Category Archives: chocolate

Safe Travels

Eric and I haven’t done much traveling. I realize now this is something I should be quite embarrassed about, similar to finding toilet paper stuck to my shoe or my fly unzipped in the middle of a big presentation in front of People Smarter and More Important Than Me.

But that’s the way it is. Here we are, both turning 30 in 3 months, and we’ve never left the US. Well, I take that back, Eric spent a few days in Canada a few years ago. So he wins. I guess.

Don’t me wrong, I’d love to jet off somewhere exotic. See majestic mountains, jewel-toned oceans and crumbling ancient ruins. There’s just always an absence of two very important things. Mainly, money and time. I frequently hear from the well-traveled that we should do these things while we’re young. While it’s just the two of us. Before kids come along.

We’ve had six years. Let’s be honest. I’m 99.9% sure that’s not going to happen. Someday, right? Someday when we’re retired and all of sudden traveling Europe by train with the lead anchor on the 10:00 news sounds like an excellent idea. (Does your local news advertise trips like this? An Alaskan cruise with your favorite weatherman! The commercials always make me laugh!) Yep. Then we’ll go. Someday….

Until then, it’s a good thing I have a stocked kitchen and an active imagination. With the right food, I can travel wherever I want, whenever I want.

A couple weeks ago, I decided Italy was the place I wanted to go. So, I closed my eyes and thought about what it would be like to be there. I pictured peaches and cream sunsets streaked with lavender and pink, jaunty cobblestone streets and the whir of scooters whizzing by. I pictured a white flowy sundress, gold sandals that tie around the ankles, and hair in long, loose waves. I pictured outdoor cafes, tiny cups of espresso billowing with steam and bottles of wine that last for hours. I pictured hopeful coins shimmering with wishes at the bottom of a tinkling fountain. I pictured history – the last remains of great empires, towering, intricate cathedrals and Renaissance art. I pictured falling in love.

Most of all, I pictured gelato. Walking slowly with one hand wrapped up in the fingers of a true love and the other wrapped around a cone dripping with a cool, creamy treat.

This Gianduja-Stracciatella Gelato will put you there. All of those experiences in just one bite. And if that isn’t what it’s really like there – hey, I can dream right? It is my imagination after all. Someday I’ll know for certain.

I’m not even sure where to begin to tell you how much we loved this stuff. In The Perfect Scoop, David Lebovitz describes gianduja as an Italian confection made from local hazelnuts ground together with milk chocolate. Hello, heaven! This gelato is like frozen Nutella with bits of crunchy, chocolate goodness running through it. It may look like chocolate overload, but really the flavor is not over-the-top rich. It’s chocolatey in a completely perfect way. The hazelnuts give it a little bit of a coffeehouse flair. I’m actually not big on ice cream in a cone, I almost always have it in a dish. But here, the slightly spicy crunch of the cone compliments the chocolate and hazelnuts perfectly. Go for the cone!

GIANDUJA-STRACCIATELLA GELATO (Recipe Source: The Perfect Scoop)

Make the Gelato:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 4 ounces good quality milk chocolate, finely chopped
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

  1. After toasting hazelnuts*, rub in a kitchen towel to remove as much of the papery skins as possible. Finely chop the nuts in a food processor.
  2. Warm the milk with one cup of the cream, sugar and salt in a saucepan. Once warmed (do not boil), remove from the heat and add the chopped nuts. Cover and let steep at room temperature for one hour.
  3. Put the chopped milk chocolate in a large bowl. Heat the remaining cup of cream in a small saucepan until it just bubbles. Pour it over the chocolate and stir until melted. Set a mesh strainer on top of the bowl.
  4. Pour the hazelnut infused milk through the strainer into a medium saucepan. Squeeze the nuts firmly with your hands to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the nuts.
  5. Rewarm the hazelnut/milk mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm hazelnut/milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the mixture back into the saucepan.
  6. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom while stirring, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through a strainer into the milk chocolate. Add the vanilla then stir until cool over an ice bath. Cover and chill the gelato in the fridge until very cold, at least 8 hours or overnight.

*To toast the hazelnuts, spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven until golden and fragrant, about 10 to 12 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Make the Stracciatella:

Stracciatella is more of a technique than a recipe. It involves melting chocolate and adding it in steaks to frozen ice cream. The streaks are broken up into crunchy “chips” that run throughout the ice cream. I have to say I really loved this technique and will likely use it again in the future. The bits of chocolate are small and they melt instantly when hitting the tongue, giving you a delightful chocolate flavor. Sometimes I find adding actual chocolate chips to ice cream leads to chunks that are so frozen solid, it’s like crunching down on tasteless, waxy pebbles. This technique eliminates that.

  • Finely chop 5 ounces of bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (do not use chocolate chips)
  • In a clean, dry bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring until it is completely melted.

Freeze:

Remove gelato from the refrigerator and stir. Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according the manufacturer’s instructions. After it’s frozen, transfer from the bowl to a storage container. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the gelato in a slow, thin stream, stirring as you pour to break up the chocolate. Cover and freeze until ready to serve.

ENJOY! 🙂

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Heart to Heart

I’ve never been the type to get really into Valentine’s Day. I don’t dress myself in head to toe red and pink or hand out foil-wrapped chocolate hearts to all my coworkers. It’s just another day. Another cold, wintery February day right smack dab in the middle of a busy work week. Our alarm will sound at 10 after 5 and there will be no breakfast in bed. We will both work all day. Eric will trudge home after 6 dog tired. There will be no fancy dinner. Just a couple of old marrieds, sitting on the same side of the kitchen table so they can both see the Seinfeld rerun on TV while they eat their taco casserole.

