Peanut Pretzel Chocolate Clusters

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For this month’s Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned Brittany’s blog We Heart Vegan. I was excited to try out some new vegan stuff and began looking through lots of interesting recipes. But then life caught up with me. I came home tired or had to do work, so I turned to something simple yet comforting. Salty and sweet Peanut Pretzel Chocolate Clusters? Please and thank you.

This recipe too was a great way to use up my hoarded peanuts and pretzels from Southwest flights (I often feel too nervous/sick to my stomach to eat on planes but damn it I paid for my ticket and I am getting my free snack and assorted soft drink).  I also apologize for a hasty picture.  After I made these, the aroma of chocolate made me temporarily forget that I was meant to take a picture, leaving me to remember only after I had begun eating most of these clusters in one sitting.

PEANUT PRETZEL CHOCOLATE CLUSTERS
Adapted from We Heart Vegan

INGREDIENTS

2 cups milk chocolate chips
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons butter
Vanilla extract
Crushed pretzels
Salted peanuts

DIRECTIONS

In a double broiler, combine chocolate, salt, butter, and vanilla extract. Cook, stirring, until melted. Stir in your desired amount of pretzels and peanuts (feel free to add anything else too your heart desires). Spread onto a prepared baking sheet or wax paper into a single layer. Chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes. Break into pieces. Store in refrigerator.

Make sure to check out what everyone else made this month!

Cocoa Brownies

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Well I come to you today to let you know that these brownies are a great way to soak up slightly warm beer from a plastic cup.

I celebrated the Fourth of July by playing beer pong with friends only to remind myself that I am a light-weight. But it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, it’s how you play the game.  And when you are playing the game while slightly tipsy, everyone wins anyway.

I have always been on the look out for a brownie recipe that is better than the brownie box mix.  One major obstacle was that most homemade brownie recipes require baking chocolate, usually of high quality.  Both my wallet and my desire to not have to get up from my couch and walk often prevented me from making these recipes.   So I tried many brownie recipes that were cocoa-based, but they often did not turn of chocolately or fudgey enough. So when I came across this brownie recipe that only used cocoa powder, I gave it another go.

Well, here it is.  A cocoa-based brownie recipes that tastes wonderfully chocolatey and fudgey.  Perfect for beer pong, obviously.

COCOA BROWNIES
Barely Adapted from Recipe Girl

INGREDIENTS

11 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
8 3/4 ounces granulated sugar (1 1/4 cups)
3 ounces cocoa powder (1 scant cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
1 3/4 ounces all purpose flour (1/3 cup & 1 tablespoon)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325°F. Prepare an 8 inch by 8 inch baking pan. Set aside.

Place butter in a large bowl and melt over a double broiler. Stir in sugar, cocoa powder, and salt while still over the double broiler. Stir until completely mixed. Remove from double broiler and let cool slightly. Stir in vanilla extract and eggs, one at a time until fully combined. Add all of the flour. Stir to combine for 25-30 strokes. Pour into prepared baking pan. Bake for 18-23 minutes, until a toothpick comes out slightly dirty. Let cool completely and cut into bars.

How to Deep Fry Candy: Cadbury Crème Scotch Egg

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Easter is a very important time of the year for me for one main reason: lots and lots of candy.

So I think that it’s time to learn how to deep fry candy.  Are you ready?

Now I normally eat healthy, mostly vegetarian even, with lots of fruits and vegetables.  But some days I just need sugar- and not just sugar but deep fried sugar.  And then there are days when I just want to eat frosting with a spoon.  But today is a day for deep fried dessert- let’s save the frosting for tomorrow.

Let me walk you through the steps to get some warm, sweet, fried treats.  It’ll be like a state fair in your own home.  No need to weave through endless crowds and screaming children- we can enjoy our deep friend treats in silence at home (or while watching

This time I decided to go all out. Four words: Deep. Fried. Cadbury. Egg.

Cadbury eggs just may be one of my most favorite types of candy out there, and I still have a few leftover from Easter.  I was inspired by Cakespy’s dessert version of the English bar food Scotch Egg.  I love a good pun on a plate.

