Monday, October 13, 2014

Heath Bar Brownies

I do realize this is my second Heath Bar recipe in a row. And you know, I'm okay with that, and I come by it honestly. You see, apart from my dad, the rest of my family is full of fall babies. My sister and I are just 4 days apart, and mother dearest, a few weeks later. So I spend the early days of autumn birthday baking, and I will never complain about that. 
I know that people always tell you how amazing recipes are, especially bloggers, but this - this - is truly an incredible recipe, made for an incredible wife, mother and friend. If anyone deserves a big bad brownie, it's Sue Davis. And the worst part? She will eat the brownie, and perhaps a second, and still look like a string bean. (Caution, these are made with real butter. You will not lose weight eating these brownies. You will gain… happiness).  This recipe is adapted from Sugar Dish Me - homegirl knows her brownies, because these really delivered.

For the Brownies:
1⅓ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
12 tbsp unsalted butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate (you can use all unsweetened, if you like – I ran out!)
4 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp instant espresso powder OR instant coffee granules
1-8 oz package Hershey's Heath English Toffee Bits

For the Ganache:
2 tbsp heavy cream
⅓ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon butter

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350. Line a 9x13 baking dish with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, stir in chocolate. Stir until smooth and completely melted. Meanwhile in a large bowl (or standing mixer) beat the eggs and sugar until well mixed (it took a few minutes for me). Stir in the vanilla and espresso powder. Slowly add the chocolate to temper the eggs. Once fully incorporated, add in flour mixture, and fold in Heath Bar pieces.
3.  Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake for 25 - 30 minutes, until the center is mostly cooked. This recipe is tricky because the inside is still a bit gooey when finished. It’s more like a fudge.
4.  Once brownies are cool, cut into squares and set aside. Top with ganache once fully cooled, and add Heath Bar crumbles to the top, if desired.

5. To make the ganache, simmer the cream in a small saucepan. Remove it from the heat and stir in the chocolate until it melts. Stir in the butter, and more cream if you need to thin it out. Drizzle on brownies and enjoy! Best if refrigerated.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Heath Bar Cake

I would guess, if I had to, that the most requested birthday cake flavor is Funfetti. Everybody loves the yellow cake speckled with colorful candy sprinkles, and I am one that agrees with the crowd. Once, for a friend's birthday, I made a homemade version. The box was better! It was my birthday last week, and my chef boyfriend who hates to measure and bake in general whipped it up. The point is, it's a cinch.
But sometimes, sometimes, you want to put a little extra TLC into your cake. Especially when it's your sister's birthday. Especially when you need to kill… oh, say 6 hours, because Sunday football isn't your thing (sorry, America).

So I did just that. I spent a lot of time (and still not quite enough) making, assembling, and frosting this cake. And the results you ask? Well, magnificent. One of my bests… though not my most beautiful.

Alas, if you like chocolate, caramel, whipped cream or heath bars, I suggest you keep reading.

For the Cake:
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
1 container Cool Whip (thawed) – or your favorite whipped cream frosting
3 crumbled Heath Bars

For the Caramel Sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup half-and-half or cream
1 tbsp vanilla
Dash of salt
1- 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
2. Combine sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in bowl of a standing mixer. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water, and don’t be worried that your batter is thin… it’s supposed to be! Pour batter evenly into prepared pans.
3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely and frost with your Cool Whip or other whipped cream frosting. I did not give this enough time and my cake collapsed initially.
4. For caramel sauce, mix all ingredients except for sweetened condensed milk in a medium saucepan over medium-low to medium heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5-10 minutes, until thicker. Add sweetened condensed milk and stir until combined and easy to drizzle. Turn off heat and drizzle over cake. If sauce is thin, just continue cooking for a few more minutes

Thank you Hershey's and Pioneer Woman for allowing me to adapt your recipes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bars

I moved two weeks ago. Still in Boston… still in the same neighborhood even, but the move was (as all moves are) tough. I lived in my old place only two years, but I loved it. Spacious, updated and most of all, it was mine. Two years of memories. Two years of laughter. Two years of pain. My things were on the wall, on the ground, everywhere. As my dad says, it was my dirt. 
Don't get me wrong. My new apartment is just lovely. And a big step. But when I opened the door expecting a blank slate for my creative genius (just kidding), I was a little bit horrified by how unpleasant the place was left. Food stains on the oven. Black residue in the shower. The toilet wasn't even flushed. Are you wondering where this is going? I would be too.

