Dark Chocolate Chunk Brownies with a Caramel Ribbon

2013-08-02 10.50.19Hello everyone! I have something lovely for you this week, I hope you enjoy.

I was recovering from a minor surgery, and really wanted to bake but I wasn’t supposed to move around much. So, in classic wifey fashion, I threw myself on the mercy of G, asking him to bake something, anything, to break up the monotony of a confection-less week. (We never, ever buy pre-made cakes or cookies, so if we want it, we have to make it).

My quest for the perfect brownie has been an ongoing saga, spanning dry cakey letdowns to oily crumbly messes (and those were some of the better ones). Every food blogger worth their salt needs to have a “best” brownie recipe in their repertoire, and now, I am happy to say, We have found ours.

G looked all over for easy recipes, and eventually decided he wanted to make brownies. I groaned and rolled my eyes, because,

1) When was the last time I had a REALLY good brownie…

and

2) See reason #1.

All that was about to change however. We discussed a few different recipes and the merits of each, this one was too eggy, that one looked like cake. He finally found what looked like a good basic recipe here, though we had no interest in the sugary frosting. What we were after was a truly good traditional brownie, with a smidgen of bling. So, we added dark chocolate chunks, and a dulce d leche caramel swirl to the top, and viola, fanshmastic badass brownies that have it all. A crispy chewy crust, a fudgy deep chocolatey base, and delicious dark chocolate chunks, just because we can. I kid you not, these are IT.

Ingredients: (Makes 12 large brownies/20 small brownies)

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 100 grams good dark chocolate (the better the chocolate, the better the brownies)
  • 3 tablespoons of a good quality, THICK dulche d leche spread or ribat chalav spread, made from real milk. (I use the one from comida, made at kibbutz ma’anit). Use the real stuff, not some caramel ice cream topper from a mass production company. The Latin American or Israeli brands are the best, from small dairies.

Method:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan, or a 6×8 aluminum tin if you want them slightly thicker, like we did.

2) In a large saucepan, melt the 1/2 cup butter. Remove from heat, LET COOL, and stir in sugar, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup flour, salt, and baking powder. Spread batter into prepared pan.

3) Chop chocolate roughly into small chunks, and distribute evenly throughout the pan, mixing in slightly to get them below the surface.

4) Take a small plastic bag in your hand, and feed the corner into your fist, opening the rest of the bag around your hand, like this:

2013-08-02 11.48.36

and then spoon the caramel spread into the corner of the bag. Press out the air, and twist the bag closed, and snip off JUST the very tiny tip of the bag, so that you now have an easy homemade piping bag. Pipe the caramel spread onto the brownies in a zigzaggy pattern, then when it is all over the surface of the brownie batter, take a fork, and gently drag it up and down the brownies from top to bottom, then from left to right. You should end up with a pretty swirl type design that will bake deep down into craggy chewy deliciousness later on.

3) Bake in preheated oven for 26 minutes for softer brownies, 28 minutes for firmer ones (We did 25 minutes first and they were a bit too soft in the middle, then another 5 minutes, but then there was a faint burnt smell, which was undetectable later. 28 minutes should be perfect but watch them and use a timer). Do not overcook.

4) Take them out, and let them cool, completely. This is the most important part. Seriously. LEAVE THEM ALONE. When they are fully cool, refrigerate them for at least an hour, and up to 3 if you can wait that long. Trust me. Have I ever steered you wrong? Eh? This is where most people ruin what could have been otherwise passable or even delicious brownies.

5) After chilling for a reasonable length of time, (I know, it’s hard), remove from fridge, cut carefully, and serve with a very tall glass of milk.

2013-08-02 10.48.12

Advertisements

Creamy dreamy personal NY Cheesecakes with Lemon and Orange Zest

personal cheesecakes4

This week my fantastic husband has agreed to donate his amazing NY cheesecake recipe to the blog, for the good of all men. No seriously, it’s that good. Disclaimer: There are tons of wonderful, elaborate, complicated, and heavily sugared cheesecake recipes out there on all sorts of blogs, this is not one of them. If I had to describe it in just a few words I’d say it was light, fluffy, creamy, yes, dreamy, and really just simply good. It does what I think a cheesecake is supposed to do, deliver a few delicate tastes and textures without hitting you over the head with sugar and fat, food coloring, or candy accoutrements. That isn’t to say this is a low fat dessert by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s straightforward and delicious, without piling 2,000 extra calories on top.

