And I’m Back…Dairy Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

So apparently the gauntlet has been thrown. I too apologize that I’ve been MIA for so long. Life got in the way and well, I got a little lazy. I promise I have lots of holiday baking in the works, so you can expect some good posts throughout the next few months. And while Jen’s hat was nice and all, it won’t fill your belly with happiness now will it?

A couple of months ago my middle sister was having a rough go of it. She’d just moved to a new city and was dealing with a deadbeat landlord and all the change a move can bring. I decided I was going to make a care package for her since I always love getting mail and love it even more when said mail is in present form. I figured it would make a crappy day or week seem a little bit better. The only problem is that due to my precious little niece’s milk allergy, my sister isn’t able to eat any dairy. This threw a wrench into my plan to bake something tasty for the care package.

After a few searches online I settled on some chocolate peanut butter brownies. I was a little apprehensive since the ingredient deck seemed a little odd, but they turned out great! You can’t really tell that there is no butter or flour…there’s just chocolately goodness.  And since there is no flour, these are gluten free as well. So go ahead, make some brownies and while you are at it, send a care package to someone to let them know you are thinking of them 🙂

Dairy Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

From About.com

For the Brownie Base:

  • 1 16-ounce jar smooth almond butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 T. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup pure unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 cup dark dairy-free chocolate chips (try Whole Foods)

For the Peanut Butter Filling:

  • 4 T. dairy-free gluten-free soy margarine, such as Earth Balance
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract

Preparation:

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Lightly grease a 9″x13″ baking dish and line with parchment paper

2.  In a large bowl, beat the almond butter until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating in each egg. Add the maple syrup and vanilla, beating until all ingredients are incorporated  In another small bowl, sift together the cocoa powder, salt and baking soda. Slowly add this mixture to the almond butter mixture, beating until just combined and smooth. Fold in the dairy-free chocolate chips using a spatula.

3. In another large mixing bowl, mix together the  soy margarine, powdered sugar, smooth peanut butter, salt, and vanilla extract until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour  brownie batter into the prepared pan. Drop dollops of the peanut butter filling onto the batter. With a knife, very carefully swirl the peanut butter filling into the brownie filling. This can be done by starting at one corner and slowly going down in a row and then over and up again.  Imagine making a big squiggly line across the pan. Don’t mix, just make a decorative swirl.

5. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow for the brownies to cool completely before trying to cut them.

My swirls weren’t so great!

Key Lime Pie Cake

I know it goes against girl code, but I don’t love chocolate. Some chocolate is ok, I just don’t crave it like some people. Given the choice between a chocolate or fruit dessert, I’ll always go for the fruit choice. I also tend to like cake more than pies. Cakes come with frosting, which I have a serious weakness for.

My friend and I hosted a University of Texas picnic last weekend. I signed up to make a dessert and wanted to make something summery since the weather here has been fantastic and we planned to grill on the back patio at our apartment complex. I came across a picture for this  Key Lime Pie Cake recipe during one of the many hours I spend on Pinterest and pinned it because I like tackling any cake recipe that has multiple components. The finished result was delicious. The curd is really nice a tangy and is offset nicely by a fluffy white cake. I didn’t love the frosting, but it was tasty. I think I might experiment with a regular buttercream if I make this cake again. The graham cracker crumbs are a nice addition and really do make the cake taste like a key lime pie. Everyone at the picnic was very impressed that I’d made the cake, which to me is the sign of a job well done.

Key Lime Pie Cake

 

This cake has several components and is best tackled a day ahead of serving it.

Key Lime Curd

Makes 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

3/4 cup granulated sugar
zest of 1 limes
1/2 cup Key Lime juice
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces

Directions

Add all ingredients except butter to a saucepan over Low heat. Whisk to combine. Add butter. Continue whisking gently but constantly, heating slowly, until curd thickens and reaches 160°F on an instant read thermometer. Remove from heat.