If you don’t like Cadbury eggs (I feel sad for you), you can do this with any candy bar or cookie.  Follow the same basic techniques here.  The recipe below is a more complicated and fancy batter (if you can call deep friend chocolate fancy).  First, you coat the candy in a gooey chocolate batter, and then you roll it in a salty crunchy Ritz cracker topping for that ultimate sweet and salt combo. Deep fry it, and boom: instant gratification.

The best tip for deep frying  is to have everything ready when you start dipping and frying.  Work slowly and carefully and follow directions.  Use a thermometer to measure the temperature of your oil: nothing is worse than a stomach-ache 30 minutes after enjoying a deep-fried treat because your oil was not hot enough.

If you want a simpler, more classic version of deep fried food, you can also just use any pancake batter (even the batter from a box) in place of a homemade batter.   Just follow the same general steps in this recipe: heat oil, dip in batter, deep fry, drain, devour.

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CADBURY CREME SCOTCH EGG
Barely Adapted from Cakespy

INGREDIENTS

4 Cadbury crème eggs, frozen
1 1/4 cup flour, divided
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup crushed Ritz
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons oil
Vegetable oil, for frying

DIRECTIONS

Unwrap and freeze Cadbury eggs for at least 2 hours, if not overnight.*

Prepare your batter and dipping process. In a bowl, place a 1/2 cup of flour. In another bowl, lightly beat one egg. In a third bowl, place crushed Ritz. Set aside.

Fill a large pot with oil so that it is about 4-6 inches deep. Heat oil to 375°F. (This will take about 12-17 minutes). When oil is almost to temperature, begin making batter.

In a large bowl, whisk 3/4 cup flour, salt, cocoa powder, and baking powder. Whisk in milk, vinegar, and oil. This should be a thick and somewhat sticky batter (thicker than a pancake mixture).

Working with one Cadbury egg at a time (leaving the others in the freezer). Place into prepared batter. Completely coat with spoon. You want the egg completely covered but be careful not to make this batter coating too thick (you will have leftover batter after frying all your eggs).

Using floured hands transfer to bowl with flour. Coat with flour. Dip in beaten egg. Dip into crushed Ritz crackers and coat. Fry for 1-1 1/2 minutes, until golden brown. Drain on paper towel. Repeat with remaining Cadbury eggs (you can keep them warm by placing them on a baking sheet in an oven at 250°F.).

Makes 4 Scotch Cadbury Creme Eggs.

Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

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Happy Pi(e) Day!

Any holiday that mandates a celebration with lots of food, especially dessert, is an a-okay holiday in my books.  Thankfully most holidays here center, or at least feature, lots and lots of food.  And while celebrating math is not something I support quite as much, I’ll celebrate Pi Day if it means I get to eat some more dessert.

While Boston Cream Pie isn’t technically a pie, it has the word “pie” in the title, it’s a dessert, and it’s delicious- so I say it works for Pi day.  And what’s even better is putting Boston Cream Pie in individual-sized adorable cupcake form.  Make sure to have some type of pie today to celebrate!

BOSTON CREAM PIE CUPCAKES
Slightly Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

INGREDIENTS

For the Pastry Cream:
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons butter, cut into 2 pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Cupcakes:
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons butter, room temperature & in 12 pieces
3 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup milk, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Chocolate Icing:
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

For the Pastry Cream:

Place cream in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, beat egg yolks, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Whisk in cornstarch until pale yellow and thick.

Slowly whisk the heavy cream into the egg mixture to temper. Return to the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the pastry cream thickens, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla. Pour into a bowl, wrap tightly with plastic wrap (to prevent a skin from forming) and chill for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

For the Cupcakes:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 12 cup cupcake pan with cupcake liners.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Using a stand mixrer or hand mixer, beat butter into flour mixture one piece at a time. Beat until mixture forms moist crumbs, 1-3 minutes. Beat in eggs. Beat in milk and vanilla. Increase speed and mix until smooth, light, and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Pour batter into cupcake tins, filling each cup about 3/4 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely.

Use a pairing knife to cut a whole in each muffin, removing excess cake. Fill each cupcake with pastry cream and place cupcake top back on top.

For the Chocolate Frosting:

In a saucepan combine butter, cocoa powder, salt, and milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until butter in melted. Whisk in powdered sugar. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Let sit for approximately 10 minutes. Pour frosting on top of cupcakes. Let set for at least 30 minutes.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Sweet and Salty Frito Snack Mix

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Oh my.

