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Grasshopper Squares

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I love chocolate and mint together. LOVE THEM! So I’m always on the look-out for a good recipe that combines the two.

This certainly fit the bill! Just a few notes for you though. The brownie is pretty thin. I baked mine a little too long, so it was a bit crispier than I would have liked. I would recommend checking it about 15 minutes in.

And y’all. Please use good white chocolate. Since this is a white chocolate ganche, so basically just white chocolate and cream, the flavor is really important. Yes, I got mine at William Sonoma and spent way too much. Whatever, it tasted good. You could also check at somewhere like World Market. Just make sure it actually says “white chocolate” on the package. Nothing else. Just that phrase. I beg of you.

And the final note. The ganache is pretty sticky. Which is fine if you don’t have to transport it. But if you need to stack these at all, cut the cream by up to half.  No more than that. And if you’re just going to serve them at home, and don’t need to take them to the office, like I did, the recipe as-is should be fine.

Grasshopper Squares [aka Creme de Menthe Brownies]

Adapted from Gourmet, December 2005 and smittenkitchen.com

Makes anywhere from 72 normal-sized brownies to 117 one-inch squares (I think the perfect size)

For brownie layer

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter

10 1/2 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not extra-bitter or unsweetened and no more than 60% cacao if marked), finely chopped

1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

For mint ganache

1/2 cup heavy cream (this will make a stickier ganache…you can use half of this, for more of an “al dente” bite to it)

10 oz fine-quality white chocolate, chopped (please please please use the good stuff. It’s worth the splurge)

1 tablespoon green crème de menthe

1 teaspoon peppermint extract

For chocolate ganache

1 cup heavy cream (see note for mint ganache)

10 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped

Make brownie layer:

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly butter a 13- by 9-inch baking pan and line with 2 crisscrossed sheets of foil, leaving a 2 inch overhang on all sides. Butter foil.

Melt butter and chocolate with brown sugar in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from heat. Whisk in eggs and vanilla until combined. Whisk in flour, cocoa, and salt until just combined.

Spread batter evenly in baking pan and bake until set and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs adhering, about 20 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 1 1/2 hours.

Make mint ganache:

Bring cream to a simmer in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan and remove from heat. Pour over white chocolate in a bowl. Let stand 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Stir in crème de menthe and extract and chill, covered, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 1 hour.

Make chocolate ganache:

Bring cream to a simmer in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan and remove from heat. Pour over bittersweet chocolate in a bowl. Let stand 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Chill, covered, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 30 minutes.

Assemble layers:

Spread mint ganache over top of cooled brownie in a thin even layer using offset spatula, then chill until firm but still slightly sticky, about 30 minutes.

Spread chocolate ganache over mint and chill until firm, about 2 hours.

Lift dessert out of pan using foil overhang. Run a heavy knife under hot water and wipe dry, then trim edges of dessert (1/4 inch off each side). Cut dessert into squares and peel from foil.

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Cranberry Orange Cake

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Yes, this is a recipe from Thanksgiving. I’m not sure how I got so behind in posting these things! But I couldn’t not post this cake. It is so fresh, and sweet and tart and yummy! I realize that fresh cranberries is one of the main ingredients, but if you’re like me, maybe you bought some extra and threw them in the freezer? Or maybe you could find frozen ones at the grocery store? Or, you could just use dried cranberries. Either way, try this cake.

I love bundt cakes! I think they’re so simple, there’s no layering and frosting and decorating. Just baking and drizzling. With this one, since it was for a special occasion, I candied some cranberries for decoration (recipe linked below). And they were good for snacking too 🙂

Cranberry Orange Cake

Ingredients:
3 c. flour, divided
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. unsalted butter
1/2 c. oil
1 2/3 c. granulated sugar
2 Tbsp orange zest
1 Tbsp orange liquor
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/4 c. fresh orange juice
3/4 c. buttermilk
2 c. fresh cranberries, roughly chopped

for icing:
2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3-6 tsp fresh orange juice

