“8-Layer” Truffles

8-Layer Truffles

Traditional 7-layer cookies made into truffles (or add another ingredient to make 8 layers, like I did)

Seven-Layer Truffles. The title intrigued me. The concept of taking the seven-layer cookie bar and transforming it into a bite-sized truffle tantalized my mind.

To make the truffles, instead of layering the ingredients like you do for the cookies, you mix it all together, slightly underbake, then scoop into balls, chill, and finally dip in chocolate. And then you get to bite into a divine ball of rich, chocolately sweetness. And swoon.

I ran short on graham crackers when I made these, so I substituted with some Oreo cookie crumbs; hence, my truffles were very chocolatey. Not that I minded one bit, though!

My truffle, then, isn’t quite the 7-layer…more like 8 layers. Even more flavors to delight the palate!

“8-Layer” Truffles

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Yield: I got about 4 dozen truffles using my small Oxo cookie scoop

INGREDIENTS

Truffles

  • 1 stick butter (4 oz or 1/2 cup)
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (I only had 1 cup, so I used 1 cup finely chopped Oreo cookie crumbs, too)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded, sweetened coconut
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup toffee bits
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened, condensed milk

For Dipping

  • 8 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsp. safflower oil
  • graham cracker crumbs and shredded coconut, for garnishing

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8 inch x 8 inch baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the butter and graham cracker crumbs.
  3. Add the chocolate chips, coconut, toffee bits, and pecans; stir until evenly distributed.
  4. Add the condensed milk; stir until completely combined.
  5. Transfer mixture to the 8×8 dish; distribute evenly. Bake for 25 minutes, until lightly browned.
  6. While dough is still warm, scoop about 1 1/2 tsp. into mounds on parchment-lined baking sheets, then refrigerate for about 30 minutes until firm. Dough will likely be very soft and won’t shape into balls initially, but after refrigerating, you can easily roll them between the palms of your hands to make balls.
  7. To prepare chocolate for dipping, place chopped chocolate in a double boiler (I place a glass bowl over a small saucepan filled with about an inch of simmering water), stirring frequently until chocolate melts.
  8. Remove pan from heat but keep bowl over hot water so chocolate will stay melted. Add oil and stir to combine.
  9. Dip truffles in chocolate and place on parchment paper. To garnish, sprinkle with shredded coconut or graham cracker crumbs while chocolate is still soft and melted. To dip truffles, I use a plastic fork from which I’ve removed the inner tines. This allows me to easily scoop the balls out of the melted chocolate. I lightly tap the fork on the edge of the bowl and allow excess chocolate to drip off before transferring dipped balls to the parchment-lined baking sheet. I also use a chopstick to push the dipped balls off the fork.
  10. Transfer coated truffles to the refrigerator for 30 minutes to harden the shells. After the shells harden, I usually trim excess chocolate from the bottom of the truffles. I simply use a small knife for the trimming.
  11. Truffles can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for about a week.

SOURCE: Kitchn.com

Festive Fudge (White Chocolate Fudge with Cranberries and Pistachios)

White Fudge

Festive white fudge studded with cranberries and pistachio nuts

A baking frenzy took place in my kitchen yesterday. All day–from early morning until evening–I whisked, stirred, melted, rolled, filled, dipped, and baked an assortment of cookies and candies. I made ol’ favs: Walnut Pillows, Pecan Balls, Pecan Tarts, and Macadamia Nut Butter Cookies.

And I tried a few new recipes, such as this Festive Fudge: luscious white chocolate studded with green pistachios and red cranberries. Nutty and fruity. Tart and chewy. Perfect holiday fare.

Ever made fudge? It’s a hit or miss situation with me, kind of like my caramel experiences. But this one worked easily enough: dump a bunch of stuff into a pan, boil for 4 minutes, add to chips, mix in nuts and fruit, and voila–lovely, festive fudge!

Now on to today’s project: packing all these goodies to give away as well as freezing some for Christmas day.

