Be sure to swing by, say hi, and grab some tasty treats.
These are some of the goodies that will be available for purchase while supplies last. If you’d like to preorder, send an email to CasualConfections@gmail.com. You can pay via invoice or pay day-of in cash. Your order will be ready for you to pick up at the table.
Macarons are a tasty sandwich cookie that can be customized in many ways. It’s also a very finicky treat to make. There are many ways these cookies can go wrong, but that’s no reason to avoid trying to bake them. Whether you over mix, under mix, end up with hollows, or little nipples on top of your cookies, your oven may be too hot or cold, the non-slip mats may be better for your oven than parchment paper…you’ll still end up with a tasty cookie and a fancy new recipe under your belt!
There are several different methods to try, too, so if you don’t succeed at first, check out another method that might be easier for you. For my first and second go, I used King Arthur Flour’s recipe. This recipe gives you a nice plain macaron shell to work with. The base recipe is easy to add color and other details to (I added some cinnamon on top of some of mine the second go-round). This ended up being a great first recipe for me, though I do recommend checking out a video or two on YouTube to see someone go through the process. The first time I pipped macarons, I did a swirl instead of a flat pipe and ended up with plenty of air pockets resulting in a hollow cookie (still yummy).
Plain Macaron Shells (via King Arthur Flour)
1 1/2 cups almond flour (sprinkle lightly into a dry measuring cup and level with a straight edge)
1 cup confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
3 large egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
3 Tbsp + 1 tsp water
Process the almond flour and confectioner’s sugar in a food processor for about 20 seconds (I skip this step). Sift to remove any large pieces and to aerate the mixture (don’t skip this step).
Separate the eggs and put the whites in the bowl you will use to whip them (use whisk attachment). Don’t start whipping yet, but add a pinch of cream of tartar.
Combine the water and granulated sugar in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until dissolved, then bring to a rapid boil. Boil for about 2 minutes. The temperature should reach 235°F-240°F (I go by temp, not time for this step). Take the syrup off the heat. Immediately start whipping the egg whites using an electric mixer. When they hold a curved peak on the end of the beater, stop, grab the pan of the hot syrup, resume beating, and pour the syrup steadily into the whites as you beat them.
Continue beating until the meringue is smooth, glossy, and forms soft peaks. Remove from mixer.
Fold in the almond flour mixture until everything is evenly combined. Then, start stirring. This will thin the mixture. Stir until the batter runs in ribbons that disappear back into the mass in 10-20 seconds (the batter should be sort of thick, not too runny). Test frequently and stop when you reach this point.
Pipe onto parchment-lined baking sheets. The cookie should flatten out. If it doesn’t spread, stir the batter some more. Cookies can be positioned close together since they don’t spread while baking.
Allow the cookies to rest on the sheets in a dry place with good air circulation (counter top is fine) until you can touch the top and come away with a clean finger (roughly 2 hours).
Toward the end of the baking time, preheat oven to 275°F. Bake 25-30 mins, until firm on top. Remove and let cool completely on the sheet. Use a thin spatula to remove them from the parchment (I’ve been able to lift them easily with my hand). Spread half of the cookies with filling. Top with the remaining cookie.
Chocolate Peppermint Buttercream Filling
This I made up as I went along. I took about a stick of butter and beat it until soft. I added some unsweetened cocoa and mixed until combined. Then, added a splash of milk and mixed again. Then I went back and forth with adding powdered sugar, milk, and cocoa until I got a flavor and consistency I liked for the macarons (not too stiff, not too soft). Add a tiny splash of peppermint extract, mix again, and then you’re ready to go.
Wacky cake is a term I’ve heard for a while now in baking blogs and baking groups. I knew it was a Depression era recipe and that it is a go-to for people with certain dietary restrictions. One of my last bakes in 2019 was my first go at a wacky cake. I had bookmarked a recipe by Kathy P. a while back and dug it up to give it a go. The recipe is originally egg free and dairy free plus she has plenty of recommendations on how to customize the recipe to meet other dietary needs.
For my go, where the recipe calls for oil, I used coconut oil. This added the soy free element to the cake. Note that coconut is sometimes part of a nut allergy and sometimes not. If you need to avoid nuts and soy, go with palm oil instead.
