“PB&J” Cookie Tart

As Amanda mentioned last week with her amazing Scallops with Strawberry Spinach Salad, we are big fans of Masterchef and Gordon Ramsay in general. For this date, we wanted to make something that would fit the “me-on-a-plate” guidance that the judges often give to competitors to inspire them to cook their very best that is close to their heart. I was a bit stumped on this one, but I knew that baking is my first love and it had to be a dessert.

Anyone who knows me knows that trying new food was a bit of a challenge for me for most of my life. Unfortunately do not have a classic, romantic story about how the perfect bouillabaisse in France touched my lips and changed my life, or how I’d grown up eating new flavors that inspired my love of cooking. There were a lot of chicken nuggets and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches in my life and I liked it that way just fine. There still are a lot but, you know,  I space it out now.

Instead I was always eager to whip up a batch of cookies or brownies, and dinner was just a formality to make it through to dessert. So, for this challenge, I wanted to bring the classic flavors any kid would love, that PB&J, and combine it with my love of baking into something remotely masterchef worthy.

Would Chef Ramsay throw it back in my face if he took a bite? Not sure…
Did it all disappear into our tummies by the end of the weekend because we thought it was so delicious? You know that’s right!

Almond Butter Cookie Crust

  • 1 cup almond butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together all ingredients until fully mixed.
  3. Press the dough into a 9-inch pie plate or spring-form pan in an even layer across the bottom and slightly up the sides if able.
  4. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until crust looks dry and has risen slightly.
  5. Remove from oven and using a heat resistant, flat bottomed cup, press gently into the center of the crust to flatten. Press against the sides to form the edges so that you have what resembles a tart crust.
  6. Allow to cool completely before removing from the pan, and save for assembly. Note: This crust is very chewy and delicate so it might help to chill in the fridge before removing from the pan. 

 

Strawberry Puree Whip

  • 1 Packet of gelatin
  • 3 Tbsp boiling water
  • 1 Pint strawberries, greens removed and roughly chopped (can also use frozen, but definitely get some fresh ones for garnish)
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3/4 Cup heavy cream

Instructions: 

  1. Bloom the gelatin in the boiling water and let sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Over medium heat, heat the strawberries and sugar. Add the gelatin and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the strawberries release their moisture and become mushy.
  3. Strain the puree through a mesh sieve to filter out the seeds and allow to cool slightly.
  4. Reserve about 1/3 of the puree for assembly and chill.
  5. In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the heavy cream and the remaining cooled puree. Whip the mixture until there are stiff peaks.
  6. Chill for at least 30 minutes until ready to use.

 

Almond Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 4 tbsp softened butter
  • 1 cup almond butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

Instructions: 

  1. In a stand mixer, mix together all frosting ingredients until smooth.
  2. Chill until ready to use or you can use immediately. Transfer to a piping bag whenever ready for assembly.

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Assembly: 

  1. Make sure the crust is properly cooled before beginning assembly. Spread a thin layer of the reserved strawberry puree over the center of the cookie.
  2. Spread an even layer of the strawberry whip over the puree so that it is level and even with the sides of the crust.
  3. Pipe the almond butter frosting on top of the and top garnish with strawberries as desired.
  4. Chill for at least 2 hours before enjoying.

Wine Pairing: You could go with a sweet dessert wine if you wanted, although that’s a bit too much for me. So I went for a Zinfandel. You still get that PB&J feel, but without wanting to brush your teeth right after!

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Lemon Basil Petit-Fours with Strawberry-Red Wine Filling

As Amanda mentioned in her amazing Guava Cake recipe, the prodigal return of the Great British Baking Show to Netflix has taken us by storm. This show has an amazing ability to make me crave baking like no other, and many a Saturday have been surrendered to bread proofing and pie making after even a small binge Baking Show session. As you have probably seen, Amanda also caught the bug. So, for this Distance Dishes date, we wanted to try a bake we’d never done, and play with some techniques we might not have tried.

I’ve been wanting to try petit-fours for a long time, and when I had my first taste one earlier in 2016, I knew I wanted to try to make it for myself. This was the perfect excuse to do it! I also had a basil plant growing out of control and wanted to incorporate it with complementary flavors and now here we are.

