Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top 10 Posts of 2015

As I do every year, I am back to recap the top 10 posts here on Eva Bakes. These are the recipes that you all visited the most this year. Ready? Here we go!


 
 




And the #1 post of 2015 is... Homemade English muffins!

Thank you all for supporting me in 2015, and I look forward to sharing many more recipes with you in 2016!

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Lower sugar blueberry muffins

Classic blueberry muffins get a lower sugar makeover with only 1/3 cup of light brown sugar. The muffins are sweetened by the natural sugars in the blueberries. These healthier muffins are a great way to kick off 2016!

It's hard to believe that 2016 is literally this week! Where did this year go? I imagine that some of you (myself definitely NOT included) may be making your New Year's resolutions. One popular resolution that people make is to eat healthier. Well, I wanted to share a healthier blueberry muffin recipe that you should try out.

This is a dessert blog, so you all know that I love my sweets. Occasionally, I will make a healthier ingredient swap where it makes sense or if I know it won't affect the overall taste of the final product. Sugar is a difficult ingredient to quit cold-turkey if you're hooked on it. These muffins will hopefully help ease that process if cutting back on sugar is one of your eating goals.


My gracious friend, E, gave me Joanne Chang's fabulous cookbook, Baking With Less Sugar for my birthday. I'm planning on trying more recipes but this one stood out to me immediately. I altered Joanne's recipe a bit to make it even healthier, but an average person wouldn't know unless you told them.

As we are clearly a muffin-loving bunch in the Eva Bakes household, we loved these muffins. Yes, they were slightly less sweet than the grocery store or bakery versions, but the juicy blueberries kept these naturally sweet. The muffins did not last long at our house, and I was already getting requests for more muffins after a few days.

Here's to a healthy, happy and totally sweet 2016!

Lower sugar blueberry muffins
  • 1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (one 6 ounce container) nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 and 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not thaw)
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a standard muffin pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the eggs, brown sugar, butter, milk, Greek yogurt and vanilla. Pour this into the large bowl and gently stir together until a few dry streaks remain. The batter will be extremely thick and lumpy.

Gently fold in the blueberries until they are evenly distributed.

Evenly distribute the batter into your muffin pan, filling each about 3/4 full.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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

Yield: About 16 muffins

Source: Adapted from Baking With Less Sugar, by Joanne Chang, pages 34-36


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Friday, December 25, 2015

Skating Fridays

Merry Christmas - and a Duet Video


Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate Christmas (and Happy Hanukkah and Happy Kwanzaa too).  I'm on a skating break this week to visit family, so I thought I'd leave you with a video of my duet from this past September.

The music is set to Disney's The Incredibles and Men in Black. We were the only ones in our category so we did not compete against anyone. Regardless, we had a great time and got to "shoot" the judges!

Enjoy, and happy holidays to all!


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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Alice Medrich's chocolate pudding

A dangerously addicting dark chocolate pudding from chocolate expert and aficionado, Alice Medrich. This pudding is incredibly rich, chocolate-y and sure to please the chocoholics in your life!

How is Christmas only 2 days away? If you're still looking for a quick, easy dessert for your family, read on. This fabulous chocolate pudding serves 6 and would be a wonderful addition to your holiday meal.

I realized not too long ago that it's been way too long since I've made pudding for my family. We are definitely chocolate pudding fans, and I am way too snobby to buy the refrigerated or shelf-stable versions from the grocery store.

Besides, homemade pudding is easy to make and only requires one saucepan and one utensil. It doesn't get much easier than that. All you need is a little patience and the willingness to keep stirring, stirring, stirring. You'll be rewarded with a thick, rich and super chocolate-y pudding at the end. Plus, the chocolate-y goodness will make your kitchen smell like a chocolate factory.


I made this in about 15 minutes and allowed the pudding to chill during dinnertime. My family and I went grocery shopping afterwards, and by the time we returned home, the pudding was ready to eat.

