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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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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!

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Surprise Inside Cake – Pinky the Ghost

A surprise inside cake looks simple enough. It’s a cake of any flavor with a design or different color cake inside of it. One complaint I’ve seen pop up in a lot of conversation about surprise inside cakes is that the design typically ends up dry since it’s baked twice. Having baked one now, I can see how easily that can happy but I also see room for tweaks to prevent that from happening.

For this experiment, I kept the cake simple so that I could focus on trying my hand at the technique. To figure out my approach, I checked out cakes by i am baker and My Cupcake Addiction. I love the colors in My Cupcake Addiction’s love heart cake and may try that as a rainbow surprise in a future surprise inside cake. For my first try, I opted to use a ghost cookie cutter to make Pinky, one of the Pac-Man ghosts.
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Surprise Inside Cake

1 box of white cake mix
1 box of devil’s food cake mix
coloring gel

Prepare one box of white cake mix either by using the instructions on the box or by the modified box method substituting melted butter for oil and milk for water. Add desired color (in this case, I added red with a dab of black to get a muted pink color). Line a cookie sheet or sheet pan with parchment paper and pour batter onto pan. Bake at 350F for 23 mins (or as described on the box).

Place a piece of parchment paper on a cutting board large enough to place the cake on. When the cake comes out of the oven, place the paper and cutting board on top of the cake and flip it so that the cake sits on the board. Lift the pan and peel off the parchment paper that is now on top. Pop the cake on the board into the freezer for 10-30 mins to firm up. This will help prevent the cake from crumbling as much when you use the cutter. Select a cookie cutter for your design and make sure it’s small enough to sit in the cake pan you’re using for the final cake. My ghost cutter ended up being slightly taller than what I needed it to be. Remove the sheet cake from the freezer. Flip the cake over again and remove the parchment paper. Trim the top of the cake with a knife to remove the browned part of the cake and reveal the brighter colors underneath. Use the cutter to cutout shapes from the sheet cake. Cut the shapes close to each other to maximize the number of cutouts. Any extra make tasty snacks.

Arrange the cutouts on the same cutting board and pop the board back in the freezer for at least 30 mins (I did 30 but will let them freeze longer next time to better prevent the moist batter of the second cake from soaking into the cutouts).

Prepare the second box mix as above (either via the box or modified). Using a rubber spatula, place some of the batter on the bottom of a greased and floured bundt cake pan and spread it out to cover the bottom of the pan. My Cupcake Addiction suggests a half inch of batter. Bake this layer of batter at 350F for 7 mins.

Take the pan out of the oven and immediately spread a layer of raw batter on top of the baked layer in the pan. The new batter will thin out quickly since it’s going on top of hot cake. These layers of cake and batter will help to hold the cutouts in place. Take the cutouts out of the freezer and start placing them in the pan. The top of the cutout should be in the bottom of the pan (remember, the cake is upside-down in the pan). The cutouts can be arranged close to each other or with lots of space in between depending on how your want your slices to look. A more spaced out arrangement will result in not knowing whether you’ll get an all devil’s food slice or a slice with a surprise design when the cake is served. If you do a more crowded arrangement, leave some space for batter in between. Don’t press them together too tightly.

Place the rest of the batter into a large piping bag. Cut a wide tip at the bottom. Using the bag helps to get the batter between the cutouts and between the cutouts and the edges of the pan. Pipe the batter into all the sections around the cutouts. After filling the sides and in between, pipe the batter on the top of the cutouts to cover them. Since my ghost cutouts were a bit too tall, my batter did not completely cover them. I used a rubber spatula to try to coat exposed areas of cutouts with batter to encourage the cake to cover them all. When done, tap the pan on the counter a few times to get the batter to fill any gaps. Bake at 350F for 33-35 mins (or as long as directed on the box). Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 mins before flipping it over. The cake should release easily. When ready to serve, cut slices and enjoy the surprise image inside.

