Thursday, July 29, 2010

Italian Chocolate Cookies

Ever since I tasted these cookies three years ago, I have been trying to find a recipe for Italian chocolate cookies that can compare. Unfortunately, my attempts at recreating these fantastic cookies did not even come close. I first tasted these cookies because my boyfriend's mom sends a huge bag of them in a care package around the holidays every year. And of course, I steal a couple...Okay, maybe more than a couple.

Since I have been craving these all summer and the holiday season is nowhere in sight, I finally got around to asking for the recipe. I am so glad I did because I will be making these every chance I get. In fact, these have become my favorite cookie! Their cakey soft texture, delicate spicy flavor, and sweet layer of icing is incredible. You will be wishing it was the holidays just for an excuse to make these constantly.

This recipe is originally doubled, but I think the halved version makes the perfect amount of cookies if you don't plan on sharing. You should definitely double the ingredients for the holidays or else your friends and family might steal all of them from you...Blasphemy! Who does that?!

2 sticks butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup milk
4 1/2 cups of flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda

3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet (or two) with parchment paper.

Mix the melted butter and sugar together until it reaches a gel-like consistency. Add the eggs and milks and mix well. Add the dry ingredients and half the flour. Beat just until combined and then mix in the rest of the flour.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (You can even refrigerate overnight. It makes the dough easier to form into balls.)

Roll into round, shiny balls.

Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Cool completely before icing.

For the icing, stir the 3 ingredients together. The icing should be really thick so that it dries quickly to form a thick layer. You can either drizzle the icing over the cookies or dip the tops of the cookies into the icing. (I found that the dipping was a bit easier.)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookies

I have had a bag of crushed toffee staring at me from the pantry for almost a month now. Not knowing exactly what recipe I wanted to use it in, it has been untouched for far too long. Time to change that.

I was looking through some recipes on for inspiration and saw that over 700 people had reviewed Alton Brown's chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe and had given it all 5 stars. With that many reviews and that high of a rating, these cookies had to be good! Of course, I had to add a slight twist to the recipe by using the toffee pieces. But as far as I'm concerned, toffee only makes things better.

These cookies turned out pretty good, but I think they would have been better had I used actual bread flour. Also, I found that the cooking time listed on the recipe was WAY too long. I shortened it from 14 minutes to 9 because I don't particularly like my cookies burned. Chilling the dough in between batches would also probably have helped the cookies not spread out so much, making them thicker and chewier. I think all these improvements gives me an excuse to make them again...I need to buy some more toffee.

2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups toffee

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet (or two) with parchment paper.

Pour the melted butter in a stand-mixer bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar and cream the butter and sugars on medium speed until they come together and have a gel-like consistency. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour, salt, and baking soda just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and toffee.

Chill the dough for a couple hours and then scoop onto the parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 9 minutes or until golden brown.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mexican Chocolate Crunch Brownies

Alright, here is the third and final Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest brownie recipe! This recipe comes from the 2008 competition.

One of my all-time favorite cereals happens to be Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I eat way too much of it when I'm at college, but I actually haven't had any of it this whole summer. That all changed when I saw this recipe, which uses a whole box of my beloved cereal! My dad took a sample of these brownies once they had cooled, and he proclaimed that they are the best brownies he has ever had. So if you want to make my dad's new favorite brownies, just follow the simple instructions below!

1 box (12.8 oz) Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tbsp corn syrup
1 box (19.5 oz) fudge brownie mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
2 eggs
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3 tbsp cinnamon-sugar (3 tbsp sugar mixed with 1/2 tsp cinnamon)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 13x9-inch pan. I find that it's much easier to cut the brownies if you line the pan with greased aluminum foil. (This makes cleanup easier, as well!)

Place all the cereal in a food processor and pulse until finely crushed. You could also place the cereal in a large resealable food-storage plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin.

In a large bowl, stir the butter and corn syrup until well blended. Add the crushed cereal and mix thoroughly. Press the mixture evenly in pan.

In a large bowl, make the brownie mix as directed on box, using oil, water and eggs and adding cinnamon. Stir in 2/3 cup of the chocolate chips. Pour the brownie batter over the cereal mixture. Sprinkle the remaining 2/3 cup chocolate chips evenly over the batter. Bake for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar evenly over the partially-baked brownies. Bake 14 to 18 minutes longer or until brownies are set when lightly touched in center. Cool and cut into 6 rows by 4 rows.