The point is, the place was a mess. And the previous tenant looked at me and said "I think it's pretty much good to go, here are the keys!" Reluctantly, and with a bit of a pit in my stomach, we went to town. My mom, dad, boyfriend and I cleaned, painted, and eventually I nested. But it wasn't until the other day that I baked… that it all came together. It was suddenly my kitchen. Suddenly my couches felt more homey. The candles really started emitting this cozy fragrance. The little things I once scoffed at in the place were now the character I so much appreciated. 

Alas, it is my new home. And I love it. But maybe, just maybe, the baking saved it all. Oh and by the way, I got these chocolate chip pumpkin bars out of my new cozy lovely little home as fast as I could… because, well, damn.

Dry Ingredients 
1 cup all-purpose flour 
2 teaspoons cinnamon 
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
½ teaspoon baking soda 
½ teaspoon salt 

Wet Ingredients
2 whole eggs 
⅔ cup brown sugar 
1 cup canned pumpkin 
¼ cup milk 
¼ cup oil 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 cup chocolate chunks (in retrospect, chips would have been better) 

Cream Cheese Frosting 
4 oz cream cheese, softened 
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13-inch pan with non-stick spray. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl and place aside. Meanwhile, in a stand up mixer, mix all wet ingredients until well combined. By hand, fold wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined. 
2. Fold in chocolate chips until evenly distributed. Transfer into prepared baking dish and bake for 14-15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool before cutting bars. 
3. In a mixing bowl using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth and fluffy. Stir in powdered sugar and mix until creamy. Add vanilla and stir until evenly distributed. Spread on pumpkin bars and top with more chocolate chips.

*Recipe from Layers of Happiness

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Easy Caramel Apples

I sort of feel like a fraud posting this as a "recipe." Especially when I haven't updated anything for almost an entire year. Especially when I hardly cook (or bake!) anymore. But then I thought, I have to post. Because it's September, and today people in Boston are wearing coats. People are ordering pumpkin spice coffees and drinking cider beers and slowly tank tops are being replaced with cozy sweaters. It's happening people. And I am not going to fight it.
Seriously, with fall comes a few or my favorite things. Pumpking patches, cool weather, football (just kidding), and most of all, apples.  Apple pie, apple strudel, apple coffee cake. And perhaps the king of them all? The oh-so-humble but ever popular caramel apple. Simple to make, a mess to eat, and reserved for a few short months as the leaves start turning and suddenly it's okay to use your oven again.
So caramel apples you get, people. Enjoy the easiest recipe ever.

Caramel Apples
6 apples of your choice (I used tart granny smiths)
14 oz bag of wrapped caramel candies
2 tbsp milk
Toppings (sprinkles, chocolate chips, peanuts)
6 popsicle sticks

1. Remove the stems of all the apples. Press your popsicle stick into the bottom and about halfway through. 
2. Place caramels and milk into a saucepan and heat on low until completely combined and smooth. Let cool for a minute or two, so caramel firms up.
3. Dip each apple into the caramel. If desired, wait a few minutes and then spread toppings along the bottom. Caramel may be very sticky and not at all firm yet, so be patient before adding toppings. 
4. Place in fridge to cool until caramel is set.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Maple Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Streusel

I was standing guard at the bench; three, maybe four pumpkins were lined up in a row. I had my eye out on them. After digging through piles of deformed, warted, green pumpkins, my Dad and I had narrowed it down to a handful of perfectly orange, round gems. You see, ever since I was a little girl, he and I would make the trip out to the country and hit as many pumpkin patches as were around. Fast forward twenty-six years later, and you can still find us trekking out of the city and into the land of hayrides, caramel apples, cider donuts and scarecrows. Of course, I'm no longer a hyperactive little pig-tailed blondie running around in the corn maze, and he is no longer holding my hand through the haunted houses, but I'd like to think that it's pretty cool we still do this. 
Alas, I revert to a little kid in these moments (after all, I still am my father's child). As I stand on the outskirts of the patch hovering closely to the pumpkins we liked, I hear a little boy scream "Daddy, I want that one!" He pointed to my pumpkin. Oh no he didn't, I thought to myself. His dad nodded to him. "Yeah, that's a great one! Why don't you go get a better look at it?"

The kid ran over and tried yanking the pumpkin off of the bench, totally unscathed by the fact that I stood over them. "We are kind of holding on to these," I say to his Dad, who frankly could care less and is marching right over as if he were on a pumpkin recon mission.  "Well, are they purchased?" he scoffs. "No," I reply, getting annoyed, "but we're going to." I put my hands on my two favorites as to mark my territory. He walks over and picks up one of the pumpkins on the bench. If looks could kill, that man would be toast. Because while I am now a patient, level headed adult, in this moment, I was still that little girl in her overalls and pigtails. I was an eight-year-old watching a grown man steal my pumpkin. And I wasn't having it. "These are actually ours to buy," I say, a little more sure of myself. "You can have what's left." I motion to the rest of the pumpkins we were inspecting, grab ours, and run over to the safety of my own dad. "All set?" he asks. 

