Chocolate Babka

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

Babka

Chocolate Babka: bread laced with chocolate filling

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

Babka

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

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

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

Babka

Utterly delicious sweet bread

Chocolate Babka

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INGREDIENTS

Dough

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

Filling

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

Egg Wash

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Icing

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

DIRECTIONS

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

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

2013′s Most Popular Posts

Hubby and I prefer to stay home for a quiet and calm New Year’s Eve. We celebrate by cooking something special, usually lobster. However, two years ago I saved a recipe for Beef Wellington, and this year I’m finally going to try it. Hence, I’ve spent the entire day in the kitchen prepping. If all goes well tonight, I’ll share the recipe later this week.

Anyway, I decided to rest my weary feet a bit and catch up on some emails. Lo and behold, I received my annual report of the most popular posts for 2013 (all sweet treats, by the way), so I thought I’d quickly share them. A couple of the most-searched posts go back to 2011 and 2012!

Wishing each and every one of you a very healthy, happy, and peaceful 2014.

Most popular posts of 2013:

Kahlua Cheesecake

Kahlua Cheesecake

Kahlua Cheesecake: graham cracker crust, ganache layer, velvety Kahlua-flavored cheescake, sour-cream layer, and drizzled ganache topping. Can you say decadent?

Oreo Cheesecake Bites

Oreo Cheesecake Bites

Oreo Cheesecake Bites (2012): Still popular a year later, and rightfully so. These little babies pack a ton of chocolate-y flavor amidst tangy cheesecake. And oh-so-easy to make, too.

Ho Ho Cake

Ho Ho Cake

Ho Ho Cake: This light and airy layered cake garners a lot of oohs and aahs from its recipients. Very yummilicious cake.

Magic Custard Cake

Magic Custard Cake

Magic Custard Cake: Magic indeed as three layers appear from one batter!

Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread (2011): Still going strong two years later, this pull-apart bread is simply fun with layers of dough stacked so they pull apart easily after baking. Drizzle with lots of glaze for a glorious treat.

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

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

Chocolate Truffle Cookies

Rich and ultra chocolatey Chocolate Truffle Cookies

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chocolate Truffle Cookies (from Dahlia Bakery Cookbook)

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

INGREDIENTS

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

DIRECTIONS

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

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

SOURCE: In Sock Monkey Slippers via The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook

2013 Holiday Cookie Line Up #1: Molasses Spice Cookies

I actually had time to spare on Thanksgiving before departure to the food fest. So what’s a foodie gal going to do but peruse recipes?

These Molasses Spice Cookies called to me during my perusal. I tried to ignore the call. I really didn’t need to make a mess in the kitchen again.

Molasses Spice Cookies

Molasses Spice Cookies

I re-read the ingredient list. Yep, I had all the ingredients on hand.

I glanced at the clock. Yep, I had enough time.

I asked myself if I really wanted to mess up the kitchen again. Nope, but I decided to make these anyway. The lure of baking won.

And oh-my-gosh, I’m so glad I made these. So was everyone else, too, for the cookies didn’t last long. Definite keeper of a recipe.

Soft and chewy on the inside, almost fudgy-like. Crispy on the outside. A crackled surface with glitz from the sugar coating. Spicy with a hint of kick from the bit of pepper added to the ingredients. Deep molasses flavor.

Yep, so glad I made these. They earned the honor of first spot on the annual Holiday Cookie Line Up (see 2012 and 2011 if you want more recipes for holiday cookies).

Molasses Spice Cookies

Molasses Spice Cookies

Molasses Spice Cookies

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Yield: 24 cookies

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 12 tbsp. ( 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar (I used light brown)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup molasses, light or dark
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (for rolling dough balls in)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, spices, salt, and pepper until thoroughly combined.
  3. Using a mixer at medium-high speed, beat butter with brown and granulated sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. Reduce speed to medium-low and add egg yolk and vanilla; increase speed to medium and beat until incorporated, about 20 seconds.
  5. Reduce speed to medium-low and add molasses; beat until fully incorporated, about 20 seconds, scraping bottom and sides of bowls with rubber spatula at least once.
  6. Reduce speed to lowest setting and add flour; mix until just incorporated, about 30 seconds. Give dough a final stir with rubber spatula to mix in any pockets of flour.
  7. Place 1/2 cup granulated sugar into a small bowl for rolling the dough balls in. Scoop heaping tablespoons of the soft dough and roll into 1 1/2-inch balls between palms of hands. Drop balls into sugar and completely coat, then place onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 11 minutes until cookies are browned, puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft. Don’t fret if the cookies look raw between the cracks and seem underdone.

