Cinnamon Chocolate Stars

I was in a cookie making mood on Sunday. I started by baking some Toll House chocolate chip cookies (thank you, Ruth Wakefield!). I only baked half the batch and proceeded to eat the other half of dough raw, ’cause the Saints playing against the Titans drove me to it!

I then went on to make some very chocolate cookies with just a hint of heat and a punch of cinnamon. I used my Mexican vanilla to add even more cinnamon flavor.

These are crisp and light cookies with a lot of chocolate flavor. The tiny bit of cayenne just enhances the chocolate. Perfect for the chocoholics in your life!

Cinnamon Chocolate Stars

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift together the flour, coca, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cayenne (if using). Set aside.

Cream together butter and sugars. Add in egg and vanilla, mixing well after each addition. Slowly add in the flour mixture and mix just until combined.

Dived the dough in half and place on plastic wrap. Shape into a disc and then refrigerate for an hour.

Place the cooled dough between sheets of parchment paper and roll out to ¼ inch thickness. Use cookie cutter to cut into desired shape – I like stars. Place cut shapes on baking trays and reroll scraps until all the dough has been cut into cookies.

Place back in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Cover if you aren’t going to bake them right away.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, rotating the pans midway through cooking. Let cool for 10 minutes on the tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cookies before baking:

Stars fell on New Orleans last night

Boozy Brain for Halloween

I like making what my English friend called milk jelly. as the addition of evaporated milk to Jell-o cuts the sweet and makes a pretty color, too. The past couple of weeks have been a little crazy, so I decided to adultify this batch with some alcohol and put it in my brain mold for the Halloween celebrations.

While jello-shots are typically made with vodka, I am using blackberry flavored gelatin mix so I decided to go with my bottle of cassis – its a black currant liquor. I could have also used one of my flavored rums and I just might when I make it again as it was so delicious. When using a less strongly flavored alcohol, you can up the amount to 3/4 cup, depending on how hard you’ve been adulting.

Pretty cool Halloween treat!

Boozy Brain for Halloween

2 cups boiling water
2 1.4 ounce packs of Royal blackberry flavored gelatin
2 5 ounce cans evaporated milk
½ cup Cassis

Refrigerate the evaporated milk cans overnight.

Mix boiling water and gelatin. Stir until dissolved. Let stand 5 minutes and then add in the cold evaporated milk and the liquor. Stir well and pour into mold.

Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or, better yet, overnight. Dip mold in warm water for a few seconds to help ease the dessert out of the mold.

The tasty fake blood is just corn syrup, corn starch and a five to one ratio of red to blue food coloring.

Elderflower Lemon Sponge Cake

I was browsing some British cooking/recipe sites and came across several recipes for Victoria Sponge Cake that looked really good and were lighter than my go-to pound cakes (here, here, here). I wanted something with elderflower and, since lemon goes so well with it, I used a recipe with tonic instead of cordial.

I used a bundt pan but a 9×5 loaf pan or another cool shaped cake pan would make a nice presentation.

So good with a nice cup of tea! Floral and lemony and delicate in texture. Please note that after a day or two, the elderflower scent disappears but the lemon is still deliciously strong.

Elderflower Lemon Sponge Cake

For the cake:

1 stick (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
1 cup sugar 
Zest of 2 lemons (about 2 tablespoons)
4 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt 

For the syrup:

¼ cup elderflower tonic (I’m using Jack Rudy Cocktail Company Elderflower tonic)
Juice of 1 lemon (about ¼ cup)

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Lightly butter and flour a bundt pan or 9×5-inch loaf pan. Set aside.

Sift together the flour baking powder and salt and set aside.

Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until very pale and fluffy. Mix in the lemon zest.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs together. Gradually add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture (about 1 tablespoon at a time), beating well after each addition. Take up to 5 minutes to slowly and completely incorporate the eggs.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture into the rest of the batter. Mix just until all the flour is incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the oven until a tester comes out clean, about 60 to 70 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool, in the pan, on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.

While the cake cools slightly, combine elderflower tonic and lemon juice.

After 10 minutes of cooling, prick the still-warm cake all over with a skewer. Drizzle 3/4’s of the elderflower and lemon syrup over the cake so that it seeps into the holes.

Cool cake completely, then remove from the pan. Pour remaining syrup over the top.

Wrap leftover cake in plastic wrap and store at room temperature.

Small Batch Elderflower Ice Creams

I recently bought some elderflower tonic for cocktails and, whilst sipping, thought the flavor would go really well in ice cream. I do so love being right!

While using syrup would make for a more intense and sweeter ice cream – the tonic from Jack Rudy Cocktail Company is light and adds a delicious floral scent and taste to ice cream.

Elderflower Vanilla Ice Cream

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean pod
1 tablespoon elderflower tonic (I used Jack Rudy’s)

Mix together cream, milk and sugar and whisk until sugar is dissolved. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Whisk in the seeds and then toss in the vanilla pod. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove the vanilla pod and whisk lightly to ensure everything is well mixed. Place in your ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Place in an airtight container and freeze until firm.