So G set out to find the perfect cheesecake recipe, but he knew it wasn’t going to be easy. He rifled through tons of recipes, searching for the right creaminess, the right texture, something that wasn’t too eggy, too sugary sweet, too soft, too dry, or too bland. Eventually, he found this one, and after testing and editing it a few times, found the perfect recipe and ratios for personal cheesecakes.

personal cheesecakes1

Now this will make a whole bunch of personal ones, check out the link for baking times and amounts for a single much larger cake that is slightly different.

Ingredients: (about 20 servings)

CRUST:

  • 85g (or 1/3 cup) butter, melted and browned
  • 140g (about 30) crushed caramelized cookies (you know the small individually wrapped Lotus type ones that go with coffee… they have SO much flavor and make an amazing crust)

CHEESECAKE FILLING:

  • 500g (2 cups plus a tablespoon) cream cheese softened to room temperature (fresh if you can get it)
  • 250g (1.11 cups) golden caster sugar (sugar that has been food processed until it is super-fine but not powdered)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1  teaspoon fresh orange zest
  • 1  teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large eggs, room temp, plus 1 yolk
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • a pinch of salt (about 1/8 teaspoon)

NON FOOD SUPPLIES:

  • 2 large cookie trays with raised edges
  • 20 cake or biscuit baking cups, I got mine at IKEA (they are flatter and wider than the regular cupcake cups, and are also great for biscuits)
  • a food processor (optional, but it takes off a few minutes of your time)

Method: (preheat oven to 320F or 160C with fan (FOR THE CRUST), and arrange 10 baking cups on the baking tray)

1)  First brown the butter for the crust over medium heat, melting and stirring in a pot for a few minutes until it starts to brown. Do not burn! If you aren’t sure, err on the side of caution. As soon as you smell that rich aroma of browned butter, you can take it off the heat. Put it aside to cool for 3-5 minutes. While the butter is cooling, pulse the cookies in a food processor until you have an even crumb, then mix together with the cool browned butter, and press a thin even layer into the bottoms of 10 cups on each tray, 20 cups total.

2) Bake the first tray of crusts for 5 minutes in the middle of the oven at 160C with fan. (If you don’t have this option, bake at 180C but watch them carefully) then remove and COOL ON THE PAN, do not try to move them now, they need to harden. Bake the second tray now, and then cool.

3) After all crusts are baked, adjust the oven to 200C with fan (240C conventional). To prepare the filling, beat the cheese until soft and fluffy, then add sugar, flour, and salt, and beat for 1-2 minutes. (if you have a mixer great, if not, do this by hand, it’s easy). When evenly mixed, add the vanilla, lemon zest, orange zest, and lemon juice and mix. Whisk in the eggs and the yolk, one at a time, then mix up your sour cream so there is no water and add it to the batter. Just blend it in, do not over mix. It should be light and fluffy, not thick and heavy.

4) Carefully measure about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of batter into each cup, you should use about half of the batter for 10 cups.

5) Bake ONE TRAY AT A TIME, for 5 minutes at 200C with fan, then drop temperature to 90C with fan for an extra 5-7 minutes, watching all the time. Remove and cool, leaving them on the tray. (You can see here why it’s G’s recipe, and not mine, I don’t have the patience to cook in batches and at different temperatures, watching all the time, but it really was worth it in this case).

6) You are supposed to turn off the oven here and leave the cheesecakes inside for a while with the door open so they don’t crack, but if you take them out now, they wont dry out but they will crack. We prefer them creamy, and you can always top them to hide the cracks anyway, so remove the first tray, raise up the temperature to 200C again with fan, and bake the second batch for 5 minutes, then reduce temperature to 90C with fan and bake for another 5-7 minutes, watching all the time. Remove tray from oven immediately and cool for creamier texture, or leave these in with the OVEN OFF and the door open for about 10 minutes for cosmetically prettier but slightly drier cheesecakes.

