Sunday, February 28, 2016

Chocolate Coca-Cola cake and a Xocolatl chocolate giveaway!

This chocolate Coca-Cola cake is perfect for those with an insane sweet tooth. The glaze soaks through the cake and forms a crackly crust on the bottom and top of the cake. It's a great way to use up a can of soda!
Addie's daycare (where she attends after school care) recently held its annual Parent Appreciation Day. The kids made s'mores kits for us, and the faculty and staff gave us granola bars and cans of soda to jump start our day. Since we don't drink soda at our house, we weren't quite sure what to do with the can.

I thought that it would be fun to try a chocolate Coca-Cola cake. Since the soda has a caramel-flavored undertone, it would be a great complement to a deep chocolate cake. This recipe was intriguing, since you make a boiled Coca-Cola frosting/glaze and pour it over the warm cake. The liquid seeps through the cake and forms a crackly crust both on the bottom and top of the cake.
We made this for our Valentine's Day dessert, and it was nice complement to the homemade ravioli that we had for dinner. My husband and I both thought that it was a bit on the sweeter side, so I'd probably dial back on the sugar. My glaze also didn't thicken as I thought it should, so after my liquid boiled down and I added the powdered sugar, I put it back on the stove to let it cook off and thicken.

Regardless, it was a good cake and probably one I'd make again, but with less sugar.

And now onto the giveaway!

I hope you enjoyed the recap from my chocolate tasting party. As I mentioned in that post, the favorite chocolate bar of the night was the Madagascar 73% single origin from Xocolatl in Atlanta. My friends at Xocolatl were so happy to be the #1 chocolate bar of the evening and have decided to give a bar away to an Eva Bakes reader! So now you'll get a chance to taste this amazing chocolate as well.

Thanks to Xocolatl for sponsoring the giveaway. Please enter the Rafflecopter widget below (sorry, no exceptions). The widget may be a bit slow to load, so be patient. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 
Chocolate Coca-Cola cake
Cake
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ (12-ounce) can cola
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Glaze
  • ½ (12-ounce) can cola
  • ¼ cup salted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line an 8"x8" square pan and set aside.

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

In a small saucepan set over medium high heat, mix together the cola, butter and cocoa powder until it comes to a boil. Transfer this to the large bowl with the dry ingredients and stir until everything just comes together.

In a measuring cup, whisk together the egg, buttermilk and vanilla extract. Pour this into the large bowl and mix until just combined.

Transfer the batter into your prepared baking pan and bake in your preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, make the glaze. In a small saucepan (you can use the one you used to make the cake), boil the cola until it is reduced by half.  It will take about 15 minutes. Then add the butter and cocoa powder and mix until everything is combined. Turn off the stove and remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the powdered sugar and mix until you achieve a thick glaze. If your glaze is too liquidy, put the saucepan back on the stove and allow the liquid to cook down some.

Pour the glaze over the hot cake after you take it out of the oven. Allow the cake to cool completely and allow the frosting to set.

Leftover cake should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for about 4-5 days.

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

Source: Slightly adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

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Friday, February 26, 2016

Skating Fridays

My 15 Seconds of Fame


I'm a bit sad that I'm not competing at Adult Nationals this year. My husband and I normally try to make a vacation out of this but had to decline this year due to various reasons. I'm disappointed that I won't get to see my skating friends from around the country, but I will look forward to seeing them next year when the competition is on the East Coast.

Even though I'm not making the trek to Ann Arbor (Michigan), I did see that I am featured on the home page of the Adult Nationals website. The main page includes a looping video montage, and I am one of the skaters in the video! I am the one wearing a white dress with iridescent wings. My short snippet is immediately after the clip of the woman in the astronaut costume.


I remember seeing a videographer at Adult Nationals last year, and apparently they also included a clip of  my Angel program in a longer US Figure Skating video that was shown at Governing Council last summer (Governing Council is a large conference comprised of representatives from clubs across the country; these individuals come together to vote on bylaws and other business).

I guess the angel wings was distinct enough to be included on both the Governing Council video and the website. So very cool!

