Baked Sunday Mornings: Cream Cheese Chocolate Snacking Cookies

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It’s a miracle these cookies ended up in the oven– the dough was so smooth and tasty on it’s own. Almost like pudding.

And if you know me at all, you know that chocolate pudding is one of my huge weaknesses.

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But they did get baked and I was very happy with the final product. Soft and chewy cookie, perfect size. They taste even better as they cool. I used a medium scoop and got about 30 cookies.

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We have friends coming over for dinner tonight and my sweetie suggested I make homemade chocolate malt ice cream sandwiches for the dessert.

I was planning on making these cookies for them but loved CCCSCs so much that I made a second batch of dough just for the sandwiches. (without chocolate chips)

The original batch of cookies I am definitely keeping for snacking. 🙂

I had a ladies’ clothing swap to go to and took a bag of cookies with me. Otherwise I know I would have single-handedly eaten them all!

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Since I had to throw out more than half of my Mississippi Mud Pie, I was happy to share the cookies with friends. We made a valiant effort, but it was just too much pie for two people to handle. A batch of cookies is much easier to finish off!

I’ll include the outcome of the ice cream sandwiches in a separate post, it was my first time making chocolate malt ice cream and I can’t wait to let you know how it turned out!

In the meantime head over and see how my Baked Sunday Mornings friends’ cookies turned out!

Next up: (in two weeks) Banana Mousse Parfaits! Can’t Wait!

School’s Out for the Summer!

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Last Friday was the final day of 2nd grade for my big littles. The year went by pretty quickly, and I felt like this by the end, but since I am on the PTO board it was a huge final push to pull off the biggest party we had all year–The End of Year Bash!

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We did silly huge projects like candy balls and staying at the school all night to pop corn and make hundreds of bags of cotton candy. (so many that the machine conked out, hopefully not permanently) Even though we were all tired, it was so amazing to come together to make something fun and awesome happen for our kids. I love being a part of the community that we are building.

We had face painting, a dance party, a really amazing photo booth, sno-cones, plus the aforementioned cotton candy and popcorn. The kids were pretty amped up all day, and so was I after drinking a giant coffee:

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I had such a fun time volunteering and seeing how much fun the kids were having, and getting to hang out with my guys:

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I was so energized by the party and the caffeine that I decided to drive alone with all 3 boys to Dallas for my family’s memorial. I am so glad I went, but on the drive home after school to pack I was definitely wondering if I had lost my mind.

I had to stop by Target to get my guys some dressy-ish attire, all of their black pants and polos are pretty tired after being worn to school all year. That required another huge coffee.

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And then we were ready to hit the road.

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The service was lovely and my boys were not as weirded out by it as I had thought they might be. They were both very sweet and said they were happy to learn so much about family members that were such awesome people. It felt really good to hear them say that.

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Dealing with another loss kicked off a huge wave of processing things I have gone through in my life and really evaluate where I am at and who I am. It’s intense when things like that happen suddenly, especially if/when the circumstances were very tragic, like they were in this case.

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After our quick trip I dropped my boys off at their dad’s house to start his summer visitation with them. It was very jarring to be on this hurried trip, then have to say goodbye for a couple of weeks suddenly. I didn’t really get a good chance to work up to it in my mind, so it still feels weird to not hear their sweet little chipmunk voices at home.

In some ways I am thankful for the chance to get to regroup and plan our summer activities. I definitely feel like I am scrambling to get back to normal life, to work, to the whole balancing act. If I had to try and plan a fun (yet educational!) summer break right now I may actually fail miserably.

I definitely want to do this, then make a list of things I hope to do when the guys return. I’m looking forward to a summer filled with love, laughter, swimming, exploring, learning, crafting and relaxing.

I hope you are planning a summer filled with love and family too!

Baked Sunday Mornings: Mississippi Mud Pie (A), aka Coffee Ice Cream Tart

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I have never made (or eaten?!) a Mississippi Mud Pie before and was a little unsure how to approach it. I wasn’t 100% sure what a chocolate wafer cookie was, and the cookie aisle at my local grocery store is not usually one I usually spend a lot of time on. I briefly considered my store bought options then began to think about my homemade ones.

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I realized this could be the perfect time to combine the recipes and techniques of some of my favorite pastry chefs. I was a bit baffled by the crumb section of the Milk Bar cookbook initially but after making a few of the recipes I realized how great it is. You can eat the chunky crumbs alone by the handful, sprinkle them on ice cream, mix them into bars or cookies, use them to plate desserts or make a pie crust with them.

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I’ve been flipping through the Bouchon cookbook again and saw their take on Oreos and that is what I decided to make my crust with.

