Sunday, February 26, 2017

One bowl brownies - take 2

Dense, fudgy brownies are something everyone needs! As an added bonus, these are made in one bowl and only take about 5 minutes to put together!

Strapped for time but want some brownies? Look no further - these one bowl brownies are just what you're looking for. Everything comes together in a saucepan so there's little cleanup. Got 5 minutes? Then you have time to bake these. Melt the butter, add the remaining ingredients, stir and bake. They really are that easy.

Like frosting? Go right ahead. Whip some up and slather it on top of these dense and fudgy beauties. While you're at it, add some sprinkles or additional chocolate chips on top too.

I was able to bake these brownies right before a conference call and allowed them to bake while I was on the phone. They were done by the time the meeting ended. And when I was done with that call, I rewarded myself with a slice of the super chocolate-y goodness.

If you've tried my one bowl brownies before, these are so much better than that last round. I decided to go all out and use butter this time and add in some brown sugar for some caramel-like undertones. Ooh, that sounded fancy.

Anyway, you need to stop reading now and go make these. Seriously.

One bowl brownies (take 2)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup chocolate chips of choice
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard 8"x8" baking pan and set aside.

In a medium sized saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter. Turn the stove off and take the pan off the stove. Add in the sugars and mix well. Then add the eggs and vanilla and mix until well incorporated.

Slowly fold in the cocoa powder, flour, salt and baking powder and mix until a few dry streaks remain. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Transfer the batter to your prepared baking pan and bake in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until the top is crackly and the brownies no longer jiggle. The toothpick test may not work here since the centers will be fudgy.

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

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

Source: Somewhat Simple

Friday, February 24, 2017

Skating Fridays

A Dream Come True - and A Nightmare to Forget 

Last weekend, one of my skating dreams came true. Those who know me well are aware that Paul Wylie is my skating hero. I have been a fan of his since the early 1990s and was even a member of his fan club (dork alert!). It has always been a dream of mine to meet and take a lesson with him.

I did get the chance to meet him briefly in 2014 at Adult Nationals in Hyannis (MA) when I competed. He was the keynote speaker at the STARS combine where we got tested on various aspects of endurance and flexibility.

Paul scheduled a seminar with a skating club and I heard about it through various venues. I signed up to attend and also tried to secure a private lesson time. Luckily, I was able to get slots for both.

I had my private lesson (only 20 minutes, boo) with Paul at 11:00 am on a Saturday. I got to the rink a little bit early so I could warm up on my own. Coach B asked me to get Paul work on my axel, camel spin and spread eagle. He took a look at my axel and noticed that I didn't cross my legs (I'm still working on getting that more consistent). We worked on a few backspin exercises and I was able to successfully cross my legs on the next attempt.

After I tried my camel spin, he said that there was nothing wrong with it. I told him that my camel was inconsistent and that I often popped the "hook" part too early. He didn't have any suggestions on this spin and asked me to do it into a camel sit and then my camel-sit-back sit combination. He also asked to see the opening sit spin in my program. The only suggestions he had were to turn my level 3 sit into a level 4 (by holding one of the variations for 8 revolutions and to consider adding a jump in my camel-sit-back sit combination.

The spread eagle attempts were laughable. We worked on the inside spread eagle and I could barely do one in a small circle. Then the lesson was over. I had a great time and learned a lot from him.

The early evening seminar with Paul was fun too. We had an edge class, spin class, jump class, cross fit and ballet seminars. By the time the event ended, it was past 7:30pm. And then I had to drive 3 hours to get home.

I didn't arrive home until 10:30pm. And I had to wake up early the next morning to go compete another 90 minutes away. I didn't sleep well, and my legs were sore from the previous day's seminar.

I had a less than stellar warmup and couldn't get my spins to work. As a result, I missed my opening "money" sit spin in the program and barely saved it. One fellow skater said after my skate, "I don't know how you saved that spin!" The rest of my program was a bit wobbly, and it definitely wasn't my best performance. I was disappointed in myself. But I wouldn't score well since my body was tired from all the travel and the seminar from the day before.

