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Ice Cream Sandwiches

I’ve always wanted to try my hand at making a traditional ice cream sandwich, but didn’t really carve out the time to do so. This week, a video from Delish.com came across my feed and I had to try it. They made red velvet ice cream sandwiches using a box mix. I had a box of devil’s food mix sitting in my pantry and some mint ice cream in the freezer and decided to give it a go.

This recipe takes almost no time on task to whip together. While my sandwich ends were more thin and cookie-like and less thick and cake-like, they made for a very tasty treat!

One thing to note, the recipe in the link has fewer details than the video. The butter should be melted. I creamed some softened butter for mine which may have played a role in the cookie vs cake texture.

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Chocolate Mint Ice Cream Sandwiches (using a red velvet ice cream sandwich recipe)

1 box cake mix
2 large eggs
1 stick butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 gal ice cream, softened (apply as much as you like. I prefer a thinner ice cream layer, so I only used about half a carton)

Preheat oven 350°F. Line a large rimmed pan baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine mix, eggs, butter, and vanilla. Mix until evenly combined (mixture will be thick).

Spread the batter onto the prepared baking sheet. My batter was quite thick and I found it easier to drop globs on different parts of the pan and using an offset spatula to slowly work it around until there was a smooth and somewhat even layer of batter across the pan.

Bake until set (about 18-20 mins).

Let cool in the pan completely, then cut the cake in half across the middle to make two large rectangles. Spread ice cream onto one half and then place the second half on top to form one large sandwich. Freeze until ice cream is firm (about 2 hours) then slice it into bars (should yield about 12 depending on size of slices). Serve immediately.

Chocolate Mint Ice Cream Sandwich
Chocolate mint ice cream sandwich
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Casual Confections Kids (CCK) – Cakesicles

CCK is back with another bake designed and executed by an almost-four-year-old. It all started with his grandfather’s birthday.

“Oh, it’s GP’s birthday! We need to make him a cake!”
“What kind of cake do you want to make for him?”
“A chocolate chip cake!”

As I showed him different photos for inspiration on what we could do with the chocolate chip cake idea, he spotted a set of colorful popsicles.

“Let’s make those!”
“We can do that. Those are cake.”
“Really?!”

The kid was hooked. We ordered two mini cakesicle molds and some small popsicle sticks.

Cakesicle Prep
Cakesicle molds and popsicle sticks

After a few more discussions about what flavor the cake and icing would be, we landed on chocolate cake with chocolate chips and chocolate icing. Perfect! The birthday boy loves chocolate and this would be far from chocolate overload.

Since we only had two molds, we used half a box of Devil’s Food cake mix and applied my usual modifications (butter for oil and double the amount, milk for water). Note: when making half of a box mix, be sure to half the wet ingredients. Store the rest of your dry mix in a sealed baggie and be sure to mark what type of mix it is, the expiration date, and any instructions you still need from the box. (These can easily be made with cake made from scratch, too.)

The small baker excitedly put on an orange apron and chef’s hat and got to work using the hand mixer. He did need some help after a while as the mixer is still big for his small hands, but he did a great job for his first solo mixer run! The junior baker wanted to also make this a mint cake, so we added some peppermint extract to the batter.

When the batter was ready, we greased a 9″ x 13″ cake pan, poured in the batter, and got ready to put it in the oven.

“WAIT! We forgot the chocolate chips!”

Indeed we had! Instead of scraping the batter back into the bowl, we poured a layer of chocolate chips on top of the batter in the pan, knowing the cake would rise over them (especially since I did not coat them). The pan then went into the oven, following the box instructions for time and temp.

Meanwhile, I had taken some leftover chocolate-flavored black American buttercream out of the freezer to thaw overnight. While the cake was in the oven, we let the buttercream sit out on the counter to further soften up. Since we were going to be mixing it directly into the cake, we did not re-whip it.

After the cake came out of the oven and cooled on a rack, we dug our hands in. This was a fun part for the junior baker. You crumble the cake into small bits in a bowl using your hands. This is great for kids because they can just go wild. After crumbling our cake to pieces (the chocolate chips had become melted chocolate at this point), we added two tablespoons (cereal spoons, not measuring spoons) of buttercream to the bowl. Now, we got really messy! We used our hands to blend the buttercream with the cake until it was one wet cakey mixture.

Now it was time to see how this mixture went into the molds. Since this was my first go, I greased the molds. The quality of the molds is so good, though, that they do not require greasing. My molds will be ungreased next time.

We continued to use our hands and pressed the mixture into the molds. Each cavity holds a surprising amount of cake mixture! After filling our eight molds, we slid a popsicle stick into each one. The design of the molds makes this step super easy as there is a rest for the stick and a slot for it to slide into. You still need to be a bit careful so you’re not pointing the stick up or down when sliding it in as this may cause the stick to pop out of the cake.

