Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Baked Alaska

A showstopping Baked Alaska is easier to make than you think! Take shortcuts by using store-bought ice cream and cupcakes. This beautifully torched dessert will be the talk of your next party!

My husband's birthday was last month. Our birthday tradition is that the person of honor gets to choose whatever dessert they want, and I will make my best attempt to create it. My husband has been talked about baked Alaska for years... even though neither of us has actually tried it before. Something about the ice cream encased in a torched meringue just seemed to intrigue him.

When I brought home a copy of Baked Occasions from the library, my husband immediately said that this was the dessert that he wanted me to make. I read the instructions, and it didn't look too intimidating. I could use store-bought ice cream and cupcakes to make it even easier and fuss-free. But why? I decided to make my own cupcakes and two different flavors of ice cream for a 100% homemade version.

For whatever reason, I had a difficult time assembling my Alaskas. My chocolate ice cream was on the melty side, so no matter how quickly I worked to stack the cupcake halves on top of the ice cream, a puddle of chocolate would be gathering at the side almost immediately. And when I tried slathering the meringue on top, the same thing would happen.

Even though my Alaskas weren't the prettiest things ever, they were super tasty. I expected the meringue to be crunchier after being in the freezer, but they were still soft and fluffy.

Both Addie and my husband loved this dessert and were thrilled when I told them that this recipe made 12 of them. Since you'll have a dozen of these beauties, these Alaskas are a great dessert if you host a dinner party and want to wow your guests. Or, if you have a dessert-loving family, feel free to eat them over a course of a few days!

Baked Alaska
  • 1 pint ice cream of choice, slightly softened (I made Jeni's milkiest chocolate
  • 1 pint ice cream of choice, slightly softened (I made cookies and cream)
  • 12 unglazed, unfrosted chocolate cupcakes (I made half a batch of these)
  • 7 large egg whites
  • 1 and 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Put 1-2 large pieces of plastic wrap on top of a standard muffin pan. Make sure you press the plastic wrap all the way into the muffin wells. Don't worry if it's not perfect - you just want to make sure the bottoms and sides of the muffin wells are covered in plastic wrap.

Equally divide the first ice cream flavor into your 12 muffin wells. Use your hands to initially smooth out the ice cream. Then you can switch to a spoon and use the back side of it to even out the tops. Loosely cover the muffin pan with another layer of plastic wrap. Place this in the freezer for 1 hour.

Cut the cupcakes in half horizontally. Take off the top layer of plastic wrap from the muffin pan. Place the bottom half of the cupcake, cut side up, on top of the layer of ice cream. Press the cupcake down so it's packed in there good. Cover again and freeze for another 20 minutes. Then remove the second ice cream flavor to allow it to soften.

Remove the muffin pan from the freezer and take off the layer of plastic again. Even distribute the ice cream and repeat the same process as before - pack down the ice cream with your hands or the back of a spoon. Add the top half of the cupcake, smush it down and cover the muffin pan and freeze for another 5 hours or overnight.

Release the Alaskas by inverting the pan and by gently removing the plastic wrap. Place 6 Alaskas on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the other 6 Alaskas. Freeze for another 30 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, whisk the egg whites and sugar by hand until combined. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk constantly until the egg white mixture reaches 140 degrees F.

Beat the egg white mixture in the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer) on high speed until it starts to thicken. Add the cream of tartar. Once the egg whites reach stiff peaks, add the vanilla. Beat for another 3 minutes on high speed.

Working very quickly, remove 6 of the Alaskas from the freezer. Cover the Alaskas completely in the meringue, making sure that no part of the ice cream/cupcake is showing through. Repeat with the remaining Alaskas. Freeze for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

To finish the Alaskas, you can bake in the oven or use a kitchen torch. To bake, preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. Take 6 Alaskas and place it in the oven and bake for 1-3 minutes or until the tops are torched. Do not bake more than 6 at a time. Repeat with the remaining Alaskas.

Serve immediately.

Yield: 12 servings

Source: Baked Occasions by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Triple chocolate muffins

A triple chocolate muffin that is made with melted chocolate, cocoa powder and chocolate chips! This super chocolate-y muffin is a wonderful treat to snack on throughout the day. It's also the perfect excuse to eat chocolate for breakfast!

Yes, I am sharing another muffin recipe. I'm sorry, I just can't help myself. When I can make excuses to eat chocolate for breakfast, I am going to take it. I mean, how can you resist eating a TRIPLE chocolate item after you wake up? You just can't.

These beauties contain three doses of chocolate - from melted chocolate, cocoa powder and of course loads of chocolate chips. Does it get any better than that? Well, I guess I could have thrown in a molten chocolate center, but maybe I'll do that next time.

My family demolished these muffins in no time flat. Addie ate one just about every day for her breakfast, and I noticed that my husband was happily enjoying them too. The muffins are a tad on the drier side, so I'd actually recommend increasing the liquid a little bit in these - maybe bump the milk up to 3/4 cup (or adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup of applesauce).