I highly recommend giving this cake a go, even if you aren’t baking for a specific diet. It’s very easy to make, doesn’t require eggs or milk, and, as Kathy P. points out, you can make it in the same pan you bake it in, so there’s very little mess to clean up (see her recipe for the single pan instructions)! And it’s fully of chocolate goodness.
Kathy P.’s Wacky Cake
1 1/2 cups flour
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp vinegar
5 Tbsp oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup water
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Combine the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda) in a bowl. Mix thoroughly. Mix wet ingredients (vinegar, oil, vanilla, water) in a separate bowl and stir to combine. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until you get a smooth batter. Do not beat.
Pour into a greased and floured pan (8″ square, 9″ round, 12 cupcakes)
Note: some wacky cake recipes say that no greasing is required. I placed parchment circles at the bottom of my pans (2 6″ rounds) without greasing or flouring and they came out of the pans fine.
Bake in the oven until it tests as done, about 35 mins for cake, 20 for cupcakes.
I was on the hunt for a tasty chocolate sugar cookie that didn’t spread when baked, didn’t need to be chilled for 2 hours, and could be handled well as a cutout. After looking over several recipes, one from Smitten Kitchen was recommended. After reading the blog post description of the cookies, how to work with the dough, and comments from others who have experimented with it, I decided to give it a go. This recipe is amazing! Some people have used it for hamantaschen and ice cream sandwiches. The chocolate flavor is so rich that it would make for a great s’more cookie or any sandwich cookie (raspberry filling anyone?)! I’m using this recipe to make Cookie Cat sandwich cookies which will include strawberry and vanilla marshmallow creme in the middle. Yum! The Cookie Cat cookies will be available for purchase at the Muggles Market in Charlotte, North Carolina, on November 2nd! I’ll have a post up about how to make the cookies later that month.
The dough is soft, which is why there is a recommended time for chilling it, but it is totally workable whether at room temp or having been chilled. So use it right away or make the dough and store it away to bake later.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Brownie Roll-out Cookies via Smitten Kitchen
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup lightly salted butter, softened (use 1 stick salted, 1 stick unsalted to achieve lightly salted) *as usual, I used unsalted butter since I bake without salt by choice
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Whisk dry flour and baking powder in a bowl and set aside. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and cocoa in a mixer (can do it all at once, just start the mixer on low speed until the wet and dry ingredients are mixed a bit so they don’t fly out. Then raise the speed to medium). Gradually add flour mixture and mix until smooth. Cover the bowl in plastic and chill for at least an hour (some bakers do 15 mins while they clean everything else up, I’ve done as few as 10 mins and as much as an hour).
Roll out chilled dough on floured counter (use flour or cocoa powder). Cut into desired shapes, brushing extra flour off (can do with a dry or slightly wet finger). Bake on a parchment-lined sheet for 8-11 mins (former for 1/8″ cookies, latter for 1/4″ cookies) until edges are firm and centers are slightly soft and puffed. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
If you’ve been following Casual Confections on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you’ve noticed several different versions of s’mores sandwich cookies that I’ve made over recent months. Each batch has had aspects that I’ve liked and aspects that simply didn’t work. Each new version explored a new take or technique for the cookie.
For version 4, I made several changes that have resulted in a cookie I am very happy with! Version 5 will text out a few small tweaks to the cookie for easier packaging and other similar logistics.
So what did I do differently for version 4?
Let’s start with the graham cookie. Versions 1 and 2 used the graham cup recipe for s’mores cup. As a cookie, the taste was very good but they fell apart a bit too easily while being eaten. Versions 3 and 4 utilized a recipe that was based off of a s’mores cookie recipe by Brown Eyed Baker. For the sandwich cookie, I left out the chocolate chips and the marshmallow bits since those flavors would have their own components. Version 3’s cookies were made in a whoopie pie sheet whereas version 4 was done as drop cookies. There was a noticeable difference in color and texture, but both versions of the cookie were absolutely delicious! This graham cookie recipe will be used for a variety of graham-based flavors in the future. It’s that good!
While the drop cookie version was a hit, it does not work well for packaging cookies that need to be shipped or transported. I will 100% be making them any time I serve them at my house. Otherwise, it’ll be the whoopie pie versions. Their flat sides are perfect for packaging, storing, and easier eating.