My daughter promptly got chocolate pudding all over her mouth, face and hands. She proclaimed that this was the best pudding ever. I hope you'll give it a try too and let me know if your family enjoys this as much as we did.

Happy holidays!

Alice Medrich's chocolate pudding
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 3/4 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract  
Directions  
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt. Slowly drizzle in the milk and heavy cream and mix until a few dry streaks remain.

Place the saucepan on the stove and turn to medium heat. Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and small bubbles start to form around the edges (about 10-15 minutes).

Add the chopped chocolate and stir until smooth. Turn the stove off and remove the saucepan from the heat. Stir in the vanilla extract and whisk until it is fully incorporated.

Transfer the pudding to bowls, cups or ramekins. Cool slightly, cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 and 1/2 hours until set.

Store leftover pudding in the refrigerator.

Yield: About 6, 4-ounce servings

Source: Saveur

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Healthier acorn squash bread

A slightly healthier version of my acorn squash bread - this contains no oil or butter and uses less sugar than the original! Plus, it features whole wheat flour!

Don't get me wrong. I love sugar and sweets. But sometimes, it just doesn't make sense to eat too much sugar first thing in the morning. I've been on a breakfast baking frenzy lately and have made lots of quick breads for my family.

Several of the recipes I've tried contain a ton of processed sugar. And while I'm not watching my daily sugar intake, I do want to make smart substitutions where it makes sense. I revamped my original acorn squash bread and made it slightly healthier. I swapped the granulated sugar for brown sugar and reduced the amount. I also substituted the oil for unsweetened applesauce and even used whole wheat flour in place of all-purpose.

I'm not claiming that this is health food (it is far from it), but at least it's a bit healthier than the previous acorn squash bread I made. It was still a big hit with my family, and nobody knew about the ingredient substitutions that I had made.

What makes me happy is that when I tell Addie that I am making a pumpkin/squash item, she gets all excited. She now likes squash and associates it with good food, so I'm turning her into a fan. That's worth a million bucks right there.

Healthier acorn squash bread
  • 1 small-medium acorn squash
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • ½ unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 and ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground clove
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
Cut the squash in half and scoop out the insides with the seeds and stringy stuff.  Put the squash cut sides down on a high sided baking tray and fill the tray with ½ an inch of water.  Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the squash is very tender.  Remove from the oven and let the squash cool.  Scoop out the fleshy bits with a spoon puree in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Set aside 1 cup of the puree for the bread. Keep the oven on.

In a medium size bowl, blend together 1 cup of the squash puree, brown sugar, the applesauce, and the eggs.  

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, spices, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Slowly add this to the squash mixture and mix until no longer lumpy.

Grease and flour your bread pan and pour in the batter.  Bake for 45-55 minutes until set.  A toothpick inserted into the center of the bread should come out clean.

Bread should be stored in an airtight container and will last for a few days. It will keep longer in the refrigerator.

Yield: One 9"x5" loaf (about 8-12 servings)

Source: Slightly adapted from my original acorn squash bread

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Skating Fridays

2016 Skating Goals


It's that time of year to declare my skating goals for 2016. Once again, I have a lofty list, but it's better to dream and aspire than to maintain status quo, right?

Here we go:

  1. Increase PCS (program component scores) in freestyle programs. I'm hovering around the 14 point mark and want to reach at least 17. To do this, I will need to skate stronger, faster, and execute more power with better transitions. That means fewer crossover strokes.

  2. Increase technical scores. I've received the "dash of doom" in every competition this year. If I can avoid that and skate a clean program, my technical scores should increase. I'm aiming for 0 or positive Grades of Execution (GOE) and have the technical elements to hit around 13 or 14 points.

  3. Earn at least 27 points in my freestyle program (will depend on above, since my overall points consists of PCS and Technical)

  4. Get my double salchow more consistent

  5. Work on higher level spins and include in my freestyle program. I already have a level 3 sit spin and would love to have my other 2 spins earn a "level."