 

 

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Brookies

Brookies, or brownie cookies, are always a nice treat. You get to enjoy the flavor of a chocolate cookie and a chocolate chip cookie at the same time. What’s not to like? For this bake, I gave this recipe by Mel’s Kitchen Cafe a spin. I really like how this recipe includes the weights for the dough balls to give you a starting point for proportions. After I saw how the first sheets came out, I started making some cookies with a larger percentage of chocolate chip relative to brownie as an experiment. You really can’t go wrong here. You can make these cookies as balanced or imbalanced as you’d like. The only tweak I’m making the next time I make these is to leave out the salt, but that’s due to personal preference. Give this recipe a go and make a fun treat chocolate-lovers will enjoy!
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Brookies

Brownie cookie ingredients:
10 Tbsp butter, softened
2/3 cup (5 oz) lightly packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup (5 oz) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups + 3 Tbsp (7.25 oz) flour
1 cup (1.5 oz) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda

Chocolate chip cookie ingredients:
10 Tbsp butter, softened
2/3 cup (5 oz) light brown sugar
2/3 cup (5 oz) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups + 2 Tbsp (10.75 oz) flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cups mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Sweet aside.

Brownie cookie batter:
I’m a medium bowl, beat the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar together until smooth and creamy (around 1-2 mins). Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla and beat the mixture for 2-3 mins until light in color.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until combined. Cover and refrigerate while making the chocolate chip cookie batter.

Chocolate chip cookie batter:
In a large bowl, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until smooth (about 1-2 mins). Blend in the egg, yolk, and vanilla, mixing for 2-3 mins until the batter is very light in color.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the batter with the chocolate chips and mix until no dry streaks remain and the chocolate chips are evenly distributed.

Both:
Pull out dough to make smallish balls. Use a 0.5 oz ball of brownie batter and a 0.65 ball of chocolate chip batter. Press the two balls together and use your hands to shape the cookie by flattening and turning it to smooth out the edges, forming a flattish but thick shape. Continue until all of the batter is used. Place the cookies onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them out to allow for some spreading during baking. Bake for 8-10 mins. The brownie side may crack a bit. Under-cook slightly for a softer and more chewy cookie. Let cool for 1-2 mins on the sheet before moving them to a cooling rack.

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Cannoli Dip Cake Experiment

Some days more than one experiment fails. This trial saw two fails in one day! The idea behind this bake was to try my first recipe for my long venture down the road to figuring out my ideal cannoli dip/filling. Unfortunately, the recipe I tried turned out really runny and had way too much almond extract. I hoped the filling would firm up in the fridge but no luck. I still tried to salvage it by scrambling and throwing together a chocolate ganache to maybe lock in the filling, but I ended up only adding half the amount of chocolate necessary so that, too, turned out too runny. Instead of ending up with a tasty cake experiment, I ended up with a few lessons learned. #weKeepItMessy
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Cannoli dip from Cookstr.

1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese (I used Polly-O which did not require straining)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp milk or heavy cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
Mini chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)

Combine ingredients and place in the fridge to set.

Chocolate ganache
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz chocolate (I used only 2 oz of semi-sweet chips)

Place chocolate into a heat-safe bowl. Heat cream in a small pan and bring to a boil on medium heat. Pour hot cream directly onto the chocolate. Let sit for 2 mins to let the chocolate melt. Stir until smooth. Pour onto cake.

 

IMG_3504
Runny cannoli filling between two slabs of yellow cake.
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Chocolate Pear Cake

Some family was recently traveling in Italy and started sending my photos of some goods in the local bakeries. They’re returning back this weekend and asked about two different cakes. After some Googling and talking with some fellow bakers, we determined that one was a chocolate pear cake and the other was an Italian apple cake. Today I tried the chocolate pear cake using a recipe by An Italian in my kitchen.

It smelled delicious while it baked and looks very tasty now that it’s done. Looking forward to everyone tasting it tomorrow.
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Chocolate Pear Cake

2 large pears either William, Anjou, or Bartlett – I used Bartlett
1 1/4 cups + 2 Tbsp cake flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips, dark chocolate (I chopped up some full-sized morsels instead)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease and flour or parchment a 9” cake pan. I used a spring-form pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt and milk until combined. Set aside.

