Halloween Brownie Pops

I am well aware that it has been a few weeks since I last posted something. It’s not that I haven’t been baking- that’s just the problem- I have been baking too much to have time to write about it! Also, I know that it is two weeks after Halloween, but that isn’t going to stop me from showing off my Brownie Pops!

My company has a Halloween party every year and all of the employees are encouraged to bring a dessert. Well, if I have a chance to bake something I alwayss take it. After giving some thought to what kind of spooky dessert I wanted to bring (i.e. sheetcake that looks like a graveyard, chocolate pudding/cookie dirt with gummie worms, or pumpkin cupcakes) I decided on a variation of my favorite dessert… brownies. I had a similiar post for Easter in which I made brownie pops shaped like Easter eggs but, in my opinion, these are WAY cuter.

They are SUPER easy to make… basically bake up some brownies ( I make mine from scratch and add an extra half oz of unsweetened baking chocolate to make them fudgy and easy to shape into balls without crumbling) but you can use a box mix if you like and just crumble them up once they have cooled and mix them with some store bought chocolate frosting so they can be easily shaped.

Once you roll up all of the brownies into balls (a little smaller than a ping pong ball) place them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and insert a popsicle or lollipop stick in each one, then place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for a few hours or the freezer for about and hour. Take some melting chocolate and prepare it according to the directions on the package. Then take out the brownie pieces and dip them one by one in the dipping chocolate. You can use whatever candies you want to decorate them. I made bats and cats so I used Candy Corns for ears, Oreo pieces for bat wings, and Cinnamon Imperials for eyes. Then I used royal icing to add the fangs and whiskers.

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The “Close-to-Overdosing-on-Chocolate” Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Caramel Ganache

If the fact that I mentioned chocolate three times in the title of this post didn’t clue you in on how chocolatey this cake is then maybe the picture will. I ALMOST added mini chocolate chips. It may have pushed the cake over the chocolate edge but than again I’m not sure that is possible.

My baby brother turned 24 last week. I guess that would technically mean he’s not a “baby” brother anymore, I also just gave away the fact that I’m older than 24- just how much older I refuse to say. That being said, it was obvious that a cake was needed to celebrate the occasion. My side of the family is a one type of dessert kind of family. That dessert is anything and everything chocolate. They can turn their noses up at cheesecake, push away a plate full of freshly baked snickerdoodles and throw away a half eaten apple pie, but bring a batch of chocolate chip brownies into the house and the pan will be empty before breakfast the next day. It was obvious that only a chocolate cake would do- and this chocolate cake is the definition of the term.I used my go-to chocolate cake recipe for the base of this cake. It very easy to make and is mixed all in one bowl. The best part is that it doesn’t even use an electric mixer. You can make and bake this cake in less than hour. I’m pretty sure the recipe originated with the Wilton Chocolate Layer Cake recipe but I’ve made several changes over time. This is my version…

1 and 1/2 cups flour

1 and 1/4 cups sugar

1/3 (heaping) cup unsweetened cocoa powder ( I use Ghirardelli- do not use dutch process)

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup canola oil (can use veg. oil)

1 cup room temp. water

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 lightly beaten eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. (If using a convection oven you may want to turn down the temp about 10 degrees). Butter two round pans, line with parchment or wax paper and butter the paper.

Whisk the dry ingredients together until all lumps are broken up. Then, add the oil and half the water. Mix together until combined, then add the rest of the water, vanilla and eggs. Whisk together until smooth. Divide the batter between the two pans and bake 18-20 minutes until tooth-pick comes out clean. Let cool on wire racks before removing from pans.

Next up is the chocolate caramel ganache. The original recipe is from http://www.belleofthebakery.com/2009/02/aprhodisi-cake.html .

20 oz. semisweet chocolate chips or semisweet baking chocolate
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
2 TBS light corn syrup
1 ½ cups unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces (softened)

Place the chocolate in a heat proof bowl and set aside. Pour the cream into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer (be careful not to let it burn) stirring occasionally.

While the cream is being brought to a simmer, combine ¼ cup water, sugar, and corn syrup in a separate saucepan (medium size). Cook over high heat for 6-8 minutes until the sugar begins to turn an amber color.  Remove from heat and cool for one minute.  Slowly add the hot cream to the caramel mixture- stirring constantly. The mixture will boil up a bit so be careful not to burn yourself. Stir until smooth then pour over chocolate and let sit for one minute so that the chocolate can begin to melt.

Stir the mixture until smooth and let cool to room temp. Then, drag out the hand mixer and beat in the butter until the ganache gets fluffy. You can refrigerate the ganache for up to three days if you make it ahead of time. Just make sure you let it come back to room temp before frosting the cake. This recipe makes a TON of ganache. Frost it on really thick between the layers.

Fall= Football and Apple Cake

Great news! Fall has finally arrived! I love fall.Every year around the middle of August I start getting sick of summer. I want the leaves to begin turning colors, I want to drive to work in the morning surrounded by a thick layer of fog and most importantly- I want football to start! Of course, I live in California so it is still very summer-like weather but that doesn’t matter because it is officially fall and the Raider’s are already 2-1. With that being said, I needed to bake something fall inspired; and what could be more fall-like than Apple Cake?