Peanut Butter Honey Brownies

This Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest recipe is from the competition in 2000. As soon as I saw the words "peanut butter" and "honey" used together, I knew I had to try this recipe. My mom used to make me peanut butter and honey sandwiches for lunch all the time, and I still love to make them every once in a while. As far as I'm concerned, adding chocolate into the flavor mix can only be good thing. I actually liked these brownies a bit more than the Peanut Butter Crunch Brownies because they had more of the brownie flavor and texture, but that's just me. So here is Pillsbury Bake-Off brownie recipe number two!

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1 (15.5 oz) pkg Fudge Supreme Chocolate Chunk Premium Brownie Mix
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
3 tablespoons water
1 egg
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 8 or 9-inch square pan. I find that it's much easier to cut the brownies if you line the pan with greased aluminum foil. (This makes cleanup easier, as well!)

In a small bowl, combine peanut butter and honey and blend until smooth. Set aside.

In large bowl, combine the brownie mix, 1/4 cup butter, water and egg. Spread half of batter in the greased pan. Score batter into 16 squares. Using 1/4 cup of the peanut butter mixture, place scant measuring teaspoon mixture in center of each square. Carefully spread remaining brownie batter over top.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until edges pull away from sides of pan. Cool 45 minutes.

Spread the remaining peanut butter mixture over brownies.

In a small saucepan, combine chocolate chips and 3 tablespoons butter. Cook over low heat until melted and smooth, stirring constantly. Spoon and spread chocolate mixture over peanut butter mixture on brownies. Cool 45 minutes or refrigerate until set. Cut into bars.

I actually ran out of chocolate chips and didn't want to use any more butter, so I just melted what I had in the microwave and put the melted chocolate in a small Ziploc bag. I then piped squiggles of chocolate all over the top. This way, you can see they yummy peanut butter and honey mixture without having to cut into the brownies!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Peanut Butter Crunch Brownies

While web-browsing the other day, I happened to discover the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest website, which is complete with tons of recipes from the years of competitions. I browsed through so many recipes to see what would catch my eye and ended up writing down multiple brownie recipes. I guess I was in a brownie mood or something, but I took it upon myself to make three brownie recipes this weekend. I think my co-workers at the office are going to be very happy on Monday.

This first recipe comes from the 2006 competition. These brownies are super sweet and full of different textures. The brownie layer and caramel makes each bite chewy, the pretzels and peanuts add a crunch, and the peanut butter and chocolate provide a creaminess. Because it has so many layers, this recipe is pretty time consuming. However, if you have an extreme sugar craving and are willing to take on the task of creating these peanut butter crunch brownies, you won't be disappointed.

1 box (19.5 oz) fudge brownie mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
2 eggs
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 bag (14 oz) caramels, unwrapped
1/4 cup water
2 cups slightly broken pretzels (4 1/2 oz)
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 cup powdered sugar
1 jar (18 oz) crunchy peanut butter
2 cups Reese's Puffs cereal, slightly broken

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 13x9-inch pan.

In large bowl, make brownie mix as directed on box using oil, water and eggs. Stir in 1 cup of the chocolate chips. Spread batter evenly in pan. Bake 28 - 30 minutes. Cool.

In a medium bowl, microwave caramels and water on high for 1 minute. Stir and continue to microwave in 15-second increments, stirring after each, until caramels are completely melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in broken pretzels until well coated. Spoon and spread carefully over cooled brownie layer.

In a large bowl, mix melted butter and powdered sugar until smooth. Stir in peanut butter. Stir in broken cereal until well blended. Spread over caramel layer.

In a small bowl, microwave remaining 2 cups chocolate chips on high for 1 minute. Stir and continue to microwave in 15-second increments, stirring after each, until chocolate is melted. Spread over cereal layer.

Refrigerate until chocolate is set and caramel mixture in center is firm, 2 to 3 hours. Let stand at room temperature 10 minutes before cutting. Cut into 6 rows x 4 rows. These are super sweet and rich, so a little goes a long way.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries

This week's weather has been nothing but constant rain. Consequently, I have not been very inspired to bake anything. In order to put some pressure behind baking something new and getting out a blog post, I did what any internet savvy college student would do - I asked people on facebook what to make!

My first suggestion came from two of my aunts who strongly encouraged me to take on the task of making panna cotta. The only thing I knew about panna cotta is that it's Italian and it's some kind of custard/pudding thing. I enlisted a recipe from my favorite Italian chef, Giada de Laurentiis, and went to work. I did like not having to use the oven for once since it kept the kitchen much cooler, but I had to wait all night for the panna cotta to set. I am not a patient person... But as soon as I got home from work, I got to try my new creation.

