Saturday, November 25, 2017

Coconut Toffee Chocolate Chip Bars

Coconut Toffee Chocolate Chip Bars - made November 12, 2017 from Mom on Timeout
Trying to get caught up on my blog over Thanksgiving weekend.....
I needed to make something for a church potluck but was still working weekends earlier this month so I needed another quick and easy recipe. Hence these bar cookies. They reminded me of magic cookie bars, sans the graham cracker crust, and with oats. But they had coconut, chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk so there are some similarities.

They're also really easy to make. Make sure you line your baking pan with foil with overhang at the sides so they're easy to take out of the pan and cut into neat squares. Unlike other bar cookies, this makes enough "dough" to do a nice bottom layer while still leaving enough for the top layer. You do want an even bottom layer with no holes or else the filling will leak onto the bottom during baking and make clean up and cutting a bit messy. I had one thin spot on the bottom layer and discovered this personally.

Mine didn't come out as fancy-looking as Mom on Timeout's but they were still good nonetheless. I love that coconut and toffee blend with the chocolate chips and oats. If you're thinking holiday care packages, this would survive well in mailing. Just wrap tightly so they don't dry out in transit.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
2 cups flaked coconut
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 egg
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup light corn syrup
8 ounces toffee bits
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Crust: Combine flour, oats, coconut, salt and brown sugar in a large bowl of an electric mixer and mix at low speed.
  3. Add butter and mix until a crumbly dough forms. Add egg and mix until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
  4. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of dough for topping. Press remaining dough into bottom of prepared pan. Bake 10 minutes.
  5. Filling: combine sweetened condensed milk and corn syrup in a small bowl; mix until combined. Pour evenly over hot crust. Sprinkle with toffee bits. Top evenly with reserved crust mixture.
  6. Bake 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Cool and cut into bars.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Nutella Bundt Cake

Nutella Bundt Cake - made November 5, 2017 from Chef in Training
You know I'm a snob about boxed cake mixes. As in, I don't really believe in them. Homemade from scratch always tastes better to me. But when I do use them, it's because the picture someone made using the box mix as a base is so compelling that I have to try it. As long as they add other ingredients to the mix other than actually using it as is, my baking snobbery can deal. Barely.

Such is the case with this Nutella Bundt Cake from Chef in Training. I needed something quick and easy to make for work for my usual Monday morning offering to the communal kitchen but not a lot of time to make something since I was also working weekends. Like working in the office, not just logging in from home. So something easy was needed.
This fit the bill. I made it even easier by not making the frosting recipe listed below and instead covered the whole cake with Nutella. Yeah, I cheated but it had been a long day, k? Besides, nothing makes a Nutella Bundt cake more Nutella-y than actual Nutella covering the whole thing, amIright?? I did add chopped toasted hazelnuts to signal the cake had nuts in the form of Nutella in case anyone had any nut allergies and might think this was a plain non-nutty chocolate cake. Nope.
While I don't like nuts in cakes, I'm more open-minded about putting them outside of the cake, sitting there bold as brass on frosting. The toasted hazelnuts added a nice crunch perched atop the Nutella cloaking the cake. The cake itself doesn't have a strong Nutella flavor. Truth be told, it tasted like a normal chocolate cake. So if you do want to punch up the nutella flavor, be generous with the nutella in the frosting itself or do what I did and simply blanket it with Nutella. You can't go wrong.
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 3.9-ounce box chocolate pudding mix
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup Nutella
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup Nutella
chopped, toasted hazelnuts for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease and flour Bundt pan.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and beat for 3 minutes on high speed. Pour into prepared pan. 
  3. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let sit in pan for 5 minutes then invert onto cooling rack to cool completely.
  4. Make frosting: in medium bowl, combine cream cheese, powdered sugar and Nutella. Beat on high speed until creamy.
  5. Scrape frosting into piping bag fitted with round plain tip and pipe frosting over the cake. Sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts for garnish.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Pumpkin Upside Down Cake revisited

