Traditional Irish Soda Bread

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How can you tell if an Irishman is having a good time?
He’s Dublin over with laughter!

Why do people wear shamrocks on St. Patrick’s Day?
Regular rocks are too heavy.

When is an Irish potato, not an Irish potato?
When it’s a French Fry!!

Now that we have all had a few rib-tickling guffaws we can get down to business. St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner and this year we decided to make something traditional instead of something green or involving rainbows. A traditional Irish Soda Bread seemed the appropriate food to make. Our recipe is very traditionally Irish instead of the Americanized version which is more like a glorified and gigantic scone. In order to get the appropriate tender, crumbly center with a thick crust we used a combination of all-purpose flour and cake flour. A variation using whole-wheat flour can be made. We will give the variation recipe below the original recipe.

We encourage you to make this Irish Soda Bread. You won’t be disappointed. It’s easy, traditional, incredibly tasty, and we’re almost sure that you have all the ingredients in your pantry.

Okay, one last joke:

Knock, knock!
Who’s there?
Irish.
Irish who?
Irish you a happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!!

Ciao for now!

V & K

PIrish Soda Bread (3)

Traditional Irish Soda Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
3 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter at room temperature
1 3/4 cup buttermilk (You can make your own by adding 1 tbsp white vinegar to 1 3/4 cup milk. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, whisk the flours, sugar, soda, tartar, and salt. Incorporate the butter using your fingers until it is completely incorporated. Push the flour up the sides of the bowl so you create a small well. Add in 1 1/2 cups of the buttermilk and work in the flour with a fork. Add in the rest of the buttermilk until the dough comes together in large clumps and there are no pockets of dry flour at the bottom of the bowl.

On a floured work surface, dump the flour onto the board and knead slightly until the dough is about 6 inches in diameter. The dough is going to be VERY uneven and loose. This is absolutely correct!

Spray a 12 inch cast iron skillet with a little cooking spray. Place the dough in the skillet. Using a serrated knife, cut a cross in the dough about 5 inches long. Place in the oven and bake for about 40-45 minutes until the center is completely cooked. A great way to tell is by tapping on the top of the loaf…if there is a hollow sound, your bread is done and if there is a dull sound you might want to leave the bread in the oven for 2-5 more minutes.

Cool the bread for at least 30 minutes before slicing into it.

Whole-Wheat Variation (also known as Irish Brown Bread):
Follow the original recipe with these changes:

-reduce the all-purpose flour to 1 1/2 cups
-reduce cake flour to 1/2 cup
-increase sugar to 4 tbsp
-add 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour

All other ingredients remain the same from the original recipe.

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Cake Fit For a King

PKing Cake (11)

QUICK!!! Name three things you know about New Orleans. GO.

When we made our list, we came up with:

1) Jazz
2) Beignets
3) Mardi Gras

This week we are celebrating Mardi Gras and then the beginning of Lent. When we did our research on Mardi Gras and some of the traditional foods associated with the celebration, we came across King Cake which is sort of like an extension of Christmas. Now it is no secret that we have trouble giving up our Christmas spirit each year, so the King Cake is the perfect solution to the post Christmas blues. The season for king cake extends from the end of Christmas, up until Mardi Gras. Technically, you could make this cake every week and be right on track! The cake is also decorated in the colors of Mardi Gras: purple represents Justice, green represents Faith, and gold/yellow represents Power.

Traditionally the King Cake is made of a yeast bread and is similar to a cinnamon roll. We decided to cut the baking process and time in more than 1/2 by using pre-made crescent rolls you can buy in the refrigerator section of your grocery store. We don’t consider this cheating. We consider it using our time wisely. We used a cream-cheese and cinnamon filling in our recipe and the result was FABULOUS! The rolls remained flakey and buttery while the inside was sweet and creamy. Instead of making a thin glaze, we decorated our cake with our favorite buttercream. This way it was more like a cake and less like fancy shaped cinnamon rolls. We hope you try it! It will be a fun addition to your Mardi Gras celebrations.

Ciao for now!
V & K

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Mardi Gras King Cake

Ingredients:
2 cans refrigerated crescent roll dough
8 oz.  cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup dark brown sugar packed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
1/2 cup pecans

Instructions:
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

On sheet pan, arrange the crescents in a circle pattern by placing the small end of triangle pointing toward the middle.

