Chocolate Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread

Call it old school or whatever you like, but I was raised to believe that when someone invites you over to their house for a gathering, it’s just good manners to bring something to eat to share.  At the very least, you need to OFFER to bring something. And to be honest, even if they say you don’t have to, you should still bring a bottle of something something to drink with the meal–alcoholic or non-alcoholic, it doesn’t matter.

What you don’t do is show up to someone’s house to eat empty handed.

Being an introvert I don’t get out very much, but if I am going to go over to someone else’s house for a gathering then I’ll offer to bake something to bring. Just about everyone has a sweet tooth and just about everyone loves pound cake and butter cookies. (My deepest sympathies with those who don’t. I hope you get the help you need.) Often it’s either pound cake or butter cookies that I’ll bring, as those are both delicious desserts that don’t take a huge amount of effort and I usually always have the ingredients on hand in my house already.

Sometimes though, I’ll switch things up.

I went to a gathering for my niece’s preschool recently and since I was going to someone else’s house, I knew I’d have to bake something to bring along to eat. I knew I could’ve just made pound cake or butter cookies–but I made a last minute decision to take a different route and bake bread instead. I really liked where we ended up. I made two different kinds, the first of which I’m sharing with y’all in today’s recipe.

Pull Apart Bread gets its name from the way that the loaf is assembled. The dough is cut into imperfect layers that are easy to pull apart into portions, which makes it great for gatherings and sharing. The layers are usually stuffed with some kind of sweet or savory filling. It can be made with just about any sturdy yeast bread recipe. I went with the go-to Challah recipe that I use. It does make two loaves so either make sure you have two loaf pans or cut the recipe in half. (Although I would definitely make the whole recipe, share one loaf then just keep the other at home all for me, but that’s just my kind of lifestyle.)

Don’t get intimidated by the step of layering the dough in the pan. It’s not complicated. You’re going to roll out the dough into one large rectangle, then spread the top with softened butter, chocolate and cinnamon. After that, you divide it into 16 squares. Make four towers from the sixteen squares. Layer those four towers into the pan–don’t worry about making them perfect, because they’re honestly not supposed to be. The more ‘imperfect’ they are, the more ‘perfect’ they’ll be for tearing off and sharing into thick slices. I will say that this loaf proofs HUGE and it will keep growing while it bakes, so it may not need the full second hour to double in size.

It took me a while before I learned to appreciate the flavor combination of chocolate and cinnamon, but once I learned my lesson, I never had to learn it twice. It works. I find that the cinnamon works to counter the slight bitterness of the chocolate and the flavor kinda reminds me of something I’d buy in a coffee shop. I sprinkled the top of the loaf with cinnamon sugar to give it a crunchy contrast of texture with the pillowy inside of the bread, which in true Challah fashion, doesn’t disappoint. This stuff went over like gangbusters and I think it’s a treat kids in particular would love, for obvious reasons. Though I can also see more sophisticated re-purposing uses for it like, say…French toast or bread pudding? Yum.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #223, co-hosted this week by the fantastic Mollie @ The Frugal Hausfrau.

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Chocolate Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread

Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

For Filling

  • 8 ounces semi sweet chocolate, chopped (you can also just use chocolate chips/chunks)2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 8 tablespoons softened butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

In a large bowl of a standing mixer, sprinkle yeast over warm water. Sprinkle white sugar on top of that. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until proofed and frothy.

Use the paddle attachment to beat in honey, oil, eggs, and salt. Mix until just combined. Switch to the dough hook and add the flour one cup at a time, beating after each addition, graduating switching to kneading with hands as dough thickens. (You may not need to use all 8 cups, this varies according to location and time of year)

Sprinkle a work surface with flour. Turn the dough out onto it and use your hands to knead until smooth and elastic and no longer sticky, adding flour as needed.  Grease the standing mixer bowl, place dough back inside and cover with plastic wrap and a damp clean cloth. Let rise for 1 1/2 hours or until dough has doubled in bulk.

Meanwhile, grease two 9 x 5 loaf pans and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the chocolate with the white sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Combine the softened butter with the vanilla and salt in another small bowl until it form a thick paste.

When the dough has finished rising, turn out onto your floured work surface and punch down the risen dough. Divide in half and keep one half covered in the bowl while you work with the other.