candied cranberries

Directions:
-Preheat oven to 325 degrees and prepare basic bundt pan.
-In bowl of stand mixer, add sugar, butter and oil and beat until light and fluffy in texture as well as color, about 5 minutes.
-Meanwhile, in medium bowl, combine 2 1/2 c flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
-Whisk to combine well and set aside.
-To sugar mixture, add orange zest.
-One at a time, add egg and beat to combine well.
-Add liquor and vanilla, beating to combine well.
-Add orange juice and buttermilk, mixing to combine well.
-Stop mixer and scrape down sides of bowl.
-With mixer on lowest speed, add flour mixture and mix until almost combined.
-Stop mixer and remove bowl.
-In bowl flour was in, add remaining 1/2 c. flour and cranberries.
-Toss to coat and add to batter.
-Using large spatula, fold cranberries and extra flour into batter just until combined.
-Pour batter into bundt pan.
-Tap on counter to remove air bubbles, smooth top of batter away from center of pan.
-Place into preheated oven on rack in center of oven and bake until toothpick inserted into center of pan comes out clean, about 1 hour.
-Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 20 minutes.
-Turn cake out onto wire rack and cool completely.
-Once cake is cool, in medium bowl, combine powdered sugar, vanilla extract and orange juice, 1 tsp at a time until medium consistency is achieved.
-Drizzle icing over top of cake, decorate with orange rind and candied cranberries and serve.

Candied Cranberries

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Sugared cranberries were always one of those things that I admired from afar. I don’t know why, but I assumed they would be hard to make. But when I made a yummy cranberry orange cake recently, I knew that candied cranberries would be the PERFECT compliment.

And y’all, they are super easy! It’s as simple as dissolving some sugar into water, heating it to almost boiling, and then just letting the cranberries sit in  the sugar/water overnight.

I guess the most “complicated” part is just the fact that these take time. You need to give yourself at least 8 hours to let the cranberries get nice and coated in the sugar water, so they are sticky on the outside. And then another hour to let the sugar dry on the cranberries.

One other thing. The recipe calls for “super fine sugar.” I couldn’t find that in my grocery store (it’s NOT powdered sugar!) But I did find a trick online where you just take the sugar, and process it in your food processor, so it’s just a little more fine than granulated sugar. That consistency sticks better to the cranberries.

Candied Cranberries

Ingredients

  • 2  cups  granulated sugar
  • 2  cups  water
  • 2  cups  fresh cranberries
  • 3/4  cup  superfine sugar

Preparation

Combine granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring mixture until sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat. (Do not boil or the cranberries may pop when added.) Stir in cranberries; pour mixture into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Drain cranberries in a colander over a bowl. Place superfine sugar in a shallow dish. Add the cranberries, rolling to coat with sugar. Spread sugared cranberries in a single layer on a baking sheet; let stand at room temperature 1 hour or until dry.

Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to a week.

Cranberry Bliss Bars

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Can you tell I’m posting things that I made MONTHS ago? This was actually a treat from the 12 Days of Christmas Goodies. But they were so yummy, that you should make them year-round!

These are somewhat a copy-cat recipe of Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars, which are a seasonal treat there. I think I like these better though! I actually increased the cream cheese from the recipe I had (I thought the original was a tad too sweet), and I didn’t do the powdered sugar and milk drizzle. I just didn’t think it needed it.

These are a really yummy treat! I highly recommend them 🙂

Cranberry Bliss Bars
adapted sligthly from recipezaar and Good Things Catered

Ingredients:
for cookie
1 c. butter, softened
1 1/4 c. light brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp orange extract
1 tsp ground ginger (I would say this is optional. I like the ginger flavor, but I know not everybody does)
1/4 tsp salt
1 2/3 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. diced dried cranberries
3/4 c. white chocolate chunks

for frosting
8 oz cream cheese, softened
3 c. powdered sugar
4 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 c. diced dried cranberries

Directions:
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare (well grease) 9×13 baking pan.
-In bowl of stand mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy and light in color, about 2 minutes.
-Add eggs, vanilla, ginger, and salt; beat well.
-Gradually mix in flour just until combined.
-Remove bowl from mixer and fold in cranberries and white chocolate.
-Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.
-Place in oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until cake is barely light brown on the edges.
-Remove from oven and let cool.
-Meanwhile make the frosting.
-In stand mixer bowl, combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon juice and vanilla and beat on low until smooth.
-When the cake has cooled invert onto cutting board and spread frosting over top, evenly.
-Sprinkle top with diced cranberries.
-Place cake on cutting board into the fridge to set, at least 1 hour.-Remove cake from fridge and, using a long knife, carefully slice the cake lengthwise (the long way) through the middle.
-Slice the cake across the width three times making a total of eight rectangular slices.
-Slice each of those rectangles diagonally creating 16 triangular slices.
-Or, really, just slice ’em in squares. The triangle will make it look like Starbucks. But I didn’t care when I sliced mine 🙂
-Serve immediately or place into the fridge to keep for later.

