Chocolate Cupcakes with whipped cream filling

cupcakes2
cupcakes2

I chose to make these chocolate cupcakes today for several reasons. First, these cupcakes are one of my favorites as well as a favorite among my friends and family that have had them. So, I’m counting on them being a hit for some other special people, too. Second, I recently purchased some new Russian piping tips that I have been dying to try, so this is the perfect opportunity to see if they measure up to the hype.

Russian piping tips
Russian piping tips

As some of my readers may have noticed, I’ve been on hiatus for a few months. Well, my mother had been sick, so sharing my recipes had to be put on the back burner temporarily. She is getting better every day, but she had to spend time in a local nursing and rehabilitation facility. She made some friends while there and she took a liking to some of the staff as well. I wanted to show my appreciation with a small token of what I do best. CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES.

cupcakes
cupcakes

I also had a friend’s birthday recently. She doesn’t ask for much, but she has been hankering something chocolatey. So, these chocolate cupcakes should do the trick.

They’ve got lots of butter and eggs, so they’re rich and moist. As an added bonus, I like to add a little fresh, whipped cream, peanut butter or jelly to center of these chocolate cakes, so you get a little surprise in each bite. There’s no limit to the possible types of frosting to finish them off either.

If you need some tips on making the perfect texture of cake, I provide a lot of information in my article Italian Cream Cake and Tips For A Better Batter.

Icing, glaze, ganache, frosting, or fondant?

So, what’s the difference between them all? It depends on who you ask. You’ll probably get a different answer from from different parts of the country and different parts of the world as well. But, I’m going to tell you what I call them so we can be on the same page for the purpose of these recipes.

Generally, though, frosting is thick and fluffy. The mixture is made from a base of dairy products, such as butter and/or cream cheese, and powdered sugar. It’s fluffy enough to stand on its own in various shapes made by piping, yet thick enough to spread with a spatula.

Icing generally has a thinner, glossier texture and is made with a powdered sugar base and water or milk and often times food coloring will be added. This mixture hardens somewhat when it dries, so it is perfect for decorating cookies.

A glaze also has a thinner, glossier texture and is made with a powdered sugar base, but generally uses a fruit juice for added flavor. This mixture can be easily poured over your scones, donuts or other pastries and cakes.

Chocolate ganache is the best of both of the worlds of frosting and icing. It’s thick enough to be a substantial addition to your cake, much like that of frosting. But it’s also thin and glossy, like an icing, that can just be poured over your desserts.

Fondant is a thick paste made of sugar, water and egg whites or meringue powder which, when dried, it can be rolled out into a sheet then laid out and formed around the cake.

Fun fact

Powdered sugar is also known as confectioner’s sugar, icing sugar or 10X sugar. The 10 in 10X represents the number of times the granulated sugar has been processed to make it into the fine powdery substance that easily dissolves. Powdered sugar is also a preferred sugar used by candy makers…or confectioners.

Cream filled Chocolate Cupcakes

A rich, moist, dark chocolate cake with a creamy filling.

Course Dessert
Keyword chocolate
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 15 minutes
Cooling and decorating 4 hours
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 42 cupcakes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 cup unsifted unsweetened dark cocoa
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee granules + 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 3/4 cups sifted flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

For the filling:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

For the cake:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine cocoa with boiling water, mixing together with a wire whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool completely (about 2 hours).

  2. In a small bowl, mix the instant coffee granules with the warm water until thoroughly dissolved. Add to the cooled cocoa mixture.

  3. Sift the flour with the baking powder, salt and baking soda.

  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with liners. (I would recommend baking no more than 24 cupcakes at a time, otherwise you may need to adjust your baking time and temperature. This recipe would require baking the batter in two batches.)

    You can also make this recipe into a 3-layer cake using three, 9 inch cake pans.

  5. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, at the setting for creaming, cream the butter and the sugar for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy.

    Cake batter adding flour
  6. Add the vanilla then the eggs, one at a time, just until you can no longer see the ingredient you just added. Overmixing will flatten your fluffy butter mixture.

    Gradually adding the cocoa
  7. At low speed, beat in the flour mixture (in fourths), alternately with the cocoa mixture (in thirds) beginning and ending with the flour mixture, just until you can no longer see the ingredient you just added. Overmixing will flatten your fluffy butter mixture and will alter the structure of your cake.

    Mix just until the ingredient is added
  8. Fill cupcake cups approximately 3/4 to the top of the liner and bake for 13-15 minutes. There should be a few moist crumbs on a toothpick when inserted to the middle of the cupcake. The cakes will finish baking while they are cooling down. Allow the cakes to cool for about 1 hour before proceeding to the next step.

    (If you prefer the layer cake, divide the batter evenly between 3 cake pans, bake 25-30 minutes or until a few moist crumbs remain on a toothpick when inserted into the middle of the cake.)

    whipped cream2

For the filling

  1. Whip the heavy cream, vanilla and confectioner’s sugar on high speed of electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use. 

