February 21, 2017

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cake

My husband picked this cake from Brown Eyed Baker for his birthday cake. The cakes are moist and full of chocolate flavor. The frosting is amazing and delicious. This is a mighty tasty cake. Well chosen, David, well chosen.

All told, this is less than 2 hours of time to create. I baked the cakes in advance and froze them for easy frosting that I did in about 30 minutes. I tossed the cake in the fridge while we went out to meet Dave at work for a quick lunch and then made the ganache when we got home. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cake
2 1/2 cups + 1 Tbsp. flour
3 cups sugar
1 cup + 1 Tbsp. Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 Tbsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
1 1/2 cups boiling water
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 1/2 tsp. vanilla 
Peanut Butter Frosting
2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups creamy peanut butter
10 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup heavy cream 
Chocolate Ganache
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
30 mini peanut butter cups

To bake the cakes, preheat oven to 350°F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper, grease the parchment, then flour the insides of the pans and tap out excess. Set aside.

In the bowl of a large electric mixer, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, water, oil and vanilla.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, and mix for an additional 20 seconds. (Let me just say ... this was the biggest mess I think I've ever created. My standard mixing bowl was not large enough for this recipe.)

Divide the batter evenly among prepared pans. Bake for 20 minutes, and rotate the pans in the oven. Continue to bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cakes comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs), about 12 more minutes. Cool the cakes (in the pans) on wire racks for 20 minutes, and then carefully turn them out onto cooling racks to cool completely.

To make the frosting, place the powdered sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the heavy cream, and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

If your cakes baked up uneven or have domed on top, level the cakes. Place one cake layer on a serving plate. Cover with 1 cup of the peanut butter frosting, and sprinkle 10 of the chopped peanut butter cups over the frosting. Top with a second cake layer, and cover with another 1 cup of the peanut butter frosting, and top with another 10 chopped peanut butter cups. Place the final cake layer on top face-down. Frost the cake with the remaining peanut butter frosting, finishing it as smoothly as possible. Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour, until the frosting is set.

While the cake chills, make the chocolate ganache. Place the chocolate in a 4-cup measuring cup; set aside. Place the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat, and warm until it just comes to a boil. Pour the cream over the chopped chocolate, and let sit for 2 minutes. Begin whisking the mixture in the center, gradually working your way outward until the ganache is completely smooth. Set aside to cool, whisking occasionally, until it has thickened slightly, yet still a pourable consistency.

Slowly pour the chocolate ganache into the center of the cake, letting it push itself outward and flow over the sides of the cake. Top with the remaining 10 chopped peanut butter cups. Refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes, giving the ganache a chance to set up. Keep the cake refrigerated, removing it from the refrigerator about 20 minutes prior to serving.

February 20, 2017

Crab Rangoon Dip

Every year my brother and his girlfriend host a Dip Off party for the SuperBowl. It's advanced to the point where there are sweet and savory categories with the winner earning bragging rights and everyone earning stuffed stomachs.

I had a couple dip recipes bookmarked that I never found an excuse to use since my husband doesn't eat dip. (No dips. Seriously, he's weird. At least I dated him forever before I agreed to marry him, so this wasn't a surprise.) Anyways, this recipe from Spend with Pennies was hanging out on my to-do list for a long time given that my husband won't eat dips and my good friend is allergic to shellfish, so that ruled out making it for my friends.

This is a recipe worth trying. The wonton chips were surprisingly addictive.

Crab Rangoon Dip
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
12 oz. crab meat, drained
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
2 Tbsp. fresh chives
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp. pepper 
Wonton Chips
1 package wonton wrappers
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare wonton chips first. Cut wontons in diagonally. Spray with cooking spray, (or brush with olive oil) and spread chips on a pan. Bake 7-8 minutes or until brown and crispy. Set aside.

Combine all dip ingredients in a casserole dish reserving 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese for topping.Top with remaining cheese. Bake 25 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Garnish with chives if desired and serve with wonton chips. Serves 8-12.

Pizza Popcorn

I had bookmarked this pizza popcorn from Tastes of Lizzy while doing Whole 30, and I tried out the recipe during the SuperBowl weekend. The flavors are spot on, but I think I'd reduce the popcorn a bit to give the popcorn a stronger flavor.

Worth repeating as a fun snack food for a party, especially if you have a million cans of tomato paste to use ... my husband bought me a year's supply.

Pizza Popcorn
1 1/4 cups unpopped popcorn
3 Tbsp. coconut oil
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. oregano
1 1/2 tsp. basil
3/4 tsp. parsley
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
1/2 cup finely grated mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 250°F, and line 2 or 3 large cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Pop the popcorn with the coconut oil, either using a stir popper or on the stove.

In a small bowl, combine tomato paste, melted butter, oregano, basil, parsley, garlic powder, crushed red pepper and salt. Mix to combine. Taste to adjust seasonings.

Pour the popcorn in a very large bowl, followed by the pizza sauce mixture. With clean hands, mix to distribute the mixture into the popcorn kernels. Spread the popcorn kernels between the parchment-lined cookie sheets, and bake until mostly dry, about 8-15 minutes (depending on your oven), tossing every couple of minutes to help spread the pizza goodness.