This sweet and salty frito snack mix makes me happy.  It is what it says: sweet, salty, and delicious.

You know what else makes me happy? Weekends.  Pancakes.  A good book that I can’t put down.  TV opening credits.

Let’s spend some time on that last one.  Yes, today we are going to have a conversation about television show opening credits.  Now, for me, a good set of opening credits can set a good tone for a TV show.  It makes marathoning a show so much more enjoyable.  However, I recently learned that not everyone values good opening credits.  One of my favorite opening credits is from Sons of Anarchy.  When I went home over winter break my parents were watching the show on Netflix as well, but it turns out when they watch the show on Netflix they always fast forwarded through the credits.

I watched in horror each episode as they fast forwarded past the tattoo song credits, and I found myself extrememely disappointed.  I need to hear the opening credits to get in the mood for the show (instead I had to watch in solitude afterward on my computer).  The good life is being able to watch great opening credits.

Other shows with great opening credits:  Dexter,  most HBO shows (my favorites being True Blood, Big Love, and Game of Thrones), all 90s shows like Charmed and Dawson’s Creek (I DON’T WANNA WAIT).  Oh my god there are so many good TV show credits that I could go on forever.  So instead let’s leave with this fantastic snack mix: basically a caramel coated mix of salty crunchy goodness with M&Ms on top.

Make sure to eat this snack mix while watching TV openings for maximum enjoyment.  Now we better go before I start a rant about how Dawson’s Creek on Netflix does NOT have the original song for the opening credits.  Show ruined.

SWEET AND SALTY FRITO SNACK MIX
Barely Adapted from Recipe Girl

INGREDIENTS

3-4 cups fritos (about 10 ounces)
2 cups rice chex cereal
2 cups pretzels
1 1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup candy (m&ms, mini peanut butter cups, heath pieces, etc.)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a roasting pan mix fritos, chex cereal, pretzels, and pecans.

In a small saucepan combine butter, light corn syrup, and light brown sugar over medium heat. Stir together until brown sugar and butter have melted. Bring to a hard boil and let boil for 4 minutes without stirring. Stir in salt. Pour over snack mix, stirring to evenly coat. Bake for 8 minutes, remove from oven and stir mix. Bake again for 8 minutes. Let cool completely.

Once cooled, break into pieces and stir in candy.

Meringue Filled Yeasted Coffee Cake: Secret Recipe Club

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I have gone into dessert baking withdrawal.

In December, I had desserts coming out the wazoo (a rather mysterious place), and I always had another dessert in mind to make next.  I was a desert making machine back then, AKA the good old days when I had extremely low amounts of required work.  Well, being busy and back to making meals for one has put my dessert making a little bit on pause.  But here I am ready to get back into the kitchen, and I am ready for a challenge.

So when I got Taryn’s blog Sweetly Serendipity for this month’s Secret Recipe Club and saw that she has lots of dessert recipes to choose from, I was absolutely thrilled.  Taryn has a lot of types of desserts to choose from: from easy sweet tooth fixes, lots of chocolate, and lots of homemade bread.  I went searching for a recipe to challenge myself, and I came across this meringue filled yeasted coffee cake.

You had me at meringue (how my romantic comedy would be scripted).

The recipe name is a mouthful, but I had never heard of stuffing a coffee cake with meringue.  I was intrigued automatically.  I set out to make the coffee cake the first day I had free.  First, I loved that the ingredients are listed by weight- weighing ingredients is so much easier than measuring them for the sole reason that there are less dishes to wash after.  Second, it sounded decadent and perfect for a kitchen challenge.

I got straight to work, and thing were going great.  But, my friends, this was a challenge.  Rolling a pasty around meringue makes for messy work, and if you compare mine to Taryn’s, I could not manage creating a circular pastry.  It was a little messy, but I say let’s call that rustic charm because it is delicious enough that no one will mind.  Just follow instructions and take it slow.  Makes for one decadent breakfast or brunch.

