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Monday, June 22, 2015

Graham Cracker S'mores Cookies


My sister made these S'mores Cookies at my house sometime last year.  For some reason when she described them to me, they didn't sound all that exciting. Then, I tasted one and was addicted!  They combine all the components of S'mores into a less messy cookie-form without the need for a campfire.  The graham cracker base adds a nice crunch and helps hold the cookies intact.  The cookie dough has a touch of cinnamon, which adds another flavor dimension.  I made these for a Memorial Day BBQ we had with my sister and her family, and they were the perfect summer dessert!  They are best served the day of or 1 day after, as the graham crackers start to lose some of their crispness after that- at least they did for me.



Graham Cracker S'mores Cookies 

Note: The "Hershey" name is supposed to show on the finished cookies. I had Bob pick up some Hershey bars for me and he got the giant ones, so my pieces were bigger.  The bars were a bit too soft when I pressed the chocolate into the tops of the cookies so mine melted more than they should. To be safe, it may be best to chill your Hershey bars prior to placing on the warm cookies.

2/3 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli bittersweet chips)
1 cup mini marshmallows, plus 1/4 cup for adding on top (as directed below)
2 regular sized Hershey bars (milk or dark chocolate), each piece with "Hershey" cut in half (chilled if the chocolate has started to soften or it's a warm day)
2 sleeves graham crackers (from a standard sized box) – broken into squares (1/2 of a full graham cracker sheet)

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line a jelly roll pan or rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, if desired. Break graham crackers in half so they are squares. Lay crackers next to each other, in a single layer on a baking sheet (the size of your baking sheet will determine exactly how many crackers you need).

2. Bake graham crackers in pre-heated oven for 4 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

3. Cream the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla and mix until combined.

4. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until just combined.  Fold in chocolate chips and 1 cup marshmallows.

5. Use a medium cookie scoop to scoop dough onto graham crackers (on baking sheet).  Bake for 5 minutes. Then remove pan from oven. If your dough is not spreading, carefully use the back of a spoon to spread the dough evenly over the graham crackers. (I added this step. My scoops of dough may have been too large and spread out to form a single layer of cookie).  Press about 2 pieces of chocolate and 2-3 marshmallows (or more!) into each cookie.

6. Bake for 5-7 minutes more. Cool completely, then cut cookies into squares (where the graham crackers meet).

Source: Adapted from Glorious Treats


Monday, June 15, 2015

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies


These cookies were just as the name describes - thick and chewy - just like from a bakery. The dough freezes well so you can make up a batch of batter and bake them as needed. Having a batch of cookie dough ready to bake at a moment's notice sounds like something a Super Hostess would do. Friends stopping by unannounced? You can have warm cookies in a matter of minutes. I'd like to think that we could always have these cookies on-hand in our freezer, but in all honesty we would probably just eat them! :-)

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 18 large cookies

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (10 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup packed (7 ounces) light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 onces) granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 - 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions. Head oven to 325F.

2. Line 2 large (or oversized) baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

3. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.

4. Using an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until blended thoroughly. Beat in the egg and yolk and the vanilla until combined.

5. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined. Stir in the chips to taste.

6. Roll a scant 1/4 cup of dough into a ball. (At this point, you may freeze the balls of dough if you desire). Hold the dough ball with the fingertips of both hands and pull into 2 equal halves. Rotate the halves 90 degrees and, with the jagged surfaces facing up, join the halves together at their base, again forming a single ball, being careful not to smooth the dough's uneven surface.

7. Place the formed dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, jagged surface up, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart. If you have smaller baking sheets, you will need to bake the cookies in batches to ensure they are properly spaced on the sheets.

8. Bake until the cookies are light golden brown and the outer edges start to harden yet the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from front to back and from top to bottom halfway through baking time.

9. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets (this is an important step!)

10. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets with a metal spatula. The cookies are best served warm from the oven but will retain texture when cooled.

Source: Brown Eyed Baker, originally from Baking Illustrated 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Salted Caramel Chocolate Fudge Cake


I have so many recipes saved in files or on Pinterest, but it always seems like I am pressed for time and end up making the same things over and over. For Mother's Day, I had some extra time the week before and decided I would pick an involved dessert. I browsed my Pinterest boards and stumbled upon this Salted Caramel Chocolate Fudge Cake. Just listen to this description- rich chocolate cake, layered with salted caramel Swiss meringue buttercream and extra salted caramel, covered in whipped ganache and drizzled with salted caramel.  !!!  This cake truly was as good as it sounds. My brother-in-law, a dessert connoisseur, said it was one of his favorite cakes he's ever had- that says a lot!

