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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Tiramisu mousse

I'm not going to lie....the past few weeks have been a little bit hectic.  I packed (about 85% of) my apartment, moved downtown, unpacked (not nearly enough), spent the weekend in the 'burbs to celebrate my dad's 65th birthday (!!), came back to the city today, and packed up more of my old apartment.  Then, I came back downtown with a few bags in tow, and started unpacking some more!


Would I change any of it?  No, not a chance!  Except maybe I would've packed up my whole apartment before I moved so that I didn't have to go back and keep packing.  Like I'll have to do tomorrow after my 8-4 shift at work, and probably two days later, too.  :-(


So when my dad's 65th birthday fell TWO days after my move, I knew it was going to be hard to make a birthday treat for him.  I was definitely upset that I wouldn't be able to make anything, but it was highly unrealistic to think that I could.  I mean there was a good chance that my kitchen-aid wouldn't be unpacked, and that would be a travesty (in the end, as I'm sure you've figured out, it was unpacked on the first or second day).


But then something happened.  I came across a recipe.  It sounded good and it had easy in the title.  I read more and I was sold!  Easy Tiramisu Mousse sounded delicious.  And I thought it was perfect to pipe into small plastic cups and serve at the hors d'ourves party that my mom had planned for my dad.  The extensive, over the top, insane -- but also delicious -- hors d'ourves party that my mom had planned (there will be more on that in another post later, I promise!).

I was so amazed at how delicious and easy this was.  And it tasted just like tiramisu!  I highly recommend this recipe....as well as using a bigger serving vessel than I did.  I saw some people reach for seconds ;-)

Easy Tiramisu Mousse
From Crazy for Crust

Ingredients:

1.5 tsp instant coffee (like Starbucks Via or any other variety of instant coffee)
1/4 cup hot water
1 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
1.5 cups powdered sugar
8 oz mascarpone cheese or cream cheese (low fat cream cheese is fine, too) -- I used mascarpone
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 oz semi-sweet baking chocolate

Directions:

Put instant coffee into hot water and stir.
Let cool for 5 minutes, or longer.

Beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form.
Chill until ready to use.

Mix powdered sugar and mascarpone cheese with a hand mixer until smooth.
Mix in vanilla and 1 Tbsp of the coffee mixture.
Continue adding coffee until you reach your desired taste.  The original recipe blogger said she used the whole coffee mixture; I ended up using 2 Tbsp and loving the flavor.  

Fold whipped cream into coffee-mascarpone mixture gently.
Place the mousse in a gallon sized ziploc bag that is fitted with a large round or 1M tip (I used a piping bag with a star tip, because sometimes I'm a little crazy!).

Pipe a small amount in the bottom of your serving dishes.
Top the layer with a dusting of cocoa powder.
Continue layering mousse and cocoa powder in each dish.
Once you get to the top layer, grate the semisweet baking chocolate over the top of each dish (I used a little bit of cocoa powder and then went to town with the chocolate shavings).

Chill, covered, in the fridge until ready to be served.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Lemon poppyseed cookies

B loves all things lemon poppy.  So when I went to the spice store the other day (it's really hard to call it a 'spice' store -- they have everything from cocoa powder to poppyseeds to vanilla beans to dip mixes), I went a little crazy...

They have some of the best - and most easily accessible - Dutch press cocoa powder, which I have a hard time finding in the city.  And two kinds of vanilla beans (and vanilla sugar...and extract...).  Let's just say I did some major damage, to the tune if 2 pounds of cocoa and 15 vanilla beans, plus a bunch of other things*. Namely, poppyseeds.  See, poppyseeds are something I don't see in the city much, unless they are coating a bagel (I have bought sesame seeds, but poppyseeds have remained elusive).


* Yes, I realize that buying an insane amount of baking goods before moving may not have been my smartest move, but I didn't know when I'd be making it back to the store and I did need to replace a few items.


Anyway - back to the poppyseeds....there's a restaurant that B and I frequent and one of it's perks is that when you leave they give each diner a cookie to take home.  One time we got lemon poppyseed cookies and B loved them.  So I decided that - amidst the packing - I'd attempt to make him some lemon poppyseed cookies.  This recipe really intrigued me because not only did if call for lemon zest, but also incorporated lemon juice, and an extra helping of lemon before baking.

I knew the cookie dough would be soft from reading the original blogger's post, and I remember it saying that putting the dough in the fridge for a little while helped.  I got a little creative and started adding a little extra flour just to make the dough a little more manageable (it was still a soft dough, but easy to deal with).  An additional quarter cup of flour was all I needed.  If you feel like you need to add extra flour, start adding a little at a time -- up to a quarter cup -- until you reach a desired consistency (and if you don't know what a desired consistency should look like, go ahead and use the full quarter cup).

