baking

How to kill a chocolate craving

Have you ever been sitting at home and suddenly had the urge to eat a smallish piece of cake? Specifically chocolate cake. I was craving some chocolatey goodness but I had no cake and it was almost midnight and I wasn’t about to bake an entire cake to satisfy a craving. I looked up mug cakes and found this recipe. Well, I found many recipes but this one sounded the best to me and I had all the ingredients on hand.

The results were delicious and I was very impressed. I love to bake and I do plenty of it but this is the cake recipe you want when you’re in a pinch. I would recommend using a mug larger than you think you will need. You don’t want to lose any precious batter to spillage.

I have made this mug cake twice now. Once with peanut butter and a leftover chocolate easter egg in the center the other with almond butter instead of peanut butter. Both times I added a generous squirt of Hershey’s chocolate syrup to the batter. The cake was moist, with a runny sauce in the middle.

Try it!

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Lemon Blueberry Cake

A friend forwarded me a link to a list of must-try cake recipes and this lemon blueberry one from Sally’s Baking Addiction caught my eye. The only thing I did differently was using less lemon than the recipe called for. I prefer a subtler lemon flavor. The cake was easy to make and delicious but I have to say that this cake does not store well at all.

I stored this cake like I do all other cakes and the next day it was hard and very dense. Nothing like the moist, light consistency of the day before. I left it out for a couple of hours and this did little to improve the texture, in my opinion. This cake is best made and served on the same day. I might try making it again in the future to see if I have similar results. I measured my dry ingredients by weight for better accuracy so I know this is not an issue of too much flour.

Regardless of my experience with storing it I give this cake a thumbs up. It’s got that lights citrusy flavor that feels like you’re eating sunshine.

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A slice of cake after being refrigerated overnight.

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Cinnamon Rolls (with cream cheese glaze)

I just can’t help myself, even though I had sworn off baking the sweet stuff I have been sucked back into the kitchen once more. This time I made these cinnamon rolls. I wish I could explain how delicious they were.

I browsed a lot of recipes and settled on the one I found on Epicurious. I don’t think I had ever tried a recipe from this site before. I made the dough using my stand mixer. I also made one teeny, tiny mistake. I forgot to add the egg! Once I had set the dough aside to rise I started cleaning up a bit and that’s when I saw the lone egg still sitting on the counter.

I panicked briefly and wondered if I should throw out the dough but then I thought, cinnamon rolls are bread and plenty of bread is eggless. So I proceeded. They turned out great! I do want to eventually make them again, this time adding the egg. I should probably do this sooner rather than later so I don’t forget what these eggless ones tasted like…

Cooking from scratch is one of my favorite things to do. For one thing, it challenges me. I love attempting something that intimidates me. I also like know exactly what goes into my food. These are by no means  something we should be eating everyday but because they’re labor intensive to make I know that I won’t be eating them frequently.

These are best fresh. They will keep for a day or two (covered) at room temperature.

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Fresh burger buns

I have always bought burger buns from my grocer’s bakery. We don’t often have burgers but when we do we do it the easy way. What’s not to like? It’s convenient to purchase ready made breads. Since I’ve made the decision to eat cleaner I’ve been learning how to make more of what we eat at home. When you make things from scratch you know exactly what is in your food. You also know that your food is free of any unpronounceable preservatives etc. I also happen to enjoy cooking from scratch, but whatever the reason you decide to make them these buns are delicious.

I found this  recipe by Chef John on Allrecipes.com and since I had already made another one of his bread recipes I decided I couldn’t go wrong.  I highly recommend that you try this recipe. For a complete list of ingredients, instructions and a video demonstration click here.

I don’t really have much else to say. This recipe makes eight generously sized buns. You could easily get ten buns out of it. In order to get equally sized buns I weighed the dough and figured out how much each of them should weigh. They are best the day you bake them but they will keep for a day or two in a zip bag.

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My taste tester!

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Also good in a BLT.

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Delicious Banana Bread

There’s nothing worse than having food go to waste and in an effort to avoid doing just that I found myself in the lucky predicament of needing to use up some bananas. Naturally, I made some banana bread.

Joy of Baking has what I consider to be the best library of recipes around. Coupled with the Youtube videos demonstrating most of them and you have a fabulous resource. Stephanie Jaworski has the grace and poise of an experienced cook and she makes you feel like you can do it too. Even though she makes it all look effortless don’t be fooled, she has serious skills.

The banana bread recipe I used is from her website and you can find it here. 

I was all out of nuts so I omitted those and I sprinkled some oats on top of one of the loaves. I liked the oats on top, it added some nice texture.

