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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.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

"Coconut Ranger" cookies

When, while scrolling through my Facebook feed the other day, I came across these cookies.  Immediately, I turned to B and said "these cookies have your name written all over them."  He looked at me quizzically and I explained to him that they had coconut, toffee, and almonds in them, and then he seemed to agree.  I don't remember if he asked me to bake them or if I had already committed myself to baking them, but the next day I left work and went straight to the store to get the ingredients.  It didn't hurt that I was annoyed and I find baking to be therapeutic, so cookie baking that night sounded like a damn good idea!  The only problem I could come up with these cookies was that you have to wait at least 8 hours from when you make the dough till you bake them.  EIGHT HOURS! (Confession: I got 32 cookies worth of dough but only had space for 30 cookies on the tray to put in the fridge, so I baked up the last two after, gulp, not even 8 minutes in the fridge.  And they were goooooood!!)


So when I actually got around to baking these cookies the following day, I baked up a bunch (and then froze the remaining dough for when I wanted a cookie fix and didn't have at least 8 hours to wait for one).  Then, I brought some with me when I met up with friends that night and then also brought some to B.  The response was, across the boards, a resounding "these are awesome!!"

Coconut Ranger Cookies 
Originally from Royal Carribean, recipe found on Chocolate, Chocolate and More

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup Heath Toffee bits (plain toffee, not the ones with the milk chocolate)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup finely chopped almonds
2 Tbsp Cream of Coconut (Coco Lopez or Goya)
2 1/4 cups sweetened shredded flaked coconut

Directions:

Beat together the butter, toffee bits, and both sugars until light and fluffy.
Add in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla.
Beat well.

In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.
Gradually add to the butter mixture, until combined.
Add in the chopped almonds, cream of coconut, and shredded coconut.
Mix until fully incorporated.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or wax paper.
Use a medium cookie scoop or a spoon, then shape into balls.
Place on the prepared sheet and then flatten to about 1/2 inch thick.
Cover with plastic wrap.
Refrigerate dough overnight, or at least 8 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325F.
Place cookies on a baking sheet (I used a parchment lined sheet), 2-3 inches apart.
Cookies will spread.
Bake in oven for 12-14 minutes, just until edges start to turn brown (it's OK if they look a little raw in the center....they actually are supposed to).

Remove from oven and let cookies rest on baking tray for 10 minutes to finish baking.
Remove from baking sheet and place on cooling racks to cool completely.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Browned butter, white chocolate chip, and macadamia nut cookies

I've been a bit hooked on browned butter lately.  It's a bit insane, really, but it's just soooo good and it elevates the taste of so many things, so I've been sticking with using it.  Sue me.  But honestly you won't want to when you try these decadently delicious cookies!


I made these cookies mini because, well, I think mini is adorable -- but also because they're so rich that one or two mini cookies is all you really need.  (But no one would fault you if you grabbed for another few cookies....)


Pardon my odd, sparkly nail polish in the above picture, please.  But look at those cookies.  Mini.  Packed with mini white chocolate chips.  And some raw and toasted macadamia nuts for a depth of flavor....before we even start talking about the butter.  Browned perfectly in the pan and then left to cool.  Adding another layer of slightly nutty, deliciously buttery deliciousness to these cookies.

Browned Butter, White Chocolate Chip, & Macadamia Nut Cookies
Adapted from the Toll House Cookie Recipe

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, browned and cooled
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mini white chocolate chips or 2 cups regular-sized white chocolate chips
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts, about 1/2 to 3/4 cups toasted

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Brown the butter in a sautee pan over medium low heat until browned.
Watch carefully so that it does not burn.
Pour into a bowl and allow to cool.
You can put the butter in the fridge to cool, but make sure that it doesn't resolidify.

Measure out the nuts.
Remove about 1/4 - 1/3 of a cup and chop them raw.
Toast the remaining nuts in the oven set at 350F until just light brown and fragrant -- watch them carefully!! as they go from perfect to burnt very quickly.
Allow to cool.
Chop the toasted nuts.
Combine all the nuts in a small bowl.
Set aside.

Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
Beat the cooled butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Gradually beat in the flour mixture.
Stir in the white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts (both raw and toasted).

Drop by rounded teaspoon onto the prepared sheet.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes.
Remove cookies from a wire rack and allow to cool completely (if you can even wait that long!).