The cocktail I first made with the elderflower tonic used muddled strawberries, so I decided to try it as ice cream. Winner!

Elderflower Strawberry Ice Cream

2 cups sliced strawberries
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Elderflower Tonic (I used Jack Rudy’)

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Refrigerate until cold and then process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a plastic container and freeze until firm.

Chocolate Cherry Dump Cake

I wanted a quick and easy dessert for dinner. I had a box of Duncan Hines Devil’s Food Cake mix and a large jar of cherry pie filling. Perfect, especially with me adding in a half cup of dried cherries to increase the umph!

I’ve done this before with blueberries and a box of yellow cake mix (Khaki’s Blueberry Crunch). The final result from today’s is a delicious cross between a cherry cobbler and a black forrest cake.

This style of dump cake is pretty darn versatile – anything that can be made into pie filling can be the base and nearly every kind of cake mix will work. The only limitation is your imagination!

Just pour the pie filling (if using canned, two cans) into the bottom of a buttered 9X13 baking dish. Spread the contents of a box of cake mix evenly over the top and then pour a stick of melted butter on the top. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes or until it is dry on top and bubbly around the edges. Serve with ice cream.

Yum!

Limoncello Cheesecake

Michelle made a limoncello cheesecake for my birthday using some of the homemade limoncello I made in the late fall. I’m very thankful to my friend Dar who gave me a terrific recipe (Place together the zest of 12 lemons with a bottle of Everclear and store for 4 weeks. Next, strain out the peel and mix with equal parts simple syrup and set aside for another 4 weeks). As you can see below, it was beautifully yellow and very refreshing sipped right out of the freezer.

For the cheesecake, Michelle used ½ cup of the limoncello and the final dessert was so good. Lemony and light and refreshing. You can see the two layers of filling and topping that combined for one tasty cheesecake.

We had a flat of fresh strawberries, so we added one for decoration

She used a 10 ½ inch springform pan and, once the topping was added, it made for a very full pan. If your pan is smaller, consider cooking ⅓ of the batter in muffin tins to make sure you don’t make a mess of your oven.

Limoncello Cheesecake

Crust:

5 tablespoons melted butter
1 ½ cup graham cracker crumbs

Filling:

4 packages of cream cheese, room temperature
5 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large lemons zested and juiced (⅓ cup fresh lemon juice)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt

Topping:

20 ounces of sour cream (NOT light or low fat)
½ cup limoncello
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 egg

Butter a 10.5 inch springform pan. Mix melted butter and graham cracker crumbs together and press into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes.

While the crust bakes, combine the cream cheese with the sugar in a mixer until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing just enough to incorporate. Mix in the lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla and salt until smooth.

Remove the crust from the oven and drop the temperature of the oven to 200 degrees F.

Pour filling into prepared pan and place in oven to bake for 2 hours, until the topping is set.

While the filling is baking, prepare the topping by mixing together the sour cream, limoncello, sugar, corn starch and egg.

After two hours, remove almost baked cheesecake from the oven. Raise oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

Pour topping on to the top of the cheesecake. Return pan to oven to bake for 17-20 minutes or until top is set. Remove from oven and, after ten minutes, run a knife along the edge to keep the cheesecake from cracking. Cool for 30 minutes more before placing in the refrigerator to cool completely, at least 4 hours before serving.

I can’t believe I ate the whole thing

Cherry Pie for Pi Day

I decided to make a cherry pie this year for 3.14.

I’m being super lazy this year and using a Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust – buying a 2 crust box for the top and bottom and using a can of Duncan Hines Comestock Original Country Cherry Pie Filling.

I’m spending any creativity on the top crust. I decided to go with a mock lattice,  grate pattern. Instead of weaving strips, I sliced slits in the top dough and stretched it to open it up.

Here is what I did:

Adjust oven rack to lower-third of oven. Preheat oven to 375°F. Place bottom pie crust in bottom of 9-inch pie plate and flute the edges.

Unroll remaining dough on a sheet of parchment paper. Starting on right side, 2 inches from edge with a ruler held vertically, cut 2-inch slits with a paring knife into dough, spaced about 1 inch apart. Move ruler 1 inch to the left and continue making 2-inch slits, starting parallel to center of first set, so spaces alternate. Continue working across rest of dough, leaving a 2-inch border all around. Gently stretch dough horizontally to reveal grate pattern (if dough is too soft or breaking, refrigerate until pliable, about 10 minutes).

Pour cherry pie filling into bottom crust. Dot top with 2 tablespoons of butter pieces. Place top dough on pie, stretching slightly to open up the pattern. Crimp to seal the top dough to the bottom dough. If there is any leftover dough, cut into a Pi shape. Beat 1 egg with a teaspoon of water and brush over top dough. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon sugar.