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Event Recap: Chocolate tasting party


It's no secret that I love chocolate. Wherever I travel, I like to visit local pastry shops and see what kinds of sweet offerings they have. In the past year or so, I've been buying chocolate bars during my trips. I tend to hoard things so the chocolate bars have been sitting in my pantry for a while. I had been telling my husband that I wanted to host a chocolate tasting party but never committed to a date.

I finally got my act together and hosted a chocolate tasting party for some of my girlfriends. I only invited 7 women so it was a smaller event. I asked each person to bring a bar of chocolate for us to taste. For food, I had a fun challenge coming up with a menu that would be suitable for a few ladies with some dietary restrictions (one is vegetarian while another is dairy-free).


The menu included:
  • Crudite with store-bought ranch dip
  • Pretzel crackers with store-bought hummus
  • Homemade baguettes with store-bought olive tapenade
  • Vegetable potstickers (found in the frozen section of the Asian grocery store)
  • Vegan stuffed mushrooms
  • Vegan spinach balls with honey mustard dipping sauce
  • Vegetarian spring rolls with sweet dipping sauce
  • Crockpot meatballs
  • Crockpot BBQ pulled pork
  • Ranch and dill oyster crackers
  • Cheese plate
We had a total of about 20 bars of chocolate to try and had a strategy in mind to taste them all. We put all the chocolates in order of cacao content, from the darkest (and most bittersweet) chocolates to the ones with the fewest cacao content. We sat around my dining table and had little appetizer plates for our chocolates. I also created chocolate tasting sheets so each person could take notes on the appearance, smell, sound, texture, taste and overall notes on each chocolate bar.

The darkest chocolates got consumed first, and the last one we tried was a white chocolate strawberry bar. As the evening went on, we all agreed that it was really amazing how the (dark) chocolates all tasted so different, even though the cacao content was similar. The difference was the origin of the cacao bean and the technique of turning it into a chocolate bar. Some tasted like berries while others tasted nutty. Those of us who are white chocolate fans all agreed that the final bar (the white chocolate strawberry one) tasted extremely sweet after we had all those dark chocolate bars. I gifted each person a little bag of mini chocolates to take home and sample.

Oh, and if you're wondering what my personal favorite chocolate bar was of the night, it was a a tossup between two bars - one was called Fragrants Desirs that is in the first photo in the post. It had a wonderful vanilla undertone along with a rich, smooth dark chocolate base. The other was a 73% chocolate Madagascan bar from XOCOLATL that had berry undertones. This was the overwhelming favorite bar of the night.


All in all, it was a fantastic evening with great friends, yummy food and divine chocolate. I'm hoping to make this an annual event and can't wait to buy more chocolate bars during my travels.

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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Double peanut butter cheesecake pie

A super creamy, uber peanut buttery cheesecake pie that any peanut butter fan will love! With a peanut butter cookie crust and peanut butter cheesecake filling, this pie will become your next favorite dessert (or breakfast - I'm not judging)!

Something strange happened recently. Remember those peanut butter cookies that I just posted about last week? Well, my husband didn't finish them. He loves peanut butter so much that it's probably flowing through his veins, so this was quite the surprise to me. I have to admit though, that I usually have at least 2 other homemade sweets in the house so maybe he just forgot about them.


So those poor peanut butter cookies were just sitting by themselves all alone in their container. I didn't want to throw them out, so I decided to repurpose them and turn them into a cookie crust. Then I could make a peanut butter cheesecake filling and call that a pie. I'd say that's a pretty good way to use up leftovers, don't you?

Both my husband and daughter adored this pie. I should have used more melted butter in the crust since mine was a bit crumbly, so I adjusted the amounts below. From what I've been told (I don't eat peanut butter), the crust was nice and crunchy and was a good contrast to the smooth and creamy peanut butter cheesecake filling. Addie mentioned how peanut butter-y this dessert was and said that it was really good.  And because I know that the peanut butter and chocolate combination is a hit with both Addie and my husband, I melted some chocolate chips and drizzled it on top of the pie (I threw in a few extra chocolate chips for good measure).