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It was really quick to mix up the dough in the food processor. I scooped it out when it was still a bit clumpy/crumbly and sprinkled it on a cookie sheet and baked at 350 for about 20 minutes, until the crumbles felt dry and firm but not rock-hard.

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Once I had my crumbs the crust was all set, one batch of TKO dough was too much, but I plan on using the leftovers for something else later. If I had planned on making just the crust I could have halved it and had plenty.

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I loved how deep and dark the dough was–it was barely sweet and rich and a bit salty. I personally love the addition of a good amount of salt in sweet desserts, especially since I knew this one would end up being really sweet with all the other layers.

But if someone didn’t like that then this cookie would definitely be too salty for them. I let the crust chill overnight and made the fudge the next day.

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While the fudge layer chilled I made the coffee ice cream. I was getting anxious to try the pie already so I was tempted to just go buy a pint of coffee ice cream.

But I’ve never made coffee ice cream before and Matt’s recipe looked straightforward and I had all the ingredients so I made up the custard and chilled it for an hour in the fridge then an hour in the freezer instead of four hours in the fridge.

Four hours is a long time to wait when you are trying to get to the eating part of a tasty pie!

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The recipe made the perfect amount for the pie. I was a little bummed to not have any leftover (to sprinkle cookies on?) 😉 but it was pretty satisfying to see all the ice cream hanging out in the pie, ready for the pecans and the final layer of boozy fudge.

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I didn’t toast the pecans first, I just used them straight out of the bag. I had the oven pre-heating then figured I’d just jump to the topping instead and tossed the chopped pecans on top of the ice cream and smooshed them in slightly with the back of a wooden spoon.

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I was really excited about the pie and couldn’t wait to taste it. After all the layers I had made over several days I wasn’t too concerned with how my final product looked. When I cut it the first time the ice cream was a bit soft, but I kind of like it better that way.

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Of course the next day when I had a piece it was firm and easier to cut. (the top picture was from day 2)

I will definitely make this again! It would be the perfect thing to make for a summer birthday for a grownup friend. I did give my boys a bite, but even though they have a summer birthday they always request cake instead of pie.

Go by and see how all my fellow bakers’ pies look!!

Flourless Chocolate Cake With Buttermilk Ganache

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We have friends coming over for dinner tonight and I was lagging a bit with the dessert-making. I really had no idea what I was going to make.

That problem was solved when my sweet husband received a text letting him know that our guest thinks he might be gluten intolerant. C was making brisket tacos so corn tortilla, no big deal.

Since I hadn’t made anything yet I decided to make a flourless chocolate cake so our friend wouldn’t leave feeling stabby pains in his tummy. I think his wife will thank me later. 😉

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I had a nice bar of chocolate on hand so the cake was all set. I got to use an 8″ springform pan that my sweetie bought me when we first met, that I had yet to use for some reason. The batter came together well and went off into the oven while I put G down for a nap.

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I was feeling pretty pleased with myself when I realized I had used all the chocolate and had no heavy cream. So where did that leave me in terms of the topping for the cake? Determined to not be ganache-less I scrambled to find a solution.

I still had buttermilk from last week’s cornmeal griddle cakes so I could use a recipe I found on the King Arthur website, no problem. That just left the chocolate. I thought I had read that 3 tbsp. of cocoa powder plus 1 tbsp. of shortening= 1 oz. of chocolate. That sounded gross to me, but I mixed it up, added sugar to taste and poured the heated buttermilk over it then mixed in the butter.

It looked shiny and as ganache-y as any ganache I’ve ever made and it tasted good, no weird mouthfeel like I had feared. It thickened a bit as it cooled so I frosted the cake while it was still a bit warm.

One of my favorite things about ganache is you just pour it over and it hardens to a shiny, beautiful finish. That didn’t really happen here, as it cooled it lost it’s sheen but if it ends up tasting good then that works for me.

I sprinkled some crystal-flaked salt on top and threw it on my cake stand. I’ll let you know later what the verdict was. 🙂

*adapted from the King Arthur buttermilk ganache recipe:

3 ounces (by weight) buttermilk (I used about 1/2 c)
7 ounces (by weight) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
**since I didn’t have chocolate I used 21 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, 7 tbsp shortening and 1/3 c of sugar
1/2 tablespoon butter, cut into 1/8″ pieces and chilled

INSTRUCTIONS:

Ganache is traditionally made with cream, but this works and has an interesting tang to it.

Heat the buttermilk until it just starts to boil, stirring occasionally, then add the chocolate and stir until fully melted.

Add the butter pieces and stir slowly.

Strain through a fine sieve and allow to cool. (The buttermilk will curdle a bit, this removes the lumps.)