Personal Cheesecakes

7) Once they are cool, you can top them if you like, but I think they are amazing on their own, and any sweet topping would take away from them, drowning out the complex interplay of the brown butter cookie crust with the orange and lemon zest studded cream cheese filling.

Apricot and Sour Cream Afternoon Coffee Cake

apricot sourcream cake2

I’m really feeling into gorgeous fruity cakes now, so I’m attempting, (with little success) to get them out of my system. This pretty little cake was inspired by an apricot jam, sour cream and toasted almond cupcake recipe that I am dying to make. Sadly, I haven’t had all the ingredients, in the house, at the same time yet and with our impending move, I’m trying not to buy anything that I don’t actually need to survive. (I can make a convincing argument for cupcakes being integral to my survival but that’s for another time). Since I had fresh apricots that were begging to be baked into something delightful, I decided to go with a cake instead. The basic cake recipe/ratios that I started with came from one of my favorite blogs, but I have changed it around a bit, made it bigger and a bit sweeter as well, since the apricots in Israel are quite sour, even when ripe. The top has an almost custardy texture, which is delicious and lends a wonderful creaminess to the apricots. I considered using brown or demerera sugar instead of the white, but went for the classic, simpler flavor of the white in the end. I used vanilla to round out the sourness of the apricots, but I think it would also be fantastic with some almond extract or amaretto, so feel free to experiment!

Ingredients: (serves 10)

For the cake:

– 5-7 very ripe apricots, washed and cut into slices
– 2 cups flour
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
– 150 grams  butter (basically 1 and 1/3 stick of butter)
– 1/2 cup milk (approximately)
– 2 tablespoons cream (15%, not heavy whipping)
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 1 egg
– 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

For the top:

– 1 tablespoon sour cream
– 1 tablespoon sugar
– 1 egg

Right before serving:

– powdered sugar
– vanilla ice cream

apricot sourcream cake1

Method: Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F) and grease or line a 12 inch spring-form pan with baking paper. I always use baking paper and clean up is nonexistent.

1) In a big bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and butter with your hands, pinching it all together until it is almost all incorporated. Alternately you can use a food processor.

2) Add in the sugar, and mix again. Add in the egg, vanilla, cream, and milk, then mix again until just combined, being careful not to over mix.  The batter should be thick, bot pourable, so if it is too stiff, add more milk as needed.

3) Pour the batter into the pan and spread it around evenly with a spatula. Arrange the apricots on top, in a spiral pattern.

4) In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, sugar and egg for the topping, beating them with a fork, and pour it evenly over the top of the cake.

5) Bake for about 35 minutes, (I cooked it for 40 minutes, as you can see in the top photo that was too long, so I reduced the cooking time to 35 minutes) or until golden and the apricots are tender. Turn off the oven and let it sit for another 15 minutes or so.  I did this with the oven door open slightly open so that it wouldn’t dry out. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving, and serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a truly awesome experience.

apricot sourcream cake3

Chocolate, Pear and Toasted Almond Spice Cake

chocolate almond pear cake2The last time we had slightly over-ripe pears, G unknowingly just chucked them because he didn’t want to eat them. (I know, I know. He’s learning). Afterwords I was very careful to explain all the wonderful things that can be done with ripe pears and so this time around, when they started to get a little sorry looking, he left them alone thank goodness. I hadn’t felt like blogging for a while, and I still really didn’t until I started a new diet to drop a few pounds for swimsuit season. Well you know what inevitably came next. Every time my mind wandered off at the computer I somehow ended up at gorgeous foodie sites, until after 3 days of mind numbingly boring pure protein meals, I just had to bake something, FAST. Unfortunately, there were no eggs in the house. (Already down one dress size!!) Side note: I have been chowing down on egg-whites left and right when I start to feel weak (like I’m gonna grab a super sized bag of sour skittles from the drawer and just murder them… mnnn sour skittles… ) so I had to figure something else out. Well, as you may or may not be aware, there aren’t many egg-less pear cake recipes out there, but I knew that there was a vegan chocolate cake recipe that I had been wanting to try for a while so I figured, what the hell. I added a bit of spice to it because I love chocolate with cinnamon, you don’t have to if you don’t want to. There were a few yummy looking chocolate pear cake recipes out there so I knew that I wouldn’t be too far off base with these flavor profiles. Most of them had walnuts, but I tend to be more of an almond lover (my Mom says all men are nuts and G is an almond, so it makes sense). Seriously, no double entendre intended but that sounded hilarious! So here it is, it came out a bit flatter than I’d hoped for, but it is perfect for a simple “on hand” cake or an impressive 2 layer cake, (double the recipe and bake in 2 matching pans). I hope you like it:

Ingredients:

Cake Ingredients

1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp distilled white vinegar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
50 grams sliced almonds, lightly toasted (reserve 25g of these for topping)
___________________________________________
3 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and diced
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
___________________________________________

Chocolate Glaze (this can be made vegan, visit the link above,  she explains how)

1/2 cup sugar
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla extract

chocolate almond pear cake

Method: (Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit)

1) combine diced pears with 3 tablespoons sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.
2) combine all other dry ingredients into one bowl(don’t forget to leave out 25g of the toasted almonds for later).
3) combine all wet ingredients except vinegar into another bowl.
4) combine wet ingredients bowl with dry ingredients bowl, mix well. Then add pear mixture, and mix well again.
5) Add vinegar, mix into rest of batter. Why do you do this  last? Vinegar is an acid, (like citric or lactic acid, ie. lemon juice or creme fraiche) which reacts with the baking soda to make it rise, but baking soda is only active for a short time after the vinegar activates it so it has to go in as close to the baking time as possible.
6) In a 12 inch spring-form pan lined with baking paper, (or it will leak or stick) pour in batter.
7) Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
8) Cool for 2 hours. Then make the glaze. (I went for a walk with Bella since I have a hard time waiting for these things).
9) In a small saucepan, bring sugar, butter, milk, and cocoa to a boil.
10) Stir frequently until it boils, then reduce heat to a simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. There will be bubbles.
11) Remove from heat and stir for another 5 minutes.
12) Add vanilla, stir, and pour onto cake right away. Glaze dries quickly, so spread it immediately and add remaining toasted almonds over the top and let it set, 1 hour. I did this backwards, and yes, I am ashamed. I baked the almonds on top, and only after decided to make the glaze. Do it the other way and you will have a very nice looking cake for coffee, guests, or just to surprise a tired and studied-out husband who thinks you have been sitting on the couch all day watching The Simpsons and eating skittles.

Cinnamon & Spice Banana Muffins with Dark Chocolate Chunks and Toasted Pecans

2013-02-17 13.23.43

Warm spicy banana pecan chocolate melty goodness right out of the oven. MnnnnnnMnnnMnn!

My husband cant sing enough praises about this recipe, in fact it was the one that he says cinched the marriage proposal. It was good then, but it’s also one I have been developing for the last 3 years and I think, possibly, maybe, it’s finally truly perfect.

These are in fact so easy and wonderful, I honestly can believe how good they are considering the little amount of work they require.

NOTE: This was originally a loaf recipe, so it makes a few more muffins than normal. My pics are of a DOUBLE RECIPE, but I will be giving you the normal recipe for 16-18 regular sized muffins, so have a 12 cup muffin tin, as well as a 6 cup muffin tin ready for the regular recipe.

DSC_0063

Ingredients: In 2 separate bowls, 1 for wet ingredients, 1 for dry.

Dry:

1 2/3 cups flour (white all purpose)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1 bar good dark chocolate, (100g) chopped (or chunks or chips if you can find)

Wet:

2/3 cup white sugar

2/3 cup brown sugar

2 large room temperature eggs, mixed

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup sour cream or creme fraiche

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large, or 3 small RIPE bananas, sliced (folded in at the very end, to the whole mixture, otherwise they break down and you don’t get chunks, just banana flavor and moistness)

*Do NOT add wet ingredients to dry ingredients until you are ready to bake! The baking soda needs the sour cream to react, and rise. The reaction starts immediately, and stops eventually, so once you mix them, they should go straight into the muffin cups and then into the preheated oven. If you want to make them non-dairy, leave out the baking SODA and the sour cream and use 1 teaspoon baking POWDER instead, which doesn’t need a catalyst.