For the smoothest curd, pour through a fine mesh strainer. Transfer to a storage container. Cover and refrigerate overnight before use. Curd keeps up to 1 week in the fridge.

Lime Scented White Cake

Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
Makes 2 9-inch cakes

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk ( you can make buttermilk substitute using milk and lemon juice)
4 large egg whites
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
zest of 1 lime
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with baking spray.

Whisk together cake flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In another bowl, measure out buttermilk, then whisk in egg whites and lime juice.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat sugar and zest on low until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add butter and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla extract. With the mixer on low, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by 1/2 buttermilk mixture. Continue alternating dry and wet ingredients (ending with dry ingredients), beating just to incorporate each new addition. Once all ingredients are added, beat on medium speed for 2 minutes to aerate the batter.

Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 5 minutes, then invert cakes onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Can be made ahead. If making ahead, wrap each layer tightly in plastic wrap and place in a zip top bag. Can be stored at room temperature for a day, or frozen for several weeks.

Graham Cracker Crumble

Ingredients

6 graham crackers
pinch of salt
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions

Preheat over to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.

Break graham crackers into quarters and pulse in a food processor until reduced to fine crumbs. Add salt and brown sugar. With processor running, pour in melted butter. Pulse until mixture resembles wet sand.

Dump mixture onto prepared pan and press mixture firmly to form a flat ‘crust’. Bake at 350°F for 6 minutes. Remove from oven and crumble into pieces with a fork. Return to oven and bake 2 more minutes. Cool completely. Can be made ahead and stored in an air-tight zip top bag until needed.

Lime Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Makes about 5 cups, or enough to frost a 9-inch layer cake

Ingredients

6 large fresh egg whites
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-Tablespoon cubes
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon key lime juice
lime zest
Pinch of salt

Directions

Fill medium saucepan with about an inch of water and bring to a simmer. Add egg whites and sugar to the metal bowl of a stand mixer. Set bowl over simmering water and whisk constantly until sugar has dissolved and mixture reads 140°F on an instant read thermometer.

Attach bowl to stand mixer and using the whisk attachment, beat on medium speed until a glossy white meringue with stiff peaks forms and the bowl no longer feels warm to the touch (about 10-15 minutes). Switch to the paddle attachment. Beating on medium-low speed, add butter one piece at a time, letting each piece incorporate before adding the next. Once all butter is incorporated, scrape down sides of the bowl with a spatula. Continue beating for 10-15 minutes until smooth.

Once smooth, add vanilla, lime juice, salt and zest. Beat until smooth.

(If at any point your buttercream looks curdled or soupy – don’t panic ! If it looks curdled, just keep beating. It will come together. If you’ve been beating it for 15 minutes and it’s still soupy, pop the whole bowl in the fridge for 10 minutes, then continue beating. Repeat as much as necessary until you get a smooth buttercream.)

To Assemble:
Place one layer of the cake on a cake pedestal or serving platter. Top with half of the key lime curd. Don’t spread the curd all the way to the edge of the cake. Using a pastry bag, pipe swirls around the entire bottom layer. This will keep your curd in place and make frosting the cake a lot easier. Place the next layer of cake on top. Frost the edges of the cake with your buttercream. Don’t frost the top of your cake. Add the rest of the lime curd to the top of the cake. Using your pastry bag, pipe swirls or rosets around the edge of the cake.  Place your cake pedestal on a cookie sheet or piece of parchment paper. Using your hands, push handfuls of your graham cracker crumbs along the outside of the cake. I had enough extra frosting that I piped swirls around the bottom of the cake as well. To garnish the top of the cake take a lime slice and cut through half of it to twist it. Place on top of cake. Wow your friends 🙂

Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes

There are just some things that are meant to go together…lemon and raspberry are two flavors that I just love together. When I was in business school, me and four of my girlfriends decided to take our holiday break and explore New Zealand and Australia together for five weeks. Leading up to our trip we had several dinners where we’d eat, drink too many glasses of wine and plan the trip. I’d come across a cake posting on Tastespotting that looked ridiculously good, so I decided for our next Australia dinner I’d make it. I found the original recipe here. It was a blueberry lemon cake, but I decided I’d sub in raspberries since I like those flavors together better. The result was so good my friends deemed it the facegasm cake. It’s become our go to treat when we get together now. While we are all spread out across the country now, we’ve done a good job this first year out of business school getting together every few months. Since I live in what is normally the frozen tundra, I knew that they needed to come visit me in the summer or I would never get them here.

A few weekends ago they all made it to Minneapolis. We had reason to celebrate as two of my friends were celebrating birthdays. I decided that we needed a cake and some cupcakes for the occasion. I wasn’t sure if the Lemon Raspberry cake would translate well into cupcakes or not, but I gave it a try.  I halved the recipe since I had also made a cake, so that’s why some of the measurements seem a little unconventional. The result was just as good as the regular cake with built in portion control. Facegasms were had all around 🙂

Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes

Ingredients

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1  cup fresh raspberries

1/8 cup sour cream

1/8 cup  milk (I use skim)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/6 teaspoon pure lemon extract (just fill 1/3 tsp half full)

1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

1/4 cup (1/2  stick) unsalted butter, softened about 20 minutes out of refrigerator

6 tablespoons of white sugar

1 large eggs

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pans with cupcake liners.  Sift dry ingredients into medium bowl. Transfer 1 tablespoon flour mixture to larger bowl. Add fresh raspberries and toss to coat them with flour. Set remaining flour mixture and blueberries aside.

Stir milk, sour cream, vanilla extract, lemon extract and lemon zest in small bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar, until pale yellow and very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, until well combined. Mix in flour mixture alternately with milk mixture, starting and ending with flour mixture. Stir until just combined. Gently fold in raspberries. Divide batter equally cupcake pan.

Bake  until toothpick inserted into centre comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes. Cool in pans on racks for about 10 minutes, then take the cakes out and cool on wire rack.

Zesty Lemon Frosting

Ingredients

1/2 cup soft unsalted butter

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 1/2 cups icing sugar (or 3 for  sweeter version)

23 ml fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons whipping cream (35% cream)

1/4 teaspoon pure lemon extract

pinch salt

1 drop of yellow food coloring

Directions

Cream butter and lemon zest in bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, about 3 minutes. Slowly add icing sugar, mixing on low speed for about 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and beat on med-high for 3-4 minutes until very fluffy. If using food coloring add a drop or two, then beat until blended.

Lemon Curd 

3 large egg yolks, strained

Zest of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup lemon juice

6 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

Directions

  1. Combine yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar in a small saucepan. Whisk to combine. Set over medium heat, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, making sure to stir sides and bottom of pan. Cook until mixture is thick enough to coat back of wooden spoon, 5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Remove saucepan from heat. Add butter, one piece at a time, stirring with the wooden spoon until consistency is smooth.
  3. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd to avoid a skin from forming; wrap tightly. Let cool; refrigerate until firm and chilled, at least 1 hour.

To assemble:
Cut out a round circle from each cupcake. Save the piece you cut out. Add about a tbsp of lemon curd and replace with the piece of cake you cut out. Using a pastry bag, pipe a generous swirl of lemon frosting on top of the cupcake. Top with a raspberry.

Luscious lemon curd

Nanimo Bars

A few years ago my friend Liza was moving to Vancouver and we decided to have a Canadian themed going away party. I love a good theme party, so I took the opportunity to go all out. I dressed up as a Mountie and  tried to find some Canadian themed recipes. I stumbled upon Nanimo bars in the search for a Canadian dessert. They are a delicious combo of a lot of tasty items. The bottom layer is a chocolatey, coconut, nutty, graham cracker combo. The middle layer is vanilla custard and the top layer is more chocolate. What’s not to like? July 1st was Canada Day and I happen to be dating a Canadian so I decided to make the Nanimo bars again. He happens to be allergic to walnuts which has kept him from ever being able to try Nanimo bars in the past, so I substituted in almonds. The result was just as tasty! So go ahead, give ’em a try, eh?