Pumpkin Upside-Down Cake with Caramelized Pecans and Cranberries - made November 15 and November 17, 2017 from A Passion for Desserts by Emily Luchetti
First attempt this year - caramel came out too thick
I make this cake every year around Thanksgiving, sometimes on the day itself and other times by request. This year, I made it twice, once for a Thanksgiving work potluck last week and once for my niece's birthday. The work potluck came first and I hadn't made this in almost a year so I forgot not to overcook the caramel. Oops.
First attempt, second cake, same too-thick caramel
So I'm blogging this again to remind myself how to do it right. I'm so used to letting butter and brown sugar boil together, whisking smoothly, for a couple of minutes that I forgot you're not supposed to do that with the caramel in this recipe. The first batch I made for work, the caramel came out too thick. You can see the error of my ways in the pictures. Sigh. I also underbaked one of the cakes just a tad too much and had to rely on just using the outer edges. Fortunately I had made two cakes for the work potluck and I had enough of the second one, which I had baked properly, to round out my contribution to the potluck. But they were definitely not up to standard. The cake itself tasted good but the thick caramel was more like a grainy penuche covering over the pecans. Cringe.
My second attempt - this is how it should look
I had a second chance to redeem myself because one of my nieces was coming for a visit and she had requested this cake. This time I made a half batch of caramel for one recipe of cake and only heated and whisked the butter and brown sugar together until the brown sugar was melted and the mixture was combined. Then that puppy came off the stove before I could overcook it again.
Since I'm not a big fan of cranberries and only ever eat them when I make this cake, I made myself a little individual-sized cake in a ramekin with just the caramel and pecans on the bottom. When I baked the little cake and turned it over, it made a pretty dessert that I'm considering serving at my holiday dessert party (more to come on that). It was also freaking delicious because I got the caramel right this time. So note to self: make only a half batch of caramel for one cake recipe and only heat the butter and brown sugar, whisking until melted and combined but not a minute longer.
8 ounces (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 cups cranberries
4 ounces (1 cup) coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and whisk until smooth. Pour the brown sugar mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the cranberries and pecans. Place them in the pan over the brown sugar mixture.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin puree, and oil. In another bowl, sift together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture. Carefully spread the batter over the cranberry pecan topping.
  5. Bake the cake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Place a large plate or platter on top of the cake. Invert the cake and plate together, then remove the pan. Carefully peel off the parchment paper.
  6. Let cool completely before serving.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Cream Cheese Chocolate Brownies

Cream Cheese Chocolate Brownies - made November 4, 2017, modified from Le Creme de la Crumb
Brownies to die for. Let's just start with that. First, you know I'm picky about my brownies. I've made so many over the years that most of them blur together in my memory. But I know what I like and that's a good, fudgy, rich brownie. Which these are.
Second, because I've made so many brownies over the years, there's very little that's new or different. Most brownie recipes are the same: chocolate in some form (solid baking chocolate or cocoa powder), sugar. flour, butter, salt. I don't hold with chemical leavening or beating too much air into my brownies because that'll make them cakey. Like I've always said, if I wanted something to be cakey, I'd make a cake, not brownies.
But this recipe has a unique little twist in that you make two separate batters which you then combine. You make a cream cheese batter then a brownie batter and mix together. This also has very little flour in it. The original recipe only called for 2 tablespoons in the cream cheese batter and none in the regular brownie batter. Some of the comments on the original blog I got the recipe from talked about how the consistency was like a "firm pudding". Hmm, I'm not down with puddings so I decided to increase the flour by 1/4 cup to add to the brownie batter before combining the two batters together.

The additional flour seemed to have worked well. It didn't cause any harm, at any rate. The brownie was still fudgy and had some structure to make it brownie-like instead of pudding-like and that's what I was going for. I omitted the chocolate chips as well since I just wanted a smooth, creamy-fudge (but not pudding) texture in the brownie without my teeth having to encounter a chocolate chip.
Loved how these turned out, even with the frosting. While I'm not normally a frosting person, the frosting gives it a nice sweetness and went well with the richness fudginess of the brownie itself. This one's a keeper.
Cream Cheese Batter
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
1 egg
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Brownie batter
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup flour
1 cup milk chocolate chips, optional

1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 x 8" baking pan with foil and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Cream cheese batter: in a medium bowl, blend together melted chocolate chips, egg, cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla until smooth. Set aside.
  3. Brownie batter: in a large bowl, mix melted butter and cocoa powder until smooth. Add eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt. Mix until combined. Add cream cheese batter to brownies batter and mix until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean. Cool completely.
  5. Frosting: beat melted chocolate and cream cheese until smooth. Add vanilla and blend well. Gradually mix in powdered sugar, adding milk and beating until desired taste and consistency, Spread over cooled brownies. Allow frosting to set before cutting and serving.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Good Ol' Fudgy Brownies

Good Ol' Fudgy Brownies - made November 4, 2017 from Deep Dark Chocolate by Sara Perry
I borrowed this baking book from the library long ago and typed up a few recipes from it that I wanted to try. The original recipe called for using "dark chocolate" to melt for the batter. I wasn't sure if that meant bittersweet chocolate like a Valrhona 90% or if it meant unsweetened chocolate. I went with the bittersweet chocolate since I was also using Pernigotti dark unsweetened cocoa powder and I thought that would pack enough chocolate punch.

This year, for Halloween, I bought a Costco-box of full-size chocolate bars. The good stuff like Snickers, Milky Ways, Twix, peanut M&Ms and plain M&Ms. I was going to be the good neighbor in my neighborhood this year. Except, like all the other nights for the past month or so, I worked so late that by the time I got home, I missed all the trick or treaters in my neighborhood. Seriously, even the teens had called it a night. Bummer.

So I was left with all this candy. As I've done in past years, I chopped up the Snickers bars and included them as add-ins to the brownie. This really was a "good ol' fudgy" brownie. It was a trifle sweet to me though so the author might've meant unsweetened chocolate after all. That's what I recommend making it with to cut the sweetness, especially if you're adding leftover Halloween candy to it.