Method: Preheat oven to 375F, or 190C and line muffin cups

1) Toast chopped pecans in a dry frying pan over a low flame while mixing often, until they are a toasty brown, NOT burned. You are looking for a warm nutty smell. Watch them. it’s SO easy to burn nuts while toasting them. Stop early if you are unsure. Chop Chocolate.

DSC_0064

2) In large bowl, mix together: flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, chopped pecan, and chocolate pieces.

DSC_0066

DSC_0067

3) In medium sized bowl, mix together: white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vegetable oil, sour cream, and vanilla.DSC_0068

4) Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, mix just until combined, then fold in bananas.

DSC_00745) add mixture to muffin cups, up to the tops but not overflowing.

DSC_0077

6) Bake for 12-16 minutes with a timer, or until the middles look golden brown and set but not dry. Gently press down on the top of one if you are not sure. You can try using a toothpick but you are likely to hit banana or chocolate, so its not the best test. they will literally smell and taste better than the best spice cake you have ever had.

Banana Chocolate chunk spiced muffins with toasted peacansHow simple they look, yet they hold many secrets…

Allow to cool in pan or on rack for 5-10 minutes, then enjoy warm with a big glass of milk. They keep in a tupperware out of the fridge for a good 3-4 days, if they last that long.

2013-02-17 13.24.14

Chocolate Cream Cheese Cinnamon Buns or “The Recipe That Was Nearly My Undoing”

DSC_0258

So, you might say that I’ve been putting off this post for a while. I might even admit it. The thing is, when a baking experiment hits as many snags and pitfalls along the way as this one did, some recovery time becomes necessary. During that time, I kept asking myself, how can I give this over in a way that doesn’t make me sound angry or ungrateful? Turns out, there really isn’t one, so I’m going to apologize to you in advance for the hysterics. The only saving grace of the experience was that one at a time, straight from the freezer into the toaster oven, they were… dare I say it, delicious. But none of that takes away from the absolutely overwhelming frustration, the hot tears that threatened, or the feelings of powerlessness that flared up at each and every step of this seemingly straightforward recipe for chocolate cinnamon rolls. By the way, it’s totally doable if you follow the directions at the bottom of this post. I just didn’t have those at the time.

Why was it so difficult, you ask?

WELL. I’ll tell you.

1) The Yeast: I don’t bake often. Really very rarely. (See my thoughts in “about me” on baking without a KitchenAid) So when someone says in a dough recipe (before last week) add the yeast to the other ingredients and stir before adding the flour, I don’t intuitively know that I’m supposed to combine yeast with sugar and warm water and ACTIVATE IT FIRST. Yes I almost gave up when this happened. No, I am not ashamed. Bloggers should know better.

2) The Mashed Potato: The recipe says you need to add mashed potatoes to the mixture to make the dough light and airy. However what it fails to mention, is that without a heavy duty mixer, You will NEVER get all the potato lumps mixed properly into the dough, and you will see them, staring up at you, mocking you, from your otherwise perfect mixing job, making you want to toss the whole thing and go to Cinnabon. Yes, I picked out every single lump I could find. No, it wasn’t any fun at all, but I was not to be defeated by this recipe, no matter what.

3) The Rising: The recipe calls for one rising of the dough to double the size, then to knead it, and set aside in fridge either until ready to use, or overnight. Well by the next day, it had risen double again. OK, no foul there, except it had risen so much that it pulled off the plastic covering it and had dried out all around the edges. ACK!
So I punched it down, kneaded it a bit more, and got ready for the real fun, rolling out the dough and filling with delicious goodies. Except that even after adding all 6 cups of flour, (she calls for 4-6MAX) it was still wetly sticky, so much so that it was nearly impossible to handle. Sorry there are no pics of the rolling out or adding filling, but I think you can understand why. I was just trying to get through it. The filling did smell amazing, and I used chopped chocolate pieces instead of cinnamon chips, since no such thing exists here.