We hand plenty of mixture left and decided to make some cakepops. We took a small handful of mixture and rolled it between our palms until we had circles. Then we carefully pushed a lollypop stick into the center. We lined a baking sheet with wax paper and placed the cakepops and cakesicle molds on it. Once everything was shaped and molded, the entire sheet was popped into the freezer to set overnight.

Cakesicles in the freezer
Cakesicles and cakepops setting in the freezer overnight

The next day, we took the sheet out of the freezer. The cakepops stayed sitting where they were. We took the cakesicle molds and popped the cakesicles out. This was super easy! Start at the top and slowly push the cakesicle up and out. We placed the unmolded cakesicles onto the wax paper with the cakepops. While these sat out, we melted a bag and a half of dark chocolate candy melts in a double boiler. They melted fairly quickly. We poured our candy melts into a large red Solo cup for easy dipping since the cakesicles are tall. We took turns dipping our cakesicles first, since we’d need our melts to be higher up in the cup. While dipping the cakesicle, be sure to slowly turn the treat to get a good coating, especially around the area of the stick. Slowly pull the treat out of the melts and turn your treat right-side-up so that any chocolate on the top falls down onto to cakesicle or cakepop. The melts started to cool down and get a bit harder to work with as we went on, but that is easily fixed by reheating or adding newly melted candy melts to the mix to get it a bit more runny again.

After each dip, we added colorful sprinkles. Junior baker had his choice of sprinkles and made his own mix.

VGGV4663
Making our own sprinkle mix for cakesicles

The first couple cakepops we tried rolling them in the sprinkle mix, but the melts were still too warm and the sprinkles carried them right off the pop in dollops. The cakesicles did not have that issue as much because we did not roll them, we just pressed them into the sprinkles. After a few attempts with pressing and rolling, we both decided to use our fingers to sprinkle the sprinkles onto the pops and cakesicles. Instead of setting the cake pops in a stand so they were upright, we placed them right back on the wax paper, resulting in flat sides. This was fine by us as the pops were extras and were just for fun.

The candy melt coating set very quickly and letting the cakesicles and pops set on the wax paper worked out perfectly. Since junior baker wasn’t going to see GP for a few days, we needed to sore the cakesicles. Once they were completely set, we lined an airtight container with wax paper and placed the cakesicles inside. Each layer of cakesicles was topped with a piece of wax paper to keep them separated. The candy melt coating does lock in the moisture of the cake and help keep it preserved, but popping these guys in the freezer if you don’t need them for a while helps to extend their shelf life.

Now it was time to sample our work. The junior baker and I each took a cake pop and bit in. They were delicious! The various chocolate flavors (dark chocolate candy melts, Devil’s food cake, black chocolate buttercream, chocolate chips) combined with the peppermint extract resulted in a very tasty bite. The sprinkles, especially, gave the pop an extra crunch that really tied the treat together.

I highly recommend cakesicles as a bake to do with kids, especially smaller kids. They can have a lot of freedom in making them without you needing to make sure they’re not over-mixing or adding the wrong thing or doing something unsafe. Everything they get their hands into can be licked off immediately (the cake is baked, the buttercream is made, the candy melts can be tried as long as they’re not too hot) without worry. Doing them in two parts (baking and molding one day, dipping and decorating the second) means that each part does not take long, making it easy to keep the kids engaged before they reach the end of their attention spans. Plus, they get to eat what they created. Seeing their faces when they taste just how good the treat is and your remind them that they made that themselves, is priceless. It’s a great exercise and confidence boost for them.

So order at least four molds (I immediately ordered more after we were done) for a half cake (eight for a whole) and start planning your flavors with your favorite junior baker.

Have you tried one of our CCK bakes? If so, post your pictures in the comments, on our Facebook page, on Instagram, or on Twitter! Be sure to use the hashtags #CasualConfectionsKids #CasualConfections and #WeKeepItMessy!

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Flourless Fudge Cookies

Hanging out with friends while they indulge in sweet treats can be a bummer if you stick to a special diet. This is the concern a recent client brought to me. She and some friends were headed to ConCarolinas and a member of the group was gluten free and felt as though she was missing out. The idea my client had was to create a con care package of gluten free treats that hit that sweet spot. A con care package has to meet a few criteria: the treats should not melt easily, they need to travel well, be easy to eat on the go, and stay fresh for longer than a day.

Convention treats
Ready to hit the cons!

After kicking around a few ideas, we landed on some flourless fudge cookies. Half of the cookies were chocolate chocolate chip and the other half were chocolate chocolate chip with raspberries. There are a few great things about the right flourless fudge cookie recipe: 1. it really hits the sweet spot, 2. it satisfies chocolate cravings in the best way, 3. it can easily be made dairy free by using dairy free chocolate chips or using mix-ins other than chips!