Roll the half out into a 12 inch square. Use a spatula to spread HALF of the butter mixture over the dough. Sprinkle HALF the cinnamon chocolate mixture on top of that, using your fingers to press the chocolate down into the dough. Use a pizza wheel, bench scraper or sharp knife to cut the square into 16 small squares. Make 4 stacks of 4 squares each. Place each stack on its side into one of the greased loaf pans. Gently separate the dough layers so the dough fills the pan (it doesn’t have to be neat).

Repeat this step with the other half of dough and the other half of the butter mixture and cinnamon chocolate mixture.

Cover both loaves with plastic wrap and damp kitchen towels and allow to rise in warm places until dough rises by half its size, about 1 hour. Just before baking, sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Bake until loaves are browned & cooked through (195-200 degrees F inner temp), tenting with foil if browning too quickly. Allow to cool in pans for about 15 minutes, then loosen with a knife around the sides. Turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool for about 30 more minutes before serving.

Vanilla and Mocha Cookie Sandwiches

Okay, so look. I know what you’re thinking. What is the point in taking the time and effort to make your own sandwich cookies when there is a big name brand company that pretty much has the monopoly on sandwich cookies, and have gone out of their way to mass produce just about every possible flavor known to man and tried to jam it into a sandwich cookie you can run to the store and just buy?

I can think of several reasons.

First, when it comes to store-bought sandwich cookies, I feel like it’s a real hit or miss situation–there isn’t much space for ambiguity. They’re either really really good, or really bad. Both the cookie and the filling has to be right and that’s a harder thing to accomplish than you might think. That huge company has put out a LOT of different flavors of sandwich cookies, but in my opinion there are only a select few that have achieved that perfect sweet spot of delicious cookie and filling. The filling is where many mass produced sandwich cookies go terribly wrong–it either tastes too sweet, too artificial, or both.

I think that making your own sandwich cookies gives you the chance to correct the mistake of overly sweet and artificial filling, while also giving you the opportunity to get creative with your own taste buds and create something that you may not be able to find in stores. I’d be willing to bet that you’ll be able to pronounce every ingredient that’s in them.

And if none of the above are good enough reasons, then there’s always bragging rights–which, is more than enough for me.

I decided to make my own sandwich cookies, two ways. I knew going into it that I first wanted to make a perfect vanilla sandwich cookie. Most of the ones that are on the market now just don’t do it for me. (Yes, including the one from the huge name brand.) The cookie itself is usually okay, but that filling just kills it for me every time. I knew that what I was looking for was a cookie that was delicious enough all on its own, and a filling with a robust vanilla flavor and a smooth, non-pasty consistency.

The base is a butter cookie that I’ve made many times in the past. It’s quite simple, but you’d be surprised how the simply made baked goods will knock the fancy ones down from the pedestal. It has a buttery rich flavor and a tender crumb that melts in your mouth. For the filling I used a mixture of powdered sugar, butter, milk and vanilla. And listen guys. I want you to use REAL vanilla bean paste. I’m not above using extract but I insist that this time you go with the good stuff. You really can taste the difference and your taste buds will thank you for it.

The second flavor is where the coffee addict in me finessed its way into these cookie. I kept the same butter cookie for the base, but the filling gets a few teaspoons of instant espresso powder and liquid coffee in place of the vanilla and milk. Then, because coffee and chocolate flavors enhance one another, I decided to drizzle the top of the cookies with melted chocolate. What do you get when you combine coffee & chocolate? Mocha, that’s what. And there you have it.

I knew that these would be pretty good when I made them, but listen. They are REALLY good. They surpassed my expectations. They’re better than anything I’ve had from the store and I’m not trying to brag by saying that; I’m just being honest. I made these a while ago and I’m still giving myself a pat on the back for how they turned out, so if you’d like those kinds of bragging rights I’d suggest you give these a try yourself. Sharing at the Fiesta Friday #215, co-hosted by  Laurena @ Life Diet Health and Alex @ Turks Who Eat.

