Sunday, December 29, 2013

Nutella Caramel Brown Butter and Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Reflecting on this difficult time last year, I am very blessed to spend last week in Houston, with some of my closest, dearest friends. Thank you for feeding us Tamimi family! I didn't get a chance to take any real pictures of these, but I took two on my phone. They don't show how gooey, chewy, and scrumptious they were but trust me, they were.

Nutella Caramel Brown Butter and Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
Adapted from: Tasty Kitchen

2-¼ cups All-purpose Flour
1-¼ teaspoon Baking Soda
¼ teaspoons Salt
1 cup Unsalted Butter
1-¼ cup Dark Brown Sugar
¼ cups Granulated Sugar
1  Egg
1  Egg Yolk
1-½ teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1 Tablespoon Plain Greek Yogurt
¾ cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
½ cups Milk Chocolate Chips
½ cups Dark Chocolate Chips
1 jar of Nutella, chilled in refrigerator
1/2 cup of store bought caramel sauce/topping

Coarse Sea Salt, for sprinkling

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. The butter will begin to foam. Make sure you whisk consistently during this process. After a couple of minutes, the butter will begin to brown on the bottom of the saucepan; continue to whisk and remove the pan from heat as soon as the butter begins to brown and give off a nutty aroma. Immediately transfer the butter to a large bowl to prevent burning. Set the butter aside to cool for a few minutes.

With an electric mixer, mix the slightly cooled butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, vanilla and yogurt until combined. Add the dry ingredients slowly and beat on low-speed just until combined. Gently fold in all of the chocolate chips.

Chill dough for at least 2-4 hours in the refrigerator, or overnight, for best results.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

If making into cookie bars, butter a 9x9 baking dish, and spread half of dough onto the bottom. Cover with 1/2 cup of nutella or more if desired and then add caramel sauce, and finally top with remaining cookie dough. Generously sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. 

To make cookies: once dough is chilled measure about 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball. Flatten the dough ball very thinly into the palm of your hand. Place 1 teaspoon of chilled Nutella in the middle and fold the dough around it then gently roll into a ball. It doesn’t have to be perfectly rolled but make sure that the Nutella is not seeping out of the dough. Add more dough if necessary.

Place dough balls on a non-stick or parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, 2 inches apart and flatten with your hand VERY gently. Really only the tops need to be flattened a bit!

Bake the cookies 9-11 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown. They will look a bit underdone in the middle, but will continue to cook once out of the oven. Cool the cookies on the sheets at least 2 minutes. Sprinkle with a little sea salt. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets after a few minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

Best if served a tiny bit warm.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bridal Shower Coconut Cupcakes filled with Lemon and Cream Cheese Frosting

I'm so happy to have made these bridal shower cupcakes for one of my dearest childhood friends. I am so thankful to share this happy time with her. I was fighting a cold and cough, and lost my voice by the end of the night, but I wouldn't miss it for the world! We've grown up together and I am so excited for this new chapter in her life! Congratulations to the girl who's smile is infectious and her hugs heal your heart. Mariam, you brighten any room you enter and every face that you meet. I pray that you are always shining with happiness and all your days are full of love <3

Here is the Pinterest inspiration picture. And here is a video tutorial on how to frost the cupcakes.

I made some significant changes to the recipe which most likely produces vastly different results. But I couldn't find coconut extract, so instead I substituted the water for coconut milk. I also couldn't find cream of coconut so I substituted 1 cup of shredded coconut, processed very fine in the blender. They were still good and overall had a light coconut flavor, but if you can find that extract, that would provide a more intense coconut flavor. That would be great to add to the frosting too.

Coconut Cupcakes filled with Lemon and topped with Cream Cheese Frosting 
Adapted from: Easy Baked
Yield: 22 cupcakes

2 1/2 cups of cake flour
1 1/4 cups of sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
6 egg whites and 1 egg yolk, at room temp
2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract
2 teaspoons coconut extract (if you have it) 
2/3 cup cream of coconut OR 1 cup of shredded coconut, processed in blender
4 teaspoons water OR 1/2 cup of coconut milk (13.5 oz can)
21 oz. can lemon pie filling
22 cupcake liners

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Add flour, sugar, baking powder and salt to a large mixing bowl and using an electric mixer combine these dry ingredients well. Cut (room temp!) butter into 1 tablespoon sized pieces. Add these pieces one at a time to dry ingredients while blending on low speed. Mix until butter pieces are separated into small bits (no bigger than pea-sized). Add shredded coconut, if using. 

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the rest of ingredients. Slowly add half of liquid mixture to dry, while mixing on medium.  Mix until completely combined. Slowly add the rest of the liquid and mix on high for about a minute until well combined.

Divide batter into cupcake liners in a cupcake tin. Bake for 18-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool in pan for about 15 minutes before removing to cool completely.

If you aren't adding lemon filling, poke holes into tops of each cupcake and use a pastry brush to brush more coconut cream on top of each cupcake. Allow coconut cream to soak in while you make icing.

If you are adding the lemon pie filling, scoop out a hole in the top of each cupcake. Fill with lemon.

Cream Cheese Frosting
Two 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp clear vanilla extract
3 tbsp heavy or whipping cream

Beat the cream cheese and butter together in a medium sized bowl with the mixer on high speed.  Add the sugar and vanilla, beating until smooth.  With the mixer running, gradually add the cream and beat until the frosting looks whipped and creamy. Add a little more cream if necessary until it’s easy to spread. Use a star shaped tip to frost the cupcakes. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Magic Chocolate Flan Cake

The inspiration to make this comes from the mother of my wonderful friends, Dana and Reem. All three are so sweet, just like this cake. I've had the delicious opportunity to eat her cake twice and then I came across this recipe so I had to try making it myself! Their mom makes it with a luscious vanilla cake on the bottom, which I think I like better than the chocolate! Vanilla better than chocolate? Shocking, I know!