    Filling tip
  2. Once the cupcakes are cooled, using a decorating bag fitted with a filling tip, fill the bag with the whipped cream. Insert the tip into the cake and gently squeeze until the cupcake is filled with the cream.

    (If making the layered cake, simply spread the whipped cream between layers.

    Glass stand
  3. If you have trouble filling your decorating bag, try wrapping the opening of the bag over the rim of a tall glass. This will keep the bag open while you are scraping your bowl and filling the bag. You can also rest your bag in the glass when not in use to avoid a messy work area.

  4. Decorate with your favorite frosting or check out my favorite recipes below.

    filled cupcakes

No matter how you choose to top these delicious miniature cakes, any one of the following recipes will be sure to please the crowd. I’m partial to either buttercream, ganache or cream cheese frostings for cake and not really a fan of fondants because I prefer a fluffy, whipped texture as opposed to the sheet of sweetness. I’ve only used store bought fondant before, but I have a few recipes I want to try. Who knows? I may change my mind and give fondant another chance. Look for my recipes for icings and glazes in the near future. I think you’ll enjoy the pastries that go along with them too. 

Buttercream Frosting

Course Frosting
Keyword Frosting
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup crisco I use butter flavored crisco
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk if needed
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. Beat butter and shortening until light and fluffy. (The butter should be at room temperature. If they are too soft, return to the refrigerator for a few minutes.)

  2. Add the vanilla.

  3. Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar. Continue beating until the frosting is smooth and creamy.

  4. You may not need all the confectioner’s sugar. If your frosting becomes to thick, gradually add a teaspoon of milk at a time until you reach the desired consistency.

    buttercream divided

Cream Cheese Frosting

Course Frosting
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese softened
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp milk if needed

Instructions

  1. Beat butter and shortening until light and fluffy. (The butter should be at room temperature. If they are too soft, return to the refrigerator for a few minutes.)

  2. Add the vanilla.

  3. Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar. Continue beating until frosting is smooth and creamy.

  4. You may not need all the confectioner’s sugar. If your frosting becomes to thick, gradually add a teaspoon of milk at a time until you reach the desired consistency.

    cream cheese frosting

Peanut Butter Frosting

Course Frosting
Keyword Peanut butter
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup crisco
  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 4-5 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. Beat butter and shortening until light and fluffy. (The butter should be at room temperature. If they are too soft, return to the refrigerator for a few minutes.)

  2. Add the peanut butter.

  3. Add the vanilla.

  4. Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar. Continue beating until the frosting is smooth and creamy.

  5. You may not need all the confectioner’s sugar. If your frosting becomes to thick, gradually add a teaspoon of milk at a time until you reach the desired consistency. If the frosting is to thin, gradually add additional confectioner’s sugar.

    cupcakes

Chocolate Ganache

Course Frosting
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 8 oz semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp instant coffee granules

Instructions

  1. In a double boiler over simmering water, melt chocolate.

  2. Add instant coffee granules. Stirring until smooth.

  3. Gradually add the heavy cream and continue stirring until well incorporated and mixture is smooth and creamy.

  4. Decorate by dipping the tops of the cupcakes into the mixture or pouring the mixture over the cakes. The mixture will harden as it sits. 

    cupcakes

Chocolate Frosting


Course Frosting
Keyword chocolate
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Cooling time 1 hour
Total Time 20 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 6 oz semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium low heat, combine the chocolate pieces, cream and butter.

  2. Stir until all chocolate pieces have melted and mixture is smooth.

  3. Remove from the heat.

  4. Gradually add confectioner’s sugar whisking until sugar is fully incoorporated and mixture is smooth. It may be necessary to to place the pan in a bowl of ice to help with the cooling down process. 

  5. Decorate as desired. 

    cream filled chocolate cake

M&M Cookies A Memorial Day Favorite

If You’ve Had One, You’ve Had Them All?

Homemade cookies are one of my favorite things to make. I know, I say that about everything, but here’s the thing, homemade cookies are not only delicious, they are also easy and quick to make, how can you not love them? Pretty much every drop cookie out there has been derived from the basic Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. But, does that mean that if you’ve had one, you’ve had them all? No, it doesn’t. There are so many variations available, how do you know which one to pick? I’ll share my M&M Cookies recipe today and then we’ll discuss what makes them soft and chewy, light and cakey or crisp and crunchy. We’ll also look at some mishaps in the kitchen and explain how to prevent cookie disasters.

But First, Some History

In honor of the upcoming Memorial Day, I thought it would be fitting to discuss the role U.S. soldiers played in the popularity of chocolate chip cookies.

The chocolate chip cookie, the official state cookie of Massachusetts, was invented by Ruth Graves Wakefield in 1938. She was the owner and chef at the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts.