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Vanilla & Mocha Cookie Sandwiches

Recipe Adapted from Genius Kitchen

Ingredients

For Cookies

  • 2 cups unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla bean paste, or 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 4 cups all purpose flour

For Vanilla Filling

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • At least 1/4 cup of milk, divided

For Coffee Filling

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • At least 1/4 cup of your favorite flavor of coffee, divided
  • Melted chocolate, optional

 

Directions

In a medium bowl combine the flour and salt together in a bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg yolks one at a time, using a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla.

Gradually add the flour mixture in about 1 cup batches, stirring just until combined. (It may be a little dry and if so, you can add in a few tablespoons of milk at a time, just until it comes together.) Shape dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight,

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into quarters, keeping the other 3 in the fridge while you work. Dust a clean surface (like wax paper or a pastry mat) with flour. Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Using a 2- to 2 ½-inch round cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. Using a ¾- to 1-inch round cookie cutter, cut out the centers from half of the cookies. Reroll and cut the scraps as necessary.  Note: Make sure you’re cutting a ‘top’ cookie and a ‘bottom’ cookie each time you stamp, just to make sure you have an even number of cookie sandwiches. Also, don’t throw away the centers: they make wonderful mini cookies. 

Place the sheet pans in the freezer for around 10 minutes. Sprinkle the tops with white sugar. Bake in the oven on the middle rack for 14-16 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Allow to cool on sheet pans for 60 seconds, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

For Fillings: In two separate bowls stir together the sugar, butter, and/or vanilla and/or espresso powder. Drizzle in the milk in the vanilla bowl 1 tablespoon at a time and the coffee in the other 1 tablespoon at a time until the filling reaches a smooth and desired consistency.

Divide the cookies in half (half for vanilla, half for coffee) Spread about a heaping 1/2 tablespoon of filling onto each bottom cookie (make sure the bottoms face up), then place on the tops (bottoms facing down). Gently press to make sandwiches. You may drizzle the coffee flavored sandwiches with melted chocolate if desired, then allow them to set for about 15 minutes until chocolate has hardened.

(Note: no one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake cookies differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cookie before baking entire sheets of the whole batch, just to get a good idea of how long they should be in the oven and if I need to adjust the way I’ve cut, rolled them out, etc. I highly recommend that you do the same. )

Coffee Pound Cake

Coffee and I have a long, complicated history with each other. I’ll swear it off for a while, feel like I’ve finally kicked the habit once and for all…then have just the right kind of bad day to where I’ll say “Screw it” and just throw myself back into the java river with no regrets. Until the time comes when I’m ready to swear it off again.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat. It’s a cycle that never ends. I should just stop trying to pretend like it will. Coffee and me may have a turbulent history, but we’ll always end up going back to each other. We break up to make up. And boy, do we know how to make up.

I’ve now reached the point in my fixation with coffee where I look for ways to use it for more than just a beverage. Because as it turns out, coffee is a great ingredient for use in both savory cooking and sweet baking.

Did y’all know that? No? Well, you do now. Even if you don’t like it all on its own, I think you’d still be hard pressed not to like the way it’s used in today’s recipe. It’s a real keeper.

When a special occasion comes around, I like to commemorate it by making a cake. My 28th birthday was the last week in September AND, this week will mark the fourth anniversary of Cooking is My Sport. I’d say those were kind of special occasions. Special enough to celebrate with a great cake, anyway.

I don’t feel twenty eight (two years from thirty, yikes) and it certainly doesn’t feel like I’ve been blogging for four years. I’m grateful that I’m one year older, and (hopefully) one year wiser. It’s been a HUGE year of change–the good kind. I’ve been able to continue cooking, baking and blogging through that change in location and routine, which has been a relief and an outlet for me. Y’all have been great. Thank you to everyone who follows, likes and comments on CIMS. It’s very, VERY much appreciated. I mean that.

Pound cake is the best cake there is. This isn’t just because it’s got a lot of butter and sugar in it (though that’s certainly a good enough reason). It’s also because pound cake is a blank cake canvas on which you have the option of either eating plain, or testing out MANY different flavor profiles most of which will turn out great. You can make a cake that’s already delicious on its own taste even better by adding your flavor of choice. A moist vanilla pound cake is unquestionably perfect, but in my own experimenting, I’ve found that almond, lemon, orange or marble flavored ones are equally scrumptious.

