Chocolate King Cake

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On the twelfth night after Christmas, January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany begins. In the Christian faith, it’s supposed to celebrate the coming of the 3 Wise Men/Kings to the Christ Child and the bringing of gifts to honor him. It’s also supposed to mark the beginning of the Mardi Gras season that lasts until Fat Tuesday, which is always 47 days before Easter Sunday. Although you may not be able to celebrate with the folks down south in N’Awlins at Mardi Gras, you can still celebrate in your own kitchen with traditional Cajun/Creole foods that are typically eaten at this time of year.

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Muffaletta sandwiches. Catfish. Shrimp n’ Grits. Beignets. There’s a chain of bakeries in my hometown that sells to-DIE-for Packzi, the jelly, fruit or cream filled donuts. I make a pretty mean Jambalaya myself, and last week I shared a recipe for what I think is also a pretty mean Gumbo. (Which you guys absolutely should try for yourselves). This week, four days before Fat Tuesday itself, I thought I would share one more recipe that gets a lot of attention this time of year: the King Cake.

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The King Cake is a staple of Mardi Gras food. It hearkens to the Feast of the Epiphany and the 3 Kings who came to visit the Christ Child, who in the Christian faith was called the King of Jews. Kings come to visit the King, thus yielding the King Cake; pretty self-explanatory. For that reason, a small plastic baby figurine is even tucked into the bottom of the finished product; the person who has and finds the baby in their piece of King Cake is supposed to have good luck for rest of the year.

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Alright, now down to brass tacks.

Although it’s called a ‘cake’ I would actually describe it in taste and texture as closer to a brioche style bread. It’s made with yeast in a very similar way to brioche and provided your dough is made right, the texture should be close to it as well; moist and buttery with a tender chew. Traditionally, King Cakes are filled and rolled up with a mixture of cinnamon, sugar and pecans. As you guys can see, mine…isn’t.

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Why? Well, two reasons. First, nuts are expensive and the old purse strings gave me the side-eye when I asked them about going out to get some. Second, I already had chocolate in the house and I’d say that a chocolate filled cake is just as tasty as one filled with nuts, right? Of course right.

What do you guys think of the finished product? The topping I kept traditional; a powdered sugar icing sprinkled with green, purple and yellow sanding sugar, which are the typical colors of Mardi Gras. And I think it both looks and tastes pretty nice if I may say so myself, nuts or no nuts.

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One thing I will advise is that you follow the tip that I included in the recipe to help maintain the circle shape through the second rise and baking. If you have an oven-safe bowl (like the kind creme brulee or lava cakes are made in) it would be perfect to wrap the ring around and let it proof and bake that way. If you don’t, that’s fine too. Just mist a big ball of crumpled up aluminum foil with cooking spray and wrap the ring loosely around that. Loosen the cake from eiher the bowl or the foil shortly after it comes out of the oven; it’ll make for easier removal. And if you’re so inclined, feel free to slip a plastic baby figurine (or a bean, because who actually has one of those just sitting around) into a slit that you cut into the bottom of your FINISHED & BAKED loaf for that special person to find and get their extra bit of luck for the rest of the year. Aaaaand, that’s it.

Laissez le bon temps rouler, y’all.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #160, co-hosted this week by  Anugya @ Indian Curry Shack and Margy @ La Petite Casserole.

Chocolate King Cake

Recipe Adapted from LouisianaCookin.com

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Ingredients

For Dough

  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1/3 cup warm water (between 105° and 110°)
  • 1/2 cup plain sour cream (or 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and softened

For Filling/Top

  • 1 2/3 cups chopped semi sweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons warm milk
  • 1 tablespoon baking cocoa or unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/3 cup powdered/confectioner’s sugar,
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Yellow, green and purple sanding sugar/sprinkles

 

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with dough hook attachment, combine the warm water with the yeast. Sprinkle the 1 tsp white sugar on top & let sit for 10 minutes, until frothy. Meanwhile in a small bowl whisk together the sour cream (or buttermilk), vanilla extract, eggs and egg yolk. Mix into the yeast mixture and beat for about 1 minute.