Wow. We sound lame. But honestly, it’s a special, cozy, wonderful kind of normal. After nine (NINE! What the what?!) Valentine’s Days together there may not be grand gestures and rose petals and frosty diamonds nestled in red velvet, but there is love. Pure and simple and true. The kind that only gets stronger as each year passes. Valentine’s Day is a good reminder of just how lucky I am to have my Snuggly-Wuggly-Pookie-Boo-Boo-Bear (is that gushy enough for ya?) in my life. 😉

Did you know my heart still flutters when I hear the garage door open and see his truck pull into the driveway every evening? After all this time, my favorite moment of the day is still the moment when he walks in. I’ll never tire of seeing him smile, hearing him laugh. He says thank you when I make him dinner. He helps me empty the dishwasher without me even asking! He brings home candy I like when he’s been at Menard’s buying screws or bolts and goes to pick up the pizza when it’s raining so I don’t have to go out. He’s so thoughtful. And kind. So smart. Like seriously brilliant. And funny! So funny. He makes me laugh every single day. Even when I don’t feel like laughing. Especially then.

He says he’s pretty much the luckiest guy ever to have me around but I say *I’m* the lucky one. How he puts up with all this crazy, I’ll never know. Maybe Valentine’s Day is just another day, but it’s another day in a pretty fantastic life together.

Eric was out of town this past weekend seeing his family so I decided to surprise him with some lovey-dovey cookies upon his return. These deep, dark chocolate hearts layered with sweet and succulent cherry preserves just scream “come on baby light my fire.” 😉 Deb at Smitten Kitchen calls these  Brownie Roll-Out Cookies which is a spot on description. They’re tender and sweet and surprisingly chocolately and fudgey-flavored. Chocolate cookies can be kind of flat and boring, in my opinion, but these hold their own. I munched on an insane number of the tiny hearts I cut out of the center of these to make the windows. They are the perfect all purpose chocolate cookie – sandwich them with a layer of peanut butter cream, dip them in white chocolate and sprinkle with colored sugar, top ’em with a generous smear of buttercream. You cannot go wrong. When stuffed with preserves and dusted with powdered sugar, they are a Valentine’s Day treat worthy of someone special.

I went back and forth debating whether to use strawberry or cherry preserves here. I knew both would compliment the chocolate cookies well, but I wanted these to be special. Let’s face it, strawberry is sweet and innocent. Cherry is…so much more. Dark and passionate, cherries leave their mark. Strawberry is for your crush. Cherry is for your true love.

CHOCOLATE CHERRY HEARTS (Cookie recipe from: Smitten Kitchen)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup unsalted salted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (I used dutch-process)
  • 1 12-oz jar cherry preserves
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and cocoa to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until fully combined and fluffy. Gradually add the flour mixture, beating until incorporated after each addition. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap tightly. Refrigerate until firm, at least one hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly flour a work surface and rolling pin and roll out the the dough to a quarter inch thickness. Cut the dough into hearts using a medium size cookie cutter. Using a smaller heart cutter, cut a second heart out of the center of half the cookies. Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for 6 to 8 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
  3. Separate the solid cookies from the ones with the heart cutout. Dust the cutout cookies with powdered sugar. Spread a thin layer of preserves* on the flat side of a solid heart and top with a sugared cutout heart. Makes about 2 dozen sandwich cookies.

*Note: You may want to nuke the preserves for 10 to 15 seconds to loosen it a bit for easier spreading.

ENJOY! 🙂

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Filed under chocolate, cookies, fruit

Cowboys like Us.

Oh, hey there. Hi.

The following story leans toward the 13 in PG-13. Parental guidance is suggested. The unsavory language has been censored but you’ll likely be able to figure it out. I’m warning you because I’m cool like that and I’m giving you a chance to quietly file out of here and find more appropriate reading elsewhere. I do not mean to offend, but apologies in advance if that happens. You know what they say…

Haters gonna hate.

Anyway. This story is based on actual events. Actually, it’s 100% true. I know. I was there. 😉

The 10 a.m. section of Principals of Accountancy 1 had to be, without a doubt, the most well-attended large lecture on campus. In the fall of 2001, it took all of about 3 weeks for about 750 cocky college sophomores to realize – skip lecture, FAIL Professor C’s exams. There was no all-nighter too exhausting, no hangover too brutal, no snooze button too tempting to keep us away from that lecture. Like a dangling a carrot on a string in front of a pony, my friends.

And so, every Tuesday and Thursday morning, we filed into Foellinger Auditorium to PACK the joint, main floor to balcony. We scribbled feverishly to keep up, bent over our tiny desks, pens flying. There was no time to even look up. Every class ended with a stiff neck and a hand cramp.

One sleepy morning closing in on midterms and deep in through of debits and credits and journals and ledgers, the sound of large, heavy doors banging open in the back of the auditorium caused a collective jump in every seat. Professor C. stopped mid-sentence. Pens halted. Every head turned, every neck stretched like a rubber band as a whooping and hollering stranger rushed down the center aisle.

An audible gasp rippled through the crowd, followed by low, muffled laughter. With his arms up and fists pumping in a blaze of enthusiastic victory, this sudden mid-class distraction was skinny, pale…and practically naked. He sported nothing but a cowboy hat, a red bandana and, wait for it, leopard print thong underwear. Every pair of eyes grew wide in surprise, mouths hung open in stunned silence. Everyone looked around in do-you-see what-I-see? disbelief.

The naked stranger jumped up on stage and shook his bare little bottom for his newly captive audience. All at once the crowd began to clap and cheer wildly. Whistles bounced off the towering ceiling, echoing and piercing through the room. A group in the balcony, no doubt the recently activated frat boys who put the poor pledge up to this, were on their feet, stomping and shouting like the entire thing was a spectator sport.

Suddenly, he turned to face us. He held up his hands and bowed his head to silence the crowd. Shhhhh. He’s gonna say something. A hush fell over the auditorium. He looked up, flashed a million dollar smile, raised his arms above his head once again and shouted to the rooftops at the top his lungs….

“I am Cowboy Dan and I am one bad- mother-!”

