Sunday, May 29, 2016

Twix shortbread bars

Chocolate, caramel and shortbread bars reminiscent of Twix candy - how can you go wrong with those 3 epic layers?

Am I reading my calendar correctly? Is it really May? Please don't tell me that this year is almost half over! There is still so much to do and not enough time for it all. Right?

And although I always make time to bake desserts on a weekly basis, there are some days where I don't have that much time to get it done.  One day I had a bunch of time and a whole pint of heavy cream so I made some caramel sauce (I gifted some to Addie's teacher). I was craving candy bars and wanted something caramel-y so I baked these Twix shortbread bars.

The crust layer was quick and easy to make and hardly took any time. Since I already had caramel sauce, I poured that on top of my crust and popped it in the refrigerator to cool. Then I melted some chocolate chips in the microwave and spread it on top of the caramel and allowed the chocolate to harden. That was it.

These shortbread bars were reminiscent of a Twix bar with the 3 distinct layers. While these didn't have the traditional crunch of a Twix bar, I didn't mind.

This was a super simple, no-fuss bar recipe that took very little effort. This month's What's Baking challenge also happens to be bar recipes so please take a minute to visit Nichole's blog and see what the other baking ladies created.

Twix shortbread barsCrust
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
Caramel filling
Chocolate topping
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat your oven to 300 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, cream the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Then add the salt, vanilla and powdered sugar until smooth. Turn the mixer to low and and slowly add the flour and mix until everything comes together.

Spread the batter into your prepared baking pan and bake in your preheated oven for about 35 minutes or until the edges start to turn golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Pour the caramel on top of the cooled crust and place in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes or until the caramel has solidified.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave in 30-second increments. Spread this on top of the caramel and put the pan back in the refrigerator until the chocolate has completely hardened.

Once the chocolate has hardened, remove the bars from the refrigerator to cut and serve (you may want to use a warm knife for easier cutting). Store leftover bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They will last at least a week.

Yield: One 9"x13" pan; about 20-24 bars

Source: Barely adapted from My Kitchen Escapades

Friday, May 27, 2016

Skating Fridays

Lessons From a Champion

I traveled to California this week for work and decided to bring my skates along. I found a rink that wasn't too far from my hotel so I decided to skate the early morning freestyle each day I was in town.

Before the trip, I was able to get in touch with some skating friends that I had met at previous competitions. One of them happened to be the former Gold Ladies (national) champion, whom I'd only met once before. She happily agreed to skate with me one morning. I was ecstatic - I was going to share the ice with her!

Watching her flow across the ice was mesmerizing. She made everything look effortless.

During our practice, I asked her for some advice on two elements that I was working on (and that she has pretty much mastered): a broken leg sit spin (or "side sit") and a split falling leaf. She gave me great tips on both elements that I will try to implement into my practices.

I told her about my skating goals, and this is what she said to me: "You can do it! Just train your heart out and set that intention - you can do ANYTHING you put your mind to. Put in the work and go after that goal until it's accomplished."

While I already knew these things to be true, it meant a lot coming from a former champion. I can't even describe in words how it feels to have her believe in me.

I hope to do her (and my coach) proud and achieve my goals, so that maybe one day, I can repay the favor to another skater.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Chocolate chunk cookies

Still looking for the perfect chocolate chip cookies? These ridiculously chewy cookies from Joanne Chang might be pretty close. By chilling the dough, your cookies will turn out with a richer flavor and chewier texture.

It's been way too long since I've made chocolate chip cookies. I was in one of those moods where I needed a classic chocolate chip cookie. But, I didn't want to repeat a previous recipe so I looked through some cookbooks until I found one I hadn't tried yet.

This particular recipe is from Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery. I've made her peanut butter cookies, banana bread, pumpkin apple spice muffins and lower sugar blueberry muffins. My family and I enjoyed all of those recipes, so I figured that chocolate chip cookies were next.

In full disclosure, I did not chill my dough for a full 24 hours as Chef Chang recommended. I was heading to a neighbor's house for a cookout and did not have time to start these the day before. I did chill them for a good 4 hours so the dough was nice and firm, so my flavors did not get a chance to fully develop.