You would think that you would pour the flan into the bottom of the pan first and then add the chocolate cake batter on top, so that when you flip it over you get flan on top and cake on bottom. But funny enough, you do it the opposite and the cakes magically swap places while in the oven. Isn't that neat? 

Okay, now. I forgot to buy whole milk at the store when I was buying everything else for this cake. So during mid-baking and discovering that we only had 1% milk and its already late and I really don't feel like going back to the store at this hour, I had to stomp around the kitchen in frustration and decide to risk using the milk with hardly any fat. Hardly any flavor. Hardly any.. anything. How can you expect flan to come out alright with 1% milk? 

Surprisingly, the flan came out perfect. It was thick, creamy, luscious, and I daresay heavenly. My sister-in-law said it was the best flan she ever had! I know I am breaking my baking rule, and making this again. Soon.

I will note that I tried to make the flan in my kitchen aid electric mixer first. Thinking since it's such a magical tool, I don't need to use a blender. Wrong. It kept splashing the mixture out of the bowl. Use a blender. It helps break up the cream cheese into tiny bits and maybe it helps create air bubbles needed for the magic process. 

Chocolate Flan Cake 
Adapted from: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Chocolate Cake
1/2 cup caramel sauce or topping (store bought or homemade)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (1 ounce) cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 12-cup bundt pan, taking care to get in all the nooks and crannies. Pour the caramel sauce into the bottom of the pan (the caramel sauce, if store-bought and thick, may need a quick warm-up in the microwave to be pourable).

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; set aside. 

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the chocolate and butter and microwave at 50% power for 1-minute increments, stirring in between, until the mixture is melted and smooth, about 2-4 minutes. 

Whisk the buttermilk, sugar, eggs, and vanilla into the melted chocolate mixture until incorporated. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined. Pour the chocolate batter evenly over the caramel.

2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk (when split: 1 can)*
2 1/2 cups whole milk (when split: 1 1/4 cups)
6 ounces cream cheese (when split: 3 ounces)
6 large eggs (when split: 3 whole eggs)
4 large egg yolks (when split: 2 egg yolks)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean extract (when split: 1/2 teaspoon)

*The original recipe says to add all the flan ingredients to a blender and process until smooth. I have a standard size (even a tad bit on the large size) blender and I have to process it in two batches because its too much. So split the above recipe in half, process in the blender, and then repeat.  

Slowly and carefully pour the flan mixture over the the cake batter. Place the cake pan in a large roasting pan. Place the roasting pan in the oven and carefully pour warm water into the roasting pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the bundt pan. Bake the cake about 75 minutesuntil a toothpick comes out clean in both the cake and the flan, or until the flan registers 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

Remove the Bundt pan from the roasting pan (the easiest way for cleanup is to leave the roasting pan and water in the oven until it has cooled) and place it on a wire rack to cool completely. Refrigerate for 8 hours .

To remove the cake from the pan, fill a large bowl with hot water and place the bottom third of the Bundt pan in the water for 1 minute. Carefully invert the cake onto a flat plate or cake platter - I do this by putting the cake platter or plate over the Bundt pan opening and then, holding onto the edges of both platter and cake pan, I gently turn the pan upside down while flipping the cake platter. Slowly remove the pan letting the caramel drizzle over the top of the cake. Serve chilled.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pumpkin Cheesecake Cupcakes

Pumpkin spiced cheesecake cupcakes with a gingersnap pecan brown sugar crust.

I made these last year as mini bite sized cupcakes.

This year I shared them with a great group of girls. I had a wonderful time, thank you to Rabbia for sweetly hosting us. 

Sadiah mentioned how shes never had any pumpkin desserts before and that these made her feel warm and cozy inside. :)

I normally just whip fresh cream for my desserts but I saw a seasonal edition of Cool Whip with a french vanilla flavor to it, so I added a little of that to my cream. 

Pumpkin Cheesecake Cupcakes
Yield: 26 cupcakes

26 foil or paper cupcake liners
16 gingersnap cookies

3 whole graham cracker
3 tbsp. brown sugar
3/4 cup pecans
pinch of salt
4  tbsp. melted butter

In the bowl of a food processor, grind all ingredients for crust, except for the melted butter. The mixture should resemble slightly coarse crumbs. Remove mixture and pour melted butter over. Mix until crumbs are wet. Press 1 tablespoon of mixture into the bottom of each cupcake liner. Remember that you will have 2 tablespoons of mixture left for two extra cupcakes. Set aside.

3 packages (8 oz each) Original Philadelphia Cream Cheese, room temperature
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
1 ¼ cup sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with 24 cupcake liners.
Beat together cream cheese, sugar and pumpkin puree until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time. Add spices, vanilla, and heavy cream. Mix until just combined.

Pour 1/4 cup filling over each cupcake crust, dividing evenly. Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes. To reduce cracks, turn off oven and open oven door to let cool 20 minutes, remove cheesecake from oven. Refrigerate. Remove cupcake liners after chilled.

Vanilla whipped cream
1 c. heavy cream
4 tbsp. powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla 
1/2 cup French Vanilla Cool Whip
Cinnamon, to garnish

Add heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla to the bowl of your standing mixer and using the whisk attachment beat on high for 2-3 minutes until stiff peaks begin to form, do not overmix. Add cool whip just until incorporated. Pipe onto cheesecakes. 

Using a fine mesh sieve, lightly dust cheesecakes with cinnamon.
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