Do you remember counting down the days til your birthday? Yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve done that too. But every year I try to put myself back in that childhood mode when the countdown started the day after your last birthday. Turned 4 last week? You are TOTALLY almost 5. In my opinion, a kid’s birthday should be the most amazing day of their entire year. I get a little crazy at birthday time. My son’s big day just happens to be smack in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. A most inconvenient time to add a big birthday bash to our calendars. However, I recognize that this is not his fault, and so every year I attempt to make his day truly special in the midst of all the holiday bustle.
“I don’t understand why so many ‘so called’ chocolate lovers complain about the calories in chocolate, when all true chocoholics know that it is a vegetable. It comes from the cocoa bean, beans are veggies, ’nuff said.” I have no idea who said this. I found it online at one of those portals for quotes about chocolate. But it says everything I feel about chocolate. When I’m eating it. I just don’t care about calories. I just don’t. I’m lost in the rich pure deliciousness of it. These cookies are a chocoholic’s dream. Fudgey cookies topped with a morsel of pure Dove dark chocolate. I used hearts since Valentine’s Day is coming up. Nothin’ goes better with a made up holiday about love than chocolate.
This contest has ended. The winner will be announced on Friday, August 31st. Thank you to all who entered, shared, followed, liked and subscribed!
A few weeks back I posted a recipe for White Chocolate Lemon Truffles and lamented the loss of my favorite Seattle Chocolates truffle flavor. Wouldn’t you know it, someone over at Seattle Chocolates read my little blog and I was contacted by their brand manager with an offer to taste some of their newest creations. Sometimes, blogging has its perks! Free chocolate is a pretty sweet deal. Of course, I couldn’t possibly keep all the deliciousness to myself! I also couldn’t stop myself from eating all the amazing truffles they sent me though. Thankfully the kind people at Seattle Chocolates agreed to host a little giveaway. That’s right! Free chocolate for one very lucky reader! Maybe you?! I’m so excited I can’t stand it! Bakerlady’s very first giveaway! Yippee!
I’ve been cleaning my house like a crazy person for two days. If you know me, you know this is NOT normal behavior. Usually I’m perfectly content for my house not to resemble a museum or some kind of scientific lab. I prefer to spend my time on the floor doing puzzles or coloring rather than scrubbing. Things are clean enough. Or, as my father-in-law used to say “good enough for government work”. He was allowed to say things like that. Jeff worked for the IRS for 20+ years. When houseguests are coming however, I become a short freckled version of Adrian Monk. Ok. Not quite that obsessive. Close though.
I have been looking for a no-fail, easy homemade granola bar recipe for a few weeks now. Fall is coming and my sweet Madison is starting Kindergarten. How did that happen so fast? I blinked and suddenly she was 5. Crazy. I cannot wait for after school snack time. I remember that being the best thing ever. Come home from school to a glass of cold milk and some kind of treat? Oh yeah. This recipe is going to be made every single week I’m sure. It takes 5 minutes, you don’t have to bake anything and they are incredibly delicious.
Seattle Chocolates used to make an incredible white chocolate orange truffle. They had a gold wrapper with a creamy white chocolate truffle inside. When I was a teenager who didn’t have to worry about things like love handles, cellulite and flab, I would eat them by the handful. My first job was at a Hallmark shop (best job ever!) and we had a bin of loose Seattle’s Chocolates in various flavors. Those bins of golden wrapped deliciousness were one of my favorite things to restock because I’d sift thru them as I went, pulling out all the white chocolate orange flavored truffles.
As I searched online I discovered that the orange truffles are no longer made. Sad day. But all is not lost! They have a lemon version now. And I love love love all things lemon. So what did I do? I made some.
Teenage Tonya would have just purchased a bag. It’s only money right? Single income, two kids and bills to pay Tonya has too much frugality flowing thru her veins to spend $42 on truffles. I also would rather not figure out how to keep from eating two-and-a-half pounds of chocolate.
These truffles are exactly the same consistency I remember. A little firm, a little soft. Perfectly creamy and rich. The lemon flavor is just enough to give you a hint of tart flowing thru silken white chocolate. The dusting of lemony sugar on the outside makes these refreshing little truffles simply stunning.
White Chocolate Lemon Truffles
adapted from Wit & Whistle
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. heavy cream
grated zest of 1 lemon
9 ounces good quality white chocolate, finely chopped
pinch of salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into thin slices
2 tsp. freshly-squeezed, strained lemon juice
superfine granulated Sugar, for coating
grated zest of 1 lemon, for coating
In small, heavy, non-aluminum saucepan, combine the heavy cream and lemon zest. Over low heat, heat until cream comes to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, cover tightly and let sit for 20 minutes.
Combine the white chocolate, salt, and butter in medium heatproof bowl. Remove the cover from the cream and reheat over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches a simmer. Remove from heat. Strain through fine-meshed strainer into white chocolate mixture. Press down on the lemon zest left in the strainer to extract all the liquid from it.