Note: I refrigerated my dough balls while I cleaned up the kitchen, which hardened them a bit. I think had I rolled them in sugar first that more sugar would have adhered to them. When they came out of the oven, they seemed a bit sparse on the sugar coating, so I simply sprinkled a bit more on top right as they came out of the oven. 

SOURCE: Cooking.com via America’s Test Kitchen (is it any wonder these are so delicious considering they come from the folks at ATK!)

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

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

Sweet and Salty Butterscotch Pecan Cookies

Sweet and Salty Butterscotch Pecan Cookies

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

Pecan Tassies

Pecan Tassies (mini pecan pies)

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

Pumpkin Buttermilk Pound Cake

Pumpkin Buttermilk Pound Cake with Caramel Icing

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

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

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

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

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

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

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

Vanilla Caramel Cookie Ice Cream

Vanilla Caramel Cookie Ice Cream

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

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

Chocolate Berry Trifle

Chocolate Berry Trifle

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

Turkey Tetrazzini

Turkey Tetrazzini

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

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

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

Pardon my blogging hiatus. Lots of life interferences. First, I got buried under a pile of English essays to correct, promptly followed by a nasty cold that stressed me out because I needed to get ready for a trip to Cabo San Lucas for my brother’s wedding. Thankfully the cold eased up and we had a blast celebrating in Cabo. Upon my return, the cold monster reared its vicious phlegm again! Still dealing with that two weeks later as well as a persistent cough. And teaching all the while. With another stack of essays to arrive tomorrow.

Suffice it to say, my motivation has been stymied by work, fun in the sun, and illness.

In the meantime, I’ve had several new subscribers to the blog, which totally blows my mind considering I haven’t posted in several weeks. How did that happen? Welcome all! And I hope you find many recipes to enjoy from the site.

Despite all this craziness, I have managed to find my way into the kitchen, with these Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes stealing the show. Although I’ve never ordered a Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte, you can certainly taste the espresso flavor in this cupcake along with the pumpkin. Heck, with 4 1/2 teaspoons of espresso in the batter, you bet you can taste that strong coffee flavor! I think I might actually dial it down to 4 teaspoons next time, and I think I will also omit brushing liquid coffee on after they bake.

I accidentally put in 1 cup rather than 3/4 cup of pumpkin. Luckily, they baked up just fine. Ultra moist due to the pumpkin, actually.

But the true star? The whipped cream and cream cheese frosting. Oh. My. Goodness. I literally ate the leftover frosting with a spoon right outta the bowl. So freakin’ delightfully light and fluffy and just plain ol’ scrumptious. The recipe makes loads of frosting. If you pile it on high, you’ll use it up. If you prefer less frosting, I suggest cutting the frosting recipe in half.

Final word of advice on these: get them outta the house ASAP!!!! Their addictive quality makes them ultra dangerous to have around. Plus, it’s fun to share.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

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INGREDIENTS

Cupcakes

  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 1/2 tsp. espresso powder (creates a very strong flavor, so I’m going to use 4 tsp. next time)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • pinch of cloves
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup brewed coffee, for brushing the tops after baking (I’m going to omit this step next time because the espresso in the batter creates a very strong flavor)