The original, Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie, rose to popularity during WWII. American soldiers stationed overseas would receive care packages, which included these cookies, from family in Massachusetts. The soldiers would share the cookies with soldiers from other parts of the U.S. and soon, those soldiers were writing home asking for them. That led to many letters being sent to the Toll House Inn requesting the recipe causing the cookie craze to take off.

Ruth sold the rights to use the recipe to Andrew Nestle for $1.00 in return for a lifetime supply of  Nestle’s chocolate. I think Ruth got the short end of the stick in that deal. But, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

M&M Cookies

This recipe is based on the Toll House Cookie Recipe. A couple simple modifications of increasing the amount of brown sugar and swapping out the chocolate chips for M&Ms make these a fun substitution for the original cookie.

Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword Cookies
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 48
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups mini baking M&Ms

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees

    M&M Cookies ingredients
  2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

  3. In a separate bowl, combine butter, sugars and vanilla. Beat until creamy. 

    M&M Cookies dough
  4. Add eggs, one at a time. Beat until each one is well blended. 

  5. Gradually add the flour, a little at a time. Mix until well blended. 

    M&M Cookies dough 2
  6. Stir in the M&Ms.

    M&M Cookies M&Ms
  7. Drop rounded spoonfuls of dough on a parchment lined cookie sheet. (I just use a teaspoon. For more uniform shapes, you can use a melon baller or small ice cream scoop.)

    M&M Cookies spoonful
  8. Bake 8-10 minutes. (I usually check them at 7 minutes...if they are starting to brown at the edges, I removed them from the oven and allow them to remain on the hot cookie sheet for a few minutes. They'll continue to "bake" while cooling down.) Move to a wire rack or a sheet of parchment paper to continue cooling. 

    M&M Cookies cooling

Soft and Chewy, Light and Cakey or Crisp and Crunchy?

What’s your preference? I prefer soft and chewy with a slight crisp around the edges. That can be a hard combination to master. You can look at a 100 different recipes and they’ll all have different measurements, but finding the one that gives you the texture you want is easier than you think.

In the Toll House Cookies recipe, the main ingredients which dictate what texture your cookies develop into are butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. A typical cookie dough recipe will have 2 sticks of butter and equal parts of granulated sugar and brown sugar. You can customize your cookies with a few simple alterations.

Here are a few hints:

For instance, if you’re going for crisper cookies, you’ll want a recipe to have more butter and a larger amount of granulated sugar than brown sugar.

If you prefer a light and cakey cookie, your recipe will use less butter and significantly less sugar (but still using more granulated sugar than brown sugar).

For the soft and chewy variety, you’ll just need to adjust the sugars. More brown sugar will yield a softer, chewier cookie.

Cookie Catastrophes

Cookies spread too thin

When you’re making your dough, keep an eye on the texture of your dough. If the butter is too soft, your dough may be too warm and your cookies could spread too thin while baking. When you soften your butter, you should be able to press into the butter with the side of a knife and feel a little resistance. If you press down and your knife plunges to the bottom, the butter is too soft. You can return the butter to the refrigerator for a few minutes. Or, if you’ve already made the dough, place the dough in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before spreading out the dough to bake.

Thin cookies can also be caused by not using enough flour. Try adding a little bit more flour a tablespoon at a time.

Cookies browning but are not overbaked

When you purchase your ingredients to make the cookies, keep in mind that using dark brown sugar instead of light brown sugar can change the color of your cookie, so they may appear to be browning too quickly. If you choose to use corn syrup or molasses as your sweetener, you may notice that the cookies start browning before the cookie is baked through.

Also, it is possible that the oven is just running too hot. Reduce the temperature by 10 degrees. If you don’t notice a significant change, reduce the heat again.

Cookies are too cakey and very pale

The likely culprit of this blunder is too much flour. This can be tricky to fix, but adding a couple more tablespoons of butter just might save the dough.

OH NOOOOs

Have you ever gone shopping for all your ingredients then realize after you have returned home that you forgot something anyway?

Well, I do it all the time, so I have a list of adequate substitutions for just such an occasion. I wouldn’t recommend substituting every ingredient, but in a pinch, one will do. I mean, if you forgot everything, how bad could you want to make them anyway?

BUTTER substitutes cup for cup with margarine or shortening.

TABLE SALT can be replaced with 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (you may also want to pulse it in the food processor a bit before adding it to your dough).

SUGAR can be swapped out for honey. 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar for 1 cup of honey plus 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. (Also, reduce your oven temperature by 25 degrees to avoid burning.)

BROWN SUGAR Light or dark can be used in place of the other. If you don’t have either, you can make some by pulsing 1 cup granulated sugar and 4 tablespoons of molasses in a food processor.

EGGS can be replaced by using 2 eggs whites in place of 1 large egg. Or 1/4 cup of egg product per egg.