A couple minutes before removing from the oven, sprinkle cheese evenly over the popcorn. Continue baking to melt.

Remove from oven, and allow to cool completely. Makes a plethora of popcorn!

Slow Cooker Deep Dish Pizza

If you're looking to impress your family, friends, significant other or even yourself, you have to try this recipe from Spicy Perspective. Be sure to check out her blog post for helpful pictures to understand the process, but this is so simple for such an impressive end result.

I would have preferred to cook this on low, but lack of time required me to cook it on high. I ended up with mine slightly overdone, but that just meant a crunchier crust.

Slow Cooker Deep Dish Pizza
1 lb. pizza dough, risen 
2 Tbsp. cornmeal
3 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
28 oz. crushed tomatoes
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 cups shredded Italian blend cheese
1/2 pound Italian pork sausage, cooked
30 slices pepperoni
This recipe works best in a large oval 6-8 quart slow cooker. Roll the pizza dough out onto a large piece of parchment paper sprinkled with cornmeal. Make sure to roll and stretch to dough into an oval 2 inches longer and 2 inches wider than the crock of the slow cooker. Sprinkle he top with cornmeal, and press into the crust. Then use the edges of the paper to lower the crust into the crock. Pull up the edges of the crust, so they stand about 2 inches up the sides of the slow cooker.
Place the butter and onions in a pan. Saute for 1-2 minutes, then add the garlic and saute another 2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning, sugar and salt. Simmer for 5 minutes, and then remove from heat.
Spread the cheese over the bottom of the pizza crust. Lift and stretch the sides of the dough, so they stand up past the cheese. Sprinkle the crumbled sausage and pepperoni over the cheese. Lift and stretch the sides of the crust again, so it is above the edge of sauce. Then spread the tomato sauce over the toppings. (Be careful to not spill any sauce on the outside of the crust. That will burn.) Lift and stretch the sides of the crust again, so it is above the edge of the sauce.
Cover the slow cooker with a long piece of paper towel. Then place the lid over the paper towel, and pull it tight. This helps catch excess moisture.
Cook the pizza for 2-4 hours on high or 4-6 hours on low. When ready to serve, carefully lift the pizza out of the crock pot using the parchment paper. Cool 5-10 minutes before cutting. Makes 4 giant pieces of pizza.

Cheese-Stuffed Garlic Pull-Apart Bread

This weekend, we made deep dish pizza. Not that we needed anything to accompany it, but I found it hard to resist these cheese knots from Cookies & Cups.

I cheated and used store-bought pizza crust, so I'm going to show that version. This was a hit and worth repeating.

As a side note: my son ripped one of the keys off the computer keyboard, so I have to avoid using that key. Any guesses as to which one?

(I'm copying/pasting the recipe ... otherwise, it's not something I can do.)

Cheese Stuffed Garlic Pull-Apart Bread
1 thawed pizza dough, proofed
8 oz. mozzarella
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut the cheese into 32 pieces or cubes. Cut the dough into 32 pieces. Wrap each piece of dough around a piece of cheese.

Combine butter, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder and Italian seasoning in a small bowl. Dip each dough ball into the melted butter mixture. Place in 10-inch Bundt pan. Pour any remaining butter over rolls, and cover with towel. Let the dough rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Bake the rolls for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes in pan, and then invert on serving plate. Serve warm. Makes 32 pieces.

February 17, 2017

Monster Cookie Bars

Monster cookies are a delicious combination of chocolate (in the form of M&Ms and chocolate chips) and peanut butter. They even have the the addition oats, which completely justifies them as breakfast food, right?

For Dave's birthday, I made a couple treats that are riffs off monster cookies. One was these delicious bars from Brown Eyed Baker. The original recipe, which I'm sharing below, calls for a 8 x 8 pan. I doubled the recipe and used a 9 x 13 pan, and I ended up with wonderfully thick bars. The edges got a bit crisp, the fudge was fudgy throughout, and they're quite tasty.

Monster Cookie Bars
1 1/3 cups flour
2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 stick butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup M&Ms
Fudge Ripple Filling
7 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1 Tbsp. butter
1 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line the bottom, and sides of an 8×8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on all sides. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats and baking soda. Using a mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the peanut butter, egg, and vanilla one after the other, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Do not overmix.

Press two-thirds of the dough evenly into the prepared baking pan. Stir the M&Ms into the remaining dough. Set aside while you make the fudge ripple filling.

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the sweetened condensed milk, butter and chocolate chips. Stir until the chocolate chips are melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat, and stir in the vanilla. Pour the fudge over the bottom layer of dough.

Mold the remaining dough containing the M&Ms into flat pieces and layer on top of the fudge filling. You won’t have enough dough to make one single layer, so some of the filling will be exposed. (Mine completely covered the fudge when I doubled the recipe.)

Bake for 25 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned. Allow to cool completely. Lift the foil out of the pan using the overhang on the sides, and cut into bars. Makes 16 bars.

