Category: Sugar-y Cravings

Chocolate Guinness Layer Cake with Baileys Buttercream Frosting


How do you make things interesting when a once a year holiday rolls around that is based around the same menu of food? This dilemma has sprung up for the last 4 years every thanksgiving and now there is a new culprit…St. Patricks day.

The problem really comes down to a battle to the death between craving traditional favorites and an inner desire to switch things up and try new recipes.  I’ve come to a nice compromise with thanksgiving but St. Patricks day is a little harder.  With a meal where the traditional favorites are limited to a few dishes at most not to mention doesn’t lend itself to a multiple course execution it really comes down to one option….dessert.

I’ve come to my senses and decided to stop claiming that I am not a baker.  It is true, I am not a great baker and I don’t find myself dreaming up dessert recipes but when it comes to planning a themed meal dessert is always the missing link.  When cooking for a group of people, including a dessert at least half made from scratch always wows the crowd.

Now back to St. Patricks day.  The staples can’t and wont change; Corned beed, Cabbage, and Potatoes (Give or take irish soda bread).  Now as much as you can switch up your method for cooking cabbage and potatoes in the end a new recipe will not blow your mind.  This year we chose to go big, the fact that it was just myself and my roommate for dinner did not stop us from deciding on making a cake.  But not just any cake, a Chocolate Guinness Layer cake with Baileys Buttercream frosting to be exact.

Don’t let the long name fool you, it is actually a simple recipe; the hardest part is applying the frosting. (If you want to write anything or draw a design my tip for you is to sketch it out first with a toothpick or similar tool so that you only have to trace it with the darker frosting)

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{Peek-A-Boo}

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Reeses Cupcakes with Peanut butter Buttercream Frosting

I really should just stop saying I’m not a baker.  But I swear half the time I try to bake something it doesn’t turn out well, measurements are too particular, all ingredients must be present blah blah blah. Well here is an example of baking done well, as much as I would like to say I make my own bread I think its best to stick to cakes and cupcakes.  Basically I’m going to avoid all things containing yeast is what I’ve decided.  So I guess Im not a baker of yeast-y things, does that satisfy you all? I feel good about it too.

As you know I’ve become a pinterest fanatic as many of you are too and unless my ‘popular’ pin feed is just tailored to know I love food you have probably noticed all these baked goods with candy in them too.  So, for a friends birthday recently (who loves Reeses, but who doesn’t…if you don’t you should probably stop reading right now) I decided to go the cupcake route with reeses in the middle and a peanut butter buttercream frosting.  Ok I also have to admit that this baking extravaganza gave me the excuse I needed to finally buy a frosting piping bag so I was just as excited to make these using an actual piping bag and not a plastic zip-lock with one corner tip cut off…you know you’ve done that too.

I followed THIS recipe by Brown Eyed Baker but stuck a mini reeses in the cupcakes before baking…which I have to say was the best decision ever.

{Double broiling technique, everything gets melted over boiling water by steam. This prevents fear of burning the chocolate}

{What a pretty piping set!}

{The frosting before piping it}

{The finished product..with a little extra reeses bits on top}

Gingerbread Men Sandwich Cookies– Before it’s too late

I am partly in denial that the holidays are over, I never realized how much of a winter-y christmas fan I was until I went to college in Southern California where leaves failed to change colors in the fall and the weather just didn’t want to decide to be cold or warm.  But somehow I am still in So Cal and dealing with my winter withdrawals (80 degrees in January..REALLY!?!) and was so excited this year when we got our very own christmas tree! I have never had the responsibility of going to get my own tree and decorations let alone buying my own wrapping paper and traveling home the day before christmas with gifts in tow.  As silly as it sounds it was a lot of fun feeling extra grown up during this time.

So naturally (along with constant Michael Buble holiday pandra playing) we needed to find ways to bring in holiday cheer, besides the tree and wreath and holiday bows scattered around the apartment.  What better way to do this than christmas cookies!! I’ve had my fair share of sugar cookies and peanut brittle so after finding a set of about 7 cookie cutters of various sized gingerbread men it was decided, gingerbread men cookies.