I found this recipe on a fantastic web-site that has about 50 recipes that I know I have to try and another 50 recipes that I am too intimidated to try but really want to. Here is the link to the website… you can find the recipe here also http://lickthebowlgood.blogspot.com/2010/09/caramelly-appley-delicious.html . Of course, I tweaked mine just a little bit. I didn’t have any walnuts so I just omitted them altogether. Also, I didn’t have cream so I just used mik for the glaze and it still turned out great..

The cake came together so quickly and easily. It was the perfect dessert for a family get together on short notice. Dan kept saying that it smelled so good while it was baking that I ended up taking it out of the oven a little too early. The middle was still kind of gooey- like a pudding. Dan says he liked it better that way and I should always undercook it but I beg to differ. Something about a recipe with eggs in it just begs to be cooked thoroughly.

 The glaze was absolutely delicious! I could just drink the stuff! (I added a little maple syrup to it while it was cooking). I highly encourage everyone to visit the website and try this cake! It tastes best while sitting in front of the TV watching the big game.

Blue, White and Red Velvet Cake

I know it’s already August. 4th of July has long since come and gone but I’ve been so busy- it seems just like yesterday. This Independence Day I decided to bake a festive dessert to take to my in-laws. I tried to think of something that incorporated red white and blue colors but the only thing I could think of was fruit salad with strawberries in a white bowl. Fruit salad? No baking required? Healthy? Ya right! I decided to bake a red cake with white frosting and sprinkle blue sugar on top. Now thats more like it.

This was my first attempt at a red velvet cake. I looked up recipes online and settled on the one that sounded the easiest. The recipe is from http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/food/recipes/red-velvet-cake-537901/ . The only thing I changed was that I added half a cup of sour cream and reducing the amount of buttermilk to 1 cup.

I also had an issue with adding an entire bottle of red food coloring. The food coloring doesn’t change the tastemof the cake so it seemed like a waste of food coloring (and maybe a little more dye than anyone needs to consume) to dump a whole bottle in. Maybe this was a mistake because my cake looked a lot more chocolatey than red-velvety (yes red-velvety is a word). It may have had a placebo affect on my husband as well because he insisted it tasted like chocolate cake- not red velvet.

I have to say I was pretty proud of myself when it came to decorating the cake though. We don’t have air conditioning at our house and it was about 90 degrees inside when I was trying to decorate the cake. The frosting kept melting and I had to keep throwing the cake and frosting bag in the fridge to cool off. The cake looked ok for being half melted…

The recipe on the website calls for buttercream frosting. I don’t think buttercream belongs on red velvet. Red velvet NEEDS cream cheese frosting.

Here is the recipe I use…

1/2 cup shortening

8oz cream cheese

2 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Just beat the ingredients together until smooth. So good! I could just eat the frosting.

Cup-cookie-cakes?!

Dan and I teach Sunday school for 2nd and 3rd graders every week. The kids love it when I bring snacks, especially when they get to decorate them themselves. I realized on Saturday that I had nothing planned for them the next day. I bring in doughnuts a lot when I’m feeling lazy but this week I wanted something a little more involved. What do kids love to decorate more than anything else? Cupcakes of course. Perfect… I would make cupcakes. I even had a box of cake mix in my pantry ready to go. (Yes I had a pre-made box of cake mix). But, if you know me I can’t do anything straight from a box. I have to add my own twist somewhere. I’m not sure why, maybe I just don’t like the idea of being able to fail at simply following instructions. You see, if I make a box of cupcakes and they turn our horrible- I apparently ruined something so simple that a kid could bake blindfolded. However, if I make something from a box but add something on my own and it tastes bad- I can say “Well I won’t try that again!” and no one thinks anything less of me. Wow, I must have low self-esteem. Anyways… I also had some eh-hem… “cream-filled chocolate wafer cookies” on hand so I came up with the wonderful idea of combining the two. Ok, I lied. I read an article a while back where someone baked the cookies into the cupcakes and the picture looked so good that I vowed to try it one day. This was the day.

Here are the super easy instructions.

Fill the cupcake liners with half a cookie- cream side up like so…

Safe the sans-cream side of the cookie for later. Mix the cake batter according to the instructions on the box (or use your own recipe if you aren’t lazy like me). Then fill the cupcake holders 2/3rds of the way full- pouring the batter right on top of the cookie. Looking back on the process I may try pouring a little of the batter in before the cookie and the rest of the batter on top so that the cookie sticks to the bottom of the cupcake better but I’m not sure how that would turn out so attempt at your own risk.

Next, pop the pan in the oven and bake as instructed on the box. I know… too easy. When the are ready, take them out and let them cool completely. I used frosting with “chocolate-wafer-cookie” crumbs mixed in, but you could use any kind. The I topped them with the un-frosted half of the cookie that I had left over from before. Voila! CupCookieCakes!

