Tag Archives: chocolate

Fast Fudge Cake

This morning I woke up to body aching everywhere, but don’t feel too bad on my account, because it’s due to starting a new exercise routine–not the stomach bug.  Ben has been going to this little gym in town for about 4-5 months, along with my friend Jordan (who is the official unofficial recruiting agent) who encouraged him to join.  As I’ve been dealing with anxiety, irritable stomach issues and most likely burnout–I felt like it was as good of a time as any to join the gym.  But why so sore you ask?  Well, this little gym packs quite the punch.  It’s not your typical gym of doing the routinized circuit or swiping your card and heading towards the elliptical machine.  It’s an all over cardio workout that relies heavily on weight-bearing activities.

Before you join you attend what they call Basecamp.  It is either broken into two days or one day of 2 1/2 hours, where one of the gym’s coaches teaches you all the exercises/workouts, ensuring you learn technique.  The first thing I did was jumping rope.  And I thought, “jumping rope–seriously, that’s a snap.”  100 jumped ropes.  What I failed to realize is that I haven’t jumped rope since I was about 10.  I hit about 65 and went mental.  Then, from 65 to 80, I believe I did a culmination of either hitting my own head with the rope, getting tangled in my foot, etc.  Suffice to say, I was humbled.  The coach said, “you’re thinking about it too much.”  True!  Well, that was just the beginning and we went on to doing multiple variations of squats, lifts, push-ups, pull-ups, & weight-bearing.  So every single ounce of my body got worked.

My legs felt like jelly and mind you we have two flights of stairs, so walking down them feels like I’m an 85-year-old woman.  It’s good though.  I know it’s going to be hard, but I tell myself a couple of things to prepare myself.

1. It’s a break from being mom.

2. This too shall pass.

3. I went through labor twice without meds, so no workout could be harder than that.

4. I want something better for my life in terms of mental, emotional & physical stamina, which I want my girls to have, so I know taking time for myself in this area is critical.

I haven’t been baking lately.  In part, it’s due to not having much of a sweet tooth; but, mainly I haven’t had much time or creativity lurking.  This is something I made a while back, but I still remember the moistness of the cake.  It’s a easy to make and honestly, if you’re pressed for time–you could add the wet ingredients in one bowl and then add the dry ingredients in with it (making it a one-bowl cake).  I hope you are finding and making time for yourself.

Fast Fudge Cake (printable recipe)

This recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking magazine.  I had a little ganache already made up in my fridge, so my cake had a thin glaze a top.  Regardless, it turned out wonderfully and if you want to serve with just whipped cream, powdered sugar and fresh berries–it would suit it well.

Ingredients:
4 1/2 oz (1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 oz. (1/4 cup plus 2 Tb) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 lb (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and warm
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup hot water

Ganache:
1/2 lb bittersweet chocolate or semisweet, chopped up
1 cup heavy cream

Directions: Preheat oven to 350.  Grease & flour or grease & line with parchment either an 8×2- or 9×2-inch round cake pan.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda & salt.  Sift only if the cocoa continues having lumps after whisking.

In a large bowl, combine the melted butter and brown sugar with a wooden spoon or spatula.  Add the eggs & vanilla, stirring till combined well.  Add the dry ingredients, just till moistened.  Pour the hot water over the batter and stir just until it’s completely incorporated.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.  For an 8×2-inch pan, bake 35 to 40 minutes or till a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  For a 9×2-inch pan, bake for about 30 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then run a thin knife along the edge and invert the pan onto a plate.  Invert it again back onto the rack to cool completely.

Making the Ganache: Chop up your chocolate into bite sized pieces and put into a heat proof bowl and set aside.  Heat up the cream over medium heat.  Once it starts to boil, remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate in the bowl.  Allow the cream & chocolate to sit for about 45 seconds.  Whisk the chocolate & cream together until the cream is completely incorporated and the ganache is smooth & a just slightly thick.

Putting the Cake together: Once the cake is cool, put foil under the wire rack to catch any drippings from the ganache.  Pour the ganache over the cake allowing it to go down the sides.  You can also allow the cake cool completely cool in the pan and make half of the ganache and pour it on top while in the pan.  Let the cake with ganache set for about an hour.