These cookies were delicious!  My only issue with them is that they were more a lemon cookie with poppyseeds than a lemon poppyseed cookie....which means I'll just have to make them again with some extra poppyseeds....I'm sure B won't complain, considering he said he ate the cookies I brought him for days....

Lemon Poppyseed Cookies
From "Wanna Come With?"

Ingredients:

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 1 1/2 lemons)
3.5 tsp finely grated lemon zest (from about 1.5-2 lemons), divided
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 large egg
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour, plus more as needed (I used a total of 2 1/4 cups)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 Tbsp poppy seeds, plus more for sprinkling (I didn't top my cookies with more seeds)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a small sauce pan, bring the lemon juice to a simmer over medium heat.
Cook until reduced by half.
Add 1/2 cup of butter and stir until completely melted.
Remove from heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and poppy seeds.
Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 1 cup of sugar and 2 tsp of the lemon zest, rubbing the zest and sugar together with your fingers until the zest is distributed and the sugar is fragrant.
Add remaining 1/2 cup of butter and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add the egg and butter/lemon juice mixture.
Continue to beat until pale.
Mix in the vanilla.

Reduce speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.
I added an additional 1/4 cup of flour, about 1-2 Tbsp at a time, until I reached my desired consistency.  The original recipe says to put the dough in the fridge for about 30 minutes to make the soft dough easier to work with.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and 1.5 tsp lemon zest.
For the dough into small balls, mine were about 3/4-1" in diameter.
Roll each in the sugar/zest mixture.
Place about 2 inches apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Gently flatten each to about 1/4" thick, using the bottom of a glass.

Bake for about 10 minutes (for small cookies, 12-13 minutes for larger cookies), until the cookies just begin to brown around the edges.
Allow to cool on a wire rack for a couple of minutes before removing from the cookie sheet to cool completely.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Chocolate shamrocks

I had so many things I wanted to make for St. Patrick's Day.  I had a few cupcake ideas, as well as a few other things, but between packing up the apartment and trying to pack for a conference that I'm going to this coming weekend, I ran out of time.  It's a good thing that a few days ago I had made some of these white chocolate shamrocks -- green white chocolate, of course!


For these, I melted white chocolate melting wafers in a bowl in the microwave at 30 second intervals until it was melted and smooth.  Then I added powdered (not liquid - it makes the chocolate clumpy) food coloring (this was a mixture of 'lime green' and 'green').  Lastly, I poured the chocolate by spoonful into a shamrock/clover mold and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours.


Look at how cute these came out!

 Happy St. Patrick's Day!



Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Oreo bark

I made that espresso bark the other day (to rave reviews!) and it got me thinking....bark is good.  And fun.  And easy!  Plus it's really tasty and looks so nice without having to put in so much work (unlike having to beautifully pipe icing or glaze or use the perfect cookie cutter).  And as I was crunching on some of those leftover scraps of chocolate wafers, I started thinking of all the delicious ways I could make barks.  I mean I've made my famous peppermint bark before, and that Halloween bark, and then that espresso bark, but the espresso bark was the first time I'd seen cookies sandwiched between two layers of chocolate.  Which was kinda the opposite of an Oreo, which wasn't a big coincidence, since I had been thinking of a way to make Oreo bark.


So with those two ideas I started coming up with a plan.  It is based on the espresso bark, but I've changed the proportions a little to make it my way.  And I have to say, this came out amazingly!!  Just a few Oreos go a long way in this bark, since the chocolate wafer layer gives it another Oreo-like dimension without actually adding more Oreos (although, frankly, a layer of Oreos instead of chocolate wafers would just up the Oreo factor even more....food for thought for the next batch!).



Oreo Bark
Based on this Espresso Bark, originally found here

Ingredients:

16 oz white chocolate, chopped, and divided in half
11-16 chocolate wafers
5-6 Oreos, ground in food processor, until fine crumb
6-10 Oreos, chopped roughly (I cut some into sixths and some into ninths, to get big chunks in varying sizes)

Directions:

Line a 9x9 inch baking dish with parchment paper (using an 8 x 8 pan would work well, too, since I didn't let mine go all the way to the edges).

Finely chop the 5-6 Oreos in the food processor until they are a fine crumb.
Roughly hand chop the remaining Oreos.
Set aside.

Place 8 oz of white chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave.
Slowly melt the chocolate (using 30 second intervals if using the microwave), stirring occasionally, until glossy and smooth.
Remove from heat and add 4 Tablespoons of the ground Oreos to the white chocolate, adding 1-2 Tbsp at a time and mixing well until all distributed.  (Add more Oreo crumbs, if desired, but I thought this was the right amount.)