Turn the mixer off and add the flour (1 cup at a time), salt and remaining 1/3 cup sugar. Beat at medium-low speed until most of the dry ingredients have been absorbed. Turn the speed up to medium and add the butter in small chunks, beating until combined, about 2 minutes. Flour your hands and a clean surface (like a pastry mat or wax paper. Scrape the dough out and onto the surface (it’s fine if it’s a little sticky). Gently knead it about 5-6 times until it’s smooth and pliable. Spray the mixing bowl with cooking spray and punch down into the bottom. Flip over and punch down one more time. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap, then a damp kitchen towel. Allow to rise until doubled in size for about 90 minutes in a warm place (I usually use my microwave).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Punch risen dough down onto floured surface and roll into a rectangle, about 17×16 inches. In a medium microwave safe bowl, combine the chopped chocolate and butter. Microwave in 30 second intervals until the chocolate is melted and smooth (don’t over-microwave or else chocolate will seize and be unusable; 60 seconds TOPS should do it). Stir in the baking cocoa or cocoa powder & warm milk. Spread in a thin layer over the rectangle of dough.

Starting with one short side, roll dough into a log and pinch the seams thoroughly to seal. Gently lift and place on baking sheet and form a ring, pinching the ends together to seal. (You can use a ball of aluminum foil lightly sprayed with cooking spray or a small oven-safe bowl placed in the center of the ring, to help it maintain its shape). Cover with plastic wrap and damp kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in size, about 60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325°. Uncover cake. Use kitchen shears to make 7 (1/4 inch) deep cut into top of dough. Bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes & covering with foil if browning too quickly. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

For icing, combine powdered sugar with vanilla extract & milk in a small bowl. (If too stiff, add 1 tsp milk until spreadable) Drizzle over top of cake with a fork. Sprinkle colored sanding sugar in alternating colors. Let stand until icing is set.

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Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate

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I don’t drink hot chocolate very often, but when I do, there are a few must haves that I want in it:

It MUST be chock full of chocolatey flavor. Say no, never and not on my watch to that thin, liquidy crap from a mix that tastes like a bad weight loss shake. I want to feel like I’m drinking a melted Hershey bar, which brings me to the next important element: texture.

A good hot chocolate to me is one that is slightly thick and more robust than say, coffee in its liquidity. I’m not saying it should have necessarily stew consistency, but it should be thick enough to leave a filmy residue on the back of the spoon after you stir it. If your hot cocoa is thin and broth-like…meh. It’s a no from me dawg.

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Thirdly: I want, no I NEED to have a crap load of elements on top. You can’t just stop at the hot chocolate itself. Why? Because a good Christmas tree is nothing without it’s trimmings. You gotta bedazzle that sucka, guys. I’m talking marshmallows, caramel, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, sprinkles, crushed peppermint candy, cookie crumbs. Show your taste buds that you mean business and give it the works.

Or else, what is even the point?

For today’s recipe, I can assure you: I did not hold back. I went hard.

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This hot chocolate really does have it all. It starts with a milk base that is melted down with semi-sweet chocolate. I recommend you use good chocolate here. Hersheys bars will work fine, as will Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks but if you can use Ghiradelli, Godiva or Dove chocolate that I think would work even better. I even think that using dark chocolate or chocolate flavored with chili powder would be awesome, just to give it another level of flavor.

So help me God, if you go and use some chalky generic store brand chocolate chips I will hunt you down, find you and shake you silly.

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You can of course make your own Dulce de Leche by either boiling or baking a single can of sweetened condensed milk, but if you can just get the pre-made Nestle one that comes in a can and is located in the Hispanic/Latino foods aisle of the grocery store,please just go with that. Less work. You can also use less of it in the cocoa if you prefer yours on the less sweet side.

Now, make sure you’ve got all the garnishments on deck once the hot chocolate is made. It’s your customizable world here, but I used whipped cream, chocolate sauce, more melted dulce de leche that I had left over from the can and Christmas nonpareil sprinkles. Also (because I just don’t know how to quit) I dipped the rims of my mugs in hot chocolate, then pressed them into a dish of crushed gingersnap cookie crumbs, then let them chill in the freezer for about 40 minutes. That way, with every sip of hot chocolate, there’s also the added texture and flavor of the spicy gingersnap sliding down your throat. I realize this is extra, but what can I say? I be’s that way sometimes.