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Chocolate Truffle Cupcakes

If you’re a chocolate lover then proceed.  If you’re not, well I’m sorry, but maybe you will be a chocolate liker after trying these.  I made well over 200 of these Chocolate Truffle Cupcakes for my friend’s wedding (Jason & Tina) while I was 7 months pregnant.  I realized two things after that baking extravaganza of ’08.  One is no matter how much I love someone, never again will I say yes to baking all the desserts for a large party while that pregnant and carrying for a 20 month old.  Two, is how easy these are to make–no one will know otherwise.

I think I can get these out in 40 minutes, which is pretty excellent for a sophisticated dessert.  They are also very adaptable with your chocolate liking.  You could use all bittersweet (typically 60%), semisweet, or milk chocolate.  You can mix different varieties as well.  You can make them gluten-free.  You can make them in big muffin tins or miniature ones.  If you want to add a bit of espresso to bring out the chocolate flavor even more–then do it.  I love these for all those reasons.  And I can’t understand why I haven’t shared them until now.

Before we go onto the recipe, I should share a bit about my gluten-intolerant friend Tina who these were intended for and I’ve written about before.  We met through one of her ex-boyfriends and I knew we were kindred spirits.  She has a quiet reserve about her (at least when compared to her husband), but she is full of life with joy emanating from her.  Although she seems to fill administrative jobs, which she’s wonderfully gifted at, her heart is passionate for women fulfilling their God given talents & calling.  We have spent many hours talking about our dreams of what we will become when we grow up and I can depend upon her to watch very cheesy movies together.  I can always count on her to be supportive, honest & spontaneous with me.  So when she found out she was gluten-intolerant, I knew my job was set to bake GF treats for her.

Double Chocolate Truffle Cupcakes (printable recipe)

Recipe is inspired from Martha Stewart. This is also the time to use good quality chocolate, since it is the star ingredient.  However, don’t let that stop you if you only have chocolate chips on hand.  I’ve used semi-sweet chocolate chips before and they turn out great.

Ingredients:

5 Tb unsalted butter

7 ounces milk chocolate chopped, Belcolade

7 ounces 71% cacao dark bittersweet chopped, Valhrona

1 Tb sugar

1 Tb brown rice flour (or all-purpose flour)

2 eggs

1 tsp salt

Butter & extra flour for muffin tins

Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter & flour a 6 slot large muffin tin & set aside. Set a heat proof bowl over a pot with simmering water.  Add the butter & chocolate.  Stir to melt and combine.  Remove from heat.

Add the eggs & sugar to a food processor & process for 2 minutes until light in color & foamy.  Add flour & salt, process to combine (10 seconds).  Add about 1/4 cup of melted chocolate to eggs & process till combined.  Continue with 1/4 cup until all of the melted chocolate is mixed with the egg mixture.

Evenly distribute chocolate mixture to the prepared muffin tin.  Gently pat down tops with the back of silver spoon.  Bake for 18 to 20 minutes.  Cool on a rack.  Loosen with a knife around the edges and serve.

**12 cup regular muffin tin bake for 13-15 minutes.

**24 cup miniature muffin tin bake for 10-12 minutes.

Great topped with sliced strawberries, fresh raspberries, a raspberry puree, or ice cream.

 


Dave Matthews Band Magic Brownies Cupcakes

I have been reading this cookbook, The Flavor Bible.  It’s inspiring for anyone who takes their cooking or baking skills seriously.  My copy is on loan from the library, but I would recommend this one to your home library archives.  The author made a point how food is not only for sustenance, because if it were, we would eat the same thing 3 times a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year.  Rather, food is about the flavor profiles, which are the taste, mouth feel, aroma & X factor.  All of these being great, but I think the X factor stood out the most.  It is the stories, the total experience, the nostalgia, which comes to mind after eating a specific food.

We all have these.  And quite honestly, it’s what makes certain foods disgusting to some, while to another their “last supper.”  It’s no wonder Jesus chose to perform his first miracle at a wedding feast and through the fruit of the vine.  He wove the spiritual with the senses, creating this amazing story of his complete love & provision.

So as I was making these souffle chocolate cupcakes yesterday, I didn’t have any idea what they would be like. Nor did I realize that they would stir the X factor up.  You see, after my oldest was born and people graciously dropped off meals every night, one night someone dropped off a roasted chicken, salad, and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Dave Matthews Band Magic Brownies Ice Cream.  I personally am a ‘every but the..’ sort of girl.  However, the melding of the brownie chunks, vanilla & raspberry swirled made for quite the addiction.