Bottom Layer:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup granulated white sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 cup sweetened or unsweetened coconut (shredded or flaked)

1/2 cup walnuts, almonds or pecans, coarsely chopped

Middle Layer:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

2 – 3 tablespoons milk

2 tablespoons  vanilla pudding powder

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups powdered sugar

Top Layer:

4 ounces  semisweet chocolate

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions

Butter or spray a 9×9 pan.

Bottom Layer: In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar and cocoa powder and then gradually whisk in the beaten egg. Return the saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens (1 – 2 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract, graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and chopped nuts. Press the mixture evenly onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (about an hour).

Middle Layer: In your mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until the mixture is smooth. If the mixture appears to thick to spread, add a little more milk. Spread the filling over the bottom layer, cover and refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes).

Top Layer: Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Then, in a heatproof bowl, over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter. Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the filling and refrigerate for about 10 minutes or just until the chocolate has set. Using a sharp knife, cut into squares.

Yield: Makes about 25 squares. Preparation time 45 minutes.


Strawberry Proscecco Tiramisu

Ah summer, there are so many things I love about you. Long days, sunny walks around the lake, corn on the cob, peach cobbler, cookouts, 1/2 day Fridays at work…this list could go on and on. One of my friends had an international themed cookout recently and I knew that I wanted to try to make this strawberry prosecco tiramisu recipe that I came across recently. My old roommate Kalin was a nanny in Italy for a summer and she introduced me to raspberry tiramisu, my first non-coffee version of tiramisu. I think as long as there are lady fingers and mascarpone cheese you can call it tiramisu. This was a nice summary alternative to a trifle. Plus, it only uses 1 1/2 cups of prosecco so it leaves plenty leftover for you to drink while you cook 🙂

Strawberry Prosecco Tiramisu

Recipe courtesy of Kosher Eye

Ingredients:

2 cups (about 1 lb) mascarpone
1/2 pint whipping cream (makes about 1 1/2 cups whipped)
4 eggs
26 Italian ladyfingers
1/2 cup sugar (or more to taste)
1 1/2 lb strawberries
1 1/2 cups Prosecco or champagne

Directions:

In your blender or food processor, puree 1/3 of the strawberries with the wine or juice until smooth. Set aside in a small and shallow bowl.

Using an electric whisk, or in your food processor, beat the egg yolks with the sugar. When they become frothy, add the mascarpone; process until combined and set aside.

In a perfectly clean bowl (you can wipe it quickly with a few drops of lemon or vinegar to make sure it’s degreased) beat the egg whites (which should be clear, with no traces of yolk) with an electric whisk until they start forming soft peaks.

Gently fold the whites into the mascarpone cream with a spatula, using an upward motion. Whip the whipped cream until soft peaks form. Fold in the whipped cream to the mascarpone as well. Divide the mixture in half. Chop 1/2 of the remaining strawberries and add them to half of the mixture. Also add enough strawberry/wine juice to make it pink.

Dip each ladyfinger into the remaining strawberry/wine mix for 5 to 8 seconds, flipping them a couple of times (letting the cookies soak too long will cause them to fall apart). Arrange the soaked ladyfingers on the bottom of a glass or pyrex 9 x 13-inch baking dish (or two smaller square or round pans). Spread the pink half of the mascarpone mixture on top. Make a second layer of soaked ladyfingers and top with the white mascarpone mixture.

Slice the remaining strawberries and use them to decorate. If you want to get fancy you  can also add some fresh mint leaves and meringues. Cover tiramisu with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

 

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes

My friend Julia celebrated her birthday recently and I took the opportunity to bake some cupcakes for the occasion. She told me she liked anything chocolate. When I went to the grocery store the strawberries were 2 for $4 so I decided to incorporate a strawberry filling into the cupcakes I was planning.