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Overlap each pastry triangle slightly until you have created a circle. You may have a few leftover rolls.

For the cream filling:  Combine the cream cheese with the brown sugar until soft. Add spices and blend well. Fold in the pecan mixture. Working in three batches, spoon three “blobs” (that’s a very scientific measurement) of filling around the center of the pastry circle. PKing Cake (4)

Using a butter knife spread the mixture so it creates a ring shape around the center of the ring.

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Start at one end, tuck the outside edge of pastry over the filling until you reach the middle.

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Continue around the entire ring until the filling is covered completely.

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Pat the middle of the cake until there is a noticeable dip in the center of the cake. Make sure everything is sealed up tight so nothing escapes. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes. Set aside to cool.

When cake is cool, prepare the frosting and decorate. Separate your frosting in three batches and dye them gold, purple, and green. Pipe the colors in a pattern on the top and sides of the cake. Serve the cake at room temperature with a smile! Happy Mardi Gras!

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Dog-gone Good!!

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We’re dog people. We own two of them and love them dearly. They’re part of our family. So when we were asked to make a birthday cake for a friend’s dog, Dixie, we jumped at the chance! Every dog has its day and we wanted to make sure Dixie had the best 1st birthday. In the dog eat dog world of baking, we set out to create a pawsitively delicious and dog-friendly birthday cake! (We wouldn’t want to be in the dog house by making a tasteless cake).  This post is going to the dogs.

Before we did any research, we were aware that dogs have very specific things they can and cannot eat. Chocolate was the number one thing we KNEW was on the no-no list. After many hours of research, we were able to compile a list of good/bad food choices for dogs.

BAD:

1. Avocado
2. Chocolate (it’s a “ruff” life)
3. Grapes/Raisins
4. Macadamia nuts
5. Onions
6. Garlic
7. Xylitol

GOOD:

1. Peanut Butter-A great source of protein and good fat
2. Low-fat cheese-Make sure your dog isn’t lactose intolerant
3. Carrots-Great for their teeth
4. Pumpkin-Helps with digestion
5. Coconut Oil-Makes their coats EXTRA shiny
6. Honey-A healthy alternative to sugar

Armed with our research we set out to make a hot dog of a cake for Dixie. Of course, we had to do some test runs…so we had our two little helpers (Minnie Mouse & Daisy Duck) sample the goods.

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We had our taste testers try a few batches.

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The verdict? Well, they licked the bowls clean so we’re taking that as a good sign!!! The best part about this cake is that it is dog AND human friendly! Share with your pet. Have a party and invite the local dogs. We’re sure they’ll appreciate every morsel.

Ciao for now!

V, K, Daisy & Minnie

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Lucky Dog Birthday Cake

1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 large Egg
1/4 cup Honey
1/4 cup Peanut Butter
1/4 cup Coconut Oil
1/2 cup Shredded Carrots

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a cupcake pan. (We chose to avoid paper wrappers so the dogs could just dig in).

In a small bowl, mix together the flour and baking soda. In another bowl whisk the egg, honey, peanut butter and coconut oil until thoroughly combined.  Stir in the dry ingredients. Fold in the carrots. Spoon the batter into the pan until each cupcake hole is about 2/3 filled. Bake the cupcakes for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on racks. Now these cupcakes are very crumbly, and that’s the way they should be. This makes it easier for the dogs to eat.

Lick & Lick & Lickin’ Good Peanut Butter Frosting

1/2 cup Lowfat Cream Cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup Peanut Butter
1 Tablespoon Honey

Whip the cream cheese, peanut butter, and honey together until light and fluffy. You can use this frosting to pipe designs or spread on top of the cupcakes. Warning: this frosting is very sticky because of the peanut butter and honey, but that doesn’t make it any less tasty!!

Dog Cake (15) Lots of peanut butter means lots of licking!

Mushy Gushy Love Stuff

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Valentine’s Day is a wonderful day! It’s a time when cynics and lovers unite for a common goal…chocolate!! Or, in this case, mushy gushy marshmallows. We decided to forgo the traditional chocolate creations for something delicate, delicious and incredibly easy!

