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Almond Joy Ice Cream

I’ve always been a fan of Almond Joy candy bars, so I immediately bookmarked this recipe when I saw it.  Unfortunately, I got busy making other things and forgot about this one.  We recently had a faculty meeting where they handed out mini candy bars, and as I reached for an Almond Joy, I thought of this ice cream and put it on my list for that week.  Once I made it, I couldn’t believe it had taken me so long!  This is one of my favorite ice creams.  It actually reminded me very much of the German Chocolate Ice Cream I made a few months ago.  It was a standard custard recipe, made very rich by the coconut milk and dark cocoa powder.  Mixing in the almonds and coconut gave it just the right texture.  I added way more coconut than the recipe called for just because I like a lot 🙂  If you are a fan of Almond Joys, this is certainly the ice cream for you!

Almond Joy Ice Cream
Source: adapted from How to Eat a Cupcake

1 ½ cups heavy cream, divided

1 cup whole milk

½ cup unsweetened coconut milk

2/3 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons dark cocoa powder

1 ¼ cups sweetened or unsweetened flaked dried coconut, divided

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

6 egg yolks

3 tablespoons cream of coconut

¼ teaspoon coconut extract

Pinch of salt

½ cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped (I used slivered almonds)

In a small saucepan, whisk together 1 cup heavy cream, whole milk, coconut milk, sugar, and cocoa powder.  Mix in ½ cup dried coconut and the vanilla.  Warm over medium heat, stirring often, until the sugar dissolved and small bubbles form around the edges, about 4-5 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining ½ cup of heavy cream until blended.  Whisk ¼ of the coconut-milk mixture into the yolks.  Then whisk the yolk mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining coconut-milk mixture.  Heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 4-5 minutes.

Pour the hot custard unto a bowl and cool completely in an ice bath, 30-45 minutes.  Once the custard has cooled to room temperature, remove from the ice bath.  Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the surface of the custard to prevent a “skin” from forming.  Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours.

Place in an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.  After churning, stir in the remaining ¾ dried coconut, cream of coconut, coconut extract, almonds, and a pinch of salt.  Transfer mixture to a plastic container and freeze.

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Chewy Chocolate Cookies

Oh, how I love the Pastry Queen!  I saw these cookies when I was flipping through her cookbook when I first got it for Christmas and immediately put them on my list.  They are so simple to make, and have helped me satisfy a chocolate craving in no time 🙂  I also like how easy it is to adapt them to your tastes.  You can make them very simple, or you can add in things such as coconut, various nuts, and chocolate chips.  I think these would even be good with white chocolate or peanut butter chips.  This time I kept the pecans that the recipe called for and added in coconut and chocolate chips.  I really liked them that way, and will keep trying new versions in the future.

Chewy Chocolate Cookies
Source: Pastry Queen Christmas by Rebecca Rather

2 cups whole pecans

3 large egg whites

2 ¼ cups powdered sugar

6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Pinch of kosher salt

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Arrange the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and toast them for 7 to 9 minutes, until darker in color and aromatic.  Remove from the oven, transfer to a bowl, let cool, and coarsely chop.

Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

In a large bowl, briskly whisk the egg whites until foamy, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the powdered sugar, cocoa, salt, vanilla, and pecans.  Using a 1-inch-diameter scoop, drop spoonfuls of dough 1 ½ inches apart on the prepared pans.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until set and shiny, with zigzag cracks on top.  Remove from the oven and let cool on the pans for 5 to 10 minutes.  Using a metal spatula, transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.  The cookies will keep for up to 1 week in an airtight container or 3 weeks tightly wrapped and frozen.