Frosting

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups heavy cream

Garnish Options

  • chocolate sprinkles, cinnamon, caramel sauce, chocolate shavings…

DIRECTIONS

  1. To make cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
  3. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to blend pumpkin, both sugars, and the vegetable oil until completely combined.
  4. Blend in eggs one at a time.
  5. Add the flour in two batches, folding in with a rubber spatula until no flour pockets remain.
  6. Divide the batter between the baking cups, filling each about two-thirds full. Bake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 18-22 minutes. Allow to cool in pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to wire cooling rack.
  7. While cupcakes are still warm, use a thin skewer or the prongs on corn cob holders to poke holes into the cupcakes, then brush tops with the brewed coffee. Let each coat soak in before applying the next. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting them. (Since espresso creates a strong enough flavor, I’m going to omit the brushing of coffee next time I make these.)
  8. To make frosting: In a large bowl, use a mixer on medium speed and with whisk attachment to beat the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract; beat until smooth and completely combined, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the heavy cream, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, then increase speed to medium-high and whip until stiff peaks form.
  9. Using a piping bag and an open or closed star tip, pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes. Sprinkle with garnishes if desired. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. (Check out this blog post at Niner Bakes to learn about various piping tips.)

SOURCE: Brown-Eyed Baker, who adapted cupcakes from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures and frosting from allrecipes.com

Ice Cream Sunday: Malted Vanilla Peanut Brittle Milk Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

If you haven’t entered the Cupcake Goodies Giveaway, click the link and check it out! Giveaway ends August 25th.

 

Malted Vanilla Peanut Brittle Milk Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

Yep, that’s a mouthful of a title for ice cream. I just couldn’t leave any of the goodies out of the title, though.

Vanilla Malt Brittle Choc Chunk

Vanilla, malt, peanut brittle, and chocolate chunks–a mouthful of flavor!

Michelle at Brown Eyed Baker’s description of this flavor intrigued me. For days and weeks it remained in my mind until I finally caved and ordered the malt powder from King Arthur Flour. By the way, if you read the reader’s comments on KA Flour, you’ll learn some other uses for the malt powder. However, after tasting this ice cream, I think I’ll save mine just for making malted frozen treats.

Anyhow, you’ll experience an extra deep vanilla-y flavor with the malt added, kind of like malt ball candies magnified but much richer and creamier. Then add peanut brittle and chocolate chunks for extra crunch and contrast and you have an absolutely divine homemade ice cream. By the way, the batch of brittle makes more than you need for the recipe, so freeze it (unless, of course, you eat it all up :  ) and use it to make more batches later.

Malted Vanilla Peanut Brittle Milk Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

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INGREDIENTS

Ice Cream

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup malted milk powder
  • 1 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup 1% or 2% milk (I used whole milk)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped peanut brittle (recipe below)

Peanut Brittle

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups dry roasted peanuts
  • 1/8 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter

Chocolate Chunks

  • 2 ounces milk chocolate, chopped into chunks (or you can use 1/3 cup milk chocolate chips)

DIRECTIONS

  1. To make ice cream: Prepare by setting a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl, then set this bowl into a larger one filled with ice and some water. Set aside for now.
  2. In another bowl, briefly whisk egg yolks to break them up.
  3. Whisk in malted milk powder, which will create a thick paste; set aside.
  4. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together heavy cream, milk, sugar, and salt; warm until just simmering, then reduce heat to medium.
  5. Take about 1/2 cup of the milk mixture and whisk it into the yolks followed by adding another 1/2 cup. Transfer this yolk mixture back to the saucepan with the milk.
  6. Cook over medium heat, stirring until mixture thickens and coats the back of your spoon or spatula, about 1-2 minutes more, or until it reaches 170-175 degrees F.
  7. Pour this ice cream custard base through the fine-mesh sieve you set up earlier to remove any bits of egg that have begun to cook. Add vanilla. Stir the custard base occasionally until it completely cools, then cover and transfer to refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
  8. To make peanut brittle: Prepare by lining a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  9. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar, water, corn syrup, and salt.  Cook without stirring until the mixture reaches 280 degrees F, 20-25 minutes.
  10. When the mixture reaches 280 degrees F, add peanuts and stir until the peanuts begin to smell toasted and the syrup turns a mahogany color, about 5 minutes.
  11. Remove from heat; stir in baking soda (which will cause the mixture to bubble) until thoroughly mixed in, then stir in butter.
  12. Working quickly before brittle hardens, pour mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and use a spatula to spread it into a thin, even layer. Allow brittle to cool for about one hour.
  13. When cooled, chop brittle into chunks and store in an airtight container. You will need 1/2 cup for the recipe, and the remainder can be stored at room temperature for a few days or frozen for several weeks.
  14. Churning the ice cream: Freeze the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. In the last couple minutes of churning, slowly add 1/2 cup brittle and the 2 ounces of chopped chocolate chunks (I toss pieces in a couple at a time at this point).
  15. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container and freeze for at least four hours, until hardened.