4) The Rolling Out: Her recipe then says to roll out the dough, sprinkle filling on top, roll up, and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces, then lay out in a buttered dish. But the roll was far too big. More on this in a moment.

DSC_0209

before 2nd rising

5) The “second” Official Rising (3rd for me): So now I have 10 rolls, in one big Pyrex pan, and the recipe calls to let them rise double AGAIN. Fine I say, even though they are pretty huge already, “it’s good for the airy texture you want” I told myself. Yeah. So they rise double, and now they are popping up out of the top of the dish and I am starting to literally see red because I know whats coming once they start to bake. Breathe Leah, just breath.

Poofed up and ready to bake

We should have halved the dough, and baked in 2 separate dishes. If we had, I think they would have really been OK after the first 25-30 minutes of baking. Unfortunately, all there was in the recipe to that effect was, “Then roll out dough on lightly floured counter to roughly 12 x 18 inches for large sized rolls. If dough has been divided for smaller sized rolls; roll out dough to approximately 1/2 inch thick”. Forgive me for saying so, but there should have been a neon sign screaming that if you end up having to use all 6 cups of flour, you had better damn well halve the dough before making your rolls, and bake in 2 batches. Not to mention that based on her photos, which I only realized later, she had baked each and every one of these in their own INDIVIDUAL little pans, so they ended up evenly baked through. No mention of this in the method though. Not a peep.

6) The Baking: They are in there for about 8-10 minutes when I see that they are spilling over the edges and poofing up all over the place. Normally, the sight of oven action fills me with glee, but this time I felt nothing but the hot pricks of impending tears behind my eyes and a vague and unpleasant tightness in my chest. The tops quickly got brown and hard, (so much for light and airy dough and all that potato drama) but I could see the sides and bottom were still raw. So, I covered the dish with foil, turned down the temperature, and prayed for the best. When the timer went off, they were of course still raw inside, but we only learned this after the middle roll deflated 2 minutes out of the oven. So, we put them back in, for ANOTHER 25 minutes before taking them out for good, afraid they would burn or be hard as rocks if we baked them any longer. Sadly, the bottoms and sides of all the middle ones were still raw even thought the tops were a gorgeous golden brown.

7) The Icing: So there we were, with our slightly cooled, ghetto-assed, 3/4 baked, 1/4 raw, hard on top, chocolate cinnamon rolls. At least they smelled heavenly. I started making the cream cheese icing while they baked, and melted some good quality dark chocolate, so my spirits had for the most part bounced back. Which brings us to the amount of icing sugar the recipe called for. 3 cups. THREE. It looked and tasted really good after 1 cup of icing sugar. Then I added the other 2 cups, and all I tasted was sugar, sugar, and more sugar. Gone was the delicate cream cheese flavor unless you closed your eyes and tried really hard to find it. I would recommend doubling the other ingredients or halving the powdered sugar in the recipe if you are just making the vanilla glaze, seriously. I split the mixture between 2 bowls and added melted chocolate to one of them, and it just looked too light. Nothing like the pics. OK I said to myself, suck it up. It’s really not a tragedy considering what we have been through already today. Besides, the chocolate one was delicious. I think the bitter chocolate balanced out the sugar, so for that one, the amounts made sense. I started icing them, first with the Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing, then with the Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing, and smiled for the first time in hours.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing

🙂 So Pretty! 🙂

Perfect Cinnamon Buns

After 2 days of frustration, we finally got to try one. From the edge. Where it was actually baked through. And it was all almost worth it.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Cinnamon Bun

OK. I’m done with my rant, and really, these were so yummy, they kept well in the freezer, they even came back beautifully in the toaster oven wrapped in foil on a low temp for about 30 minutes, (especially the ones that were half baked) and to be fair, it’s a FANTASTIC idea and the recipe is delicious. It just wasn’t given over well. It was like she wrote it all down as if it was for herself, knowing what she already knew, and didn’t consider new bakers or anyone else who hadn’t done them before into the equation. In the end, I will do these again, but only with all of the modifications and considerations I told you about, and not without a mixer.