Place pie on baking sheet and bake 45 to 50 minutes or until the pie is bubbling and crust is golden brown. Let cool 30 minutes before slicing.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Fudgy Nutella Sourdough Brownies

I was looking for alternatives to bread making to use some of my sourdough starter discard when I rediscovered a sourdough brownie recipe in my files. As I wanted to take it a step further, I decided to add some Nutella hazelnut spread to the batter.

It was a delicious idea. The hazelnut spread adds fudgy, nutty richness. The sourdough starter makes sure it isn’t too sweet.

Be sure and let the pan cool completely before cutting or you’ll be spooning out brownies (which isn’t a bad idea either).

Fudgy Nutella Sourdough Brownies

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate baking bars (I use Ghirardelli), broken into pieces
½ cup Nutella hazelnut spread

2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup sourdough starter discard
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup Dutch processed cocoa powder (I like Hershey’s Special Dark)
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C) and butter a square (8×8 or 9×9) baking pan.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the chocolate pieces and hazelnut spread. Stir the ingredients until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set it aside to cool down.

Stir the vanilla extract with the sourdough starter.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, brown sugar and granulated sugar with an electric mixer until well blended, at least 5 minutes. Add the sourdough starter and beat on low. Add the chocolate mixture to the bowl and beat on low until mixed. Add the flour mixture and stir just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean.
Allow the brownies to cool completely in the pan after they come out of the oven.  Cut into squares.
Store in an airtight container or bag.

Oaty, Chocolately, Peanut Buttery Bars

I wanted to munch on something with chocolate and peanut butter but Dad is trying to eat healthy so I looked for a recipe that could qualify. These no-bake oat bars were just the ticket! Okay, so maybe they aren’t actually good for you on any measurable scale but they sure are rich and tasty.

You want to use quick cooking oats or the old fashioned that only need 5 minutes. This is not the recipe to try out steel cut or instant!

These are yummy with lots of chocolate – a great recipe with which to start the new year.

Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Oat Bars

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
½ cup brown sugar, packed
3 cups oats
1 cup bittersweet (or semi-sweet) chocolate chips
½ cup peanut butter
¼ cup bittersweet (or semi-sweet) chocolate chips

Butter an 8×8 or 9×9 square baking pan.

In a large saucepan, melt butter and brown sugar. Add oats. As these are no-bake bars, you need to soften the oats. Stir for the amount of time recommended on the container (1 to 5 minutes). Remove from heat.

Place two cups of the oat butter mixture into the prepared pan and use a piece of wax paper or a spatula to press down.

In a small saucepan, melt chocolate chips and peanut butter. Once melted, pour over oat layer and smooth out. By spoonfuls place the remaining oats on top. Place the saucepan back on the stove and melt remaining chocolate chips. Drizzle the chocolate over the top.

Place pan in refrigerator to solidify for at least 4 hours. Cut into bars and store in an airtight container.

Bars are best when brought back to room temperature before eating.

Lemon Creole Cream Cheese Pound Cake

I wanted to make a pound cake this week and, serendipitously, my parent’s next door neighbor offered to let me pick all the remaining lemons from his tree (Did you know lemon trees have thorns? I do now). Lemon pound cake it is.

Before I left New Orleans, I went to Dorignac’s Food Center to pick up some Creole Cream Cheese. This is a soft farmer’s cheese similar in texture to a mix of cottage cheese and sour cream that is both sweet and tart. Poppy Tooker has a recipe  (as does Edible New Orleans) to make your own batch. If you’re not in the area or not in the mood to make cheese, you can substitute softened cream cheese or sour cream in the recipe.

Lovely lemon flavor and scent, light texture and crumb and just the right amount of  tart to sweet. Perfect for holiday snacking with one to keep and one to give away!

Lemon Creole Cream Cheese Pound Cake

3 cups cake flour, plus more for the pan
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon fine salt
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
3 ½ cups granulated sugar
8 ounces Creole cream cheese (or use sour cream or softened cream cheese)
6 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
juice and zest from 3 lemons (about ½ cup fresh lemon juice), divided

1 ½ cups powdered, confectioners sugar

Butter and flour two loaf pans (three, if they’re small). Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together cake flour, corn starch, salt and baking powder. Use a mixer to cream sugar, butter and Creole cream cheese until light and fluffy. In another bowl, beat eggs until fluffy. Add eggs to creamed sugar and mix. Stir in vanilla and half of the lemon zest. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture and mix just until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake for an hour, until golden brown and a tester comes out clean.

Let cake cool about 10 minutes. Poke 10-15 holes evenly throughout cakes with a cake tester or toothpick. Pour ¼ cup lemon juice over the top of the cakes (works out to about 2 tablespoons per loaf pan). Let cool completely.

While waiting for the cakes to cool, make the glaze by stirring together the remaining ¼ cup lemon juice with the powdered sugar. Stir in the rest of the zest.

Remove cakes from pans once cool. Pour the lemon zest glaze over cakes, letting it fall down the sides. Let icing set for at least 10 minutes before slicing. Also good lightly toasted the next morning.

Wrap in plastic wrap to store. Wrap well in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and then in a zip top bag to freeze.