Cowboy Dan visiting my accounting lecture is about where my experience with cowboys ends. Now, I know a thing or two about farm boys, who really aren’t cowboys, and I happen to know they love cookies. Especially big, chunky cookies loaded with goodies. I don’t know if cowboys share the same affection, but I’m going to go ahead and say yes. Why not, ya know? And I gotta think a cowboy would love a cookie named especially for him.

These Cowboy Cookies from the Martha Stewart Cookies book are creeping up there as one of my favorite cookies to date. They’re loaded with chocolate chunks, toasted pecans, hearty oats and flaky coconut. They’re a little rugged, a little rough around the edges and probably aren’t going to win a beauty contest any time soon. They’re a bit unassuming, but strong in their silence. Very cowboy-like, if you ask me.

Oh, hey Coconut Haters? Fear not! These cookies are not at all coconut flavored, it’s just another pleasant textural profile to the final product. Try it, you’ll like it. Your cowboys will like them too.

COWBOY COOKIES (Recipe Source: Martha Stewart Cookies)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 cup pecans (3 ounces)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats (not instant or quick-cooking)
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch chunks
  • 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (unsweetened coconut is a specialty product that I’ve never found at my regular grocery store, I went ahead and used sweetened and it was fine. I reduced the sugar by about tablespoon)
  • Cooking spray

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread pecans in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast in oven, tossing occasionally, until darkened and fragrant, 10 to 13 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop. Into a bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder.
  2. With an electric mixer cream butter and both sugars until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
  3. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture, beating until just incorporated. Beat in oats, chocolate, pecans, and coconut until just combined. (Dough can be covered with plastic and refrigerated up to 3 days.)
  4. Coat baking sheets with cooking spray; line with parchment, and spray parchment. Using a 1 1/2-inch ice-cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop dough onto prepared sheets, about 3 inches apart.
  5. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges of cookies begin to brown, 16 to 18 minutes. Transfer sheets to wire racks to cool 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks to cool completely. Makes about 5 dozen.

ENJOY! 🙂

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Traditions

Christmas is all about traditions. Like footie pajamas from Santa and popsicle stick ornaments handmade with love by little hands. Traditions are what make the holidays special. Tattered recipe cards smudged with chocolate. A blizzard of colored sugar over spritz cookies. An old tune that makes you smile. Tradition must be what keeps us coming back to this crazy, stressful thing called Christmas year after year. Without all those tiny nostalgic moments, the story that goes along with that ornament, the first taste of that signature holiday dish, this time of year just wouldn’t be the same.

When I was much younger, one of my favorite holiday traditions was going “downtown.” Chicago, that is. The Saturday before Christmas, we’d bundle up in mittens and scarves and head in to the Windy City. I loved the way the skyline appeared, familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. Buildings blocked the already weakened winter sun, throwing cold shadows across miles of city sidewalks as we walked with a certain quickness in our step, trying to outrun the Jack Frost nipping at our noses.

After pausing for a photo op in front of the tree in Daley Plaza…

We’d walk another couple blocks to my favorite part of the trip – Marshall Fields and their fabulous holiday window displays. Tiny mechanized figures wove an intricate story behind glass that stretched an entire city block. When you’re 6, 7, 8…it was like pure magic.

When our noses where sniffly and our fingers and toes cold as ice, we’d push through the revolving glass doors under that famous clock and step inside to get warmed up. I loved going up to the higher floors and looking down on the Walnut Room with it’s beautiful towering tree, crisp white tablecloths and elegant place settings. It always made me want to trade my blue jeans and gym shoes for a red velvet dress, cream colored tights, and shiny black patent Mary Janes. And if you inhaled real deep, mingling among the sweet, powdery scent of perfume and the deep, earthy smell of leather there was a hint of something delicious in the air….

CHOCOLATE.

Boxes of Field’s famous Frango chocolates (handmade in the State Street store until well into the 90s) were always staple at holiday time. Just lifting the lid on that little green box smells like Christmas and memories. We all know what happened to Field’s (sad face) but luckily these little minty chocolate gems are still available at….that other store. I tend to snatch a box when they’re on sale. For nostalgia.

Another thing I tend to snatch up on sale is cookbooks. When I spotted this Marshall Field’s Cookbook in a used bookstore, I just couldn’t resist it. The best part? There’s an entire chapter devoted to treats featuring those tiny, tasty mints.

These Frango Mint Pots de Creme are like chocolate pudding all grown up. While I was a fan of simply stuffing chocolates in my mouth until I was ready to explode when I was younger, now I find it’s fun to take familiar flavors and turn them into something a bit more sophisticated. These creamy individual desserts are just the ticket.

What we have here is basically an ice cream base that’s baked instead of frozen. Milk. Yes. Cream. Of course. Egg yolks for extra richness and yumminess. Hells yes. Sometimes I find custards to be a bit too eggy for my tastes, but this….this is just creamy, minty, chocolatey, melt-in-your mouth perfection. With a generous dollop of fresh whipped cream and a few chocolate shavings, make these and you could have a new holiday tradition on your hands. You’ve been warned. 🙂

FRANGO MINT POTS DE CRÈME (Recipe Source: The Marshall Field’s Cookbook)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 16 Frango mint chocolates, chopped, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • Fresh whipped cream, for serving

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees and place the rack in the center position. Bring milk to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped chocolates and stir until melted. Remove from heat and stir in the cream. Set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until well combined but not foamy. Slowly pour the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, stirring constantly. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Let the mixture rest for ten minutes at room temperature.
  3. Divide the mixture among six 3/4-cup ramekins. Set the ramekins in a baking dish and place the dish in the oven. Pour hot water into the baking dish to reach about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until just set at the edges but still soft in the center. Do not overbake.
  4. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled. The custards can be made up to two days in advance and covered and refrigerated until ready to serve. Serve with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Serves 6.

ENJOY! 🙂

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Crafty

If there’s one thing my mom and I can’t resist it’s a good craft fair. I can’t put my finger on what draws us to these hotel ballrooms and school gymnasiums filled with handcrafted wares, but if there’s one in the area, you better believe we’re ponying up the three bucks to get in and dropping our names into the box for a chance to win a door prize.