  6. Start working on double toe loop and/or double loop
If all goes according to plan, then the competition results will come. Ultimately, I'd love to represent my rink in the Championship Adult Gold Ladies event at Adult Nationals, but that will only happen if I can meet goals 1-3 above. First stop will be Sectionals in March, so I will be practicing hard for that.

What are your skating goals this coming year?


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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Soft and chewy chocolate peppermint cookies

These soft and chewy chocolate peppermint cookies are perfect for the holiday season. Bake them for a cookie swap, a party, a neighbor, or just because. You will love these!

My friend and coworker hosts a cookie swap at her house every year. This year was the 14th year of the annual event. As I do every year, I had to really think about what to bring. Sometimes attendees bring similar cookies, and I did not want that to happen this year.

I thought about my favorite holiday flavors, chocolate and peppermint, and set out to make a cookie that incorporated that combination. I came across this soft and chewy cookie and thought it would be perfect.

We didn't eat our cookies at the swap so I didn't get real-time feedback on the taste and texture of these cookies. My family did taste test a few the day I baked these, and both my husband and Addie loved them. In fact, after I returned home from the cookie swap, they both asked me if I had kept any of these cookies for ourselves. I only managed to save one, but I think that's plenty.

The only thing I'd change about these cookies is to potentially add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract to the dough. The peppermint chips didn't seem to provide as much minty flavor as I would have wanted.

Soft and chewy chocolate peppermint cookies
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • ½ cup peppermint baking chips plus more for sprinkling on top
Directions
In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. 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 vanilla, egg and water and mix well. Turn the mixer to low and gradually add in the dry ingredients until everything is well combined (alternatively, you can fold the dry ingredients in by hand). The batter will be very stiff.

Turn the mixer off and fold in the baking chips by hand. Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Using a medium sized cookie scoop (or two spoons), portion out the dough and place them about 2 inches apart on your prepared baking pans. Bake in your preheated oven for about 7-8 minutes. Do not over bake. Sprinkle the top with additional baking chips if desired.

Allow the cookies to cool completely before serving.

Cookies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep at least a week. They can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: About 20 cookies

Source: Mom on Timeout

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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Triple chocolate biscotti

This triple chocolate biscotti will go perfect with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. With semi-sweet and white chocolate chips, it's sure to brighten to your day!

Time for another What's Baking challenge!

This month, our host is Coleen of The Redhead Baker. We had several themes to vote on this month, and biscotti was chosen as the winning theme. Since I am not a coffee drinker, I have never made biscotti before. I guess I could have dunked these crispy cookies into a nice mug of hot chocolate, but the idea of it never crossed my mind until now.

Regardless, I was happy about the theme because it challenged me to bake something I never would have made otherwise. I guess that's the point of these What's Baking challenges anyway, right? So now how was I going to decide what type of biscotti to bake?

For my first attempt at biscotti, I wanted a recipe with ingredients that I already had. I've seen a lot of fun flavors floating around the internet but didn't want to have to buy a specialty ingredient or an item that I normally wouldn't have in my pantry. So chocolate biscotti it was. Well, triple chocolate in my case.

The dough for this biscotti came together very quickly. I actually cheated the 10 minute chilling process and only chilled for a few minutes (I had to be somewhere and was strapped for time). The biscotti still turned out wonderfully. It was crunchy, chocolate-y and would go perfectly well with a cup of joe or hot chocolate.

Be sure to visit The Redhead Baker to see what types of biscotti the other ladies made.

Triple chocolate biscotti
  • 1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup plus 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Directions
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 sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add the cocoa powder and baking powder and mix for another 2 minutes. Add in the egg until fully incorporated.

Turn off the mixer and fold in the flour by hand. The batter will be thick and sticky. Mix until a few dry streaks remain.