King Arthur Flour is a great place to start for gluten free recipes and gluten free ingredients. The base recipe I started with comes from their site. I highly recommend checking out their link for the recipe, their blog post for lots of tips and tricks, and the comments sections to see what others have done in making this recipe. Another big plus about using recipes from King Arthur Flour is that you can select whether you want to bake by volume, ounces, or grams, and the site automatically updates the amounts for you!

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Flourless Fudge Cookies (gluten free, can be made dairy free)

9 ounces (2 1/4 cups) confectioners sugar
3 ounces (1 cup) cocoa powder
3 3/4 ounces (3 large) egg whites (it is helpful to have an extra egg white or two on hand)
2 tsp vanilla extract
8-12 ounces (2 cups) chocolate chips, chopped nuts, and/or chopped dried fruit (my batch used far fewer mix-ins than the recipe called for)

Lightly grease two baking sheets or line with parchment paper and grease parchment (you want the surface to be as non-stick as possible).

Whisk together egg whites and vanilla (I used the whisk attachment in the stand mixer and walked away for a second, resulting in starting a meringue…whoops! If this happens, add an extra egg white to help get the mixture wet again.)

In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (powdered sugar and cocoa powder). Stir in the wet ingredients. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and stir again until smooth. The sticky batter will be the consistency of thick syrup. If the recipe appears too dry and not syrupy, then add another egg white.

Mix in chips (I used mini semi-sweet chips), nuts, and/or fruit. I split my batter in half after adding the chips and added chopped, freeze dried raspberries to one half. The raspberries and chocolate smelled amazing!

Drop the syrupy batter onto the prepared baking sheets in 3″ circles (for large) or 1 3/4″ – 2″ circles (for small). A Tbsp or tsp cookie scoop works well here, respectively.

Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 350°F.

Bake the cookies for 7 mins (smaller) or 8-9 mins (larger) They should spread slightly, become somewhat shiny, and develop faintly crackled tops. Note: large cookies with chips or nuts need to bake for 10 mins.

Remove from oven and allow them to cool on the pan. While nearly cooled, use a spatula to carefully loosen them from the pan. The cookies can also be peeled carefully from the parchment paper.

 

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Black Buttercream

The elusive black buttercream. This has been my main experiment for the past month. Along the way, I made some awesome slate grey colors, some more bitter flavored icing, many many many cakes to use as vehicles for eating the experiments, and used lots and lots of gel coloring.

In April, I took a cake order that was going to be mostly black. The client gave the option of using fondant or buttercream and I opted for buttercream because guests would be more likely to eat and enjoy it. Having read several posts on blogs and in baking groups about working on black buttercream, I figured I would get it in only a couple of trials.

Trial 1 – Italian meringue buttercream (IMBC) is my current go-to for cakes. It isn’t very sweet, has great flavors, takes spices and colors well, and holds up well through various temperatures.

Black Buttercream Trial 1
First run of black buttercream (IMBC)

For this first run, melted milk chocolate, a small amount of black cocoa and some drops of Wilton black gel coloring were added to white IMBC. The chocolate flavor was delicious! The initial color result was a slate grey. Leaving the buttercream out overnight to darken only yielded a very slight change in shade. “Ok,” I thought, “maybe I didn’t add enough black.”

Trial 2 – another run with IMBC.

Black buttercream trial 2
Second run of black buttercream (IMBC)

Trial 2 had a lot more black cocoa, no milk chocolate, and more black gel color (this time I tried Americolor) than last time, but it still was not enough as I achieved exactly the same shade as I had in trial 1. The chocolate flavor in batch 2 was still good despite lacking the smoothness the melted milk chocolate added.

Black Buttercream Trial 2
Second run of black buttercream (IMBC). The slate grey color was fabulous but not the intended target.

There were many issues with the IMBC: the texture was getting thinner as I added more chocolate and gel and I was not satisfied with it, the flavor was very bitter and I was adding a lot of powered sugar in to compensate, and it was taking hours to mess with the color. If I was going to add so much powdered sugar, why not start with something very sweet, like American buttercream (ABC)? During my research, a recipe from Chelsweets kept coming up and I decided to give it a go.

Trial 3 – American buttercream via Chelsweets.com

Black buttercream trial 3
Black buttercream trial 3 – American buttercream via Chelsweets

VICTORY! Not only had I achieved black, but it came together really quickly and the flavor was very good! I had found my black buttercream.