The muffins will dry out a little bit if you keep them in the refrigerator. Just make sure you pop them in the microwave for about 10 seconds before serving.

Triple chocolate muffins
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, diced
  • 1 and 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup milk of choice
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Generously grease a standard muffin pan and set aside.

In a small microwave safe bowl, melt the butter and chopped chocolate together. Mix until it is completely smooth. Allow it to cool.

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

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the sugar, milk, eggs and vanilla.

Add the melted chocolate and milk mixtures to the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Slowly fold until a few dry streaks remain. Fold in the chocolate chips. Do not over mix.

Evenly distribute the batter into your prepared baking pan, filling each well about 3/4 full. Top with additional chocolate chips if desired.

Bake in your preheated oven for 5 minutes. Then, without opening the oven, turn the temperature down to 375 degrees F and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the muffins to cool before serving.

Muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days. They can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: 12 muffins


Friday, July 21, 2017

Skating Fridays

Seeing Double 

One of the adult male skaters at my rink happens to be a clockwise skater like me (I don't like to call us lefties, since we jump and spin to the right). We recently decided to see if partnering up would be a possibility.

He's probably 6 feet tall, and I am around 5'4" so there is a good height difference. We're at different free skate levels, but that's not a concern right now.

Here is a fun still shot of us attempting side-by-side upright spins.
 We'll see how far this experiment goes... or not!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Jeni's milkiest chocolate ice cream

A super smooth and creamy chocolate ice cream that is perfect for the summertime. Throw in your favorite add-ins for a candy-bar like treat!
Is there anything more perfect than ice cream in the summertime? I don't think so. My family and I have become such ice cream snobs that we'll only visit the places with the best ice cream and buy the smoothest and creamiest brands (when I'm not making my own batches).

We haven't touched any of the airy, cheap grocery brands in what seems like forever. One of our favorite brands is Jeni's ice creams, even though we've never technically bought a pint. We've eaten them while on vacation at their scoop shops, and I've even received an ice cream party in a box as a holiday gift, but I technically have never bought any in a store to take home. Crazy, right?

Since I own the cookbook, it makes sense to churn my own. That way, I get more ice cream for my money and we can customize our own add-ins. While I have seen Jeni's ice creams at my local grocery store, they are pretty expensive (the recent sale price was still $8-$9). I can make it for a fraction of the price.

When my husband asked me to make a baked Alaska for his birthday, the recipe asked for two pints of store-bought ice cream. Now, there was no way that I was going to use store bought ice cream for his special birthday treat so I had to make my own. The recipe suggested vanilla and coffee as the flavor combinations. But because Addie was going to have some of the baked Alaska, I didn't want to use coffee ice cream (hello, caffeine). So I opted for chocolate instead - this milky chocolate ice cream from Jeni's.

I'll write about the baked Alaska in another post, but the ice cream itself was super smooth, creamy and was reminiscent of a dreamy chocolate bar. Feel free to throw in your favorite add-ins: chocolate chips, nuts, marshmallows... you name it. Think about your favorite candy bar and include those ingredients into this ice cream so you have an ice cream version of your ultimate chocolate indulgence.

Jeni's milkiest chocolate ice cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (ideally 55%-70% cocoa)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
In a small bowl, mix 2 Tablespoons of milk with the cornstarch to make a slurry. Set this aside. Reserve the remaining milk and keep it separate.

Chop the chocolate and place it in a large bowl. Set a fine mesh sieve above it.

In a medium sized saucepan, heat the cream, remaining milk, evaporated milk, sugar and corn syrup on medium to medium-high heat until boiling. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until it is fully incorporated. Continue boiling for 4 minutes.

Take the saucepan off the stove and very carefully add the cornstarch/milk slurry. Mix until everything is well incorporated and put the pan back on the stove. Allow the mixture to come back to a boil and until the liquid becomes slightly thicker, about 1 minute.

Turn off the stove and pour the liquid through the sieve into the large bowl with the chopped chocolate. Add the salt and mix well until everything is fully incorporated.

At this point, you have two options. You can either set the ice cream over an ice bath (pour the contents into a large zip-top bag, seal it shut and place it over a large bowl with ice cubes), or put it in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Once the mixture is completely cool, churn it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.

Pour the ice cream into a container and set it in the freezer until it has hardened (at least 4 hours). 

Yield: About 1 quart

Source:  Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home

Monday, July 17, 2017

Christina Tosi's oatmeal cookies

Christina Tosi's oatmeal cookies are wonderful for those who don't like raisins in their baked goods. These raisin-less cookies are soft and chewy like a classic oatmeal raisin cookie and are dusted with a generous layer of powdered sugar!
Riddle me this - why do most oatmeal cookies have raisins in them? Don't get me wrong, I love oatmeal raisins, and they are one of my favorite cookies, but I started to wonder why we don't see many raisin-less cookies.

