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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Halloween treat #3: Caramel-filled chocolate chip cookies (with a chocolate spider surprise!)

The other day I wandered into the store and found these new, delicious sounding chocolate chips -- filled with other flavors.  Unable to resist a new baking find, I bought all 4 flavors, including one that didn't even sound all that appetizing to me.

Tonight, I decided to play around with the milk chocolate chips filled with caramel.  I had a few ideas for the other flavors, but I thought I'd go with a classic chocolate chip cookie with the added bonus of the caramel filling.....and a chocolate spider (but I'll get to that later....).




A while ago, I had seen somewhere that someone made the chocolate chips in their cookies to look like spiders.  I thought it was the most fantastic idea ever, but then I was afraid that the caramel filled chips wouldn't work that well, so I baked the cookies with one regular chocolate chip in the top of each, but when they came out of the oven, the chip wasn't liquid enough to make it into a spider, so for the second batch, I pressed a chocolate chip directly into the just-out-of-the-oven hot cookie, let it melt a little bit, and then worked my magic.  I used a tooth pick to draw legs (pulling chocolate from the melted chocolate chip -- and yes, I realize that spiders have 8 legs and most of mine only have 6, but I was having a hard time, and figured 6 legs were enough) and a little head.

And then I went a little overboard with the Halloween decorations:








Nestle Toll House Caramel Filled Delightfulls Chocolate Chip Cookies
(from the bag of the caramel filled delightfulls (chips))

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups of flour (all-purpose)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar (granulated sugar)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1.5 cups (9 oz package) Toll House Delighfulls caramel filled morsels
1 cup chopped nuts (if omitting nuts, add 1-2 Tbsp all purpose flour -- which I didn't see until I typed up the recipe, but I thought the cookies were fine without the additional flour)

About 50 chocolate chip cookies, for spiders
Toothpicks, for making legs

Directions:

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Set aside. 
Beat butter, both sugars, and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. 
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
Gradually beat in flour mixture. 
Stir in morsels.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets (I used parchment paper-lined baking sheets)
Bake for 9-11 minutes or until golden brown -- 9 minutes was perfect for mine!

As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, press one chocolate chip upside down into the cookie.
Using a toothpick, draw legs on the spider by pulling away from the melted chocolate chip.
Make a head for your spider, if you so choose.

Let cool on baking sheets.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Chocolate babka

Last week I attempted Babka.  I've tried it twice before, and I wasn't quite successful either time, so since then I have referred to Babka as my "Mt. Everest of baking."  I'm happy to report that as of then, I have conquered the mountain!


This babka is ah-maz-ing!!  And frankly, I wanted to make it again a few days later, but was deterred because of the amount of time it took for it to rise and my not-so-free day.  Suffice it to say, though, that this will be a recipe you'll be seeing over and over again in the near future.


See, B had a visitor in town last week and I wanted to bake something for him.  His last guest in March got Red Velvet Bundt Cake and New York-Style Coffee Cake Crumb Muffins -- and seeing as the guests know each other, I didn't want to let him down, and made some treats while he was here, too.  The babka was the perfect treat to make -- and it was well received!  I left the almonds out because of my dislike of nuts in my baked goods, which made the babka extra chocolate-y, and in my opinion, prefect.  The boys completely agreed!


Next up, I think I'm going to try for a cinnamon version...

Chocolate Babka
From Food52

Ingredients:

For the dough:

2.25 tsp or 1 packet active dry yeast
3/4 cups milk at 110F
6 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
6 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
3 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp salt.

For the filling:

3/4 cups finely chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted and finely chopped (I left these out)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup cold, unsalted butter

For the streusel:

2 Tbsp soft, unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sufar (I used light brown sugar)
1 pinch salt

For the egg wash:

1 egg
1 Tbsp water

Directions:

Make the dough.

Stir the yeast into the milk to dissolve.
Let sit until foamy.

While the yeast proofs, cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add the oil and vanilla and mix well to combine.
Then add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing until each yolk is incorporated before adding the next.
Increase the mixer speed to high and beat the mixture for about 2 minutes.