I did a lot of research for this cake, which sounds funny, but I wanted to make sure I was prepared and understood all the recipes before getting started. The inspiration for this cake comes from Domestic Gothess, but I also pulled recipes from other sources for my cake because her recipes had a lot of European measurements/conversions and I wanted to make sure I was getting it right. I realized that the cake recipe she uses is almost exactly the same as Ina Garten's Beatty's Chocolate Cake (which, as I discovered, is essentially the Hershey's Black Magic Cake recipe).

I also discovered a simpler way to make Swiss meringue buttercream using pasteurized eggs - it actually took less time and was easier than the traditional method!  See details below.

This cake looks and sounds like a lot of work, but if you prepare the components individually ahead of time, it's not bad at all.  I made the salted caramel one night, the cakes the next night, and then the final night made the buttercream, ganache, and assembled the cake.

Here's a sample timeline if you are making the cake for a Saturday event:

Wednesday: make salted caramel, store in refrigerator in airtight container or glass measuring cup covered in plastic wrap

Thursday: make chocolate cakes, wrap each in plastic wrap and put each in resealable plastic bag in refrigerator

Friday: make salted caramel Swiss meringue buttercream, make whipped ganache, assemble cake, store in fridge

Saturday: place cake at room temperature a few hours before event

I highly, highly recommend this cake if you are a lover of chocolate and salted caramel and if you are in the market for a show-stopping dessert!



Salted Caramel Sauce

2 cups granulated sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1 tablespoon fleur de sel (or other flaky sea salt)

1. Add the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a heavy, 2-3 quart saucepan. 

2. Heat the sugar over medium-high heat, whisking it as it begins to melt. The sugar will form clumps, just keep whisking and they will melt. Stop whisking once all of the sugar has melted, swirl the pan occasionally while the sugar cooks.

3. Continue cooking until the sugar has reached a deep amber color. At this point caramel can burn in a matter of seconds, so keep a close eye. If you have an instant read thermometer, cook until the sugar reaches 350F.

4. As soon as the sugar reaches 350F, add the butter all at once. Be careful as the caramel will bubble when the butter is added. Whisk the butter into the carmel until it is completely melted.

5. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour in the cream. Again, be careful as the mixture will bubble.

6. Whisk until all of the cream is incorporated and the sauce is smooth. Add the fleur de del and whisk to incorporate.

7. Set the sauce aside for 10 to 15 minutes to cool, then pour into a glass container and cool to room temperature. Sauce can be store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Warm sauce before using.  

Beatty’s Chocolate Cake

Butter for greasing the pans (or Pam for Baking)
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
¾ cups good cocoa powder (such as Hershey's)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
½ cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans (I use Pam for Baking cooking spray and also use Evenbake Cake Strips around the pans to ensure even baking).

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. 

3. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. 

4. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. 

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

6. If not frosting immediately, wrapped cooled cakes in plastic wrap then place each in a large resealable plastic bag and in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Source: Ina Garten’s Beatty’s Chocolate Cake (Hershey’s Black Magic Cake)

Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Note: Swiss Meringue Buttercream relies on dissolving sugar into egg whites over low heat, at least in part to kill bacteria, and then whipping the sugar/egg mixture into meringue before adding the butter.  I buy pasteurized eggs (Davidson's Safest Choice) and was told by my brother-in-law that they don't form a proper meringue.  I did some searching and found a method by Rose Levy Beranbaum that adds extra cream of tarter and a longer whipping time to achieve a meringue from pasteurized egg whites. My buttercream turned out perfectly, and I actually thought this method was much simpler because it eliminates the cooking step, which can be a little tricky in that you have to make sure you don't cook the eggs. I think using the superfine sugar was beneficial since I didn't have the heat to help dissolve the sugar.  I am so glad I tried this method because I think it will be my go-to buttercream when I have a bit more time (my quick go-to is this Easy Vanilla Buttercream).