For those of you who know me, you know it’s my dream to open my own bakery one day.  I love everything about baking. The preciseness, the artistry, and the tasty finished products. A couple of my new friends in Minneapolis upon tasting these cupcakes told me they’d be seed investors in my bakery. I’d have to agree, they turned out pretty damn tasty. Anyone else out there looking to invest in a bakery? 🙂

Chocolate Cupcake Recipe

(makes 24-27 standard sized cupcakes)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup skim milk (you could use whole of 2% too)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
Directions:
1. Line muffin tin with paper liners.  Heat oven to 350*F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.  Beat on medium speed for one minute.
4. Stir in boiling water (the batter will be thin, don’t worry, this is right).
5. Fill liners 2/3 full with batter.  (I usually put the batter into a large measuring cup with a pour spout, and then pour the batter into the liners.)
6. Bake cupcakes for approximately 22-24 minutes.
7. Cool completely on wire rack before frosting.
Strawberry Whipped Cream Filling
    • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 7 tablespoons chopped/processed strawberries
    1. Chop strawberries in food processor just until they look thick and saucelike. I used really large strawberries and it took 7 to make 7 Tablespoons.
    2. Beat whipping cream, and vanilla until it starts to thicken.
    3. Mix in sugar.
    4. Fold in strawberries.
Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
  • ½ cup butter, at room temperature
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 4 cups powdered confectioners sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  1. Place butter in a large mixing bowl and blend slightly. Add cream cheese and blend until combined, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the cocoa powder and mix for another 30 seconds.
  3. Add vanilla extract and powdered sugar and blend on low speed until combined. Increase to medium speed and beat until it begins to get fluffy.
  4. Slowly add the heavy cream, a little bit at a time until desired consistency is met. I used 3 tablespoons, but you can add more if needed.
  5. Beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.
  6. Use at once or keep refrigerated. (This frosting will keep well in the refrigerator for several days, but you may need to re-beat it for the best texture.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

14 medium/small  strawberries

Melt your chocolate chips over a double boiler. Dip your strawberries in the chocolate to cover 3/4ths of the berry. Place on parchment paper and allow chocolate to harden for at least 15 minutes.

To assemble the cupcakes:

1. Once your cupcakes are cooled, cut a small portion out of the top of each cupcake (you’ll want to save this extra cake).

2. Put about 2 tablespoons of your strawberry filling in the top of the cupcakes and replace with the cake you cut out.

3. Using a pasty bag, pipe your frosting onto each cupcake.

4. Top with sliced strawberry or chocolate covered strawberry.

Cupcakes pre-frosting

 

I ran out of the cream cheese frosting (probably because I like a lot of frosting), so I frosted some of the cupcakes with the strawberry whipped cream  mixture and drizzled the extra chocolate from the chocolate covered strawberries on top.

Strawberry Rhubarb Buckwheat Crumble

My apologies, readers, for slacking on posts other than food as of late.  Now that “school’s out for summer,” I hope to pick up the slack.  The last few weeks of school are really hard.  The kids, after taking their SOL tests, think that they are done.  However, our administration feels otherwise and expects us to teach every minute of those last three weeks.  Thus, the last two weeks of school results in an emotional standoff between teachers and students. It’s a psyche-draining, hair-graying, tooth-pulling, emotional suck.  One of the things that gets me through this period, is sweet treats.  What can I say, I’m a bit of an emotional eater.  Pair my need for a sugary pacifier with fresh strawberries and rhubarb from my garden and you have a psyche, hair, and teeth saving recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Buckwheat Crumble.

