Penguins in the Kitchen: Joy the Baker Melt-y Chocolate-Truffle Cookies

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One day I got a package in the mail from Amazon. I wasn’t expecting anything, so I had no idea what could be inside. The box contained two cookbooks: Joy the Baker Homemade Decadence and Brookes Headley’s Fancy Desserts, an unexpected “just because” gift from a friend in California.

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The first recipe I tried from Homemade Decadence was a classic yellow cake. It is a rock-solid basic recipe and should be anyone’s go to for birthdays, potlucks or just because. I made it for a friend’s birthday and baked it in a bundt pan and topped it with a chocolate ganache and sprinkles. The recipe makes one bundt or three 9″ layers or 24 cupcakes.

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I’ve started baking with a group of friends and I chose this cookie for our first recipe, based on ingredients I had on hand. I love chocolate truffles and was really excited to bake these.

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It was weird for me to put a cookie dough together by hand, I’m so used to using my stand mixer. They came together fast and with no issues along the way. The recipe was simple and straight forward. I put the dough in the freezer for 18 minutes instead of the fridge for 30, scooped them out and rolled them in powdered sugar and had them in the oven quickly. I was disappointed that the recipe only yielded 16 cookies: there are five people in my family and we all love cookies. Next time I’d definitely double the recipe.

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The cookie was supposed to be slightly underbaked. She recommended about 10 minutes bake time, but I know my oven: cookies this size will NOT be underbaked at ten minutes, they will be tiny bits of charcoal. I started them off at 5 minutes, rotated the pans and put them in for three more minutes. They were perfectly set and after cooling on the pan for five minutes I moved them to wire racks.

They were definitely best warm: melty and yummy. They were a cross between a chocolate crinkle, a brownie and a truffle. I love the color contrast between the confectioners’ sugar and the dark chocolate cookie, but I am curious to see if 3/4c. sugar/1/4 cup cocoa powder would make it taste even more like truffles.

The cookies pack a punch and are very very rich. I had two–they are definitely not snacking cookies, just a bit is enough. But even so–16 cookies will not cut it for my house!

Have you made these? What did you think?

Baked Sunday Mornings: Twice Baked

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I had decided to go rogue this time around so I could make the Wintermint Cake. I had already bought all the ingredients before and I really wanted to get rid of those candy canes while I still could. I decided to make Wintermint cupcakes to take to our friends’ house for New Year’s Eve.

I made them the same day and decided to skip the ganache because I didn’t have the time or the desire to both dip and frost my cupcakes, but next time I will make the recipe as a cake and will make the ganache too.

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It was fun to crush up my remaining candy canes to top the cupcakes with and even though I normally don’t like mint and chocolate together, I really liked the subtle fluffy buttercream paired with the delicate chocolate cake.

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I had no plans to make this week’s recipe, Hair of the Dog Cake. I just don’t dig alcohol with desserts and while this post contains two combos I usually don’t like–I’m really not that picky. There are not too many foods I don’t like: mint/chocolate, alcohol in desserts and mushrooms. That pretty much covers it.

But when one of my fellow bakers mentioned skipping the booze and making the cake as a vanilla cake I decided to give it a shot. I had most of the ingredients and I was curious about the boiled frosting. I didn’t want to run to the store to get the remaining ingredients so I tossed in some shortening a bit of sour cream to compensate for the egg and half a stick of butter I was missing and hoped for the best.

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The cake baked up beautifully, but I was still a bit confused by the boiled frosting. I pulled the cake when it turned bubbly, worried that I was going to overbroil and burn the cake, but I’m not quite sure I took it out at the right time.

The finished cake was delicious, though and we really enjoyed it. I loved the rich vanilla cake and the warm brown sugar/vanilla frosting and fluffy whipped cream. I’m glad I decided to make it as well.

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Go here to see how everyone else liked it! (and if they all kept or ditched the rum)

Next up: Gingersnaps with Lemon Sugar!