Yeah. We're all good here.  

Maple Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Streusel

Pumpkin Filling

2 cups canned pumpkin
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 cup pure maple syrup

3 large eggs, beaten

Pecan Streusel
3/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced, cold
9" Pie crust

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. To make the filling, mix the pumpkin, flour, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt together with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl well. Add the heavy cream and maple syrup, scraping the bowl several times while mixing. Mix in the beaten eggs.

2. Pour the filling mixture into the pie shell, and bake for 15 minutes. Then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake until the filling is almost firm, about 30 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven and sprinkle the pecan streusel over the top, covering the pie completely. Return the pie to the oven and bake until the filling is just a bit wobbly in the middle and the pecan streusel is golden, 10 to 15 minutes. The total baking time should be 55 to 60 minutes. Cool the pie on a wire rack and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Recipe adapted from Food Network.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Homemade Vegan Granola Bars

Something about the summer makes it hard to imagine preheating the oven and making your tiny apartment feel like the depths of hell. Or maybe not for you, if you can afford using your central air. But for me, a frugal fanny, summer baking is not exactly my jam. So when the drizzly Boston weather kept my Dad and I from spending a leisurely Sunday out exploring some New England farms, I knew just what I wanted to do. Yes, my long lost love of sweet cuisine was revisited, finally, after months of hiatus.
What is ironic about my itch for baking was that these bars didn't require baking at all. In fact, this was one of the easiest things I've ever made. And while they are definitely satisfying for the sweetest of teeth, these little guys have no added sugar and are gluten free and vegan. (No, I'm not vegan or gluten free, and I never will be, but it's always fun to explore). What's also great about these is that you can definitely sub in ingredients you have hanging around. I'll post the recipe we used, but also some alternatives for you.

Homemade Vegan Granola Bars
1 cup dried apricots, packed

1 cup roasted unsalted almonds
1.5 cups toasted oats
1/4 cup shredded coconut (toasted coconut optional)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup maple syrup*

1/4 cup creamy salted peanut butter**
Sea Salt

1. Put apricots into a food processor and chop until they form a ball, about 1 minute
2. Place oats into 350 degree preheated oven and toast until golden brown.
3. Place oats, apricots, sunflower seeds and coconut in a large mixing bowl.
4. In a small sauce pan over low heat, combine peanut butter and maple syrup and mix until well combined and warmed. Pour over oat mixture and mix thoroughly.
5. Transfer to a 9x9 parchment lined pan and sprinkle coarse sea salt over the mixture. Press firmly down until flattened. Place in refrigerator or freezer until chilled, and then cut into 10-12 bars. 

*May sub agave or honey, but it's no longer vegan
**May sub almond butter or other nut butter

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

German Chocolate Cake

Well, it happened. For the first time. We (Julia and I) took our first baking order! And in the mix? Two classics. Red Velvet, which of course you loyal fans know that I adore, and German Chocolate. I have never made German Chocolate before. I have never ordered German Chocolate before. I have never thought about German Chocolate before. And folks, as The Monkees and Smashmouth once said, "then I saw her face, now I'm a believer." 
It was really an amazing feeling to put labor into these little guys. We bought everything, made it all from scratch and delivered it this morning. And yes, I deliver food all of the time (corporate catering, duh), but there is something about your own creation that makes it special. The effort and the time and the money seem like nothing when you love what you do and you believe in your product. Once we go global, you won't be seeing these recipes live anymore, but until then, I will let you in on our secrets. Induldge, and as the Germans say, bitte. 

German Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Cake:
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons freshly brewed coffee
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

4 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk or cream (if needed)

German Chocolate Topping:
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk 
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
1.5 cup shredded coconut 

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans paper liners (ours made 24) In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. 
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In a third bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the buttermilk and flour mixtures alternately in thirds, beginning with the buttermilk and ending with the flour. Fold the batter a few times with a rubber spatula to be sure it's mixed.
3. Scoop the batter into the cupcake liners, with a little bit of room for them to grow. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.
4. Meanwhile, beat cream cheese and butter for 4 minutes. Add cocoa, powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Let beat for 3 minutes. If it is too thick, add milk. If it is too thin, add powdered sugar. 
5. In a separate bowl, mix together the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, pecans and coconut. Immediately put in fridge to help form it's shape. Pipe chocolate buttercream around the outside of the cupcake spoon topping into the center of the cake.