MERINGUE FILLED YEASTED COFFEE CAKE
Barely Adapted from Sweetly Serendipity

INGREDIENTS

For the Dough:
2 cups all purpose flour (200 g), divided
2 tablespoons granulated sugar (27 g)
1/2 teaspoon salt (4 g)
1/2 package of yeast (4 g)
1/4 cup & 2 tablespoons milk
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons water
1 egg

For the Meringue:
2 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated sugar (55 g)

For the Filling:
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts

DIRECTIONS

For the Dough:

In a large bowl, whisk 1 1/2 cups of flour (115 g), sugar, salt, and yeast.

In a saucepan, combine milk, butter, and water over medium-low heat. Heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is just melted.

With an electric mixer or hand mixer, slowly add the liquid ingreidents to the dry ingredients until blended. Increase speed and beat for 2 minutes. Add egg and 1/2 cup flour (75 g). Beat for 2 more minutes. If needed, stir in any remaining flour to have the mixture come together as a dough. Knead dough for 6-10 minutes until smooth and elastic, adding extra flour as needed.

Place dough in a grease bowl and put in a warm place. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2-2 hours.

For the Meringue:

After the dough has risen, prepare the meringue. Place egg whites and salt in a large bowl. Beat until foamy and opaque. Add vanilla extract. Slowly add sugar while beating until very stiff and glossy peaks form.

To Assemble to Coffee Cake:

Punch down risen down. Roll dough out into a 20 by 10 inch rectangle. Spread meringue filling on dough, leaving a 3/4 inch border on all sides. Sprinkle toppings on top of meringue. Carefully roll the dough into a long log. Transfer to a prepared baking sheet and form a ring.

Use a sharp knife to make cuts deep into the ring. Cover and place in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, 45-60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake for 25-60 minutes until golden brown. Let cool completely.

Make sure to check out what everyone else made this month!

 

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

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Last time I gave you a pink treat for Valentine’s Day, and now it’s time for a chocolate one.

A chocolate hazelnut dessert! Nutella lovers, get your forks ready.

But before we dive into this cake, let’s take a moment to talk about winter weather.  So I grew up in Houston, Texas, and I spent my childhood years wishing and hoping for some white powdery snow.  My birthday candles, those rope necklaces, and fallen eyelashes were all dedicated to my hopes for some snow.  One Christmas we got almost a 1/2 inch of snow, and it was pure magic.  It promptly melted the next morning, but it was a Christmas miracle.  I was convinced as a child that I must move north to get more snow in my life.

Childhood self: you are a fool.  Snow is not always so great.  First, it’s cold.  Second, it’s not good for an anxious person to drive in (I almost went head first into a telephone pole in our parking lot last week).  Third, people in academic buildings never keep the heat at the right temperature.  Fourth, although you still have to be at work, people stop showing up to stuff which leaves you even more bitter that you had to be there.

Yeah, so snow and I are not on the outs.  I might not be so bitter if I didn’t have to walk 15 minutes to get to work each morning.  God forbid graduate students who work for the university have access to sensible parking.

Before I go on another rant, let’s talk about this cake.  This cake can brighten anyone’s snowy, cold day.  This cake is rich but light tasting.  The Nutella frosting is made with light whipped cream and taste divine- I would each just a bowl of this if I could.  The roasted, salted hazelnuts on top add such a great crunch to the combo as well as a pretty way to hide the fact that you are a subpar cake decorator, and there is hidden chopped chocolate on the inside layer   In my version of this recipe I used one of my favorite chocolate cake bases- one that I find actually turns out most and doesn’t taste dry or overbaked.

Let them eat cake!

CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT CAKE
Adapted from Eat, Drink, & Be Merry via Tasty Kitchen

DIRECTIONS

For the Cake:
6 ounces semisweet chocolate
10 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup Frangelico
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
4 eggs, separate
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 & 1 tablespoon cup all purpose flour

8 ounces Marscarpone cream
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup Nutella

To Assemble the Cake:
1 1/2 cup Nutella
1 cup chopped chocolate
Roasted, salted hazelnuts

DIRECTIONS

For the Cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line a 9 inch springform pan. Line pan with parchment paper and grease.