Next, let’s talk about the marshmallow! Versions 1-3 utilized an egg-free marshmallow creme that uses honey and maple syrup as sweetener. The recipe is one of my favorite flavors of marshmallow to date! The one drawback to the recipe is that the creme sets really fast, even with continuous whipping with the stand mixer. The first two cookies would spread so beautifully, but the third on would end up with lots of globs. While that aspect didn’t impact texture or flavor, it made the cookie look less put together and more thrown together. For version 4, I tried my hand at a marshmallow fluff recipe from LivforCake which she adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe.
If you were on the Facebook or Instagram feeds Sunday night, you likely saw my misadventures in making the fluff (if you missed it, go check them out). The sugar syrup was slowly climbing in temperature while on the stove, and I got cocky and decided to shift my attention to something else, just in time for the temp to jump past where it needed to be and burn! First thought: dump it. Second thought: pour it on a non-stick mat and see what happens. I’ve always wanted to try sugar work and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to play, even if I wasn’t going to be able to eat the results. While pouring my bitter brown syrup, I went back and forth in my head, debating whether to throw another round of ingredients into the pot after it was de-syruped and try again or whether to call it a night and try again another time. I already had the egg whites whipped in the mixer, so I opted for cleaning and starting over.
This time, paying full attention, it didn’t take long for the sugar syrup to heat up and be perfect! Before I knew it, the stand mixer was churning away, mixing everything into a sticky, shiny, white fluff. The next step was getting the fluff into a piping bag to quickly and easily add the marshmallow to the cookies. This was my first time trying to wrangle fluff this way and it was a mess! I did end up with enough in the bag for the cookies and once I started piping, it was so easy!
Now, the flavor isn’t as strong as the marshmallow creme recipe, but it played in my favor as now the honey and other flavors from the graham cookies were not dominated by the maple/honey flavor of the creme. Instead, this smooth marshmallow added just the right light flavor to the cookie. I’m really excited to flavor this fluff recipe, too, as it seems like it will showcase each of them well. There are a lot of great things to say about this fluff recipe. I was able to store the leftover fluff and scooped it out several days later as a topping on chocolate cake. Yum!
The chocolate. What about the chocolate? The experiments with the chocolate have been less about finding which chocolate I wanted to use and were more about how I wanted to use it. Versions 1 and 2, I used a chocolate ganache to cover the cookies. This resulted in some not so clean looking treats and some messy fingers and faces. Version 3, I opted for straight melted chocolate instead of a ganache and did a half-dip for easier holding. The flavor was exactly where I needed it to be, but I gave up on coating the outside. Having the chocolate on the inside, like a traditional s’more, was going to be the way to go.
So, for Version 4, I melted some milk chocolate and coated the bottom of each cookie. Since I did this Sunday night after my marshmallow mishaps ate up most of my time, I had no patience to wait for the chocolate to cool and piped the marshmallow on the very slick chocolate. After pressing two cookies together, some of them slipped and slid all over the place, making for white the fun and tasty mess. Those that stayed balanced, however, made for some deliciously gooey photographs! And let me tell you, they tasted as good as they looked. I’m typically not one to eat a lot of sugar right before bed, but I had to enjoy the fruits of my labor while I cleaned up.
I am super stoked that I pretty much have my s’more sandwich cookies figured out. I love s’mores but don’t have too many opportunities to make them around a campfire, so I made them out of everything else (s’mores brownies anyone?).
Are you drooling at the end of this post? S’mores will be one of the three flavors in September’s cookie care packages! The theme is sandwich cookies. Monthly cookie care packages are limited to six and there are only two left for September! Order yours now!
Want a half dozen or a dozen s’mores sandwich cookies all for yourself? You can order those, too!
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
Oreo pie crust cutouts
Oreo pie crust disks
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
Pastry cream is not something I’ve had on my to-bake list, but finding the right recipe for cannoli filling has been. I grew up having cannoli from Long Island, so the bar has always been set pretty high. Last year, I took a stab at making a cannoli filling using a recipe for cannoli dip. As you may recall, it was more of a learning experience than a dining experience.
For my second attempt at a cannoli filling, I tried a recipe by Ginger Barragan of Moonlight Bakes Bakery. Since her recipe utilizes pastry cream, I ended up adding it to my to-bake list. King Arthur Flour is a great source for recipes, so I decided to give their pastry cream a spin.
Having watched shows like Chopped and the Great British Bake Off, making pastry cream had become a bit intimidating. It seemed too easy to ruin the cream and end up with inedible scrambled eggs. The one piece I kept forgetting about was that they were working against a clock. It is easy to see how one slip up can ruin the whole batch, but overall the process was simpler than expected.