But with all these sizes of cookie cutters it immediately came to me that I wanted to do a sandwich cookie with a jam center.  As long as you have the different sizes of cookie cutters this recipe is very easy.  I got a fantastic cookie cookbook at the holiday party for the office I intern at and in that book was a basic gingerbread cookie dough so that part was taken care of.  To figure out the jam was a little more difficult, I wanted it to stand out but not be overpowering, so on a whim I got a ginger rhubarb jam from Cost Plus World Market and crossed my fingers.  Well the jame tasted good, but I didn’t think it was quite sweet enough so with some raspberry preserves from Trader Joes in the fridge I figured I didnt have anything to loose by trying to mix them together… and it was PERFECT!  Sheer luck, but these cookies turned out so well…they just don’t travel that well in a plastic zip lock when you are flying home.  ENJOY!

Gingerbread Men with Ginger Rhubarb Raspberry Jam

Casaceli, Tina. Milk & Cookies. San Francisco: Chronical, 2011. Print.

Ingredients: 

  • 21/4 c All purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg, at room temp
  • 1 egg white, at room temp
  • 1/4c unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 1/3 c light brown sugar
  • 2 tbl molasses
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Jam filling
  • about 3/4 cup Ginger rhubarb jam
  • about 1/4 cup raspberry jam
  • (adjust to taste)

Recipe: 

  1. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl.  Set aside.
  2. combine the egg and egg white in a small bowl, whisking to blend.  Set aside.
  3. Put the butter in a bowl of a standing electric mixer with paddle attachment.  Begin beating on low speed.  Increase the speed to medium and beat for about 3 min.  or until light and creamy.
  4. Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar along with the molases, ginger, cinnamon and flour mixture and continue to beat for 3 min.
  5. Reduce the speed to low and add the egg mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  When the dough is well blended, remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape the paddle clean.
  6. Divide the dough in half and form each piece into a disk.  Cover each disk tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24.
  7. Preheat oven to 350
  8. Line baking sheets with baking mats or parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray
  9. Flour a clean surface, unwrap one piece of dough and place on floured surface.
  10. With a rolling pin, roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut out cookies using cutters.  (If you are making sandwich cookies make sure to cut out equal parts of top and bottom halves)
  11. place cookies about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets and repeat process with remaining dough
  12. Transfer cut cookies to the fridge and chill for about 15 min (to help keep their shape during baking)
  13. Bake for about 15 min or until slightly colored around the edges
  14. Remove from oven and let cool on wire racks.
  15. Pair up the halves and spread jam on the bottom half, top it with the top half and set aside.

{The finished cookies!}

Thanksgiving part 3: Desserts and Spiced Ginger Pear Martini

The time has come to round out the delicious memories of thanksgiving until 2012.  To be honest, I love the classic pumpkin and apple pies that find their way onto the dinner table after thanksgiving but they are never as exciting as making the turkey and side dishes and of course the cocktail.  I have said it before in previous posts, but I don’t find culinary excitement in baking pies.  However, lately I have really enjoyed the planning process of a dinner party start to finish.  Appetizers through cocktails.  So this post wraps up the dinner party of thanksgiving and let me just say it was so fun to make.  I can’t wait to tackle it again next year, and maybe throw in some spontaneous dinner parties throughout the year.

Classic Pumpkin Pie (William Sonoma’s Essentials of Baking) 

Ingredients 

  • Flaky pastry dough
  • 1/2 c firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup canned or fresh pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 c heavy cream
  • sweetened whipped cream

Recipe

    1. Roll out the dough disk into a 12 inch round.  Transfer dough round to a 9 inch pie pan or dish.  Trim the edge of the dough round.  Leaving ¾ inch of overhand.  Fold the overhand under itself and pinch together to create a high edge on the pans rim.  Flute the edge decoratively.  Refrigerate or freeze shell until firm about 30 min
    2. Place an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375.  Partially bake the pie shell as directed.  Transfer the pie shell to a wire rack.  Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven and reduce oven temp to 350
    3. In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and eggs until well blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger, salt, cloves, and nuteg and mix well.  Add the pumpkin puree and cream and whisk until smooth.  Pour into partially baked pie shell
    4. Bake pie until the filling is slightly risen and firm in the middle, 35-45 min.  transfer to a wire rack and let cool until just slightly warm or at room temp.