I placed 11th out of 15 and actually received a fairly decent score for my botched performance. What was interesting was that I also received a 0.5 deduction for a time violation. I ended my program about 1 second ahead of the music, so that wasn't the error. I believe that it was because I had too much "dead air" at the beginning of my music (there is a rule about that) so we will fix that as soon as possible. Had I hit my spin and not gotten dinged on my music CD, I would have placed at least 8th.

All in all, it was a great learning experience and I am excited to make a few tweaks going into Sectionals next month. I am still over the moon about having had the opportunity to work with Paul and hope that I get the chance again my skating lifetime.

Onward we go!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Coffee chain blueberry lemon muffins

These blueberry lemon muffins are a copycat from a famous national coffee chain. Save money (and calories!) by making them yourself at home!

I'm not a huge coffee drinker, but I have many friends who are. I constantly get invited to join them and my coworkers to grab a cup of coffee. I usually turn them down, but occasionally I will tag along for the company and to take a brief stroll.

While my friends or coworkers are placing their orders, I usually ooh and ahh over the items in the baked goods case. I've had several of their items when I've had quick layovers in the airports or when breakfast items have been hard to come by.

One of my favorite items are their huge blueberry muffins. I've got to admit, it's the streusel that I'm after. I made a copycat version of the coffee chain's muffins and added some lemon to brighten up the flavors a bit.

I've got to say - these are some of my favorite muffins to date. Yes, they contain butter, but it's totally worth it in this recipe. As for the streusel? Feel free to double that if that's your thing. I should have but made the mistake not to. I now know for next time - and there WILL be a next time. :)

Coffee chain blueberry muffins 
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard muffin pan and set aside.

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

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, vanilla, milk, lemon zest and lemon juice and mix until well incorporated.

Turn the mixer to low and gently add in the dry ingredients and mix until a few dry streaks remain. Turn the mixer off and fold in the blueberries by hand with a spatula or wooden spoon.

Evenly distribute the batter into the muffin pan, filling each well at least 3/4 full.

Make the topping by combining all of the ingredients together until it resembles wet sand. Sprinkle it on top of each muffin.

Bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the muffins to cool before serving.

Muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for a few days.

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Barely adapted from Starbucks Restaurant Copycat Recipes

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Chocolate dulce de leche tart

A beautiful chocolate dulce de leche tart from blogger (and former chef) David Lebovitz. This gorgeous creation has a rich and creamy dulce de leche and topped with a luscious layer of chocolate custard. It's definitely a dessert made to impress!
Even though I bake on a fairly regular cadence, I like to make fancier things on special occasions. I went to our library for my and Addie's weekly girls' night and found a copy of David Lebovitz's My Paris Kitchen in the cookbook section. My eyes fixated on this recipe almost immediately, and I knew that I had to make it for my family.

Valentine's Day was coming up so this is what I chose to bake for the holiday. I baked this the night before and let it sit out (covered, of course) on the counter so we could devour this after our meal. My husband half-joked that he wanted to try a bite before our Valentine's meal but he didn't follow through on his threat. I don't blame him.
Surprisingly, the tart came out of the pan a lot easier than I imagined. The first slice was very ugly (note that I do not have a tart pan with a removable bottom), but it tasted amazing. The crust layer was very crumbly yet still held together well as a whole. The dulce de leche provided a nice, sticky and gooey layer and complemented the thick and rich chocolate custard top layer.

Everyone in my family gave this two thumbs way up and suggested that I make this again soon... even though we still have a few slices left on the counter. I'll take that as a positive sign that this was a winning recipe and may bake it again for friends next time.