Ingredients:

For Rolls:

In a cup to activate: 1  package serving of pre-measured active dry yeast  (2 and 1/4 teaspoons if you have a bigger package) added to 1/2 cup lukewarm water (too hot will kill the yeast) (add pinch of sugar to feed the yeast) Set aside for a few minutes until you see it foaming. (See, I sound like a pro now).
2/3 cup shortening or butter. I used butter.
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed potato, very well cooked and mashed until smooth.
1/2 cup milk (evaporated milk is best, not condensed, that’s something different)
1/2 cup water that the potato cooked in
4 to 6 cups all purpose flour (this varies… the less flour the better but you must be able to handle the dough).

For Filling:

3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 – 1 cup cinnamon chips or semisweet or dark chocolate chips (chopped) plus more to sprinkle over top

For The Chocolate and Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing:

4 tablespoons butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 oz.  Ghirardelli  or your choice of 62% bittersweet unsweetened chocolate morsels, melted.
A few shakes of salt (3-4)
3 cups confectioners sugar (seriously think about cutting this down)
1/3 cup whole milk or 3% (approx – use enough to get desired consistency)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method: IN A MIXER!

For Rolls:

Mix together shortening, salt & sugar. Add eggs one at a time and beat in. Add mashed potatoes, yeast/water mixture, milk, potato water and mix until all are combined.

Add three to four cups of the flour, mixing well adding enough additional flour until dough can be handled and turned onto a floured board. Knead well using as little flour as possible. Place in large oiled bowl, cover and let rise double in a warm dark place. About 45 minutes to an hour and a half. Knead lightly and cover, place in fridge until ready to use or overnight. If storing overnight in the fridge, make sure the whole bowl is wrapped around very well with plastic wrap.

If refrigerated, let bowl sit at room temperature for 30 – 40 minutes before beginning.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Then,

a) For 10 larger sized rolls, you will need to bake in individual round 7 inch tins (approximately).  roll out dough on lightly floured counter to roughly 12 x 18 inches. I did this over 2 big pieces of saran wrap and saved myself a LOT of sticking to counter mess and hassle later on. It also made it easier to roll up. See photos. Brush on melted butter, then sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon mixture and chopped cinnamon or chocolate chips. Leave about 1/2″ border.

Starting at the longer edge,  tightly roll up dough into a long log. With a helping hand holding the end up for you, slip the floss under the end, and cut into 1 1/2″ pieces ( I used dental floss to do this and it was really clean and neat) and place in their respective tins. Alternately, you can start in the middle with a knife, and keep halving them until you have about 10 rolls and then place them in their buttered tins. Let rise until double before baking.

or

b) For 20 smaller rolls, If you use all 6 cups flour, and you also want smaller rolls that will bake all the way through, take my advice and halve the dough, and bake in 2 batches, or in 2 pans on 2 racks of oven. You may need a slightly longer baking time if you do both at once. Roll out dough to approximately 1/2 inch thick. Brush on melted butter, then sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon mixture and chopped cinnamon or chocolate chips. Leave about 1/2″ border. Starting at edge tightly roll up dough. Cut into 1 1/2″ pieces ( I used dental floss to do this and it was really clean and neat) and place in large buttered baking pan. repeat with the rest of the dough. Alternately, you can start in the middle with a knife, and keep halving them until you have about 10 rolls per log and then place in large buttered baking pan or Pyrex and repeat. Let rise until double before baking.

Bake in 375 degree oven for 25 – 30 minutes or until lightly browned and enjoy.

Make Icing while they are baking:

Cream together the butter and cream cheese. If making it all chocolate, add melted chocolate (melted in a double boiler), salt, confectioners sugar, milk, and vanilla. Beat until smooth and spreadable, otherwise add everything BUT the chocolate, then split into 2 bowls, and then add the chocolate to one of them. The chocolate icing was literally so good that it kept disappearing by the spoonful. I highly recommend making it.