So today's lesson: Don't throw away old cookies. Turn them into crust and make a pie with it. Your family members will thank you.

Double peanut butter cheesecake pie
  • About 6-8 peanut butter cookies, crushed (if you don't have peanut butter cookies, you could use other types of cookies like Oreos or Nutter Butters; if this is the case, you may need to increase the amount of butter below)
  • 3-4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup peanut butter (NOT the all-natural kind)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon milk of choice
  • Chocolate chips, melted (optional)
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

In a high powered blender or food processor, finely crush the cookies into small crumbs. Transfer the crumbs to a medium sized bowl and add the melted butter. Mix until the crumbs resemble wet sand. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and sides of a pie plate. Bake in your preheated oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool completely.

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 cream cheese, brown sugar, peanut butter and vanilla on medium speed until well combined. Add the milk until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Turn the mixer off.

Transfer the cream cheese mixture to the pie plate with the cooled crust. If desired, swizzle the melted chocolate chips on top for a fun presentation. Transfer to the refrigerator and allow to cool for at least 3-4 hours before serving.

Pie should be covered and stored in the refrigerator and will keep for about a week.

Yield: About 8-10 servings

Source: An Eva Bakes original

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Friday, February 19, 2016

Skating Fridays

Revamping my Freestyle Program (again)


Coach B paid me the ultimate compliment a little while ago. She went online and watched the Championship Gold ladies from last year's Sectionals event to see how the top 4 ladies skated. She also analyzed their protocols to see what their strategies were. Here are the conclusions she came up with:

  • These ladies are not better skaters than me
  • Their transitions are very simple, yet executed well
  • Every stroke on the ice has a purpose and is meaningful
I was seriously shocked when she said that I was just as good as the other ladies. She said that every one of the top 4 ladies took their time with every stroke and had beautiful, long extensions.

These skaters didn't need crazy difficult footwork or transitions, but ones that were simple yet meaningful. Their music had strong, recognizable beats.

Then we analyzed my program. My music isn't as recognizable, and parts of the music are too "pretty" for my style of skating. There are heavy beats that don't entertain long, extensive strokes or transitions. My music pretty much calls for shorter strokes, which equates to lower PCS scores. Hooray - so it's not totally my fault!

As a result of all this in-depth analysis, Coach B said that I needed to redo my program. We're keeping my footwork, but otherwise, we're completely overhauling it. I'm taking out any element that is inconsistent and  putting in the ones that I get strong scores on. We're simplifying my transitions and making sure I have time to push completely through each stroke so I have long extensions on each one.

We'll see how these changes my score when I compete at Sectionals in a month. Fingers crossed!

Oh, and we're already entertaining some ideas for next season's freestyle music. Now that we have a better strategy in place, we're hoping that our music selection will match my skating style. I'm still fairly new to competing, so it's still a learning process!

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Peanut butter cookies

These classic peanut butter cookies come from Joanne Chang's Flour Bakery. They have a perfect balance of salty and sweet to bring out the peanut butter flavor in the cookies.

One of the items that we buy frequently at the grocery store is peanut butter. My husband loves the stuff and goes through a jar of it very quickly. He's tried all different brands, and we've even made our own.

I tend not to bake too many items with peanut butter since I don't eat it. Well, maybe I should rethink my strategy and bake more things with peanut butter so I'm not tempted to eat dessert all day long. Anyway, I was gifted the Flour Bakery cookbook for Christmas and was browsing through it one day and started rattling off recipes for us to try. These peanut butter cookies quickly rose to the top of my husband's list so I decided to make them.

This dough does require chilling time, so make sure you factor that into your schedule. Ideally, the dough should chill overnight so all the ingredients can get cozy and get to know each other. The flavors will meld together and your cookies will be pretty awesome.

Since I didn't taste any of these cookies, I had to rely on my husband, daughter and skating friends to describe them. My skating friend said that these were "amazing," and both my husband and daughter were tempted for seconds. The cookies weren't as peanut buttery as my husband would have preferred (remember, he is a peanut butter fanatic) but said that they were really good. I did see that the cookies dried out quite a bit after a day or two, so make sure you keep these in an airtight container.