Festive Fudge (White Chocolate Fudge with Cranberries and Pistachios)

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INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups white chocolate chips
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios (roasting optional)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. If you want to roast the pistachios, heat oven to 350 degrees F, spread nuts onto a pan, and roast for 5-8 minutes. Allow to cool.
  2. Prepare pan by lining with parchment paper. Tip: spraying the pan with a bit of oil helps the parchment paper to stay in place. If you want 2-inch high fudge, use an 8 inch x 8 inch pan. If you want 1-inch high fudge, use a 9 inch x 13 inch pan (I like this option because the pieces feel more bite sized and you get a lot more fudge pieces).
  3. Place white chocolate chips in a large bowl and have electric mixer  or whisk ready. If using a stand mixer, use the whisk attachment.
  4. This next step involves boiling, so use a large saucepan (I used my 6 quart Dutch oven): over medium heat, bring the sugar, butter, cream, and salt to a full, rolling boil, stirring occasionally. Once it begins to fully boil, set a timer for 4 minutes, continuously stirring at this point. If you use a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 230 degrees F.
  5. Pour the hot mixture over the white chocolate chips and whisk on medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until chocolate is completely melted.
  6. Add cranberries, pistachios, and vanilla; stir until combined.
  7. Pour the fudge into your parchment-lined pan; use a spatula to evenly spread it. Allow to cool, which will take a couple of hours, then cover with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator to cool for a couple more hours before cutting. When ready to cut, use a pizza cutter to make smooth, even, and straight cuts.
  8. The fudge can be stored in an airtight container, on the counter or in the refrigerator, for about a week or two. Or you can wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then place in resealable bag, and freeze for a couple months.

SOURCE: adapted from Chocolate, Chocolate and More

Grasshopper Ice Cream Cups

Grasshopper Ice Cream Cup

mint fudge cookies & mint chip ice cream & ganache topping

I think “grasshopper” in the title of this recipe is a lot more fun than just “mint and chocolate ice cream cups,” but why is the chocolate and mint combo called “grasshopper”?

I looked it up and didn’t find much except that the grasshopper is a minty after-dinner cocktail. The creme de menthe liqueur gives the green color to the drink as well as the minty flavor while the creme de cacao adds the chocolate portion. Apparently the drink originated in New Orleans back in the 50’s.

Truth be told, in my childhood I had no desire to go near anything that mixed these two flavors. Chocolate, YES! Mint? No thanks.

Then I grew to savor the sweet coolness of the Junior Mint candies–my pick of candy at the movies in my adolescence. Later I widened my sophistication when I discovered Andes Mints in my young adulthood.

However, I never had a desire to make anything with both mint and chocolate in my desserts…until last year when I crossed paths in March with a few brownie/mint combos (St. Patty’s day, you know) ,and I have been dying to try them but haven’t made the time yet (I know, I know, March was like many moons ago).

When this recipe for chocolate & mint ice cream cups flashed across my computer screen, though, I knew I had to make it soon, and the September heatwave in So Cal brought just the right opportunity. So, when this school year’s first Salad Club invite showed up, I knew exactly which dessert I would create for the event.

These Grasshopper Ice Cream Cups make for a fun presentation, they look more complex to make than they actually are, and they taste refreshingly cool.

Below is my spin on the recipe. The original site says add a handful of this and a splash of that. Well, those kinds of directions don’t work for me, so I made sure to track measurements to share with you. Enjoy!

Grasshopper Ice Cream Cup

deeeeelish!

Grasshopper Ice Cream Cups

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Yield: 24-30 (depends on whether you use some crumbs to sprinkle tops of the ice cream cups)

INGREDIENTS

Cookie Layer

  • 1 package mint & fudge cookies (I used the Keebler brand 10-ounce package)
  • 1/4 cup (4 tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted

Ice Cream Layer

  • 1 quart mint chip ice cream

Ganache Topping

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I use Ghirardelli 60% cacao baking bar; semisweet chocolate chips would work, too)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp. light corn syrup
  • optional: chocolate jimmies or green sugar sprinkles