SOURCE: Brown Eyed Baker via the book Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones

Mango Popsicles

Mango Pops

Refreshing Mango Popsicles

Upon opening the refrigerator, I spotted two mangoes languishing away. Hmmm…what to do on a hot summer day?

Popsicles!

I turned to my favorite popsicle method: yogurt and fruit pops (and this version, too)

Refreshing. Tropical. Delightful.

By the way, if you haven’t tried homemade yogurt yet, check it out! Seriously easy. And velvety smooth. And tangy. And so nice to have on hand to make fruit pops.

Mango Pops

Mango Pops

Mango Popsicles

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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/2 cups chopped mango (from a couple of large mangoes)
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp. lime juice (or more to suit your taste)
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup water (start with 1/4 cup and add more if necessary)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Add more water or lime juice if needed.
  2. Pour mixture into popsicle molds and freeze until firm, 4-5 hours.
  3. To release popsicles from molds, place in lukewarm water for a couple minutes then gently release.

SOURCE: Shutterbean

Raspberry Filled Cupcakes with White Chocolate Raspberry Swiss Buttercream Frosting (and my first giveaway!)

Raspberry Filled Cupcakes

Surprise raspberry filling and delectable white chocolate raspberry frosting

My aversion to filled sugary treats started as a kid. I couldn’t stand the jelly-filled donuts that my mother loved. I just liked the plain ol’ chocolate or sugar glazed or cinnamon crumb donuts. But that ooey gooey filling spilling out? No way. Not for me.

You know how our childhood food prejudices carry into adulthood sometimes? Well, this aversion to filled goodies spilled into my world of cupcake creations–or shall I say limitations? I had no desire to try any of the myriad filled cupcake recipes I encountered.

Well, food prejudices can sure blind us to delectable gustatory experiences. Luckily, I overcame this particular aversion to filled cupcakes and experienced a pleasant surprise.

My turning point? Simply receiving some goodies in our swag bag at Camp Blogaway. Of the tons of fun swag, Good Cook included several fun kitchen toys: a cupcake divider, some very festive cupcake papers, and a cupcake corer.

Enter below to win these Good Cook tools. Giveaway open until August 1, 2013.

Enter below to win these Good Cook tools. Giveaway open until August 1, 2013.

Since Good Cook gifted us these gadgets, I just had to try them. In the middle of camp, the idea for raspberry filled half-vanilla and half-chocolate cupcakes topped with a white chocolate raspberry buttercream frosting popped into my head, and I made them happen shortly after arriving home from camp.

I first made these for a work function, and my fellow coworkers raved about their overall flavor. One gal made me laugh when she said the frosting was so good she could suck it through a straw all day! Oh, and I also brought my favorite Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Fudge Frosting that day. I thought for sure people would choose those over the raspberry filled cupcakes. Wrong! I couldn’t believe so many people were fans of filled cupcakes. Although I’d still choose the chocolate over the raspberry filled desserts, I’m no longer averse to filled cupcakes. I’ll have some more experiments going on in my baking future.

I also made the raspberry filled cupcakes for a book club meeting; again, the gals received the dessert with great enthusiasm, exclaiming how soft and velvety the frosting was and totally loving the filling.

Luckily, I received an extra set of these Good Cook toys at camp, which means I have a set to give away to one of my readers! The corer makes quick work of scooping out the cupcake center. Just push down and give a twist of the wrist.