Pour the Oreo-White chocolate mixture into the prepared pan.
Spread with an offset spatula, so that it is in an even layer.
Top with a single later of chocolate wafers, cutting some into smaller pieces to fit, if needed.
Chill in the fridge until set, about 25 minutes.
Remove pan from the fridge and let it warm to room temperature while moving on to the next step.

Place remaining white chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave.
Slowly melt the chocolate (using 30 second intervals if using the microwave), stirring occasionally, until glossy and smooth.
Pour melted white chocolate over the wafer layer.
Carefully spread it with an offset spatula into an even layer.
Sprinkle with chopped Oreos (and any remaining fine Oreo crumbs, if you want -- I left them off).
Chill in the fridge until completely set, about 1 hour.

Carefully lift the parchement paper out of the pan.
Place bark on a cutting board.
Trim away any ragged edges.
Use a sharp knife to cut into squares (or triangles, or "break" it into ragged pieces, like I remember bark having...but make them small because these are sweeeeet and rich!).
Store leftovers (if any) in an airtight container at room temperature.

Snickerdoodle cookie bars

I really really wanted to bake these about two weeks ago, but I was at B's and I didn't have any cinnamon there.  Shocking, right?  But next time I was in Whole Foods wandering around waiting to meet up with him, I remembered that I needed cinnamon and grabbed some (along with a bunch of random other stuff, but that's another story). 


These were actually called Snickerdoodle Blondie Bars, but mine baked up more like cookie bars.  Buttery, uber decadent, cinnamony delicious cookie bars.  I halved the original recipe, beat the butter and sugar by hand (my stand mixer will make it down there eventually....), and then used an 8x8 inch (disposable....because, again, my pans haven't made it there yet....) pan.  And of course I decided to bake these on my first day of my diet.  But I was good.  My willpower (long absent) kicked in and I had one teeny tiny 1 x 1.5 inch piece and then walked away (and packed them up and told B that he MUST bring them to work with him the next day).


Seriously, guys, make these.  STAT.  Because they are that good!


Snickerdoodle Cookie Bars
From Baked by

Ingredients (this is for the 9 x 13 pan; I halved mine but then used a little extra cinnamon (see italics below for anything that was not halved)):

For the cookie bars:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (I used 1 tsp, because I love cinnamon....so I might use 2 tsp if you are doing the full recipe)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Topping:

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with parchment paper (or grease it well with butter or baking spray).
Lightly crease the exposed pan and parchment paper.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream together butter and both sugars.
Mix in eggs and vanilla.
Add in dry ingredients.
Mix until smooth and no streaks remain.
Lightly grease hands (I skipped that part).
Press the mixture into an even layer in the prepared pan.
Sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Bake for 25-30 minutes (I baked my 8 x 8 pan for 20 minutes).

Allow blondies to cool before slicing.
Store in an airtight container for up to several days.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Espresso bark.....and exciting news from the JulieBakes kitchen!

I feel the need to sugar-coat (no pun intended, I swear!) the news I'm about to share with you.  It's kinda big.  And it's going to be bittersweet -- sad for the next few weeks, but exciting overall -- so in order to make the news slightly less harsh, I made you some espresso bark to lessen the blow.


I've been wanting to make this for a long time.  I even bought the chocolate wafers once and let them expire, having not made this bark.  But I bought them for a second time and was determined to make this for you guys.  And the added bonus?  The caffeine level is up there....which I'll need for the second part of this blog post.


And this bark is easy, delicious, and so pretty.  Plus, it's a nice peace offering for blog readers about to read some possibly upsetting news (right?!).  And it's a great hostess gift if you need one.  Easy is a huge key right now, since washing dishes is annoying, and time isn't quite as free as it used to be.

See, in just a few weeks the JulieBakes kitchen will be packing itself up* (* I've yet to actually find a way to have my kitchen pack itself up, so I'm forced to pack it -- as well as the rest of my apartment that I've lived in for almost TEN years!! -- up....hence my need for caffeine!) and moving downtown.  I'm really excited for the move, but in the meantime, my baking time of the past has been replaced with packing time.  So while I am going to be baking a lot less over the next few weeks, I promise I will still be gracing your email and Facebook feeds with some baked goods...and rest assured that once I'm settled in the new place, the baked goods will be flowing once again!


So, now that I've ripped that band-aid off and delivered the news, back to this bark.  Two layers of chocolate, one spiked with espresso, chocolate wafers, and chocolate covered coffee beans.....well, you can just imagine how delicious this is.

So pass me another piece of this bark and another roll of packing tape, and let's get this party started....