The cake is tart and fresh, the strawberries and wine add berry notes which are all to be tamed by the added sweetness of the pourable fondant. Since this was my first attempt, I did not want to invest in a special cutter, but thankfully with a sharp knife and a ruler, we can still achieve some cute little cakes.

Lemon Basil Pound Cake Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
  • 5 eggs
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, shredded and chopped finely
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, either with a stand or hand mixer, beat together the sugar, butter, and eggs, first on low speed until everything comes together, then on high speed for 5 minutes. Incorporate the milk and lemon juice into the sugar mixture, then add your flour mixture slowly. Beat until smooth. Gently fold in basil leaves.
  4. Spread your cake batter thinly and evenly over the lined baking sheets with an offset spatula.
  5. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until springy when touched.
  6. Allow cake to cool completely before assembly.

Strawberry-Red Wine Filling:

  • 8 oz strawberries, roughly chopped and greens removed
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup fruit forward red wine (I used a red blend with mentions of notes of berries on the label)
  • Pinch of lemon zest, if available

Instructions: 

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat all ingredients over low heat until the sugar granules are dissolved. Increase to medium heat so that the mixture is simmering.
  2. Stir over the heat for about 10 minutes until the strawberries lose their shape and the mixture thickens. The temperature should be around 220°F when finished.
  3. Strain through a sieve to help remove the seeds from the jam mixture.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until ready to use for the cake. Can be stored without canning procedures in the fridge for up to 3 weeks or frozen for up to a year.

Pourable Fondant Icing Ingredients:

  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup hot water (I used plantation lemonade tea for something different, but not necessary)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • food coloring if desired
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips

Instructions: 

  • Melt the white chocolate chips over low heat in a saucepan or in 10-20 second increments in the microwave stirring in between each session until very smooth.
  • Add the powdered sugar, corn syrup, and hot water into a large bowl and stir gently until smooth. You can also use a stand mixer on low if you have one.
  • Add the melted white chocolate and vanilla and stir until smooth. If you’re using food coloring, this is also the time to add until you get the desired effect.
  • It is important to make sure this is still warm when you’re ready to use so make this immediately before you’re ready to dip your cakes (see assembly).

Assembly

  1. Once your cakes have cooled, trim the crust-type edges from the cakes so that you have clean sides.
  2. Portion and cut the remaining cake rectangle into three equal sections as these will make your three layers.
  3. Spread a layer of jam onto one of the new portions. Place another one of the portions on top, and top with additional jam. Top with the final cake portion.
  4. Repeat the trimming, portioning and layering with your other sheet of cake and then freeze all newly layered cake portions for 30 minutes.
  5. Once the cakes have hardened a bit, get out your ruler and a sharp knife and cut the cakes into equal, bite-size squares. I aimed for about 1.25″x1.25″ but however you’re able to portion these equally and what looked right to you will work.
  6. Freeze the cut cakes for another 15-30 minutes and make your pourable fondant just before you are ready to remove them from the freezer.
  7. Once you have your fondant ready, using a fork, slowly lower the mini-cakes into the fondant until submerged and shake off the excess. Carefully lower onto a cooling rack (with liner underneath) to harden. Repeat with all your cakes.
  8. You can decorate your new petit-fours with more melted chocolate drizzled over, sprinkles, or get crazy with traditional fondant if you’d like. Whatever makes you happy!
  9. Enjoy!

Wine Pairing: The obvious choice for this would be to suggest the rest of the bottle you used to make the jam. However, if you’re like me and that bottle is looking a little low because you needed something to do while waiting for the jam, cakes and fondants to harden, then I’d suggest checking out Amanda’s Giggle Water Recipe since it’s a light, refreshing beverage perfect for an afternoon treat. 

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Custard Buns (Lai Wong Bao)

Real talk – I totally messed up this recipe the first time. Putting together a few recipes, I finally found one that works for these Chinese custard buns (lai wong bao, or egg yolk buns). The trial and errors were totally worth it though to relive my favorite snack from my time in Boston! I worked on the outskirts of Chinatown, and picked up one of these custard buns every day on my walk back to the bus. Yum!

