to combine after each addition. Add the vanilla extract, beat to combine, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until completely smooth and creamy. If it seems a little bit too dry to spread, add another splash or two of milk to get it the right consistency (this could vary based on humidity levels). Using an offset spatula, spread the peanut butter mixture in an even layer over the top of the brownies.
  5. Make the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze: Melt together the chocolate chips and peanut butter in the microwave on 50% power, stirring every 30 seconds, until completely smooth and melted. Pour the mixture over the peanut butter layer and spread into an even layer with a spatula. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or until set.
  6. Using foil overhang, carefully lift brownies from pan. Cut into squares and serve. Brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Coconut Buttermilk Pound Cake

Coconut Buttermilk Pound Cake - made March 9, 2013 from Martha Stewart

I love coconut and am always looking for recipes that use it.  Pound cake is the easiest thing to make when you also have buttermilk to use up.  This is a simple, basic but good recipe I found on pinterest from  The trickiest part is toasting the coconut properly without burning it.  When toasting the coconut, spread in an even layer and bake at 350.  Stir it every few minutes.  You don't want to toast it until it's all brown because by then, it'll more than likely be burnt.  Instead, stir it until you get to the color below.  Some coconut will be more brown than others, some will be golden and some will still be white.  When you mix it up, it should "average out" to a golden brown.

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk, divided
1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut, toasted, divided
1 cup confectioners' sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 4 1/2-by-8 1/2-inch loaf pan. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, using a mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, 8 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Add vanilla, then eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down bowl. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with two 1/2-cup additions buttermilk, and beat until combined. With a rubber spatula, fold in 1 1/4 cups coconut.
  2. Transfer batter to pan and bake until a skewer inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 60 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet, 1 hour. Remove cake from pan and let cool completely on rack. (Store at room temperature, wrapped in plastic, up to 4 days.)
  3. Whisk together confectioners' sugar and remaining 2 tablespoons buttermilk. Drizzle over cake and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup coconut.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pineapple Chicken

Pineapple Chicken - made March 8, 2013, recipe found on pinterest

This is another one of those recipes I found on pinterest where the recipe is typed out on the pin but the pin itself doesn't lead anywhere so I don't know the original source.  But it's also super simple so I had to make it.  I love crock pot cooking on Fridays because I work from home then so I can have the crock pot on while I'm there.  Although slow cookers were meant for the convenience of turning it on and leaving it, I don't like to have it on while I'm gone all day "just in case".  The beauty of this kind of recipe is I can mix it up while my computer is booting up and by the time I log in, I've already got the sauce mixed, the chicken added and the crock pot turned on.  I don't have to look at it again until dinner time.  If you want to make this more pineapple-y, add chunks of fresh pineapple 5 minutes before turning off slow cooker.

It came out okay although it was typical of slow cooker recipes in that it came out really soupy.  As in, I appear to have made a soupy stew without meaning to.  Not even thickening with cornstarch made much of a difference. I couldn't get a very good picture of it either so I didn't try that hard.  Whenever I see the mouthwatering pictures on pinterest, I'm baffled how those people got theirs to look so good.  Then I decided they must drain off all the watery sauce before they take the picture.  Because mine doesn't look anywhere near what the pinterest picture looked like.  And I confess - I was so busy, hunched over my computer and on conference calls that I forgot to check it so it was almost dinner time by the time I turned it off.  Um, it turns out when you cook chicken thighs for that long, they get so tender, they literally fall off the bones if you even look at them wrong.

1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce (regular or lite)
2 lbs chicken breast tenderloins, thighs, or drumsticks (I used chicken thighs)

Combine pineapple juice, brown sugar and soy sauce.  Stir until brown sugar is dissolved.  Place chicken in slow cooker and pour sauce over it.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until chicken is tender.  If sauce is too thin, thicken with 2 tablespoons cornstarch and enough water to make a watery paste.  Add to sauce 30 minutes before turning off slow cooker.