Baked Sunday Mornings: Chocolate-Chip Orange Panettone

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Happy Almost-Christmas!! I just had a birthday (my twelfth twenty-fifth 😉 and I’ll write about that soon, but right now it’s the time of year when my boys are pacing the floors like madmen waiting impatiently for the morning they can rip open their presents. I’m feeling pretty much in the spirit–it’s our first Christmas in this house and for the first time in years we are staying home. Our presents are wrapped and ready to go and our beautiful tree (our biggest yet) is full to max capacity with all of our special ornaments.

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I felt a little weird/sad to not spend the holidays with our family like we normally do, so I was happy to hear that my in-laws were coming this weekend to drop off presents/hang out with us for Christmas. They are literally staying one day (not overnight) so I’m happy to be baking a special treat to share with them.

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I’ve never made panettone before, but I’ve eaten it store bought plenty of times. Whole Foods has a nice one that I used to get for the holidays pretty frequently. I had considered not making this since I waited so long to get the few ingredients I didn’t have on hand and I needed to clean the house, but when my husband came home this evening (at around 10pm) with paper molds and oranges and corn syrup (after my house was fully clean) I knew there was no turning back.

I was a little worried when I added the milk to the yeast/flour because I had a recipe (it’s been months but it still messed with my confidence…) that used yeast and didn’t rise properly so I’m still a little gun shy. The milk seemed a bit warmer than it was supposed to be and I was afraid I had killed my yeast.

I couldn’t remember what size it was before after I let it rise the first time so I’m not sure if it was doing it’s thing or not. It’s now 1am and I am waiting for my sugar to turn to syrup on the stove with my orange peels. My dough is in the mixer bowl and the chocolate chips are in the measuring cup on the counter, waiting patiently for their turn.

Once my peels are ready I am going to take a shower while they cool. After I get my dough in the paper mold I am hitting the hay and hoping that an overnight rise will be fine. (did I mention they will be here at 8am-ish?!)

I am minutes away from taking the peels off the heat, so I am going to leave you here. I will update in the morning after my panettone is baked (and we try a bit of it) and let you know what the verdict was.

Good Night!!!

Update:

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I woke up to perfectly risen panettone, much to my delight. I got the oven fired up and the panettone baking. My in-laws texted and let us know that they were going to be here a couple of hours later than we had originally thought so we made coffee and went back to bed. A few How I Met Your Mother episodes later and my panettone was complete.

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I meant to put foil on the top but I lost track of time. Luckily it seemed ok, not too dark.

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I set it out to cool and went back to bed. My in-laws are here now and the panettone was perfect for cutting. We just had a couple of sample slices and it was great. The orange-chocolate combo was perfect and the texture was great–lighter than bread but more chewy than cake. I definitely think this one was a winner!

**Note: I didn’t realize the recipe called for bread flour so I used A/P. I was worried, but it didn’t seem to hurt the texture. Also, my husband brought home milk chocolate chips so it a pretty mellow chocolate flavor as opposed to what it would have been with semi-sweet chips.

Go see what everyone else thought!

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Next up: Lemon lime champagne granita!

Baked Sunday Mornings: Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

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This recipe forced helped me to jump-start my fall baking. I bought my first two pie pumpkins and located my pie weights. That alone made me feel triumphant. The bars are really yummy, the perfect thing to make for a holiday potluck…(or in this case, a random rainy weekend)

The only problem with it is that it is NOT procrastinator-friendly, it definitely takes a bit of time and planning to execute this recipe. Luckily we were just having a lazy weekend at home so while the boys snuggled on the couch watching Winnie the Pooh I spent some time in the kitchen.

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By the time we were finished having breakfast this morning (ok, I’m still in my jammies drinking coffee, but it’s technically not the morning anymore) the bars were ready to be cut.

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I definitely think they were a hit. I don’t need a pan of these laying around my house, so I think I am going to pack up most of them and send them with my oldest boy to take to his Nana’s house.

Go see how my tester friends fared with these yummy autumn treats!

Next up: Devil Dogs with Malted Buttercream Filling. WOW!

Baked Sunday Mornings: Brown Butter Snickerdoodles

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These are beautiful, perfect cookies that everyone loves. Their puffy, soft texture and crackly tops get me every time. The only problem is that the recipe only yields 2 dozen and they go quick!

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The only kind of tricky part is browning the butter but that is a skill that I mastered many Snickerdoodles ago, so luckily it didn’t slow me down this time.