Rich, Fudgy Chocolate Cookies (you won’t believe they’re gluten free!)

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Gluten free foods confound me. I’m a baker. I love flour. Love, love, love it. I am comfortable with it. Flour and I, we’ve bonded.

So when I can’t use flour, or when I need to use non-wheat flour, I’m at a loss. I don’t know what works. I don’t know what doesn’t work. I have no clue if rice flour or soy flour or whatever kind of flour acts anything at all like wheat flour.

I would have just stayed in my flour-dusted little world, had it not been for some close friends who can’t have wheat or gluten. So, I set out on a quest to find the perfect baked good when entertaining those wheat/gluten-intolerant friends. My goal was to find a baked good that was naturally gluten-free–a recipe that didn’t have to be modified. One where taste wouldn’t suffer because of my wheat-free ignorance.

And y’all. I found it. I found a rich, delicious, absolutely wonderful cookie that EVERYBODY has liked (well, unless you don’t like chocolate. But if you can’t have wheat AND you don’t like chocolate, I’m not sure if we can be friends 🙂 ) Nobody has even guessed that these cookies were gluten-free. It’s like, a miracle cookie. And my friends who can’t have wheat have approved the recipe, so no sneaky gluten has snuck into any of the ingredients.

It’s an easy recipe. Basically, the cookies use cocoa instead of flour. I highly recommend using bittersweet chocolate (Ghirardelli makes a yummy bittersweet chocolate chip). You can use semi-sweet if you’re in a pinch, but I would even substitute a little unsweetened for a small portion of the semi-sweet. They’re super sweet, and I wouldn’t  want them to become cloyingly sweet, especially since you roll the dough in powdered sugar before baking.

One thing I will warn you about. These are kind of a “molten” cookie. I had one friend describe them as a cookie on the outside and pudding on the inside. With the first batch, it’s always a little hard for me to figure out when they’re done. When they become firm on the outside, go ahead and pull them out–but handle them carefully, as they will be gooey on the inside. Usually, I pull one cookie off of the cookie sheet, pop it in the fridge for a few minutes, and then taste it. It’s a fine line between underdone and just-right-gooey, so just go with your gut 🙂

You really should try these, whether you can have wheat or not. They’re simple, and really delicious.

Dark Chocolate Cookies – from Epicurious

  • 1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (about 9 ounces), divided
  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided (next time I might use 1/4 or 1/2 cup less)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter 2 large baking sheets or line with parchment.

Gently melt 1 cup chocolate chips in glass bowl in microwave, stirring twice, about 2 minutes. Cool slightly.

Using electric mixer, beat whites in large bowl to soft peaks. Gradually beat in 1 cup sugar. Continue beating until mixture resembles soft marshmallow creme. Whisk 1 cup sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl to blend. On low speed, beat dry ingredients into meringue. Stir in lukewarm chocolate and 1/2 cup chocolate chips (dough will become very stiff).

Place 1/2 cup sugar in bowl. Roll 1 rounded tablespoon dough into ball; roll in sugar, coating thickly. Place on prepared sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until puffed and tops crack, about 10 minutes. Cool on sheets on rack 10 minutes. Transfer to rack; let cool.

Boozy Baked French Toast and Fruit Salad

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Weird, I wrote this post FOREVER ago (seriously, more than a year) but never posted it! Which is a shame, because this baked french toast is seriously yummy! I love any recipe that you can assemble the night before, and just pop in the oven that morning.

(Plus, shhhhhh, this has booze in it! Although, how much of a secret is that, really, since I put it in the title of the post.)

It’s really a simple recipe. Slice up some challah bread (you should be able to find it in your grocery store bakery, but if not, you could also use a loaf of french bread). Do one layer of bread, and then add any “filling” (nuts, dried fruit, etc. work well–however, if you do nuts, I would recommend maybe toasting them with some cinnamon and sugar. Or, honestly, I liked it just as well without any filling at all). Put your second layer of bread on (I wouldn’t recommend more than two layers, it won’t really bake up well). Then just pour your egg mixture on top, wrap it up, and let it sit overnight.

