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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.)

Pout 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!).

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Chocolate Elmo lollipops

For Baby J's birthday party, the one with the Elmo Smash Cake, I also made some chocolate Elmo lollipops for the kiddos (and some of the adults, too!).  I bought the red chocolate, and had some leftover black and super white chocolate from some other treats I had made (and it lasts forever! in the fridge).  I colored some white chocolate with powdered food coloring to make the orange for the noses.



(Disclaimer -- I have had these two lollipop molds for about 4 years.  My friend's husband bought them for me for their now-almost-5-year-old daughter's first birthday party in March 2011.  I do not know where he got them, but I can guarantee you that a quick little google search yields several nice options.)

The trick to making these lollipops is layering.  And patience!

I make these lollipops in 3 steps.

First, I melt the chocolate in the microwave.  30 second intervals -- especially with white chocolate, so that it doesn't burn! -- mixing in between.

I start with the black chocolate and some white chocolate in separate bowls.

Once the white chocolate is melted and smooth, I add the orange powdered food coloring in small increments mixing well, until the desired color is reached.

Then, I start with my "layering."

I use a clean tooth pick and fill in the pupils and the mouth with the black chocolate.
Then, using a paper lollipop stick, I fill in the nose.

Then I let them cool and harden.  The chocolate kinda looses some of its sheen and is a little more dull when it's try.  Then I wait a little longer, because I really don't want the colors to bleed together.

Once it's all dried and hard, I put the white on the eyes.  I dab it to avoid the black pupils spreading when I apply the white chocolate.  I also use a lollipop stick to do this, since it's a little bigger than the toothpick and the area is a little bigger and round.

Then, I let them dry again.  Like before.  With a little added time just to make sure that they're set.

Then, I spoon in the melted red chocolate.  Place a stick in each and roll it to make sure that the stick is coated/covered in chocolate.  Add more red chocolate if needed to fill the cavity of the mold.  
Tap gently on the counter a few times to release air bubbles.  I have OCD so I pop all the bubbles that have risen to the top, and then shake gently the mold so that the backs of the lollipops are flat.  

Carefully move the molds to the fridge and allow them to set, for at least 4 hours, or until hardened.



To serve, gift, or use as favors, place lollipops in a cellophane bag and tie with ribbon.  I used red because Elmo is red, but you could use any colored ribbon to coordinate with a party theme!



Rice Krispie treats

These are kinda boring, because they're just old school Rice Krispie treats.  Nothing fancy.  Really!  No add-ins, no gourmet touches, no....nothing.  Except a little tweak on an old school favorite.  The real reason I'm posting these is because I went back to my roots.  To the way we used to make Rice Krispie Treats when we were kids (which, in full disclosure, was really not often at all, in fact I can only remember making them once or twice) -- on the stove!  A while ago, I had found a recipe for Rice Krispie treats that you made in the microwave -- sparing you the time of standing over the pot mixing but more importantly saved you the clean up of the pot, which I find to be the most tedious!


But last night while I was at B's, I decided to make some Rice Krispie treats for him while he did some work.  But the only microwave-safe bowl in his apartment was in the dishwasher and I didn't feel like fishing it out.  So I went old school and made them on the stove top in a pot (and, truth be told, while I think they tasted just a little bit better than the microwaved ones -- though I'll explain why that might be in just a little while -- cleaning that pot was just as much of a b*tch as I remembered it being!).


Because I was using the stove top, I decided I'd slightly -- slightly -- brown the butter.  Just a little.  To give them a little depth of flavor.  But just ever so slightly.  Oh, and I upped the butter a little -- about a half tablespoon.  I used 8 oz of marshmallows instead of 10 (since that's the only size container of marshmallows I could find at Whole Foods), so when it came to adding the Rice Krispies, I had every intention of adding the full 6 cups, but as I was mixing them in, I was finding that all the cereal wasn't going to get coated with the marshmallow mixture, so I only used 5 cups.  Then -- then, and this is genius if you ask me! -- I put them in a smaller pan (I used an 8 x 8" pan, but that's because I had less mixture than you will when you use the full 6 cups) than recommended, and really packed them in there, so that I got a thick, dense, chewy Rice Krispie treat.  B's sticky fingers grabbed one before I could even photograph the cut treats, and then I tasted one for good measure.  B came back for another, and then I promptly wrapped them up and gave him instructions to bring them to work today!


Old-School, Old-Fashioned Rice Krispie Treats -- with a little twist!
Straight from the Rice Krispies box (also found here), adapted ever so slightly by me (my recipe is below, and adjusted for the proper amount of marshmallows)

Ingredients:  

4-4.5 Tbsp butter (unsalted)
1 package (10 oz) large marshmallows (or 4 cups of mini marshmallows)
6 cups Rice Krispies

Butter or nonstick spray for the pan
9 x 9 inch pan (for thicker, denser treats) or 9 x 13 pan (for "regular" treats)

Directions:

Butter or spray the pan.
Set aside.

In a large sauce pan, melt the butter over low heat.
Allow the butter to start browning slightly.
Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted.
Remove from the heat.

Add Rice Krispies.
Stir well until all are coated.

Using a buttered spatula (or a spatula sprayed with nonstick spray) or wax paper sprayed with nonstick spray, press the mixture into the pan.

Allow to cool.

Cut into 2 inch squares.

If there are any remaining treats -- and I had to exhibit serious willpower!! -- package up in an airtight container.

    Elmo smash cake

    My friend's son turned 1 at the end of January, and they threw him a little first birthday party.  And apparently a first birthday party just isn't complete without a smash cake (don't worry, I'm already working on patenting the smash cake and starting a side business...I'm kidding (well, only sorta)).  I've been making treats for this little boy and his big sister since her baby shower 5 years ago.


    The theme of the party was Elmo/Sesame Street, and so besides a bunch of chocolate Elmo lollipops (I even recycled the Elmo chocolate lollipop molds from his big sister's 1st birthday party in March 2010!), I made baby J a smash cake -- complete with a sugar Elmo face on top!  The cake itself was simple, just a 6" two layer cake of my go-to yellow cake with vanilla buttercream (which, coincidentally, I debuted on the blog on his big sister's 3rd birthday cupcakes), a few sprinkles, and a red buttercream "1" with an Elmo face stuck on top of the cake.









    I have to admit the cake and the lollipops turned out pretty cute, but I have to say that the cute little boy who devoured his smash cake was definitely the cutest part of the party!



    I might be wrong, but is looks like he was a little into the cake.... ;-)