DIRECTIONS

  1. For bottom cookie layer, break cookies into chunks and place in a food processor. Process until cookies form into fine crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse a few times until crumbs are coated with butter. (If you want to sprinkle some crumbs on top of the ice cream cups, set some aside before adding butter, about 1/4 cup. However, adjust how much butter you use. For each cup of crumbs, use 2 tbsp. melted butter.)
  2. Place 1 tbsp. crumbs into each muffin paper, then tamp down the crumbs using a tamper or the back of a spoon.
  3. Scoop 3 tbsp. ice cream into each muffin cup (I used my small cookie scoop), and either flatten the ice cream with your fingers or with the back of a spoon. Place ice cream cups in freezer while making the ganache topping. Note: If the ice cream is too hard, let it soften a bit while in the muffin paper. The first time I made these, I let the ice cream soften before scooping. The second time, I scooped while it was frozen hard and found it easier to work with than when it was softened.
  4. For the ganache topping, chop the chocolate into small bits. Place in a bowl or cup with a spout.
  5. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the cream, milk, and corn syrup just until it begins to bubble. Stir it occasionally so it won’t scorch bottom of pan. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Give the bowl a tap to settle the milk into the chocolate. Let stand one minute undisturbed, then gently mix from center outward until chocolate melts and mixes into the milk.
  6. Pour the ganache over the ice cream cups to cover the ice cream (it will pour thickly). Start at outside edges and work your way to the center. Use your finger or the back of a spoon the spread the ganache to cover all exposed ice cream.
  7. If you want to sprinkle with cookie crumbs, do so quickly because the ganache will harden quickly atop the frozen ice cream. Sprinkle it on after pouring ganache onto every two muffin cups. Chocolate jimmies or green sugar sprinkles would make for fun presentations, too. Place in freezer to harden, which shouldn’t take long. After hardening, store in an airtight container.

SOURCE: adapted from Dreyer’s

Dark Chocolate Fudge Pops

fudgesicle

rich, decadent fudgepops!

Happy Labor Day!

I awoke before 6am, and after reading emails and a few blog posts, I remembered the fudgesicles I had whipped up yesterday afternoon. So yes, at 6:30 a.m., I ate a fudgesicle. Oh-so-very healthy of me, huh?

And it tasted yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuumy!

I’m using a HUGE amount of willpower right now to not eat another. And another. ‘Cause I easily could.

I took one bite, then a second, followed by a third. I really wanted to devour it pronto. But I made myself stop long enough to snap a quick picture. Luckily it came out okay enough to share on the blog. And then I promptly devoured the remaining frozen treat!

It has taken me over a year to find a fudgesicle recipe that I like. This one works. And it works well. The others tasted grainy, powdering, chalky… But this one? Creamy. Rich. Decadent.

And it uses NO added sugar. None. Can you believe that? I’m still stunned by that one. Granted, the chocolate has sugar in it, but not one spec of added sugar to the ingredients list.  So cool.

Heavy whipping cream plus milk plus a bit of cocoa plus finely chopped chocolate and a bit of vanilla. That’s it. Only that. And it produces a rich, chocolatey scrumptious frozen treat. I’m in awe right now. And so darn excited.

And really annoyed that my impatience last night caused me to lose one of the fudgesicles. I pulled the cap off the popsicle mold only to have the not-yet-frozen chocolate spill ALL OVER the kitchen floor. Into far corners. Little dots of chocolate mess speckling the tiles. Not happy. About the mess. And now about losing a darn yummy fudgesicle.

I had planned to use a bar of Ghirardelli baking chocolate in this, but I only had chocolate chips in the pantry. And I grabbed the container of Hershey’s Dark Cocoa so I used that. Both worked out just fine. Very fine, actually.

So, I guess we can call this a Dark Chocolate Fudgesicle. Or maybe Darn Delicious Dark Chocolate Fudgesicle.

I just had a thought. Is “fudgesicle” a brand name? If so, then I guess I should label these fudge pops instead?