Homemade marshmallows are a snap to make and are SOOO much better than the store-bought ones. They’re lighter than air and they don’t have any additives or preservatives in them.  Making them is a cinch and involves no special skills, just the ability to read a thermometer and watch a mixer do all the work. We decided to cut out our marshies in heart-shapes and to dye them pink for Valentine’s Day, but you can dye and cut them out into whatever you want. You are only limited by the spectrum of colors and stash of cookie cutters you have at your disposal.

We hope you try making homemade marshmallows. They’re simple and incredible! In our next post we will show other uses for the leftovers (that is, if you have any leftovers).

We love you and wish you the Mushiest, Gushiest, Loveliest, Happiest of Valentine’s!

Ciao for now,

V & K

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Homemade Marshmallows

Ingredients
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup ice cold water, divided
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or other flavoring; lemon would be yummy!)
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch

Directions

Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment along with 1/2 cup of the water. Leave to bloom while you finish the rest of the steps.

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In a saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt.

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Place over medium high heat and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Attach a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 10 minutes. Once the mixture reaches 240 degrees, immediately remove from the heat.
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Turn the stand mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture.

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Increase the speed to high once you have added all of the syrup. (Be careful because it will splatter a bit and you don’t want hot sugar all over the kitchen). Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla (or other flavoring) & food coloring during the last minute of whipping.
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While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows. Combine the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal or glass baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. You want to have a nice dusting so the marshmallows do not stick to the bottom and sides. Keep the remaining mixture in the bowl so you can use it to cut out the marshies.

When the marshmallows are ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. At this time you can place drops of food coloring on top of the mixture and swirl them into the mixture to create pretty patterns. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

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To make normal square marshmallows: Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners’ sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. To make patterned marshmallows: Keep the mixture in the pan and lightly spray a cookie cutter with oil and then coat in the remaining cornstarch mixture. Firmly cut out each shape. You may have to use a spatula to help get the marshmallows out of the pan. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

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We’re Sneaky!

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Remember when you were a kid and your mom would try and “sneak” healthy food into whatever she was feeding you? You’d have a delicious bowl of something genuinely unhealthy, ooey, gooey and yummy…and then what is that?! Something green and leafy and healthy! The horror. As kids, we hated when healthy food would sneak its way into our food. As adults, we try and think of new ways to sneak healthy into our diets. Allow us to help in that endeavor. Behold: sneaky muffins! These delectable blueberry muffins are secretly healthy. We replaced all the butter, oil, and unhealthy ingredients with one simple avocado. To answer any questions that may arise: No, the muffins did not turn green during the baking process.

Baking with avocados is incredibly simple. Avocados can be used as a substitute for butter or oil in your baked good recipes. The best part about using avocado in your recipe, it’s a 1:1 substitution so you don’t have to make any fancy calculations! By substituting an avocado, you increase the nutritional value of your yummy treat by contributing nearly 20 vitamins and minerals. The icing on the cake is (you can even use avocados in icing…but that’s another story), avocados contain high water content, so they can also make baked goods softer & chewier than using regular butter or oil.

In this sneaky adaptation, we used our favorite blueberry muffin recipe and replaced the butter and oil with an avocado. It was a cake walk! Or a muffin walk…Needless to say, we were delighted to find that our muffins were still wonderfully delicious and a lot healthier! If you want more information about how to bake with avocados and all-around general facts, visithttp://www.avocadocentral.com/avocado-recipes

We challenge you to try using an avocado in a recipe. Feed some to the kids, neighbors, bosses, & spouses. When their mouths are full of deliciously healthy baked goods, give yourself a pat on the back! Super Baker strikes again with a healthy, tasty dish!

Ciao for now!

V & K

PAvocado Muffiin (2)

Blueberry Avocado Muffin Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour (or substitute 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour & ½ cup white flour)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 ripe avocado, seeded and peeled
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1 whole egg
zest of ½ a large or 1 whole lemon
1 cup full fat Greek yogurt (or, 1 cup small curd cottage cheese. Blend in a blender until smooth and use the same way you would the yogurt)

 Streusel Topping:
4 Tbsp. melted butter
4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
¾ cup raw sugar (if you can’t find raw sugar, use regular white sugar)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners.