Also, my pastry chef in-training (Addie) tried helping me in the kitchen. She flattened the dough balls, but I think she went a bit overboard because my cookies spread a lot while baking. Make sure that you only slightly flatten the dough ball before baking; otherwise, you will end up with a puddle of cookies like we did.

Despite our mistakes, these cookies were awesome and ones I'd recommend you try. The cookies that didn't spread too much tasted the best. The perimeters of the cookies were nice and crisp, and the middles were soft and chewy, which is the way I prefer my chocolate chip cookies. I would have liked a slightly thicker cookie, but that was probably from my daughter smushing down on the dough too much. The two of us had a blast making these together and will most likely try another recipe soon.

Chocolate chunk cookies
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chunks
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 until well incorporated. Then add the vanilla.

In a separate medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Turn your mixer down to low and slowly add the dry ingredients to the mixer. Mix until everything just comes together. Turn the mixer off and fold in the chocolate chunks by hand using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate for several hours and up to overnight.

Once the dough has chilled completely, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon mats.

Portion out about 1/4 cup of dough and roll into a ball. Place on your prepared baking sheet and flatten slightly. Repeat with remaining dough and make sure that you leave at least 3 inches in between each cookie. These cookies will really spread.

Bake in your preheated oven for 15-18 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown and middle looks slightly underdone. Turn off the oven and remove the pans from the oven and allow to cool. Let the cookies cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack.

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

Yield: About 24 cookies

Source: Slightly adapted from Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Hot cross buns

Hot cross buns are a staple in Australia and New Zealand. Make these soft and fluffy Easter favorites easily at home!

I started playing the flute in 4th grade and chose this instrument because I liked how shiny it looked. One of the first songs that I learned how to play was "Hot Cross Buns." Of course, I never knew what a hot cross bun was but was content knowing that I was pretty good at playing the 3-note song.

Fast forward to 2008 when my husband and I went to Australia and New Zealand on vacation. We visited a local grocery store and saw that hot cross buns were everywhere (in both countries). I remembered the little song that I played on my flute and knew that we had to buy some and try it.

The hot cross buns that we bought were super soft, fluffy and sweet. We ate the entire pack pretty quickly and I vowed to recreate them sometime. An embarrassing 8 years later, here I am. My friend Kylee posted these on her blog recently, and it sparked my memory to finally bake them.

In full disclosure, my hot cross buns didn't bake up with the perfect distinct white cross on them. In fact, my crosses were barely visible. So for hot cross bun purists, stop reading here and ignore what I'm going to say next:  I decided to make a white powdered sugar glaze and piped crosses with it. I know the piped glaze isn't on a traditional hot cross bun, but I couldn't stand the fact that my hot cross buns had no visible crosses on them.

These hot cross buns were super soft, fluffy, sweet and melt-in-your mouth good. You can certainly eat them plain like I did or split them in half and add your favorite fruit spread or a simple pat of butter. After eating these hot cross buns, I now have a strong desire to go back to Australia and New Zealand. Sigh.

Hot cross buns
  • 1 Tablespoon instant (rapid rise) yeast
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups (15oz) bread flour
  • ½ cup (5oz) whole wheat flour
  • 2 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 egg (lightly beaten)
  • 1 and ¼ cups warm water
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup raisins
"Cross" paste
  • 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 cup water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp water
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, mix together the yeast, sugar, salt, flours and butter. Add the egg and mix well. Slowly drizzle in the water until a smooth dough forms. Add the cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, brown sugar and raisins and continue to mix until the dough is soft and elastic, but not sticky. If the dough is too sticky, add a little bit of flour at a time. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover and allow to double or triple in volume (at least 1 hour).

Punch the dough down and generously grease a 9"x13" baking pan. Divide the dough into 12-16 equal parts and roll each portion of dough into a ball. Place it in your prepared baking pan. It's fine to get the dough touch each other.

Mix up the paste by combining the flour and water together. Stir until smooth. I put my paste in a measuring cup and poured it onto the dough balls, but you can transfer it to a zip-top bag and snip off the corner and pipe on the crosses.