The flavor is very delicate and subtle, which is very different from the desserts I am used to. (I think drizzling some honey over the top and adding more fruit would make it much more enjoyable for a sugar freak like myself.) The texture is silky smooth and light, which makes it a great dessert for the summer time. Overall, my first panna cotta experience has been very enjoyable, and I have five more ramekins of it waiting for me in the refrigerator!

1 cup whole milk
1 tbsp unflavored powdered gelatin
3 cups whipping cream
1/3 cup honey, plus more for drizzling if desired
1 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt
2 cups fresh berries

Pour the whole milk into a saucepan and whisk in the gelatin. Let the mixture sit for 3-5 minutes.

Place the saucepan over medium heat and stir for about 5 minutes, just until the gelatin dissolves but the milk does not boil.

Add the cream, honey, sugar, and salt. Stir the mixture for 5-7 minutes, until the sugar dissolves.

Remove from the heat and pour into 6 ramekins or glasses. Cool slightly, and then refrigerate for about 6 hours until set. When serving, spoon berries on top and drizzle with honey if desired.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Chocolate Pudding Cookies

With four cookie recipes on my to-bake list, these chocolate pudding cookies were up first. I have never made a cookie recipe that uses so much butter, but this recipe produces so many cookies that it all evens out in the end. I think it ended up making 80+ cookies! Like the Oatmeal and Chocolate Chip "Crack" Cookies, this recipe also uses a form of pudding - instant chocolate pudding mix. The pudding mix makes the cookies soft and moist, which is always a bonus in my book.

2 cups butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
6.8 oz instant chocolate pudding mix
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
4 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars.

Beat in the pudding mix.

Add in the eggs and vanilla beat until well mixed.

Mix in the flour, baking soda, and salt. Then mix in the chocolate chips.

Drop a heaping tablespoonful of batter onto the cookie sheets for each cookie.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cookies are set in the middle.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

I haven't busted out the ice cream maker in way too long. Now, this doesn't mean I haven't been eating ice cream...I have actually been consuming Blue Bell and popsicles non-stop because of the intense heat, but I have been too lazy to attempt the making of my own frozen treats. This ended today when I found a recipe for peanut butter ice cream. Now, I've never actually had peanut butter ice cream, but it sounds good in theory.

When the ice cream maker finished churning and I scooped out the creamy goodness into a container, I of course had to save a little bit on the spoon to try...

Oh my goodness.

I will keep making this for the rest of the summer (or until I gain 10 pounds)! This is seriously the best ice cream I have made yet. Next time, I'm going to substitute Nutella for the peanut butter and see how that comes out. Oh my gosh, imagine a scoop of Nutella and peanut butter ice cream side by side. Now that's ice cream heaven!

3/4 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

Put all ingredients into a food processor and blend until combined.

Chill the mixture over night.

Pour the chilled mixture into your ice cream machine and churn until smooth and creamy.

Place in the freezer for about 4 hours before serving.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Lemon Bars

Out of all the recipes I have posted, this is the one I have been wanting to make for the longest time. Lemon bars have always been one of my favorite desserts, and I have never actually made them myself. They are so delicate and creamy, but still packed with tons of sweet, citrus flavor. In my opinion, lemon bars are the perfect summer treat!

The weather has been horribly rainy for the past couple of days due to the hurricane/tropical storm south of Texas, so I have made it my mission to take advantage of the sucky weather and bake everything I can this long weekend. (I already made some ice cream as well, but that will be addressed in the next post!) My kitchen is definitely getting a workout this weekend, so I hope you enjoy all the posts that are coming your way!

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, cold and cut into small pieces
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
grated ring from 1 lemon
1/2 cup lemon juice (3 lemons)
3/4 cup whipping cream

Preheat your oven to 325°F. Grease a 13x9 inch baking pan.

Mix the powdered sugar, flour, and salt in a bowl. With a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (You could always use a food processor, as well.) Press the mixture into the bottom of the greased pan. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and sugar together until blended. Add the lemon rind and juice and mix well.

Lightly whip the cream and fold it into the egg mixture. Pour over the still warm crust, return the pan to the oven, and bake until set, about 40 minutes.

Cool completely before cutting into bars. Dust with powdered sugar for added eye appeal. I think lemon bars are best when they have been refrigerated for a couple hours. The refrigeration makes them even more refreshing on a hot day.

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