I like that this is a great basic recipe that you can make your own. You could add orange zest and maybe orange liqueur as your flavoring. Or just plain vanilla. I used a mixture of vanilla and caramel Bailey’s. It baked up really nice, and the middle almost a custard.

And it was just perfect with a heavy-handed drizzle of warmed maple syrup and some fruit salad on the side. Speaking of the fruit salad, I just kind of made it up. But I highly recommend the use of citrus zest in fruit salad. It is oh so good!

Enjoy!

Boozy Baked French Toast

1 loaf supermarket Challah bread in 1-inch slices

3 cups whole milk

3 eggs

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Your choice of flavorings: I used 3 tablespoons Caramel Bailey’s and a teaspoon or so of vanilla. I also added a sprinkling of pecans between layers…next time though, I think I will toast them with some brown sugar and cinnamon.

1. Generously grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with salted or unsalted butter.

2. Arrange bread in two tightly-packed layers in the pan. I always cut one slice into smaller pieces to fill in gaps, especially when using braided Challah. If using a thinner-sliced bread, you might wish for more layers, but baking tends to get difficult here. If you are using any fillings of fruit or nuts, this is the time to get them between the layers or sprinkled atop.

3. Whisk milk, eggs, sugar, salt and booze or flavorings of your choice and pour over the bread. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.

4. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The bread will absorb all of the milk custard while you sleep.

5. Bake at 425 for 30 minutes, or until puffed and golden. This will take longer if you have additional layers.

6. Cut into generous squares and serve with maple syrup, fresh fruit, powdered sugar or all of the above.

Serves 6 as main course.

Fruit Salad

Not really a recipe, as I just kind of made it up. I took two mango, one papaya, and two granny smith apples. Tossed them all together with the juice and zest of one lime, and honey to taste.

$50 Smores Cupcakes

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Y’all. These are SO YUMMY! And yes, there are a few steps. But I promise, nothing too complicated. You should make them tonight. And then send me a few.

(Just a little bragging…I made these for a dessert auction, and they sold for $50! So, henceforth, I shall call them the $50 Smores Cupcakes. Because I can 🙂 )

Basically, you first just make a graham cracker crust, with some graham cracker crumbs, and a bit of butter. Smoosh that into the bottom of your cupcake liner, and bake for a few minutes.

Then, use your favorite chocolate cupcake recipe (I’ve included mine below). Spoon that in over the graham cracker crust, and bake it up.

Then, you whip up a marshmallow frosting. I found a really simple recipe that required no measuring of temperature. Somehow, whenever I have to use a candy thermometer, everything falls apart. Pipe on the frosting…

And then, you torch it! Sorry, I have no pictures of the actual torching process. Believe me, I would have likely burned down my house had I tried to juggle a cupcake, butane torch and a camera. But just use a creme brulee torch, and you’re good. If you don’t have one…well…I hesitate to even suggest it, but you could just broil them in the oven. But…ACK, broiling scares me! But if you’re okay with it, that’s another option…just keep a close eye on it. And do like I do, and have a chair at the ready under the closest smoke detector so you can rip out the battery when it goes off 🙂

And there you have it. Buttery, chocolatey, toasty goodness. You can also do these in miniature form…they’re adorable! I like to finish mine off with a square of Hershey chocolate stuck on the top. So fun!

S’mores Cupcakes

Ingredients:
For the graham cracker crust:
1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup sugar
5 1/3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

For the cake:
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

For the marshmallow frosting:
8 large egg whites
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a small mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter; mix well with a fork.  Drop about 1 tablespoon of the graham cracker mixture in the bottom of each cupcake liner and press down to line the bottom. (Note: I found the bottom of my squeeze bottle to be the perfect size to do this job neatly and quickly.) Sprinkle a small amount of the chopped chocolate on top of the graham cracker crusts.  Bake for 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven, and maintain the oven temperature.

To make the cake batter Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared cupcake liners. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely.

To make the frosting,place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer. Set over a saucepan with simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined.

Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.  Brown with a kitchen torch and garnish with chocolate segments (optional).