^Mine didn’t seem curdly or lumpy so I didn’t strain. Plus, I didn’t feel like it. ^

**The verdict:

I was so pleasantly surprised to find that this cake turned out amazing. I was impressed with how yummy a flour-free dessert could be. The flakey salt on top was a MUST. A tiny piece each was plenty, it was so rich and chocolately. All the kids loved it too. This is a keeper, especially for gluten-free guests. I won’t use the shortening/cocoa powder thing next time, but in a pinch it works very, very well.

Baked Sunday Mornings: Chocolate Malted Madeleines

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When my last baby was first born my husband got a job as the executive chef for a French restaurant. I helped him choose desserts for the initial menu even though, to be perfectly honest French baking intimidates me. (stop staring at me, Bouchon Bakery coobook!)

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I always intended to buy a madeleine pan and give them a shot– I love their soft, spongey texture and delicate seashell scallops–but until this week I never got around to picking one up.

I found a mini madeleine pan at the Home Goods store near my house. I love malt and was really excited about this recipe.

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I started baking these while my boys had friends over for a play date. I figured I would make them a batch of regular basic chocolate chunk cookies while they played. The madeleine batter needs to rest for an hour so that time seemed like the perfect opportunity to whip up some kid-friendly treats.

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I completely discounted the fact that I normally use my weekly baking time as sort of a tasty meditation and having a houseful of kids underfoot in a thunderstorm is maybe not the most relaxing of environments.

But regardless, I was able to shove cookies into the hands of all the littles so I could check on my madeleine batter and get them in the oven. Since I had never made them before I definitely overfilled the pan on the first batch.

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They looked more like chocolate pillows than delicate seaside collectibles so I scaled wayyy back on the batter for the second batch. But the texture was right so I was still excited about them, and guess who doesn’t care about the shape of a cookie? Kids. They didn’t even glance at them before shoving them in their mouths.

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I got the batter amount right the second time and they came out of the oven looking cute and delicate.

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They looked even better when I dusted them with cocoa and malt powder. Despite the chaos going on at my house while I baked this week, I was really happy with the way these turned out.

And now that I have a pan I can try out some classic madeleines. My boys will be decidedly less excited about those since they are on a weird lemon-hating kick right now, but that’s ok. I’m happy to eat them up test them out.

After baking these I did some internet roaming and noticed that there is quite a bit of strong opinion about what constitutes the perfect madeleine.

The ‘hump’ is quite important and it seems you achieve this by first chilling the batter and/or the pans. I had remembered reading about chilling the pans in the Bouchon cookbook but I had no idea it was such a big deal. Interesting.

Side note: Had my middle boy been a girl his name would have been Madeleine. 🙂

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Go see how all my fellow bakers’ yummy tiny cakes turned out!

Next up: Mississippi Mud Pie aka Coffee Ice Cream Tart!!!

Baked Sunday Mornings: Cornmeal Griddle Cakes

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I was looking forward to making these all week. I had plans to surprise my honey with breakfast before I had to go to work for a bit.

My plans were thrown off first by my sweetie getting sick mid-week, then by a surprising and very weird tragedy that happened to my extended family on Friday.

I almost didn’t make these at all.

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I’m so glad I did take the time out for this project, I was a complete nervous wreck and pretty much just pacing around my house.

Cooking soothes my soul.

I had to slow down and breathe to measure, whisk and mix. Midway through the process (which I was taking my time with since Baby G was down for a nap) I felt stress and tension melt away.

As each element of the recipe came together I felt my thoughts slowing down for the first time all day.

I decide to give making my own butter a try, something I have always wanted to do but had put off because I thought it would be a pain.

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It was so hard to keep mixing the heavy cream after it became gorgeous, perfect whipped cream. I had already added vanilla and some lemon simple syrup (leftover from the candied lemon peel I made for the Lemon Drop cake) and it was heavenly. I bit the bullet and kept mixing.

I was surprised to hear sloshing in the mixing bowl!

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It made exactly one cup of buttermilk, enough for the griddlecakes!

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The cakes cooked up quickly and beautifully. The edges crisped up but the centers were fluffy and not at all gritty or heavy like I was imagining. They were perfect. Even my poor sick husband enjoyed them.

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I topped them with chopped pecans and maple syrup. The recipe made about ten, I used slightly more batter than 1/4 cup.

We at half of them and I’m freezing the other half for school day breakfast for my littles.

I would definitely make these again! (Even though some sizzling hot butter jumped out of the pan and burned my hand when I was cooking the last griddle cake!)

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Head on over for the recipe and to see how everyone else fared!

Baked: Nutella Scones

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My babies spend the night at their Papa’s on Wednesdays so tonight I wanted to bake them something special to see them off to school in the morning.