There was one special ingredient and special piece of equipment that I had to get for this recipe: custard powder and a bamboo steamer. Custard powder, an uncommon ingredient in American recipes, is a starchy vanilla powder cooked with milk to create a custard. The bamboo steamer, while helpful, could probably be improvised with a colander and wire rack.

Ingredients

Custard Filling

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch or wheat starch
  • 3 tbs cream
  • 1/4 cup custard powder
  • 2 tbs butter

Steamed Bun

  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tbs powdered sugar
  • 6 tbs milk, divided
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

Custard Filling

  1. Heat several inches of water to simmer in a large pot to be used as a double boiler.
  2. In metal or otherwise heatproof bowl, beat together eggs and powdered sugar.
  3. Add milk and heavy cream and combine.
  4. Add flour, cornstarch, and custard powder and whisk until there are no lumps. Add butter and combine.
  5. Place bowl over simmering water and stir continuously until custard has thickened to about the consistency of dense cake batter.
  6. Remove from heat and, once cooled, refridgerate until ready to use in an airtight container.

Steamed Bun

  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Let sit for 10 minutes until mixture becomes frothy.
  2. Stir in flour, sugar, 3 tbs of milk, and salt. Combine thoroughly.
  3. Add additional milk 1 tbs at a time until a dough is formed. Knead for 3-5 minutes until dough is smooth.
  4. Coat with oil and allow to rise for a little over an hour or until dough has tripled in size.
  5. Remove custard from fridge and spoon balls of the custard onto a sheet of parchment paper.
  6. Pinch a ball of dough onto cutting board and spread into a thin circle about 4 inches in diameter. Put a custard ball in the middle of the dough and wrap. Roll around to ensure that the bun is sealed.
  7. Heat bamboo steamer over simmering hot water. Place each bun on a square of parchment paper to prevent sticking. Cover and steam for 15 minutes.

 

Tropical Layer Cake with Guava and Lime

I blame Netflix and The Great British Bake Off for this recipe. Merideth has been a longtime fan and I’ve finally caught on. I can’t help but crave sugary goodness after watching an episode (ok, many episodes).Since I’ve never been great at baking (so many precise measurements!), I decided to start with a basic layer cake. Excited about my upcoming trip to Miami for a long weekend, I decided to go with some tropical fruit flavors. Plus, it has juice so its healthier too, right?

Besides being patient during the cake-baking process, the biggest challenge was molding the fondant – the candy dough that I chose to decorate with. I bought this premade and dyed the fondant myself. My first note to self – make cuts in the fondant to insert the dye, rather than mixing it directly on the surface. I came away with pink hands! Second, and something I wish I had Googled before starting – the fondant can get sticky, especially as you work the dyes in. Like flouring your hands for bread dough, you can use powdered sugar to prevent stickiness.

Ingredients

Guava Cake

  • 1 cup guava nectar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 5 egg whites

Guava Jelly

  • 2 cups guava nectar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

Lime and Coconut Frosting

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbs regular or coconut rum
  • 1 tbs lime zest, optional
  • 3 drops food coloring, or as needed

Instructions

Guava Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cake pans.
  2. Combine guava nectar and vanilla and, separately, combine flour and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. Beat butter until creamy, then gradually adding sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Alternate adding nectar and flour mixture in small portions, beginning with flour, to the butter mixture. Beat at low speed after each addition until fully combined.
  5. Beat egg whites until still peaks form and fold into batter.
  6. Bake until toothpick dipped in center comes out clean, or about 20-25 minutes.
  7. Cool pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks and allow to cool.
  8. To assemble cake, set aside two layers. Spoon guava jelly into center of bottom layer. Top with second layer and smooth edges with bread knife as necessary.
  9. Spread frosting over the top layers and top with shredded coconut or your preferred decoration. Enjoy!

Guava Jelly

  1. Dissolve sugar in guava nectar in saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Make a paste of the cornstarch by adding a bit of water.
  3. Remove nectar from heat and stir in cornstarch.
  4. Once blended, return to heat and boil for 1 minute. Cool in refrigerator before use.

Lime and Coconut Frosting

  1. Beat butter until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar and beat until smooth and fluffy.
  2. Stir in vanilla extract until combined, then lime juice and rum, as well as food coloring and lime zest if using. Beat with a mixer until spreadable and fluffy.