Add in the chocolate chips and mix until everything just comes together.

Cover and chill in your refrigerator for 10 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll it into a 9" long log. Place the log on the prepared baking sheet, flatten slightly and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn the oven off for now.

Allow the dough log to cool for about an hour.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Cut the loaf into diagonal strips about 1/2 inch wide.  Place cut side up on the baking sheet in your preheated oven for about 9 minutes. Then flip the biscotti over and bake for another 9 minutes.

Allow the biscotti to cool completely before serving. They should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for several days.

Yield: About 10 servings

Source: Barely adapted from Allrecipes.com

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Friday, December 11, 2015

Skating Fridays

Progress (or Not) from 2015 Skating Goals


About a year ago, I shared my 2015 skating goals with you. It's that time of year again to see how I fared on the list.

  1. Earn higher PCS scores in my IJS programs (goal: at least 17 points)  This did not happen. While my PCS scores did improve and I am skating faster and stronger, my transitions still need some work. I am still proud of the progress I made though.

  2. Place in the top 4 in the Gold Ladies event at Sectionals and qualify for the Championship Gold Ladies event at Adult Nationals   This definitely did not happen. I placed 2nd to last at Sectionals but am proud for attempting it. Maybe next year!

  3. Earn a total score of 28+ points in my IJS programs This didn't happen either. My brain keeps getting in the way and I have the ability to earn this score, but my mind wasn't well prepared. Hope to accomplish this next year.

  4. Add a double salchow to my skating repertoire (meaning that it's consistently landed)  I just landed my double salchow for the first time in November, so this goal is a work in progress.

  5. Learn a double toe loop  We did not work on this element in 2015.

  6. Learn a legitimate, non-adult version of a layback spin  We did not work on laybacks this year.

  7. Continue to skate faster and with better power and flow  This will always be a goal. I've made a lot of improvements in this area and hope to continue to make strides to become a better skater.

  8. Add more difficult spins to my repertoire and use them in programs  I added a flying camel to my program this year and received credit for it, so I am proud of that. I did have another difficult spin but flubbed it during competition. Hopefully I will be ready this coming year!

All in all, how did I do? Well, even though I did not reach most of these goals, I am still proud of the progress I made this year. I'm looking forward to see what 2016 brings.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Acorn squash (or pumpkin) cake bars with cream cheese frosting

A fall spice flavored cake-like bar topped with everyone's favorite cream cheese frosting. Mine uses acorn squash but you can substitute with pumpkin or even butternut squash!

I made a bunch of acorn squash puree to bake some quick bread. Since I didn't use up all the puree, I had some leftover and wasn't quite sure what to bake. I wanted to make something that would feed a crowd (namely the parents of Addie's gymnastics classmates) and give everyone plenty of slices to taste.

I found a recipe for pumpkin bars and made multiple tweaks to fit my tastes. I swapped out the pumpkin puree for acorn squash since that is what I had. I also replaced the oil for applesauce and reduced the sugar (and substituted some of it with brown sugar). I also subbed the cinnamon for pumpkin pie spice.

Not going to lie to you here. These bars turned out more like cake, but I am definitely not complaining. It was soft and fluffy like a cake, and the frosting made it even more cake-like. If you are looking for a sturdy bar with a shortbread-like crust, this is not it.

I told our friends that this was a pumpkin cake. Nobody knew the difference and it was a hit with everyone who tried it. Even Addie gobbled hers down very quickly and didn't leave a crumb on her plate. Looks like another winning recipe.

Acorn squash bars with cream cheese frosting
  • 4 eggs 
  • 1 cup granulated sugar 
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup acorn squash puree (can substitute with pumpkin puree)
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 recipe cream cheese frosting (I had leftover frosting in the refrigerator from this cake)
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a 9"x13" baking pan 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, mix together the eggs, sugars, applesauce and squash/pumpkin puree on medium speed until the mixture is uniform.