Oh so back to these cupcakes.  Well, I have been salivating over these for a while.  Not only that, but they are gluten-free, which made me think of my friend Tina (she works with Ben & I feel bad when I only bring in gluten treats).  However, Tina loves raspberry & chocolate, so I changed it up a bit.  Then, when I bit into one, it took me back to our old apartment with my week old baby and a still, quiet moment, that everything would be okay in my insane, postpartum state.  I’m not promising that this will create quite the same X factor for you, but maybe you should make some for yourself and some new mother to create one for her.

Dave Matthews Band Magic Brownie Cupcakes

(printable recipe)

This recipe has been adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Chocolate Souffle Cupcakes, which had a mint topping and used espresso powder instead of the actual espresso I used in mine.  You should do as Deb over at Smitten Kitchen says, “eat at once,” because the coolness of the Raspberry Cream enhances the dessert.

Chocolate Soufflé Cupcakes
6 ounces (170 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons (86 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 Tb fresh espresso
3 large eggs, separated
6 tablespoons (97 grams) sugar, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

White Chocolate Raspberry Cream
2 ounces (56 grams) white chocolate, finely chopped
3 ounces heavy whipping cream
2/3 cup (76 grams) frozen raspberries + 1 tsp water

Get the white chocolate cream ready for later: Put the white chocolate in a small bowl.  Then, bring the cream to a simmer and pour it over the chocolate.  Let it sit for a minute to melt the chocolate, then whisk well. Lay a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the cream. Chill until very cold, about two hours.

Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 9 standard-size (3-ounce) muffin cups with paper liners.  Put the butter, chocolate & espresso in a saucepan.  Place over low heat, stirring occasionally until melted.  Remove from heat.  Cool to lukewarm, stirring occasionally.

Using electric mixer, beat egg yolks and 3 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl until mixture is very thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Briefly beat lukewarm chocolate mixture, then vanilla extract, into yolk mixture.  Since I used my one Kitchenaid bowl for the whole process, I poured the chocolate-egg yolk contents into another bowl.  Clean the bowl & use the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, sugar & salt until medium-firm peaks form.  Using a spatula, fold whites into chocolate mixture in 3 additions. Divide batter among prepared cups, filling each three-fourths of the way.

Bake cakes until tops are puffed and dry to the touch and a tester inserted into the centers comes out with some moist crumbs attached, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool in pan on a cooling rack.  Once they are cool, add the raspberry cream.

Make Raspberry Puree:Over low heat, add the frozen raspberries and 1 tsp water to a small saucepan.  Allow the raspberries to slowly melt down into a mush.  This will take about 5-7 minutes.  Place a sieve above a small bowl, then dump the raspberry contents into the sieve.  Take a spatula and begin to push the raspberries through the sieve (you are getting the puree while the sieve will catch the seeds).  You will get about 2 Tbs of puree.  Set aside to add to your white chocolate cream.

Putting it altogether: Beat white chocolate cream with electric beaters until medium peaks form. Slowly add the raspberry puree.  The cream might curdle a bit, but don’t over beat.  If you find that the cream isn’t the right consistency, then put the cream in a pastry bag or plastic sandwich bag and place in fridge for a bit.  Cut the end and squeeze out about 1 Tb on top of each cupcake.  Eat immediately to gain the full experience of the cold raspberry cream with the delicate crumb of the brownie.


Throw Nabisco Out with Homemade Oreos

There are some people who say they’ve never enjoyed Oreos.  I, on the other hand, have always enjoyed them.  In fact, in high school I spent pretty much every weekend of my junior year at my surrogate family’s house–the Carrillo’s.  Veronica (then Carrillo) is (and has been) one of my dearest of friends since I was four years old.  We are complete opposites, share a plethora of memories, and loyalty can always be found in her.

While being the adopted daughter, I would hear the question from Mrs. Carrillo, “Kamille, is there anything you want at the store?”  To which she would hear, “I guess some double stuff Oreos?!”  And come the next couple times around to making the grocery list, Mrs. Carrillo would instinctively have the double stuff on the list (or have them waiting for me).  “But now I’m taking it back, I’m taking it all back.”  Those Nabisco kind have nothing on these chocolatey mixed with white chocolate goodness.

And they went rather well with my mom get away weekend.  I got away with some of my fellow mom friends, and it was beyond glorious.  Being able to spend time to know and be known by these women I dearly love & respect was a glimpse of heaven bound.  So, in terms of these cookies, I must say that the first bite of just the cookies left me a bit disappointed.  I was expecting a little bit more depth of chocolate richness; but, in that first bite I felt it lacking.  However, as the flavors began to meld and the salt kicked in–the chocolate popped, which made me want another bite.  And that’s how these cookies work–you can’t just have one.