 

Dark Chocolate Avocado Mousse Eclairs

When Amanda and I had this Distance Dishes date, Valentines Day was just around the corner so we wanted to make some recipes that were insanely decadent. To me, that meant something incredibly chocolatey. While an eclair might not seem like the logical first choice, I had some leftover raw cacao paste kicking around my pantry and I thought this might be the perfect vehicle to incorporate some.  I also wanted to do something a little different with the filling, so an avocado mousse seemed like a great experiment.

The result was this celebration of dark chocolate that was so rich, and had a chocolate flavor more pure than I’d experienced in a pastry before. The topping and the filling themselves seemed like they might be too much when combined in one bite, but the buttery pastry breaks it up perfectly and adds in another dimension of flavor. If you have some time to make these, I highly recommend it.

Pate a Choux

I used this recipe without the extra salt: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/sweet-or-savory-pate-a-choux-recipe

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 stick butter (6 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar plus 1/8 teaspoon salt (for sweet)
  • 5 3/4 ounces flour (about 1 1/4 cup)
  • 4 large eggs and 2 whites

Instructions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, boil the water, butter, salt and sugar.
  3. Add the flour and remove from the heat. Stir until a ball forms and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer the ball to a stand mixer and turn on to the lowest stir setting.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time making sure each one is fully incorporated before moving on to the next.
  6. Once all the eggs are added you can check to make sure your dough is the right consistency by checking if it falls off the paddle to your mixer in v-like sheets. If it is too thick, you may need an additional egg white.
  7. Transfer dough to a piping bag or a plastic zip top bag with a hole cut in one corner, and pipe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper into lines about 3-4 inches long, 2 inches apart.
  8. Turn the oven down to 35o and cook for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Once they are cooked, upon removing them from the oven, pierce the sides with a small knife to release steam. This will help them not to collapse in on themselves.
  10. Allow to cool fully and they will be ready for assembly.

Avocado Mousse Filling

Ingredients: 

  • 3 Ripe avocados
  • 1/2 cup of raw cacao paste broken into chunks or cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup of agave syrup or maple syrup (granulated sugar will also work)
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions: 

  1. Peel and mash the avocados in a food processor or blender.
  2. If using cacao paste, heat it over low-medium heat until the chunks are melted. Be careful to keep stirring so that the chocolate does not burn. Add in your sweetener of choice and stir. If using cocoa powder add it and the sweetener directly to the food processor.
  3. Add the cacao mixture to the food processor along with the vanilla extract and salt and pulse until everything is blended.
  4. If the mousse is too bitter for you, feel free to add more sweetener as needed. This can be enjoyed by itself as a tasty dessert treat, or can be the delicious filling for our eclairs.

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Dark Chocolate Ganache Icing

Note: You can find a more traditional recipe for ganache from my previous Chocolate and Peanut Butter Pie post–this is an alternative using raw cacao paste, but feel free to substitute the other recipe as it may be easier to acquire the ingredients. 

Ingredients: 

  • 2/3 cup of raw cacao paste, broken into chunks or cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup agave syrup or maple syrup (granulated sugar will also work)
  • 3/4 cup of heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Instructions: 

  1. Heat the heavy cream over medium low heat so that it is close to but does not boil. Be sure to stir frequently to ensure that it does not burn.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and add the cacao and sweetener to the pan and stir frequently until all the chunks are melted and the mixture is fully incorporated.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Keep warm for eclair assembly.

Assembly: 

  1. Transfer the avocado mousse to a piping bag or something with a piping tip.
  2. Using the side you pierced with a knife already, pipe the mousse into the end of the choux pastry. Be sure to full them as much as you can without overfilling them.
  3. Once all are filled with the mousse, dip the tops into the ganache and allow to cool in the fridge.
  4. After all your hard work, these are ready to be enjoyed! To save yourself one long stint in the kitchen, the choux shells freeze well when they are unfilled so you can make them in advance. In addition, the mousse can also be made one day in advance, but just make sure you don’t eat it all if you want to save some for piping. Enjoy!

 

Wine pairing: With this ode to dark chocolate, you definitely want something bold with notes of chocolate and cherry to go with this decadent dessert. I’d recommend a Zinfandel with those undertones if you can find one, but an Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon are good choices as well ( I mean it’s wine an chocolate–hard to go wrong right?) Happy snacking!