In a medium bowl, sift  together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

In a separate electric mixing bowl, add avocado and beat on medium speed until smooth. (Caution: if you add the avocado and then turn immediately turn the mixture to medium you will have bits of avocado flying all over your kitchen. Learn from our mistake, first turn the mixer on low to break down the avocado and then work up to medium speed in order to get it to the creamy stage).

Add the sugar, and beat until well blended. Add the egg, and continue beating until completely combined. Add the vanilla and yogurt, beating until just combined.

Add half of the flour mixture into the batter beating until just combined. Add in the second batch of flour, beating until just barely combined.

Gently fold in blueberries and lemon zest by hand. Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling the cups until ¾ of the way full. (By filling the cups generously, you are more likely to get that pretty domed look on your muffins).  Sprinkle with streusel topping. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack before removing.

PAvocado Muffiin (7) See, no green tint from the avocado!

In Remembrance

Today we depart from our usual lighthearted fare to remember. Events occur in life which abruptly remind us of the frailty of existence and for the rest of our days on this earth, we remember where we were, who we were with, and we re-live some of the feelings we experienced at the time of occurrence.  Thankfully, these events are few and far between.  The date of 9/11 is but one example.  No doubt we need not remind anyone of the events surrounding that day or the feelings of horror we all shared.  Though I was but a small child, November 22, 1963 was the first such event I recall when our nation reeled following a seemingly senseless act, the reasons for which still remain shrouded. And on today’s date, January 28, in 1986, one other event occurred that affected deeply me and millions of other teachers, adults and schoolchildren as we watched in horror as the space shuttle, Challenger, exploded 73 seconds after takeoff.  Our first thoughts were for the families of the astronauts, especially those of Christa McAuliffe, a high school teacher from New Hampshire whose classroom halted studies to watch their teacher make history; among them, her own children.

So today, we are taking a moment to remember every public servant; police, firefighter, paramedic, military, and yes, our astronauts, who have dedicated their days in service of their fellow man.  They leave their homes each workday, kiss their family members goodbye, and bravely walk head first into a day that has a high probability of disaster. They plan for the “maybe”, train for the “what if”, and pray they need neither their planning or training that day. We herewith honor those who have not returned home or returned home physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually damaged. You are NOT forgotten.

We invite you to join us as we remember.

V & K

Sub-Zero Weather and a Baumkuchen

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Our January Baker’s Challenge is in the books!  It’s Baumkuchen (pron “bahm koo chen”) which translates into “tree cake” in German. We get the alliteration because this culinary delicacy honestly looks like a cross-sectional cut of an ancient tree. That is…the many layers of cake look like the rings on a tree.  The end result of this cake is not only beautiful to behold, but will command a chorus of “oohs” and “ahhhs” from your guests as you slice into this masterpiece. And then, the chorus changes to “yummm” and “OMG! as they partake.

This latest Daring Baker’s Challenge was definitely that, a challenge.  We made this on a day when the weather was sub-freezing and our heater magically stopped working. Ladies and gentlemen, rev your ovens! Fair warning: this cake is not for the faint of oven. It is not difficult in terms of expert skill required, but you gotta have patience, pay attention, and the time to devote to making it because it is made one step at a time – and you can’t skip or combine the steps. There’s no shortcuts we could find, but we believe the end result is more than worth every bit of time spent.  Layers and layers and LAYERS of moist cake and jam all topped with a delicious chocolate ganache and coconut…there’s a reason this isn’t your “everyday” cake.

We know this cake is time-consuming. We know you may look at the recipe and think, “Oh that’s too much work.” We know these things. We are usually card-carrying members and die-hard advocates of Club K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple Stupid)  and this cake flies in the face of our lifelong mission to keep baking easy and fun! But, IF IF IF you make this cake, you will not be sorry. Your tongue will think it is floating on a cloud after savoring this delight. You will never know until you try!  Enjoy!