Turn the mixer to low.
Add the flour and salt.
Add the milk and yeast mixture.
Switch to the dough hook attachment.
Mix the dough until a soft, tacky dough forms.
Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead by hand for two more minutes.  The dough should feel soft, supple, and smooth.
Move the dough to a clean oiled bowl and cover with plastic crap.  Let the dough rise at a moderate room temperature for about 2 hours or until almost doubled in size.  *You can also let the dough rise overnight in the fridge and shape it the next day.

Prepare the filling while the dough is rising.
Put all of the ingredients into a large bowl and use a pasty blender or bench scraper to cut the ingredients together into a streusel-like crumble.

To shape the bread:
Roll the risen dough on a lightly floured surface into a roughly 15x18 inch rectangle.
Gently lift the dough to make sure that it will easily release from the work surface.
Sprinkle the filling mixture evenly over the top of the dough leaving a 1/4-inch border around the edges.
Roll the dough from the long end into a tight log about 20 inches long.
Gently bend the dough into a "U"-shape.
Twist the arms of the dough 2 or 3 times around each other to form the loaf.
Pinch the seams together.
Place the dough into a greased x-5 inch loaf pan.
Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until the babka fills the pan, 1-2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Prepare the streusel:
Combine all of the streusel ingredients in a bowl and mix until crumbly.

Make the egg wash by mixing together 1 egg and 1 Tbsp of water.

When the loaf has risen completely, brush the top of the loaf with the egg wash.
Sprinkle the streusel mixture over the top of the loaf.
Use a toothpick to poke a few holes in the top of the load which will release any air pockets trapped between the folds of the dough and the filling.

Put the load pan on a baking sheet and place it in the oven.
Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Rotate the pan and bake for 20-30 more minutes.
The loaf will be deep golden brown on top and sound hollow when the bottom is tappen when finished.  *You can also use a thermometer to check the internal temperature (it should be 185F).

Let the babka cool to room temperature before slicing.

Halloween treat #2: Halloween bark

I made Halloween bark last week.  I loved it because (a) it was easy, (b) I could make it any way I wanted, (c) it was super cute, and (d) well, it came out totally adorable!


The best, best, best part of this?  There isn't really even a recipe.  Just grab some chocolate, candies of your choosing, and some candy eyes.  That's it!  (P.S. I totally didn't come up with this, and there is an official "recipe" found here...but I just winged it a bit.)


Chocolate Halloween Bark
From Just A Taste

Ingredients:

3 cups buttersweet chocolate chips
2 cups assorted candy, cut into bite sized pieces and some left whole.  I used:
     Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, cut into quarters (easiest to do if they're cold)
     Kit-Kats, left whole
     Peanut Butter M&Ms
     Candy eyes, which I bought years ago online, but I've seen them at stores like Michael's

Directions:

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler or in the microwave, stirring until smooth.  If using the microwave, do it in 30 second bursts, to make sure you don't burn the chocolate.

Pour the chocolate onto the parchment paper and spread it into an even layer with a spatula.  It should be about 1/4-inch thick.
Sprinkle the candy on top of the chocolate.
Place the baking sheet in the fridge to chill for 30-45 minutes until the chocolate has fully hardened.

Remove from the fridge.
Carefully slide it onto a cutting board.
Cut the bark into irregularly shaped pieces.
Serve immediately, or store in an air-tight container in a cool place.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Halloween treat #1: Candy corn marshmallows

I wanted to give you one fun Halloween-y treat each full week in the month of October.  I was super excited when I came up with this adorable little treat...a riff on a Halloween candy.



I can barely hold it in....I made....wait for it....Candy Corn Marshmallows!!  Now, before I go any further, I need to tell you that while they look like candy corns, they don't taste like candy corns.  Partially because I think candy corns are sickeningly sweet, partially because I don't love the taste of candy corns, and partially because I wouldn't even know where to start in terms of flavoring the marshmallows.