SEMI-SWEET CHOCOLATE can be substituted with any other type of chocolate, fruit, nuts, or chopped up candy bars of any variety. I’ve even used leftover cake pulsed in the food processor and mixed it with the cookie dough. I call them Cake Crumble Cookies. They are pretty good, too.

What’s your favorite cookie? Do you approve of using candy bar bits instead of chocolate chips? Let me know in the comments below. And don’t forget to like us on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coffee Brownie Bites with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Frosting

I bake a lot. Mostly cakes for friends’ and family birthdays or other special occasions, miscellaneous events and holidays. I’m a sucker for coffee, chocolate chip cookies and brownies. So, when I bake for myself, how am I supposed to decide between the three. Well, I found a way to incorporate all my favorite things with these Coffee Brownie Bites with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Frosting.

Don’t Fear The Dough Though

No one openly admits to eating cookie dough with raw eggs and there seems to be a debate about raw flour nowadays, too. Although, I have sampled my cookie dough many times prior to baking (I have to make sure it tastes right, right?), I have never once died nor gotten sick from it. But, not to worry, this frosting doesn’t have any eggs or flour in it, so it is totally safe to eat.

Don’t make the same mistake I made once though. I added the chocolate chips to the frosting then decided I wanted to use a cake decorating tool. Those chips don’t fit through the opening of the decorating tips. So, instead, I added spoonfuls of the frosting sandwiched between two brownies, topped with coffee frosting, nuts and a drizzle of chocolate ganache.

brownie cakes with cookie dough frosting
brownie cakes with cookie dough frosting

Brownies – Cakey or Fudgy? What’s Your Pleasure?

As I said before, I love brownies. I’m not a fan of brownies that are too cakey, but I’m also not a fan of brownies that are too fudgy either. If I want something chocolate cakey, I will make a chocolate cake. Likewise, if I want something chocolate fudgy, I will make chocolate fudge. (Yes. Don’t worry. I have great recipes for those, too. I’ll share them another time.) So, how do we compromise on the perfect balance of textures for a brownie? I like them chewy, if you do, too, this is the recipe for you. These are chewy with just the right amount of cakey and fudgy textures.

A Decadent Dessert, A Decade In The Making

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve made brownies. But, my quest started about 10 years ago. Each time I made them I was told they are perfect and don’t need any changes. I wasn’t convinced though. There was always room for improvement. They were either too cakey or too fudgy.

There are so many factors that can make or break your brownie. For instance, did you know that the order in which you add the ingredients can make a difference in how they turn out? I’ve never strayed from my original ingredients, but I have experimented with the order in which they are added so many times, I think I finally got it just right.

Also, the baking time plays a huge role in the texture. Experiment with what texture you like, but be sure to check the doneness often. You can always bake it for a few more minutes, but you can’t undo it if you bake them too long.

A Few Tips For A Perfect Brownie

Use a double boiler to melt your butter and chocolate. If you don’t have an actual “double boiler”, just use a medium pot with a smaller pot or heat resistant bowl nestled inside the larger bowl. (As you can see in the picture below…the smaller pot has a handle on either side, so it just hangs in the larger pot perfectly.) Be mindful to use just an inch or two of water in the pot and do not allow your inner pot or bowl to touch the water. Even though the name “double boiler” suggests boiling the water, in this case you just want to simmer the water.

Coffee Brownie Cookie Dough melted chocolate
Coffee Brownie Cookie Dough melted chocolate

Be careful not to let the steam escaping from the bottom pot to form any droplets of water that can drip into your chocolate. Even the smallest amount of water added to chocolate can actually seize the chocolate and will turn it into a big lumpy glob. (It is possible to rescue the chocolate by gradually adding warm milk or cream, but it’s best to avoid a potential kitchen fiasco altogether.)

Since we’re using butter in this recipe, I would suggest melting the butter first then adding a little chocolate at time while constantly whisking until the chocolate has melted and is well incorporated. This should help avoid the possibility of seizing. Also, be sure to keep the temperature low. Too high of heat will brown the butter and scorch the chocolate. Neither will taste good in your brownies.

Once you’ve melted the butter and chocolate then added the sugar, it is important to allow the mixture to cool for a few minutes before adding the eggs. You don’t want the eggs to start cooking before you put the batter in the oven. We’re making brownies, not chocolate scrambled eggs after all.

Once your batter is baking, it can be tricky to tell when it is done. Oven temperatures vary, so it’s best to not go strictly by the timing. You’ll need to text the doneness with a toothpick.

Obviously, if you check the batter and it’s still a jiggly in the middle, they’re not done. If it appears set in the middle and when you insert a toothpick it is gooey, they’re still not done. They’re done when you insert a toothpick and there are a few moist crumbs sticking to the toothpick. The brownies will continue baking as it cools, so you don’t need to worry about it being undercooked.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you insert the toothpick and it comes out completely clean, they are overdone. They’ll still be good as long as they’re not burnt, but they’ll just have a different texture.