Unfortunately, I have been waging a war this year against the slugs/snails for my big, juicy strawberries.  (Beer traps?  Check.)  So, I only had enough strawberries for 1/2 my usual recipe.  Stupid, slimy mollusks….you will die!  You’ll probably be drunk when you do (you’re welcome), but you will die.  Anyhow, some strawberries is better than no strawberries.  Let’s get started.  Here’s what you’ll need:

For the filling:

  • 2 medium stalks of rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 2 cups of strawberries, halved (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of  salt

For the Crumble Topping:

  • 1/4 cup of buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 cup of old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup of packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into bits
  • Turbinado sugar to sprinkle on top

First, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Then, cut up the rhubarb and strawberries into a medium sized bowl.

Strawberries & Rhubarb

Add in the sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt.

The delicious mix!

Nest, mix up the ingredients, and then distribute the filling between four ramekins.  Don’t worry if it looks soupy — the cornstarch will thicken it right up!

Distribute the filling amongst ramekins.

Next, in a separate bowl, mix the crumble ingredients — buckwheat, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter.

Crumble topping

Then, distribute this yummy topping onto the ramekins.  Make sure you breathe in that yummy, sugary smell as you spoon!

Ready for the oven!

Place the ramekins in the oven and bake for approximately 40 minutes on 375.  Resist the urge to pull it out of the oven when you start to smell the cooking strawberries and rhubarb — it will be hard.  When, your timer goes off, pull them out of the oven, let them cool briefly or you’ll melt your tongue off, and then enjoy!  Even better with vanilla bean ice cream!

Let them cool for a bit before digging in.

Dig in and enjoy!

 

 

Crazy Half-Marathon Carrot Cake

A few weeks ago, my friend, Gwen, and I headed to the outer banks to run a 1/2 marathon.  We were so excited to have found the race.  It was at the beach.  It would be warm and beautiful and flat.  What more could two girls ask for?  Let’s just say that none of those things turned out to be true in the Flying Pirate 2012 1/2 marathon.  It was not warm.  It was, in fact, very cold and windy.  It was not beautiful.  It was, in fact, driving rain.  And, it was not flat.  It was, in fact, hilly — and of course, those hills began at mile 9.  Who knew there could be so many dang hills on the Outer Banks?  Just to prove to you how bad it was, let me show you two pictures.  The first is what I imagined I would look like, except female.

How happy is this guy?

On the day of, with wind, rain, and pits of mud (and despair)….this is what I actually looked like.

Look away. I’m hideous.

As you can see, I was not a happy camper.  I still think that it was my rage that actually got me through the race.  I was SO angry.  So angry, in fact, that my time was actually not that far off my best 1/2 marathon time.  Nothing like a little cold rain and rage to motivate you to run your personal best.  So after checking the weather on Friday afternoon, I knew that we were going to need a delicious treat to come home to after the race.  What could fit the bill better than a carrot cake?  I mean it has vegetables in it.

Thankfully, my Grangi’s recipe box had just such a recipe!

The recipe.

Unfortunately, I think this recipe used to have another card with it because this one doesn’t list the steps.  So, I’ll be listing those as I go.  I also decided not to do the whipped cream frosting, in lieu of a traditional cream cream cheese frosting.  Here is my recipe for the cream cheese frosting:

8 oz. of cream cheese

1 c. of confectioner’s sugar

2 T of maple syrup

1 stick of butter

Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

Carrot cake ingredients

So first things first, I preheated the oven to 350 degrees.  Next, I greased a 9-inch springform pan.  I only used spring form because it was the only thing I could find in the beach house.  (Normally, you would use two 9-inch pans so that you can cook both layers at one time – oh beach house!)  Then, I lined the bottom with wax paper and coated the bottom with flour, making sure to tap out any extra.

Prepped spring form pan, complete with floured wax paper

Next, I combined all the dry ingredients in one bowl and mixed them well with a fork.

Mix dry ingredients together

Then, beat the sugar, oil and eggs in a large bowl until well blended.

Beat the sugar, oil and eggs together.