Dan liked them. Most of the kids liked them in the our Sunday school class too. Some of the kids said they would rather have the cookie and cupcake separate though. They thought the combo was a little too weird. My only issue with the recipe was that some of the cookies fell off the bottom. I think they look really yummy though!

Baked Doughnuts (AKA Testing my New Toy)

I bought a new toy. I was searching online for a bundt pan that was a perfect replica of the shape of half a pumpkin… I failed. After about an hour of searching I gave up. I no longer believe in the existence of a half-pumpkin shaped bundt pan. However, in my fervent searching for the non-existent pumpkin-pan, I came across a doughnut pan. “A doughnut pan” you ask? Yes, a doughnut pan. It looks like a cupcake pan but instead of little cups to fill with cake batter there are little round doughnut shapes. I had to buy it. It was a wonderful day when the pan was delivered to my front door. I love getting packages. I love new baking toys. I love baking.

The pan came with cake recipes on the back but the reviews for the recipes said that the doughnuts turned out dry, so I used my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe. The recipe is from http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Chocolate-Cupcakes/Detail.aspx. I love this recipe because it makes a dense, moist cake and it is super easy. No last-minute trips to the store for buttermilk or 70% cocao required.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease the doughnut pan very well.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk

Directions:

 Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside. Then cream together the butter and the sugar. I was a little discouraged the first time I creamed these together because it didn’t seem like there was enough butter. It took a long time but just keep at it. Trust me the butter and sugar will combine. Then beat the eggs in one at a time and add the vanilla. Here is what it should look like…

Then alternate beating the dry ingredients and the milk. Once combined, fill a pastry bag with the “doughnut” batter. (If you don’t have a pastry bag you can just do what I do and fill a plastic freezer bag with the batter and cut off the corner- works like a charm). Pipe the batter into the pan and pop it into the oven (middle rack please) for 18 minutes. Once they are done let them cool completely in the pan. Then just dump them out.

I’m sure you can eat them as is. However, I like my doughnuts with frosting and sprinkles so I decorated them.

Don’t they look yummy? I made them on a satuday afternoon. Dan ate four of them for breakfast on Sunday. They are all gone now. It is still Sunday. I guess they tasted good.

THE walnut chocolate chip cookie

I was sitting in my cubicle at work, eyes fixated at the computer screen and hands wildly typing away when I heard my name being called. I looked up and knew that my world would never be the same. No… it wasn’t some incredibly hansom Ryan Reynolds look-a-like begging me to leave my (wonderful) husband and whisk me away to a life of luxury. It was a co-worker with a cookie. A REALLY BIG cookie.

She had just gotten back from a trip to New York and a visit to a bakery called Levain. I guess their cookies are somewhat famous. Living on the opposite coast from this amazing confectionery – I had never had the opportunity to be exposed to them. My co-worker knew I loved to bake and brought me one. These cookies are thick, soft and dense without being overly sweet or chewy.One bite and I NEEDED the recipe. 

After searching online I found that the bakery has a website. www.levainbakery.com. Alas, they do not share their cookie recipes – although they encourage people to try to make them and even include links to other’s copy-cat recipes.

I looked at a few of the sites, combined their ideas and came up with my own version. My recipe is similar to the one from http://lisamichele.wordpress.com/2008/05/28/my-much-talked-about-levain-bakery-copycat-cookie-recipes/. – Thank you to Lisa Michelle!

I baked up a batch and handed one to my husband (handing one of these cookies to someone is not an easy feat -it’s like lifting a hand weight). He took a bite and looked like he wanted to marry me all over again. These cookies have become a regular request by him whenever he is craving something sweet.

Without further adieu THE Walnut Chocolate Chip recipe:

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees:

2 sticks cold cubed unsalted butter

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

3 and 1/4 cups flour

3/4 tsp sea salt (you can use table salt- My husband likes little salty bits in his cookies)

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups Guittard semi-sweet chips

1 cup chopped walnuts

Cream the butter and sugars until they are well combined and kind of fluffy (be prepared to get an arm workout here). Then add the eggs one at time and beat until combined. Beat in the vanilla.

Dump in the flour, salt, baking soda and powder. Take a big wooden spoon and mix the ingredients until combined. It should make a very thick paste without being too sticky. An easy way to tell if you have it right is to ask yourself if you forearms are about to fall off. If they are burning- the dough is probably fine. Just when you thought your arms get to relax- mix in the chips and walnuts. Now, your arms can take a break. It should look like this…

Wash your hands, take off any rings because if you lose them in this dough you are NEVER getting them back! Now, form 12-15 big round lumps and place the on a lightly greased cookie sheet (I found that an insulated sheet works well but I’m sure a regular sheet will work fine too).

Bake the cookies until very lightly browned (about 23-25 minutes) check them after 17 minutes as oven temperatures vary. Let them sit on the cookie sheet for 2-3 minutes to set. I prefer to eat these monstrous cookies at room temperature but go ahead and eat them warm if you like. Just know that eating more than one of these will wreck any weight loss progress you have made in the past decade. Enjoy!