Happy Fiesta Friday #149, (cohosted this week by Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju and Sandhya @ Indfused) where I’m linking this post.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Day 3: Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Day 4: Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate

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Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate

Recipe Courtesy of Food Network Magazine

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 ounces of semi sweet chocolate, chopped, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 cup dulce de leche, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or 1 cinnamon stick broken in half
  • Whipped cream for topping
  • Sprinkles for topping, optional

 

Directions

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a low simmer over medium low heat.

Add the chocolate, dulce de leche and cinnamon. Cook and stir until the chocolate and caramel has melted into the milk and mixture is smooth, about 3-5 minutes.

Pour into mugs and top with whipped cream, additional chocolate and caramel and sprinkles.

(Mixture will thicken as it cools, just add additional milk to thin out if desired.)

 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Icebox Cake

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Hey guys.

Greetings from the West Coast.

I made it to California on Sunday and have spent the last few days getting settled and doing some exploring of the area. I gotta say, Michigan this place is NOT. It’s sooooo different in so many ways.

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The first most obvious difference is the climate. It’s the beginning of September which for Michigan would mean that very soon (if not already)the temperature would begin to drop and give way to autumn.  We also see our fair share of rain in the Mitten.

Well, I may have only been here three and a half days but I’ve checked the forecast for the next 10 and so far The Weather Channel says that there’s nothing but sunny skies ahead with the temperature in the upper 70’s and 80’s. The ‘heat’ here is even different. You feel it, but unlike in Michigan, Calif heat as I’ve experienced it isn’t oppressive/humid/muggy. There’s usually a breeze that comes up to temper the heat from the sun. It’s nice.

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The city I’m living in was literally built in the middle of a desert valley, so at any moment, in just about any place you’re at, you can look off in the distance and see the tall, rolling mountains surrounding you. This may seem commonplace and un-extraordinary if you’re used to it, but I’m not, so I think it’s pretty awesome and beautiful.

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Perhaps most importantly…OMG, there are SO many different restaurants/food options out here! Back where I’m from in Michigan we really only had a handful of independently owned restaurants/joints besides the major chains. Not the case out here. I’ve had to add the Yelp app back onto my phone just to be able to pinpoint the highest rated places around where we are (and there are plenty). I’m excited to be able to try them out on the days when I don’t cook and/or have leftovers in the fridge.

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As for today’s post, this is actually a recipe that I made a couple weeks before I made the big move. I figured that I would be busy both right before I left and that I would also need some time to get settled in the new spot before I made my first meal in the new apartment and tried to put together new photoshoots and posts. My instincts were correct and although I plan to start cooking in the new spot tomorrow, I do have several back-up posts ready to share just in case I don’t get to take pics and write up recipes.

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An icebox ‘cake’ is probably the easiest type of cake to make there is (even easier than a box cake mix), since in most cases there is no baking involved at all. Really all it involves is the layering of cookies, ladyfingers, biscuits or pre-made cake in between whipped cream/custard or some other kind of filling. The mixture is allowed to rest overnight in the fridge and the filling softens the base carbs so that they become soft and chewy; like a ‘cake’.

It’s a stupid easy technique that can result in stupid delicious results. Like this one I’ve made for you guys today.

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If you’re new to icebox cakes, then let me make a staunch recommendation to you: start with a chocolate chip cookie one. Why?

Well #1, everyone loves chocolate chip cookies. Ev-ery-one. And if they don’t, well…maybe you shouldn’t know them. Number #2, this chocolate chip cookie recipe that I use is extremely simple to follow and tastes delicious; however, it’s also perfectly fine to use store-bought ones if you’re not in the mood for baking them beforehand. And CCCs are something that can be found in just about any grocery store. The flavors here are no-frills and pretty up front; chocolate chip cookies are sandwiched between layers of vanilla flavored whipped cream,then topped with more whipped cream, melted chocolate, sprinkles and crumbled chocolate chip cookies.

Guys. I mean…need I say more? Just *look* at it, will you? And yes, I guarantee it tastes every bit as delicious as it looks.

Happy Fiesta Friday #136, where I’ll be sharing this cake co-hosted this week by Judi @ CookingWithAuntJuJu.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Icebox Cake

Cookie Recipe Courtesy of Land O’ Lakes

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Ingredients

For the Cookies*:

  • 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (12-ounce) package (2 cups)real semi-sweet chocolate chunks or chocolate chips

(Note: You can completely bypass this step and buy storebought chocolate chip cookies if you prefer. I’d just make sure I had about 20-30 total to fill the entire pan.)