I took a short cut....I made one batch of regular marshmallows, and then took out some plain white marshmallow batter, added some yellow food coloring and then removed some yellow marshmallow batter, and then added some red food coloring to make orange batter, and lastly removed that and placed it in the pan.  Unfortunately, I didn't make enough yellow batter and some of the marshmallows had thinner sections of yellow (I chose not to photograph those marshmallows).  Next time, I might make 1.5 times the marshmallow batter and then use a slightly larger pan to make them.

I have to say, even though I am biased, that they're pretty darn cute!

Candy Corn Marshmallows
Recipe adapted from here.

Ingredients:

1 cup water, divided
3 Tbsp. + 1 1/2 tsp. unflavored powdered gelatin (3 envelopes – envelope is 1/4 oz. each, for 3/4 oz. total)
2 cups granulated white sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. fine salt
2 tsp. pure vanilla or vanilla bean paste

Yellow and red food coloring

For the coating:

1.5 cups of confectioners sugar
1 cup corn starch

Directions:

Spray a 9x9 or 7x11 inch baking pan and line with parchment paper (Recommendation: cut to fit flat on the bottom, with the edges of the paper over-hanging the sides. The ends are fine just sprayed.)

In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, pour in 1/2 cup of the water and sprinkle the gelatin over.
Let stand.

In a medium saucepan over high heat, stir together the sugar, corn syrup, salt and the remaining 1/2 cup of water.
Stir until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to boil.
Stop stirring and once mixture comes to a rolling boil, continue boiling for 1 minute.
Remove from the heat. (Recommendation: the original recipe said that they like to carefully pour mixture into a 2-cup glass measuring cup, to make it easier to pour into mixer.  I did this and found it extremely helpful!).
The mixture is very, very, very hot.  Be extremely careful!

Turn the mixer to low and mix the gelatin a bit to loosen.
Very slowly and carefully add the hot sugar mixture by pouring it gently down the side of the bowl.
Continue to mix on low until all the sugar mixture is added.

Turn the mixer to high and whip the mixture for 10 to 12 minutes until the marshmallow batter almost triples in size and becomes very thick.
If you have a smaller mixer bowl, you may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl frequently to avoid the batter overflowing as it grows.
Stop the mixer, add the vanilla, and then whip briefly to combine.  When I added the vanilla, mine thinned out a bit.  Just an FYI.

Remove 1/3 of the marshmallow batter and
place the mixture into the prepared baking pan (a silicone bowl scraper works like a charm for this).
Turn the mixer on again and add yellow food coloring until desired color.
While the mixer is going, use a spatula or bench scraper to spread the white marshmallow evenly in the pan, pushing it down into the corners.
Work quickly, as the marshmallow becomes more difficult to manipulate as it begins to set.

Remove 1/2 of the remaining yellow marshmallow batter and place the mixture into the prepared baking pan on top of the white marshmallow (a silicone bowl scraper works like a charm for this).
Turn the mixer on again and add red food coloring until desired orange color.
While the mixer is going, use a spatula or bench scraper to spread the white marshmallow evenly in the pan, pushing it down into the corners.
Work quickly, as the marshmallow becomes more difficult to manipulate as it begins to set.

Remove remaining orange marshmallow batter and place the mixture into the prepared baking pan on top of the yellow marshmallow (a silicone bowl scraper works like a charm for this)..
Work quickly, as the marshmallow becomes more difficult to manipulate as it begins to set.

Spray a sheet of plastic wrap liberally with cooking spray and lay it across the top of the marshmallow, sprayed side down.
Using you fingers, smooth the plastic wrap on top of the marshmallows a bit to seal it smoothly and tightly against the mixture.
(I did this between the white and yellow layers but found that it took too long and made is slightly harder for the marshmallow layer to stick to the one beneath it, so I skipped it when I added the yellow marshmallow.)

Leave the marshmallow to set at room temperature for at least 3 hours or, even better, overnight.
The marshmallow will be too sticky and soft to cut if you try too soon.

Mix together the coating ingredients in a bowl.