Maybe I'll try making a version of these but by using cookie butter spread so I can enjoy them too.

Peanut butter cookies
  • 2 and 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and 3/4 cups chunky peanut butter
Directions
In a large 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, beat the butter and sugars together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time, until they are well incorporated. Add the vanilla and peanut butter and mix until well blended.

Turn the mixer to low and slowly add in the dry ingredients. Do not over mix. Turn the mixer off.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours or overnight.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Once the dough has thoroughly chilled, use a medium cookie scoop (or two spoons) to portion out the dough onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet (I used a silicone mat). Place the dough balls about 2 inches apart. Slightly press down on each dough ball to flatten them. Using a fork, press down slightly on the top of each cookie to make an "x" pattern.

Bake in your preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until the cookie are golden on the edges yet slightly soft (and a bit underbaked) in the middle.

Allow the cookies to cool completely before serving. Cookies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature, in the refrigerator or can be frozen and thawed. Room temperature cookies will last about 3-5 days (refrigerated cookies will last about a week).

Yield: About 24 cookies

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

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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Cheater's pain au chocolat (Chocolate filled croissants)

Light and buttery chocolate croissants (pain au chocolat) that can be made in one day! No butter squares, dough turning or overnight chilling required! The secret weapon is a pasta roller!

There's nothing quite like a soft, buttery croissant for breakfast. Am I right? Problem is, croissants can take up to 3 days (or more) to make. The typical croissant starts off with a butter square that needs to be chilled and then incorporated into the dough. Then you have to fold it, chill it, and fold some more. Impatient people like me don't want to wait that long to eat our croissants.

Enter these cheater pain au chocolats. Essentially, they are chocolate filled croissants, but without the hassle of all the dough and butter folding. The secret? We use a pasta roller to do the work for us. If you're familiar with homemade pasta, the process involves folding the dough into halves or thirds and rolling it through a pasta roller. We're simulating the croissant folding here with the pasta roller, so it's a bit of a cheat. But hey, I'll take it. I will say that these aren't as buttery or flaky as the tried-and-true 3-day version of croissants, but it's a good substitute if you are strapped for time.

These chocolate filled croissants will only take a day to make, and most of the time is waiting for the dough to double. I made these on a snow day last month and was thrilled to have fresh, flaky filled croissants on such a cold winter's day.

If you're still stuck on a dessert idea for tonight, consider these chocolate filled croissants. They will be ready by the time dinner rolls around, and you'll probably want to eat more than one.

Happy Valentine's Day!


Pain au chocolat
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup milk of choice, lukewarm
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Chocolate spread (I used Nutella), chopped chocolate or caramel sauce
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg for egg wash, optional
Directions
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, add the flour. Make a well in the center pour the milk in the well. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the milk and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes or until frothy. (If you are mixing by  hand, simply use a large bowl and follow the same instructions above.)

Turn the mixer to low and gently stream in the salt, melted butter and sugar. Keep beating until the dough forms a ball. The dough should be tacky but not sticky (it should not stick to your hands). If it is too wet, add more flour a little bit at a time. If you are kneading by hand, knead until all of the ingredients come together and no flour remains.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a wet towel. Set aside for about 1.5 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.

Once the dough has doubled, punch it down and divide into 12 equal portions. Place in the refrigerator, cover loosely, and allow to cool.

Take one serving of dough out from the refrigerator (leave the others so they continue to stay cool). Roll it out into a rough rectangle.

Using a pasta roller (I used my KitchenAid pasta roller attachment), push the pasta through the roller, on the lowest setting (setting #1 on the pasta attachment if you have one). Fold the dough in half and push it through again. Fold the dough in half again.

Change the setting to #2 and push the dough through. Fold in half and repeat.

Change the setting to #3 and repeat.

Place the rolled out dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet (I used a silicone mat instead). Spread some chocolate hazelnut filling, chopped chocolate or caramel sauce on one of the ends. Roll the dough up and place seam side down on the parchment paper. Repeat with the remaining 11 pieces of dough.