Turn the mixer to low and add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Mix until everything is well incorporated.

Transfer the batter to your prepared baking pan and bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Frost the top of the bars with the cream cheese frosting once the bars have cooled completely.

Store the bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They will keep for about a week.

Yield: One 9"x13" pan; at least 18-24 servings or more depending on how big you cut the slices

Source: Adapted from Paula Deen, via the Food Network

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Sunday, December 6, 2015

Double chocolate buttermilk muffins

If you are a chocoholic and need your fix in the morning, check out these double chocolate buttermilk muffins. They are soft, fluffy and sure to satisfy your chocolate cravings!
Who here loves chocolate? Yup, my hand is raised too. And so is my 5 year old's. When I ask her what to make for breakfast in the mornings, her answer is almost always "chocolate muffins." I can't blame her because I am a chocoholic too and pretty much need to eat it every day.

I had a bunch of buttermilk in the refrigerator and wanted to make some type of muffin to use it up. As soon as the muffins finished cooling, my husband got a text from our neighbor. He and his wife just finished raking up some leaves and wanted to see if Addie wanted to stop by to jump in the piles of leaves with their children. My husband asked if we could take some of these muffins to the neighbors, so of course I said yes.

Addie had a blast jumping in leaves that afternoon and managed to get her pants super dirty. She got a few stray leaves in her hair as well, so it was definitely an enjoyable experience. As for the muffins? Well, they were light and soft and contained just enough chocolate to satisfy my cravings.

Our neighbors enjoyed the muffins as well and said that they were a hit at their house. This is a great recipe to use up any leftover buttermilk you might have (and satisfy the chocoholics in your family).

Double chocolate buttermilk muffins
  • 2 cups flour
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Generously grease a standard muffin pan and set aside.

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

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the sugars, applesauce, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla extract. Pour this into the large bowl and mix until a few streaks remain. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Evenly distribute the batter into your muffin pan and fill each well about 3/4 full. Bake in your preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the oven comes out clean.

Allow the muffins to cool completely before serving. Leftover muffins should be stored in an airtight container and stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Room temperature muffins will last for about 2 days; refrigerated muffins will last about 5 days.

Yield: About 16 muffins

Source: Barely adapted from Jen's Favorite Cookies

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Friday, December 4, 2015

Skating Fridays

Double Salchow on Video!


I just got back from a week-long trip to Taiwan so I haven't been skating much in the past two weeks. The 24+ hour trip to and from the island country must have done quite a number on my lower back because it was killing me when I arrived there and returned home. Guess sitting on a plane for 15 straight hours doesn't help.

Anyway, I am back on the ice this week and tried to see if I could land that double salchow again. I fell pretty badly earlier in the week (on an attempt) and earned another large bruise on my knee. I kept trying and trying and finally was able to land another one!

Since I was "feeling it," I got out my phone and started recording. Much to my excitement, I was able to catch a successful jump on video.

Yes, this jump still needs a lot of work, but I only landed it for the first time two weeks ago. My air position is quite ugly and I am still 1/4 turn cheated on the landing, but it should be considered IJS clean.

Coach B and my choreographer are both thrilled, and I am hoping to make this jump more consistent in the weeks and months to come.

Without further adieu, here is the video!


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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Peppermint patty flourless chocolate cake

Love peppermint patties? Then you will adore this flourless peppermint patty chocolate cake. With a chocolate base, this cake is topped with a white chocolate ganache and finished off with a layer of decadent chocolate ganache. It's probably the biggest peppermint patty you'll ever eat!

I adore peppermint patties. I've even tried making my own. They're one of those seemingly low-fat foods (at least in my head) that I can eat a few of without feeling too guilty. With my birthday last month, I thought that a peppermint patty flavored cake would be perfect to celebrate the occasion.