Note: If doubling the recipe, expect a longer bake time. I think mine baked around 40 minutes.

Monster Cookie Cupcakes

This theme for my husband's birthday treats was the deliciousness of chocolate and peanut butter in the form of cupcakes. One of his two treats was Monster Cookie Cupcakes from Wishes and Dishes.

These cupcakes are moist and apparently delicious frozen without frosting. I had baked the cupcakes ahead of time and froze them until I was ready to frost them. (I pre-bake, so I can make bars, cupcakes and cake all in the span of a few days.) My 3-year-old son opened the pan, pulled out a cupcake and licked it. That sealed the deal that he now had a cupcake to eat. I was going to let it thaw, but he proceeded to chomp into it. He only ate one bite with the wrapper before I got it unwrapped. Extra fiber.

This cute thief is who I had to contend with while photographing the cupcake ...

Monster Cookie Cupcakes
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup milk
1 cup chocolate chips 
Cookie Dough Frosting
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. oats
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup mini M&Ms
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Use a mixer to combine all of the cupcake ingredients except for the chocolate chips. Then, stir in the chocolate chips with a spatula.

Line a tin with 12 cupcake liners. Fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full of batter. (You might need extra liners because the cupcakes will overflow if filled too full. I think I ended up with close to 30 cupcakes when I doubled the recipe.)

Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the frosting, beat together the cream cheese, butter and peanut butter until smooth.
Mix in the brown sugar, flour, vanilla and oats. Mix in the powdered sugar slowly, adding more if needed for desired consistency. Stir in the M&Ms and chocolate chips to combine.

Use a large spoon to spread the frosting on the cupcakes. Makes 12-16 cupcakes.

Note: I doubled the recipe for cupcakes but only made a single batch of frosting. I still had ample frosting for each cupcake.

February 2, 2017

Salted Caramel Brownies

Homemade caramel is one of those things I simply need to keep practicing. Sometimes I burn the sugar, sometimes I have endless lumps that won't disappear, sometimes it's too runny and you get the picture. But sometimes, I nail it. And then I have the elixir of the metaphorical gods.

When my dad asked for salted caramel brownies, I pulled together the caramel using this recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction and the brownies from Smitten Kitchen. Fortunately for me, unfortunately for my healthy eating habits, I nailed the caramel sauce. As I was licking it off my fingers, all my willpower vanished, and I made a second half batch of brownies to devour instead of eating the batch I made my dad. And then I made another half batch a day or two later to use the last of the caramel sauce.

Salted Caramel Brownies
Salted Caramel
1 cup sugar
6 Tbsp. butter, room temperature and cut into 6 pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. sea salt
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 stick unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla 
1/8 tsp. salt
2/3 cup flour 

Make the caramel in advance and chill, so you can dollop it throughout the brownie batter. Heat sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a high heat resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
Sugar will form clumps and eventually melt into a thick brown, amber-colored liquid as you continue to stir. Be careful not to burn. Once sugar is completely melted, immediately add the butter. Be careful in this step because the caramel will bubble rapidly when the butter is added. Stir the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted, about 2-3 minutes. Very slowly, drizzle in 1/2 cup of heavy cream while stirring. Since the heavy cream is colder than the caramel, the mixture will rapidly bubble and/or splatter when added. Allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute. 
Remove from heat and stir in 1 tsp. of sea salt. Allow to cool down before using.
To make the brownies, preheat the oven to 350°F. Melt chocolate and butter together in a heat-proof bowl on medium heat in the microwave, stirring every minute. Stir in the sugar, and then stir in the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla and salt, and stir to combine. Gently fold in the flour. Pour 2/3 of the batter into a 9 x 9 pan lined with parchment paper. Spread evenly and dollop with caramel sauce throughout the batter. Cover with remaining batter. (It's OK if caramel is showing.) Bake 30 minutes or until brownies are done. Cool before cutting and eating ... unless you want to risk burning your tongue. (I'm a risk taker.) Makes 12 brownies.

February 1, 2017

Cinnamon Baked Raspberry French Toast

The overnight french toast bake I made at Christmas wasn't a huge hit with my family, so I tried this recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod, which they adapted from the Pioneer Woman. I changed it up slightly with the addition of jam, so here's the version that was a hit with my co-workers.

Cinnamon Baked Raspberry French Toast
1 loaf French Bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup raspberry jam
8 large eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. vanilla 
Streusel Topping
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces

Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Place half the bread pieces evenly place in the pan. Spread or dollop jam evenly over bread. (It won't completely coat everything, but you want jam throughout the dish.) Cover with remaining bread.

In a large bowl, mix together eggs, milk, cream, sugar and vanilla extract. Pour evenly over bread. Cover pan, and store in the refrigerator overnight.

In a separate bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add butter pieces, and cut into the dry mixture using a fork or your hands. Combine until the mixture resembles sand with a few pea-sized chunks. Cover, and store mixture in the refrigerator.

When you’re ready to bake the French toast, preheat oven to 350°F. Remove French toast from refrigerator, and sprinkle crumb mixture over the top.  Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the French toast is set and golden brown. Serve warm. Serves 16.