Let the dough double in size, about 3-4 hours.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Brush the pastries with the egg wash if desired. Bake the pastries for about 25 minutes or until brown (do not bake until golden brown because the pastries will be underdone). Feel free to decorate the tops with powdered sugar, chocolate drizzle or whatever your heart desires.

The pain au chocolat is best the day they are made but can be stored in an airtight container and will keep for about 2-3 days. They are best reheated in the oven.

If desired, you can freeze or refrigerate the pastries after they are shaped. Simply allow them to come to room temperature and double in size before baking.

Yield: 12 servings

Source: Ever so slightly adapted from Roxana's Home Baking

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Friday, February 12, 2016

Skating Fridays

Private Ice and a Star Encounter


I was traveling for work last week and didn't want to lose any skating practice time. I did some research on the area's rinks and found out that there were 6 (!) rinks near my hotel. Holy cow! It took about a nanosecond to decide to bring my skates with me so I could practice.

I found out that one of the rinks was only 5 minutes from my hotel so I looked up their freestyle session times. Luckily for me, they had a 6:00am practice session. I would be able to skate for an hour, return to my hotel to shower, and then attend my day full of meetings. It sounded perfect.

Once I arrived at the venue, I got horribly lost. Sounds silly, right? I saw some hockey guys heading into the arena and wondered if the online schedule was wrong. They all walked into a small area with a "Practice Rink" sign so I thought there might be another sheet of ice somewhere. I asked one of the hockey guys if there was another rink in the building, so he told me to go upstairs to the other rink.

I ended up on the concourse of this huge arena and had no idea how to get down to the ice level. A maintenance guy was working so I yelled over to him. He told to go back to the first level and go through some double doors to the entrance. I followed his directions, put on my skates and was still dumbfounded. I was the only one there.

This rink was astounding. I mean, look at the photo below. It was clean, well-maintained, and EMPTY! I had the ice all to myself for a good 40 minutes before a little girl and her mom showed up. I skated an additional 20 minutes with the girl and then went back to my hotel.
Only one on the ice at this beautiful rink!
This particular rink did not offer freestyle sessions the next day, so I had to find another rink. Never fear - I had 5 more to choose from! I found another rink about 15 minutes away so I drove to that one for another 6:00am practice. This arena ALSO had 2 sheets of ice. I was in heaven!

I saw several girls in the lobby area and went to pay for my freestyle ice. The guy behind the counter asked me if I was a low or high level freestyle skater. I hesitated and said I might be high, so he pointed me to the rink on the right. The girls I saw earlier were low level freestyle skaters. So that meant that I had private ice for another 40 minutes before additional skaters showed up. I couldn't believe my luck. Two straight days of private ice!

Ice rink on Day 2 - private ice!
I was tired by the end of the week but was ecstatic that I got to skate at two different rinks during my trip. I flew home, and then had to fly out of town for a wedding two days later. As luck would have it, my friend also happens to be good friends with a senior men's skater - Tim Dolensky! If you don't know Tim, he placed 7th at the U.S. Championships last month and is the 3rd alternate to Worlds. He was gracious enough to chat with me for a little bit and pose for a photo. Tim is definitely one to watch on the men's circuit - Addie and I cheered for him at Nationals, and she was super excited to meet someone that she saw on TV.

I met Tim Dolensky!
All in all, I had a great week in the skating department. Although my elements seem to have gone missing, I was able to experience two new arenas and meet a skating superstar. What a fantastic way to start off 2016!

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Baked double chocolate donuts

Craving chocolate in the mornings? Never fear - bake these double chocolate donuts and top them with a smooth and velvety chocolate glaze. These super chocolate-y treats will satisfy any chocoholic. Don't forget the sprinkles!

Donuts are the latest fad in my city, and we seem to have a new donut shop popping up on a weekly basis (the cupcakeries have started to fade). We have found a few donut stores that we like, but we don't visit them too much. While I love a good loaded donut, I often find myself regretting them about 30 minutes after eating one.

That's where baked donuts come in. Granted, they're not quite the same as their fried counterpart, but they are still tasty nonetheless. I've made a few baked donuts here before, but none like these. I thought that these would be a great contribution to this month's What's Baking challenge (baked donuts), which is being hosted by my friend Kate at Kate's Recipe Box.