Chocolate dulce de leche tart 
  • 1 cup (140 grams) all-purpose flour 
  • 1/3 cup (35 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6 Tablespoons (3 ounces/85 grams) salted butter, room temperature 
  • 1/4 cup (35 grams) powdered sugar 
  • 1 large egg yolk 
  • 1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel or other flaky sea salt 
  • 8 ounces (230 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped 
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 1 and 1/4 cups (310 ml) whole milk 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, or 1 teaspoon dark rum 
  • 1 cup (240 grams) dulce de leche 
  • Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling over the tart 
Make the crust: In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and the cocoa powder 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 butter and powdered sugar on low speed until just incorporated. Add the egg yolk and mix until fully incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and mix until everything comes together. Fold the dough into a flat disc, cover in plastic wrap and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.

After the dough has rested, press it into a tart pan (preferably one with a removable bottom). Use your fingertips if needed to press the dough up the sides of the pan. Make sure you have a flat, even surface. Sprinkle the sea salt over the top and put it in your freezer for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C).  Cover the crust with aluminum foil and add pie weights or dried beans. Bake the crust for 15 minutes, remove the foil and pie weights, and then bake for an additional 5 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and decrease your oven temperature to 300°F (150°C).

Make the filling: While the crust is baking, make the filling. Melt the chocolate in a bowl either over a double boiler or very carefully in a microwave (I used my microwave and heated in 30 second bursts). Set a mesh strainer over the top of the bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs. In a small saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat. Slowly add about a cup of the milk into the eggs and keep whisking until the mixture is uniform. While you are continuously whisking, gently pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk. Keep whisking until the mixture thickens - almost to the consistency of pudding. Pour this into the strainer.

Mix the custard and the melted chocolate until smooth and free of lumps. Add the vanilla until well incorporated.

Spread the dulce de leche over the pre-baked crust and smooth the top with a spatula. Add on the chocolate custard and and spread evenly (note that lumps will not even out in the oven so be sure to really smooth out the top). Sprinkle additional sea salt over the top and bake in your preheated oven for 20 minutes. Turn the oven off but keep the door closed (with the tart inside the oven) for an additional 45 minutes to set.

Remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool before serving. Garnish with whipped cream, ice cream, chocolate or caramel sauce to your liking.

Any leftovers should be covered and is best stored at room temperature and will keep for several days. If storing in the refrigerator, you will want to let the tart come back to room temperature so the dulce de leche isn't too hard.

Yield: One tart; about 8-12 servings

Source: My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz

Friday, February 17, 2017

Skating Fridays

My, What a Difference 6 Months Makes 

First things first. I am competing this weekend! I'll more than likely post an update on the Eva Bakes Facebook page, so if you want to see how I'm faring, follow me there. There are 15 (!!!!) skaters in my event, which is pretty much unheard of. This is just an adult competition, and typically there are about 6-8 people in the event. I don't know what happened this year, but it's a huge group.

So we all know that progress on the ice is measured in millimeters. We don't see success overnight. I'm glad that I've been documenting my progress on video so I can go back and watch how much I've improved.

One of the elements that I've been working on is the split falling leaf. I can't seem to find older videos of my attempts but was able to locate one from August 2016. I videoed myself doing one not too long ago and took some video stills below so you can see the difference.

The setup and the takeoffs are the same for each jump. The one from August isn't fully stretched out, and my back leg is still dragging. The one from this month looks like a completely different jump. My front leg is almost parallel to the ice, and the back leg has come up a lot higher.

Let's be clear - this jump isn't nearly where I want it to be yet, but it's slowly improving. It's crazy how much this has improved in a span of 6 months.

So what caused the improvements? Stretching off-ice (mainly doing the splits) and working on the grande jete in ballet class.

One day, I hope to have a big, beautiful split falling leaf like my skating mentor. Hers is jaw-dropping gorgeous. #skatinggoals

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Vegan double chocolate banana muffins

Soft, fluffy and healthier double chocolate banana muffins that happen to be vegan! Chocolate is always the best way to start your day!

