Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes

Looking in the pantry the other day I noticed that I had two big containers of hazelnut spread, which did inspire me to make use of it.  It has been some time since I actually baked with it or actually eaten any for that matter!

I like the singular aspect of these cupcakes.  Lots of things I bake or make usually are combinations of more than one flavor.  Nothing wrong with that, but sometimes you crave just one flavor.  After baking these and having the aroma of nutella fill my kitchen, you can be I was craving one of these.

The cupcakes actually are crisp on the outside and light on the inside.  The airy texture and subtle flavor of the cupcake goes well with the thick rich taste of the spread on top.  Yes, that strip on top is not some mixed up frosting, it is purely the hazelnut spread. This recipe makes about 16 cupcakes.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes
adapted from Cupcakes Galore

1/2 cup whole hazelnuts
1 1/2 cups chocolate hazelnut spread
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
3 eggs

Grease the top edge of the cupcake cavities and fill with cupcake liners.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour, salt and baking powder.  Set aside.  In another bowl cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Beat in one egg at a time until blended.  Mix in 3/4 cup of the hazelnut spread until  incorporated.

Fold in half of the sifted ingredients so no dry streaks remain.  Mix in the milk and then add the rest of the sifted ingredients.

Fill each cupcake liner 2/3 full with the batter.  The batter was thick, so I tapped the pan on the counter to level it out.  You do not want any peaks or uneven batter, for it will reflect in the shape of the cupcake after baked.  Place pan(s) in the oven and bake until tester comes out clean 20-25 minutes.

Place pan on rack and let cool for 3 minutes, then remove cupcakes from pan cavities.  Place on rack and let cool completely before frosting.

After the cupcakes have cooled, pipe the rest of the hazelnut spread onto the cupcake and place a few nuts on top or you can grind the nuts and sprinkle on top.

Tips and Notes:
1. You can leave to spread off and serve these plain with your morning coffee.
2. The flavor really stands out when these are slightly warmed in the microwave
              **LAST YEAR: Oatmeal Butterscotch Muffins**                  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Banana Oatmeal Cookies

I have always thought that bananas were one of those fruits you either really liked or hated.  I think it is because they do have a strong distinctive taste. It seems that a lot of people will eat banana bread yet you will not find them eating a banana.  Recently, someone told me that a convenience store here in Texas makes more money on selling bananas than anything else.  I find that strange because I have yet to see any bananas at the local convenience stores.

Since bananas are a healthy fruit and are not acidic, I decided to bake with them.  The only issue was that I wanted to find something different from banana bread.  I have made banana cookies before but the particular recipe I landed on included oats in the ingredients.  The other unique thing was the banana chip on top.  Even though it gets baked on, it still remains crunchy and makes a good topper.

These cookies were shared yesterday. There was one eater in the group that declared they did not like bananas. However, just like bananas vs banana bread, this person kept asking where the cookie jar was.  These cookies are cake-like and have all the great flavor of banana bread. There are some additional add ins for variations, however, do not skip on the banana chips! This recipe makes about 24-30 cookies 

Banana Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from Crazy About Cookies Cookbook

1/2 cup mashed bananas
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup or 1 stick butter
3/4 cup rolled oats (old fashioned, not instant)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup dried banana chips

For add ins and variations
3/4 cup melted chocolate chips or
3/4 cup chocolate chips or
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Grease or butter the inside of two cookie sheets and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Then stir in the oats.  Set aside.  In a separate bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar together.  Once it has a fluffy consistency, beat in the egg, vanilla extract and banana. Fold in the dry oatmeal/flour blend.

At this time, you can mix in the chocolate chips or the pecans, if you decided to include.  Then drop tablespoons of batter onto prepared cookie sheets, placing about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 5 minutes then remove and press one banana chip lightly into the center of each cookie.  Put the pan back in the oven and bake until golden, about 5-6 minutes.

Let cookies cool on pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to rack to finish cooling.

If you opted to drizzle chocolate, do so and let sit for about 30 minutes for chocolate to harden.