These double chocolate donuts do not skimp on the chocolate. With 3 ounces of chocolate in the batter, plus cocoa powder, they are loaded with chocolate flavor. Plus, there is cocoa powder in the glaze as well, so it's like a triple chocolate flavor punch to your tastebuds. They're light and fluffy in texture so they don't feel as heavy in your stomach after devouring one (or two or three...).

Bake these donuts for your Valentine this weekend - I'm sure that he or she will love you for these. And make sure to visit Kate at Kate's Recipe Box to see what other baked donuts my friends made.

Baked double chocolate donuts 
Donuts
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tablespoons dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 ounces chocolate chips, chunks, or chopped chocolate
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Glaze
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 2-3 Tablespoons milk of choice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Sprinkles (totally not optional, unless you don't want to be friends)
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a donut pan with cooking spray and set aside.

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

In a small saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, add the chocolate chips. Stir until the mixture is smooth. Turn the stove off and remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the brown sugar and egg yolk until well incorporated. Finally, whisk in the buttermilk and vanilla. Mixture should be smooth and uniform.

Evenly distribute the batter into the donut pan, filling each well at least 3/4 full. Bake in your preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until the donuts are firm. Let the donuts cool in the pan for a few minutes before flipping them out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

While the donuts are cooling, make the glaze. In a medium sized bowl, whisk the powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Slowly add the milk until you achieve a thick but pourable glaze. Add more powdered sugar if the glaze is too runny or more milk if it's too thick. Add the vanilla and mix well.

Once the donuts have completely cooled, dunk each one into the glaze and set back down on the cooling rack. Top each donut with plenty of sprinkles.

Donuts should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for about 3 days.


Yield: The original recipe says it makes 6 donuts, but I got 10

Source: Barely adapted from A Cozy Kitchen

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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Dark chocolate peppermint cake

Deep, dark, chocolate peppermint cake that is sure to knock your socks off! A rich and chocolate-y cake is topped with dark chocolate ganache, peppermint cream cheese frosting and chopped mint sandwich cookies. Make sure you save some of the cake for yourself!

This cake was so magnificent that I made it twice in a month. That's pretty much unheard of for me, since I try not to repeat cake recipes. I baked this cake at my in-laws' house over the holidays and it was such a huge hit that I baked it again for my family a few weeks later. Yes, it was that good.

I usually bake Patty's White Chocolate Cheesecake over the holidays, but my husband suggested that we try something new this year. I thought about my favorite flavor combination (chocolate and mint) and figured that a layered cake would be plenty for all of us to share. This cake was so big that my father-in-law took the leftovers into work for his team to eat.

This cake has three layers chocolate cake. Each layer is topped with a rich and smooth chocolate ganache and chopped peppermint cookies (I used crushed candy canes for the first cake). As if that's not enough, there is a layer of peppermint cream cheese frosting in between each cake layer as well. Then the whole thing is covered with the same peppermint frosting. Not to mention the cookie bits on top too.

Don't worry - the mint flavor is not overpowering at all. You get a subtle bit of mint from the chopped cookies and the frosting. If you're a mint fiend, feel free to dial up the peppermint extract or even use peppermint chips in place of the candy canes or crushed cookies. Or, even add some into the cake.

You'll want to clear out the refrigerator for this cake. It is extremely tall and might not fit into a regular cake carrier or cake dome. Assuming you have leftovers, of course. Or, you can just invite me over and I'll gladly finish the cake for you.

Dark chocolate peppermint cake
Cake
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons dark cocoa powder
  • 2 and ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 and ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 and ¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons warm water
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons buttermilk
  • 4½ tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Ganache
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup heavy cream
Cream cheese buttercream
  • 4 ounces (1/2 block) cream cheese, softened
  • 3 sticks (1½ cups) unsalted butter, softened
  • 5-7 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½  teaspoon peppermint extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • About 1-2 teaspoons of milk of choice
  • About 4-6 chopped peppermint cookies (can use crushed candy canes as an alternative) for garnish, optional
Directions 
Bake the cake: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease 3 8-inch or 9-inch round cake pans and set aside.