You ever have one of those days at work where you are emotionally drained? Well, I had one of those recently and just needed chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate. And what better way to enjoy chocolate than to eat it first thing in the morning for breakfast, right?

I have my go-to double chocolate muffins but wanted to incorporate some bananas into the mix. I usually eat a banana every day so this would be a great way to include it into my breakfast.

These muffins are healthier than your typical bakery style double chocolate muffins and are also vegan. Just make sure you use vegan baking chips if that's what you need.

My family and I gobbled up these muffins in no time. Addie saw some bits of banana poking through the muffins and asked if it was pumpkin. When I told her it was banana, she complained a bit, but the then I looked up again and she had scarfed the rest of the muffin down and had chocolate all over her face. That, my friends, is a happy camper.

Vegan double chocolate banana muffins 
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/3 cups banana, mashed
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 cup chocolate chips of choice
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease a standard muffin pan and set aside.

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

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the banana, applesauce and melted coconut oil. Transfer this to the large bowl and gently fold everything together until a few streaks remain.

Fold in the chocolate chips and evenly distribute the batter into the muffin pan, filling each well about 3/4 full. If desired, sprinkle additional chocolate chips on top for a prettier presentation.

Bake in your preheated oven for 10 minutes. Then turn down the temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the muffins to cool before serving. Store muffins in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. They will keep for several days and can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Barely adapted from Baker by Nature

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Red velvet skillet cookie

This giant red velvet skillet cookie is perfect to share with your sweetheart on Valentine's Day. Sprinkle on your favorite toppings and go to town!

It's funny how our life priorities change over the years. Back in my pre-marriage days, a romantic gesture in my mind would consist of lovey-dovey notes, flowers or surprise gifts. These days, I fully appreciate a few quiet hours alone (or on the ice), a clean bathroom and a night in with a movie rental.

My husband and I used to go out for Valentine's Day when we were first dating but stopped that after we discovered how much fun it could be to make the meal ourselves. After all, every day around here is Valentine's Day. We typically eat good food and have dessert laying around so it's always a special day at the Eva Bakes house.

This year I thought it would be fun to bake something that the three of us could all enjoy. This red velvet skillet cookie seem to fit the bill and could be customized to each of our preferences. I could eat it plain (yes, I am weird like that), while my husband and daughter could add a dollop of ice cream or maybe some sprinkles on top.

We really loved this cookie. With its crispy edges and soft, chewy center, it was love at first bite. It was a fun cookie to share with my loved ones. I hope you do the same!

Red velvet skillet cookie 
  • 6 Tablespoons butter, softened
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 Tablespoon red food coloring
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅔ cup chocolate chips of choice (I used white for a nice color contrast)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and generously grease a cast iron skillet. If you don't own one, you can use a round cake pan.

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 and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the egg and vanilla and mix well. Add in the food coloring until well blended.

In a separate medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Slowly add this to your mixing bowl while mixing on low speed. Mix until everything just comes together.

Turn the mixer off and fold in the chocolate chips.

Transfer the batter to your prepared skillet and bake in your preheated oven for 18-22 minutes or until the cookie is set. Allow it to cool slightly before serving. Feel free to add ice cream, chocolate syrup or whatever toppings make you happy.

If you have any leftovers (ha), store them in an airtight container at room temperature. They will keep for several days.

Yield: One skillet cookie; about 6-8 servings

Source: Creme de la Crumb

Friday, February 10, 2017

Skating Fridays

One Small Leap for Man, One Giant Leap for Mankind 

OK, so my header is a bit dramatic, but I feel like I hit two big milestones last week.

Remember the severely autistic boy that I told you about last week?  Well, we had another breakthrough. At the last class, he not only asked for me by name, but he was smiling and having a good time. Guys, this is big. Oh, and it gets better.

The boy was doing a great job marching around the ice, but remember that he's been holding on to mom for dear life. He hadn't actually skated on his own yet. This week, his mom made a declaration and said that he could have some M&M candies if he skated by himself. So we challenged him. And as expected, he defiantly said "NO!"