Peel, core, and slice the pears.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, vanilla, and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 5 mins). Then, slowly add the vegetable oil and beat until combined (about 1 min). Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the yogurt mixture. Beat until combined (about 1 min).

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Top with pear slices, sliced side down. Sprinkle with mini dark chocolate chips.

Bake for approximately 45 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

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New York Style Crumb Cake

One of my favorite breakfast treats is Entenmann’s crumb coffee cake. It never lasts long in our house since I simply cannot control myself around it. I knew it was only a matter of time until I tried making one from scratch. For my first try, I went with Brown Eyed Baker’s recipe. It’s very straight forward and easy to put together.

Of course, there’s always the chance you’ll misread the ingredients during your prep and melt 1 3/4 cups of butter instead of 1/2 cup. Looks like I’ll be baking cookies later this week to use up the extra butter.
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New York Style Crumb Cake

Crumb topping:
1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (66 grams) dark brown sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp table salt
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
1 3/4 cups (198 grams) cake flour

Whisk the sugars, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a medium bowl to combine. Add flour and stir with rubber spatula or wooden spoon until mixture resembles thick, cohesive dough. Set aside to cool to room temperature – about 10-15 mins.

Cake:
1 1/4 cups (142 grams) cake flour
1/2 cup (99 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp table salt
6 Tbsp (85 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup buttermilk
Powdered sugar for dusting

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325F. Spray 8-inch square pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper, allowing excess to hang over the sides.

Using an electric mixer on low speed, mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt to combine. With mixer continuing to run at low speed, add butter one piece at a time; continuing to beat until mixture resembles moist crumbs with no visible butter chunks visible – 1-2 mins. Add egg, yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 min, scraping once if necessary.

Transfer batter to baking pan using rubber spatula, spread the batter into an even layer. Break apart the crumb topping into large pea-sized pieces and spread in an even layer over the batter, beginning with the edges and then working toward the center. Be sure not to push the crumbs into the batter, just sprinkle on top. Bake until the crumbs are golden and a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean – 35-40 mins.

Cool on wire rack at least 30 mins. Lift out of pan using parchment overhang. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

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Maple Pecan Fudge

I’ve been on a maple kick lately and fudge has been on my add-to-skills list for a long time. When I came across McCormick Spice’s recipe for maple pecan fudge, I knew this would be the first fudge I tried to make. While the recipe seems relatively simple, I ran into an issue or two that resulted in less of a fudge consistency and more of a maple sugar candy. The good news is that it is insanely delicious and no one has complained about it not being more fudge-like. I have a few notes on things to be mindful of on my next attempt but I plan to duplicate this happy accident in the future, too.
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Maple pecan fudge

1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
3 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) butter, cut into chunks
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 Tbsp maple extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups pecan halves, divided (1 cup and 1/2 cup)

Line an 8” pan with non-stick foil (or regular foil and non-stick spray), allowing the foil to extend over the sides of the pan.

Mix the evaporated milk, Brown sugar, and butter in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat, stirring consistently. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, stirring frequently until mixture reaches 236°F on a candy thermometer (soft ball stage). This will take around 30 mins. (My mixture sat under 220°F for a majority of this time and took longer than 30 mins on med-low heat to reach soft ball stage). Mixture will darken in color as it cooks. Remove from heat.

Gradually beat in confectioner’s sugar with electric mixer on low speed. Increase to medium speed and beat until thickened and smooth. (Be careful not to over-beat. I’m pretty sure I did.) Stir in extracts and 1 cup of pecans. Spread evenly into prepared pan. Top with remaining 1/2 cup of pecans.

Refrigerate at least 1 hour or until firm. Use foil to lift out of pan and onto cutting board. Cut into small squares. Store in refrigerator.

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French Silk Pie

Pies are a pastry that I am very new to and need more practice on. This experiment is a great example of why practice is good with baking. The crust is a common combination of crushed Oreos and butter. The amount made a very nice thick crust*. The filling is not my recipe but I do not have source information for it, so this is posted without proper sourcing. I will update this post should I find the information.

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French Silk Pie

Oreo Crust
25 Oreo cookies, crushed
5 Tbsp unsalted, melted butter

Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix cookies and butter together. Press into 9” pie plate. Be sure to press crust up along the sides of the plate. (*I forgot this step so all of my Oreo mixture was on the bottom of the plate.)