In a large bowl (not joking here - you need a REALLY large bowl), whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil and vanilla and mix well until the batter is smooth and clump-free. Do not over mix.

Evenly distribute the batter into your 3 pans and bake in your preheated oven for 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely before assembling the cake.

Make the ganache: While the cake is cooling, make the ganache. Place the chopped chocolate in a small, heatproof bowl. Microwave the heavy cream for about 1 minute (alternatively, you can allow it simmer on a stove, but I'm too impatient for that). Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes untouched. Then whisk with a spatula until the mixture is smooth. Set aside until you are ready to assemble the cake.

Make the buttercream: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large mixer if using a handheld mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth. Turn the mixer down to low and add the powdered sugar, about 1 cup at a time until it is thick enough to frost. Add the vanilla and peppermint extracts and the salt. Add the milk, if desired, to make the buttercream smoother. Set aside until ready to use.

Assemble the cake: Place one cake layer, flat side down, on a cake plate. If desired, shave the domed top off the cake with a serrated (bread) knife to even out the layer. Spread some ganache on top and allow it to set or harden (you can place in the refrigerator for a few minutes to save time on this step). Sprinkle with crushed candy canes or chopped cookie bits. Then spread a layer of frosting on top. Repeat with the remaining layers. Cover the rest of the cake with the leftover buttercream. If desired, sprinkle the top of the cake with additional crushed candy canes or chopped cookie bits for presentation.

Cake should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and will keep for about a week.

Yield: About 12-16 servings

Source: Barely adapted from The Baker Chick

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Skating Fridays

Trudging Through Mud


I have been told many times in my skating career that my arm (and leg movements) appear very sharp and un-poetic. I attribute that to my former gymnastics training - although the elements are fluid, the transitions were often very rigid and pointed.

Unlike ballet.

Ballet dancers are smooth, polished and move effortlessly across the floor. Good skaters should be able to do that too, except across the ice.

Coach B said that I looked like I was trudging through mud during a recent lesson. Ouch. She's blunt, but I am glad that she's honest so I know what I need to fix.

So how am I supposed to glide my mud-slugging self across the ice and make it look easy?

Well, I need to learn how to extend my arms and legs with every push. Hold my chin up high and "channel my inner Meryl Davis," according to my coach. Tighten the core and skate with "neat feet." None of this sloppy, choppy business.

I also bought a book called Ballet Secrets for Skaters, which I am hoping will help.

Chin up, legs extended and no more mud. That's the goal.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Peppermint cookies and cream blondies

A delightfully minty cookies and cream blondie that will make you think of candy canes and wrapped presents. Even though the holidays are over, you can extend that holiday feeling with these bars!

I don't know about you, but I'm not quite ready to give up all the peppermint stuff yet. Although the holidays are over, and I am still all about the peppermint desserts. Bring on the candy, truffles, brownies, cake and these blondies.

I adapted a cookies and cream blondie recipe to make it minty. I added a bit of peppermint extract, tossed in some peppermint chips and chopped up some peppermint sandwich cookies. While that may sound like a lot of mint, it wasn't.

These bars were soft and chewy like a blondie should be but had a hint of mint throughout. The cookie chunks provided a nice crunchy texture throughout each bite.

I loved that these bars help me extend the holiday season, one bite at a time.

Peppermint cookies and cream blondies
  • 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 stick (6 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/4 cup peppermint chips
  • 6 mint sandwich cookies, chopped
Directions
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.

Generously grease or line a standard 8"x8" baking pan and set aside.

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

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the melted butter and sugars until well incorporated. Add the egg and peppermint extract and mix well. Transfer the content to the large bowl with the dry ingredients and fold until a few dry streaks remain. Add in the peppermint chips and chopped cookies and mix until everything just comes together - do not over mix.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes or until the sides are golden brown and the center is slightly soft (and a bit underdone). Allow the bars to cool completely before slicing and serving.

Store the bars 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 servings

Source: Adapted from Baker By Nature

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