Homemade Oreos (printable recipe)

This recipe comes from The Essence of Chocolate.  If you were wondering if you would go back to Oreos after tasting these, the answer is NO!  You will want to make the dough when you’re ready to start rolling it out.  Putting it in the fridge will make it too hard to roll and not necessary.

Ingredients

Filling:

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped

Cookies:

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 3 Tb all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 Tb unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 15 Tb (7 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 3/4-inch cubes, at room temperature

For the Filling:

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil over medium heat.  Remove the cream from the heat and add the white chocolate (making sure all of the chocolate is covered by the cream).  Let stand for one minute then whisk to melt.  It will take about 6 hours to let the filling to get to the right consistency.

For the Cookies:

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add all of the ingredients except for the butter and combine on low speed.  With the mixer running, add the butter a few pieces at a time, until all of it has been added.  The mixture will have a sandy texture at first and then will begin to form pebble-size pieces.  As soon as the dough starts to come together, stop the mixer.

Transfer the dough to a board and use the heel of your hand to shape the dough into a block about 5 by 7 inches.  Cut the block into 2 pieces.

One at a time, roll each block of dough between two pieces of lightly floured parchment paper until 1/8 inch thick.  Use a 2-inch circular cookie cutter (I used a big pastry coupler).  Place 1/2 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking.  Remove from oven and put on a cooling rack leaving the cookies on the sheet for 2 to 5 minutes (the cookies will be too soft to remove initially).  Then transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

The dough trimmings can be pushed together once and rerolled to make more cookies (only re-roll twice).

To Assemble:

Place half of the cookies upside down on a work surface.  Whip the filling lightly with a whisk just to aerate it a bit; it will lighten in color and fluff up.  Do not overwhip, or the filling may begin to separate.

Transfer the filling to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tip or use a disposable pastry bag and cut an opening at the tip of the bag.  Pipe about 1 1/2 teaspoon of filling in the center of each cookie.  Top with another cookie, right side up.  Gently, using your fingertips, press the cookies together until the filling comes just to the edges.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Note: for the leftover dough you have rolled twice, I just put it on the baking sheet and baked it.  Then, had that for the family to munch on.


Pseudo, yet easy Chocolate Mousse

With spring’s early advent in the Northwest, one cannot escape the driving urge to buy fresh produce (preferably strawberries & rhubarb) to make a pie or crisp to welcome the May Day in March.  However, as we’ve been fooled into thinking it’s time to pull out our swimsuits & sandals, we cannot escape the reality that it’s not the summer sun shining down quite yet. Hence making it impossible to eat that fresh strawberry-rhubarb pie.

During this Lenten season, our family is eating beans & rice Monday through Friday for dinner, trying to embrace simplicity in our everyday lives.  It’s been a fruitful experience thus far.  It’s also fun to read or hear about a number of individuals eating beans & rice for the whole month of March.  As we’ve been partaking in simplicity for our weeknight dinners, it has made Sunday night dinners extra special.  I made this last Sunday along with this Chocolate Mousse.  I was wanting to make a chocolate cream pie, but it was around 4:00 and my ambitious, idealist nature waved the white flag to that simple, realistic side screaming at the top of its lungs.

Now this mousse seriously feeds a crowd (I put the rest in a tupperware and sent it to Ben’s work).  It’s creamy, rich and has a chocolate ice cream sort of taste.  If you’re a fan of these and you don’t have much time to make a dessert, I recommend this hand’s down.  And if you’re standing in your kitchen in late Spring when fresh strawberries are available, but your palate is saying, “chocolatey richness!”  Then, make this and top with sliced strawberries–perfectly divine.

Pseudo Chocolate Mousse (printable recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups heavy cream, cold
  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, I used a bag of Ghiradelli 60% cacao chips
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk

Directions:

Chill an electric mixing bowl & the whisk attachment for about 10 minutes.

In a small pan, fill with about 1 cup of water and place a heatproof bowl on top.  Make sure the water doesn’t touch the bowl.  Heat over low heat, you want the water to simmer.  Add the chocolate chips or chopped chocolate to the bowl, stirring occasionally until melted.  Once melted, remove bowl from pan and let come to room temperature.