Freeze leftovers (after you cut them apart) for later, if you have any.

I’d love to hear your comments, especially if you have worked with a sweet sticky dough before or made anything like these.

Best Ever Devils Food Chocolate Cupcakes With Coffee Infused Dulce D’ Leche Frosting

2013-01-22 13.19.27  There are cupcakes and then there are CUPCAKES. Unfortunately, not all cupcakes deserve the name. I understand where heavy cakes and butter-cream have their place at kids parties and inauguration ceremonies (where the point is that they look good rather than taste good), this recipe however is for lighter than air, sinfully grownup gourmet cupcakes loaded with coffee and orgasmic tendencies. In other words, you want to hang out in the adult section? Step right up. Someone very close to me recently tasted these for the first time, and after her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she finished chewing, promptly thanked me for the  foodgasm and asked for another. She now asks me to make them whenever she comes over.

I found this recipe online looking for the best basic chocolate cake recipe, and was surprised to find that the best ones around are in fact vegan and made with vinegar. Shocking, I know. But I have always respected Mollie Katzen, and now I know why. I modified baking time for cupcakes, and then developed the frosting to go along with it for a truly special marriage of flavors and textures.

Ingredients:

For “lighter than air” Moosewood vegan chocolate cake

(The cupcake bit of this recipe actually happens to be vegan, but don’t be fooled, they are sure to satisfy even the most beastly confectionery cravings you may be having, AND they are super light, quick and easy!) Hooray!

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used grape seed oil for the most recent batch of these, which made them EVEN lighter) I would only do that if you know they are all going to be eaten the same day though, because after a night in the fridge they have a hard time holding their crumb together. No such issues when using vegetable oil. In fact with veg oil they are even better on the second day out of the fridge.
  • 1 cup cold water or coffee (1 heaping tsp instant coffee dissolved in 2 Tbsp hot water, then add cold water to reach 1 cup)
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar

For the Frosting:

  • 1 approx. 450g container or jar of Dulche d’ Leche spread, Ribat Chalav spread, or coconut milk caramel sauce, homemade like my sister makes, or store bought. You basically want something thick and spreadable that tastes like caramel. coconut milk caramel sauce is good because it can be made non-dairy with coconut milk so that your whole cupcake is vegan, but I prefer it with a dairy caramel spread. To each his (or her) own.
  • 1 tsp instant coffee
  • 1 Tbsp hot water

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and sugar into a bowl.
  • In a small bowl, mix the oil, water or coffee and vanilla extract.
  • Add the wet ingredients except vinegar to the dry ones, stirring as you go. The mixture will quickly turn almost black.
  • When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly. Pale swirls will occur where the vinegar and baking soda react. Stir just until the vinegar is even distributed throughout the batter.
  • Distribute evenly between 12 lined cupcake cups, right up to the top of the liners.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes in center of oven, using a timer because they are so dark from the cocoa powder that you cant see when they start to brown and you really don’t want to overcook them and dry them out.
  • Make frosting in a bowl now, by dissolving instant coffee in water and then adding the package of caramel sauce to the bowl. Mix gently (or do the whole thing in a stand mixer, which I don’t have so I have to do this bit by hand) for about 5 minutes or until it is all smooth and even. Chill in the fridge until you are ready to frost the little devils.
  • Remove cupcakes from oven when timer goes off, and allow to cool for 20 minutes in the tray.
  • Take cupcakes out of tray carefully, first running a small knife around the sides to release them from the pan.

devils food cupcakes

They should look like this, and have a super thin crust on top after they have cooled. Inside, they should be fully baked but oh so moist and lighter than air. Frost when they are fully cool or when you are ready to eat or serve them, and then, go do something worthy of confessional.

2012-12-12 16.44.47Some people prefer them with the frosting warm, as above, all melty and shameless! If you do, add a few more tablespoons of water to the coffee/frosting mixture. I prefer them chilled out of the refrigerator, with chilled frosting on top, as in the photo with the birds. But you don’t have to choose, after all there are 12…