Woven Crust Apple Pie 

Spiced Ginger Pear Cocktail (for one pitcher, serves about 5)

Now this combo for a cocktail just kinda popped into my head while we were grocery shopping so I got the ingredients but just threw them together for the drink and it turned out delicious.  It was a little better and less sweet once the ice melted a bit so that would be my only tip.

Ingredients 

  • About 1 inch of frech ginger, peeled
  • 1 can of pears
  • vodka to taste (I added about a cup)
  • Spiced simple syrup (recipe below)
  • water

Recipe

  1. The day before, make the simple syrup.  Combine 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a bot and simmer until the sugar has dissolved.  Add 1 cinnamon stick and 1 tsp nutmeg.  Cover and let simmer for about 20 min.  discard the cinnamon stick and refrigerate the syrup until you make the cocktail.
  2. combine the canned pears, ginger and simple syrup in a blender until smooth
  3. add the vodka, about 1/2 c water and blend to combine.  Adjust to taste.
  4. You can also add club soda to top it off if you want a sparkling taste to it.

{Spiced simple syrup} 

{Finished cocktail! Yum}

The Essence of Fall

First let me forwarn anyone who reads this that I have about 5 posts of different meals I have made that will shortly follow this post.  Alright now to the important things, the season of fall.  For the longest time, when anyone would ask me “what’s your favorite season of the year?” (you know, one of those weird questions similar to those along the lines of “are you an ocean person or a river person?” …) anyway, I would always answer the season question by saying fall.  But really the only justification for that answer was that my birthday is in October so naturally I enjoy that time of year.  But having graduated college and now living in southern california, I now more than ever stand behind that response. And it is not because my birthday is in the season of fall, I truly enjoy everything about fall and sadly, southern california lacks a lot of the beauty of fall.  From the slowly changing colors of trees…like this one

which is not located in southern California, to the sweet smell of apple cider on the stove with the magic of mulling spices, I love bundling up in a warm blanket and sitting by the fireplace (that does not exist in my apartment) fall is by far my favorite.

Halloween always kicks off the feel of fall for me, I love going and getting pumpkins and carving them the couple days before halloween and then roasting the pumpkin seeds that night.  Soon after halloween ends I find myself itching for thanksgiving, and as you may be able to guess, thanksgiving is always so much fun for me because I get to cook a huge meal for family members while my mom helps out and also decorates the table with my sister.  I have to admit that I have already pulled the october/november issues of my cooking light magazine as well as various cookbooks and put them next to my bed in order to gather inspiration for the wonderful thanksgiving meal.  Following thanksgiving is the long haul towards christmas where technically I guess fall is over but for me, the love of fall merely turns into a love of the holidays at that point and I really mash them together in my head.  And as an avid lover of cooking, crafting, and organization I love planning what I will get/make for everyone for christmas (I have a bookmarked list currently going on pinterest.com).  So that Is my rundown on why I love this time of year and because this would not be a good entry without some pictures here is how we kicked off the season. 🙂

{Mine was the spider}

{Chili powder roasted pumpkin seeds}

{Pumpkin pie with a lighter crust — but you can use pre-made if it’s easier}

Recipe blast– Zucchini Fries, Chinese Chicken Salad, Ice Cream Sandwiches, and a Nectarine Galette


So, it has been a while.  A lot of changes have happened in the past few months but finally I am settled and ready to post about the past few months worth of delicious dinners and food adventures.  But a word to the wise…when moving, do not pack your camera photo uploader thinggy and then never be able to find it again.  Just a suggestion.