Maybe it’s the spicy scent of cinnamon potpourri. Or the catchy Christmas tunes being pumped in even when the calendar still reads October. Maybe it’s the tiny shred of hope that the snack mix lady, who hasn’t been seen since about 2003, will make a miraculous comeback and be there to share her sweet, crunchy Chex cereal/M&M goodness with the world once again. Whatever the reason, we just can’t seem to stay away.

But nowhere in either of our respective homes does a a smiling country snowman proclaiming ‘Let it Snow’ fit in. Crocheted coasters? My mom already has pile of those she made herself. In like 1978. Wine bottles stuffed with Christmas lights are played. That wreath that looks like Santa’s head complete with floppy arms and legs – uhhh…a little creepy, if we’re being honest.

The items seem to fall into one of two categories: 1) Try Not To Snicker Too Loud Because the Person who Made it is Sitting Right There and Will Feel Bad. 2) That Doesn’t Look Hard to Do At All. Fifty Bucks? Please. We Could SO Make That Ourselves.

If we were, you know, crafty.

We are not crafty. We hold out hope that one day we will be crafty, but that day has yet to arrive. Sad country snowman. 😦

So when I find a recipe that’s really just an edible craft project in disguise, I don’t know why I think it will be easy. I fall for it every single time! Blast!

These little Christmas donut bites from Love From the Oven caught my eye in one of those That Doesn’t Look Hard At All, I Could So Do That Myself kind of moments.

A simple mini donut baked up in my trusty, handy-dandy mini donut pan (I don’t use this pan very often. I wonder why. Oh. It’s kind of a pain? Now I remember.), dipped in chocolate (Yup. That always goes super smooth with no trouble at all. Right.), and then decorated with simple edibles. Like candies! And pretzels that look like antlers! Breaking pretzels into antler shapes is not only genius, it’s super easy.

For everyone except for me, of course. Apparently, a soft touch is needed to break pretzels. Evidence would suggest I’m about as gentle as an angry caged lion. THESE PRETZELS ARE MAKING ME THIRSTY! ARGH!

In the end, they came out quite well. Of course, I learned that certain mini chocolate chips have the tendency to make snowman look a little crazed if not downright pissed off. So there’s that. I ate those. Any Christmas treat that gives me the stink eye ends up jammed into my mouth. So there.

These were, of course, a big hit with all that received them. Because, crafty or not, they are pretty darn cute. And pretty darn tasty. As with most crafty projects, they take a little time and a little patience, but the end result is sure to have you coming back for more.

CHRISTMAS DONUT BITES (Donut recipe adapted from Stephanie Cooks, decorations from Love from the Oven)

What you’ll need:

  • Mini donuts (I baked mine using my mini donut pan, the recipe appears below, you could also use plain store bought donuts or fry up some yeast donuts if you’re feeling really ambitious)
  • 5 to 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted
  • 5 to 6 ounces white chocolate, melted
  • Mini pretzel twists, broken in half to create antler shapes
  • M & M candies in red and orange
  • Large white pearl sprinkles (like these)
  • Mini chocolate chips

What you’ll do:

  • Make donuts cool completely before decorating.
  • For the reindeer, gently press the pretzels into the tops of the donuts and then remove (when you dip the donut in the chocolate, it will sink down into the holes so you can see where to place the antlers. This also acts as a little bit of ‘glue’ to hold them in place.)
  • Holding the donut by the bottom, dip the tops in the melted chocolate. Twist gently to remove the excess and allow it to drip back into the bowl. Turn right side up and reinsert pretzels if using. Place on a wire rack.
  • Gently drop an M&M (red for reindeer nose, orange for snowman nose) into the center of the donut. You may find that it sinks pretty far inside. If that happens, just place a second M&M on top so the nose is prominent.
  • Place two white pearl sprinkles above the nose to for the reindeer eyes. Use mini chocolate chips to make snowman eyes and mouths.
  • Allow the donuts to sit at room temp for the chocolate to set before packaging.

EGGNOG SPICE BAKED DONUTS

*You’ll never ever EVER find me drinking eggnog, but it is a fun holiday flavor to use in baking and one I’m warming up to as of late. These little donuts were a great way to use it!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup flour
  • Scant 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup low fat eggnog
  • 1/2 tsp rum extract
  • 4 tbsp canola oil

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450.
  2. Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the egg, rum extract and eggnog then whisk for 1 minute. Add the oil and continue to whisk until well combined.
  3. Grease the mini donut pan liberally. Fill each with about 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of batter (do not overfill, they’ll puff up like cupcakes and not look like donuts anymore!). Bake for 3 to 5 minutes. Cool completely before decorating. Yields about 4 dozen.

ENJOY!

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Chocolate Crush

There’s this guy. I have a bit of a crush on him. Sometimes I follow him around or try to hold his hand or pass him notes asking him if he loves me. He’s just so super cute and nice and funny and stuff. He has a nice smile and very pretty blue eyes that remind me of the color of a swimming pool on a cloudy day.

One time we went on this walk, just the two of us, and he gave me this ring. I melted into a puddle on the sidewalk. Then I married him.

Yes. I have a serious crush on my husband. And when he wakes up on a lazy Sunday morning, blinks at me with those pools of blue underneath the kind of long, thick eyelashes any girl would kill for, and asks “Can you make the little chocolate donuts for breakfast today? They taste good and have the sugar I need to get me going in the morning.“* I can’t say no. I can’t say to no to that! What am I made of stone or something?

*And if you get that joke, I think I love you. Come over. We can down a lot of donuts together. 😉

These little chocolate donuts are a relatively new phenomenon at our house but they have already reached superstar status in the heart and mouth of my favorite food critic – my husband Eric. They certainly do get him going in the morning. Once he’s had a couple of these he’s ready to tackle all sorts of important things – like watching SportsCenter, pacing aimlessly from the front of the house to back, and sitting in a chair and staring into space. Eventually the sugar coma wears off and he can get back to doing something productive. 😉

I procured a donut pan earlier this summer (because I just couldn’t resist) and I’ve already surprised myself with number of times I’ve used it. It just makes having donuts at home so easy.