Dark Chocolate Fudge Pops

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INGREDIENTS

DIRECTIONS

  1. Finely chop the chocolate, then place in a 4-cup (or larger) bowl with a spout (makes pouring into the pop molds much easier).
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine cream, milk, and sifted cocoa (to break up lumps). Place over medium heat, whisking until cocoa dissolves and mixture comes to a simmer. If you go beyond a simmer, you risk creating a grainy texture for the pops.
  3. Remove from heat; pour over the chopped chocolate and allow 2-3 minutes to pass before mixing. Then whisk gently until the chocolate melts and is thoroughly mixed in.
  4. Add the vanilla and mix.
  5. Pour the mixture into ice pop molds and place in freezer until solid.
  6. To unmold, place pop in lukewarm water for 1-2 minutes until it easily releases from mold. Now, enjoy every last rich and decadent bite!

SOURCE: Alton Brown’s Fudgepops from Foodnetwork.com

 

 

Cream Cheese Brownies

Cream Cheese Brownies

Decadent brownies with swirls of tangy cream cheese filling

Want something beyond the ordinary brownie? Try these Cream Cheese Swirl versions. Not only do they look gorgeous with that swirl effect, but every bite awards you a taste of tangy cream cheese flavor to complement the rich chocolatey brownie. Furthermore, not only will you impress with the flavor combo, but you will impress with the attractive swirl design. And you know what? It’s really a simple technique!

Cream Cheese Brownies

Cream Cheese Brownies

Cream Cheese Brownies

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INGREDIENTS

Cream Cheese Filling

  • 4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

Brownie Batter

  • 2/3 cup (3 1/3 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 oz) sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and set oven rack to middle position. Make foil sling for 8-inch square baking pan by pulling off two 14-inch pieces of aluminum foil from roll and folding each to 8-inch widths. Lay sheets perpendicularly in pan, with extra foil hanging over edges. Smooth foil against pan. Finally, grease the foil in the pan.
  2. Cream Cheese Filling: In a small bowl, whisk together softened cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, and flour until combined.
  3. Brownie Batter: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate and butter. Do this by microwaving in 1 minute increments, stirring occasionally. (Alternatively, you can use the double boiler method, if preferred.)
  5. In medium bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Add melted chocolate/butter (do not clean bowl yet); whisk until combined. Add flour mixture and fold to combine.
  6. Transfer 1/2 cup of brownie batter to bowl that had melted chocolate in it. With remaining batter, spread it into the 8”x8” pan.
  7. Spread cream cheese filling evenly over batter in pan.
  8. Microwave bowl of reserved batter until warm and pourable, 10-20 seconds. Using spoon, place 6-9 dollops of softened batter over cream cheese filling, spacing them evenly. Use a knife to swirl the brownie batter through the cream cheese filling, creating a marbled pattern, about 10-12 strokes. Leave a 1/2-inch border around the edges.
  9. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean with a few moist crumbs attached (test in brownie portion rather than cream cheese portion), 35-40 minutes. Rotate pan halfway through baking.
  10. Remove from oven and allow to cool on wire rack for 1 hour. Use foil overhang to lift brownies from pan, returning to wire rack until completely cool, about 1 hour. Cut into 2-inch squares. Refrigerate leftover brownies, but allow to come to room temperature for 1 hour before serving. The brownies also freeze well when wrapped in plastic wrap and then place in resealable bag.

SOURCE: Cook’s Illustrated, July/August 2014 issue

Chocolate Babka

Back in December 2009, I clipped a recipe from Cooking Light magazine for a chocolate-laced bread called babka. Since then, I have attempted that particular recipe on several occasions, only to face undercooked bread, issues with the dough not rising, and bread with HUGE air pockets.

Babka

Chocolate Babka: bread laced with chocolate filling

I have persevered, though, because the swirls of chocolate filling enticed me. I finally tried another sweet bread recipe from Lindsey at Pinch of Yum and combined it with the filling method from Cook’s Illustrated cinnamon swirl bread. Finally, success!

Babka

Aren’t those swirls of chocolate and cinnamon filling gorgeous!

Wondering about the origins of the name babka, I googled it to learn that babka is a Ukrainian sweet bread made for Easter. In my Croatian heritage, my mom and aunt always make Easter bread, which is a tad sweet and dry. Theirs bakes up lighter than this one, but the breads share the same level of mild sweetness. I prefer this one due to the chocolate spirals inside, though. I took it to work (to prevent myself from devouring it all), and my coworkers loved it.