For Assembly:

  • 4 cups cold heavy cream
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
  • funfetti sprinkles, optional

Directions

 Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in bowl; set aside.

 Combine butter, sugar and brown sugar in another bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy.

Add eggs and vanilla. Continue beating, scraping bowl often, until well mixed.

Gradually add flour mixture, beating at low speed until well mixed. Stir in chocolate chunks.

Refrigerate dough for at least four hours, but preferably overnight.

Heat oven to 375°F.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoons, 2 inches apart, onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 8-11 minutes or until light golden brown. (Do not overbake.) Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to cooling rack.

Whisk the heavy cream and cream cheese together in a standing mixer using the wire attachment until soft peaks form. Add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla bean paste/vanilla extract and continue to whisk until medium-stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use. (Note: make sure the cookies are COMPLETELY cool before beginning to assemble cake.)

Spray the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. (You can use a regular 9 inch pan, you just won’t be able to remove the whole cake and will have to cut it out piece by piece when ready to eat)

Place one layer of chocolate chip cookies down in the bottom of the pan, breaking apart into pieces to fill in the gaps if need be. Spread a thick layer of the whipped cream (about 1 cup) over the cookies using a spatula to spread smoothly and evenly. Repeat to form about 3-4 more layers, ending with a layer of whipped cream on top. (You’re probably going to have leftover cookies; that’s totally fine.)

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Take 1-2 of the leftover cookies and crumble between your fingers. Spread the chunks of cookie over the top center of the cake in a small pile.

Microwave the semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips in a glass measuring cup or microwave-safe bowl. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the cookie crumbs, then add the funfetti sprinkles if desired.

Refrigerate one more time, 30-minutes to an hour, just until chocolate/whipped cream has set and hardened. Unclasp the spring from the pan and gently lift out. Cut into slices and serve.

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Like many other folks,  there’s a list of things in life that I’ve always REALLY wanted to do, but just haven’t  been able to for various reasons.

Living in a big city (at least for a short period of time). Skating in Rockefeller Center at Christmas.  Flying first class on an air plane. Going zip-lining and living to tell the tale afterwards. Having a book on the NYT Best-Seller list. Remodel and live in a three to four story brownstone house.

Those are some of my more “extreme” ones that are proooobably going to have to wait until circumstances in my life adjust– most notably the financial ones.

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On the other hand, I’ve got other less major ones that would probably be extremely do-able and realistic.

Attend an All-White Party AND a Black Tie Gala. Sing Karaoke (in public). Slow-dance to “The Way You Look Tonight” in the dark. Become completely fluent in conversational Arabic and Spanish. Take a salsa dancing class. Get tatted.

Those are all things I COULD do, but… procrastination+nervousness+introversion= unaccomplished goals for Jess.

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I think I’ve mentioned it before on the blog but apart from my general Bucket List, I’ve also created a separate one that’s solely dedicated to recipes, techniques and ingredients in the kitchen that I’ve yet to practice and try. That list is actually getting gradually shorter and shorter as cooking is not something that I’m particularly limited in by lack of cash, or something that I have to swallow huge amounts of fear or anxiety to do. Cooking and baking are my form of personal therapy so I actually try to do them as much as possible, even when it’s trying out new things.

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It’s  pretty wonderful feeling when you actually get to accomplish something you’ve always wondered, thought or dreamed about, and an even better one when it’s every bit as satisfying as you always hoped it would be. Today’s post is actually me ticking off one of the things on my baking Bucket List: making something with browned butter.

Browned butter baked goods is one of those things I’ve heard RAVE reviews about, but just never got around to trying for myself. I think I did have a small paranoia that in the process of trying to ‘brown’ the butter I would accidentally burn it. However, that was a silly fear. Browning butter is very simple, and so long as you don’t leave it alone on the stove to go take a shower or clean the house, then it’s pretty safe to say, you’re not going to let it burn. This is my first and only time using it, and prior to now I didn’t think there was anything else you could do to elevate the simple but classic chocolate chip cookie.

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Guys.

I WAS WRONG.

If there is anyway to make a chocolate chip cookie reach the level of pure nirvana, it isn’t nuts. It isn’t coconut. It’s isn’t dark chocolate chips or caramel. Nuh uh.

It’s brown friggin butter.