It took about a month, but I was ready to tackle the cake order. This cake order was big for a few reasons:

  1. First cake order for Casual Confections
  2. First bake in the bakery I’m renting space from, Baked Well
  3. First cake where I was trying to match a design
  4. Only my second decorated cake (you may remember the uterus babies as the first)
First Order for Casual Confections in Baked Well
My first official night renting space from Baked Well (Matthews, NC) for Casual Confections orders!

The order was for a Death Note cake: red velvet cake, vanilla IMBC for the pages and lettering, and black chocolate ABC for the icing.

Death Note cake top view
Death Note cake: red velvet cake, vanilla IMBC, black chocolate ABC
Death Note cake side view
Death Note cake: red velvet cake, vanilla IMBC, black chocolate ABC

I did not stage any of the photos, just grabbed a few quick shots on the work table after a few hours of working without a/c, around the repair guy, and running into a few issues with the bake and decorating, I was very tired and needed to clean and close up. The black buttercream turned out really well. As it crusted, I was able to use a wet paper towel to smooth out the buttercream and achieve a leather cover look, which was perfect for the look of a well-worn journal.

Achieving black buttercream was definitely more of an adventure than I expected it to be, but I learned a lot of lessons along the way and now I can whip it up in almost no time!

Black buttercream tongue
Chelsweets was right. Her black buttercream colors your tongue, but not your teeth!

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Black American Buttercream via Chelsweets(makes 4-5 cups)

1 cup (217 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp (37.5 gram) heavy cream
1/2 tsp (2 grams) vanilla extract
1/4 cup (25 grams) black cocoa, sifted (I always ended up adding a bit more to get a deeper black)
1/2 tsp black gel food coloring (add more if the color isn’t quite the black you’re looking to achieve)

Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment until smooth. Reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla.

Add in the sifted black cocoa and mix on low speed until incorporated (scrape down the sides and mix).

Alternate between the powdered sugar and cream, adding each slowly (the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, and the cream, a splash a a time). Beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the desired consistency is reached (add more cream for a wetter, looser buttercream, add more powdered sugar for a drier, thicker buttercream).

Once the frosting is fully made, add in a generous squirt of black gel buttercream and mix by hand with a rubber spatula until the frosting is evenly colored.

To allow the shade to deepen, place in sealed piping bags or an airtight container. Leave out overnight at room temperature or place in the fridge for several days.

*Check out the link for additional tips and nutrition information.

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Gluten-free Lemon Blueberry Cake

A number of gluten-free recipes have been gathering dust in my books and binders. Gluten-free baking can be expensive and cumbersome since you need various flours and xanthum gum to create a suitable blend that can sub for all purpose flour. Several companies have worked to take the hassle out of gf baking by offering prepackaged flour blends. After learning about these blends, I decided to use King Arthur Flour‘s Gluten-Free Measure for Measure flour blend. This blend includes rice flour, whole grain brown rice flour, a couple starches, and xanthum gum. What does this all mean? It means that this is the only thing you need to buy when adapting a non-yeast recipe to be gf (Note: always check your other ingredients to ensure that they are also gf).

For my first adapted recipe, I went with the lemon blueberry pound cake, which you may remember from the Portal cakes post. The only substitution was the gf flour instead of the ap flour.

The good news first: The flour swap was great! I’m really happy with how the cake turned out with the gf flour.

The bad news: The cake was 90% inedible. Why? I forgot about my blueberries until I started pouring the batter into the pan. In my scramble, I completely forgot (once again) to dry them and toss them in some of the gf flour. This resulted in a lot of extra moisture in the cake. The blueberries all gathered in the same section of cake and those sections did not bake fully. I had already glazed the cake before slicing, so I wasn’t able to toss the slices back into the oven to finish them up.

Fortunately, there were some parts that were baked that I was able to taste. I’m now chomping at the bit to try another recipe using the gf flour. While I have not tried any other brands, I do recommend King Arthur Flour’s gluten free blend, as do many others (shout out to those who commented on Facebook and Instagram!).

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Passover Apple Cake

My second Passover bake this year is an apple cake. Instead of regular flour and baking soda, this cake utilizes potato starch and matzoh cake meal. The recipe for this bake came from ReformJudaism.org.

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“The Absolute, Hands-Down, Best” Passover Apple Cake

Dough:
6 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 tsp potato starch
2 cups matzoh cake meal

Filling:
2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
Juice of 1 lemon (or 2 Tbsp lemon juice)
5 large Granny Smith and/or Braeburn apples, peeled and diced

Topping:
1/4 cup sugar
1-2 tsp cinnamon

Grease a 9″ spring form pan. Place parchment on the bottom of the pan. Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Beat eggs with sugar until blended. Add oil and beat. Sift together potato starch and cake meal. Add sifted items to the egg mixture.

For the filling, mix together the cinnamon, sugar, and lemon juice. Mix in the apples.