Coffee Brownie Bites with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Frosting

A dessert with various flavors. If you're just in the mood for a brownie without the other flavors, you can easily omit the coffee and the frosting and still have an excellent brownie.

Course Dessert
Keyword Brownie
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 16
Author Lisa

Ingredients

For The Brownies

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 oz chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder

For The Frosting

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • chocolate chips or sprinkles

Instructions

For The Brownies

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8X8 inch baking pan by thoroughly greasing the pan, addling a sheet of parchment paper, then greasing the parchment paper. (This allows for the easy removal of the brownies from the pan.)

  2. Prepare the coffee by adding the instant coffee to a small bowl. Add the warm water and mix until the coffee has dissolved.

  3. In the bottom portion of a double boiler, bring about 1 to 2 inches of water to a low simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium/low. In the top portion of the double boiler, add the butter and allow to melt.

  4. Gradually add the chocolate chips to the melted butter, a little at a time. Whisking constantly until the chocolate has completely melted and is fully incorporated with the butter.

    Coffee Brownie Cookie Dough melted chocolate
  5. Add the vanilla, salt and prepared coffee. Continue whisking until well blended.

  6. Add the sugar, a little at a time, until well blended. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

  7. Mix the flour and cocoa powder. (The cocoa powder is basically just to retain the rich, chocolate appearance of the batter, otherwise the flour lightens the batter. I prefer a rich, dark, brownies, so I use dark chocolate cocoa powder.)

  8. Gradually add the flour mixture to the batter, a little at a time. Mixing just until the flour is incorporated. The batter should have a thick texture.

  9. Pour the batter into your prepared baking pan and spread evenly.

  10. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Starting at 30 minutes, test the center of the brownies with a toothpick. The toothpick should not be gooey, but if it is, let it bake for a few more minutes. If the toothpick test results in a moist toothpick with a few crumbs, they are ready.

    The brownies will finish baking as they are cooling down. This will yield a chewy brownie. Baking them too long, will result in a cakier brownie that may be a little hard. They'll still taste good, but the texture won't be quite right.

    Allow the brownies to cool completely before removing from the pan.

For The Frosting

  1. Cream together the butter and the brown sugar in large bowl of a mixer.

  2. Blend in the vanilla.

  3. Gradually add the confectioner's sugar, a little at a time.

  4. Occasionally check the texture of the frosting. If the frosting gets a little too thick add a teaspoon or two of milk.

  5. Once the brownies have cooled, cut into squares and add frosting as desired.

    Coffee Brownie Bites with Cookie Dough Frosting
  6. Top with chocolate chips or sprinkles.

 

Speaking of kitchen mishaps, I highly recommend the book “How To Break An Egg“. It’s from the editors, contributors and readers of “Fine Cooking Magazine”. It has 1,453 kitchen tips, food fixes, emergency substitutions and handy techniques. It is full of everything from how to carve a leg of lamb to measurement equivalents to caring for your pots. I use the emergency substitutions section the most, but the whole book is fantastic. It should be noted that I’m NOT being paid for this recommendation. But, I just truly have found this book to be the most used book in my kitchen.

What’s your biggest kitchen mishap? How did you remedy the situation? Tell me about it in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garlic Breadsticks – A great bread for dipping

Do you ever get a craving for bread? I do. All the time. I love a rustic, hearty bread that you can dip into marinara or seasoned olive oil. Or better yet, toast the bread and load it up with garlic butter and parmesan cheese. My go-to garlic breadsticks are easy to make and you can top them with just about anything you like.

I’m a huge garlic fan. To be sure to keep the vampires away, I usually add a lot of minced garlic to the melted butter along with a blend of herbs and smother the bread in the final minutes of baking. I mostly use the Jack of all Herbs Medley that I wrote about here. Sometimes I just use sesame seeds or poppy seeds. If you don’t like those options, the breadsticks are very good on their own, too.

You can follow this recipe for the twisted breadsticks or make whatever shape you prefer. You’ll just need to adjust the baking time to accommodate for larger or smaller loaves. The leftover breadsticks are good for snacks, just place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper then bake for a few minutes then enjoy with your favorite dipping sauces or seasoned oils.

This dough is excellent for making a pizza dough as well. I have to admit, though, I don’t make homemade pizza often. Pizza is one of those things that I like to have when I don’t feel like cooking. But, since there aren’t any pizza places that deliver to my neck of the woods, sometimes I experiment at home when the mood strikes.

A Few Tips For Better Breads

Bread making can be very intimidating and sometimes it takes a few tries to get it right. But, don’t be discouraged if your first attempt fails. Practice makes perfect. I’m going to share some tips with you that took me many trials and errors and lots of research to figure out. Hopefully, you’ll master this process much sooner than I did.