Friday, March 15, 2013

French Toast Breakfast Bake

French Toast Breakfast Bake - made March 6, 2013 from Cookin' Food

Every time I plan to make bread pudding, I buy a loaf of challah from Trader Joe's and try to "stale it" by leaving it on the counter, untouched, before I use it.  The leaving on the counter part is easy.  The untouched part?  Not so much.  This is actually made with the second loaf of challah I bought because the one I purchased the week prior didn't make it long enough to go into bread pudding.  For this one, I didn't even stale it properly because...well, I usually try not to lie to myself that I'm not going to eat it if it's there.  This is a simple bread pudding recipe that you can make up the night before and just bake when you're ready.  If you tend to have busy mornings but want something simple to serve the next day for a breakfast or brunch, this is a good option.  If you want a little more texture, sprinkle the top with chopped, toasted pecans before baking.  I wouldn't advise including it in the streusel that gets soaked as part of the custard in the bread pudding as they'll just become soggy.
1 loaf day old Italian Bread or other hard white bread (I used challah)
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted (optional)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
5 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Grease an 8×8” baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Slice the bread into 8 to 10, 1″ wide slices.  Then cut each slice into approximately one inch cubes.  Note:  Using day old, drier bread is key here.  It soaks up the wet ingredients more thoroughly than fresh bread does.
  3. In a small bowl, combine nuts, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Mix well.
  4. Place half of the bread cubes in a single layer in the baking pan.  Sprinkle half the sugar mixture on top of bread.  Place remaining bread cubes on first layer and sprinkle remaining sugar mixture on top
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla.  Mix well.
  6. Pour egg mixture evenly over the bread mixture in baking pan.  With a spatula, lightly press down on the bread to evenly coat it with the egg combination.
  7. Cover pan with foil and refrigerate overnight or for at least 5 hours. (That way the bread has time to suck up the custard mixture).
  8. Preheat oven to 350° F.  Bake pan for 20 minutes, covered.  Remove foil and continue baking uncovered for 30-40 minutes longer or until top looks browned and Breakfast Bake looks slightly puffed.
  9. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes in pan.  Serve warm with maple syrup.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Cinnamon Roll Coffee Cake Pie

Cinnamon Roll Coffee Cake Pie - made March 10, 2013 from Crazy for Crust

Did you know March 14 is Pi Day?  As in it's 3.14, both in date and as pi.  So we must make pie for Pi Day.  Last year I made an apple pie for National Pie Month but for Pi Day I was looking for something a little different.  Thanks to the internet, different isn't hard to find.  One of the things I love about getting inspiration from other foodie bloggers and pinterest is seeing creations I would never have thought up myself.  I'm good about searching out recipes, making them, and tweaking them to my liking.  I have a harder time coming up with original ideas.  Good thing here are others much more creative than I am.  Case in point, who would've thought of a Cinnamon Roll Coffee Cake Pie? Fortunately, Dorothy of Crazy for Crust did.  It's a pie with a cinnamon roll crust filled with a coffee cake and topped with streusel.
The flattened cinnamon roll dough serves as the pie crust
Fill with the coffeecake batter as the pie filling
Top with the streusel topping

I was intrigued by this pie.  I normally think of pies like apple, pecan, lemon meringue with a pie crust and "normal" filling.  But who's to say this can't be a pie too?  So I made it in honor of Pi Day.  Instead of 1 big pie, however, I made it into 4 mini pies.  The can of cinnamon roll dough only extended to covering 3 mini pies fully and there was just enough for a bottom crust for the 4th mini pie.  I probably should've flattened them more but the dough was getting stretchy and I was afraid overhandling it would make it tough (turns out I was right).