I can now also add coffee flavored pound cake to that list. After you try this recipe I’m pretty sure you’ll be ready to add it to yours too. A few notes for those who are ready to break out their mixers and have already preheated their ovens:

As you can see, this cake is big. VERY big. Any cake with seven eggs is going to rise high and I’m glad I followed my instincts and went ahead with my 16 cup tube pan rather than the 10 cup bundt pan. I’d have been left with a huge mess in my oven otherwise. If you don’t have a pan that big, I recommend you splitting the batter up between two loaf pans or two 8 or 9 inch round pans.

So far as the star ingredient here goes, I’ll say the same thing I do when using booze as an ingredient: don’t use something you wouldn’t be okay with drinking all on its own. If you buy and use a generic coffee with a flavor that you’re not fond of, chances are you’re going to end up with a cake flavor you’re not fond of either. Don’t use dark roast if you don’t like dark roast coffee. Don’t you light roast if light isn’t your fave. I do also recommend you use a coffee with its own unique taste; I used one that was a medium roast Creme Brulee flavor that I LOVE to drink.

Get the point? Good.

I used a mixture of brown and white sugar in the batter to give it a richer sweetness. The cinnamon works well with the bitterness of the coffee; you’re going to taste it but you likely won’t be able to place just what ‘it’ is. You’ll just know that you like it.

The cake bakes up so moist and rich. You could eat it totally plain and be satisfied, but I decided to go a step further and add a drizzle of icing flavored with some of the leftover coffee, and then a layer of melted semi-sweet chocolate drizzle. This bumped up both the look and taste. This really is one of the best cakes I’ve had in a good long while. I hope some of you fellow coffee lovers choose to give it a try.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #193 co-hosted by Suzanne @ apuginthekitchen and Ginger @ Ginger and Bread.

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Coffee Pound Cake

Recipe Adapted from Kraft.com

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Ingredients

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamom
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar (light or dark, it’s up to you)
  • 1 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 7 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup freshly brewed coffee, divided and cooled (use something you would drink with its own distinctive flavor)

For Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cooled coffee
  • 1/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips, melted

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 °, Grease and flour a 16 cup tube pan or 2 loaf pans.

In a medium size bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together with a fork and set aside.

Using the paddle attachment of a standing mixer or a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light & creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Alternate between adding the flour mixture and 1 cup of the coffee to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour.

Pour the batter into the tube pan, spreading the top with a spatula. Lift the pan up a little and let it tap down onto a countertop a few times to eliminate air bubbles. Place the pan on a half sheet pan and bake for 55-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted deep into the cake comes out clean. (Pound cakes are done at an inner temp of 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit)

Allow to cool in pan for about 25 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

In a small bowl mix the powdered sugar with about 1 tablespoon of coffee at a time, mixing thoroughly until it forms a smooth but thick icing. (You probably won’t need to use all the coffee, it all depends on how thick or thin you like your icing to be.) Use a fork to drizzle the coffee icing over the cake and alternate between drizzling with the melted chocolate. Allow to harden/set for about one hour before serving.

Checkerboard Cookies

I’d be lying to you guys if I said I wasn’t kinda ready for the summer to end. In the first place, I don’t much care for extreme heat and as I’ve said in a couple of recent posts, the heat here has been unnecessarily extreme to the point where I’ve retreated to whole different cities for the day because this desert valley we’re in feels too much like a…desert valley. In the second place, the sooner the summer ends, the sooner we can get to the autumn which is my favorite season. The sooner autumn comes around, the sooner we can get to December and my favorite holiday of Christmas.

Because yes, my thoughts are definitely already drifting towards Christmas.

To be honest, I usually start getting the ‘itch’ for Christmas in July. It’s like a Christmas in July effect takes over and suddenly I’m listening to my holiday playlist again and planning what new stuff I’m gonna try to cook and bake for my family and the blog. As some of my followers know, I do a yearly Christmas series of recipes and although it’s a heavy undertaking, it is one that I still look forward to doing. I’ve already got a few pegged in my mind for the series, but one of them in particular was one that I thought would be a good idea to practice with first, as it is one I’ve never done before and would require a little bit more effort.