Tips and notes:
1. if I were to put chocolate chips in these cookies, I would use mini chips.  That way you do not have any chance of a big pocket of melted chocolate oozing over your banana chip.
2. if you are including the pecans, they will be better if toasted and cooled prior to mixing in the batter.
                          **LAST YEAR:Coconut Custard Bars***

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Chocolate Pumpkin Layer Cake

Well I guess my posting schedule has changed, instead of Monday I will now be posting on Tuesday of every week.  Life does seem to be about a long series of changes these days.

Anyhow, I was looking for something with pumpkin and full of spices for the season and I came across this recipe.  For some reason I see a lot of pumpkin bread out there but not much in the way of cakes.

This cake does have a lot of flavor to offer.  The mellow spicy pumpkin batter does make for a great cake, but the wonderful add ins of chocolate and pecans move it up to a tastier rank.  Also, what better to slather it with than a dark cocoa frosting?

Should you decide to make this, please be sure all your guests get their own piece.  Otherwise, you will find out months later someone felt cheated because they shared their piece. I am sure a lot of you have had this experience. However, the fact does remain that if they are still thinking about it months later, the taste must have been well worth remembering.

Please note that I did not use the frosting recipe below, instead I used the recipe on the back of  the Nestle Dark Cocoa can, which eliminated the need to melt unsweetened chocolate.

Chocolate Pumpkin Layer Cake
adapted from John Down at Christopher Norman Chocolates

3 eggs
1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups or 2 1/2 sticks of softened butter (more for greasing pans)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1.2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup semi sweet choc chips
10 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to room temp
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare 2 nine inch round cake pans by brushing the interior with melted butter.  Place a liner of parchment in the bottom and butter the face up side.  Then dust the parchment with flour.

Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, ginger and nutmeg into a large bowl.

Using a mixer, cream together 1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter and the granulated sugar until it has a fluffy consistency.  This should take about 3 minutes at medium speed. Add one egg and beat for 30 seconds.  Repeat this process with each of the remaining eggs.

Mix in the pumpkin puree to the batter with a wooden spoon.  It will have a slightly curdled look.  Then fold in the sifted ingredients in half cup intervals.  Once the mixture is smooth and has no dry streaks, stir in the chocolate chips and pecans.

Pour half of the batter into each of the pans.  Place in oven and bake until tester comes out clean, which is about 35 minutes.  Remove and let cakes cool in pan for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the edges and invert cakes onto rack.  Discard parchment paper and let cakes cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, beat the remaining butter in a medium size bowl until fluffy.  Then add the confectioners sugar a 1/2 cup at a time, beating for 30 seconds.  Repeat that process until all confectioners sugar is blended into the butter.   Pour in the melted chocolate and vanilla extract and  beat until frosting is smooth.

Frost cake by frosting top of bottom layer.  Then stack with other layer and frost top and sides.
                           **LAST YEAR: Hawaiian Zephyr Cupcakes**

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Streusel Topped Babka

I am a little late with this post, but this past week has been hectic.  I decided I would rather wait until I could post without being rushed.

Since the last few posts have been very rich and indulgent, I decided I would go with something lighter and more in the cake family for this week.  This particular recipe is for a breakfast or coffee cake.  The bread part made from a wonderful brioche dough.  Brioche loaves are a favorite around here just simply served with butter.

However, I have no aversion to the additions to this bread.  Cocoa, cinnamon, pecans and walnuts swirl through the middle of the dough.  They are actually made like cinnamon rolls but the swirled dough slices are put in a loaf pan and shaped slightly.  The rising and egg wash is what actually brings the dough slices together.  Also, if that was not enough to hold the loaf together, it has been topped with quite a bit streusel.

The slices of this cake went over well at work and actually drew out a few introductions from some of the people.  I am glad the recipe made 3 loaves. Please note that the dough has to rest overnight prior to baking, so plan in advance.