So, I present to you a version of babka that took me five years to perfect.

Babka

Utterly delicious sweet bread

Chocolate Babka

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INGREDIENTS

Dough

  • 1 package (2 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 cups milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 8-9 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • optional: zest of one orange

Filling

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips or 4 ounces finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate (or dark chocolate, if you prefer)
  • 3 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Egg Wash

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 6 tsp. milk (or you can use orange juice to enhance the orange flavor if you used orange zest in the dough)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

DIRECTIONS

  1. To make dough: In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, allow the yeast to dissolve in the warm water until it reaches a frothy state.
  2. Add the milk, sugar, salt, eggs, orange zest (if using) and 2 cups of flour; using the paddle attachment of a standing mixer, mix on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  3. Switch to dough hook and add 3 more cups of flour; mix at a slightly higher speed. The dough should appear smooth and glossy.
  4. Add the melted butter; mix until dough appears glossy again.
  5. Stir in remaining 3-4 cups of flour a little at a time until a stiff dough forms. You will probably use closer to 3 cups of flour rather than 4.
  6. Transfer dough to a generously flour-coated surface, gently rolling dough around to coat it with flour. Place the dough back into the mixing bowl, cover, and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
  7. Using mixer, knead dough at low speed until smooth and satiny, about 4 minutes. Place dough into a lightly greased mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and allow it to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, until doubled in size (my dough took almost 2 hours to rise).
  8. To make filling: Whisk together powdered sugar, chocolate, cinnamon, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and salt until well combined.
  9. Grease two loaf pans (I used shortening).
  10. Rolling dough and adding filling: After dough has risen, transfer it to a lightly floured surface; divide dough in half (at this point, you can wrap one half in plastic wrap, place in resealable bag, and freeze for another time; to use, allow to thaw overnight in refrigerator and to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes or so). Working with one half at a time, roll dough into a large rectangle, roughly 14×16 inches and about 1/4-inch thick.
  11. Using a spray bottle, lightly spray the dough with water. Sprinkle half of the filling mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border on sides. Spray filling lightly with water (FYI: the powdered sugar absorbs water, forming a sticky paste that helps to hold the layers together, eliminating pesky air pockets).
  12. Starting from the longer side of the dough, roll dough away from you into a firm cylinder. Pinch ends closed. Holding dough by ends, gently twist the cylinder 4 times, as if wringing out a towel (this creates a spiral effect with the filling). Place the dough into the prepared pan, squeezing it into an S-shape to fit. Cover and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  13. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  14. Brush the loaves with the beaten egg so bread will bake with a golden crust. Bake for 55-60 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 200 degrees F.
  15. Remove from oven, place bread pans on cooling racks for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and allow bread to cool completely on wire rack before icing and slicing.
  16. To make icing: Combine icing ingredients and mix well. Drizzle over cooled bread.

SOURCES: inspired by Cooking Light; adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Cinnamon Swirl Bread and Pinch of Yum

2013 Holiday Cookie Line Up #3: Chocolate Truffle Cookies (from Dahlia Bakery)

Yep, I could eat that entire stack of ultra chocolatey cookies.

Chocolate Truffle Cookies

Rich and ultra chocolatey Chocolate Truffle Cookies

And I would need an entire gallon of milk to wash it down.

However, I refrained. I froze them instead so I could snack on them nightly. Oops, I meant to say so I could share them as holiday gifts.

Did I mention these are the perfect solution for when a gal needs her chocolate fix? They hit the spot. They should since they have a TON of melted chocolate added to the batter, which can get quite costly if you use the quality chocolate. And you should. No cutting corners on this one. Go for the gold.

These also hit the spot when us English teachers sit home all day–literally all day–grading essays. A cookie here, a cookie there–it helps ease the pain of grading.

Most of my baked cookies came out on the flatter side, which frustrates the heck outta me. Sometimes cookies just work and sometimes they don’t. I think it has to do with the butter and how cold it is. I guess my butter was on the slightly-too-soft side. However, as the mounds of dough waited on the cookie sheets for their stint in the oven, the later-baked batches had better form. Go figure.