Place white chocolate mixture over a pot of warm water on low heat* (water should not touch bottom of bowl). Stir the chocolate frequently just until almost melted. Remove the bowl from the warm pot. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in lemon juice. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl. Chill at least 4 hours, covering tightly when cold. While truffle mixture is cooling, zest one lemon into 1/2 cup of superfine granulated sugar and cover.
To make truffles: Using a small cookie scoop or a spoon, form balls of about 1 inch diameter from the cold truffle base. Roll in lemon sugar until well-coated. Store truffles airtight in refrigerator for up to one week or freeze for longer storage. To serve, remove from refrigerator 15 to 20 minutes prior to serving time. Let stand at room temperature, covered, until serving time.
Cookie Monster is a classic. A friend of mine shared this video with me saying this is how she feels every time I post a new recipe. She’s so sweet. Enjoy a good laugh by watching this:
A while back, this same friend gave me a cookbook full of deliciousness. I’ve loved everything I’ve ever baked out of it. Especially the Razz-ma-tazz bars. Oh yum. I decided to let my hubby choose something for me to bake in honor of Sabrina. I’ll bet you think shared with her too huh? No. I’m totally lame and didn’t realize until after I’d sent them to work with the hubster that I should have saved some for Bri. I’m such a spaz. I know, it’s not as nice a story now. Sorry.
Put aside your disappointment and make some of these cookies. They are full of crunchy nutty goodness and rich chocolate. It’s a basic peanut butter cookie, kicked up with chopped peanuts and chocolate chips. You’ll love them.
Next time Sabrina. I’ll share some cookies maybe.
Chunky Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies
From NESTLÉ TOLL HOUSE
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (12-oz pkg.) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanuts
PREHEAT oven to 375° F.
COMBINE flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and peanut butter in large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla extract. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and peanuts.
DROP dough by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased baking sheets. Press down slightly to flatten into 2-inch circles. I used a glass dipped in a little granulated sugar.
BAKE for 7 to 10 minutes or until edges are set but centers are still soft. Cool on baking sheets for 4 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
I first saw these amazing bars when visiting Victoria for my sister’s birthday weekend. My mom and I popped into a little coffee-house to pick up some liquid caffeine and while we were waiting I drooled over the divine treats in their glass cases. These caught my eye as I’d never heard of them before. When I asked what they were, pronouncing the name wrong, the barista looked at me like I was insane. It is pronounced “nuh-NI-mo” sounds like “The wino”. Apparently these are a really big deal in Canada.
I looked them up when I got home and found that it all began when a housewife entered a recipe for chocolate squares in a magazine contest some 35 years ago. She called her recipe ‘Nanaimo Bars’ and when she won the contest, not only did her dessert become popular throughout Canada, so did the town they were named after.
These three-layered, no bake dessert squares start with a chocolate crumb base, get a topper of sweet custardy creamy goodness and are finished off with a chocolate layer. They are sweet and rich and amazing. Now that I’ve had one, I understand the confusion on the clerk’s face at my obvious lack of dessert knowledge.
How can you go wrong when the first layer is chocolate, butter and sugar all bound together by coconut, grahams and nuts? Ah-mazing. It’s like a graham cracker crust on crack. Maybe I shouldn’t use that phrase as much as I do. I actually have zero clue what being on crack is like. For some reason it just what I label anything that seems a little crazy and totally bad but is actually a notch more awesome than normal. Don’t do drugs. Bad. Ok, back to the dessert. The middle layer has the goodness of vanilla pudding sweetened with powdered sugar and enriched with cream and butter. Oh sweet perfection. Top it off with a chocolate ganache. Yeah baby.
I cannot decide which layer I like best. The base is really beyond description. Even if you aren’t a coconut (or nut) fan, try these – it all kind of just blends together in a perfect crunchy and sweet crust. Seriously. Could a no bake dessert be any more decadent? I think not. Oh Canada. Well done you.
from Joy of Baking
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
1/3 cup (30 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (regular or Dutch-processed)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups (200 grams) graham cracker crumbs or crushed Digestive Biscuits
1 cup (65 grams) sweetened or unsweetened coconut (shredded or flaked)
1/2 cup (50 grams) walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup (56 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 – 3 tablespoons milk or cream
2 tablespoons (20 grams) vanilla custard powder (Bird’s) or vanilla pudding powder
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups (230 grams) powdered sugar (confectioners or icing) sugar
4 ounces (120 grams) semisweet chocolate
1 tablespoon (14 grams) unsalted butter
Put a foil sling in a 9 x 9 inch pan and spray with a non stick vegetable spray.
Bottom Layer: In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar and cocoa powder and then gradually whisk in the beaten egg. Return the saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens (1 – 2 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract, graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and chopped nuts. Press the mixture evenly onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (about an hour).