When I was little, I loved checkerboard cookies. I thought they just had to be some kind of food wizardry that could only be done in a huge Keebler-Elf style factory with a fancy machine.How else could they arrange those two different colors/flavors in such perfect patterns? I also may as well as admit that until only recently I had no idea how it was done or that it COULD be done by a home cook/baker in their own kitchen.

But I learned. And then after studying the technique a bit, thought “Well, might as well try it out. What’s the worst that can happen?”

(Waste of dough and ingredients was the answer, but that’s kind of obvious.)

I knew going into it that it wouldn’t be necessarily easy and I will keep it one hundred with you guys: I wouldn’t recommend trying this recipe if you don’t genuinely like to bake, have some experience with working with cookie dough and are willing to be patient with yourself and the process. I’m a decent baker with quite a bit of experience working with cookie dough, I love doing it and (as you can see) my first try at checkerboard cookies still wasn’t exactly perfect.  Nevertheless, I’m still pleased with how these turned out and that I decided to do a test run before trying to make a ‘Christmas-themed’ version for the 12 Days of Christmas series.

I tried to make the directions for these as clear and detailed as possible. So, should you want to make these for yourself (and I do think you should), a few pointers: a ruler is a must here. You’re making two different cookies doughs and when you cut them, you want the portions to be as straight as possible so that when you arrange the strips, they actually look like squares. It doesn’t have to be fancy invested in a regular old blue plastic ruler that measures inches/centimeters that I bought from Target and use strictly for baking; it does the job just fine. Also, when you’re putting the doughs together to create the pattern, don’t beat yourself up if your squares don’t line up perfectly in a row. Mine don’t and I still think the integrity of the ‘checkerboard’ is preserved in the overall aesthetic of the cookie. I plan to get better the more I practice this and I’m sure you will too.

You don’t have to make the two outer ‘wrappings’ for the cookies. I just thought it looked prettier so I decided to go ahead and make some. All you’ll need to do after making the cookie recipe is halve the base recipe and use the two different doughs from the halved recipe to wrap the cookies. It sounds complicated, but it’s not. Just read the recipe closely ahead of time and you’ll do fine.

Finally, don’t you dare throw out those scraps after you trim your dough logs! Cut them into mini pieces like I did and bake them off so that you get ‘bite sized checkerboards’ like the ones you see in the picture above. Aren’t they just as cute?

The labor alone involved in making these cookies make the finished product worth it–but I gotta say, the taste wasn’t a letdown either. Checkerboards have a close texture that’s slightly crisp on the outside, then buttery melt-in-the-mouth tender on the inside. The real dilemma here is going to be deciding which flavor you like better: the one where the vanilla dough is dominant or the one where the chocolate one is. I think I’m partial to vanilla, but that could very well change by Christmas time. We’ll have to see.

Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #186, co-hosted this week by Colleen @ Faith, Hope, Love & Luck and Alex @ Turks Who Eat.

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Checkerboard Cookies

Recipe Adapted from “Classic German Baking” by Luisa Weiss

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Ingredients

  • 20 plus 1 tablespoons (300g) unsalted butter, softened to room temp
  • 18 tablespoons (150g) powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/3 cups, minus 2 tablespoons (400g) all purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer or a large bowl using a handheld mixer, beat butter until it is light and creamy. Add the powdered sugar and salt and continue to beat about 1 minute more until creamy again. Add the vanilla extract and beat until just combined. Add the flour in 1/2 cup increments, until just combined. (Use a rubber spatula throughout mixing, scraping down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing)
Scrape out half of the dough, form into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Add the cocoa powder to the remaining dough in the bowl and mix until combined. Form the dough into another flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place both in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Remove dough from the fridge. Unwrap one of the discs, then place in between two sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap. Use a rolling pin to roll out into a rectangle, about 8 x 5 inches long. Repeat with the second dough. In a small bowl, beat together the egg yolk and milk. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash over the bottom rectangle of dough. Place one rectangle on top of the other. Press to adhere them to each other. Trim the edges with a sharp knife and save the striped strips in the fridge. Divide the rectangle lengthwise in half. Refrigerate the halves for about 15-30 minutes to allow to get firm.
Divide each of the halves into fourths, lengthwise. (A ruler or bench scraper works GREAT for ensuring straight lines) Use the four layers to make TWO checkerboard logs: Brush the tops of two of the layers with the egg wash, then place the other two on top of them. Make sure that you flip the top layers upside down before adhering so as to create the checkerboard pattern. Use your fingers or a spatula to press the logs together and smooth out the edges/corners, try to make them as square as possible. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350°.