What makes browned butter different from regular? Well the first thing you’re going to notice after you’ve prepared it here, is that it has a particular smell. A nutty, ‘caramely’ rich aroma that almost reminds you of what the Nestle Tollhouse booths in the mall give off when they’re baking fresh batches of goodies. Or even, what the Keebler  Elf Treehouse would smell like inside if it were a real thing. At least that’s what came to MY mind when I took the saucepan off the stove to let the butter cool and stuck my nose down into it to get a whiff.

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Chocolate chip cookies usually come down to two things when it comes to stand out flavors: the chocolate chips and the texture of  the cookie itself. Some people prefer dark chocolate as opposed to milk, while others want chocolate along with other mix-ins like nuts and coconut. Some people prefer cakey chocolate chip cookies while others prefer them thin and crispy. I think what the browned butter mainly does to elevate these cookies is that, it makes the actual flavor of the COOKIE DOUGH itself the star of the cookie. It has a unmistakably rich, nutty flavor that marries well with the flavor of the chocolate, balancing out the sweetness.

I wouldn’t call the texture of the cookie cakey, but it’s also not crispy either. It’s a perfect balance between the two; crisp edges and soft chewy centers (provided you stick with a middling bake time, of course.)

Also, Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches. Just throwing that out there.

Happy Fiesta Friday #131, co-hosted this week by Su @ Su’s Healthy Living and Laura @ Feast Wisely.

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe Courtesy of Serious Eats

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Ingredients

  • 8 ounces unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 standard ice cube (about 2 tablespoons of frozen water)
  • 10 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 5 ounces granulated sugar (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 ounces dark brown sugar (about 1/2 tightly packed cup plus 2 tablespoons)
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped with a knife into 1/2- to 1/4-inch chunks

Directions

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, gently swirling pan constantly, until particles begin to turn golden brown and butter smells nutty, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and continue swirling the pan until the butter is a rich brown, about 15 seconds longer. Transfer to a medium bowl, whisk in ice cube, transfer to refrigerator, and allow to cool completely, about 20 minutes, whisking occasionally. (Alternatively, whisk over an ice bath to hasten the process.)

Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Place granulated sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium-high speed until mixture is pale brownish-yellow and falls off the whisk in thick ribbons when lifted, about 5 minutes.

Fit paddle attachment onto mixer. When brown butter mixture has cooled (it should be just starting to turn opaque again and firm around the edges), add brown sugar and cooled brown butter to egg mixture in stand mixer. Mix on medium speed to combine, about 15 seconds. Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until just barely combined, with some dry flour still remaining, about 15 seconds. Add chocolate and mix on low speed until dough comes together, about 15 seconds longer. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate dough at least overnight and up to 3 days.

When ready to bake, adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and preheat oven to 325°F. Using a 1-ounce ice cream scoop or a spoon, place scoops of cookie dough onto a nonstick or parchment-lined baking sheet. Tear each ball in half to reveal a rougher surface, then stick them back together with the rough sides facing outward. Transfer to oven and bake until golden brown around edges but still soft, 13 to 16 minutes, rotating pans back to front and top to bottom halfway through baking.

Remove baking sheets from oven. Let cool for 2 minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Repeat steps 3 through 5 for remaining cookie dough. Allow cookies to cool completely before storing in an airtight container, plastic bag, or cookie jar at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Popcorn Graham Cracker Toffee

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So you guys want to hear a pretty fun fact about my niece? She’s three years old and she already has an all-time favorite movie.

And nope. It’s not “Frozen”. (Thank God. She certainly loves Frozen but we’ve been given a temporary reprieve from Elsa and Anna for a long while now. I’d be fine if they made that reprieve permanent as well, but that’s probably wishful thinking).

Surprisingly, it’s also not one of the Pixar films like “Finding Nemo” “The Incredibles” or “Toy Story” (Come to think of it, I can’t remember right now if she’s EVER seen any of the Toy Story movies, which means I am majorly failing in one crucial aspect of my auntie duties.)

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There’s no point in me telling you guys to try and guess what her favorite movie is. You won’t guess. No way. This is NOT what you would think a typical three year old girl’s favorite movie would be. Kinda like…the exact opposite.

But we’ve all accepted long ago that my niece just isn’t a typical three year old and by now this is just normal to us.

Ok, so….her favorite movie?