So where to begin…so many good meals have happened I just do not know where to start.  Let’s do this in chunks just to simplify things.  So As much as I love cooking and finding new recipes, I have to say that this summer there was a strong decline in the number of new recipes I tried and the number of times I even cooked.  Having held a job where meals were provided 6 times during the week and my hours would start as early at 7am and end as late as midnight, there was a basic lack of energy or desire to cook at those points.  But now I am back in the game and doing what I love.

I have found that I tend to think and cook by event or happening.  I’ll explain.  More than just cooking one recipe or one thing I love thinking of a theme, for example this summer (blog post to come) some coworkers and I decided to do a Greek themed dinner and with the help of 4 people we were able to make many different recipes.  Or if someone is coming to visit I like to plan out meals that I plan on making.  I guess it is basic tendency to feel more motivated when others are involved but that is mostly where my head is at.  For these particular dishes it was partly pent up cooking desire and partly a need to veer away from dining commons food but here are the dishes: Baked zucchini fries with warm marinara, Chinese chicken salad, Ice cream sandwiches, and Nectarine Galette.

Now, I don’t know how many of you are recently obsessed with pinterest.com…but I cannot tear myself away from the food section and the DIY section.  It is also a great way to find recipes.  you DO NOT have to get an invite. simply type the dish you want to make in the search bar and different pictures will come up, click on one and follow the link to the site that has the recipe!! To make this easier, I have found recipes online that I used for these dishes.  ENJOY!

Baked Zucchini Fries with Warm Marinara 

I love zucchini, I love it in pretty much every which way except raw.  So this recipe was a perfect find for a snack or for an appetizer!  HERE


Chinese Chicken Salad 

Now this dish I did not find on pinterest.com or online or in a cookbook, this dish is one that seriously brings me back to my childhood.  It gets extremely hot during the summers where I am from and all that is tolerable most of the time is a nice cold salad for dinner.  When I was younger my sister and I would spend all day at the swim club we were members at and the best nights were the ones where our parents would surprise us and instead of just picking us up would bring chinese chicken salad and their swimming suits and we would stay for the night swim.  Such great memories.  I love this salad but of course if you are against cabbage you can substitute other lettuce etc.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 head of green cabbage chopped into small pieces
  • 3/4 c sliced almonds
  • 1 tbl olive oil
  • 3/4 package crushed top ramen noodles (raw) {or you can use another crunchy noodle but it is nice texture}
  • 3/4 tbl toasted sesame seed oil
  • 1/2 c italian salad dressing
  • 1/2 package top ramen seasoning
  • 1 small can mandarine oranges

Recipe

  1. Put chopped cabbage in a large bowl, top with ramen noodles and mandarine oranges
  2. In a small frying pan heat up the olive oil on low to medium heat, add the sliced almonds and move around to coat. Make sure to stay by the burner!! These babies burn fast so keep moving them around until you start to see them brown then quickly turn off the heat. (the hot oil will continue to toast the almonds even with the burner off)
  3. When almonds are slightly cool (it helps to transfer them to a bowl) add them to the cabbage mixture
  4. in a separate small bowl combine the salad dressing, toasted sesame seed oil, and the ramen seasoning, whisk to combine and pour over salad.  mix to combine and ENJOY!

Ice Cream Sandwiches 

Since working at an ice cream/coffee/sandwich shop I have come to miss not only the free coffee (hence the reason I am addicted today) but also the ice cream and cookies alllways on hand.  But having moved away now, I have come to really enjoy making the famous cookiewich myself.  Combined with the influences from Trader Joes delicious ice cream sandwiches I think I have found the perfect dessert to have on hand that also looks quite impressive.