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Chocolate Cookie in a Cast Iron Pan

This started out as a red velvet cookie. Not wanting to buy a bunch of red food dye and trying to pass this off as healthy, I used beet juice! You can buy this at the store or, if like me you want to have beets with dinner, simmer peeled and quartered beets for approximately 40 minutes, reserving the dyed water. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite make the red velvet that I was looking for, but I was still left with a tasty, chocolate cookie that I could say had vegetables in it!

I also liked this recipe because it gave me yet another reason to love the cast iron pan that Merideth got me for Christmas! Previously using it for “steak Sundays”, I loved the pan’s versatility and the giant cookie it let me create. Next time, I think I’ll find an excuse to celebrate (Happy Tuesday?) and frost it.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup beet juice

Instructions

  1. Preheat over to 350F.
  2. Blend butter and sugars with mixer until well combined and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla until well combined and set aside.
  3. Combine flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda. Slowly stir into wet ingredients.
  4. Add chocolate chips and beet juice.
  5. Pour into cast iron skiller (flouring is not necessary) and smooth batter.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes, or until toothpick or fork comes out clean when poked in the middle of the cookie.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Pie

As Halloween is nearly upon us, we wanted to mix things up a bit with deviation from our traditional “dinner” dishes. With this holiday inspiring stores to construct aisles upon aisles of sweets for the grabbing, we wanted to share a few sweets of our own. We wanted to share a few dishes so sinfully indulgent (while still accessible, no one has time for a souffle), that even any lingering spirits on this All Hallows Eve might be envious. While Amanda shared her deliciously tempting, and grown up milkshake last week, I wanted to share a tribute to my favorite dessert combination: peanut butter and chocolate.

A week long children’s pie baking class at the local upscale grocery store was one of my first real cooking experiences. This class ignited my love of baking which has now expanded as I’ve grown older to learning as many new cooking skills as I can. Thus, pie has always been special to me whether it be fruit, vegetable or custard based. Chocolate pies in particular have always been a favorite of mine and peanut butter cups were always the Halloween haul top prize in my candy bucket. Naturally, since these flavors all bring happy feelings, why not combine them into one unbelievably tasty dessert?

While this pie does not require any actual baking, can be a bit time consuming as you wait for the steps to chill. If you need to break into that wine pairing while you’re waiting, I won’t tell.

Peanut Butter Cookie Crust:

  • 16 peanut butter sandwich cookies
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (could use the chocolate darkness you prefer)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Peanut Butter Pie Filling:

  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 3 oz cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream*
  • 1 tablespoon sugar*
  • Peanut Butter cups and melted chocolate for garnishing

*If you’re feeling lazy, frozen whipped topping will also work for this and might actually make for a more stable pie (because of processing). Remove these two ingredients in lieu of one 8 ounce tub; but if you walked past that aisle like me, we’ll make our own whipped cream below–and no hydrogenated oils here. 

Peanut Butter Cookie Crust:

  • Crush the peanut butter cookies into crumbs using either a food processor or putting the cookies in a zip top bag and going medieval on it with a meat tenderizer.
  • Dumb the crumbs into a 9″ pie pan and drizzle the melted butter over the crumbs. Mix with your hands to make sure the butter is incorporated (but, you know, don’t burn yourself so use a spoon if you prefer).
  • Press the crumbs into the sides and bottom of the pan to form a crust. I like to take a smaller pie pan and push it down on top for even coverage.
  • Chill the crust in the fridge while you make the ganache.
  • Also, I know this is a three step pie and if you don’t feel like doing this step and would prefer a store bought crumb crust, I’m not judging. However, I’m not sure if peanut butter cookie crusts are available so you might have to make some graham cracker or chocolate crumb compromises, but you do you–probably can’t go wrong with any kind of crumb crust.

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Chocolate Ganache

  • Heat the cream in a saucepan over medium heat until almost but not boiling.
  • Remove from heat and add chocolate chips and butter, stirring until the chocolate is melted and ingredients are well mixed.
  • Pour ganache into the bottom of the pie crust we made earlier and allow to chill in fridge for at least one hour.