5 ounces premium dark chocolate, chopped (I think this should be unsweetened chocolate)
½ cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
½ cup all-purpose flour

1.     Preheat the oven to 350⁰F. Line an 8 x 8” baking pan with foil and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
2.     Place the chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl and set over a pan of hot water over medium-low heat.  Stir until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder, sugar and salt. Whisk in the eggs and stir in the flour just until blended.
3.     Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.  Bake until a tester inserted near the center comes out with a few moist crumbs, about 30-35 minutes. Do not overbake.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Dark Chocolate Cookies - Levain Bakery copycat #6

Copycat Levain Dark Chocolate Cookies - made dough October 15, 2017, modified from And They Cooked Happily Ever After
If my posts seem a little more spread out than usual, it's because they are. And if you check the dates of when I've made things, you'll notice that's also spread out more than usual. The reason why is I've been working a lot. I mean, a lot. Which leaves me little time and even less energy to bake. I also don't have much time to do a write up so I'll keep this brief. And I forgot to take more pictures so I only have these.
While technically another Levain Bakery copycat, it isn't quite like the real thing. You know how I feel about Levain's chocolate chocolate cookie. Or baked fudge in cookie form as I prefer to describe it. This was a good chocolate cookie, quite rich but had a soft-cakey-but-not-cakey texture rather than the baked-fudge texture. I baked them and packaged them into individual goodie bags to give out at a staff meeting I went to. They were quite well received. I love those little individual cookie bags (Michaels, 40-50% off with a coupon) and I still had my custom-printed stickers from last year so they were fun to package up and give away.
Make these into thick discs, not dough balls. They don't spread a lot and you want them to bake as an even thickness. And be warned, they are rich.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons bread flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and warm
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips
  1. In a medium bowl, sift together flours, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt; set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar on medium speed. Add eggs and vanilla; mix to combine. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly pour melted chocolate into mixture and mix until fully incorporated.
  3. Gradually add the dry ingredients in three additions, mixing on low speed until just combined. Do not overmix. Fold in chocolate chips.
  4. Portion dough into 1/2 cup dough balls and form each into a thick disc. Cover and freeze at least 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Evenly space 6 dough balls on each sheet. Bake for 18-24 minutes or until edges are set and middles no longer look raw. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Toasted Hazelnut Slice 'n Bake Cookies

Toasted Hazelnut Slice 'n Bake Cookies - made dough September 23, 2017 from Sally's Baking Addiction
We’re getting into that time of year where I start thinking about holiday desserts. Wait. That’s a lie. I started thinking about holiday desserts long before now, especially since this year I decided to hold my not-so-annual holiday dessert party again. Plus I’m hosting a family dessert gathering two weeks after that. So it’s time to plan ahead and start the dessert lineup of what I want to serve.

When I make so many desserts for a party, I like to do a mix of easy, do-ahead treats as well as something fancy, may-require-last-minute baking or preparation. I’m testing out these cookies and they fall into the first category. Anything “slice ‘n bake” will almost inevitably do that since, by definition, you can make them ahead of time, pop into the freezer until you need them, then even when you’re ready to bake, all you have to do is (typically) thaw them slightly then slice and bake. No messing about with forming them into any shape, no using cookie shapers or cutters, just you, the cookie log, a sharp knife and a parchment-lined baking sheet.
As always, toast the nuts and let cool completely before incorporating into the dough. That brings out the flavor and adds a little more crunch to your finished cookie. Try to make the cookie logs as evenly shaped and sized to each other as possible from end to end. No tapered ends, no chunky middle. You want each slice of cookie to be as uniform as possible to its cookie brethren.

If you go the sandwich cookie route like I did, this makes it easy to match same-shape cookies for your sandwich cookies. Since this was a hazelnut cookie, the obvious filling to use was Nutella. You could also use cookie butter if you choose. There’s no going wrong with either.
I liked these cookies. The hazelnuts added a nice crunch, as expected, and the cinnamon provided a good flavor, not to mention contributed to the heavenly aroma while these were baking. For once, resist the temptation to underbake them because you do want them baked enough to be crunchy. If you underbake, they won’t have the “snap” to them and will be more chewy. Not necessarily a bad thing but I liked them a little crunchy. The Nutella filling provides a nice smooth-texture contrast to the crunchy cookie.

3/4 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup toasted and finely chopped hazelnuts, divided
coarse sugar for rolling, optional
8 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
  1. In a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter for 1 minute on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat on medium high until fluffy and creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla extract, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, until combined.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, cinnamon and salt until combined. On low speed, gradually add into wet ingredients until just combined. Beat in 3/4 cup chopped hazelnuts.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and, with floured hands, divide in half. Shape each half into an 8-inch log, about 2.5 inches in diameter. Tightly wrap the logs in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator at last 4 hours or up to 5 days.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Remove logs from refrigerator and roll in coarse sugar, if desired. Slice each log into 12 equally thick cookies and place evenly on baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until brown around the edges. Cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet then transfer cookies to cooling rack to cool completely.
  6. Melt the chopped milk chocolate in the top half of a double boiler set over hot water. Whisk until smooth and completely melted. Dip half of each cooled cookie in melted chocolate and place on parchment paper. Sprinkle with remaining chopped hazelnuts. Let cool until chocolate has set.