Put two cups of dough (or half the total amount of dough) into the pan. Spread evenly. Add the apple filling using a slotted spoon, leaving the accumulated liquid behind. Make sure filling is distributed evenly.

Put in the remaining two cups of dough. Spread evenly. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar topping (you won’t see this in my photo as I forgot this step and dusted the top after the cake was baked).

Place the pan on a cookie sheet since liquid may seep out.

Bake for one hour.

Let cool in the pan before releasing.

Unbaked Passover apple cake

Unbaked Passover apple cake (sans cinnamon sugar topping)

Passover apple cake
Passover apple cake sliced
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Passover Chocolate Raspberry Pecan Squares

Passover is a time of family gatherings which means it’s a great time for baking! The challenge with Passover bakes, though, is that they cannot have rising agents. That means that most cakes and cookies are out. For this Passover, I made two bakes. The first is a chocolate raspberry pecan square recipe from Esthero Design.

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Passover Chocolate Raspberry Pecan Squares

Dough:
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla sugar (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
2 cups potato starch
2 6oz bags of ground almonds

Topping:
12 oz chocolate chips (I went with milk chocolate)
8 oz chopped pecans
15 oz raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix the dough ingredients together.

Grease an 11″x17″ cookie sheet and press a piece of parchment paper onto the bottom. (Note: having some parchment paper hang over the sides will help with releasing the bars from the cookie sheet. Otherwise, you may end up needing to cut the bars on your sheet, which isn’t good for the sheet.) Press the dough onto the prepared cookie sheet, making sure its distributed evenly. Bake for 20 mins.

Take the dough out of the oven. Spread the jam evenly over the dough. The jam will get easier to spread as it is heated by the hot dough. Sprinkle the chocolate and the pecans over the jam.

Bake for an additional 25 mins.

Allow the squares to cool completely before cutting.

Note: squares taste great frozen!

Passover Chocolate Raspberry Pecan Bars
Uncut tray of Passover chocolate raspberry pecan squares
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Apple Strudel

Earlier this year, a neighbor expressed frustration at the difficulty she was having finding a good apple strudel in town. Not one to shy away from a challenge, I offered to bake her one and she jumped at the chance. SmittenKitchen’s recipe is one that I’ve had bookmarked for a while and I was excited that I was getting the chance to try it out. If you decide to give this recipe a try, be sure to read her comments and tips before you get started. I found them very helpful in understanding what I was getting into. This was my first run at apple strudel or anything like it.

This recipe makes a very large strudel! I was easily able to stretch my dough out and roll up a strudel that was easily 20″ long and robust! It was so much strudel that I decided to offer it up in quarters. I offered my neighbor two quarters but she opted for just one and one quarter was plenty for 1-2 people. In the future, I will half or quarter the recipe unless I’m providing for a larger affair.

Make this recipe will have your house smelling amazing! The apple filling is mouth-watering. The aroma of the panko right before it’s ready is so buttery. The hardest part of making this dessert is waiting for it to bake and cool before you can dig in!
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Apple Strudel 

Raisins:
1/2 cup (180 g) raisins
2 Tbsp (30 mL) dark rum (I omitted this and just did straight raisins)

Dough:
1 cup + 3 Tbsp (150 g) all purpose flour (and more for dusting)
3 Tbsp (45 mL) neutral oil (I used vegetable oil)
1/3 cup water

Filling:
2 lbs (905 g) firm apples (around 5-6 apples) – this round I used Fuji apples and they worked well. Keep in mind that you may need nearly all of a 3 lb bag of apples since the sell weight includes the cores and skins which are removed
Juice of one lemon (or 2 Tbsp lemon juice)
1/3 cup (65 g) granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
8 Tbsp (115 g) unsalted butter, divided (I ended up using another 4 Tbsp while buttering the baking strudel)
3/4 cup (40 g) plain, unseasoned panko
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
Confectioner’s (powdered) sugar for dusting

Make the dough:
Place flour in a small or medium bowl. Add oil and water and mix with a spoon or your index finger until a rough dough forms (this happens quickly). Turn it out onto a lightly floured counter and knead for 10 minutes. After 10 mins, the dough should be soft and silky to the touch. (This dough was really easy to work with.) Form it into a ball and place it on the counter and upend the mixing bowl over it. Set aside for 30 mins.

Meanwhile, prepare the apples (I did this as a first step as it takes me a long time, roughly an hour, to prepare so many apples):
Peel, halve, core, and slice thin in one direction. Then halve and slice crosswise to create thin squarish rectangles of apples. Place them in a large bowl and toss with lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon. Add the raisins (and any rum left in the bowl).

Prepare the panko crumbs:
In a small skillet over medium-low heat, melt 3 Tbsp butter and add the panko and sugar. Stir to coat and cook, stirring frequently as they can burn quickly. Stir until crumbs are an even golden brown and very fragrant. Don’t let them burn. Scrape into a small dish and set aside.