Or should I say…too easy! Let’s not fool ourselves and claim we’re enjoying a healthy breakfast here just because our little chocolate donuts are baked and not fried. They’re a cupcake with a hole in the middle. That doesn’t mean they’re not worth the splurge every once in a while, they totally are, but just accept the fact that you’re eating dessert for breakfast. It’s okay. It’s less shameful than standing over the sink in your bathrobe and polishing off half a leftover pumpkin pie straight from the dish. So…there’s that.

I’ve tried a couple varieties of baked donuts but this recipe for a chocolate on chocolate explosion of deliciousness is the runaway favorite by far. There is something so satisfying about the soft, deep, dark chocolate base and creamy chocolate glaze. And the sprinkles? Please, that’s just a happy face on plate.

So easy. Seriously. You want donuts but only have an hour? No problem. You got it, man. One bowl, a whisk and a few pantry staples is all it takes. You’ll be in Tasty Town before you can say “Time to Make the Donuts.”

I used a basic baked donut recipe I spotted over at Stephanie Cooks and just adapted it by swapping a quarter cup of the flour for cocoa powder to make a chocolate base. The secret here, I think, is dutch-process cocoa. You will not find a more chocolatey cocoa powder than the dutch-process. It looks different. It smells different. It makes the cake donut base so sinful, you’ll feel the need to confess after eating one. I’m relatively new to using it myself and it has won me over hook, line and sinker. I am now obsessed. It does wonders for the flavor here.

Now, texture-wise, you’re not going to bite into a baked donut and completely forget it’s not fried. That golden, crunchy exterior – it’s just not there. However! All donut properties are not lost here. These are baked in a screaming hot oven (450 degrees) so they are done in just a few minutes and the outside gets the fainest bit of crunch while the inside stays soft. And the glaze. Whoa Nelly! I love it. I used the same glaze I used on the donut muffins I made last year and it is just perfect. Not too thick, not too runny, it grabs those sprinkles and won’t let go but yet dries to a nice bake shop consistency too.

I will say these are best eaten the day they’re made – they tend to get a bit soggy after 24 hours or so – no less tasty, of course, but I wouldn’t make them ahead if serving to guests. But since they seriously take no time at all, you really don’t have to. These are finger licking, chocolate ring around your lips, glass of milk swigging, Sunday morning perfection. Enjoy every last bite.

BAKED CHOCOLATE DONUTS (Donuts adapted from: Stephanie Cooks, glaze is the same as in these Donut Muffins I made last year.)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup dutch-process cocoa
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    (now that I’m writing this, I’m pretty sure I’ve been using only 1 teaspoon. Oopsies. I’ve been happy with my results but I’m going to use a tablespoon next time to fluff-ify my donuts further!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • Chocolate glaze (recipe follows)
  • Colored or chocolate sprinkles (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and coat a donut pan liberally with cooking spray.
  2. Stir together flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add the egg, vanilla, and milk and stir together for 1 minute. Add the oil and continue to whisk until just combined. Transfer the batter to a large measuring cup (or a bowl with a spout) for easy pouring.
  3. Fill each cavity in the pan 2/3 of the way full with batter. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until the donuts spring back when lightly touched. Cool completely before icing. Yields 10 to 12 donuts.

Chocolate Glaze

  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the glaze: combine the chocolate chips, butter, corn syrup and vanilla extract in a double boiler (or in a stainless steel or glass bowl over some simmering water). Stir until the chocolate is melted and everything is incorporated. Use immediately.

ENJOY!

One Year Ago: Roasted Corn Salad – One of my summer favorites!
Two Years Ago: Peanut Butter Blossoms
Three Years Ago: Skillet Bruschetta Chicken

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You Look Familiar…

We’re in the middle of…a bit of an adjustment period. A Moving Adjustment Period. This is the time, after arriving in a new city, where it is perfectly acceptable to drive around aimlessly gawking until you’re lost beyond belief. Or cut across three lanes of traffic because you forgot your turn was coming up.

Nothing in this place is familiar. Frankly, it’s taking some getting used to. Little things are different. Like the oven makes a totally different sound when it’s done preheating and it always catches me off guard. And we don’t know where to go to get excellent Mexican (GASP! I can’t live like this!) The other day, I was in a very familiar department store that was laid out in very same way as the same store in our old location. After spending a good hour in there, I think I forgot where I was, because I came out, saw a completely different view from the door and had a mini freak out. I thought I stepped into another dimension.

ZOMG, what happened to that weird buffet restaurant that clearly used to be a Chi-Chi’s!?? What is this BIZARRO WORLD?!

Oh yeah…I moved. The re-purposed Chi-Chi’s is in another state. Whoops.

Anyway, we’re learning the ropes. Adjusting to this exciting new world. While the surroundings aren’t familiar yet, these quick and simple bar cookies are an old favorite. Comforting in a time of change, ya know? 🙂

Toffee Squares! I remember these from holiday treat trays when I was a little girl. I know my mom has this recipe on a handwritten card in her collection somewhere. A sweet, buttery, nutty shortbread-like crust topped with a layer of silky milk chocolate and crunchy chopped nuts. They totally have the caramel notes you expect from a yummy square of English toffee. So simple, yet so delicious. These literally take seconds to throw together. Cream together butter, brown sugar, vanilla and the yolk of one egg. Add the flour to bind it all together, press into a greased 9×13 inch pan and toss in the oven. When they come out, lay squares of milk chocolate over the top, let them soften up a bit and spread it across the entire pan like frosting.

Try not to lick the knife…. Eh, lick the knife if you want. No one’s looking…

The entire thing is finished off with chopped nuts. I recommend pecans, but if you’re like me and happen to have just about every nut in your freezer EXCEPT pecans, you can use whatever you have around. I went with sliced almonds. You could also leave them off completely if you’re not a fan.