We slowly marched over towards the boards and had about 5 feet left to go. I asked him to march over by himself. His mom let go of his hand. I let go of his hand. He marched his little feet as quickly as he could and got to the boards on his own without falling down. The mom and I squealed in delight and celebrated his success. I gave him a high five and told him how proud I was.

After class ended, I got off the ice. I heard someone yell out, "I got M&Ms!!" All the other adults around me laughed and were confused. To them, this was just a loud kid who got candy, but I knew better. I couldn't help but smile. That moment of his accomplishment made my week. It certainly was one giant leap for this little boy. I hope he takes this as a springboard for all the greatness he can achieve.

The next day, I had a private lesson with my coach. We ran through all the elements in my program. I actually executed a pretty nice axel for her (which is super rare since we skaters know that once the coach is watching, all elements tend to disappear). She said, "Wow! That was gorgeous." Um, hello? Who are you and what did you do to my coach?? These types of compliments are few and far between.

I ran through my program, and I botched an element. Everything else felt pretty good. Afterwards, coach said, "That was actually really good."  Holy cannoli! Of course, there were little things here and there that I could have done better, but it was amazing to hear two big compliments from my coach. I had gone through a horrible skating week the previous week so to come back strong like this was just delightful. That's one small leap for me.

Let's hope I can continue to make progress each week. And I hope that my little skating buddy continues to blossom. Sky's the limit for him. And I guess for me too.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Soft cheese rolls

These super soft and cheesy rolls are the brainchild of famed breadmaker Peter Reinhart. They are perfect as a dinner accompaniment or as an appetizer. Serve with your favorite marinara sauce for a pizza-like treat! 

Last month, we got snowed in one weekend. The weather forecasters predicted some snow, and they actually got it right this time. We got about 6 inches of snow, and it was enough to keep us off the roads for a day.

My husband and I spent some time shoveling the driveway and part of the street in front of our mailbox. Addie decided to play in the snow but got tired of it about 10 minutes in and disappeared inside. We later found her snuggled up in a blanket and reading a book.

Once the driveway was clear, we headed inside and I got bored. I decided to try my hand at one of Peter Reinhart's recipes since I had the time. If you aren't familiar with Peter, he is famous for his breads and authored a book called The Bread Baker's Apprentice. It's pretty much the bread-baking bible. Well, he published a second book called Artisan Breads Every Day that I checked out from the library.

My first attempt at creating the dough was a fail. I had some leftover melted butter sitting on the counter that I went to warm up in the microwave. I failed to cover the bowl so my butter exploded all over the inside of the microwave. Then, I failed to replace the lost butter with another fat so my dough turned out dry and thick. I was able to revive it by adding more oil and kneading it with my dough hook in my stand mixer, but I definitely had my doubts there.

Addie and I loved these soft cheese rolls and had them as our afternoon snack. We even added some marinara to the side to use as a dip and she exclaimed that they tasted like pizza. I halved the recipe below and got 12 rolls (cinnamon-roll sized). You can also bake the dough in a standard loaf pan (using the recipe below, you'll have about 2 loaves) or shape them into freestanding loaves.

I prepped the rolls and baked them the same day. There's an option below for baking another day if you like. Just make sure you thoroughly read the instructions below before you proceed.

Soft cheese rolls 
  • 6 and 1/4 cups (28 ounces/794 grams) unbleached bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons (0.5 ounces/14 grams) salt (or 1 Tablespoon coarse kosher salt) 
  • 5 Tablespoons (2.25 ounces/64 grams) granulated or brown sugar (or 3 and 1/2 Tablespoons honey or agave nectar)
  • 1 cup (8 ounces/227 grams) lukewarm water or beer (about 95 degrees F or 35 degrees C)
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons (9 ounces/255 grams) lukewarm buttermilk or milk of choice (about 95 degrees F or 35 degrees C)
  • 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons (0.5 ounces/14 grams) instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces/56.5 grams) melted unsalted butter or vegetable oil
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (7 ounces/198 grams) diced onion or 1 small bunch of fresh chives, minced
  • 2 and 1/2 cups (12 ounces/340 grams) granted, shredded or cubed cheese
The bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, salt and sugar together (if you are using honey or agave, dissolve it in the lukewarm water). In a separate small bowl, mix together the water and buttermilk. Sprinkle the yeast on top and allow it become frothy, about 5 minutes.