The divider fits snugly into a cupcake well. I did find it a bit tricky to pour the two cupcake batters evenly, though. (Be sure to use a thick batter; thin batters will move into each other’s territory.) The divider does have a fill line mark, which makes the job easier. However, it’s hard to see it from above while pouring the batters, so I had to contort my body to get a view of it. Finally, I found it easiest to hold two containers with spouts filled with my two batters, and I poured them slowly and simultaneously, guessing at which point to stop and hoping I was pouring evenly.

Raspberry Filled Cupcakes

See how the batter ran together at bottom? That’s from using a too-thin batter.

So, to enter the giveaway, leave a comment telling what combo of cupcake flavors you envision along with what type of filling and what type of frosting. Maybe one of your combos will spark me to try some more filled cupcake desserts!

I’ll keep the Good Cook giveaway entry open until August 1st.

Disclaimer: All opinions are my own honest evaluation of the materials, and I’ve received no compensation other than the gifts in the swag bag from Camp Blogaway.

Raspberry Filled Cupcakes with White Chocolate Raspberry Swiss Buttercream Frosting (and my first giveaway!)

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INGREDIENTS

Vanilla Cupcake Batter

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • dash of salt (about 1/8 tsp.)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs

To make half chocolate and half vanilla cupcakes using a divider tool, you will also need:

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Filling

  • 16 oz. fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • squeeze of lemon juice

Swiss Buttercream Frosting

  • 6 ounces fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 2 ounces white chocolate (I use Ghiradelli brand)
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS

Cupcakes

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degree F. Line 12 cupcake tins with paper.
  2. In large bowl, mix oil and sugar.
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to oil and sugar.
  4. Add 1/4 cup of the milk and 1/2 tsp. of the vanilla.
  5. Whisk eggs slightly, then add to batter.
  6. Add remaining 1/4 cup milk and 1/2 tsp. vanilla.
  7. Divide batter in half; to one half, add the unsweetened cocoa powder and mix well.
  8. If using a cupcake divider to make half-and-half cupcakes, insert cupcake divider into a cupcake well. Evenly pour one batter into one half and the other batter into the other half. Carefully and slowly lift the divider straight up and hold for a few seconds, then pull it away. No matter how careful I was, one batter would slightly land in the other.
  9. Bake for 15-20 minutes (mine took 18 minutes), until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  10. Let cool for a few minutes, then transfer to cooling rack to continue cooling.
  11. If making filled cupcakes, use a cupcake corer to scoop out the middle of the cooled cupcake. I found it easiest to press down and then flick my wrist to make the corer turn (and then I thoroughly enjoyed eating all those centers!).

Note: Cupcakes can be made and cored a day in advance if you don’t have time to assemble the cupcakes all in one day.

Filling

  1. Combine raspberries and sugar in medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  2. In a small bowl, combine water and cornstarch, whisking until smooth (when left alone for a few minutes, it will harden up; just stir again and it will smooth out).
  3. When raspberries begin to juice and bubble, stir in the cornstarch mixture. Bring to a  boil, and allow to boil for 1-2 minutes until mixture thickens.
  4. Remove from heat and add lemon juice.
  5. If you want a smooth filling, strain through a fine-mesh sieve to remove raspberry seeds; otherwise, allow seeds to remain.
  6. Cool filling before using to fill cupcake middles.

Note: Filling can be made in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.

Swiss Buttercream Frosting

  1. To make raspberry puree, place raspberries into a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth. Strain puree through a fine-mesh sieve to remove seeds. Note: this step can be done in advance and puree can be refrigerated.
  2. To melt chocolate, break it up into small pieces. Either microwave it for 15-30 seconds at a time, stirring after each stint in the microwave, until it melts. Additionally, you can melt it in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Allow to cool before adding to frosting.
  3. To make frosting, combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering (not boiling) water, whisking frequently until mixture reaches 160 degrees F and the sugar has dissolved.
  4. Transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.
  5. Reduce the speed to medium; add butter 2 tbsp. at a time, only adding more once each addition incorporates into frosting. Don’t fret if the frosting looks soupy or curdled; just continue to beat on medium-high speed until it thickens and smooths out, about 3-5 minutes more (or longer if necessary). If frosting won’t thicken, just put it in the fridge for an hour or so, then mix again. That should save it.
  6. Add raspberry puree and melted white chocolate to frosting; continue to mix until incorporated. At this point, you can refrigerate the frosting until ready to use, but you will need to mix it again for a few minutes to soften it up.
  7. Use a piping bag and large star tip to pipe frosting onto cupcakes. Garnish with sprinkles or a fresh raspberry or even white chocolate curls.