As with most yeast breads, exact measurements and timing are not always consistent. The type of flour you use, the weather, temperature, humidity and altitude can all affect the outcome of your bread. Remember, you’re working with yeast that needs warm, moist climates to thrive, so you’ll want to make sure to work with warm or room temperature ingredients. Ingredients that are too hot or cold will cause a different outcome for your bread.

The Trick To Adding Flour

When making your dough, you may not need as much flour as the recipe calls for, but measure all of your ingredients as directed. However, when you start adding the flour, just use the amount of flour listed as a guide. Start by adding 1 cup of flour. Knead the dough until the flour is fully incorporated before you add more. Then continue by adding 1/2 cup of flour and kneading thoroughly. Once the dough starts to form a ball, reduce the amount of flour you add each time to a tablespoon or two.

The dough will have enough flour when it is still a little tacky but no longer sticky. This is the best way to tell when you’ve added enough flour. Keep in mind that when you roll out the dough, the dough will pick up a little more flour from  your floured work surface and floured rolling pin, so a little tackiness to your dough is necessary. Adding too much flour will make your bread tough. For this recipe, I’ve used as little as 3 cups of flour and, on occasion, I have needed all 4 cups of flour.

How Long Do You Need to Knead?

Kneading it too long or not long enough will also impact your final product. It will probably be different every time, so start with 5 minutes, then do this test. To ensure that you’ve kneaded it long enough, take a small piece of dough and work it with your hands, stretching it out as thin as possible. It should be almost transparent (I recently discovered this is called a gluten window or a windowpane test). If it rips or you can’t get it that thin, then you need to continue kneading it. Test your results every few minutes until you form the window.

Allow It To Rise To The Occasion

The last uncertain element to bread making is the rising time. The temperature of your ingredients and environmental factors will determine how long your dough needs to rise. It’s best to allow it to rise in a warm location. If your kitchen is very cool, try covering your dough with a towel or plastic wrap then allow it to rise on top of the stove with the oven set to a low temperature. If you live in a very dry climate, put a pot of boiling water next to your dough to rise in an enclosed space…perhaps your oven (without the heat turned on).

Most recipes will suggest that you allow the dough to rise for a certain period of time or until the dough doubles in size. These are good suggestions, if your environment is consistent. If it’s not consistent, like my kitchen, you’ll need to test the dough manually. Allow it to rise until it appears to have doubled in size. Poke your finger into the dough, if the dough snaps back into shape, a little more time is needed. If the hole remains, it is ready for the oven.

 

Garlic Breadsticks

An easy breadsticks recipe for an appetizer with a dipping oil or sauce. A bread to have with dinner or for a snack. 

Course Bread
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Rising time up to 1 hour
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 24 breadsticks
Author Lisa

Ingredients

Bread

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 packet yeast 1/4 oz or 7 grams
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Egg Wash

  • 1 extra large egg
  • 1 tsp water

Topping

  • 4 tbsp butter melted
  • 1 tsp Jack of all Herbs Medley

Instructions

Bread

  1. In a large bowl add the warm water, the yeast and the honey. Stir until the yeast is thoroughly dissolved. Allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes until it gets foamy. This is called proofing the yeast and "proves" that the yeast is active...which is necessary to make the dough rise.
  2. Add the salt and about 1 cup of flour then mix well. Continue to add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough starts to form a ball.

  3. Pour the dough onto a floured surfaced and knead the dough by hand.  Then add a tablespoon or 2 of flour at a time until it is just a little tacky to touch but doesn't stick to your fingers. You may not need all 4 cups of flour, so be careful not to add too much or your bread may be too dense. (Note: after the rising process, you'll roll out the dough on a floured surface, so the dough will pick up more flour, therefore, it is necessary for the dough to be a little tacky.)

    Garlic breadsticks dough
  4. Check the result of your kneading, by performing a windowpane test. Take a small amount of the dough and work it with your hands, stretching it until it is almost transparent...like a windowpane. If it tears or your can't stretch it that thin, continue kneading for a few more minutes.
    Garlic breadsticks dough risen
  5. When kneading is complete, return the dough to a bowl. Cover with a towel and allow to rise until at it is at least doubled in size. Poke your finger into the dough and if the dough snaps back, continue to rise a little longer. If the hole remains, your dough is ready.
  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
    Garlic breadsticks dough roll out
  7. Place the dough on a floured surface and gently press down to flatten the dough. Using a rolling pin, mark the dough with a cross shape. Then starting from the center of the dough, roll out the dough towards each quarter of the dough until your form a rectangle that is about a 1/2 inch thick. 

    Garlic breadsticks dough roll out2
  8. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough in 12 vertical strips then make one horizontal cut across the middle of the strips, making 24 individual pieces of dough.

    Garlic breadsticks dough twists
  9. Roll each piece into a log then fold in half twisting each side of the dough around each other.