I baked the loaves in paper molds. These were smaller than a regular loaf pan which is exactly what I wanted. These are great for gift giving as they are greaseproof and the paper is a pretty brown with gold print. I picked these up from Sur la Table for 75 cents each.

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Delicious, gluten-free dessert

The holidays are pretty much behind us and it’s time to look to the year ahead. This year, I want to share more savory recipes and as I looked to rid myself of the last of the sugars laying about the house I came up with a dessert that will likely be my go-to whenever I am hosting a dinner.

I love cheesecake, it’s rich, decadent, and refreshing. I had two bricks of cream cheese in the fridge and what better way to use them up than to make cheesecake batter and pour it into a lined cupcake pan? The recipe is simple and all of the ingredients are gluten-free (or can at least be found gluten-free).

The end result is a beautiful dessert that you will be proud to share.

You will need:

16 oz of cream cheese at room temperature

2 eggs at room temperature

1/2 cup of sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp orange zest

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 325F.

Beat the cream cheese using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, you can also use a hand mixer (if you have strong arms you can even do it by hand with a wooden spoon). Once creamy and smooth, add the sugar and cream together.

It is important that the cream cheese be at room temperature otherwise you will have a lumpy batter.

Add the eggs one at a time and mix until combined.

Add the vanilla extract and orange zest and mix until incorporated.

Pour into lined cupcake pan. Depending on how much you fill them you should be able to fill 12 slots.

Bake at 325F for 15-20 minutes. You want the cheesecake to be almost set in the middle but still wobbly. Turn off the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes before removing from the oven and setting on a cooling rack.

The cheesecakes will deflate a little. Allow to cool completely before placing in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

Raspberry orange champagne sauce

The cheesecakes are already wonderful as they are but I had some frozen raspberries I wanted to use up so I threw them into a saucepan along with the juice and pulp of one orange. I also added about a quarter cup of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Then I added a generous splash of champagne. I brought it all to a boil and simmered it for a few minutes until it  had reduced a bit.

At this point taste your sauce and add a little more sugar if you feel it needs it. I wanted the sauce to be fresh with a hint of tartness, not sickly sweet.

I then strained the mixture and discarded al the seed and pulp. I returned the liquid to the stove and simmered until it thickened a little. Once I was happy with the consistency I turned off the heat and let the sauce cool in the pan before transferring it into a bowl and placing it in the fridge.

Plating

Carefully, remove the cheesecake from the cupcake wrapper. Place upside down on a plate. This conceals the sunken top part and gives you a flat, smooth surface on which to spoon your sauce. Top with as much sauce as you want and top with fresh whipped cream. I recommend taking the first one you plate up as a little chef’s treat, practice your presentation on this one and modify your approach on the others.

This was my first attempt (too much sauce):

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Never made your own whipped cream before? It’s easy. You need really cold heavy cream and a really cold bowl. I place mine in the freezer for a few minutes. Whip the cream until it’s stiff enough to pipe. You can add vanilla extract and powdered sugar if you want.

These can be plated a few hours in advance and kept in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Enjoy!

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5 ingredient crustless cheesecake

It is no secret that I love to bake. I love cooking in general but baking is what I love to share most. Desserts are a great treat. I love them. As I’ve gotten older I have found that I don’t enjoy the sweetness of most commercially produced desserts. A lot of foods I used to enjoy now feel sickly sweet to my palate. This is one of the many reasons I love baking from scratch. The treats I make are always just sweet enough.

Last night, I was in the mood for some cheesecake and so I set out to make my own. This crustless cheesecake requires only five ingredients and the ones it omits results in less calories while still being delicious.

You will need:

16 oz cream cheese (this is a treat so use full fat!) at room temperature

3 eggs at room temperature

2/3 cup of sugar

one lemon

flavoring of your choice: 1/4 tsp vanilla extract or almond extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit

Mix the cream cheese, sugar, and eggs until smooth.

Zest your lemon and add as much zest as you would like. I zested about half my lemon and used that. I also squeezed out about half a teaspoon of lemon juice. Add the zest and juice to the mixture.

Add a quarter teaspoon of almond extract or vanilla extract.

Mix until combined.

Pour into 9 inch glass pie dish.

Bake for about 30-35 minutes. Edges should be golden brown. When you remove from the oven the cheesecake may be a little puffed up. It will deflate as it cools. Leave it to cool on a wire rack until it reaches room temperature then refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

You can top with fresh berries, whipped cream or the traditional sour cream topping.  I went with a lemon slice 😀

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Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

The zucchinis in the fridge had to be eaten. In the interest of not wasting food I decided to look up recipes and was pleased to find this recipe on The Idea Room for Chocolate Zucchini Cake. I was immediately sold on it and decided I would try it out the next day. I ended up altering the recipe and making cupcakes instead of a cake but the results were nothing short of amazing. If you check out the original recipe you will notice that I substituted the lemon juice for white vinegar and I omitted the nuts and ground cloves. The reason is simple, I didn’t have these ingredients on hand! Lemon juice is acidic and is often added to milk in order to sour it and turn it into a buttermilk substitute. I am guessing you could substitute the milk and vinegar with buttermilk.