(If you would like to create the ‘outer wrapping’ for the cookies: halve the original cookie recipe and follow the same instructions, dividing the two colors, wrapping them in plastic wrap and placing in the refrigerator. After you’ve finished creating the two checkerboard logs, roll one of the reserved dough discs out between two pieces of plastic wrap or wax paper into a long rectangle. Place one of the chilled logs on the rectangle, on the edge closest to you. Wrap the dough around the log, press lightly on the bottom to seal and trim any excess. Repeat with the other color and log. Refrigerate both for about another 30 minutes to allow to firm up.)

Use a sharp knife or bench scraper to cut the log cross-wise into slices. Place sliced cookies on prepared baking sheets lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Bake in the preheated oven on the middle rack for 12-15 minutes, until just light golden brown. Allow to sit on baking sheet for about 60 seconds removing to wire racks to cool completely. Cut the reserved trimmings into bite sized nuggets and bake for about 13 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

(No one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake cookies differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cookie before baking entire sheets of the whole batch, just to get a good idea of how long they should be in the oven and if I need to adjust the way I’ve cut, rolled them out, etc. I highly recommend that you do the same.)

S’mores Cake

It’s summer time and in the summer time we eat s’mores. This is non-negotiable.

IF by some odd chance you think you don’t like s’mores, you’re dead wrong. More than dead wrong. You’re lost. You’re confused. You don’t actually believe that you deserve nice things.

Let me enlighten you. Let me bring you back into the light. Trust, I’m only here to help. You do deserve nice things in life and one of the greatest is a s’more, or (come to think of it), anything that is s’mores flavored.

If you’ve been following along with the blog for a bit then you know by now that I’m…fond of s’mores flavored desserts. So far I’ve hit you guys with popcorn, sandwich cookies and brownies–ALL of which, you should try because they’re friggin delicious.

Today I’m back with a new addition to the collection that I’m pretty proud of: a s’mores flavored layer cake.

The first thing that I want to point out about this recipe is rather obvious: this isn’t a conventional round layer cake. Most layer cake recipes call for you to have at least 2, and at times up to 4 or 6 different pans to bake the batter in, and even though I bake often I have 3 cake pans and never really feel like using them much. You have to measure out and weigh the batter in each pan to make sure there’s an even amount in each and sometimes I just can’t be be bothered. All of this cake’s batter bakes in one single loaf pan–the kind that MOST people already have in their cabinets. Rather than divvy up the batter between multiple pans, it’s baked into one cake that’s then split into three rectangular layers later on.

I’ve seen recipes for other s’mores cakes before and interestingly enough, the cake is often chocolate flavored. I…don’t understand this. The base of the s’more are graham crackers that house the marshmallow and chocolate inside. You’ve just got to have that graham cracker flavor to balance the other two. In this recipe, the cake batter is given a warm, nutty, caramel-y flavor with brown sugar and the essential graham base flavor by the addition of finely crushed graham cracker crumbs.

If that doesn’t sound yummy enough all on it’s own, after you split the layers of the cake and start to assemble it is where things get REALLY tasty. We’re not just putting melted marshmallows into the buttercream; to give it that special ‘campfire’ flavor, the marshmallows are first toasted underneath the broiler until they are JUST the right color and brownish hue (much like you’d get holding them over a flame on a stick), then mixed into a smooth buttercream. This buttercream gets spread in between and on top of all the cake layers along with…what else? Smooth, rich semi sweet chocolate. Once you’ve assembled the cake, it get completely covered with the toasted marshmallow buttercream then broken graham cracker shards and mini marshmallows are pressed into the gooey deliciousness and the whole thing gets drizzled with even more melted chocolate.

Guys, I am so proud of this thing. You don’t even know. It is soooo good. There’s not one single thing I would change and I’m excited to share what is trully a perfect summer dessert. Please try it. I’m sharing this cake at Fiesta Friday #182, co-hosted this week by Liz @ spades, spatulas & spoons and Jenny @ Jenny Is Baking.