I made Chocolate Hazelnut Spread as part of Baked Sunday Mornings this past weekend and I wanted to use it up. (the last thing I would want is for yummy homemade goodness to be abandoned in the depths of the fridge) My boys LOVE Nutella so I knew Nutella Scones would surely be a hit.

I have only made scones one other time–a couple of years ago I attempted fig scones. This was pre-Kitchenaid so they probably weren’t great.

Now, you don’t need a stand mixer to make scones but until I owned my stand mixer I was not really advancing in my baking craft. There is really only so much you can do without one so even though I think I’ve always been a decent baker, the Kitchenaid helped me take it to the next level.

I have no idea how these will taste (hopefully fantastic) but scones are pretty easy to make. In this case you whisk together dry ingredients and set them aside, then smoosh in cold cubed butter. Next, whisk heavy cream and one egg then add to the butter/flour mixture. The chopped hazelnuts go in last.

Once the dough can more or less stay together you turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead/smoosh/guide it into a roughly 12×6 rectangle. After spreading the rectangle with Nutella you roll it (I had my dough on a flexible plastic placemat so I began the roll with the sheet around it to make it easier) into a cylinder.

Form the cylinder into a slightly flattened disc then cut into 6-8 pieces.

I was excited because I got to set up another drizzle station. Once the scones are baked you put them on a cooling rack and drizzle with warm Nutella.

The hard part for me was the baking time. I underbake cookies by quite a bit and underbake cakes slightly, but it’s my understanding that a scone that is too under has more in common with a raw pancake than a gooey brownie. (yuck)

Anyway, mine are all done! I can’t wait to have one with coffee in the morning!

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I hope my guys like them!!

Piñata Cake: The Verdict

Well, the piñata cake was a hit! I was so amazed and pleased when the cakes just slid right out of the bowls. They looked great!

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I let them cool overnight, then filled and frosted them Monday afternoon. We had plans to have dinner at our friends’ house and I wanted to share the sugar bomb cake with them so we wouldn’t all die from sugar shock have leftovers hanging around.

It was a little heartbreaking to carve my beautiful cakes up, I have never done that and it was a little weird. I hollowed out the bottom bowl a lot but left most of the top intact. I love cake and could care less about candy (that is not chocolate) so I wanted to leave as much cake as possible.

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Easter candy was on sale last week so before my boys went to their Papa’s for the weekend I let them pick out a few things. They chose jelly beans, mini candy bars and Angry Bird gummies. They also chose Cadbury caramel eggs but those got lost in my tummy over the weekend somehow. 😉

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Once the bottom layer was filled I added frosting to the “lip” to secure the “lid” and plopped it right on top. It was perfect.

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After doing a crumb-coat (essential when frosting any cake) and chilling for about 15 minutes I was able to quickly frost the cake and decorate with copious amounts of sprinkles. (I made a huge mess, but I had to leave it because we were in a rush to pick up the boys and head to dinner)

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When we told the boys we had dinner plans they were disappointed because they thought that meant I didn’t make the cake like I had promised. Do they not know me?! I never renege on cake!

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All the boys ate impatiently and did the obligatory post-dinner playing before demanding that we cut the cake. Their friend J had already tried the wonder that is Pinata cake because his mom is L, is my friend who gave me the recipe.

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So even though it was delicious, this will always be a cake we share with lots of other people, and probably only on special occasions. But my sweet husband and I have already discussed ways to make this type of cake less sweet and more elegant. We were thinking yellow cake filled with pretzels and homemade malted milk ice cream and topped with salted caramel ganache. It would also be fun to make it square instead of round. You could even hollow out cupcakes and put things like fortunes or tiny presents in them.

How would you make this cake less playground and more dinner party?

Piñata Cake!

I am finally making a piñata cake for my boys. I wasn’t paying attention the first time I read the recipe and didn’t realize I didn’t need special pans for it, you just bake the cakes in heat-safe bowls. Genius!!

My big littles will be home tomorrow afternoon and on Friday I promised them the cake would be ready upon their return.

The original recipe calls for white cake mix, which I’m sure you know I believe is an abomination so I borrowed a recipe from my friend, L who has already made the cake.

*L’s Easter Piñata Cake:

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The white cake was easy enough to make, it used a slightly different technique than I’m used to for most cakes, but the batter was light and fluffy and tasted yummy when I licked cleaned the spatula.

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The only thing I’m a little nervous about is baking in bowls, since I’ve never done it before. The cakes are in the oven so I guess we’ll see! I hope I can get them out cleanly, but I’ll keep you posted!!

Are you doing any baking this weekend?