Streusel Topped Babka
adapted from Great Coffeecakes

Ingredients/Babka dough
3/4 cup sour cream
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup or 1 stick butter ( in between temp/consistency, not soft and not hard)
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup plus 1 tsp sugar
1 tbs and 1 1/2 tsp or 1 1/2 pkgs yeast
3/4 tsp salt
3 3/4 cup flour

3/4 cup pecans, chopped and toasted
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup dark brown sugar (lightly packed)
2 tbs plain bread crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbs dutch process cocoa powder
1/2 cup very soft butter
1 large egg beaten with 2 tsp water for egg wash

3 tbs finely chopped pecans or walnuts
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
6-7 tbs butter

To make the dough, warm a small bowl by rinsing in warm water.  Then fill with 1 tsp of sugar and warm water.  Sprinkle the yeast on top-do not stir.  Cover the bowl with a saucer and let sit for 2 minutes. After it sets, uncover and swirl the bowl.  Repeat again with the time being 2 minutes. Cover for an additional minute, then uncover and stir.  Cover for one last interval of 3 minutes for yeast to get bubbly and foamy.

Using a stand mixer, blend the flour, sugar and salt.  Once mixed, add the butter and run mixer on low for about 3 minutes.

Take out a separate bowl and blend sour cream, eggs and vanilla.  Then add the dissolved yeast.  Take this mixture and pour it into the butter flour blend in the stand mixer.  Turn the mixer on low and let run for about 3-4 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl.

Place the dough on a floured surface and knead a few times until it is no longer sticky.  Divide into 3 pieces and place each in a small plastic bag and seal.  There should be enough room in the bag to allow for dough to expand and rise.  Refrigerate overnight.

The next day. prepare 3 of the 8X3 3/4 inch loaf pans by brushing the interior with some of the butter.  Then place a strip of parchment 3 inches wide by 15 inches long in each pan, making sure the long length hangs outside of the long sides of each pan.  It should be like a cross. Also line a baking sheet (with a slight lip on it) with parchment paper.

To make the filling, stir together the cinnamon, cocoa, bread crumbs and both type of sugars.  Set aside. 

Take one piece of dough out of refrigerator.  Place on floured surface and knead a few times.  Add 1/3 of the pecans.  Knead them into the dough evenly until the dough is no longer sticky.  Roll the dough into a rectangle.  It should be 12 inches and parallel to the counter with the left and right sides measuring 9 inches.

Spread surface of the dough with 1/3 of the remaining butter, leaving a 1 1/2 border at the top of the 12 inch length.  Sprinkle top with  1//3 cup of the cinnamon cocoa blend, leaving the top border blank.  Sprinkle with 1/3 cup chopped walnuts.  Press filling slightly into the dough.  Brush the 1 1/2 inch border with the egg wash.

Starting with the long edge closest to you, roll the dough up toward the egg wash side.  Once a log has formed, pinch the egg wash edge against the log. After the initial roll up, roll a few more times on a floured board to tighten the dough and keep it sealed.  The log should be the same length as the original dough length of 12 inches.

Cut the log into eight pieces.  Then brush egg wash on the uncut outside dough of each piece, leaving one side without the egg wash to put up against the pan.  Place the pieces ,with the cut side down, in two rows of four going down the length of the pan.  Then push down slightly.  Also push from the sides inward to make it into a loaf mound.  Repeat the steps in this is paragraph as well as the 3 prior for the other two mounds of dough in the refrigerator. Once completed, cover each loaf with a clean towel and place in a warm area to rise.  Rising time should be about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

To make the streusel place the butter in a small sauce pan over low heat until almost all is melted. Remove and let cool.   In another bowl, mix together all the rest of the ingredients.  Stir dry ingredients into melted butter.  Stir until mixture has coarse crumbs and can clump in your hand.

Let the mixture sit for about 10-15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Brush the tops of the loaves (that have completed rising) with egg wash and sprinkle the streusel on top. Place the loaf pans evenly on the parchment lined baking sheet and bake until done about 30-35 minutes.  Check at the mid point to make sure loaves are not browning to fast.  You can slow down browning process by placing foil over the areas that  are toasting too fast.

Remove pans and let loaves cool.  When cooled, lift out by using the parchment paper in pans.  Slice and serve.
                      **LAST YEAR: Renegade Cookies***