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

Snickerdoodles are such a fun cookie, so I couldn’t resist making them in cupcake form.  I love cinnamon, and these cupcakes make it the central flavor.  These cupcakes were easy to make- basically your standard cupcake recipe, and their simplicity made the cinnamon stand out as the star ingredient.  They taste a lot like the cookie: sweet and simple.  Martha’s book states that snickerdoodles are thought to have a German origin, and that their name is likely a mispronunciation of schneckennudeln (crinkly noodles).  It makes sense, though, because cinnamon seems to have a huge role in traditional baked goods.  The recipe calls for a seven-minute frosting, but I thought a cinnamon buttercream would be better.  I used my favorite buttercream frosting recipe and simply added cinnamon until I got the desired flavor.  Snickerdoodles are a popular cookie, and everyone got really excited about enjoying them in cupcake form!

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes
Source: Martha Stewart Cupcakes, also found on marthastewart.com

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self- rising), sifted

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, plus 1/2 teaspoon for dusting

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 3/4 cups sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for dusting

4 large eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Sift together both flours, baking powder, salt, and 1 tablespoon cinnamon.
  2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating until combined after each.
  3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored up to 2 days at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

Frosting Note: I made half the recipe for cupcakes and this full recipe of frosting and had some left over.  For a full batch of cupcakes, I would at least multiply this recipe by 1.5, if not double to be on the safe side.  If it’s too much, that’s okay, who doesn’t love leftover frosting? 🙂

Cinnamon Frosting
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated April 2007

20 tablespoons (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2½ cups Confectioners’ sugar (10 ounces)
1/8 tablespoons table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons cinnamon (or to taste)

In standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds. Scrape down bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds; scrape bowl, add vanilla, cinnamon, and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.


Flourless Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

I first used these cookies as the crust for this Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake, but I started thinking about them again and thought they deserved a post of their own.  The chocolate peanut butter combination is irresistible to me, and it’s very good in cookie form.  I was particularly excited about these being flourless, which makes them naturally gluten free, so no adaptations were necessary.  These take almost no time to make, and will satisfy your craving in a hurry!  The chocolate and peanut butter flavors are nicely balanced, and neither is too overpowering.  I didn’t have peanut butter chips on hand, but I will definitely add them next time because I think it would improve the flavor even more.

Flourless Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
Source: Baking Bites

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

¾ cup brown sugar

1 large egg

½ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional, but I’ve always added it)

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ½ tablespoons cocoa powder

2 tablespoons water

½ to ¾ cup chocolate and/or peanut butter chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together cocoa powder and water until smooth.  In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients (except chips), including water and cocoa mixture.  Stir in chocolate and/or peanut butter chips.

Drop by tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet and flatten slightly.  Bake for about 10-13 minutes, until golden brown at the edges.  Cool on pan before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 2 dozen

Coconut Tea Cake (TWD)

I was very pleased to see that we could put this one off until Easter.  I love coconut, but David doesn’t, so I don’t make desserts with it all that often for that reason.  Luckily,It my parents were visiting for Easter weekend, and they both love coconut.  I thought this would be a great cake to snack on while they were here.  Since it was still just three of us eating it, I cut the recipe in half and baked it in a loaf pan (it took 45 minutes to bake).  It was pretty simple to make, which was great because I was already going to be cooking so much.  I added way more coconut than the recipe called for, which was a good move because I like a lot 🙂  My only complaint was that I couldn’t taste the rum.  Overall, this was a fabulous cake, and my parents and I really enjoyed it!  I passed the recipe on to my mom and I’m pretty sure she’ll be making it in the near future!  You can get the recipe on Carmen’s blog, and she chose it for TWD.

Carrot Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

I usually gravitate toward anything chocolate, but I feel that Easter dessert warrants something a bit different.  Two years ago, I made Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake, and last year I made this Strawberry Mirror Cake.  This year we had a small Easter celebration with my parents, and since carrot cake is a family favorite, I wanted to make it for dessert.  I’ve tried several carrot cake recipes, and this recipe remains my favorite for a classic carrot cake, and I loved the Tropical Carrot Cake version I made last year.  There was, however, one more version that I wanted to try.  The carrot cake from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book is very similar to the classic carrot cake recipe I use, but I was really excited to try the orange variation of the cream cheese frosting.