Peanut Butter Pie Filling:

  • If you’re making your own whipped cream, you can make it before or after the rest of the ingredients are mixed together (I’ll let you decide on which logistics work for you). If you’re opting for store bought, skip this bullet and lets meet up in the next step. To make simple whipped cream: using a stand mixer bowl and the whisk attachment or a hand mixer and a large bowl, mix the sugar and heavy cream on medium to high speed for about 5-10 minutes until stiff peaks form. Make sure to not leave this unattended or you will quickly have butter on your hands instead of whipped cream. Set aside.
  • In a large stand mixer, mix together on low speed the peanut butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and milk until all is incorporated (you can also stir together with a wooden spoon instead if you’re feeling strong).
  • Using a spatula, gently fold in the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture in 3-4 portions until incorporated, but be sure not to over mix and lose the lightness of the cream.
  • Gently spread the peanut butter filling over the top of the ganache and over the rest of the pie with the spatula.
  • Top with melted chocolate drizzled over the top and chopped peanut butter cups as desired.
  • Allow whole pie to chill for at least 1.5 hours before consuming (I know it’s going to be difficult).
  • Enjoy your sinful dessert and don’t feel the need to share if you don’t want 🙂

Wine Pairing: Since this dish is already so sweet, some boldness would match well with this so I think a nice Zinfandel with chocolate notes is a good match that would pair with the chocolate but not overload on sugar. Now go kick your feet up with a glass of wine and a slice of pie. You deserve it.

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Brandy Alexander Milkshake

Long training runs for our next half marathon has left me so hungry at the end of the day- and feeling like I’ve earned a treat (not that I ever need an excuse)! I bought some brandy a month or two ago for a braised chicken recipe, and have been looking around for more uses. Add a craving for some homemade ice cream, and I came up with a boozy, creamy milkshake! I chose to use a vanilla custard base for a richer flavor, but traditional ice cream will work too! 

Other cocktail combos I’m thinking of trying:

  • Pumpkin spice liqueur and cinnamon whiskey
  • Creme de menthe and white creme de cacao  (a grasshopper)
  • Bailey’s and creme de cacao
  • Horchata liqueur and cinnamon whiskey

Any other favorite drinks that might benefit from some added ice cream?

Instructions

  • 1 pint ice cream or custard
  • 1/2 cup milk (or to taste)
  • 1 shot (1-1.5 oz, to taste) of brandy or cognac 
  • 1 shot (1-1.5 oz, to taste) of creme de cacao 
  • Chocolate syrup, sprinkles or cacao nibs for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Blend ingredients in blender, adding milk last to desired consistency.
  2. Enjoy (responsibly)!

    S’mores Popcorn

     

    Popcorn is such a wonderful snack. I have always said that even if I am completely full from a large meal, I still can’t resist a handful of popcorn if that buttery scent wafts my way. When Amanda and I have the rare chance to actually see one another in person, we usually like to have a lazy night in front of the television while having some long conversations solving the world’s problems and catching up on each other’s lives. It just so happens that this is also my favorite time to mindlessly munch on something savory. Amanda and I both have a love of chocolate and s’mores as well and so we knew we wanted to dress up popcorn in some way and s’mores are always a favorite.

    To make this yummy popcorn treat, you’ll need:

    6 cups popped popcorn, I prefer salted and buttered if not making it from a microwavable bag

    1 cup chocolate chips

    1 cup mini marshmallows

    4 graham crackers

    • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil (very important as we learned).
    • Spread out the popcorn on the baking sheet and try to remove any uncooked kernels if possible.
    • Crush the graham crackers into small pieces. I prefer to stick them in a zip top bag and pound with a mallet or crush with my hands.
    • In a micowaveable bowl, microwave the chocolate chips in 10-20 second intervals until chocolate is melted and smooth.
    • Drizzle chocolate over the popcorn, and try to avoid large globs. As you can see from our photo though, it’s not always possible.
    • Then, while chocolate is still liquefied, sprinkle the graham crackers and marshmallows over the popcorn.
    • Try to resist chowing down, and allow chocolate to harden. You could stick the pan in the fridge for fifteen minutes, and that usually does the trick.
    • To serve, you can eat straight off the baking sheet or break into smaller clumps and munch from a bowl. Enjoy!