When marshmallows are ready, grab the edges of the parchment and lift the marshmallows from the pan.
Remove the plastic wrap from the top and fold down the parchment on the sides.
Using a pizza cutter or a large knife, cut the slab into 1x1 inch squares.
I also made a few triangles to make them look even more like candy corns.
Roll each of the freshly cut marshmallow squares in the coating mixture.
Put them on a baking sheet to dry slightly before packaging them up (about 30 – 45 minutes).

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Cream cheese stuffed carrot cake

This year, I baked a cake for Yom Kippur's pre-fast dinner and then also one for the break fast the following day.  The cinnamon apple pie cake I baked for the pre-fast baked up quite well, with the exception of a little smoke in my apartment.  I chalked it up to the extra cinnamon sugar I put on the cake.  I turned the oven off; let it cool a little.  I even turned on the air conditioning in the apartment and cracked the windows a little.


Then, it came time to bake this cream cheese stuffed carrot cake.  I started the cake and realized that I had run out of granulated sugar (I was about 1/4 cup short) so I subbed in a little extra light brown sugar.  No biggie.  I stood there and hand grated 3 cups of carrots.  I preheated the oven.  And then the oven started smoking.  This?  This was "a biggie."  Smoke (minimal amounts) was coming out from behind the stove top and then also when I opened the oven door.  Scratch that, I wasn't baking the cake in my apartment.  It was 11:25 p.m. on a week night.  I frantically texted my sister, who lives about 15 blocks away from me, to see if I could go to her apartment early the next morning to bake the cake, which she of course said I could.  Then, a few minutes later, B called me to chat, and I told him about my oven ordeal, and he suggested I go bake the cake at his apartment...then.

So I packaged up the cake -- already assembled and in the pan -- with layers of tin foil, then tied it in a plastic bag, and then put it in another plastic bag.  Then I -- and the cake -- hopped in a cab (at midnight) and took it 80+ blocks to B's apartment so that I could bake the cake.  So, basically, this is my very long winded way of saying that in case the cake doesn't look perfect, please forgive me.  This cake has been through a lot (not to mention it's trip to Brooklyn that morning and then to Westchester to my parent's house...and then to my aunt's house to break the fast).




Just a note -- this cake is nut and raisin free (nut free for my allergic cousin, raisin free because one of my sisters doesn't like raisins and also because I forgot them at the store).  Personally, I think it needed the raisins, but I won't forget them from the store next time I make it.

Cream Cheese Stuffed Carrot Cake
(Assembled by me, individual recipes get their credit below)

Carrot cake 
(the original recipe was for cupcakes, but I decided to make a bundt cake this time)

Ingredients (for 24 full-sized cupcakes):

4 large eggs
3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup apple sauce (I used unsweetened)
1 cup golden (light) brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 tsp (1 Tbsp) ground cinnamon
3 tsp (1 Tbsp) vanilla extract
3 cups grated carrots (hand grated....trust me.  Freshly hand-grated.  Don't buy the pre-shredded carrots)
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup chopped walnuts (like I said above, I subbed in 1 cup of raisins...but no one would fault you (or me, in the future) for using 1/2 cup each of chopped walnuts and raisins...however this time I left them both out)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Spray a bundt pan with baking spray.

Using an electric or stand mixer, mix the eggs, canola oil, applesauce, brown sugar, and sugar until smooth.
In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon until combined.
Slowly mix in dry ingredients until no clumps remain.
Stir in vanilla, carrots, pineapple, and chopped walnuts (or raisins, or both).

Pour about 1/2 to 2/3 of the batter into the prepared pan.
Add the cream cheese filling here (see below for the recipe and directions). 
Add the rest of the carrot cake batter.
Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow to cool.

Dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar before serving.
(I didn't bring my powdered sugar home with me, and my aunt didn't have any, so I left it off this time.)

Cream Cheese Filling
From Alida's Kitchen

Ingredients:

1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

Add all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
Add to cake in the step above.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Cinnamon apple pie cake

Confusing, right?  Pie....and cake?  I did it once before with those Key Lime Pie Cupcakes, which had a graham cracker crust with a cupcake baked on top, so I guess it's not that crazy.