Don't get me wrong - this is definitely NOT a low-fat dessert. Sure, you can eat multiple slices, but one (small serving) will be plenty. We start off with a flourless chocolate cake and then top it with a rich and creamy white chocolate peppermint ganache and then top THAT with a layer of decadent chocolate. Got your attention yet?

I made this cake over a few days because I didn't want to be rushed. Plus, I wanted to spend my birthday doing other things like shopping and skating. Yes, I love to bake, but I didn't want to be stuck inside the kitchen all day.


The cake base rose a lot higher than I expected (I used a 10" springform pan). And while it wasn't dry, the cake's structure did not stay together very well. Every time I attempted to cut into the cake, the base would crumble and lose its shape (see the photos above). While disappointing, the overall flavor of the cake was top-notch and definitely reminiscent of a peppermint patty.

If I make this cake again, I'll keep the ganache layers the same but may use the flourless chocolate cake from this recipe. That particular cake was much sturdier and would be able to hold up the two layers of ganache.

Peppermint patty flourless chocolate cake
Flourless chocolate cake
  • 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 5 and ⅔ ounces (3/4 cup) brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 Tablespoon coffee or water
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp salt
White chocolate mint ganache
  • 12 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped, or white chocolate chips
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) heavy cream
  • 1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½-1 teaspoon mint extract
  • Pinch salt
Chocolate glaze
  • 10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 10 ounces (1 and ¼ cup) heavy cream
Directions
Bake the cake: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9-inch baking pan with a removable bottom (or a springform pan) with parchment paper, and generously grease or spray the pan and parchment. Place the chocolate and butter in a large microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second increments until the chocolate has melted. Stir to combine and set aside to cool until it is room temperature.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, beat the eggs and brown sugar on medium speed for about 5-7 minutes or until it triples in volume. Turn the mixer to low and add in the melted chocolate, coffee or water, vanilla, and salt. Transfer the batter into your prepared pan and smooth the top.
Bake your cake for about 40 minutes or until the edges are set but the middle is still underdone. Allow the cake to cool until room temperature. The center of the cake will collapse as it cools - this is totally OK and expected.

Make the mint ganache: In a small saucepan, combine the heavy cream and corn syrup. Turn the stove on to medium to heat the mixture until it comes to a simmer. Place the white chocolate in a medium sized bowl. Pour the hot cream over the white chocolate and let it sit untouched for one minute. Then whisk the chocolate and cream together until it is smooth. Add the butter, mint extract and salt and continue whisking until everything is well combined.

Gently pour the white chocolate ganache into the sunken middle of the cake and smooth it out if needed. Refrigerate the cake until the white chocolate ganache has set - at least 2 hours.

Make the glaze and assemble the cake: Remove the cake from the pan and put it on a cake pan and set it on a wire rack with a baking pan set underneath. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan set over medium heat, combine the heavy cream and corn syrup until it comes to a simmer.  Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and let it sit untouched for one minute. Then whisk the chocolate and cream together until it is smooth.

Pour the chocolate over the cake and smooth the top. Allow the ganache to drip off the sides and smooth  with an offset spatula. , using a small offset spatula to push it to the edges and to smooth it over the sides. Refrigerate the cake until the chocolate ganache has set - about 30 minutes. If desired, you can garnish the top of the cake with fresh mint leaves, chopped peppermint patties or chocolate curls.

Allow the cake to come to room temperature before slicing and serving. Leftover cake should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will keep for several days.

Yield: One 9" cake; about 12-16 servings

Source: Sugar Hero

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Easy pumpkin bread

A simple pumpkin bread that you can you can customize to your tastes - add your favorite chips or top with luscious glaze to make it extra special! Best of all, it's made in one bowl!

My husband told me that a few fast food chains are finally starting to catch onto the pumpkin bandwagon. These "restaurants" (and yes, I am using quotations) debuted pumpkin milkshakes, pumpkin drinks, and other pumpkin-flavored items. What I find ironic about these products is that very few of them actually contain pumpkin. Instead, pumpkin spice is what gives them their flavors.