Anyhow, these pack a mighty rich chocolate punch. I did find them to crumble a bit and harden ever-so-slightly the next day, which truthfully bummed me out a bit. However, I froze a bunch of the baked cookies, and when thawed, they tasted great and held their shape better. Again, go figure.

Chocolate Truffle Cookies (from Dahlia Bakery Cookbook)

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Yield: 36 cookies, about 3 1/2 inches in diameter

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp. + 1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Penzey’s Natural High Fat Cocoa)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 pound + 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat baking mats.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. (I always sift my cocoa first to get the lumps out of it.)
  3. Place a heatproof bowl over a saucepan filled with about one inch of water. Heat the water until simmering but not boiling. Place chopped chocolate in bowl; stir until chocolate melts and is smooth. Remove bowl from saucepan; allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, mix softened butter and sugar until well combined.
  5. Add eggs one at a time, mixing on medium speed until each is incorporated, then increase speed to high and beat for a few minutes until mixture is very light and creamy and pale in color (this step, by the way, gives the cookies their shiny, cracked tops; I think I needed to mix mine longer).
  6. Add the melted chocolate and vanilla (do not add vanilla to hot chocolate; it will make the chocolate seize!); mix until just combined.
  7. Use a spatula to fold in the dry ingredients. Do not overmix or cookies will come out tough.
  8. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  9. Start scooping cookies as soon as batter is made. Batter will be very soft and sticky initially but will begin to firm up as it sits, making scooping difficult. Scoop out into mounds about 2 inches in diameter, placing two inches apart. Slightly dampen hand and lightly flatten each mound. While one batch bakes, allow other to sit on counter rather than refrigerate them (chilled dough won’t spread properly with these cookies).
  10. Bake until cookie tops are evenly cracked and they are soft set, about 14-16 minutes. Remove pans from oven; allow to cool on wire rack. Cool cookies completely before removing them from the baking sheets.

Note: I halved the recipe and it worked out just fine.

SOURCE: In Sock Monkey Slippers via The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook

What’s Cooking in My Kitchen (cakes, cookies, cupcakes, mini pies, and ice cream)

With potlucks, work luncheons, and Thanksgiving on the horizon, I thought I had best get busy baking up some goodies ahead of time, most of them stocked in the freezer.

Sweet and Salty Butterscotch Pecan Cookies

Sweet and Salty Butterscotch Pecan Cookies

I have Sweet and Salty Butterscotch Pecan cookie dough in the freezer, ready for baking. These cookies receive the most rave reactions every time I share them.

Pecan Tassies

Pecan Tassies (mini pecan pies)

Pecan Tassies, bite-sized pecan pies, will grace a potluck at the gym. These freeze well in an airtight container, but that means I can easily sneak a tassie or two each night. I hope they last until the potluck later this week!! By the way, this time I added about 5 chocolate chips to the bottom of each crust before adding the filling. Extra yum!

Pumpkin Buttermilk Pound Cake

Pumpkin Buttermilk Pound Cake with Caramel Icing

A scrumptious Pumpkin Buttermilk Pound Cake with Caramel Icing, sans icing but tightly enveloped in plastic wrap and housed in the freezer, awaits Thanksgiving festivities, returning for a repeat performance after its highly successful debut last year.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

I baked Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes recently, falling in love with their espresso and pumpkin combo. Truth be told, it’s the frosting that stole my heart. I knew these would grace the table at the next salad club lunch at work, taking place this week.

Although these aren’t stocked in the freezer, I just have to share about these Apple Fritters I made recently for a book club meeting. Oh my goodness, this recipe makes the heavens sing. Check out Nicole’s post at Galley Gourmet for pics and recipe. I modified her recipe slightly, using grated apples rather than diced. I made it both ways, actually, and prefer the grated version. These are best eaten shortly after frying.