Apple strudel filling
Panko and apple raisin filling for apple strudel

Heat oven to 400°F and line one large baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the remaining 5-9 Tbsp of butter in a small dish.

Place a clean pillow case, towel, or bed sheet (I went sheet) on a table or counter space. The sheet should be at least 24″x32″. The long side should be horizontal and closest to you. Lightly flour the sheet. Place the dough in the middle and sprinkle it very lightly with flour. Roll the dough in both directions until it’s 10″x13″ or as far as the rolling pin will take it. Make sure the dough is not sticking to the cloth. If it is, reflour the surface. Ball your hands into loose fists, put them under the rolled-out dough, and gently start stretching the dough using the backs of your hands. Alternate this with pulling the dough gently with your fingers to continue stretching the edges thin, too. If holes form, pinch the dough back together. Continue stretching until the dough is about 16″x24″.

Assemble:
Brush the dough evenly with about half of the melted butter. On the right side of the rectangle, a few inches from the end, spread the panko crumbs (crumble them first if they’ve been sitting for a bit) top to bottom in a thick line, leaving a little more than an inch margin at the top and bottom of the strip.

Wrapped strudel
Rolled apple strudel ready for the oven

Scoop the apples with a slotted spoon, leaving any accumulated juice in the bowl. Pile the apple mixture on top of the panko. Gently pull the right edge of the dough up and over the filling as far as it will go without tearing. Working carefully, use the sheet to roll the strudel up all the way. This can be done by pulling and lifting part of the sheet closest to the roll slowly so that the whole strudel rolls itself bit by bit. Place the parchment paper from your baking sheet at the edge of the roll and roll the strudel onto it. Ideally, the strudel will be panko-side down, but if it’s not, roll it again, carefully. Use the parchment paper as a sling to get it and the strudel onto the baking sheet.

Brush the strudel generously all over with some of the remaining butter. Bake for 15 mins, then brush again and return it to the oven, having rotated the pan. Repeat this once more, baking for a total of 45 mins. If your strudel leaks, don’t stress. It’s ok. Mine went the first 15 mins without leaking but during the second 15 mins, it sprung a leak. It still turned out fine.

Leaky strudel
Apple strudel sprung a leak

The strudel should be crisp to the touch and a deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and let it cool for at least 20 mins on a cooling rack. Dust with confectioner’s sugar before slicing and serving.

Uncut apple strudel
Nearly 2 feet of uncut apple strudel

Note: handle the strudel as little as possible as it will begin to break and crumble if you try to move it or roll it too much after it comes out of  the oven.

Sliced apple strudel
Sliced apple strudel
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S’more Sandwich Cookies

I love s’mores! Any time someone is even considering asking for a s’more dessert, I emphatically encourage them to go in that direction just so that I can add another s’more experiment to my growing library.

If you’ve followed along on some of the other experiments that use chocolate ganache, you know that I’m still on my journey to finding my process. My trials continued on this bake as well. While the ratios of chocolate to cream were fine, I did not let it sit out to cool so that it would pour as a thicker chocolate layer. Instead, the thin stream of chocolate cascading over the cookies soaked into the cookies and covered everything in a thin brown sheen. I’ve now added, in big friendly letters, a note to LET THE GANACHE COOL next time.

The graham and the marshmallow components ended up being brand new challenges for me. Making homemade marshmallow has been on my baking bucket list for a while and I had just asked a friend for her recipe since her homemade marshmallow tasted amazing! The recipe for the marshmallow comes from a cookbook and I do not have permission to share it. However, it is an egg-free recipe and utilizes raw honey and maple syrup in place of sugar!

The marshmallow was way easier to make than I had suspected and came together very easily. One trick I learned quickly, though, is that the marshmallow creme sets fast! I started plopping marshmallow creme onto the cookies and ended plopping gobs of marshmallow by the end. This round, I used my hand mixer. Next time, I’ll likely use my stand mixer so that I can re-whip the marshmallow while I’m filling the cookies, keeping it on the creme consistency a bit longer.

Marshmallow creme
Whipping up some marshmallow

I’m equally excited about how the graham cracker cookies turned out! I found a recipe on TogetherAsFamily.com for s’more cookie cups. The cups looked like exactly what I was envisioning for my cookie sandwiches. While mixing the ingredients together, I became distracted. It wasn’t until the cookies were in the oven that I realized I had never added the white sugar. The good news is that the graham cookies still tasted great! Graham is such a versatile base that these cookies can and will be used in many different sandwich cookie combinations.

Graham cracker cookies
Graham cracker cookies

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Graham Cracker Cookies

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar (accidentally omitted)
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a small mixing bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, flour, and baking soda. Stir with wire whisk. Set aside.