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S'mores Cake

Recipe Adapted from Food & Wine and The Cookies & Cups Cookbook

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Ingredients

For Cake

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 cup finely ground graham cracker crumbs, from half a sleeve
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For Marshmallow Buttercream

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened)
  • 8 ounces mini marshmallows
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons heavy cream

For Chocolate Ganache

  • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

For decorating: extra graham crackers, broken into pieces and partially crushed, optional

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the cake flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a hand held one, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.

In a small bowl combine the milk, heavy cream, whole milk, eggs and vanilla extract with a fork, whisking until egg yolks are broken and thoroughly combined.

Alternatively add the dry ingredients and egg mixture to the creamed butter mixture, starting and ending with the flour. Make sure you use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl as you add the ingredients to ensure even mixing.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for about 50-55 minutes in the oven, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (Pound cakes are done at about an internal temp of 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit if you have an instant thermometer.) Allow to cool for about 15 minutes in the pan, then turn out and cool completely on a wire rack.  Place the cake in the fridge for about one hour, or the freezer for 20 minutes to let it firm up.

For Marshmallow Buttercream: Preheat the broiler. In the bowl of a standing mixer cream the butter together with the powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and spray it lightly with cooking spray. Spread the marshmallows out in a single layer, keeping them close together. Place underneath the broiler and let them get lightly browned; DON’T WALK AWAY. This takes no more than 30-40 seconds. Using a rubber spatula you spray with cooking spray immediately scrape the toasted marshmallow into the creamed butter/sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until combined. If it seems too stiff, you may add the heavy cream to your desired consistency.

Gently heat the heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl (about 45 seconds should do it). Pour it directly over the chocolate in another bowl and gently stir until it completely melts. If it’s too stiff you can add more warm heavy cream.

Take the cake out of the fridge/freezer. Cut it into three layers (it’s okay if they’re not perfectly even. Mine weren’t either.) Level the tops of each cake. Line the edges of a cake platter with strips of parchment paper to keep the platter clean while you assemble the cake. Smear a little of the chocolate or buttercream in the center to keep the cake from moving around. Place one cake layer on the platter. Spread or pipe a border of the marshmallow buttercream around the edges, bringing them up almost like a fence. Fill in the center with more buttercream, then dollop the chocolate ganache on top, trying to keep it inside the buttercream ‘fence’. Add the second layer and repeat then place the third cake layer on top. Spread the top of the cake with the remaining buttercream. Using a spatula to smooth out the sides of the cake, dipping it in some warm water intermittently.

Press the broken graham crackers and crumbs onto the sides of the cake (They don’t have to cover it completely). Sprinkle more of the crumbs on the top, then use a fork to drizzle the rest of the chocolate ganache on the top.) Place the cake in the fridge to let the buttercream and chocolate to firm up a bit, 15-20 minutes before serving.

Cookies n’ Cream Layer Cake

There is a tangible difference in food that’s been made with care and love versus food that’s been made without them and don’t you let anyone tell you there isn’t. Anyone who says there isn’t has never had food made for them with love, and that’s truly unfortunate. When I was younger, I thought it just boiled down to some people were good cooks and some people weren’t–now that I’m older and that I’ve learned how to cook and bake rather well myself I understand that it’s a bit more complicated than that.

I’ve eaten in swank restaurants where the food was both expensive and undoubtedly delicious, but given the choice I still would’ve rather been in my grandma’s house eating a dish of her smothered steak and gravy.  I would take her Lemon Pound Cake over the most pricey, fancy souffle from the best pastry chef in the world ANY DAY.

Know why? Because regardless of whether or not the fancy food tastes delicious, I know for a fact that there is more love for ME personally in her dishes than anything a chef that doesn’t know me from Eve can put into his food, no matter how technically flawless it is. It may sound corny, but for me, food made with love tastes like home; the taste that gives you the ‘itis’ where you’re full, satisfied, and want to take a nap afterwards, then wake up and have a little bit more.