Remove the electric mixing bowl and whisk attachment and attach to the mixer.  Pour in the cold whipping cream and turn your mixer on high speed (10 on Kitchenaid).  Beat until stiff peaks appear, because you’re using the whipped cream as your base for the mousse (about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes).  When you raise your beater, the whipped cream should be able to stand up well on it’s own.

Add the can of sweetened condensed milk to the cooled, melted chocolate.  Stir until thoroughly combined (no streaks remain).  Fold in the whipped cream until no visible streaks remain from the whipped cream.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or foil.  Refrigerate for an hour (if you can wait that long).  The longer it sits in the fridge, the more congealed it will get, which is a good thing.


Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

When I was in junior high, our church youth group would have overnighters occasionally on the Sunday nights when we didn’t have school on Monday.  There were those kids who would never come to the overnighter, because they are the ones who “couldn’t cut it (Ben would have been one of those).”  In retrospect, they were the smart ones who knew at a young age what their body could and couldn’t take.  However, in our juvenile setback, we saw it not only as our duty, but our obligation to stick it to the man by experiencing the world from dusk to dawn.

Our ammunition was nothing less than your basic food groups–High Fructose Corn Syrup disguised as Dr. Pepper, Monosodium Glutamate disguised as Nacho Cheese Doritos, transfats disguised as Grease cloying Pizza & Unrefined sugar disguised as any & all candy.  And what happens when you eat those basic food groups over the course of 10 hours?  You crash and burn my friend, crash and burn.  It wasn’t until we were driving home at 6:00 am with the Arizona sun burning a hole in my retinas, that I began to wonder if a night-time of no sleep, crap food, and a bit more crap food was worth it?  My stomach was hungry for real food, but my body was beyond tired.  I felt like a two-year old at the one o’clock hour being pushed around the mall with my mom saying, “one more store honey.”  That morning my body trumped my stomach and slowly walked down the hall, with random clothes & stuff dropping the floor like Hansel & Gretel walking toward their candy house ecstasy.

It wasn’t until around 12:30 when I arose from my zombie induced coma to meander towards the wafting smell of the kitchen.  My mom was making some food for the potluck that evening and all I can say is that I’ve never tasted anything as good as chili mac at a moment like that, nor the chocolate cookie with peanut butter chips.  I ate a bit to rid my stomach from eating itself and went back to bed.  When I finally woke up for the day, I came back to the kitchen to find that the cookies weren’t just an illusion, but were actually really good cookies that I later ate a couple more.  And as I tasted these chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting, I can’t help but think of those cookies on the Memorial day back in the 90s.  I remember grabbing a glass of cold milk to compliment the obvious marriage of chocolate & peanut butter.  And for these cupcakes, I recommend the same.  Just leave the overnighters to those crazy middle & high schoolers.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting (printable recipe)

This recipe is adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home.  One thing about Ina Garten’s recipes is she always uses extra-large eggs, which no one ever has in their home.  So I always use large.  I used two large as an equal exchange in this recipe.  However, if there were three or more extra-large, then I would increase the large eggs to equal it out.  And you should definitely have a glass of milk when eating these cupcakes.

Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso (follow directions) or brewed coffee
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup good cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Kathleen’s Peanut Butter Icing, recipe follows

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and instant espresso. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. On low-speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it’s completely blended.

Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Frost each cupcake with Peanut Butter Icing.  Sprinkle with some sea salt.

Kathleen’s Peanut Butter Icing:

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.


Gluten-Free Coconut Chocolate Cupcakes

I have a lot of deep thoughts and reflections, but honestly, right now I don’t have any at the tip of my tongue (or should I say tip of my fingers?).  Most of them revolve around this Lenten season.  I have been thinking about the item (or items) I would give up.  However, I never solidified anything, except…making a commitment to eat beans & rice for the next forty days (aside from weekends) for dinner.  I was inspired by Sarah from In Praise of Leftovers (but I can’t seem to find the post).  It made me want to meditate upon the simplicity of eating & life.

However, Lent is not only about giving something up, but as our pastor said at the Ash Wednesday service, “it’s also about our active role as well.”  So I am reflecting, meditating and actively pursuing words of encouragement, praise & thankfulness.  I am shedding off complaints, gossip, tone of voice and a raised voice.  I want to be that woman, that wife, that mom.  That is what I actively seek in this season.  I envisioned a closet full of boxes that need to get thrown out, not even donated, just thrown out, in order to make room for what really matters.  And in my closet of heart & mind, I have kept boxes of trash that tear down and continue old cycles.  But I have sensed God saying last night during the service that “holiness” is really who He is.  And ya know what?  I want that.  I seek holiness.  I seek to throw out the cluttered boxes collecting dust and preventing room for the sun to shine in and new life to breathe in.  What are you actively seeking?  What are your boxes and what is the sun waiting to pour in?