In a large bowl and with a handheld electric mixer, blend the butter, brown sugar, and sugar until creamy and combined.

Add in the egg and vanilla extract. Mix well.

Dump in the bowl of dry ingredients, mix on low speed until just combined. The dough will be crumbly.

(Together As Family’s baking instructions are for mini muffin cups. I modified them for a whoopie pie-style cookie)

Grease whoopie pie tins. Spoon or place dough into the bottom of each well. For a thinner cookie, just coat the bottom. For a thicker cookie, fill the well at least half way with dough. Press the dough down flat. Depending on the thickness of your cookies, you should make around 24 total (this makes for 12 sandwich cookies).

Bake for 6 minutes. Look for the edges to be brown (bake slightly less for a softer cookie and slightly longer for a tougher cookie). Let cookies cool in the tin for 15-20 mins before moving to a wire rack. If you try to move them too early, they will fall apart.

 

Constructing the Sandwich Cookie

 

JCFK6430
S’more sandwich cookies before ganache

Scoop a hefty spoonful of marshmallow onto the top of one graham cookie. Spread around to get even coverage. Add as much or as little marshmallow as you prefer. Place a second graham cookie, top down, onto the marshmallow and press down lightly to squish the marshmallow but not break the cookie. Once the cookie sandwiches are all made*, prepare your ganache.

For this round, I did a half milk chocolate, half dark chocolate mix. Either a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio of chocolate to cream will work well here. Microwave your cream for 30-45 seconds (until hot). Pour the cream over your chocolate pieces and let sit for 2-3 minutes to melt. Stir, ensuring all of the chocolate melts and blends with the cream. (The step I keep missing) Let the ganache sit out for 10-15 minutes to thicken. When ready, either pour the ganache over the cookies to coat or, with gloved hands, dip and roll each cookie into the chocolate. Let sit on a wire rack to set for several hours. When you’re ready to serve or package, slide an uneven spatula under each cookie to separate it from the cooling rack.

*One recommendation that was made was to freeze the cookies for about an hour before coating with ganache. This may prevent the chocolate from soaking into the graham cookie and will help set the ganache quickly.

Serve and enjoy!

S'more sandwich cookies
S’more sandwich cookies. First draft.
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French Silk Pie Domes

Dome molds seem to be growing in popularity lately. You can use them to make domes or spheres using cake or chocolate or mousse. There are a multitude of combinations that the dome molds can be used for, so I needed to try them. I found a set of three silicon molds of different sizes on Amazon.

I wasn’t sure what my first experiment in the molds was going to be until I realized that Pi Day was coming up and I was planning on making a French silk pie anyway. Why not put it in a dome?

This creation resulted in two new challenges:

  1. Cutting out shapes from an Oreo pie crust
  2. Tempering chocolate without the aid of a chocolatier.

First things first. I had to find out whether my circle cookie cutter was going to be the right size. The circular disks of pie crust needed to fit within the sphere so that they would be covered. They ended up being a perfect fit for the largest mold! Now, it was on to pie!

I decided to use the French silk pie recipe I had made previously. It worked out really well and seemed like it would be a good fit for this experiment.

The crust was prepared following the recipe and instead of placing it into a pie dish, it was pressed out onto a parchment-covered baking sheet. I didn’t press it out too thin since I wasn’t sure how much the crust would break to begin with, but this crust held up pretty well and I definitely recommend pressing it out so that it’s not too thick. The thickness of my disks resulted in the crust being difficult to cut through with a fork. The crust was easy to work with after it had cooled a bit but wasn’t at the point of being completely cool. The butter was still soft, making the surface workable, but not so tough and crunch that it broke. Using the cookie cutter as you would with sugar cookie dough, I was able to get several disks out of the sheet. The leftover pie crust worked well as either a snack or was crumbled to use as a topping.

 

Setting the disks aside, it was time to try my hand at the chocolate domes. For this round of tempering, I used Baker’s milk chocolate baking bars. Now, tempering chocolate is a very frustrating process until you learn how the chocolate you’re using works. Even then, things like temperature and humidity (i.e., the weather that day) can destroy your process. Other details, like the % cocoa, the type of chocolate (milk vs. dark vs. white vs. semi-sweet, etc.), and the brand of chocolate all impact the way the chocolate behaves and the temperatures it prefers for tempering. In 2017, I took part in a tempering class offered by a local shop, The Secret Chocolatier. The class was fun and very informative and they send us home with treats we had made and notes for when we wanted to try this on our own. My notes sat in my binder for two years before I decided to try tempering again. I decided to use the temperatures on the notes as a guide, a place to start, since they had worked well before. The chocolate we tempered in class was a darker chocolate whereas the one I was tempering was milk chocolate, so I wasn’t expecting it to turn out perfectly.