4 egg whites from pasteurized eggs (like Davidson's Safest Choice)*
1 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar 
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (17 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons (or more to taste) salted caramel

*If you do not have pasteurized eggs, follow this method to make the buttercream.

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-low for 1 minutes, or until they foam.

2. Add the cream of tartar. Beat and eventually raise speed to high.  When the egg whites become thicker, gradually add the sugar. Beat for 5 to 10 minutes until a thick meringue forms.  

3. Turn the mixer to low speed and add the butter one tablespoon at a time, making sure that the butter is fully incorporated before adding more. At this point, the meringue will deflate and look curdled- this is normal. Keep mixing. Once the butter has all been added, mix until the buttercream is smooth and silky. If it looks curdled, keep mixing, it will come together.

4. Whisk in the vanilla extract and salted caramel to taste. 

Source: Adapted from Domestic Gothess and Rose Levy Beranbaum

Assembling the cake:

1. Remove the cakes from the refrigerator and slice each one in half carefully using a long, serrated knife to create 4 layers.  

2. Place one layer on a serving plate or cake stand and spread ~1/4 of the buttercream over the cake.  

3. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons salted caramel over the top of the buttercream. If the caramel is too thick, you may microwave it for a few seconds. Be careful not to pour hot caramel onto the buttercream.

4. Add another layer onto the cake and repeat with buttercream and caramel layers until you have the final cake layer on top. 


5. Spread the remaining buttercream thinly over the cake to create a crumb layer. Refrigerate cake for at least 15 minutes while you prepare the whipped ganache (see below).

6. Spread ganache onto cake and drizzle remaining caramel over cake.

Whipped Ganache

Makes about 2 cups whipped ganache.

8 ounces dark chocolate (I use Ghiradelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips)
1 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1. Chop the chocolate (if necessary) and place in a heatproof bowl. 

2. Bring the cream just to a boil over medium-high heat. 

3. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate making sure that it is all covered, then add salt.  Do not stir, otherwise the ganache will cool too quickly and become grainy. Let stand for 10 minutes.

4. Stir with a whisk until smooth and shiny.  

5. Allow the ganache to cool to room temperature, stirring often, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Beat with a stand mixer using the whisk attachment until the mixture is paler and fluffy, 2 to 4 minutes. 


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Rich Chocolate Bundt Cake



I asked for and received a bundt cake pan for Christmas a few years ago, although it took me quite a while to actually use it. I finally decided to find a recipe to make and decided on this Rich Chocolate Bundt Cake.  Although homemade cakes can sometimes be dry, I thought this cake was moist and perfectly textured.  It came out of the pan beautifully and sliced very nicely.  I took it to a family party and everyone seemed to enjoy it!

Rich Chocolate Bundt Cake

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 tablespoon, melted, for the pan
3/4 cup natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed), plus 1 tablespoon for the pan
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped coarse
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder, optional
3/4 cup boiling water
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups packed (14 ounces) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 large eggs, room temperature
powdered sugar, for dusting


1. Stir together the 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder in a small bowl until a paste forms. Using a pastry brush, coat all the interior surfaces of a standard 12-cup Bundt pan. If mixture becomes too thick, microwave for 10 to 20 seconds or until warm and softened. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 F.

2. Combine the remaining 3/4 cup cocoa, the chocolate, and espresso powder (if using) in a medium heatproof bowl. Pour the boiling water over and whisk until smooth. Cool to room temperature; then whisk in the sour cream.

3. Whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda in a second bowl to combine.

4. In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the remaining 12 tablespoons butter, the brown sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time, mixing about 30 seconds after each addition and scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula after the first two additions. Reduce to medium-low speed (the batter may appear separated); add about one-third of the flour mixture and half of the chocolate mixture and mix until just incorporated, about 20 seconds. Scrape the bowl and repeat using half of the remaining flour mixture and all of the remaining chocolate mixture; add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just incorporated about 10 seconds. Scrape the bowl and mix on medium-low speed until the batter is thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds.

5. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula. Lightly tap the pan against the countertop two or three times to settle the batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 45 to 50 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time.

6. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert the cake directly onto a wire rack; cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Dust with powdered sugar, transfer to a serving platter, cut into slices, and serve.

Serving suggestion - plain or with lightly sweetened whipped cream and raspberries.


Source: America's Test Kitchen

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