Its’s “Jurassic Park”. Yeah. the ACTUAL “Jurassic Park” movie.

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See the thing is, my brother in law got her started on LOVING all things that have to do with dinosaurs. From there she graduated from playing with figurines to actually being able to sit through and be entertained by the actual movies with them. I have no idea why a tyrannosaurus rex doesn’t scare the living daylights out of a three year old. I’m pretty sure it would’ve scared the living daylights out of THIS girl when she was three.

But like I said: she’s not a typical three year old. And she loves the movie….to the point where she likes to watch it preeeeetty much every day. Seriously.

I have seen “Jurassic Park” so many times in the last year that I’m sick of it.

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What does “Jurassic Park” have to do with this post?

Well, there’s a scene in the move where the character Dennis Nedry is getting ready to try and sneak the dinosaur embryos off the island and in order to do so, he has to come up with a “believable” excuse for why he has to leave the control room of the park and shut off all the security systems so that he can leave undetected. He goes into this hilarious nervous rambling about going to the vending machine for something salty since he’s only had something sweet. I thought about that scene when I was making this recipe, since it’s a pretty good combination of both sweet and salty flavors.

Actually, correction: it’s an AMAZING combination of both sweet and salty flavors.

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I’ve made a recipe similar to this one before for the second year of the 12 Days of Christmas series on the blog; the main difference there with that toffee bark was that it was missing the extra add-ins that we see here. I’m pleased to announce that today’s recipe is actually a vast improvement. I first saw this on Bon Appetit and when I saw the list of ingredients, decided to go ahead and make my own modifications to it for my own personal tastes:

First, instead of using regular peanuts I went ahead and used the honey roasted variety, since those are a perfect mixture of sweet/salty all on their own. I also used cinnamon flavored graham crackers, as I do tend to prefer them to regular honey. However since having done this I CAN also see chocolate flavored graham crackers being a VERY delicious swap for choco-holics. I also made a note below regarding the sugar syrup mixture that gets poured over the add-ins before baking; if you prefer a very gooey toffee then I recommend you checking it out and reading the whole recipe before beginning.

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Look, I don’t have to sell you guys on this stuff, right?

You’ve got eyes. Use your “imaginatory” tastes buds to just stop and think about what this stuff would taste like: honey roasted peanuts, salty popcorn, cinnamon graham crackers, rice cereal that are all stuck together in a candy-toffee bite. It’s some SERIOUSLY addictive stuff.

Basically, it’s Moose Munch on steroids. And who doesn’t want some of that? Boom.

Happy Fiesta Friday #123, co-hosted this week by  Margy @ La Petite Casserole and Linda @ La Petite Paniere.

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Popcorn Graham Cracker Toffee

Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit

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Ingredients

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 15 cinnamon graham crackers
  • 4 cups popped popcorn (from ¼ cup kernels)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped salted, honey roasted peanuts
  • ¾ cup puffed rice cereal
  • cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter*
  • ¾ cup sugar*
  • 1 cup chopped semisweet chocolate or chocolate chips (about 6 oz.)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with nonstick spray. Arrange graham crackers in a single layer on baking sheet, breaking to fit as needed to cover entire surface. Top with popcorn, peanuts, and puffed rice.

Bring butter and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high. Once boiling, stir once, then reduce heat and simmer, swirling occasionally, until mixture is golden brown and syrupy, 8–10 minutes.
Pour toffee mixture evenly over graham crackers and popcorn mixture. Bake until toffee is slightly darkened in color (the shade of a brown paper bag) and bubbling, 10–12 minutes. Remove from oven and evenly top with chocolate.
Turn the oven off, then return pan inside, just long enough to let the chocolate chips start to begin to melt and get gooey.Remove baking sheet from oven and using a fork or butter knife, begin to swirl and smear the softened chocolate so that it ‘sticks’ to the popcorn/peanuts/rice cereal.
Let cool in baking sheet before breaking into pieces. You can also place the sheet in the fridge for about 30 minutes or so to harden faster.
*This recipe I found created JUST enough boiled sugar syrup to cover the ingredients, with a few loose leaf pieces escaping after they cooled. This was fine with me, but if you personally prefer a ‘gooier’ texture to your toffee, then I do recommend doubling the sugar syrup mixture. You’ll probably have a little bit of extra, but better extra than not enough.