TOFFEE SQUARES (Recipe Source: Betty Crocker’s 1963 Cooky Book)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar (either light or dark will work)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 7 to 8 oz. milk chocolate, broken into squares (I used two large Hershey bars that were somewhere around 4 oz. each)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover a 9×13 inch pan with foil and grease well with cooking spray.
  2. Cream butter, sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla together with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add flour and salt and mix until combined and soft dough forms.
  3. Press the dough into the prepared pan, spreading it to the edges with a rubber spatula or fingers. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly golden brown on top.
  4. Remove from oven and immediately place chocolate squares on top. Let stand for a few minutes until softened, then spread evenly across the entire surface. Sprinkle with nuts. Allow the chocolate to set and cut into bars. Makes about 32 squares.

ENJOY! 🙂

One year ago: Lindsay’s Chocolate Cafe Chocolate Chip Cookies (the best chocolate chip cookies in the Midwest they say!)
Two years ago: Potato Chip Cookies (another retro fave from my grandma!)

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Pros and Cons

Pro: My husband and I now have a place to live in our new city. You know, together.
Con: It is NOT in the house we’re trying to buy. It’s a rental. You are KILLING me, Short Sale!

Pro: It’s a very nice rental. Possibly the nicest rental in the History of Rentals. Because I’m an expert on such things. And I’ve seen a lot of crappy rentals.
Con: Hi, I’m Expensive!

Pro: The movers moved everything in for us while we stood around.
Con: They won’t move it back out. (Well, they will. But it won’t be free.) Also, I can’t find the iron. Or the TV remote.

Pro: It’s immaculately clean with lots and lots of really white carpet.
Con: It’s immaculately clean with lots and lots of really white carpet.

Pro: Three words: Walk. In. Closet.
Con: The closet is in the bathroom. This leads to inefficient use of dressing time. Items in the closet in the bathroom, items in the dresser in the bedroom. The back and forth is exhausting. I’m telling you, I need a system. Help me. Please.

Pro: It has a sun room in the back with tons and tons of natural light. Hello, built in Blog Photo Studio!
Con: The view out the windows… Um. The blinds are closed most of the time.

Pro: There’s a delightful, brand new grocery store (that just happens to be my fave regional chain) like right around the corner.
Con: I don’t know where anything else is in this town. I can get to and from that store and that’s pretty much it. I tried to find the mall yesterday. I got amazingly turned around and lost coming back. It was epic.

Pro: I have my own kitchen again!
Con: I don’t know where I put ANYTHING. I am lost in there.

Pro: I made cupcakes.
Con: None at this time. Duh.

Yellow cake with chocolate frosting has always been a favorite combo of mine. It was my birthday cake of choice when I was younger. Coincidentally, It was also my breakfast of choice when I was in college. 😉 I may or may not have stood in front of the sink in our tiny apartment shoving week and half old cake and frosting into my face at 8:00 a.m. before running after the bus to get to campus. Breakfast of Champions, friends!

Of course, yellow cake and chocolate frosting always came from a box and a can. It was time to give making both from scratch a try.

Pro: These cupcakes are so good.
Con: I can’t keep my mitts off these.

Let’s talk about the cake. Now, after I made this particular butter yellow cake, I noticed my cupcakes weren’t super yellow. Even though I’m pretty sure the yellow box cake mix of my youth got it’s neon hue from dyes, additives and what not, I wanted to take a look at a few more recipes to see what kind of differences were out there.

To the Interwebs, Batman!

Right away I noticed that some recipes labeled yellow cake used whole eggs (as does the recipe I used) and some only the yolks. All of the recipes (including this one) used butter as the fat, not oil or shortening. I may have to try a yolk-only cake here in the future just to see the difference, but in the meantime, I like this recipe a lot. It’s buttery, moist, and puffs up in the cupcake pan instead of spreading out. The flavor is slightly sweet and almost creamy with just a hint of vanilla. It is the perfect vehicle for chocolate frosting.

Milk chocolate frosting. Boo-ya!

I get excited when I find a recipe that uses a technique I’ve never tried before to produce a product I’ve had many times before. I’ve had chocolate frosting before. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten my weight in it over the course of my lifetime. Duh. But I’ve never made this particular way.

I’ll break it down for ya, real easy like.

Milk chocolate is chopped and dropped into the bowl of a food processor with corn syrup. While the machine is running, boiling cream is added and the whole thing is processed until smooth. Sounds a lot like ganache, doesn’t it? Well, then a bit of powdered sugar is added – only half a cup. Like nothing, right? Keeps the finished product from being teeth-achingly sweet. Once that’s all mixed in, super chilled butter is added, one piece at a time and it’s all whipped together.

Directly after processing, the frosting is too thin and runny and to use, but after an hour at room temp on the counter? Hello. Silky, creamy, dreamy, chocolate heaven. It’s milk chocolate so it’s got a sweet bite, but it’s not TOO sweet. Really, all you taste here is the flavor of the chocolate made extra creamy with butter. Yep. It may be a sin.

Be forewarned, the finished texture of the frosting is much better suited for spreading rather than piping but I think it really fits here. How homey and comforting is a cupcake slathered with a rustic smear of frosting? These are truly made with love.

Pro: Now you get to try them too!
Con: Mine will be gone soon. 😦

BUTTERY YELLOW CUPCAKES WITH MILK CHOCOLATE FROSTING (Cake and frosting both from: America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook – pgs. 561 & 563)

*A little note to confuse you*: This cake recipe makes two 8 or 9-inch cake layers, a 9×13-inch sheet cake, or about 24 cupcakes. The frosting recipe does have a note that it’s not the best for layer cakes and that it will frost a 9×13-inch or about 12 cupcakes. I made 12 cupcakes and used the rest of the batter in a different pan that I baked and put in the freezer. I had a tiny bit of frosting leftover after doing 12 – I probably could have layered it on a bit thicker on some. 😉 Now, to the recipes!