SOURCES: cupcake recipe adapted from the Vanilla Cupcakes recipe shared by my mother-in-law, Jane; frosting adapted from Annie’s Eats

 

Lemon Cup Cookies (and a blueberry surprise within each one)

Lemony goodness in a shortbread cup! Even better when you tuck a sweet blueberry inside.

Lemon Cup Cookies

Sweet, tart, and utterly scrumptious

I took the sugarless lemon curd that I posted about a few days ago and used it to fill shortbread cups baked in a mini muffin tin. The sweetness of the shortbread offsets the tartness of the lemon curd, creating a perfect pairing.

The blueberries lounging in the fridge beckoned me when I reached for the lemon curd, so I thought I’d try popping one into each shortbread cup before filling it with curd. Turned out to be a great idea. Not only do you bite into a tender and sweet shortbread crust, but you bite into a sweet and fruity blueberry as well as get a mouthful of tart lemon curd. Loads of flavor bursts!

Lemon Cup Cookies

Parbake the dough, then press wells into each cookie

Lemon Cup Cookies

After making wells in parbaked dough, drop a blueberry surprise and then fill with lemon curd

Lemon Cup Cookies (and a blueberry surprise within each one)

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour (I’m sure you could use only all-purpose flour for the recipe although I haven’t actually tried that)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (meaning you can easily squish it between your thumb and forefinger, leaving an impression but still have some resistance)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon extract (or 1 tbsp. lemon zest)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup lemon curd (store-bought or see homemade recipe, included in link as well as below)
  • powdered sugar for sprinkling after cookies cool (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the two flours, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar.
  2. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the oil, egg, and extracts to the butter/sugar mixture; beat until blended.
  4. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture; stir until combined.
  5. Cover and chill dough for about an hour in the refrigerator.
  6. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  7. Drop about a tablespoon of dough into each muffin well, then bake at 350 degrees F for 8 minutes. Remove from oven, and press a well into each cookie. It will be hot, so use the flat end of a wooden spoon or something that you can press into the cookie with. I tried the end of a wooden spoon and found it rather narrow. Then I tried my magnetic lid lifter from my canning equipment, which worked out a bit better. I also tried my tamper, and that seemed to work best. FYI: I experimented with making the wells first, before baking, but this dough rises when baked, so that didn’t work well.
  8. Now that you’ve made a well in each cookie, fill with lemon curd. Remember to drop a blueberry into the well first if you want the blueberry surprise (I even pushed the blueberry into the soft dough on some of them). Pop the pan back into the oven and continue to bake for another 4-8 minutes, until cookies are firm and lightly browned on sides. If you take them out too soon, the cookies will simply fall apart if the dough is not sufficiently baked. Cool for a few minutes, allowing cookies to set, then remove to wire racks to continue cooling.
  9. When cookies are completely cool or right before serving, sprinkled lightly with powdered sugar for a decorative effect.

SOURCE: adapted from Barbara Bakes

Sugarless Lemon Curd

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • zest from one lemon (or substitute 1 tsp. lemon extract)
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 egg and 2 egg yolks

DIRECTIONS

  1. Set up a double boiler. I do this by placing a glass bowl over a pot filled with about 1 inch of water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Heat water to a gentle simmer, but make sure it doesn’t boil.
  2. Cut butter into pieces and add to bowl. Also add lemon juice, zest, salt, and honey. Whisk until butter melts, then remove bowl from pot.
  3. In another bowl, whip egg and yolks until well blended. Slowly stir eggs into lemon juice mixture, then return bowl to top of pot with simmering water. Stir continuously until a custard forms, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat once custard thickens.
  4. Cool curd, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, where it will thicken some more. Curd will last a couple weeks.

SOURCE: Traditional Foods via Gourmande in the Kitch