This recipe is a pie-cake hybrid - it's filled with sliced apples, and then a yummy batter is poured over the apples and allowed to seep down between the layers of apple, and then the whole thing is covered in a healthy coating of cinnamon sugar.  I thought it would be a great dessert for our pre-fast dinner on Yom Kippur!



I ended up using different apples (I had planned to bake something else for that night but then last minute changed to this....after I had already bought 2 dozen apples of a different variety), but recommend sticking with the granny smiths, since my cake was a little wet (but delicious) inside

One thing is for sure -- this cake is a keeper!

Cinnamon Apple Pie Cake
From Recipe Girl

Ingredients:

6 to 8 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced
1.5 Tbsp cinnamon-sugar (1.25 Tbsp sugar plus 1/4 Tbsp cinnamon)
3 large eggs
1.5 cups superfine white sugar (if you don't have superfine sugar, you can pulse regular granulated sugar in a food processor a few times)
1.5 cups vegetable or canola oil
3 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 cups all purpose flour
More cinnamon-sugar to sprinkle on top (use the same proportions as above)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Spray a 9.5" or 10" springform pan with nonstick spray.
Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper.
Spray the pan again.

Layer the apple slices in the pan until they come up about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way up the side of the pan.
Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar over the apples.

Prepare the batter by beating the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the oil and the vanilla and beat well.
Stir in the flour.
Pour the batter on top of the apples.
Sprinkle the top of the cake with more cinnamon sugar (I was not shy, I used a lot!).
Tap the pan on the counter a few times to allow the batter to sink down and around the apples.

Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. (Keep an eye on it....mine baked up in 1 hour and 5 minutes!)
Cool COMPLETELY in the pan.
I needed to run a knife around the pan so that it didn't crumble when I loosened the pan.
The original recipe states "If you try to remove the cake from the pan while it is still warm, it will tend to break apart.  I refrigerated my cake before slicing, and that worked out well."
Serve slices with ice cream (warm individual slices in the microwave, if desired).

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Jalapeño cheddar scones

Last up, a tried and true scone that I swear by: Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones from Smitten Kitchen!!  I've made these before, several times, but shared them on the blog with you about a year and a half ago here.  They're SO good, that I decided to share the recipe again below, so that you don't have to flip back and forth between this post and the previous one!

Jalapeño Cheddar Scones are the second from the left.
Jalapeño-Cheddar Scones (from SmittenKitchen.com)

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick or 4 ounces) cold butter, diced
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 eggs, divided
1/4 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, diced - I always use white cheddar, although i'm not completely sure why.  I've also thought about trying monterey jack or pepper jack cheese, but I always stop myself, because why fix something that doesn't need fixing?
2 small jalapeño peppers, minced

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a small skillet, melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter and sauté the jalapeños in it until soft.
Let them cool, then mix them with the cheddar cheese in a small bowl and coat them with one tablespoon of the flour.

Combine the remaining flour with the baking powder and salt.
Cut in the remaining butter with a pastry blender, fork or two knives, until the butter bits are pea sized.

Lightly whip two of the eggs and cream and add to the flour-butter mixture.
Using a wooden spoon, fold mixture until it begins to come together.
Add the cheddar-jalapeño mixture to the dough and mix until everything is well-mixed.

Put the dough on a well-floured surface and gently knead it till it comes together well (less than one minute).
Pat dough out to a 3/4- to 1-inch thickness and either cut into 8 triangles or the shape of your choice with a biscuit cutter. I made mine mini for the shower (and generally make them mini when serving as an appetizer).

I then froze mine, and actually baked them up AT the shower, since I think they are THE BEST when they're fresh out of the oven.

When ready to bake the scones, remove the from the freezer and then start from here:

Make an egg wash by beating the remaining egg with a teaspoon of water.
Brush the scones with egg wash and place on a parchment-lined (or well-oiled) baking sheet.
Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.  My mini ones take much less, about 8-12 minutes depending on the oven.