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!

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.

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.

What to do when you get carried away at Costco

I live by myself, but that doesn’t stop me from having a Costco membership. My mom has always made the best cobblers and sometimes I find myself wanting some on a cold night in Minneapolis. But, unless I want to live at the gym I can’t make a cobbler for one person or I will eat all of it and it won’t be pretty. I bought a giant clamshell of blueberries from Costco and decided to put the ramekins my sister gave me for Christmas to good use and make mini blueberry cobblers. I love mini desserts. They make me feel less guilty about eating my favorite food group…sugar.

This is a lot of blueberries for one person!

Mini Blueberry Cobblers

Yield: 3 mini cobblers

Ingredients

For the filling:

  • 1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

For the crumble:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/6 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 stick room temp butter

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl add blueberries, lemon juice, sugar and flour. Toss to evenly coat the blueberries. Spoon them into 3 ramekins.

For the topping, combine the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, oats and the butter in a bowl with a fork until you get little crumbles. Sprinkle evenly over your 3 fruit ramekins. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the tops are browned and crisp and the juices are bubbly. Serve with a big ‘ol scoop of vanilla ice cream.

All warm and bubbly