The coffeecake itself was really good.  For the streusel, I used a trick I learned from a Martha Stewart or Lisa Yockelson recipe (can't remember which) and that's to squeeze the streusel into clumps and leave big pieces as part of the streusel topping.  It crisps up in baking and adds texture versus leaving it as loose bits that only add sweetness.  I have to confess though, I ended up not liking the cinnamon roll crust as much as I thought I would.  I think it's because it's a commercially made product (insert snobby taste buds here) and it would've been better with made-from-scratch cinnamon roll dough.  And because I didn't flatten the cinnamon roll dough into a thinner crust, when it baked, it made for a thicker crust that was more bread-y than cinnamon-y.  I still liked the pie, especially the coffeecake part but I would make this with either normal pie dough or scratch cinnamon roll dough.  Either way, it's a nicely original tribute to Pi Day.
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour + 2 tablespoons, divided
1 can (8 count) cinnamon rolls with icing
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a pie plate with cooking spray. (I used a 10” pie plate.)
  2. Stir together sugar, oil, egg and milk in a large bowl. Add baking powder, salt, and 1 1/2 cups flour, and stir until no lumps remain. Set aside.
  3. Open can of cinnamon rolls and separate. One at a time, press the cinnamon roll between the palms of your hands to flatten. Press each into the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate to form the crust, pinching to seal any gaps between the rolls.
  4. Pour the coffee cake mixture over the cinnamon roll crust.
  5. In a small bowl, add the brown sugar, cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons of flour to the melted butter. Stir and sprinkle over the top of the coffee cake.
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out just shy of clean. While warm, top with icing that came with the cinnamon rolls.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Best Chocolate Sheet Cake - Pioneer Woman

Best Chocolate Sheet Cake - made March 4, 2013 from The Pioneer Woman

I've only caught The Pioneer Woman on Food Network a few times, usually when it happens to be on while I'm working out at home.  She always seems like such a pleasant lady and I enjoyed the show.  This chocolate cake recipe has been making the rounds on pinterest and I had been meaning to try it out.  I had lunch planned with a couple of coworkers and it wasn't until the night before that I remembered I didn't have anything to bring.  I needed something quick and easy I could make after work and this cake fit the bill.  It's very similar to the Texas Fudge Cake recipe I've made before in that it's a chocolate cake where you spread the frosting on top while the cake is still warm from the oven and the frosting partially melts into the cake then sets like a soft fudge once it's cooled.

Yes, this cake is as good as that just sounded.  I mixed it up while my oven was preheating and had it baking in minutes.  The frosting you make towards the end of the cake's baking time.  Although the recipe called for making it in a sheet pan, I like my cakes a bit thicker so I baked it in a 9 x 13 pan and that worked just fine.  Both the cake and the frosting layer were thicker than the Pioneer Woman might've intended but it was just right to me.  I really liked this cake.  I baked it until the toothpick inserted in the center came out clean but once it was frosted, cooled and cut, it looked like it could've used a little more baking time.  You can tell because the bottom part of the cake was more dense, a sure sign it's underbaked.  It wasn't raw though and tasted pretty good to me.  The only drawback is I was out of my favorite Pernigotti cocoa and the last 3 times I've haunted Williams Sonoma, they didn't have it in stock.  I tried out the Trader Joe's brand of cocoa for this cake but it simply didn't have the dark robust flavor of Pernigotti.  So I will have to make this again (uh, darn?) once I restock on Pernigotti.  One must sacrifice for one's craft after all.....
Chocolate Cake
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (heaping) cocoa
2 sticks butter (1 cup or 8 ounces)
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 whole eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (optional, I left them out)
1 3/4 sticks (14 tablespoons or 7 ounces) butter
4 tablespoons (heaping) cocoa
6 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound (minus 1/2 Cup) powdered sugar

Note: Original recipe calls for using an 18x13 sheet cake pan but I used a 9 x 13 pan.  Adjust baking time accordingly depending on your pan size.
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt.
  2. In a saucepan, melt butter. Add cocoa. Stir together.
  3. Add boiling water, allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool.
  4. In a measuring cup, pour the buttermilk and add beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture. Pour into sheet cake pan and bake at 350-degrees for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  5. While cake is baking, make the icing. Chop pecans finely, if using. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add cocoa, stir to combine, then turn off heat. Add the milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Stir together. Add the pecans (if using), stir together, and pour over warm cake.
  6. Let cool (if you can wait that long), cut and serve.