In a double broiler, melt chocolate and butter. Remove from stove and stir in Frangelica. Let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, separate eggs into two separate bowls (4 yolks in one bowl, 4 egg whites in another bowl). Divide sugar in half. Pour half of the sugar in with the egg yolks and whisk together. Whisk egg yolk mixture into chocolate mixture. Stir in salt, cinnamon and flour.

With a hand mixer, beat egg whites until foamy. Continue to beat, adding remaining sugar in a slow, steady stream. Beat until stiff but dry peaks do not form. Fold in 1/3 of the meringue mixture into the chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining meringue

*For my chocolate, I used a combination of semisweet and milk chocolate since sometimes semi-sweet chocolate is not sweet enough for me. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 60-75 minutes. Check with a toothpick for doneness. Cool on a wire wrack for 20 minutes. Remove sides of springform pan and let cool.

For the Nutella Cream:

In a large bowl whip the marscarpone, powdered sugar, vanilla, and heavy whipping cream together until peaks form. Fold in Nutella.

To Assemble the Cake:

Cut the cake into two equal layers. Place Nutella in the bowl and melt in the microwave until spreadable, about 30 seconds. Spread on the bottom cake layer. Place in the freezer for about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle chopped chocolate on top. Spread a layer of Nutella cream on top. Place the top cake layer on top. Frost the cake with the remaining Nutella cream. Sprinkle hazelnuts on top.

Sachertorte

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Over the past few years I have definitely become a lot better in the kitchen.  I am better at following/creating recipes and food presentation.  My food used to look tired, run down, and listless, and I made a lot of mistakes (“Oops I forgot the [insert important ingredient that makes the entire recipe here].”, “Oops, did that say 1 1/2 minutes, I thought it said 15”).

While I am much improved, cakes are still really hard for me to decorate and have look pretty.  So when it comes to my birthday, I have great dreams and visions of a multi-layered cake with homemade frosting and lots of filling.  And while my birthday cakes usually taste awesome, their looks can sometimes leave something to be desired.

This year I made myself a Sachertorte, with a few twists.  A Sachertorte is an chocolate cake made famous by the Austrian Franz Sacher, who served this cake to Prince Wenzel von Metternich.  The more you know!

A traditional sacher torte is a fudge chocolate cake with brandy, topped with apricot preserves and a ganache.  I made my own twist by replacing the brandy with framboise and the apricot preserves with raspberry.  It was definitely delicious and made for a very happy birthday- even the birth of Jesus can’t eclipse my birthday cake this year!

Happy birthday to all the other December babies out there.

SACHERTORTE
Adapted from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book via My Baking Heart

INGREDIENTS

For the Cake:
6 ounces semisweet chocolate
10 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup framboise
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
4 eggs, separate
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 & 1 tablespoon cup all purpose flour

For the Filling:
1 cup raspberry preserves
1/3 cup coarsely chopped chocolate

For the Ganache:
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate*
1/2 cup heavy cream
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon corn syrup

DIRECTIONS

For the Cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line a 9 inch springform pan. Line pan with parchment paper and grease.

In a double broiler, melt chocolate and butter. Remove from stove and stir in framboise. Let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, separate eggs into two separate bowls (4 yolks in one bowl, 4 egg whites in another bowl). Divide sugar in half. Pour half of the sugar in with the egg yolks and whisk together. Whisk egg yolk mixture into chocolate mixture. Stir in salt, cinnamon and flour.

With a hand mixer, beat egg whites until foamy. Continue to beat, adding remaining sugar in a slow, steady stream. Beat until stiff but dry peaks do not form. Fold in 1/3 of the meringue mixture into the chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining meringue

*For my chocolate, I used a combination of semisweet and milk chocolate since sometimes semi-sweet chocolate is not sweet enough for me. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 60-75 minutes. Check with a toothpick for doneness. Cool on a wire wrack for 20 minutes. Remove sides of springform pan and let cool.

For the Filling:

Cut cake into 2 even layers. Spread raspberry preserves on the bottom layer. Sprinkle chopped chocolate on top. Top with top cake layer.

For the Ganache:

Chop the chocolate and place in a bowl. Place heavy cream in a saucepan and scald (heat on medium heat until the side begin to bubble). Pour cream over chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. Stir in salt and corn syrup.

Pour ganache over cake, gently spreading the ganache over the edges to cover the cake. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before cutting.