Ingredients

  • 1 roll premade cookie dough of your choice (or if you are ambitious make it yourself)
  • 1 pint/ carton of ice cream of your choice
  • chocolate chips or a par of chocolate to chop up

Recipe

  1. Bake cookies until just before done, the size is your choice, I liked having smaller sized cookies so I could make more sandwiches.  But just make sure the sizes are even.
  2. once the cookies are completely cool, dish out a scoop of ice cream on the inside of one cookie and top it with another.  Press down so that the ice cream hangs a bit over the cookies.
  3. Take the chocolate chips or chocolate bar and chop up the chocolate pretty fine (but not till it is a powder) {you could also get the mini chocolate chips and save yourself the chopping)
  4. put the chopped chocolate (or mini chips) on a small plate.  take the assembled cookie sandwich and roll it in the chocolate shavings.  You might need to use your fingers a bit to press the chocolate into the ice cream so it stays.
  5. place finished ice cream sandwiches in a baking dish and put in freezer for about 30 min to make sure it all firms up. And then you have them on hand whenever that ice cream cookie craving hits!

Nectarine Galette 

Welcome to the easiest, prettiest dessert you will ever make (even easier than the ice cream sandwiches!) I had seen these desserts made and had always wanted to try to do it but for whatever reason never did until this summer.  I had a couple extra pie crusts in the freezer which made this dessert so easy and since making the first one this summer I think I have made about 4 more. Feel free to switch up the fruit to whatever is in season and if you want to get fancy and add a type of filling that is up to you!  HERE 


Almond and Orange Biscotti

I will be the first to admit that I am not a baker.  I thoroughly enjoy cooking and having the ability to add seasonings and ingredients that I want to add to make it my own while at the same time sticking to the basic recipe.  Baking on the other hand usually requires precise measurements and ingredients and I tend to keep less of the particular baking ingredients around than I do an interesting ingredient that I stumbled upon at the grocery store.  It is much easier for me to see leeks, or a potato and come up with a recipe that I wish to make that particular item into than having to stick to a strict recipe for cookies or baked goods.  I guess you could say that I am just more of a savory kind of girl.

With that being said, I woke up one morning with a craving for biscotti.  I couldn’t tell you the last time I ate biscotti although I do love the idea of sitting by a window with coffee in the morning and dipping a biscotti into it.  Biscotti is generally not the kind of craving I get, but I figured why not make something that I have never attempted before so long as I am breaking into the baking field of the kitchen.  I found this recipe on another blog that I read and was immediately intrigued and couldn’t wait to make it.  With my mother’s blessings for attempting to bake, along with the reassurance that if I didn’t like them it is the holiday season and with some cute packaging I could easily give them away, I tackled biscotti.

Now, most people are familiar with biscotti but as I was making them it became clear to my and everyone around that we did not really know what to deem them as…cake? cookie? bread?  Traditionally, and what gives them the awesome durability in coffee along with the distinct crunch is that they are twice baked and can be considered a sweet bread.  They are first baked as logs with a cake like structure until they are sturdy, then sliced into the all too familiar biscotti shape, and then baked again to give them the crunch.

Let’s just say that that after making a huge ziplock bag full of them and going out of town for 4 days, they were completely demolished by my family.  So, this recipe is not just for bakers it is simple and completely satisfying.  A great holiday gift or something to keep around to munch on.  The next time I make these I think I will dip the ends in melted chocolate…because who doesn’t love a little chocolate?

Almond Biscotti
Adapted from Bon Appetit, December 1999, and taken this time from http://smittenkitchen.com/

They’re supposed to make 3 dozen

3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange liqueur
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 cup whole almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped or sliced almonds

1 large egg white

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into medium bowl. Mix sugar, melted butter, 3 eggs, vanilla extract, orange liquer and zest in large bowl. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and stir with wooden spoon until well blended. Mix in almonds.

Divide dough in half. Using floured hands, shape each dough half into 13 1/2-inch-long, 2 1/2-inch-wide log. Transfer both logs to prepared baking sheet, spacing apart. Whisk egg white in small bowl until foamy; brush over top and sides of each dough log.

Bake logs until golden brown (logs will spread), about 30 minutes. Cool logs completely on sheet on rack, about 25 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.

Transfer logs to work surface; discard parchment paper. Using serrated knife, cut logs on diagonal into 1/2-inch-wide slices. Arrange slices, cut side down, on same baking sheet. Bake 12 minutes. Turn biscotti over; bake until just beginning to color, about 8 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool.

Enjoy!