Allow the dough to rest and rise for at least another 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the buns in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until the tops turn golden brown.

Once you take the buns out of the oven, make the glaze. Combine the sugar and water and lightly brush the tops of each bun with the glaze. Allow to cool slightly before serving. If the crosses aren't prominent enough for you (mine were barely visible), simply mix up a simple glaze of powdered sugar, vanilla and milk and pipe on crosses on the cooled buns. I know hot cross bun purists won't like me for giving you this option, but it definitely makes a better presentation.

Leftover buns should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature. They can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: About 12-16 rolls

Source: Barely adapted from Kylee Cooks


Friday, May 20, 2016

Skating Fridays

The Camera Doesn't Lie 

I've come to love and appreciate the power of video in figure skating. Sometimes it's hard to understand what my coach is trying to correct until I can see my mistake on video. I often try to video myself doing elements so I can go frame-by-frame and see what is going on.

My rink also has a webcam where the owner likes to "spy" on occasion. Unbeknownst to me, these videos are recorded on a hard drive in case something happens.

We had a recent situation at the rink where a skater was in a sit spin and a young kid ran into the skater, causing the skater to fall. The child told his mother (who didn't witness the event) and also happened to get a cut on his leg.  The mother made up a story about how the skater was doing a camel spin and intentionally kicked the young child. She screamed at the assistant skating director and mentioned legal action and lawsuits.

Meanwhile, this incident was all caught on video. The skating director saw the footage and realized that the mother had no grounds for a complaint or a lawsuit. In fact, the mother was lucky that the skater wasn't injured. The kid was being reckless and should not have been out on the practice session in the first place. The skating director talked to the mother and explained the situation.

So the lesson learned from this week... video is a powerful tool, and it doesn't lie. Plus, you never know who is watching.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Shortcut buttermilk pie

This super simple, shortcut buttermilk pie is just about as easy as it gets. This cakey-custard-like dessert only requires 6 ingredients and a blender!

Do you ever have one of those days where you wish you had more time? I secretly want another day of the week so I can fully rest.

I recently had one of those days where it was just go, go, go and no time to think. I still wanted some dessert (duh) but didn't have much free time to make it. Enter this super simple, shortcut buttermilk pie.

Essentially, you throw everything into a blender and bake it. No fussy pie crusts, no mixing, no creaming, no time-consuming steps. Just blend and bake. Simple enough, right? And to make things even simpler, you use some store-bought pancake/biscuit mix. See, I told you this would be easy.

The resulting pie is a bit cake-like and a little bit custard-y. You can certainly decorate the top with some powdered sugar, cocoa powder or a combination of the two. Or ice cream. With sprinkles. Or...

Shortcut buttermilk pie
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup store-bought pancake/biscuit mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a standard pie pan and set aside.

In a blender, pulse all of the ingredients together until smooth. Pour into your prepared pie pan and bake in your preheated oven for 30-40 minutes. The top should become golden, and the center may be a bit jiggly. The pie will solidify more as it cools.

Store any leftovers, covered, in the refrigerator. It will last several days.

Yield: One 9" pie; about 8 servings

Source: Slightly adapted from Food Network

Sunday, May 15, 2016

One bowl flourless fudge brownies

These decadent and thick brownies are dense, rich and taste just like fudge - and also happen to be flourless! They are almost guaranteed to melt in your mouth!
It was Teacher Appreciation Week at school and of course I wanted to bake something for Addie's kindergarten teacher. The challenge was that her teacher and her family had a few allergies we needed to be aware of.

I'm usually a brownie type of girl when it comes to gifting baked goods but since our teacher's husband had a gluten allergies, I couldn't bake any of my favorite brownies. I still made the homemade salted caramel sauce for our teacher but had to bake a flourless brownie. I've tried a few to date but wanted to make sure the brownies were super fudge-y and not a tad bit dry.

My friend Ashley at Baker By Nature had the perfect recipe. Not only did it not use any flour, but it also did not contain any butter. These baked up as expected and tasted like a rich and creamy fudge when I taste tested a slice.