Middle Layer: In your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until the mixture is smooth. If the mixture is too thick to spread, add a little more milk. Spread the filling over the bottom layer, cover, and refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes).
Top Layer: Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Then, in a heatproof bowl, over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter. Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the filling and refrigerate for about 10 minutes or just until the chocolate has set. Remove using the foil sling & using a sharp knife (or a pastry cutter!), cut into squares.
For those of you who don’t know, occasionally I make a recipe that’s specifically for a very special person in my life. I name the recipe after them and someday when I have my own little shop, I plan to feature all my ode to friendship items. I’ll be surrounded by the baked versions of all the people I love. It will be awesome! Today’s friend is Bethany. More about her later.
These cupcakes are the best thing I’ve ever made. They are glorious. Incredible. You will need to close your eyes and breathe deeply upon first bite. They are a taste explosion. The reason I made this delicious treat is kind of a bummer. My best friend Bethany moved to Maui today. I dropped her at the airport this morning and we both bawled our eyes out. Very sad for me because I adore her. I’m trying to look on the bright side and remember that I have a new vacation destination with an extra bed, and that Bethany will be shipping me bottles of pineapple wine. But right now I just miss her terribly. Her birthday is in a couple of days so I had a pre-leaving-birthday-dinner for her and served up her favorite craving.
Bethany is the sweetest, most generous person I have ever met. We’ve been friends for eleven years and I cannot imagine my life without her. She is beyond amazing. Kind of like this cupcake. Rich chocolate cake with the perfect texture topped with fluffy salted caramel buttercream and a drizzle of fresh salted caramel sauce. I like to think of the salty kick as the hidden depths of Bethany’s character. You think you know her as this quiet, sweet woman – then you really get to know her and she’s full of spunk, stubbornness (in a good way) and sass.
The caramel sauce is the kicker in this recipe. The salty takes the edge off all that sweet decadence making each bite just perfect. There’s no caramel in the cake, but the method of melting the butter before beating it gives a little hint of nutty flavor to the chocolate. It’s halfway to a browned butter flavor and gives an excellent depth to the cake. But the caramel. Oh, the caramel. It would be fabulous on ice cream, drizzled over your favorite coffee drink or just be like me and gobble it up with a spoon. All by itself. Yup. That’s how I roll.
Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes
from The Brown Eyed Baker
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 & 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¾ cup sour cream
Salted Caramel Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup salted caramel sauce (recipe below – can be made ahead of time)
4 cups powdered sugar
Salted Caramel Sauce
Fleur de Sel (or other flaky sea salt)
1. Make the Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line standard-size muffin pans with paper liners.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and hot water until smooth. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
3. Combine the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is smooth, and the butter is completely melted. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture is cool, about 4 to 5 minutes.
4. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and then the cocoa mixture, beating until smooth.
5. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix each addition until just incorporated.
6. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners, filling each about two-thirds full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
7. Make the Frosting: Beat together the butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed for 5 minutes (I like to use the whisk attachment for my KitchenAid stand mixer, but it’s not necessary). Pour in the salted caramel and beat until combined. Reduce the speed to medium-low and slowly add the powdered sugar, a little at a time, until it has all been incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for an additional two to three minutes, until light and fluffy.
8. To finish, pipe frosting onto the top of each cupcake (or use an offset spatula to spread the frosting), drizzle with some additional salted caramel sauce, and sprinkle with a pinch of fleur de sel.
Salted Caramel Sauce
Yield: 2 cups of sauce
Prep Time: 5 minutes | Cook Time: 15 minutes
2 cups granulated sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1 tablespoon fleur de sel (or any other flaky sea salt)
1. Add the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a heavy saucepan, with a capacity of at least 2 or 3 quarts. Heat the sugar over medium-high heat, whisking it as it begins to melt. You’ll see that the sugar will begin to form clumps, but that’s okay. Just keep whisking and as it continues to cook, they will melt back down. Stop whisking once all of the sugar has melted, and swirl the pan occasionally while the sugar cooks.
2. Continue cooking until the sugar has reached a deep amber color. It should look almost a reddish-brown, and have a slight toasted aroma. This is the point where caramel can go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds, so keep a close eye. If you are using an instant-read thermometer, cook the sugar until it reaches 350 degrees F.
3. As soon as the caramel reaches 350 degrees, add the butter all at once. Be careful, as the caramel will bubble up when the butter is added. Whisk the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted.
4. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour the cream into the caramel. Again, be careful because the mixture will once again bubble up ferociously. Whisk until all of the cream has been incorporated and you have a smooth sauce. Add the fleur de sel and whisk to incorporate.
5. Set the sauce aside to cool for 10 to 15 minutes and then pour into your favorite glass jar and let cool to room temperature. You can refrigerate the sauce for up to 2 weeks. You’ll want to warm the sauce up before using.