Head on over and see if everyone else loved them as much as I did!

Next up: Pumpkin cheesecake bars! Yay, can’t wait! I’ve been itching to buy a few pumpkins! This is one of the best times of year here in Texas!

Baked Sunday Mornings: Orange Almond Ricotta Cheesecake

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When it came time to bake this cheesecake I realized I had an 8″ and a 10″ springform pan, but not a 9″. Ah, well. We were going to dinner at our friends’ house so the 10″ seemed like the way to go.

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I increased the amounts a bit for the crust to accommodate the bigger pan. I wasn’t sure how far up the filling would go so I extended the crust to the top of the pan. I had a bit of crust leftover, so that went into the freezer to be made into Compost Cookies at some point in the future.

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It seemed to take forever to get to 160 degrees. I know it was because of the bigger pan, but finally after about 80 minutes it was all set. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I pulled it out of the oven ten minutes before we had to leave for dinner. (it’s a bit hard to bake with three littles running around! 😉

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We popped it in their freezer the second we got there and settled in to get some very much-needed grownup conversation/cocktail time. Our five wild boys entertained each other and it was a really nice way to end a stressful week.

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After a lovely dinner of tacos and sampling assorted ciders (we all really want it to be fall now) we decided to cut the cheesecake. It had been in the freezer for about two hours and was chilled through. I forgot to bring almonds for garnish so I had to use a larger amount of sifted powdered sugar to cover the 3 thermometer holes. (I’m so glad I didn’t attempt to eyeball it, I would have seriously under-baked it)

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The verdict from the grownups: it was really great, a nice light way to end a meal and a nice balance with the beverages we were drinking. The kids weren’t as into it at all. The filling wasn’t sweet enough for them, but they did all like the crust.

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I hate to admit that I did not seek out fresh ricotta and I can see how that would have made a huge difference in the filling. I also didn’t buy amaretto, I subbed fresh orange juice instead. I loved the almond-orange combo and would definitely make this again. If I wasn’t going to use fresh ricotta next time I would add a bit of honey or more orange or bite the bullet and buy the amaretto. The filling was nice but not quite perfect. (in my perfectionistic opinion) I did notice that unlike a lot of my cream cheese-based cheesecakes this one didn’t crack at all, the top stayed smooth and beautiful.

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Overall I really really liked it and will definitely add it to the rotation. I love sharing food with family and friends and was glad I could include this cheesecake in our festivities.

Go over and see if my fellow bakers were less cheap/lazy than me and if using fresh ricotta improved their fillings!

Next up: Brown Butter Snickerdoodles….awwww yeah!!!

Baked Sunday Mornings: Banana Mousse Parfait

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The banana mousse we made this time was quick, easy and yummy. A great treat for the summer.

I really lagged on making it because I wasn’t sure whether I was going to use vanilla bean paste (would have to purchase) or substitute regular vanilla extract ( had on hand.)

In the end I decided to buy the vanilla bean paste because it came in a good-sized ( 4oz.) jar so I will definitely use it for when I want that iconic vanilla bean-speckled appearance. (scones, ice cream)

I waited so long to make this that my original bananas got a little too ripe:

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Oops!

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I used my shiny new food processor instead of my old cranky blender to blend the bananas, milk, sugar and vanilla bean paste. The heavy cream whipped up fast in the stand mixer–I chilled the bowl over night. Folding in the whipped cream was quick and the finished product was swirly and speckle-y–very pretty.

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I keep pint glasses in the deep freeze for summertime iced tea and lemonade so I used four of those for the mousse. I was curious to see what it tasted like on it’s own so I just put the mousse by itself in the glasses and chilled for most of the evening.

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I let my boys (judges of all desserts in our house) each have one after dinner. My Monkey wanted cookies on top of his:

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But the other two boys ate theirs as is:

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Everyone really liked it!

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This was a good, quick way to make an ice-cream like dessert without dragging out the ice cream attachment. The flavors were perfectly balanced and it wasn’t too sweet.

It would also be great frozen into popsicles, which is what I think I will do next time.

Go over and see what everyone else did with the recipe!!

Next up: (for July 7) Malted Vanilla Milkshakes–yum!!