Pour the yeast mixture and melted butter into the large bowl and mix with the paddle attachment on low speed for 2 minutes. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

Switch to the dough hook attachment and mix on medium low speed for about 3 minutes. Add more flour or water as needed. The dough should be smooth and tacky but not sticky. Add the onions and continue to mix on low speed until well incorporated.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 1-2 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, seam side down and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover and allow to rest for at least 90 minutes. You can also cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Just make sure you allow it to rest for at least 2 hours so it comes up to room temperature before moving on to the next step.

Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and place on a lightly floured working surface. Roll one of the pieces out into a rectangle, about 8"x12". Sprinkle half of the cheese on top of the dough and roll the dough up, jelly-roll style.

Cut the dough (I used a bench scraper) into 12 equal pieces. Generously grease a round or square baking pan and place 6 pieces of dough, cut side up, into each pan. Make sure there is at least 1 and 1/2 inches in between each piece of dough. Spray or brush the top of the rolls with oil and cover with plastic wrap. If desired, top with additional shredded cheese. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Allow the rolls to rest and rise for about 90 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the rolls for 10 minutes. Then rotate the pans and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

Remove the pans from the oven and allow them to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Rolls should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for a few days.

Yield: 24 rolls

Source: Artisan Breads Every Day by Peter Reinhart

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Cracker toffee

5-ingredient cracker toffee that's totally addictive and makes a great gift. Customize these for Valentine's Day or any other special day that deserves a treat!
Have you all met my blogger friend Kelly? If not, you need to head over to her blog now because she's amazing. Kelly is a mom of 2 and creates wonderful meals and snacks to feed her beautiful family. She even authored a cookbook of Asian slow cooker recipes!

I've known Kelly for several years but haven't met her in person yet. I am constantly amazed by the gorgeous desserts and snacks she creates and had the chance to make her cracker toffee recently. Unfortunately for me, I made them for a friend who is dairy-free and I had forgotten about her butter intolerance. She still kept the toffee and asked for the recipe so she could recreate these with a butter substitute.

Before I gave away the tin of toffee, I had to sample a bite (OK, maybe 3). The cracker toffee was wonderfully rich and chewy, and I was able to customize it with my favorite toppings. Since her family has food allergies, I wasn't able to add in any baking chips or candy pieces. Instead, I opted for sprinkles.

This toffee is so versatile - you can use whatever baking chips you like and top with whatever makes you happiest. Sky's the limit here. If you're still looking for something to bake or gift your sweetheart, I hope you'll consider Kelly's cracker toffee. It only takes 5 ingredients and a little bit of time.

Cracker toffee
  • 30-40 saltine crackers (can substitute with graham crackers)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 cups baking chips of your choice (I used semi-sweet, but you can use milk, white, or flavored chips like peanut butter)
  • Toppings of your choice (I used various sprinkles)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard 9"x13" pan with parchment paper and spray the top with cooking spray.

Line the bottom of the pan with the crackers of your choice and set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together on medium heat. Allow the mixture to come to a boil, stirring, occasionally. Turn the heat down to medium low and allow it to simmer for 3-4 minutes. Do not stir.

Immediately pour the hot sugar mixture over the crackers and use a spatula to evenly distribute it as needed. Bake in your preheated oven for 5-6 minutes.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips directly on top of the sugar mixture and place the pan back in the oven for another 90 seconds. Using a spatula, spread the melted chocolate so it covers the pan. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately top with your favorite topping.