The only thing more gratifying for me than eating food made with love is being the one to make it for my loved ones, especially when it’s a special request/favorite of theirs. Because I know them, I know exactly what they want and how they’re going to want the food to taste and that knowledge makes me all the more determined to put as much care and consideration into what I’m doing to make sure the food meets their anticipation for it. My fellow food bloggers/cooks out there will know the immense feeling of satisfaction that comes with watching someone you love eat and rave over their favorite food and know that YOU were the one to make it for them. It’s a wonderful thing.

My twin sister came out to visit us a few months ago. There’s little to nothing that I don’t know about her, including the fact that she loves practically ANYTHING cookies and cream flavored. The Cookies and Cream flavor is best described as that of the Oreo sandwich cookie: a sweet vanilla base mixed with chocolate. She mostly eats ice cream, and we very well could’ve just got a pint of it to keep in the freezer but when she booked her flight to come out here I decided to make something that was bit more special than ice cream to surprise her with.

This may be the easiest layer cake I’ve ever made. Unlike most others that have lengthy ingredients and complex instructions this cake is so simple it doesn’t even require a standing or hand held mixer. If you’ve got a large bowl, a whisk (or even a fork), you can make this cake and have it baking in the oven in less than ten minutes, no joke. The recipe that I included does give instructions for making whipped cream from scratch. However. In the case that you don’t have a standing or handheld mixer….lean in closer. A little bit closer. Little bit closer.

*whisper*  You can buy pre-made cool whip that you thaw and it will still work out fine.

The finished product is what is probably the most “Cookies and Cream”-y thing I’ve ever seen or tasted. Normally I’m not even a huge fan of chocolate cake, but the combination of the cake with the cookies and cream whipped cream filling just really works. The cake texture itself is very moist, the chocolate flavor isn’t overwhelming and there’s a fluffiness in the whipped cream that adds lightness to the cake that cuts some of its richness. Then again, I DID make it with lots of love. That was bound to have an effect on the tastebuds.

Sharing this cake at this week’s Fiesta Friday #180  co-hosted this week by Tracey @ My Baja Kitchen and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Cookies n' Cream Layer Cake

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

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Ingredients

For Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus two tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 cup plus two tablespoons sour cream (or plain yogurt)
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For Whipped Cream

  • 50 Oreo cookies
  • 4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9 inch cake pans with cooking spray, then line with wax or parchment paper; spray the paper and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt with a fork or wire whisk and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla and beat with a fork or a whisk. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ones and mix thoroughly.

Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and place the pans on a large sheet pan. Bake in the oven until cake separates from the sides of the pans and a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes.

Allow cakes to cool in pans for about ten minutes, then turn out and allow to cool completely on wire racks.

Take a knife and cut 10 of the Oreos in half and set aside. Put the rest of the cookies in a Ziploc plastic bag and use a rolling pin or the bottom of a glass to crush into crumbs.

In a mixing bowl beat the heavy cream in 2 batches, 2 cups at a time until the cream has stiff peaks. Beat the vanilla and powdered sugar in with the second batch, then combine them together. Reserve about 3/4 cup of whipped cream in a small bowl in the fridge.  Gently fold in all but about 1 cup of the crushed Oreo cookie crumbs with a spatula.

Level both cakes so that they are flat on the tops. Line the edges of a cake platter with strips of parchment paper to keep the platter clean while you assemble the cake. Place one cake layer on the platter.  Spread about half of the Oreo whipped cream onto the cake, then place the second cake layer on top. Use a spatula to cover the tops and sides of the cakes with a thin layer of the cream, then refrigerate for about 1 hour until the layer is firm, to allow a crumb coat to form.

Place the rest of the cookie cream on top and on the sides of the cake. Take the reserved cookie crumbs and press evenly onto the sides of the cake with your fingers. (This may get a little messy so you can place a layer of foil or wax paper underneath the cake to pick up any of the spare crumbs.) Take the Oreos you’ve sliced in half and press onto the top of the cake. Remove the bottom strips of parchment paper. Take the reserved whipped cream and pipe small rosettes in between the sliced Oreos and along the bottom of the cake to form a border. You can also place one whole Oreo in the center of the cake and pipe rosettes around that, if you like.

Refrigerate for about 1 hour to allow whipped cream to set before slicing and serving. Keep cake refrigerated when not eating.

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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