The only oil I had in the house was olive oil so I used that. I would probably use coconut oil the next time around but I can attest that the olive oil worked beautifully. The cupcakes were moist, rich and chocolatey. My husband had no idea they had zucchini in them. They are by far the most delicious chocolate cupcakes I have had in a long time.

If you would like to give them a try here is what you will need:

Ingredients

  • 1 and 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup oil (you can use any flavorless oil of your choice)
  • 2 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 4 Tbsp. cocoa
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk with 1 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

For the full recipe visit The Idea Room!

These cupcakes do not need any frosting! If you want you could dust them with some powdered sugar but in my opinion they are perfect as is.

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Cookie Thursday (on a Monday!)

My husband loves oatmeal raisin cookies. In particular, he enjoys the Pillsbury ready to bake ones. I do not share his enthusiasm, partly because I am not fond of raisins and also because I have long suspected that these Pillsbury cookies are oatmeal cookies in name only. Seriously, there isn’t an oat in sight and the first ingredient listed is sugar. Our grocery store stopped carrying them so my husband will track them down at another store every once in a while. A couple of weeks ago he informed me that I could not make a cookie that rivaled the overly processed hunk of sugar he was happily munching on. Naturally, I was nothing short of insulted. I was also amused, because let’s face it there are few things I do well and baking happens to be one of them.

I accepted his challenge and declared that I would set up a blind taste test for him in the near future. I immediately got to work researching recipes and watching video demonstrations. I finally decided to try out this recipe from Beantown Baker. I tweaked it only slightly. The cookies were delicious. Even a raisin-hater like myself enjoyed these.

What about my husband? Well, he prefers the texture of the Pillsbury ones. I know, it’s a disgrace! Ha ha. He did tell me that my cookies were just as good flavor-wise. Meh, I don’t consider him a pillar of good cookie taste anyway.

If you would like to try out these cookies here is what you will need:

1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 oz, or 115 grams) softened butter
2/3 cup (125 grams) dark brown sugar
1 egg at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup (95 grams) flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups (120 grams) rolled oats
3/4 cup (120 grams) raisins

I recommend weighing your ingredients. I find that this gives you accurate amounts. Visit Beantown Baker for the full recipe and directions!

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Cookie Thursday

There are few things better than a cookie. I find cookies to be such lovely treats. They’re single servings of deliciousness. I asked my cousin to pick out a cookie recipe for me to make and send to her and she picked a real winner! When she showed me the recipe she had picked I was excited as I had never made any type of sandwich cookie before.

This recipe from Joy of Baking.com is delicious. I have mentioned before that this is my favorite recipe site as the recipes are always easy to follow and often have videos to go with them. These cookies are similar to Oreo cookies. The cookies have a rich semi-sweet chocolate flavor and the cream is sweet and smooth. I used less sugar than the cookies called for because I wanted the cream to compliment the cookies not simply add to the sweetness. I like my chocolate to taste like chocolate not sugar, but that’s a personal preference. Cutting back the amount of sugar is optional and it’s an option I exercise in almost every recipe.

For the cookies:

1 cup (240 ml) semi sweet chocolate chips or 6 ounces (170 grams) semi sweet chocolate, chopped

1 cup (226 grams) unsaltedbutter, room temperature

3/4 cup (150 grams) white granulated sugar (I used about 1/2 a cup)

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all purposeflour

3/4 cup (70 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch processed)

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

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What the dough should look like once it has come together.

Be sure to check out Joy of Baking.com for the complete recipe (including the cream filling) and detailed instructions as well as a video of this recipe!

I personally, could eat these cookies on their own without the cream BUT the cream is such a great addition. I did not bother to make my logs perfect when I rolled up the dough so the cookies did not turn out perfectly round. You could spend more time on that, but like I have always said about home made: I want it to look as such. To me, that’s the best part.

As a side note, whenever I bake I try to use the best ingredients available to me. They really do make a difference. However, when baking we need to also keep in mind our bottom line. I have found that chocolate is an ingredient I will always splurge on as long as I can afford to, as well as vanilla extract. I refuse to use the imitation stuff. It’s just not the same. In my kitchen I tend to favor the following brands in my baking:

  • Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract
  • King Arthur Flour (unbleached, all purpose)
  • Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet chocolate (either chips or in bar form)
  • Hershey’s Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

I hope you found this post helpful.

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