Fluffy Yellow Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting

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Is it too late to wish all you guys a Happy New Year? No?

Ok then, well… Happy New Year!

I know it’s been a while since my last post, but the 12 Days of Christmas series always does sap a lot of energy out of me, and this year I was also doing it while we were in the process of moving to a new place. By the time I put up my most recent post on Christmas Eve, I was pretty exhausted and in much need of a break. So I took one.

I hope your year’s been off to a promising start. Mine certainly has.

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Apart from the fact that the new (and sadly, the last) season of Downton Abbey always comes to America the first week in the new year, the beginning of January also marks the birthdays of several people in my family that are clustered together. This includes one particularly important person to me that I’d like to share a few words about in brief snapshots of my memory.

(This is going to get sentimental. Very sentimental. You’ve been warned.)

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To the woman who let me and my sisters crowd around her on a bed while she read aloud from “Great Expectations” as our ‘bedtime’ story and made me discover my great and all-consuming love of books and subsequently, writing.

To the woman who would wake us up for school with a chipper rendition of “When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bobbin Along” until we all laughed and forgot how sleepy we were.

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To the woman who would pile us all into the backseat of our car and drive to chase sunsets (back in the days when gas was cheap as dirt, of course).

To the woman who when I cried and was sad, was always willing to rock and hold me and sing “You Are My Sunshine” until I felt better.

To the woman/wonderful cook who was nothing but completely encouraging and supportive when I made the hefty decision to start learning to cook for myself.

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AND, to the woman who shares my opinion that yellow cake with chocolatey fudge frosting is the BEST type of cake there is.

It was your *bleep*th birthday: so I made you one.

And we both of us thought it tasted pretty awesome.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you.

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Yellow cake is usually something that people don’t get unless it comes out of a box of cake mix. I’m not gonna knock yellow cake mix too hard; so long as you’re eating it in the first two days after it was made, then it’s actually pretty tasty.

But after making this recipe twice, I really must insist…there’s still NO substitute for yellow cake and chocolate frosting made from scratch. There just isn’t.

Even after running into a momentary setback with the new oven temperature in our new place, this cake recipe proved very forgiving and STILL came out great. The buttery richness that we all love to see in yellow cake really comes through with the 6 egg yolks, while the whites made it plenty moist and fluffy. And the milky, chocolate fudgey frosting…wow. I had to resist the urge to just eat it clear off of a spoon. The folks at ATK prove time and time again that they know what they’re doing.

I’ll be sharing my mom’s birthday cake with you wonderful people at the Fiesta Friday #102 party, co-hosted this week by Elaine @ foodbod and Julie @ Hostess at Heart– both GREAT ladies, with great blogs.

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Fluffy Yellow Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting


Recipe Courtesy of The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2015

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Ingredients

For Cake:

  • 2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) cake flour, plus extra for the pans
  • 1 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp table salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 10 tbsp. (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks, plus 3 large egg whites, at room temperature

Frosting

  • 20 tbsp. (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) confectioner’s sugar
  • 3/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
  • Pinch table salt
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces milk chocolate, melted and slightly cooled

Directions

For the Cake:

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour two 9-inch wide by 2-inch high round cake pans and line with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, 1 1/2 cups of the granulated sugar, the baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. In a 4-cup liquid measuring cup or medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, melted butter, oil, vanilla and egg yolks.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. With the machine running, gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar; continue to beat until stiff peaks form, about 30 to 60 seconds (the whites should hold a peak but the mixture should still appear moist). Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add the flour mixture to the now empty mixing bowl. With the mixer till fitted with the whisk attachment and running at low speed, gradually pour in the butter mixture and mix until almost incorporated (a few streaks of dry flour will remain), about 15 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape the whisk and sides of the bowl. Return the mixer to medium-low speed and beat until smooth and fully incorporated, 10 to 15 seconds.

Using a rubber spatula, stir one third of the whites into the batter to lighten, then add the remaining whites and gently fold into the batter until no white streaks remain. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans, smoothing tops with a rubber spatula. Lightly tap the pans against the countertop two or three times to settle the batter. Bake until the cake layers begin to pull away from the sides of the pans and a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time. Cool the cakes in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the edge of the cakes, then flip them out onto a wire rack. Peel off the parchment paper, flip the cakes right side up, and cool before frosting, about 2 hours.