    Garlic breadsticks dough twists2
  10. Lay out your individual twisted pieces of dough on a baking sheet. 
    Garlic breadsticks baking

Egg Wash

  1. Thoroughly beat the egg and beat in the water until well mixed. Brush the top of the breadsticks with the egg wash. This will help brown the bread as it is baking.

  2. Bake for approximately 12-15 minutes or until the tops have a tint of golden brown.

Topping

  1. Melt the butter then add the garlic and herbs. Mix well.

  2. Brush the mixture over the breadsticks.

  3. Continue to bake for for 2-3 minutes.

    Garlic breadsticks

Recipe Notes

Alternative choice for topping:

4 tbsp butter melted, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, pinch salt, 1/4 tsp oregano and 1/4 tsp basil.

 

 

Colomba di Pasqua Italian Easter Cake

This is the first of a segment I call “Recipes with Friends”. The idea is that one of my wonderful friends who are also wonderful cooks or bakers will share a recipe with us and write a little bit about the recipe. Well, one particularly wonderful friend is an online penpal, named Max. He is from Italy and we’ve been online friends for 9 or 10 years. Max is a self-proclaimed-not-so-good-cook, although I think he is probably a better cook than he gives himself credit. So, I’m letting him off the hook and didn’t ask him to bake this delicious Colomba di Pasqua Italian Easter Cake, but I will give him credit for the idea.

Max has encourage me to start this blog to share my recipes, he’s given me advice and shared his opinion on many topics, so I found it fitting that the first “Recipes with Friends” includes something about him. Max and I share a fondness of nice shoes. I don’t have many opportunities to wear them these days, but Max likes to tease me and send me pictures of all the beautiful shoes he would buy for me if I lived in Italy. I must say, he has exquisite taste in shoes and is very fashionable.

We’ve talked about recipes and different food stuffs over the years. I’ve shared recipes and pictures of my creations with him. He has even shared some with me. This recipe is not one of them, however. When chatting of Easter plans he told me of this Easter cake he bought to take to his mother for the holiday. I’d never heard of it, so naturally, I looked it up. This was mere hours ago and I was quite intrigued. Usually when I want to experiment with a new recipe, I scour through the many recipes I have saved, look online and through my favorite cookbooks. I look for something that stands out as different then compile a list of ingredients. Next, I decide how large of a recipe I want to make and figure out how much of everything I will need. I try the recipe and make adjustments that suit my tastes. Sometimes it’s a hit. Other times I need to start over and create something from scratch. I looked at a few recipes for this cake, but chose to try the first one I came across that had an English translation (www.academiabarilla.com). It was nice to have the translation, but the measurements were still in weight, so I hope my conversions are right or, at least, close. This is one of those times I wish I had a scale. Anyway, it’s baking in the oven as I write this and it smells heavenly.

While the bread is baking, I’m reading some articles about the Colomba, which is the counterpart to the Christmas Panettone and Pandoro. Colomba is Italian for Dove by the way. Colomba di Pasqua translates to Easter Dove. This bread is supposed to be formed into a dove-shaped mold, unfortunately, I do not have one of those either, so I shaped it by hand. We’ll see what it looks like when it’s done baking.

Colomba baked
Colomba after baking

That doesn’t look anything like a dove. Well, maybe if you squint and tilt your head. Well, maybe not. But, it’s not bad for a spur of the moment, first attempt challenge. I just sampled a piece and it’s really very good. In the short amount of time that I’ve had to research this recipe, I have found that a traditional Colomba di Pasqua uses natural yeast and has an average rising time of 30 hours. Wow! 30 hours. I didn’t start this recipe early enough for that. I used a rapid rising instant yeast and the standard rising time of allowing for the dough to double in size before the next step. Maybe I’ll plan ahead next time and try the natural yeast instead.

Colomba di Pasqua

A quicker version of the traditional Italian Easter cake.

Course Bread
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Inactive time 2 hours
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 1 loaf
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 3 1/3 cups flour
  • 9 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 packets rapid rise instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp warm water
  • 5 oz mixed candied fruit (I used raisins and candied pineapple)
  • almonds and pearl sugar for sprinkling on top
  • 1 pinch salt

Instructions

  1. Dissolve the yeast in a 1/2 cup warm water and gradually add 1 1/2 cups of flour. Set aside in a warm place and allow to rise to double the size (approximately one hour). This is the starter dough.

    Colomba ingredients
  2. In a separate bowl add the remaining flour, 3 well beaten eggs, sugar, salt and melted butter. Add this mixture to the starter dough and knead until incorporated. Set aside in warm place, cover with a towel, and allow dough to rise until it doubles in size again (approximately one hour).
    Colomba dough
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  4. Sprinkle flour over the raisins and candied pineapple and shake off the flour. This removes the stickiness from the fruit and will make it easier to fold into your dough.