I hope that Addie's teacher and her husband enjoy these brownies. If you need to bake any gluten-free desserts, this is definitely a winning recipe.

One bowl flourless fudge brownies
  • 12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons milk of choice
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar 
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard 8"x8" baking pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, place the chopped chocolate and coconut oil. Heat it up in the microwave in 30 second increments until both the chocolate and oil have melted. Mix well with a spatula. Then add in the milk and sugar and mix until everything is well incorporated.

Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, and mix well. Then add the vanilla and fold in the cocoa powder. Mix until everything is just combined.

Transfer the batter to your prepared pan and bake in your preheated oven for 25-28 minutes. The center will still be slightly jiggy, and that is OK.

Allow the brownies to cool completely and then place in the refrigerator to set. Brownies should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and should be served cold.

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

Source: Barely adapted from Baker By Nature

Friday, May 13, 2016

Skating Fridays

Be Prepared

The traveling company of The Lion King musical came to my city not too long ago, and my family and I went to see it. If you haven't been yet, I highly recommend it - the costumes are exquisite!

Anyway, one of the songs from the musical (and the movie) is Be Prepared. The title was extremely relevant for me this week as I attended a normal freestyle session at the rink.

I was more than halfway done with my practice and was on the verge of getting tired. I heard someone yell my name, and it turned out to be my choreographer. She asked me how the new program was going, and I told her I was practicing it every day.

Then my choreographer said that her next lesson got cancelled so she had some extra time to watch me. She happened to have my program music with me and told me to take my starting position so I could run through the whole thing.

And let me just say that it was a hot mess. It was worse than a hot mess. I was clearly unprepared for this surprise program run-through but now know better. I rushed through the entire program, was behind in my music, and all my elements were extremely sloppy. My choreographer gave me immediate feedback, and I felt ashamed.

Now that I know she likes to surprise her skaters, I will be ready for the next time. I will practice my program with music and be prepared for the next surprise program run-through.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Vanilla buttermilk cupcakes

My blogging friend and husband have both deemed these to be the most perfect vanilla cupcakes ever! These beauties are super light and fluffy and produce a tender, soft crumb.

Addie's birthday party was a few weeks ago. We invited 3 of her friends and their entire families over for dinner. I had a few crafts set up for the kids: I bought kids' aprons and chef hats for them to decorate with markers and foam stickers. Then, I also baked 4 dozen cupcakes and supplied all kinds of fun toppings so they could decorate them.

For the chocolate cupcakes, I used this recipe. I wasn't sure which vanilla cupcake recipe I should use so I did a quick internet search. Then I remembered that my friend Cakespy had recently posted her favorite vanilla cupcake. She declared these as the most perfect cupcake ever. Of course I had to believe her so I used her recipe.

Although these cupcakes were slightly more complicated than your typical run-of-the-mill vanilla cupcake, the extra steps were worth it. To make these, you'll want to separate your eggs. You'll beat the egg whites until they reach soft peaks and later fold them into the batter so create that light and airy texture.

And my husband and I both agreed that these cupcakes were pretty perfect. It produced a light and tender crumb when we bit into it and was not too heavy or sweet. The kids had a blast decorating these, and the parents that tried them also said that they were amazing as well.

Vanilla buttermilk cupcakes
  • 2 and 1/4 cups cake flour (if you don't have cake flour, measure out 2 and 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour. Remove  4 and 1/2 Tablespoons of the all-purpose flour and return it to your canister. Add 4 and 1/2 Tablespoons of cornstarch and mix into the remaining flour.)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line two standard muffin pans with cupcake liners and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, whip the egg whites on high speed until you achieve soft peaks. Transfer the egg whites to a medium sized bowl for the time being.

In the same bowl (do not clean) fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the sugars until well mixed. Then add the egg yolks one by one until the mixture is uniform. Add the vanilla. Turn the mixer down to low and alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until everything just comes together.

Turn the mixer off and fold in the egg whites by hand. Use as few strokes as possible to incorporate the egg whites until no white streaks remain.

Fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 cup full (no more) and bake in your preheated oven for 17-20 minutes or until the tops start to turn golden. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Source: Cakespy

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Chocoholic cake

Celebrate mom with this intensely dark chocolate cake - a must for serious chocoholics! With over 1 full pound of chocolate, this cake is sure to satisfy chocolate fans of all kinds!

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms - whether you are a mother to a human or fur-baby, a mother-like figure or just an awesome woman in general. We're all moms to someone, and this is a wonderful day to celebrate YOU!

Since this is supposed to be my special day (at the Eva Bakes house, that is), I decided to celebrate the one and only way I know how - with chocolate! Yes, friends, this chocoholic cake contains over a full pound of chocolate. Is there anything better than that? I think not.

What's interesting about this cake is that there are no leavening agents - no baking soda, baking powder or anything else to give the cake a light and fluffy texture. Instead, it uses 5 plain and simple ingredients - butter, chocolate, eggs, sugar, and flour. Easy as that.

Each layer is held together with a thick and smooth chocolate ganache. And since I like things pretty, I decorated the top of my cake with some additional chocolate curls.

Happy Mother's Day!

WARNING: Make sure you line your baking pans. I foolishly did not, and my cakes were near impossible to get out. By the end of the day, my kitchen looked like a chocolate sandstorm had hit it. I had chocolate cake crumbs everywhere. Don't be like me - like your pans with parchment paper!

Chocoholic cake
  • 3 and 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 14 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar 
  • 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 and 1/4 cup heavy cream
Bake the cakes: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease and line three 9" or 10" cake pans and set aside.

In the bowl of a microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter and chopped chocolate. Whisk until smooth 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, beat the eggs and sugar together on medium speed until it gets light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Then turn the mixer to low and slowly add in the flour until it well incorporated. Finally, add the melted chocolate/butter mixture and beat until the consistency looks like frosting or chocolate mousse.

Evenly distribute the batter among the 3 pans and bake in your preheated oven for 16-19 minutes (you may want to rotate pans/racks halfway through baking) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out slightly wet or with a few crumbs.

Allow the cakes to cool for about 20 minutes in the pan before turning them out and cooling on a cooling rack. Cakes can be wrapped, chilled overnight or frozen for up to 2 months. Make sure the cakes are cool before adding the ganache.

Make the ganache: Place the chopped chocolate into a large heatproof bowl. Microwave the heavy cram in the microwave for about 90 seconds or until boiling. Pour half of the cream into the bowl with the chocolate and stir vigorously with a heatproof spatula. Keep stirring until no white streaks remain. Then pour in the rest of the cream and continue to stir. The ganache should be smooth, lump-free and thick. Allow the ganache to come to room temperature before using. You may want to stir occasionally so it doesn't harden too much.

Assemble the cake: Place one cake layer, regular side up on a cake plate or regular plate. Spread about 1/4 of the ganache on top of the cake with a spatula. Top with another cake layer, regular side up, and repeat. Then place the final layer flat side up on top of the last layer. Cover the tops and sides with the remaining ganache. Decorate or garnish the tops if desired.

Cake should be stored in an airtight container or in the refrigerator. It will last at least a week, unless you live in my house. In that case, it will barely last a day.

Yield: One 9" or 10" cake

Source: Baking Chez Moi, by Dorie Greenspan

Friday, May 6, 2016

Skating Fridays

A Quick Update on Ballet

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was taking a ballet class to help with my skating. My goal is become more graceful and fluid on the ice.

Right now, I'm taking a 45 minute private lesson every other week. My instructor has me warming up at the barre where we focus on my posture. Then we move on to leg exercises and classic ballet movements. She has given me exercises to help with my flexibility, which I have been trying to do almost every night.

You're probably wondering how things are going. I'd say they're going pretty well, although I find some of the positions hard to extend and hold. I have a bit of scoliosis in my lower back, so one side of my body is slightly higher than the other. As a result, some positions are naturally more difficult for me to execute. For example, I have a hard time extending my left leg (not my landing leg) behind me in the correct position. I usually leave ballet class with extra soreness in my lower left back. Thankfully, the soreness goes away after a few days.

Overall, I am more aware of my posture and aim to straighten my back whenever I can. I don't always catch myself slouching or pitching forward on the ice, but when I do notice it, I correct myself immediately.