Since these experiments were for the filling and the cream, I decided to bake and torte a single devil’s food cake as a vehicle for eating the results instead of going whole hog with fresh pastry. Those challenges are for a later time.
While the cannoli filling isn’t where I want it to be, it is very tasty and a great place to start while honing in on the right ingredients and proportions. I highly recommend giving both of these recipes a go.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Pastry Cream via King Arthur Flour
3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
4 large egg yolks*
4 Tbsp (1/4 cup) butter
1 cup heavy cream (optional)**
Before starting, set up a bowl with a strainer in an ice bath (place the bowl into a larger bowl, add water and several ice cubes between the two bowls, keeping the inner one dry).
In a medium saucepan, stir together 2 1/2 cups of milk and all of the sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch, flour, and egg yolks with the remaining 1/2 cup of milk.
Whisk some of the hot milk mixture with the yolks to temper them. This keeps the yolks from turning into scrambled eggs when you add the simmering milk.
Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the remaining simmering milk. Doing this through a strainer will prevent lumps later. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, with a whisk, until mixture thickens. Once the cream comes to a full boil, stop cooking immediately or it can curdle and separate.
Remove from the heat and strain through a fine strainer into the bowl set in an ice bath. Stir in the butter and vanilla extract (I sliced the butter so it melted faster and mixed more easily). ***If you would like to flavor the pastry cream, do so here*** (See King Arthur link for flavoring suggestions)
Cover the cream with a piece of plastic wrap, making sure the wrap touches the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cool.
Will keep covered in the fridge for up to five days before it begins to weep.
Pastry cream going into the fridge to cool
Pastry cream and raspberries in a torted 9″ round of devil’s food cake.
Cannoli Filling via Ginger Barragan
3/4 cup pastry cream
3/4 cup ricotta cheese (depending on brand, your cheese may need to be strained through cheesecloth overnight. A dry ricotta like Kraft Polly-O (my favorite!) can be used immediately.)
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1 Tbsp mini chocolate chips (I used more than 1 Tbsp. add to desired density of chips)
Stir pastry cream, ricotta, and powdered sugar until well-combined. Mix in chocolate chips. Chill for 1 hour before filling shells or using in cake.
After using just egg whites in the Italian meringue buttercream experiment, I had many yolks left over and didn’t want them to go to waste. In looking up desserts that utilize only egg yolks, I found one of my favorite decadent treats – chocolate mousse!
There are many different ways to make chocolate mousse and each way provides a different flavor and consistency. For my first go at chocolate mousse from scratch, I used a recipe from Betty Crocker. This is a very easy recipe to use and resulted in a very tasty dessert. After making the straight mousse, I mixed macadamia nuts and coconut into one serving and paired a second serving with a dark chocolate cake. Both combinations were delicious.
For the chocolate, you can use any type you prefer. I had a random assortment of semi-sweet, dark, and milk baking chocolate and chocolate morsels left over from other experiments, so I used them all and ended up with a mostly semi-sweet flavored mousse. Both the baking chocolate and morsels melted and mixed just fine. This recipe seems like it will take flavors and various mix-ins quite well, so have fun with it and top it off with some whipped cream!
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
8 oz semi-sweet baking chocolate, chopped (or broken into pieces)
Beat egg yolks in a small bowl with an electric mixer on high speed for about 3 mins or until thick and lemon colored.
Gradually beat in the sugar.
Heat 1 cup of the whipping cream in a 2 qt saucepan over medium heat until hot (mine went from somewhat cool to nearly boiling very quickly, so keep an eye on the cream). Gradually stir at least half of the hot whipping cream into the egg yolk mixture. Then stir the mixture back into the rest of the hot whipping cream in the saucepan. Cook over a low heat for about 5 mins, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens (do not boil). Stir in chocolate until melted (I recommend having your chocolate ready in a medium bowl and pouring the heated mixture over the chocolate. Let this sit for a couple of minutes so that the chocolate has a chance to melt. This makes stirring a lot easier.)
Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours or until just chilled (mine was closer to an hour and a half than two hours), stirring occasionally. You’ll notice the mixture taking on more of a mousse texture each time you go to stir. Even though it’s firming up, it still stirs very easily. Don’t be afraid to mix it up. When you place the mixture in the fridge, cover and place an empty medium mixing bowl in the fridge with it.