Espresso Bark 
From Tutti Dolci

Ingredients:

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tsp instant espresso (she recommended Starbucks Via, I used my trusted Cafe Bustelo, which I thought was delicious), consider upping the instant espresso to closer to 1.5 tsp, like I did
12 chocolate wafers (I ended up using about 10 and a half)
8 oz white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup chocolate covered espresso beans, halved (I left the smaller ones whole)

Directions:

Line a 7 x 11 inch baking dish with parchment paper (I used an 8x8 inch pan, because, well I don't have a 7x11 pan.....square inch wise, mine was a bit smaller, so it was fine :-))

Cut chocolate covered espresso beans in half, leaving smaller ones whole.
Set aside.

Place semisweet chocolate and instant espresso in a double boiler or heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water.
Slowly melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally, until glossy and smooth.
(Alternately, you can melt the semisweet chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, in 30 second increments, until smooth and glossy....then add espresso and stir until smooth.)

Pour melted chocolate into prepared pan and spread with an offset spatula into an even layer.
Top with a single later of chocolate wafers (if necessary, cut wafers in half to fit).
Chill in the fridge until set, about 25 minutes.
Remove pan from fridge and leave at room temperature while melting white chocolate.

Place white chocolate in a double boiler or a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water (I don't recommend doing this in the microwave, as I find that microwaved white chocolate doesn't melt to smoothly).
Slowly melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally, until glossy and smooth.
Pour melted white chocolate over the wafer layer.
Carefully spread it with an offset spatula into an even layer.
Sprinkle with chocolate covered espresso beans.
Chill in the fridge until completely set, about 1 hour.

Carefully lift the parchement paper out of the pan.
Place bark on a cutting board.
Trim away any ragged edges.
Use a sharp knife to cut into squares (or triangles, or "break" it into ragged pieces, like I remember bark having).
Store leftovers (if any) in an airtight container at room temperature.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Rolo cupcakes

I'm obsessed with those bags of mini candies they have now.....Miniature versions of classic candies that come unwrapped in bags -- which means they are easily addictive (unwrapping those snack sized candies really puts a damper on how quickly you can shove them in your mouth) and utterly adorable because they're mini, and, well, you know how I feel about all things mini.


So for my friend's bar's 3rd birthday party, I decided I'd bake up a few cupcakes for my friend and our trivia team (I LOVE bar trivia, and how fun that the birthday party coincides with trivia night?!).  I had bought a bag of mini Rolos candies to make cupcakes with, and I figured this was the perfect time to make them!


I made dark chocolate cupcakes, and put a Rolo in each before baking.  Then, I topped each with homemade caramel buttercream, a caramel drizzle, and finished with another mini Rolo on top!

I have to say, these turned out pretty darn cute.....and tasty!

Rolo Cupcakes

Dark chocolate cupcakes 

Ingredients:

8 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used semisweet since the store didn't have bittersweet.  They're basically the same thing anyway).
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup sour cream

12-18 mini Rolos for cupcakes, plus an additional 12-18 to top the cupcakes (or full sized for stuffing in the cupcakes, if you feel like unwrapping them all....I used mini for both)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F (325F if using a nonstick pan).
Line standard-sized muffin pan with cupcake liners.

Combine butter, chocolate, and cocoa in a medium heat proof bowl.
Set bowl over saucepan containing barely simmering water, and heat mixture until butter and chocolate are melted.
Whisk until smooth and combined.
(...or you could microwave the mixture at 50% powder, stirring every 30 seconds, until completely melted.  Which is exactly what I did.)
Set aside to cool until just warm to touch.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and baking powder in a small bowl to combine.

Whisk eggs in another bowl to combine.
Add sugar, vanilla, and salt until fully incorporated.
Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined.
Sift about 1/3 of the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined.
Whisk in sour cream until combined.
Sift the remaining flour mixture over and whisk until batter is thick and fully incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake liners.
Place one Rolo, upside down, into batter.  Do not press in, just make sure that the top is flush with the top of the batter.
Bake until a skewer inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes.

Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on a wire rack until they are cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes.
Place cupcakes on a wire rack.
Cool to room temperature before icing, about 30 minutes.

Caramel Buttercream 
adapted from here

Ingredients:

2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup caramel topping, plus more for drizzling
1 pound powdered sugar (about 4 cups), more as needed to thicken icing for piping
2-4 Tbsp cream or milk

Directions:

Cream butter until fluffy.

Add in vanilla extract and 1/2 cup caramel topping.
Add 2 cups powdered sugar and mix until smooth.
Add in the rest of the caramel topping.
Add in the remaining 2 cups of powdered sugar.
Add in 2 tablespoons of cream and beat on high.
If icing is still too thin add a bit more powdered sugar, and if it's too thick, add in some more milk or cream.

Assembly

When the cupcakes are cool, pipe on the icing.  I use a piping bag with a large tip.
Drizzle with caramel topping (I find that putting it in a small squeeze bottle makes the drizzling easier and prettier).

Top with a mini Rolo candy.  
Keep refrigerated until 30 minutes before serving.