I know that cupcakes aren’t holy and they probably just lead to other cluttered boxes on the scale.  But really, sometimes it’s eating cupcakes that can help alleviate some of the stress–right?  Unless of course, you’re fasting.  My friend Tina is gluten-intolerant and happens to work with Ben, so I’m lucky to see her more often; as well as, find gluten-free treats to bring just for her.  These were what I brought yesterday and she says they’re some of the best.

Gluten-Free Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache (printable recipe)

This recipe is adapted from Sweet & Natural.  I wanted to use ganache rather than a buttercream.  And since the recipe used coconut flour, I figured it needed all of the goodness, which coconut contributes.  Sorry you non-coconut loving people and sorry you’re missing out on a very good thing.

Cupcakes:

  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (melt it in a microwave)
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 375*F.  Spray mini cupcake pan with cooking spray (or coconut oil) and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix together coconut flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda.  In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, oil, agave and coconut extract until well-combined.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until blended.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 10 minutes.

While cupcakes are cooling, prepare ganache.  Put either semi-sweet chips in a bowl or chopped semi-sweet in a bowl.  Heat cream over medium heat.  Once it hits a boil, turn the heat off and pour over the chocolate chips.   Whisk until it is completely combined.  Let the ganache cool and solidify, which can take a couple hours.  However, you can choose what the texture of your frosting will be.  Makes 18 to 24 mini cupcakes.


Mascarpone Chocolate Cheesecakes

I was realizing how most of the food I post is under the dessert or baked goods category.  It made me think, “Uh maybe I need to start incorporating some vegetable side dishes, meats or beans, or something aside from dessert.”  But, I soon came back to Kamille reality and the truth is…I don’t enjoy cooking nearly as much as baking.  It’s not that cooking isn’t fun, but it comes in waves in my house.  I really do like it, but right now in the state of affairs, cooking is a job that needs to get checked off the list.  Hence, resulting in mindless ‘make the doughnuts‘ fashion when it comes to cooking a meal.  It’s a chore and I’m lacking creativity to put forth anything tantalizing enough to write about (I feel like I’m always making eggs as a result).  Don’t worry, the pizzazz will come back soon.

However, in the meantime, I’ve been putting forth my energy into baking.  Whether it’s homemade bread (a loaf is sitting on the counter right now), making healthier snacks for my family, or finally making those pecan bars I’ve been wanting to make for well over a year and a half (they required 2 lbs of pecans–you can see why I didn’t take the plunge).  And as with most culinary tasks there are those which fall under the lengthy & advanced cook definition, lengthy & intermediate and easy (because anything that is lengthy almost always never falls under the easy).  Although I enjoy the lengthy challenge, there are times when easy yet tasty (without anything from a box) is desperately needed.  So I present you with these Mascarpone Chocolate Cheesecakes.

I think this took me a total of 50 minutes (this didn’t include the chill time in the fridge).  The recipe says they should chill for 4 hours, but really, I think it’s all a matter of preference.  You could just as easily let them cool to room temperature then grab a spoon, which the result would be creamy billows melting across your mouth.  However, if you chill them you will get the more firm taste one is accustomed to when eating cheesecake (personally I prefer more billowy and less dense).  I have also realized that what may come as second nature to me is what scares most people out of the kitchen.  So let me give you some pointers on making cheesecake (and specifically these cheesecakes).