Once the mixture is cooled, take both bowls out of the fridge. Beat 1 1/2 cups of whipping cream in the empty chilled bowl with an electric mixer on high until stiff. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture. Folding mixtures together does take some time. Be sure to work the mixtures from different areas of the bowl so that any pockets of chocolate or whipped cream that form are broken up and combined.
Pipe or spoon the mixture into serving bowls (or on cake or into prepared dessert cups, etc.). Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving.
This was a simple experiment that turned out quite well. Use your favorite fudge recipe and use Andes mint baking chips in place of the chocolate. For example, my recipe calls for 12 oz of chocolate. The Andes mint baking chips came in a 10 oz bag, so I did those 10 oz plus 2 oz semisweet Nestle chips. Varying the amount of Andes mint chips to chocolate chips or chocolate bits will change the strength of the mint in the fudge. Being a mint lover, the strength from the 10 oz/2 oz mix was very enjoyable.
A quick recap from the last post: I was recently asked if I would donate some goodies to a fund raising event for a local chapter of The Harry Potter Alliance. Cavendish Brewing Company was hosting a Yule Ball and was interested in treats for their room of requirement as well as pieces for the auction. I couldn’t resist supporting a good cause and coming up with themed bakes!
The second recipe to share from this experience is for my Survival by Chocolate: A Dementor Salve cake. This is pretty simple to put together and tastes amazing! This was an auction item for the night.
Start with a chocolate cake. I made a devil’s food cake but dark chocolate would work very well, too. I baked this one into two 9” rounds.
Then, make a Nutella buttercream. My Baking Addiction’s recipe utilizes a lot of powdered sugar and produces enough buttercream to top a large batch of cupcakes or very generously frost a 9” cake. I still had enough leftover buttercream to mix it with my cake scraps to make three large parfaits! Check out the recipe and notes on the site: https://www.mybakingaddiction.com/nutella-cupcakes/
To really help bring out the flavor of the Nutella, be sure to generously add baked and chopped hazelnuts and top with a chocolate ganache. For the ganache on this cake, I used a 1:1 ratio of heavy cream to chocolate.
Survival by Chocolate: A Dementor Salve
Bake a devil’s food cake in two 9” round pans. Once the cakes have cooled completely, trim the tops so that they are flat. Save cake scraps for later. Add a generous amount of buttercream to the top of the first round. Make sure the buttercream layer is level. Sprinkle some chopped hazelnuts on top. Place the second round on top of the buttercream and nut layer. Add buttercream to the top of the new layer. Frost the sides of both cake layers. Work frosting until the top and sides are smooth. Save extra buttercream for later. Pour the chocolate ganache over the entire cake. Decorate with more chopped hazelnuts.
Chocolate Hazelnut Buttercream:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 13-oz jar of Nutella or other chocolate hazelnut spread
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1.5 lbs confectioner’s sugar, sifted
6-8 Tbsp heavy cream or milk
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and Nutella until well combined, thick, and fluffy (about 5 mins). Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar and continue mixing until well-blended.
Add vanilla and 3 Tbsp of heavy cream. Blend on low speed until moistened. Add an additional 3-5 Tbsp of heavy cream (I used 5) until you reach the desired consistency. Beat at high speed until frosting is smooth and fluffy (about 3 mins).
6 oz milk chocolate baking chocolate, broken or chopped into pieces
6 oz heavy cream
Heat heavy cream on the stove or in the microwave. For the microwave, heat for 45 seconds to 1 minute. Cream should be steaming but not boiling. Keep a close eye on it.
Pour heated cream over the chocolate pieces. Let sit for 2-3 minutes to melt the chocolate. Stir using a whisk until the chocolate and cream are well-blended into a rich chocolate sauce. Pour ganache over cake (cake should be sitting on a cooling rack that is over a cookie sheet covered with plastic, parchment, or wax paper to catch the drippings).
Using the leftovers:
Place the scraps left from leveling the cake rounds into a bowl. Add all of the extra buttercream to the scraps. Stir until combined. Spoon mixture into cups, layering with hazelnuts. Top with whipped cream or serve over vanilla ice cream. Serve as parfaits.
Crystal adding whole hazelnuts to the outer border of the cake
Nutella buttercream coating
Parfaits made of the cake scraps, leftover buttercream, and extra hazelnuts