Me? While I love pumpkin spice, I want something with actual pumpkin puree in it. Not only is the pumpkin smooth and creamy, but it also keeps your baked goods from drying out. I was heading out of town one weekend and wanted to make sure my husband and daughter had something to eat in the mornings so I decided to bake a pumpkin bread.

I tweaked a recipe that I found on King Arthur Flour to cut down the quantity and to make it less sweet. I also upped the pumpkin spices and swapped out the oil for applesauce to reduce the fat. Don't be fooled - this slightly healthier version has lots of flavor and is just as good as its full-fat cousin.

This bread was an instant hit at our house, and Addie has been taking a slice of it to school every day for her morning snack. She likes eating it after school as well, so it is definitely kid-approved.

Easy pumpkin bread
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a standard 9"x5" loaf pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the applesauce, sugars, eggs, water, pumpkin puree and vanilla. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice. Mix until just combined - do not over mix.

Transfer the batter to your prepared baking pan and bake in your preheated oven for about 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the bread to cool completely (preferably overnight) before slicing and serving. Leftover bread should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for about a week.

Yield: One 9"x5" loaf; about 8-10 servings

Source: Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Friday, November 27, 2015

Skating Fridays

Lessons From a Hockey Guy


We figure skaters like to joke that hockey players aren't real skaters. The ones that take basic (figure) skating skills are usually the ones that end up being better hockey players. They learn proper edges, turns and other fundamentals that are crucial to their sport.

There is an adult male skater (a former hockey player) that I see about once a week on public ice. He and I have become friendly, and we like to talk about what each of us is working on. I've noticed his nice spread eagles and decided to ask him about it this week since it's an element that I have never been able to do. I've had a few coaches attempt to teach me, but nothing worked.

Hockey guy gave me a few really good tips that nobody else has ever told me about:

  1. You really need to open up your hips. A common mistake is that skaters try to open at the knees, but this will cause your rear to stick out. Similar to a layback spin, a skater must push forward at the hips.
  2. Your weight will not be evenly distributed. He said it's different for every skater, but for him, he has about 60% of his weight on the front (leading) leg and 40% on the back leg.
  3. You will mostly glide near the heels. I always thought you glided on the middles of the blades, but I was wrong.
  4. "Frog" and "lotus" exercises (in yoga) will help you learn to open up those hips.
After he shared this knowledge with me, I attempted a few spread eagles. Big fail.

I came back to the rink the next day and lo and behold, a mini spread eagle appeared out of nowhere! I tried it again the next day and Hockey Guy's coach came up to me and said that it has improved tenfold. I told her that it was because of the tips that Hockey Guy gave me.

Who would have known that a figure skater could learn skating skills from a hockey player? It's very cool, and I'm sure I'll pick up more tips from him!

Here is a video of my beginner spread eagle. It still has a ways to go, but it's a pretty good start considering that I have never been able to do this before.


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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Malted chocolate chip bars

Give chocolate chip bars a facelift by adding malted milk powder. The resulting bars are incredibly crispy on the outside and super fudgy on the inside!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I'm sure most of you have dessert already figured out for tomorrow night, but if you don't, here is a fun alternative to the traditional sweets.

It's been a few months since I last baked with malted milk powder. I made a vanilla malt cake and malted milk chocolate cake for my husband in June. Otherwise, the container of malted milk powder has just been sitting quietly in the pantry.

My brother and his wife were coming to visit one recent weekend and I had no idea what to bake for them. My brother isn't a huge dessert fan (I have no idea how we are related) so I wanted to make something that might win him over. Nothing too fancy and nothing too complicated.


Chocolate chip bars seemed like a good choice. Except they were a bit too boring and uninspired. I remembered the sad and lonely malted milk powder and thought that it would be a great addition to the bars and give them that extra boost of flavor. As it turns out, this was a fabulous idea.