For the Frosting:

Using a standing or hand held mixer, cream the butter, confectioner’s sugar, cocoa and salt together until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the corn syrup and vanilla and mix until just combined, about 5 to 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the chocolate and mix together until smooth and creamy, about 10-15-seconds.

Line the edges of a cake platter with strips of parchment paper to keep the platter clean while you assemble the cake. Place one (evenly leveled) cake layer on the platter. Spread 1 1/2 cups of the frosting evenly across the top of the cake with a spatula. Place the second cake layer on top, then spread with the remaining frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake. Remove the parchment strips from the platter before serving.

Café Coffee Cookies

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Baking twelve batches of Christmas goodie recipes is no small task, guys,

It’s a whole lot of butter, sugar, flour.

A.WHOLE.LOT.

Like, I don’t think you understand how much of those three things you’re going to end up using.

And spilling. And cleaning up.

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Eventually stuff just starts blurring together; the sound of the mixer, the stray sprinkles that fall on the kitchen floor, the empty eggshells and used butter wrappers, the measuring cups and measuring spoons that you continually have to rinse out and dry between recipes, the sound of the oven buzzer going off telling you to take the next ‘batch’ out. You run out of counter space and end up having to get ‘creative’ to find spaces to let your bakes cool off and or set up. You go through countless rolls of paper towel, parchment paper and aluminum foil.

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Also, your feet swell and ache from standing up for hours.

I pretty much turn into a mixing, measuring, baking Elf for this series.

But somehow, I still end up loving it.

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Spoiler Alert, guys: as much as I love doing the series, I actually don’t end up keeping/eating most of the food I bake.

I mean, come on: it would just be a bad idea for me to keep 12 batches of baked goods in my house. I probably wouldn’t be able to fit out the door of my house if I did that. Plus, Christmas is the season of giving, right?

So, what I usually try and do is give away as much of the treats as possible to people I know; neighbors, family, friends. I send it to Christmas parties and potlucks. There’s a lady in my grandparents church who gets the bulk of them to pass out to kids in her neighborhood.

In short, when you do this much baking at a time, it’s just best for you to share the wealth…most of the time.

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Except, that’s not exactly what happened with these. This time around, I didn’t want to “share the wealth”, I wanted to hoard it. So I did.

These cookies, I kept. All for myself. That’s how yummy they are.

It may have something to do with my being somewhat of a coffee addict, but I seriously loved these cookies. They’re soft, fudgy and rich. The combination of chocolate and coffee works SO well here. The flavor really is reminiscent of  your favorite latté at a coffee shop. Because I’m such a huge coffee fan, I did bump up the amount of instant coffee in my dough to 4 tbsp. However, because I know that not everyone is as fond of coffee as I am, I kept the printed recipe as I originally found it. (But if you love coffee as much as I do, I recommend bumping it up).

There’s only two more days left of our series, guys. Whoop whoop.

12 Days of Christmas Banner Second

Day 1: Springerle Cookies

Day 2: Speculaas Cookies

Day 3: Gingerbread Caramel Crunch

Day 4: Cranberry Pumpkin Gingerbread

Day 5: Sticky Caramel Pecan Babka

Day 6: Speculoos Truffle Cookies

Day 7: Aniseed Cookies

Day 8: Magical, Memorable, Marvelous Cookies

Day 9: Butterscotch Gingerbread Cookies

Day 10: Café Coffee Cookies

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Cafe Coffee Cookies

Recipe Courtesy of Betty Crocker

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules or instant espresso coffee (dry)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 bag (11.5 or 12 oz) semisweet chocolate chunks (2 cups)

 For Coffee Drizzle

  • 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules or instant espresso coffee (dry)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Directions

In large bowl, beat granulated and brown sugars, butter and egg with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon, until creamy. Stir in flour, 1 tablespoon coffee granules, the baking soda and salt. Stir in pecans and chocolate chunks. Refrigerate cookie dough for at least one hour, or preferably overnight.

Heat oven to 350°F. Drop dough by 1/4 cupfuls about 2 inches apart onto ungreased large cookie sheet.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown and edges are set. Cool 4 minutes; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in small bowl, dissolve 1/2 teaspoon coffee granules in water. Stir in powdered sugar until smooth and thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle cooled cookies with Coffee Drizzle.