Ciao for now,

V & K

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Baumkuchen

Ingredients:
All ingredients should be room temperature

  • 1-1/2 cups almond paste, tightly packed (see recipe below)
  • 6 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 1-1/2 sticks butter (12 tbsp), softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 10 eggs, separated (put the whites in a bowl big enough to whip them up to stiff peaks)
  • 1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 3/4 cup cornstarch
  • 10 oz jar strawberry or apricot jam
  • 1-½ cup toasted coconut

For the chocolate glaze:

  • 3 tbsp softened butter
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp corn syrup
  • 3 oz dark chocolate chips

Homemade Almond Paste

  • 1-1/2 cups almond flour or meal
  • 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

This cake is really easy to make, if just a little time consuming. So plug  in a movie or your favorite CD and put on comfy shoes because HERE. WE. GO.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the almond paste with the heavy cream, one tablespoon at a time. It will resemble mashed potatoes when you’re done.

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Next, beat in softened butter until fluffy, scraping the bowl to make sure it’s all mixed in.

Next, slowly beat in the sugar. Scrape down the sides.

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Next, beat in the egg yolks, one at a time

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Add the vanilla.
Next, sift in the flour and cornstarch in thirds. Beat until well incorporated, scraping the bowl as needed.
Next, beat the egg whites until they make stiff peaks, but aren’t dry.

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Fold  the egg whites into the batter in twos until it looks like a cloud.

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How to bake the cake:

Ladies and gentlemen, start your broilers!!

Turn on the broiler and let it warm up for a few minutes. (Our broiler is set at 500 degrees) Meanwhile, grease and line a 9″ springform pan with parchment paper. Don’t skimp on the butter because if you don’t use enough, the wax paper will curl and mess up your entire cake.

Next, spread 1/4 cup of batter in the bottom of the pan using a pastry brush.

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Broil this layer until deep golden brown. I have found that it takes about 3 minutes in my oven. (Note: As you continue to layer the cake and broil each layer, the more layers you have, the less you need to broil. I have found that once my cake is about ¾ the way up the pan, it only takes 2 minutes under the broiler.)

Here is an example of too brown:

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Here is an example of too light:

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Here is an example of “just right”:

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Then, add another 1/4 cup batter. Spread it out with a brush and broil, as before.

After repeating this step a few times, spread a layer with a bit of jam. Continue making a few layers of cake to every layer of jam, until half the jam is used up. (I usually do 3 layers of cake and then a layer of jam. It spreads the jammy flavor to perfection!)

Be sure to push the batter evenly around so the cake remains flat. Doming cakes are forbidden. You can correct as you go by adding more or less batter to certain areas.

Once you have completely used the batter, let cool on the counter for a few hours.

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After a few hours, make the Ganache:

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add corn syrup and vanilla extract. Remove from heat and toss in the chocolate chips. Stir continuously until the chocolate chips are melted completely and the mixture is thick and glossy.

Pour evenly over top and sides of cake. The sides can be less than perfect because they’ll get covered with the toasted coconut. Press toasted coconut over the sides and outer edge of cake before the ganache has completely hardened. Refrigerate to set the glaze.

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Do you see those layers? Hmmm, let’s get a closeup…

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Beautiful, beautiful LAYERS!!! *Insert “oohs” and “ahhs” here*

We would like to thank Sasha Martin at http://globaltableadventure.com/ for her posts about Baumkuchen. Without her knowledge of this cake, we would have been lost the first time we made it!

Drop Dead Delish Brownies & A Reason For Science Experiments

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We finally found a reason to use a cake mix. You read that correctly….a cake mix…from a Box!  Usually we strongly advocate against the consumption of sweet treats from a cardboard container because of the abject inferior flavor.  But, in this instance (and probably ONLY this instance) we recommend you use a really chocolatey cake mix. The more chocolate in the cake mix, the better your Drop Dead Brownies will be. Trust us, it’s the only way.

You may have heard these brownies called by different name. Shakespeare and others may want you to believe that a rose (or brownie) called by another name may smell (or taste) just as sweet. Well, they’re wrong. These are the quintessential brownies. Call them Drop Dead Delish, call them Killer, call them Better Than…this recipe for brownies will knock your socks off. Your taste buds will thank you.

As if the incredible fantasmic flavor combo isn’t enough for you, this recipe is also SUPER simple…not at all time or labor intensive!