We'll be working on arm positions soon, which I am very excited about. I really need to get rid of those flappy arms.

I'll keep you posted on my progress, but so far, so good.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Thin mint ice cream

Still have Girl Scout cookies around the house? Chop them up and turn them into ice cream!
One of the girls at my skating rink was selling Girl Scout cookies. I couldn't turn her down, so I ordered a box of Thin Mints and a box of Samoas. A month after everyone else had received their cookies, she finally brought mine in. I'm not sure what happened, but she forgot my Samoas (I never did receive them). So she only charged me for one box of Thin Mints.

Although I can easily polish off a box of these seasonal cookies, I opted to feature them in a dessert. Both my husband and daughter were strongly hinting that we were running out of ice cream, so I made some homemade Thin Mint ice cream.
I used my trusty Jeni's ice cream base and added peppermint extract for a nice minty background. Then I chopped up some cookies and layered them on top of the ice cream and repeated until my ice cream container was full.

As expected, this ice cream was super creamy and a delight to eat. The thin mint cookies got a bit soft but you can always garnish a scoop or two with full-sized thin mint cookies. I'm sure we'll be making this ice cream every Girl Scout season.

Thin mint ice cream
  • 2 cups whole milk, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1½ ounces (3 Tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1¼ cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • About 10 thin mint cookies, chopped
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.

In a large bowl, mix together the cream cheese with the sea salt until well combined. Set a fine mesh sieve above it and set aside.

In a medium sized saucepan, heat the cream, remaining milk, sugar and corn syrup on medium to medium-high heat until boiling. Allow the mixture to boil 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 cream cheese/salt. Add the vanilla 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. Fold in the chopped thin mint cookies by hand. Or, you can spoon a layer of ice cream in your container, then add some chopped cookies and repeat until the container is full.

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: Adapted from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Nutella stuffed deep dish chocolate chip cookie pie

Want to make chocolate chip cookies but don't want the hassle of scooping out dough? Then make a deep dish chocolate chip cookie pie in a skillet! Then stuff the middle with Nutella!

I had a craving for chocolate chip cookies the other day but didn't want to get out my cookie scoop. While I love cookies, sometimes it just feels like extra work. It can be time consuming to portion out the dough and bake on cookie sheets. I'm sure it's all in my head, but just stick with me here.

Rather than make individual chocolate chip cookies, I decided to finally try my hand at making a single deep dish chocolate chip cookie in a skillet. It's a serving size of one, so I don't have to share, right? All kidding aside, this was a great way to get my cookie fix without having to roll out balls of cookie dough.

And to make this cookie even more amazing, I stuffed mine with Nutella. If that's not your thing, feel free to substitute with cookie butter, peanut butter, or melted chocolate. Or just leave it as is (if that's how you roll, we can no longer be friends).

This skillet cookie was gone really quickly. It was best warm, when the tops were nice and crispy and the Nutella was slightly oozy and melty. The cookie hardened up a bit the next day but was still pretty amazing. So the next time you want a chocolate chip cookie but don't want to portion out balls of dough, make a skillet version.

Nutella stuffed deep dish chocolate chip cookie pie
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ⅓ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ⅓ cup Nutella
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9" or 10" cast iron 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, cream together the butter, sugars and vanilla on medium speed. Add the egg until it is fully incorporated.

Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the flour, baking soda and salt. Mix until just combined. Turn the mixer off and fold in the chocolate chips by hand.

Transfer half of the cookie dough into your prepared cast iron skillet. I used an offset spatula to evenly spread it out, but you can use whatever is easiest for you. Make sure the cookie dough covers the bottom of the pan.

Add the Nutella on top and spread over the cookie dough, leaving a 1-inch border all around (you don't want it to leak out). Then top with the remaining cookie dough. You should not see any Nutella peeking out.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until golden. Once the cookie is done baking, add a few more chocolate chips for a prettier presentation.

Allow the cookie to cool at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving. Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. You can reheat in the microwave. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream if desired.

Yield: One 9" cookie (about 6-8 servings)

Source: Cafe Delites



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