This was a great variation!  The orange was a great twist on classic cream cheese frosting.  It added the right amount of sweetness to the usually tangy cream cheese.  The cake itself was also delicious.  It was a simple, no-frills carrot cake and was very moist and flavorful.  What a great choice to celebrate Easter!  I cut the recipe in half and baked it in two 6-inch pans since it was just for four of us.  If you choose to scale back the recipe like I did, 30-35 minutes is a good estimate for the baking time.

Carrot Cake with Fresh Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
Source: The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy

Ingredients

For the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
4 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound carrots, grated medium fine
3/4 cup walnut pieces, coarsely chopped

For the fresh orange cream cheese frosting:
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softene
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Procedure

Before you start
Position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour two 8×2-inch round cake pans. Line each pan with an 8-inch round of parchment paper.

To make the cake

1. in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat the eggs at high speed until light and frothy, about 1 minute. Decrease the speed to medium and add the oil, sugar, and salt, and mix until just combined. Decrease the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing until just combined.

3. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the carrots and walnuts.

4. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. Spin the pans to level the batter. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove to a rack to cool for 20 minutes before turning the layers out onto the rack. Cool completely before filling or frosting.

To make the frosting
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, sugar, and zest. Start on low speed and then increase to medium-high speed and beat until smooth, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

2. Add the butter and mix on medium speed until just fluffy and smooth, about 45 seconds more. Add the vanilla and mix until just combined. Do not overbeat.

To complete the cake

1. Cut 4 strips of wax or parchment paper about 12 inches long by 3 inches wide. Place the bottom cake layer trimmed side up on your serving plate. Tuck the wax paper under the edges of your cake on all sides. Later, after frosting the cake, you can pull away the stripes to reveal a nice clean serving plate.

2. Using a metal offset spatula, spread the filling across the top of the layer, but leave about 1/2 inch uncovered around the outside edges. (This leaves room for the filling to be squished down but to stay inside the cake.)

3. Place the second layer trimmed side down on top of the filling and press down gently with your hands.

4. Apply a light, even layer of frosting on all sides of the cake. Place the cake in the refrigerator to chill for a good 30 minutes.

5. After the crumb coat has chilled, smooth on your final layer of frosting.

The cake keeps in a cake saver in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. It tastes great eaten at room temperature or chilled.

Dulce de Leche Brownies

I’ve really been loving dulce de leche lately.  I just love the flavor.  It’s perfectly sweet and has a deep caramel flavor that adds a lot of depth to baked goods.  I’ve had these brownies on my must-try list for a while now, and I recently made a huge batch of homemade dulce de leche, I thought now was a good time to try them.  With 6 ounces of chocolate and some additional cocoa powder, these brownies were very rich and chocolaty, but you will get no complaints from me!  The dulce de leche added so much depth to the flavor.  It didn’t stand out, but rather added to the brownies and deepened their flavor.  I swirled in my dulce de leche a little more than necessary.  I need to be quicker on the marbling, but it didn’t affect the taste one bit.  These are some wonderful, ooey gooey brownies, and definitely one of my new favorites!  I would say that they’re more on the fudgy side, which is just how I like it.

Dulce de Leche Brownies
Source: David Lebovitz

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

¼ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup flour

1 cup toasted pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped, optional

1 cup dulce de leche

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch pan.  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Add the chocolate on low heat until melted.  Remove from heat and whisk in cocoa powder until smooth.  Add eggs one at a time, followed by the sugar, vanilla, and flour.  Add nuts if using.

Pour half the batter into prepared pan.  Dollop one third evenly over the batter.  Swirl with a knife to marble.  Add remaining brownie batter on top, then drop the remaining dulce de leche in spoonfuls over batter.  Swirl slightly.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until knife comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.  Cool completely, then cut into squares.