To temper the chocolate, I broke apart two 4 oz. bars of Baker’s chocolate. This would give me enough to melt and enough to use as seed. I prepped my double boiler by adding a 1/2″ of water to the bottom and set the stove temperature so that the water was barely simmering. To melt the chocolate, I placed 1.5 bars into a metal bowl and placed that on top of the simmering pot. It didn’t take long for my thermometer to show me that I had the heat up too high as the temperature zoomed past the 115°F I was aiming for. Note: the process I am about to describe is not how to temper chocolate. Typically, if the temperature gets too high, it’s best to scrap the chocolate and start over. I decided to cool it back down and reheat it. After adjusting the burner temperature to low/medium-low, I placed the bowl back over the pot and got the chocolate heated to 115°F. Removing the bowl from the pot and placing it on a pot holder on the counter, I stirred the chocolate until it reached 88°F. Then, I added a piece or two of the remaining chocolate. This was error number 3. I had misread my notes from the chocolatier on when to add the seed. As soon as I realized my mistake, I popped the bowl back on top of the pot to reheat the chocolate to 115°F. Even when you temper correctly, there can still be a lot of this back and forth, so it’s always good to have extra seed chocolate on-hand. After getting the chocolate back up to 115°F, the bowl went back to the pot holder and, this time, I added a piece of seed chocolate immediately while stirring. The seed chocolate helps to bring the temperature down and get the crystals in the sugar to play nice. After adding two pieces of seed chocolate and stirring, the chocolate reached 88°F. It was time to pop the bowl back on the pot for a very brief stint to get the chocolate heated up to 90°F. After hitting that temp, the bowl was removed once more and the chocolate was ready to be placed into the molds.

Chocolate tempering prep
Melting chocolate and seed chocolate for tempering

At first, I tried using a silicon pastry brush I had on hand to paint the molds with chocolate. The chocolate and the brush did not get along. I have seen others use a paint brush instead of silicon to do this, so I will be looking into getting a small one of those for food purposes and future chocolate experiments. Since the brushing technique was not working, I used a spoon to place a good amount of chocolate in each sphere and rub the chocolate on the sides. Then, by lifting and tilting the mold, I worked on getting as even a coating as I could. Once satisfied, I turned the mold upside down to let the extra chocolate drip out (be sure to do this over a baking sheet or paper towel or some other surface that is the length of your mold). Once there was no chocolate pooled in the bottom of the mold, I set the mold aside to let the chocolate set. In my excitement, I used the rest of my melted chocolate to make solid chocolates in the smaller sphere mold. Only after I had started cleaning up did I remember that I should have probably saved some of that chocolate to re-temper and add a second or third coat to the large spheres so that they weren’t too thin. Since this was a rough draft, I decided to see how the thin spheres played out and made a note to make them thicker next time.

Filled chocolate molds
Hollow chocolate spheres and solid chocolate spheres in-mold

Once the chocolate spheres were set, I started popping them out of the mold. They broke apart at the edges since they were so thin and they were somewhat in temper, but they were still spheres!

Chocolate sphere
First try at a chocolate sphere

Now that both the pie crust disks and the chocolate domes were successes, it was time to make the pie filling! There was no variation on the filling. I made it the same way I had before. Once the filling was made, I spooned filling into each upside-down dome. It was surprising that the thin dome held the filling as well as it did! I was expecting it to break or collapse under the weight. Once I saw it held, I filled the dome up and placed a sphere on top. In my final concept, I would build these in the mold and then use some of the tempered chocolate to seal the dome. For this experiment, I skipped this step as I was more interested in seeing how the parts worked and how the different chocolates worked together. I placed the dome, still on its head, in the fridge for the pie filling to set. As soon as that clock hit the 3-hour mark, I had to pull one out! Holding my breath, I flipped the dessert over and it held together beautifully!

All of this chocolate needed a whipped cream topping, so I sprayed some Reddi Wip (check out their coconut milk whipped cream option!) on top and sprinkled some of the crumbled pie crust. Time to cut in and see how this idea worked!

Chocolate silk pie dome
Chocolate silk pie dome reveal!

The milk chocolate dome ended up being a good compliment to the dark chocolate Oreo crust and the semi-sweet pie filling. A dark chocolate would work well, too. Surprisingly, the thin chocolate dome worked really well, too. It was fairly easy to break through while eating and held the dessert well. The two take-aways from this rough draft of a dessert were to make the crust thinner for easier cutting while eating and to make the dome slightly thicker so that it doesn’t break as easily.

This was a delicious success! And now I’ve worked out all of my panic and second-guessing in my first solo outing of chocolate tempering. It can only improve from here!