Allow the crackers to set for at least 1 hour before serving. Once cooled, break the toffee into pieces and serve.

Toffee should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for about 2 weeks.

Yield: One 9"x13" pan; about 30 pieces of toffee

Source: Life Made Sweeter

Friday, February 3, 2017

Skating Fridays

Another Proud Coaching Moment 

Two weeks ago, I shared a proud coaching moment with you.  I'm back again this week with another story I'd like to tell you about that really warmed my heart.

The week after I helped the little girl overcome her fear of the ice, I was asked to teach a free lesson. These are usually a lot of fun for me since we get to march around and have a good time.

When I was introduced to the boy, I immediately knew that this would be challenging. He didn't make any eye contact and had trouble forming words. I knew in my heart that this little boy was Autistic.

He kicked and screamed and kept asking for his mom. She gently pushed back and asked him to stay with me. While my time spent on the ice usually flies by, the 30 minutes I spent with this boy seemed to drag on.

I sincerely wanted to help him, but he didn't want anybody but his mom. My constant encouragement and praise did no good. I tried all different types of teaching techniques to no avail.

The same thing happened the following week. No progress.

Then on week 3, something magical happened. This little boy was screaming for my name during the minutes leading up to class. He and his mom came marching over to me, and he hugged my arm like a tree. We joyfully marched and glided together, and he was smiling. His mom mentioned that this was a breakthrough and she was tickled to see him skate and take to me.

I hope this little boy continues to progress. It's moments like these that make me proud and want to keep teaching others.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Mini (eggless) chocolate cookie dough cups

These bite-sized chocolate cups are filled with a safe and eggless cookie dough and perfect for Valentine's Day! Eat them by the handful or dozen - I won't tell!

Are you ready for all the Valentine's Day candy? Red and pink chocolate treats tend to multiply this time of year. And of course, one of the most popular candies during this holiday are chocolate peanut butter cups.

But, I am one of those weird people who don't like peanut butter. I won't fight you for those peanut butter cups, last bit of jarred peanut butter or steal your Reese's pieces. I will, however, battle you for any other chocolate concoctions.

When my husband enjoys his peanut butter cups, I feel left out. I long for one of those amazing looking chocolate-covered treats. So here I am to make things right. I filled mine with cookie dough. Not just any cookie dough - eggless cookie dough. That's right, all you germophobes can breathe easy on this one.

I melted some chocolate and brushed the insides of my candy molds. Then I allowed them to set and filled them with the eggless cookie dough. Then I topped it off with a final layer of chocolate, popped them out of the molds and taste tested way too many.

The peanut butter fans in my house loved these chocolate cookie dough cups. I will definitely have to hide them in a secret corner of the freezer so I don't have to share. Heh heh.

Hope you'll consider making these for Valentine's Day or any other day of the year!

Mini (eggless) chocolate cookie dough cups
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil (can substitute with canola oil)
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 3 minutes. Add in the milk and vanilla. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add in the flour and salt. Turn the mixer off and fold in the chocolate chips. Set aside.

In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the chocolate chips and oil together in the microwave. Mix until everything is uniform.

Using a pastry brush, brush a layer of chocolate in your candy mold. Repeat with other molds. Place the molds in the freezer for about 10 minutes.

Remove the molds from the freezer and add a bit of cookie dough into the candy molds. Press down on it so the tops are flat (I found it helpful to shape the dough into a small ball and then putting them in the molds after that). Then using the pastry brush again, paint another layer of chocolate on top and enough to cover the cookie dough. Return the molds back to the freezer for another 10-15 minutes.

Unmold the candies and enjoy. Leftover cookie dough cups are best stored in the freezer. The chocolate tends to melt quickly so I don't recommend keeping these at room temperature.

Yield: About 30 mini cups plus enough for about 10 cookie dough balls (feel free to enjoy them plain or coat them in chocolate)

Source: An Eva Bakes original; cookie dough from The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook by Lindsay Landis


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