The bars had a crispy, crackly top like a brownie. The insides of the bars were rich, gooey and fudgy all at the same time. And the bars had a good malted flavor to them too. It wasn't overpowering but it wasn't hiding in the shadows either.

My brother and his wife loved these bars. We sat on our outside patio and ate these while the sun started to set. The heat made the bars slightly melty, so we had to lick some chocolate off of our fingers afterwards. The malt flavor is still a bit subdued, but the bars were still awesome and a bit more sophisticated than your standard chocolate chip bar recipe. While this may not be a traditional Thanksgiving dessert, it's one that freezes well, can be cut into small or large slices, and contains chocolate (which is always missing during this holiday, in my opinion).

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Malted chocolate chip bars
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup malted milk powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups chocolate chips of choice
Directions
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Generously grease or line a standard 8"x8" baking pan and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, mix together the butter, sugars, malted milk powder and vanilla on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the egg and mix until well-combined.

Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add in the small bowl with the dry ingredients.  Mix until everything just comes together. Turn the mixer off and fold in the chocolate chips by hand. Save about a 1/2 cup.

Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and smooth out the top with a spatula. Sprinkle the reserved chocolate chips on top.

Bake in your preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the top starts to turn golden brown. Allow to cool completely before slicing and serving.

Bars should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. They will keep for about a week.

Yield: One 8"x8" pan; about 16 bars

Source: Barely adapted from Warm Vanilla Sugar

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Fall spice cake with cream cheese frosting

This fall spice cake is perfect for autumn-with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and cloves, it is sure to wake up your tastebuds. You'll want to eat the cream cheese frosting on its own!
Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that my college roommate is 2 days older than me. We have made it a tradition to celebrate our birthdays together every year. Fortunately, we have been able to celebrate almost every year together since graduating college. I think there were maybe 1 or 2 years where we haven't be able to make our schedules work.

This year, we were joined by our college suitemate, who was also in town for a work function. It's neat to know that I've known this ladies for over half my life. I'm lucky that we've stayed in touch and have remained good friends.


My former roommate made an elaborate brunch for us the next morning and asked if I would be willing to make something sweet. Although I wasn't sure if I would have the time to bake something that week, I made some time and even got Addie to help out.

I had forgotten that my roommate's nephew was coming to brunch  - he has several food allergies so I would feel awful if he wasn't able to eat the cake. Thankfully, the ingredients in this cake were suitable for him (minus the sprinkles) so he was able to enjoy our birthday cake after all. I got a lot of compliments on the cake and let my friends take some slices home with them. They all loved the fall spices and especially the frosting, and I have to agree with them 100%.

All in all, I had a fantastic weekend, and I hope to hang out with my friends again soon. I'll have to bake another cake for them the next time we see other!

Fall spice cake with cream cheese frosting
Cake
  • 2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 and 3/4 cups light-brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
Frosting
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 3 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Directions
Bake the cake: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease two 9" round baking pans and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and cloves. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, mix together the brown sugar, vegetable oil and applesauce on medium speed until well combined. Add the eggs and vanilla.

Turn the mixer to low and alternately add the flour and buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning with the flour.

Evenly divide the batter into your two prepared pans and bake in your preheated oven for 28-32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until smooth. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add in the powdered sugar and vanilla. If the frosting is too runny, add more powdered sugar. If it is too stiff, add a splash (about 1/2 teaspoon) of milk until you achieve your desired consistency.

Assemble the cake: Place one cake layer, cut side up, on a cake plate or platter. Add about 1/4 cup of frosting on top and spread with a spatula. Place the next layer, cut side down, on top. Frost the tops and sides with a thin layer of frosting and refrigerate. This is called creating a crumb coat. Once the frosting sets up, frost the cake with a thicker layer of cream cheese frosting and decorate as desired.

Cake should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Yield: One 9" cake; about 10-12 servings

Source: Cooking Classy

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