For the cake:

  • 2-3/4 cups cake flour
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1-3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk, at room temperature
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If making layer cakes or sheet cake, grease the pans with cooking spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper. If making cupcakes, line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until incorporated. Beat in vanilla.
  4. Reduce the speed to low and beat in one-third of the flour mixture until combined. Add half the milk. Repeat with half of the remaining flour mixture, then remaining milk, and finally the remaining flour mixture.
  5. Stir the batter one last time with a rubber spatula to make sure it is fully incorporated. Pour the batter into prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 15 to 20 minutes for cupcakes, 20 to 25 minutes for layer cakes, 25 to 30 minutes for sheet cake. Rotate the pans halfway through baking.
  6. Let the cakes cool in the pan on wire racks for 10 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely before frosting.

For the Frosting:

  • 10 ounces milk chocolate, chopped (Go with a better quality chocolate to keep the frosting from being too sugary – I used Ghirardeli)
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, boiling
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and chilled
  1. Put the chocolate, corn syrup and salt into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. With the machine running, gradually pour the boiling cream through the feed tube and process for 1 minute.
  2. Add the confectioners sugar and continue to process until combined, about 30 seconds. With the machine running, add the butter through the feed tube, one piece at a time and process until smooth, about 30 seconds.
  3. Transfer the frosting to to a medium bowl and let cool to room temperature, stirring frequently until thick, about 1 hour.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: Guacamole
Two Years Ago: Lemon-Scented Mini Cheesecakes with Mixed Berry Topping

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The BIG News

Hi. I’m here. And I have news.

Maybe you’ve noticed a decrease in post quantity as of late. Maybe you’ve noticed fewer tweets, fewer Facebook posts, and a general absence from the interwebs on my part. Oh, and I fully admit to totally falling off the Blog Comment Wagon. I may or may not have busted my face I’ve fallen so hard. As I was gathering my teeth from the side of the road, the Blog Comment Wagon kept right on movin’ and left me behind.

I’m sorry. If you could see me now, you’d see a toothless head hung in shame. I have an excuse.

Notice I didn’t say GOOD excuse because, really, there’s no such thing. But I do hope to catch up soon.

Now. The news. Yes. It is the most newsworthy piece of information to cross the wire in my world in a long, long time. It’s BIG. It’s HUGE. It’s EPIC.

Before we go any further, allow me to share what the news is NOT.

I am NOT, repeat, NOT pregnant. Okay? That’s NOT the news. No babies!*

*Yet.

The news is….drum roll please….

We’re moving! WOO!

I know, big deal, right? You’re rolling your eyes thinking THAT’S the news?! Yawn.

Hear me out. We’re not just moving across town or to a new house nearby…we’re moving BACK HOME! After six years here in Iowa, we have the opportunity to return to Illinois. Eric got a new job (same company, just a different location) and we snatched it up. Had to. Although we’re not returning to my suburban Chicago stomping grounds or  to his rural Southern Illinois homestead, we’re going to be a heck of a lot closer to both. A LOT closer.

And we are thrilled. HOME. I’m giddy just thinking about it. We are biggest bunch of homebodies you’ve ever met. We just feel like we belong there. Being closer to our families is so important to us. I can’t believe it’s finally happening.

So. There ya have it. The reason for my absence. I haven’t been cooking much because I’ve been tip-toeing around our house trying not the touch anything in case we need to vacate for a last minute showing. My usual weekend baking activities have been interrupted by house hunting and trips to explore our new area. We don’t know when for sure we’ll move permanently to our new home (turns out the holidays aren’t a great time to try to sell a house. Gee, I can’t imagine why that would be! 😉 ), but it should be sooner rather than later.

We’re new to this whole house selling thing. It’s kinda hard. I have to make my bed and put the cap back on the toothpaste tube when I’m done. This is tough stuff, I tell ya! I decided to do the only thing I could think of to get people excited about buying our home.

Bake cookies.

I have STUFFED my freezer full cookie dough. It’s embarrassing. But also brilliant. See, every time there’s a showing, I pop a couple dough balls in the oven before we leave. Not only does it fill the house with the most enticing aroma of butter, sugar and chocolate, it also provides a sweet treat for our lookers to remember us by. How could you NOT want to buy a house that comes with cookies?*

*Cookies are non-transferable. Once the baker (ahem, me) leaves the premises the cookie responsibilities fall solely on the buyer. Sorry, no refunds.

Especially these cookies. Friends, we have a new contender in the race for Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Ever. This prestigious title, previously held by Alton Brown’s Chewy in this house, now goes to the Cooks Illustrated Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Don’t get me wrong, both are good, but the CI version eeks out Alton in the texture arena. Where Alton’s are softer, CI’s are truly chewy. The edges are perfectly crisp while inside keeps a great bite. I also think the CI version has a greater depth of flavor, a bit caramely with hints of vanilla and salt and the perfect chocolate compliment. I don’t think the flavor of the cookie part is as strong in The Chewy. Warm from the oven or from the cookie jar a couple days later, these really are the perfect chocolate chip cookies.

Make ’em. They may sell your house one day.

THICK AND CHEWY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES (Recipe Source: Cooks Illustrated, January 1996)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 
1/8

 cups
 
all‐purpose
 flour
 (about
 10 
1/2 
ounces)
  • 1/2

 teaspoon 
table 
salt
  • 1/2

 teaspoon
 baking 
soda
  • 12

    tablespoons
 unsalted
 butter
 (1 
1/2
 sticks),
 melted
 and
 cooled 
slightly
  • 1

    cup 
brown
 sugar
 (light 
or 
dark),
 7
ounces
  • 1/2

 cup 
granulated 
sugar 
(3 
1/2
ounces)
  • 1

    large
 egg
  • 1

    large
 egg
 yolk
  • 2

    teaspoons 
vanilla
 extract
  • 1
‐
2

 cups
 chocolate
 chips
 or
 chunks 
(semi 
or
 bittersweet)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Adjust oven racks to  upper – and lower middle positions. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together in a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. Beat butter and sugars together with an electric mixer until thoroughly combined. Mix in egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Slowly add dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Stir in chips.
  3. To shape the cookies: form scant 1/4 cup dough into a smooth ball. (I made mine a bit smaller than that, just a personal preference). Holding the ball in the fingertips of both hands, gently pull the ball into two equal halves. Rotate the halves 90 degrees and jam the dough back together at the base, leaving the jagged edges exposed on top. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheets.
  4. Bake, rotating the cookie sheets positions half way through baking, for 15 to 18 minutes (start checking after 13 minutes), until the edges start to harden but the middles are still soft and puffy. Cool completely on cookie sheets. Makes about 3 dozen.