BTW…If you’re in the mood to get a little crazy (which we are always in favor of), we came up with some possible ideas if you feel the need to switch up the recipe.

  • Instead of using a chocolate cake mix, use a white or yellow cake mix to create a fabulous “blondie”
  • Use butterscotch in place of caramel. We think that using BOTH would be a little excessive….but please, prove us wrong!
  • Use a strawberry cake mix, white chocolate chips, and caramels for a twist on chocolate dipped strawberries.
  • Switch up the type of nuts you use! Macadamia would be FABULOUS!

Go brownie crazy and use your imagination – share your combo with us!  But just please don’t take our word on how WONDERFUL and easy these are.  Do some experimenting on your own. If you eat these brownies in the name of science then the calories simply don’t count. At least that’s what we’re telling ourselves…Enjoy!

Ciao for now!

V & K

PKiller Brownies (6)

Ingredients

  • 1 box (18.5 Ounce) Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix OR Chocolate Fudge Brownie Mix
  • 1 cup Finely Chopped Pecans
  • 1/3 cup Evaporated Milk
  • 1/2 cup Evaporated Milk (extra, it will be not quite 1 can)
  • 1/2 cup Unsalted Butter, Melted
  • 60 whole Caramels, Unwrapped (about 2- 14 oz bags)
  • 1/3 cup Dark Chocolate Chips
  • Powdered Sugar

Preparation Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, mix together cake mix, pecans, 1/3 cup evaporated milk, and melted butter. Stir together until totally combined. The batter will be very thick…this is absolutely correct.

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Press half the mixture into a well-greased 9 x 9 inch or a 13 x 9 x 2 square baking pan. (Be sure to GENEROUSLY grease the pan or else your brownies will stick to the sides and it will be impossible to get them out of the pan). Bake for 8 to 10 minutes depending on the size of the pan. Remove from oven and set aside. Do not over-bake this step because you are going to be baking it again.

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In a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water melt the caramels with the 1/2 cup evaporated milk. When melted and combined, pour over brownie base. Evenly sprinkle the chocolate chips over the caramel.

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Grease a work surface and turn out the remaining half of the batter. Grease your hands and press the remaining batter into a square that is slightly smaller than the size of your pan.

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Carefully use a spatula to remove it from the surface, then set it on top of the caramel and chocolate chips. Don’t worry if it breaks when you’re setting it over the caramel. Just try and piece it together as best you can so the caramel doesn’t ooze through the cracks. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

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Bake for 20 to 25 minutes depending on the size of the pan. Remove from pan and allow to cool, then cover and refrigerate for several hours. When you’re ready to serve, sift powdered sugar over the surface of the brownies. Cut into pieces and carefully lift out of the pan. Serve at room temperature for best “goo”.

PKiller Brownies (7)   There are no words. Our mouths are too full of these magical squares of happiness.

Baby It’s Cold Outside!!!

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So – make it warm inside.

Is there anything better than good old-fashioned hot cocoa when Mr. Jack Frost is nipping?  We don’t think so – and we love, Love, LOVE hot cocoa made from milk, sugar and cocoa – of course – with our special twist.

There really isn’t a recipe for this – you kind of have to gauge it by your taste buds and depending on how many people who want hot cocoa.  Basically, you’re going to use half milk and half heavy cream (or use condensed milk if you don’t have heavy cream – and, if you’re allergic to milk, use all coconut milk).   Measure the moo using the cup you’re ultimately going to serve it in until about a half inch below the rim.  This way – you make a just-right amount.  Pour the moo into a saucepan and slowly warm the milk, stirring occasionally, until it’s warm, but you are still able to stick your finger into it without getting burned (warned you there’s no real “recipe”)

For each cupful of milk in the saucepan, measure 2-3 Tablespoons of dutch processed cocoa and about a Tablespoon or so (to your sweetness taste) of powdered sugar.  You can use the regular cocoa if that’s all you have, but it’s not as “rich” tasting.  Gently whisk the cocoa & sugar into the warmed milk until well blended.  Add a dash of sea salt (yes – you read that correctly – sea salt…this brings up the sweetness without adding more sugar).  Taste it and adjust the sugar and/or cocoa…it should be VERY cocoa-y.  Heat & stir the mixture until it is too hot for your finger to stay in it, but don’t bring to a boil.  That’s good drinkin’ temperature!  Turn off the heat, but don’t remove the pan from the heat just yet.