     

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    Boston Creme Cake Balls

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    When I was getting ready for my wedding, I was worried we wouldn’t have enough cake. I wanted to find a solution that would feed everyone delicious sweets and add my personal touch. At the time, I was falling in love with a local Austin shop that specialized in Cake Balls.I meant to serve everyone a few cake balls to supplement the cake we had bought so I started practicing. I ended up having enough cake afterall, but now I love making these cake balls and have added my own twist on the filling.

    I’m sure we’ll look back on them as such a food fad, but I think they are the absolute perfect dessert. They are cake, frosting and chocolate all in one bite without the “I just ate a whole tub of sugar in that frosting” kind of feeling. It’s not too much, but just enough–although I have had days of eating these like candy too.

    This particular recipe I did because I was coming to visit Amanda for her birthday AND graduation from business school all in one day. Since she and I both have connections with Boston, I decided to do my version of Boston Creme Pie in a cake ball.

    I also wanted to celebrate her graduation so I tried to figure out a way to add little hats. They’re not the prettiest, but if you have square molds they might look a bit better. Hats are completely optional obviously, however I used melted chocolate cut into squares attached to a round caramel candy, but anything kind of cylindrical would work and a mini chocolate candy on the top. All of these were “glued” together with melted chocolate and then stuck on the top.

    To make these delicious treats you will need:

    1 box of cake mix baked with the ingredients and per the instructions on the box*

    1/2 to 1 cup of buttercream frosting  (canned is fine, but recipe is below)

    1 box of instant vanilla pudding mix & milk made per instructions on the box

    16 oz of melting chocolate  or chocolate chips of your preferred sweetness

    Your choice of sprinkles or graduation hat topping

    *you can make your own cake with your favorite homemade recipe if you’d like but dipping these guys in chocolate is time consuming enough for me–box all the way

    Makes : about 24

    First, bake the cake according to the box instructions or per your favorite recipe. Allow to cool completely–sometimes I make this the day before. This is also the easiest part because shape and flatness doesn’t matter!

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    First, make the vanilla pudding according to instructions on the box and chill until firm.

    Funnel the completed pudding into a zip top bag and cut one of the bottom corner tips off to create a hole for piping.

    Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and pipe the pudding in little droplets onto the parchment paper so each one is about a 1/2 tablespoon of pudding.

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    You’ll only need 30 pudding droplets at the most so if you’d like to use the rest of the  pudding for something else, you should have some leftover. However, if you’re on a piping roll, these do make good snacks on their own.

    Put the baking sheet of pudding drops in the freezer and freeze until hardened.

    In the meantime, break the cake into chunks and stick in your mixer fitted with a paddle. S

    Spoon buttercream frosting into the cake and mix. The amount of frosting will depend on the kind of day and your preference, but it should make the cake moist enough to form ball that is not crumbly. I typically don’t use as much as other recipes recommend, but it is entirely up to you.

    Chill cake for about 2 hours in the fridge. This will firm everything up.

    Once everything is chilled, melt chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave. If using microwave, I typically do this in 20 second increments, stir and repeat until smooth.

    Also, line a baking sheet or flat surface that is easily transported to the fridge with parchment paper to prepare for the cake balls.

    Then, use a disher or spoon to spoon out equal amounts of  the chilled cake/frosting dough and form into a ball the size of a golf ball.

    Take a pudding drop from the freezer and stick into the ball like you’re hiding a pill for your pet inside a treat.

    Roll the ball in your hands to smooth out and dip in the chocolate.

    I am still perfecting my dipping technique but I have had the most luck with a trusty fork and then shaking off excess chocolate on the side of the bowl. When I transfer to the parchment paper I can usually smooth out the chocolate that was disrupted by the fork and cover with sprinkles or the topping.

    As stated above, if you are using sprinkles as your topping, this is the time to add them while the chocolate is still wet. If doing graduation hats or something that needs to be “glued” into place, wait until everything is hardened.

    Repeat with the rest of the cake and transfer what you have to the fridge for the chocolate to harden.

    Keep in  fridge for 4-5 hours so the pudding inside can melt and then they are ready to consume!

    Enjoy!