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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.

Dad's birthday cupcakes

For my dad's 65th birthday, my mom went a little overboard (I talked a bit about it here...she made over a dozen hors d'ourves!), and seeing as I'm her daughter, it really shouldn't come as a surprise that I make a second birthday dessert for my dad at 9 a.m. before people came over for brunch.  Brunch was supposed to be out at a restaurant with an extensive brunch and champagne cocktails, but at the end, my dad decided he wanted round two of hour d'ourves, and my mom was happy to oblige -- plus she got to serve the remaining tasty treats that she didn't get to serve the night before.


Years ago, through a series of jokes, my father gave himself the nickname of being our "shining light."  And seeing as my dad likes chocolate (I didn't fall far from that parental "tree" either), I made some double chocolate cupcakes with sugar stars on them.  Seemed only fitting on his birthday :)


The cupcake recipe can be found here, and the icing recipe here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Oatmeal cake

I wrote this post about a two and a half months ago, in mid-April, when I actually baked this cake (as a procrastination tool for the packing I really needed to do), and as a result, I'm very belatedly posting this (since I learned the error of my ways, and actually packed instead of typing up the recipe and posting photos)... 




I saw this recipe while scrolling through Facebook the other night, and immediately forwarded it to myself.  I kinda knew I needed to make it ASAP.  See, I love anything with cinnamon. I also thought that adding cooked oats was an intriguing change from the norm.  And...I had an unopened nearly 3-pound container of oats that needed to be used up before my move in 10 days.  Sadly, this recipe only called for a scant cup of oats, and I therefore anticipate that I'll make making some sort of oatmeal-based cookie in the next week and a half.  Or I could just make a whole huge batch of this deliciousness!!


I love that this cake can be eaten for breakfast. I also love the fact that it could be served with or without the cream cheese icing. This time I opted for cream cheese icing, however next time I may be a little crazy, folks, and add some banana or fresh blueberries...I think this cake has possibilities, people!

Here's the one thing about this cake...I thought it would be a lot lighter.  It's actually a pretty dense cake which really shouldn't surprise me considering there's oatmeal in it.  Cooked oatmeal in it.


When it came to the icing, I made a few modifications. I happen to like my cream cheese icing with a little bit of vanilla (I used between half a teaspoon and a whole teaspoon).  I also find that some cream cheese icings can be a little too sweet, so I cut down the powdered sugar by about half a cup to make sure that it was my desired sweetness.  There is no shame if you taste the icing as you go along, to make sure you get it right.  No shame at all ;-).  In the end, this icing reminded me of the icing on a cake my mom used to serve decades ago to her bridge friends when they came over, which I absolutely adored.  This one is a keeper all on it's own!



Old Fashioned Oatmeal Cake
From Cookies and Cups

Ingredients: 

For the Cake

1 1/4 cups water
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 tsp kosher salt 
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon (I may have been a little heavy handed on that....)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

For the Frosting

4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbsp milk or cream
1/2 - 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Spray a 9x9 inch pan with nonstick spray and set aside.

In a small pot, bring the water to a boil.
Add in the oats.
Stir and then remove the pot from the heat.
Allow the oats to soak for 20 minutes.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugar together on medium speed for 2 minutes until light and fluffy.
Add in the vanilla and the eggs and mix until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.
With the mixer still on medium, add in the salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.
Mix until incorporated.

Turn the mixer to low and add in the oats and flour.
Mix until just combined.

Spread the cake batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is set in the center and a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan.

Make the frosting.

In the bowl of the mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and cream cheese together on medium until smooth, about 2 minutes.
Turn the mixer to low and add in the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla.
Mix for another minute until the frosting is creamy.

Spread the frosting on the cooled cake.

Serve immediately or keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days (if it even lasts that long....).

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.