  5. Beat the remaining egg with 1 tbsp of water to coat the top of the dough.

  6. When the dough has doubled in size, fold in the fruit. Be careful not to over knead the dough. Using a dove-shaped bread mold, shape the dough (or make a rough shape by hand if you don't have a mold) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using a pastry brush, coat the top and sides of the loaf. Sprinkle the almonds and pearl sugar on top of the loaf.

  7. Bake the loaf for approximately 30 minutes.

  8. When the loaf is done baking, allow to cool to room temperature before enjoying.

    Colomba baked

Have you ever had Colomba di Pasqua before? Have you tried this recipe? Please comment below and let me know how this compares. Look for updates in the future as I’ll be experimenting with this recipe again.

Cranberry Orange Scones

What would Sunday morning be without fresh baked, buttery delicious, melt in your mouth, scones. Whether you’re hosting a family brunch or just lounging around having a relaxing day, these scones won’t take up all your free time to make them.

I’ve experimented with many different variations of this recipe and have a few suggestions that are key to creating the best scones.

  1. The butter must be kept as cold as possible. I usually dice the butter into cubes then put it in the freezer until I’m ready to use it. If at any time, while you’re rolling and cutting the shapes, the butter becomes soft, you should put the dough in the refrigerator for 10 or 15 minutes. It’s important to keep the butter cold right up until you put the scones in the oven. Cold butter, as it melts in the dough, is what gives the scones a flaky texture.
  2. Using frozen cranberries as opposed to dried cranberries, will help keep the dough cold as you’re working with the dough.
  3. If you’re going to switch out the frozen cranberries for dried cranberries, you’ll need to increase your cream in the dough by 1/4 cup. The frozen cranberries will provide extra moisture to the dough where the dried cranberries need the extra moisture to  reconstitute to their original state.
  4. Likewise, if you’re using dried cranberries instead of frozen, you’ll need to reduce the sugar by 1/4 cup. Dried cranberries have added sugar, so you won’t need the extra sugar in the recipe.
  5. Make sure your work surface, your hands and your rolling pin are all well-floured while working with the dough.
  6. When you mix the dough, only work it until it is blended and form it into a ball. Don’t over mix it and don’t worry about lumps in the dough. You need to have lumps of butter in the dough for the scones to become flaky. Over mixing the dough will make them tough.

Cranberry Orange Scones

Easy to make scones. Great for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack. Make them as the recipe calls or swap your favorite ingredients. 

Course Breakfast, Lunch, Side Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 20
Author Lisa

Ingredients

Scones

  • 4 1/2 cups flour divided
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar divided
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • 3/4 pound cold unsalted butter diced
  • 4 extra large eggs
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen cranberries

Egg wash

  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 extra large egg

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 4 tsp orange juice

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

  2. Dice butter into cubes and place in the freezer until you're ready to add the butter to the dough. Cut the cranberries in half and return to the freezer until you are ready to add them to the dough.

  3. Whisk one egg and the 2 tbsp of milk together to make an egg wash and set aside.

  4. In a large bowl of a stand mixer, combine 4 cups of flour, baking powder, salt, 1/2 cup sugar and orange zest. Add the butter and mix at the lowest speed. Be sure to scrape the bowl to ensure that the butter is mixed with the flour. The cubes of butter should reduce to about the size of marbles.

    Scones ingredients
  5. Lightly whisk the remaining 4 eggs and combine with the heavy cream. Gradually pour this mixture into the flour and butter mixture. Mix just until combined. 
  6. In a separate bowl, sprinkle 1/8 cup of sugar over the cranberries and mix throughout the cranberries then add to them to the dough. Continue to mix on the lowest speed of the mixer, just until the cranberries are mixed in.

  7. Sprinkle flour on your work surface, rolling pin and hands. Transfer the dough to your work surface. Knead the dough into a ball. Being careful not to overwork the dough. It is normal to have lumps and to see bits of butter.
  8. Roll the dough evenly over your work surface until the dough is about 1/2 inch thick. Flour a round cutter so the dough doesn't stick to it. You can use any shape cutter you wish, but the larger the cutter, the longer you will need to bake the scones. I use a 3 1/2 inch round cutter. Transfer the cut out shapes to the parchment-lined baking sheet.

    There will be remnants of dough leftover after cutting out the shapes, simply gather up the dough, form a ball and roll out the dough again. Repeat this until there is no more dough remaining.

  9. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash over the entire top of each scone and sprinkle with a pinch of sugar. Bake for approximately 15-18 minutes or until the top of the scones are slightly browned and the sides are firm.

  10. Transfer the scones to a rack and allow to cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, add the orange juice to the confectioners sugar and whisk into a smooth glaze. Once the scones have cooled, using a pastry brush, dab the glaze over the top of the scones.

    Scones with glaze

Have fun experimenting with the recipe. You can swap out different berries or other fruit, add nuts or chocolate chips. Yes, you can even add cheese for a scone that is better than a dinner biscuit. Let me know how your scones turned out in the comments below.