I, then, added the flour mixture bit by bit and stirred until evenly blended.  Then, I added the grated carrot.

Add the flour and blend until smooth

I poured half of the batter into the pan and put it in the oven and baked it for roughly 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle came out smooth.  I repeated the process with the second layer.

Then, I was ready to make the icing.  I just combined all of the ingredients for the frosting and used a hand blender to mix them to the correct consistency.  Make sure you test it along the way for the appropriate amount of maple flavoring – delicious!

After my cake layers had sufficiently cooled, I did a crumb layer.

I stuck it in the fridge to let it firm up for about 15 minutes, and then finished icing it.  The last touch, was to sprinkle chopped pecans on the top.

Sprinkled chopped pecans on the top

I have a feeling that in the next five years, someone is going to release a study showing that carrot cake it the perfect post-race recovery food.  One slice of this baby and I was feeling better already!

A little slice of heaven!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Filling and Buttercream

There are days (ok most days) where I daydream about  opening my own bakery. I hope one day in the future this dream becomes a reality. Two of my friend’s birthdays were last week so they had a joint celebration on Saturday night. I jump at any chance I can to bake and then give the delicious results away because I don’t need 20 cupcakes sitting in my house taunting me to eat them.  And that’s exactly what those sneaky cupcake bastards do. They taunt me to eat them.

I asked my friends what kind of cake they’d want and my friend Ramzi said chocolate and caramel and my friend Adam said he’d never met a kind of cake he didn’t like. My mind immediately went to chocolate salted caramel. I found a great blog, 20 Something Cupakes, that had a recipe that was adapted from Martha Stewart that sounded perfect. Side note: I’m not the biggest Martha fan after she came to speak at my company a few months ago and came across very stuck-up, but they looked delicious so why not?!

Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes


Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (made by taking 1 cup of milk and adding 1T of lemon juice)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • Salted Caramel Filling, recipe below

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with paper liners. Whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, add eggs, buttermilk, oil, extract, and the water; beat until smooth and combined. The batter will appear a little runny, this is ok.

Using a 1/4 cup measure, spoon the batter into liners about two-thirds full. Bake approximately 15-17 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer cupcakes to wire racks and allow to cool completely.

Use a paring knife to cut a cone-shaped piece (about 1/2 inch deep) from the center of each cupcake. Eat these extra pieces 🙂 or throw them away. Make the salted caramel.

Salted Caramel

  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons flaked sea salt

Heat sugar with the water and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until syrup is clear. Clip a candy thermometer to side of pan and stop stirring.

Cook until syrup comes to a boil, washing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush as needed. Boil, gently swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is caramelized and just reaches 360°F. This process can take upwards of 10 minutes, so be patient. Remove from heat and slowly pour in cream; stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in sea salt.

Let cool for about 15 minutes; if caramel begins to harden reheat gently until pourable. Spoon 1 to 2 teaspoons warm caramel into each hollowed-out cupcake. The caramel will slightly sink into the cupcake – just add a bit more.

Use the leftover caramel for the frosting and reserve a little bit to drizzle over the top of the cupcakes.

Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon  sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3  1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • About 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons leftover caramel sauce from above

Caramel should now be cool enough to use for the frosting. Make sure it’s slightly warm to the touch, and still pourable. If it’s hardened too much, gently reheat until pourable.

In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and salt together until lightened and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; add powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the caramel. Beat on medium-high speed for a few minutes until light and airy, and completely mixed. If the frosting looks like it needs to set up a bit, refrigerate it for 15 – 20 minutes. The caramel walks a fine line between being either too warm, or too thick and not pourable if it gets too cool, so this affects the temperature of the frosting and you may need to compensate for that by refrigerating if the caramel warmed the frosting too much. Taste the frosting if it’s too salty, you can add a little more powdered sugar.