ENJOY!

One Year Ago: Butternut Squash and Sausage Lasagna
Two Years Ago: Texas Chili – My favorite chili recipe and the only one I make! LOVE.

 

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Trick or Cupcake Treats!

I liked the idea of Halloween as a kid. Spray on hair color? Awesome. Eyeliner kitty-cat whiskers? Yes, please. Freeeeee Caaannnnnddy! Check and check.

But when push came to shove, it turns out that…well…I was kind of a wuss.

It wasn’t the thoughts of ghost and goblins and things that go bump in the night that had me shaking. It was the cold. The COLD.

Maybe you grew up in a place where it didn’t get cold. You could put on your little princess dress and sashay your pretty little self up and down the block bare arms and all. Well, bless your little heart. 😉

In the Midwest, on October 31, it is cold. Always. It might be rainy cold. Or perhaps windy cold. In some not-so-alternate universe there is slim chance it could even be SNOWY cold. I’m sure it’s happened. Or maybe it’s just plain cold.

Any way you slice it, you’re wearing a coat over your princess dress. Halloween costume FAIL.

I’d get around the neighborhood, collect a bit of loot. Then the nose would start to run and the fingers would get icy. It would start to feel like 15 miles up hill both ways to next house as the wind slapped me straight in the face.

Okay. Candy’s cool and all but…I was lucky if I lasted an hour out there. Even the promise of an Snickers or two couldn’t bribe me into toughing it out. I can just hear my 8-year-old self: I’m COOOOOLLLLLDDDD. I wanna go HOOOOMMMMME.

Yo! Wimpy wuss over here! I am not one for being out in the cold. Not much has changed there (says the girl who will be putting on her winter coat here shortly and not take it off until…April.) I’m more suited to stay in my nice warm, cozy house, only open the door when someone knocks, and keep the candy leftovers all to myself. 😉

Good thing I’m all grown up now. Clearly adults get the better deal on Halloween. 😉

Plus, I know another activity that doesn’t involve being out in the cold…baking! I can mark this Halloween by skipping the shivering outside in a skimpy costume and making a cute sweet treat instead.


Ignore the ghoulish glare on my ganache, please and thank you.

These little chocolate bites are fun on the outside and even more fun on the inside. They’re stuffed with delightful marshmallow cream! Think Hostess cupcakes, but better. Much, much better.

Filling and decorating these cupcakes is a little time consuming but the end result is well worth it. Rich chocolate cupcakes, sweet, creamy filling and chocolately ganache. They scare the pants off your standard candy. In addition to the Halloween designs above, I also did the classic seven-loop swirl. So much fun to make and eat!

HALLOWEEN CREAM-FILLED CUPCAKES (Recipe adapted from: Martha Stewart Cupcakes)

For the cake:
You can use any chocolate cake you like, but I would avoid one that’s too soft and crumbly. The filling is pretty stiff, and you need a cake that can stand up to it. The following recipe is still moist and delicious but somewhat dense. It worked well! Makes about 24.

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • Marshmallow Cream Filling (recipe follows)
  • Shiny Chocolate Ganache Glaze (recipe follows)
  • 1/2 cup orange candy melts, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two standard muffin tins with paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together cocoa, flour, baking powder, soda, and salt.
Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy with an electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With the mixer on low speed, add half the flour mixture, followed by sour cream, ending with remaining flour mixture; mix just until incorporated.
Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking time. Remove cupcakes to wire rack to cool completely.For the filling: 

  • 1 1/2 cups marshmallow cream
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
  • Orange food coloring, if desired
In a medium bowl, whisk marshmallow creme and butter until smooth. Add food coloring until you get your desired shade. Chill until slightly firm, 15 to 30 minutes. Transfer mixture to a heavy resealable plastic bag or piping bag. Cut off one corner of the bag to make a 1/8-inch opening.
To fill:

Using a paring knife, cut a small cone out of each cupcake. Reserve the cone (you will use this to plug cupcake after filling). Hollow out each cupcake a bit more, discarding crumbs.

Insert tip of plastic bag into each cavity, and squeeze to fill.

Replace the cones, pressing down lightly. Careful not to let the filling squeeze out!

Shiny Chocolate Ganache Glaze:
The recipe in the book calls for using two ounces of chocolate to 2/3 cup cream to make a smooth, dippable ganache. I tried it with two ounces and it was TOO thin. Ugh. I wasted perfectly good chocolate, dang it! I tried it again with four ounces and it was perfect. I’m using 4 in recipe below.

  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Place chocolate medium heatproof bowl. Bring the cream and syrup just to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour mixture over the chocolate. Let stand 5 minutes before slowly whisking the mixture until smooth and combined.

Immediately dip the tops of each cupcake into the ganache, letting the excess drop back into the bowl. Return to wire rack to set slightly.

To decorate: Place melted candy wafers into a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip or a squeeze bottle. Pipe desired designs on each cupcake. Store finished cupcakes covered in the refrigerator. Bring to room temp before serving.

Note: To make the spiderwebs, pipe rows of circles on each cupcake starting in the center and working your way out. With a toothpick, pull the melted candy out from the center, marbling it slightly with the ganache.

ENJOY!

One Year Ago: Baked Shrimp Scampi
Two Years Ago: Easy Herb Fococcia

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