Finally, I tried my hand yet again at caramels, only to add another tale to my list of caramel woes. However, this time the caramels almost set properly. They are a bit too soft and every time I cut them, they morph back into one large blob after a few minutes. Sigh…

Since the Apple Cider Caramels still tasted yummy despite their blobby status, I decided to give the Browned Butter Caramel Stuffed Cookies a try and rescue the caramel. Failure. Sort of. I must have made the cookie balls too small and/or the caramel pieces too big; the caramel simply oozed out the bottoms of the cookies. Bummer because the browned butter cookies bake up outta-this-world-crazy-divinely-delicious and the apple cider caramel pairs perfectly with it.

As I held the tray of ruined cookies in my hand, about to toss them into the trash bin, I had a rescue idea flash into my brain: crumble the cookies and toss them into a batch of vanilla ice cream. So I did. Truthfully, I think it’s just a so-so combo, but my hubby loves it.

Vanilla Caramel Cookie Ice Cream

Vanilla Caramel Cookie Ice Cream

I tried another vanilla ice cream recipe for this, though, that hubby claims is better than his beloved Hagen Daaz. At Galley Gourmet, Nicole used the French Vanilla Ice Cream from David Liebovitz’s book The Perfect Scoop, but she modified it by adding some corn syrup and vodka. It certainly does create a soft, creamy, rich, and easy-to-scoop ice cream.

Oh, and if you ever have a ruined cake, you can try a trifle for a rescue mission. I had to do that with a burnt chocolate bundt cake a couple years ago, but I successfully turned that disaster into Chocolate Berry Trifles. I got the idea from Michelle at Brown-Eyed Baker and her carrot cake disaster rescue: Carrot Cake Trifle.

Chocolate Berry Trifle

Chocolate Berry Trifle

With all this baking, I can hardly wait for Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite of the holidays because it’s all about family, friends, and food. And I look forward to making Turkey Tetrazzini again from the broth I’ll make from the leftover carcass and all the meat I’ll get from those bones. It ranks as one of the most delicious savory recipes, I think, to come out of my oven.

Turkey Tetrazzini

Turkey Tetrazzini

What’s your favorite food at Thanksgiving? Try asking that at the dinner table. Not one person said turkey the year someone posed that question! My favorite: my mom’s sauerkraut. Or maybe Ladera’s stuffing.

Okay, only 11 more days until Turkey Day!! Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday filled with gratitude.

Chocolate Bundt Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting

Chocolate Bundt Cake

Chocolate Bundt Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting

My friend Sara of My Imperfect Kitchen, who I met at Camp Blogaway, asked me to guest post on her blog. I absolutely love Sara’s enthusiastic approach to life. Not only could I see this when I met her in person, but her blog posts ooze excitement and energy and a zest for life. Of course, I happily agreed to guest post for her.

She asked me to share one of my favorite recipes. Now that just left the choices too wide open for me! I have so many favorites. My mind whirled for days, but it kept returning to chocolate–chocolate cupcakes with chocolate fudge frosting in particular, a recipe shared with me by my husband’s stepmom. However, I didn’t want to write about something I’d already posted on my blog.

But chocolate thoughts kept saturating my brain. Then I had the opportunity to make dessert for a summer visit, so I made this chocolate bundt cake I had bookmarked to bake. Perfect choice for both the visit and to share with Sara’s readers. So my dear readers, if you want to find the recipe, which is well worth the baking, head on over to Sara’s blog.

Kahlua Cheesecake

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During our visit to Peru back in March (which I have yet to share with you all), we met a lovely duo of ladies, a mother and daughter from Seattle, Washington, who both love food as much as I do. Over lunch one day, a discussion of dessert ensued, to my delight.  In particular, the description of a Kahlua Cheesecake caught my attention and remained on my mind after our return. When my birthday rolled around in May, I decided to make this cheesecake in honor of the day (that’s just an excuse to pig out on dessert, to tell you the truth!). I didn’t have the recipe, so I culled together parts of some of my recipes as well as scoured the internet for ideas. Let me tell ya, this is one fun, fancy, and delicious cheesecake!

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It is layered with a graham cracker crust, decadent ganache, a thick and dense cheesecake, a topping of sour cream, and finally a drizzle of more ganache. See why it had me dreaming of it for several weeks?