Use a pastry bag with an open-star tip and pipe frosting onto each cupcake, swirling tip and releasing as you pull up to form a peak. Garnish each by drizzling leftover caramel over the cupcake. I also garnished with a piece of salted caramel.   Store at room temperature in airtight containers.

Makes approximately 20 cupcakes.

The cupcakes turned out awesome.  Since the recipe calls for cocoa powder, the cake was just chocolatey enough without being overpowering. The salted caramel was deliciously salty and sweet and just oozes out of the cupcake when you bite into it. It’s a nice surprise for those not knowing it’s in the middle. The buttercream was also just the right combo of salty and sweet. I got a lot of rave reviews, which always make me know when a recipe is a keeper.

Homemade Berger Cookies (Baltimore’s Version of a Black & White)

I lived in Baltimore for four years and really did learn why it is known as Charm City. Don’t let The Wire lead you to believe that Baltimore is that horrible. Side note: The Wire is my favorite TV show and  if you haven’t seen it, add it to your Netflix cue now! Sure, there are some not so nice spots, but doesn’t every city have areas you’d rather not be in? Aside from crab cakes, Natty Boh, summer nights at Camden Yards, and runs around the Inner Harbor, my favorite Baltimore “icon” is the Berger cookie.

What is a Berger cookie you ask? Well, thy are the brain child of DeBaufre Bakeries (I’m guessing it’s not pronounced De Barf)  in Baltimore and are derived from an old German recipe. They are similar to a black & white cookie, except I think they are way better. The soft, cake like cookie is a carrier for a thick slab of delicious chocolate fudge icing. I have a few friends in Minneapolis who are from Maryland and knowing I love to bake they challenged me with making homemade Berger cookies. Challenge accepted.

I found a recipe on the King Arthur Flour website that I used. When I was halfway through the recipe I noticed that they had a second recipe that they adapted using feedback from Baltimore natives.  I wish I would have seen that sooner! Regardless, the cookies turned out delicious. Were they as good as DeBaurfe’s version? No, but they were close. The main difference was the chocolate fudge frosting. This version is more bittersweet, whereas the original version is sweeter. I’ll attempt the adapted recipe another time and report back.  

Berger  Cookies

Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces)  butter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
3 large eggs
4 1/2 cups (19 ounces) All-Purpose Flour
1 cup (8 ounces) milk

Rich Chocolate Icing
3 1/2 cups (21 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
2 tablespoons (1 3/8 ounce) light corn syrup
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick, 2 ounces) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

To make the cookies: In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, salt, vanilla, and baking powder. Beat in the sugar, then the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the flour to the wet ingredients alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Do this gently; there’s no need to beat the batter.

Using a muffin scoop or two spoons, drop the dough onto the prepared cookie sheets. Flatten each mound of dough to a circle about 1 ½” across; I used a  greased the bottom of a drinking glass to do this. Leave about an inch and a half between each cookie so they don’t bake together.

Bake the cookies for about 11 minutes, the edges of the cookie should just be starting to brown. These are supposed to be cake-like though so be sure to not over bake them. Cool the cookies on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.

To make the icing: Put a little bit of water in a saucepan and then use a glass bowl on top as a double boiler. Place the chocolate chips, baking chocolate, corn syrup, butter, and cream into the glass bowl. Heat the mixture on medium high till it’s very hot and the chocolate has melted; the cream will start to form bubbles. Remove from the heat, and stir until smooth. Let cool to room temperature; this will take at least a couple of hours, so plan accordingly. When completely cool, beat with an electric mixer for 6 to 7 minutes, until the icing lightens in color just a bit, and thickens just slightly.

Spread each cookie with a generous amount of frosting.  It may feel like you are putting a lot of frosting on the cookie, but that’s the way a Berger cookie should be! You’ll want to allow the frosting to set for awhile before storing or stacking the cookies. Enjoy!

Yield: 2 dozen 3 ½” cookies depending on how big you make them. I like a big cookie so I probably got closer to 2 dozen.