These soft and chewy oatmeal cookies taste very similar to your typical oatmeal raisin cookie. The hearty oats are enhanced with cinnamon. And before they are baked, these cookies are rolled in a generous layer of powdered sugar.

These cookies come from Christina Tosi (of Momofuku Milk Bar fame). Chef Tosi says that these are the brainchild of her grandmother. If you want, you can even toss in 1/2 cup of shredded coconut for a fun textural contrast. I'm not a fan of shredded coconut so I left that out.

So the next time you have a friend who wants an oatmeal raisin cookie without the raisins, you can bake these.

Christina Tosi's oatmeal cookies
  • 14 Tablespoons (1 and 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 and 1/4 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Line two standard baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugars together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the eggs and vanilla until well incorporated, about 1 minute.

Turn the mixer off and add in the flour, oats, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Using a rubber spatula, gently mix everything together. Then turn the mixer back on medium speed and beat until everything comes together, about 30 seconds.

Place the powdered sugar in a small bowl. Using a cookie scoop, scoop about golf-ball sized mounds of dough. Roll each ball of dough in powdered sugar, making sure to cover as much of the surface as you can.

Place each dough ball on your prepared baking sheet and be sure to leave at least 2 inches in between each cookie.

Bake in your preheated oven for 4 minutes. Then rotate the pans front to back and top to bottom and bake for an additional 5-6 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and appear crackled. The centers may appear slightly underdone, and that's OK.

Allow the cookies to cool completely on the pans before serving.

Cookies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep or several days.

Yield: About 2 dozen cookies

Source: Milk Bar Life, by Christina Tosi

Friday, July 14, 2017

Skating Fridays

Coach B's Spin Challenge 

Coach B came back a few weeks ago from the PSA (Professional Skaters Association) conference with lots of fun new warmup exercises. I've been slowly working my way through many of these and have enjoyed the new challenges in between my regular exercises.

One new gauntlet she threw down was a new spin challenge. She wanted to create some friendly competition among her skaters so she talked about a spin pyramid that she borrowed from Ryan Jahnke:

As an added bonus, she said that skaters that complete the pyramid would earn $100 from her. She said that I had a good chance of completing at least 50% of the pyramid, which would be an amazing feat.

I'll see how many of these items I can check off the pyramid over the next year. So far, Coach B has recorded the following for me in our first spin pyramid challenge:

  • Forward sit: 16 revolutions
  • Forward scratch spin: 22 revolutions
  • Forward camel spin: 8 revolutions
  • Backward sit: 8 revolutions
  • Backward scratch spin: 22 revolutions
  • Backward camel spin: 3 revolutions
And here are the other boxes I can also check off on the pyramid to start:
  • Forward sit difficult variation (cannonball/forward sit variation)
  • Backward sit difficult variation (backward twist)
  • Difficult entrance to a spin (illusion/windmill entry)
  • Upright difficult variation (Alaina Chartrand upright variation)
  • Forward camel difficult variation (catch foot grab)
Who wants to join me in the spin challenge? 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Brownie muffins

Want brownies for breakfast? Now you can, with these amazingly chocolate-y brownie muffins! With no baking powder or baking soda, these fabulous brownie muffins rely on whipped eggs for a perfect rise in the oven.

My husband's birthday was fast approaching, and I asked him to pick out a dessert recipe that he wanted to celebrate his big day. I checked out a few cookbooks from the library, and he was oohing and ahhing through both of them. What stopped him dead in his tracks was a Baked Alaska recipe.

While I was dissecting the recipe and finding ways to make this easily, I stumbled across this brownie muffin recipe. As soon as I saw it, I knew that I had to bake it. Brownies? In muffin form? Come on, you know that I'll make any excuse to eat chocolate for breakfast.

What's really interesting about these muffins is that there are no leavening agents. No baking soda or baking powder. The muffins get their height from vigorously whipped eggs and sugar. Then the remaining ingredients are gently folded in like you're making a meringue or macarons.

The resulting muffins are nice and chocolate-y but are a bit more delicate than your typical muffins or brownies. You'll have to be careful when you handle them, and make sure they are completely cool by the time you want to eat them; otherwise, the muffins may fall apart on you.

Bon appetit!

Brownie muffins 
  • 4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
  • ⅓ cup plus 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line or grease a standard muffin pan and set aside.

In a medium sized heatproof bowl, melt the chopped chocolate and butter in the microwave in 30 second increments. Stir well and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar together on high speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Your goal is to beat as much air into the eggs and sugar as you can, so do not skimp on this step.

Turn the mixer to low and add in the melted chocolate mixer.

Turn the mixer off and gently fold in the dry ingredients. Do not over mix the batter.

Evenly distribute the batter into your prepared muffin pan, filling each well all the way to the top.

Bake in your preheated oven for 13-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with wet crumbs. Do not over bake these. Allow the muffins to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Leftover muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Yield: The original recipe claims to make 12, but I only got 9

Source: Pretty. Simple. Sweet.


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