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Yes, it takes some time to put this all together, but the result is well worth it! You can break the process down into several days to make it easier: crust and ganache layer one day; cheesecake and sour cream layers another day; and decorating a third day. Again, the final cheesecake more than makes up for all the effort.

Oh, this freezes well, too, and tastes surprisingly refreshing straight from the freezer!

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 Kahlua Cheesecake

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Graham Cracker Crust

  • 1 1/4 cups finely ground graham crackers  (FYI: 9 graham crackers = 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

Ganache Layer over Crust

  • 4 oz. bittersweet baking chocolate, finely chopped (I used Baker’s squares)
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. Kahlua
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • pinch of salt

Cheesecake Filling with Kahlua Flavoring

  • 2 lbs (four 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 4 extra large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 3-4 tbsp. Kahlua
  • 4 tsp. (up to 3 tbsp for stronger cappuccino flavor) instant espresso powder
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Sour Cream Topping

  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Ganache Drizzle for Top of Cheesecake

  • 2 oz. bittersweet baking chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla
  • tiny pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS

Graham Cracker Crust:

  1. Either roast pecans in a pan on the stovetop or roast in 350 degree F oven for about 5-7 minutes.
  2. If using whole graham crackers, break them into pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor along with toasted pecans; pulse until very fine crumbs are created. If using the box of graham cracker crumbs (found in baking section of grocery store), then pulse the pecans in a food processor until you have finely ground pecans, followed by adding graham crumbs.
  3. Add cinnamon and pinch of salt; pulse a few times until combined.
  4. With food processor in continuous pulse mode, drizzle melted butter over crumbs, pulsing until combined.
  5. Press the crust mixture into the bottom of 9 or 10-inch nonstick springform pan. Use a tamper or flat-bottomed drinking glass or ramekin to flatten the crust, creating an even layer. Use the back of a spoon to press flat the edges.
  6. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes; in the meantime, start making the ganache layer.

Ganache Layer:

  1. Bring whipping cream to a simmer in a large saucepan.
  2. Remove from heat; add chopped chocolate, Kahlua, vanilla, and salt. Whisk until chocolate melts and ganache is thick and smooth.
  3. Pour over bottom of prepared crust. Chill until firm (use freezer for 30 minutes if you are in a hurry).

Cheesecake Filling:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the Kahlua, espresso powder, and vanilla; stir until the powder has dissolved and then set aside.
  3. Using mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth.
  4. Add sugar and flour, beating until blended.
  5. Beat in eggs and yolks until smooth.
  6. Stir in whipping cream and Kahlua mixture.
  7. Pour batter over chilled ganache layer.
  8. Place cheesecake pan on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet (to catch any spills); bake for 15 minutes.
  9. Reduce oven temperature to 225 degrees F and bake for 55-60 minutes more. If cheesecake browns too quickly, loosely cover it with foil.

Sour Cream Topping

  1. While cheesecake is baking, blend sour cream, sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl.
  2. When the cheesecake has completed baking at 225 degrees for the 55-60 minute time period, spread the sour cream mixture over the cheesecake. Increase temperature to 350 degrees F; bake 7 minutes.
  3. Transfer to a cooking rack until completely cooled, about 3 hours. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, still in springform pan.
  4. When ready to drizzle with ganache, carefully release cheesecake from springform pan.

Ganache Drizzle for Top of Cheesecake:

  1. Bring whipping cream to a simmer in a large saucepan.
  2. Remove from heat; add chopped chocolate, vanilla, and salt. Whisk until chocolate melts and ganache is thick and smooth.
  3. Drizzle ganache over top of cheesecake for a final decorative touch. Do this by using a fork dipped in ganache and drizzle over top of cheesecake; or place ganache in piping bag or ziploc bag and snip off a pointed end, then drizzle.
  4. Refrigerate completed cheesecake and allow ganache to cool before serving.
  5. Cheesecake will keep in refrigerator for up to 4 days. Cheesecake also freezes well (whole or in slices); just wrap in plastic wrap then in foil.

SOURCES: cheesecake recipe & ganache from a high school buddy; some ideas adapted from Handle the Heat; and thanks to the inspiration in the first place from Melanie and Sarah