  1. When recipes call for heating up heavy cream to which you will add chopped chocolate (which is called a ganache–it’s what is used to make truffles), you should chop it up.  However, in this instance, it’s okay if the chocolate is in bigger chunks, because the chocolate to cream ratio is 4:1, so you have more time to stir the cream with chocolate, in order for the chocolate to melt.
  2. Always cool down the chocolate mixture or any hot cream mixture when adding to eggs.  That is unless you want scrambled eggs hidden within.  If you don’t feel like eating breakfast with your dessert, resist the temptation thinking warm is equivalent to room temperature.
  3. Always, Always, Always (was that enough always?) use a bain marie when making cheesecakes or baked custards.  A bain marie is a hot water bath.  You take your cheesecake pan or ramekins with the uncooked mixture inside and place it in a roasting pan, 9×13 pan or any pan with sides taller than the ramekins, springform, or cake pan.  You will need to boil water in your kettle or get very hot water from your tap.  Place your ramekins inside a rectangular pan and set it on the rack in the oven.  Now gently pour the water into the rectangular pan without splashing any water on the cheesecake, until the water reaches the middle part of the outside of the ramekins.
  4. Bain Marie: By baking your cheesecake in a bain marie, you are relying on the hot water to help with the baking process, not just the dry heat from the oven.  This method will result in a creamier cheesecake and not a dry, dense one.  **if you’re making a big cheesecake, you will need to wrap the bottom with heavy duty aluminum foil, so the water doesn’t seep through the springform pan.**
  5. Never open the oven door while baking cheesecakes.  Don’t be tempted to open it (I know we all think by opening it the cooking will somehow be closer to being done).  By opening the door you alter the temperature, which causes those cracks in the middle of cheesecakes.
  6. If your making a big cheesecake, and the time is done.  Turn off the heat, but leave cheesecake in the oven with door closed for an additional hour.
  7. Remove the cheesecake from the water and let it cool on a rack to room temperature.


Mascarpone Chocolate Cheesecakes (printable recipe)

This is another recipe adapted from my Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey book.  If I haven’t spoken of its praises enough, then this recipe is another reason why you should stop stalling and go get it.  If you’re not up for it, stick with me and I’ll most likely be pulling a few dozen more of it.  What I like about these is they are less finicky than your typical cheesecake, don’t require as much cream cheese, and are individual servings.  Oh yeah & they’re crustless…so gluten & wheat sensitive can indulge.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (see note above)
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese (you can find some for a cheaper price at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (okay, so seriously, I don’t think this really needs sugar–I say you could do 2 Tb and be fine)
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract (At Costco they sell gluten-free pure vanilla extract for a big amount & good price)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 Tb rum, brandy or Grand Marnier (optional)
  • Top with whipped cream, sliced strawberries, raspberries or orange segments.
  • Boiling water for bain Marie

Directions:

  • Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325.
  • In a saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat.  Remove it from the heat once it starts to boil.  Add the chopped chocolate and whisk till all the chocolate is melted.  Let it come to room temperature.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk or stir together mascarpone & sugar till creamy.  Add eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly incorporated.  Add the vanilla, salt & liquor of choice.
  • Pour the cooled chocolate mixture into the mascarpone cheese mixture and whisk till smooth.
  • Put eight 4-ounce custard cups, ramekins or small ovenproof coffee cups in an empty 9×13 pan or roasting pan.  Divide the cheesecake mixture evenly among the ramekins.
  • Put the baking dish in the oven and gently pour the hot water into the pan (see notes above on bain marie).  Cover with aluminum foil.
  • Bake until the tops of the cheesecake appear solid but jiggle slightly when shaken, 30 minutes. The perfect consistency is soft, but not liquid.  Transfer the pots from the baking sheet to a wire rack.  Let them come to room temperature.  Then, cover each pot with plastic wrap and place in fridge for at least 4 hours.  Enjoy!

Grandma’s No Bakes

I can recall Christmas time in AZ as a little girl typically wishing I was someplace in the movies where snow wasn’t a foreign concept.  But, despite my lack of cold powdery stuff anywhere within my perimeter, one of my fondest memories entailed a box awaiting my departure from the school bus.

My parents owned a mattress/bedding store growing up.  I would ride the bus home, or shall I say, ride the bus to the store everyday.  I was in the first grade, walking to the store anticipating the coming Christmas break (I was a huge daydreamer, so not being in a routinized setting meant the world to me).  Upon my arrival, there was a package waiting for all of us to open.  It was a big cardboard box from Oregon, which meant it was from Grandma Cox.

My grandma was one of those iconic grandmother types.  She embodied everything grandmotherly (i.e. warm hugs, cards sent for every holiday, and that aura).  I loved her more than just for what she gave us, but how she loved.  She loved with an unconditional love.  If she didn’t like someone, you would never know it, because she loved them immensely.  So, whenever we received anything in the mail from her, it was as if we were getting a bit of her there with us.

And on that December day, when I walked through the store’s back door and scrounged through that box with my brother, the round tin was our golden ticket.  My mom trying to enforce some constraint on our behalf, but I can still recall the chocolate peanut butter no bakes.  I feel like these are the quintessential Christmas nostalgia cookie for me, because of my grandma.

Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bakes (printable recipe)

I used gluten-free oats, in order for my gluten intolerant friend to eat them.  However, I did notice these had a bit of a chew to them.  I think it’s because they were Bob’s Red Mill Oats.  They were still wonderful and reminiscent of Grandma’s.  This recipe is adapted from here.

Ingredients:

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter

4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

1/2 cup whole milk

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 tablespoon vanilla

3 cups oats (I used gluten-free)

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, butter, cocoa & milk and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Cook until mixture begins to boil.  Allow it to boil without stirring for 2-2 1/2 minutes.  Then, add the peanut butter, vanilla & oats, stirring it all together.  Remove from heat and continue to stir to allow the mixture to coat thoroughly.  Using a teaspoon or tablespoon (depending on what size you want), drop mixture onto wax paper.  Allow to sit and firm up.  Eat & drink with milk.


Intensely Chocolate Cake

Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture soon enough.  This small sliver was the last piece standing after my daughter demolished it…story in the footnote:)

One thing I love about Ben is his grateful attitude.  He is truly one of the easiest people to please, especially when it comes to food.  After cooking a couple nice meals in a row one week, he said, “Kamille, I appreciate all your effort in making dinner, but you know you don’t have to go out of your way.  I’d be just as happy with sandwiches.”  What a guy right!

Well, if it’s your birthday, you need something extra special right!  I was envisioning making something along the lines of a braised beef dish.  One, because we don’t eat much meat these days and two, because Ben’s ultimate meal would be steak.  However, it didn’t happen.  Instead I made some Lentil Stew (which turned out really great & I’ll post it later), but I did make up for it in the cake department.  And honestly, baking is more my thing.

If I were to say another thing I love about Ben, it would have to be his appreciation for simple routine.  Simple, because he’s a meat & potatoes, T-shirt & jeans wearing, sports lovin’ type of guy.  Routine, because he once went a solid three months eating the same exact lunch for work (he did say he got sick of it, but his defense was…”it was easy!”).  So, when you combine that with my favorite question I ask people, “What’s your top desserts of all time?,”  you get a wife who makes chocolate cake with ice cream for birthday dessert.  I would love to make something more complex and even feel like I’m cheating him a bit; but, really, I’m not.  And ya know, I wouldn’t change it.  Even if it means I’ll be making chocolate cake for the next 50+ years…cause he’s worth it.

Intensely Chocolate Cake with Light Chocolate Buttercream (printable recipe)

When I use the word “light,” I don’t mean in calories, but in density.  The frosting is adapted from The Essence of Chocolate, while the cake is taken directly. It should be noted that I made one mistake in making the cake; hence, the denseness of the picture above…I added the eggs & mixed to realize I forgot to add the sugar first.  Regardless, it tasted wonderful, just not as airy.

FROSTING

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup heavy cream

5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped

1 cup bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 additional sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, not completely room temperature, cut into 1/2-in pieces

CAKE

Unsalted butter and flour for the pans

2 cups granulated sugar

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup canola oil

1 cup whole milk

1 cup boiling water

For the frosting: In a small saucepan, combine the sugar & cream and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 6 minutes.  Add both chocolates & 4 ounces of butter cut into 1/2 inch pieces.  Stir until melted  Pour into bowl of a mixer and add vanilla.  Mix on medium-high speed until bowl is room temperature.  Add pieces of the additional butter.  Beat until light & fluffy, approximately 4-5 minutes.

For the cake: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350.  Lightly butter the bottom of two 9-inch round cake pans.  Line the bottom with parchment paper, then butter and flour the parchment and the sides of the pans.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, and baking soda, mixing on low speed.  Mix in the eggs, oil, and milk.

Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes.  Reduce the speed to low and mix in the water.  The batter will be soupy.

Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack for 5 minutes, then turn the layers out onto the rack and cool completely. Invert the cake with top side down onto a serving platter.  Remove the parchment & place about two cups of frosting on top.  Spread it out, starting from the center.  You don’t need to make it even, since the second layer will help smoosh the frosting evenly.  Put the rest of the frosting on top.  Once again starting from the center and working outwards.  Then, spreading it over and onto the sides.

Let the frosting firm up a bit and eat!

**Post-story: My oldest daughter got into some monkey business while I went upstairs to change my youngest.  Upon my return, she was at the table looking like this…

Needless to say, it was more than enjoyed in our house.