Bake for 8 minutes. Let cool completely. I left mine on the cooling rack for a while and then placed it in the fridge while I made the filling.

Pie Filling
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
3 large eggs
3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 Tbsp water
8 ounces of bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2” cubes and softened

With electric mixer on medium-high speed, whip cream to stiff peaks – around 2-3 mins. Cover the bowl and place the whipped cream in the fridge.

Combine eggs, sugar, and water in a large, heat-proof bowl set over a medium saucepan filled with 1/2” of water that is barely simmering. Don’t let the bowl touch the water. With electric mixer on medium speed, beat until egg mixture is thickened and registers 160F – around 7-10 mins (mine took 11 mins to reach the proper temperature). Remove the bowl from the heat and continue to beat egg mixture until fluffy and cooled to room temperature – about 8 mins.

Add the chocolate and vanilla extract to the cool egg mixture and beat until incorporated. Beat in butter a few pieces at a time until well combined.

Using a spatula, fold in the whipped cream until no streaks of white remain. Scrape the filling into the pie shell and refrigerate until set – at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours. Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream and chocolate shavings or sprinkles.

Whipped cream
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine and whip until it reaches desired consistency.

OreoCrust_NoSides
Oreo pie crust. I forgot to build the sides!
French Silk Pie
French Silk Pie
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DoubleTree Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you’ve ever stayed at a Doubletree hotel, chances are that you’ve enjoyed one of their tasty chocolate chip cookies. I asked around for a decent copycat recipe to try and was sent to The Little Kitchen’s recipe.

It’s been a while since I’ve had a Doubletree cookie, so I couldn’t do a side-by-side comparison for flavor, but these are some pretty tasty cookies!
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Doubletree Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup rolled oats
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 large eggs
2 cups semi-sweet mini chocolate chips (I used 1 bag of regular sized chips and 1/2 bag of mini chips)
1 cup chopped walnuts

Pulse oats in a food processor until semi-fine or fine. Since I don’t have a processor, I used a hand chopper.

In a small mixing bowl, add the oats, flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix thoroughly together with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.

To a medium bowl, cream together the butter and both sugars. Add vanilla extract, lemon juice, and eggs. Mix until you have a smooth mixture. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula at least once.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix with a spatula, being careful not to over-mix. Drop in the chips and nuts and mix until both are evenly distributed. Be careful not to over-mix or the cookies will have a cake-like texture.

Use a large cookie scoop (I used a regular tablespoon) to scoop dough into a lined baking sheet. Place dough balls close to each other for easier storage. Freeze or refrigerate for at least 2-4 hours (I left mine in the freezer overnight).

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Remove dough balls from storage and place on a new baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place dough 1 1/2” – 2” apart. Bake for 13-14 minutes or until desired doneness. Let cool on a the baking sheet for a few minutes to harden a bit before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Soft Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sometimes a recipe trial comes out of necessity rather than curiosity. My husband had oral surgery about three weeks ago and has had to be on a soft food diet ever since. This meant he had to cut out almost all of his favorite treats. One of his favorite cookies used to be Keebler Soft Batch. Like most things, the recipe has changed over the years and they just don’t taste like they used to. So I used this opportunity to seek out and test a recipe for soft batch chocolate chip cookies. To our delight, they came out quite tasty. The taste leaves a lot of room to play with different flavors (extracts or pudding mix) but isn’t bland in its first iteration. This pleasant recipe comes from Brown Eyed Baker.
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Soft Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 small box) instant vanilla pudding mix (Brown Eyed Baker has a link to a homemade version in her recipe)
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, pudding mix, and baking soda and set aside.

With an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary, for about 3 minutes. Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing only until a little flour is left in the dough. Using a rubber spatula, fold the chocolate chips into the dough.

With a medium cookie scoop or a tablespoon, scoop out dough and form it into balls and place on the prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake until the outside edges are just set and light golden brown and the middles are still puffy (about 10-12 mins – mine were in for 12). Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for five minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to five days.