Now here’s the secret…add about a teaspoon or so of freshly grated cinnamon and a dash of freshly grated nutmeg just before you pull it off the stove and whisk until you can smell the spices in the steam.  Now, you’re ready to pour.

Pour the chocolate loveliness into your cup; top with mini marshmallows or (my personal favorite) gently whipped creme fraiche.  Grate a sprinkle of nutmeg on top and serve with a cinnamon stick (for stirring the goodness up from the bottom as you drink).

If you’re making a bunch of this for a group – we have successfully done this in a crock pot…just add the ingredients together (except the cinnamon & nutmeg) and heat through.  Add the cinnamon & nutmeg right before serving and have available the marshmallows, creme fraiche, and cinnamon sticks on the side.  Ladle into individual serving cups, and proceed with topping and garnishing as above.

This is an ahhhsome hot cocoa that’s sure to warm every cockle that you and your friends have…especially satisfying after coming in from sledding or shoveling the weather.   Enjoy!

Ciao for Now!

V & K

The Magical, Disappearing Cinnamon Rolls!

PCinnamon Rolls (3)

Presenting, the Magical, Disappearing Cinnamon Rolls!!!! Make ’em , Bake ’em, and Watch ’em disappear!

These magical, disappearing Cinnamon Rolls are great for two reasons: 1) They are “drooling on the counter” delicious.  2)  They’re an overnight marvel. You make them and put them in the fridge before you go to bed, and in the morning you have beautiful, huge cinnamon rolls that you just bake and watch ’em disappear!

We make these every Christmas Morning. While the kids are opening their presents, leave the cinnamon rolls out on the counter to come to room temperature. In 30 minutes, pop ’em in the oven and you’ll have Magical Cinnamon rolls! Here’s where the disappearing act begins. Once the kidlets smell the cinnamony goodness, they’ll disappear right before your very eyes. Grab one before they are gone!

They’re also great for New Year’s. These bundles of goodness will cure any ideas about starting a diet for your New Year’s resolution. They’re sinful. They’re wrong. But they’re just so good.

We hope you had a Merry Christmas and were able to spend time with your loved ones during the holidays. Wishing you a prosperous and healthy New Year.

Ciao for now,

V&K

Magical Disappearing Cinnamon Rolls!

Sweet Dough Recipe:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup margarine, softened
  • 3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
  • 1 eggs (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups flour, yeast, sugar and salt; stir well. Cut in margarine with a fork until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add warm water to flour mixture. Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes. Add eggs and 1 more cup of flour; beat until thick. Stir in the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until the dough comes together. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Cover dough with a damp towel and let rest for 20 minutes.

Filling Recipe:

  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup chopped pecans

1 recipe powdered sugar glaze (follows)

For filling, combine brown sugar, the 1/4 cup flour, and cinnamon. Cut in remaining margarine or butter until crumbly.  Set aside.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll the dough into a 12-inch square.  Sprinkle filling over dough square; top with raisins and pecans. Roll up jelly-roll style; pinch edges to seal. Slice roll into eight 1-1/2 inch pieces. Arrange dough pieces, cut side up in a greased 12-inch deep dish pizza pan or a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan.  Cover loosely with clear plastic wrap, leaving room for rolls to rise.  Refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.

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 Uncover and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. (For immediate baking, don’t chill dough. Instead cover loosely; let dough rise in a warm place until nearly double, about 45 minutes).   Break any surface bubbles with a greased toothpick. Brush dough with half and half or light cream.

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Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until light brown.  If necessary to prevent over-browning, cover rolls loosely with foil the last 5 to 10 miutes of baking. Remove rolls from oven.  Brush again with half and half. Cool for 1 minute.  Carefully invert rolls onto serving platter.

PCinnamon Rolls (1)

Drizzle with Glaze.

POWDERED SUGAR GLAZE:  In a bowl, stir together 1-1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar, 1 tsp corn syrup, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and enough half and half (1 to 2 tablespoons) to make of drizzling consistency.

PCinnamon Rolls (3)Bliss…