Sunday, March 31, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookie Nests

I'm not someone with a complicated palate.  When it really comes down to it, all I really want is chocolate cake and cookies.  So this Easter I gave in to my inner child and went for it ... chocolate chip cookies in the shape of nests!  It combines my love of chocolate chip cookies with my obsession with mini eggs.

I slightly adapted a cookie recipe that I found in Baking Illustrated.  The one big thing that this recipe calls for is melted butter.  Most recipes I have seen call for room temperature butter but this will change your mind.  Not only does it work extremely well but it's also much faster to melt butter than it is to get it to room temperature.

Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies: (makes 24 nests)

  • 3/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 bag (188gm) Cadbury mini eggs
Slightly modified from Baking Illustrated


Step 1:  
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.  Take out your mini muffin tin.

Step 2:
Add your melted butter, brown sugar, and white sugar to the bowl of your stand mixer and mix on medium speed with your paddle attachment.  Mix until combined.

Step 3:
In a small bowl, add your eggs, vanilla, and salt.  Pour one of the eggs into your butter/sugar bowl and mix on medium speed until combined. Give it a good mix with a spatula.  Then add the rest of your egg mixture. Mix on medium, and mix with the spatula again.

Step 4:
In a side bowl sift the flour with the baking powder.  Then add this to the rest of the mixture.  Mix on low until combined, you don't need to mix it too long, 10-15 seconds should do.

Step 5:
Pour in your chocolate chips.  You can use your judgement here, if you like lots of chocolate chips then 1 1/2 cups should be good, but you can add more if you like.  You could also add less if you don't like too many.

Step 6:
Grease your mini muffin tin.  I used Pam Baking because it simultaneously greases and flours your pan.  Now put about 1 Tbsp of the cookie dough in each of the mini muffin compartments and push down a little on the centre to make a little well.

Step 7:
Gently press 3 mini eggs into each of the cookies.  Bake for about 15-18 minutes until the tops are slightly browned.

When they're done, you can let them cool in the pan.  Ta-da!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Caramel Crunch Cake

This cake holds a special place in my heart.  I think it's because when I was a teenager, my friends and I would head on down to the local Just Desserts in the evening to grab a coffee and a slice of delectable cake.  We'd sit there for hours just talking and laughing and enjoying each others company.  One of my favourite cakes to order there was their caramel crunch cake.  At the time I had NO idea what was in it.  It was a strange and beautiful mystery to me and to be honest I hadn't thought about it much since then ... until now.

Last week was my birthday and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to give this one a shot.  I figured, it's my birthday, so if it didn't turn out well everyone would just humor me anyway.  Luckily, that wasn't necessary :-)  This cake was delicious!  and pretty easy, I might add.  However, it does take a long time to make because meringue just takes forever to bake.  I would suggest making the meringue the night before, letting it cool in the oven overnight.  In fact, you can make the caramel sauce the night before too.

Meringue 'cake':

  • 300 gm egg whites (about 10 egg whites .. I used the egg whites from a carton)
  • 1 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup ground pecans (you can use almost any nut, I think hazelnuts would be lovely too)
  • small pinch of salt

Whipped cream:

  • 2 cups cold whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup icing sugar
  • 1 pkt whipped cream stabilizer such as 'whip it'  (optional)

Make about half a recipe of my Dulce De Leche Caramel Sauce.


Preheat oven to 250 degrees

Step 1: (Make the Meringue)
In the VERY CLEAN AND VERY DRY bowl of your stand mixer, add your egg whites.  If there is any moisture at all in your bowl the whites will not whip up properly.  Mix on medium speed until frothy.

Step 2:
Gradually add your white sugar and pinch of salt in with the frothy whites and beat on medium speed until the mixture is thick, glossy, and forms stiff peaks.

Step 3:
While that is whipping up, take out a large baking sheet (you may need more than one), parchment paper, and an 8" round cake pan.  Using a pencil, trace the outline of your cake pan onto your parchment paper ... make 3.  You should have parchment paper now with 3 circles drawn on it that are all the same size.

Step 4:
Once your egg white mixture is glossy and forms stiff peaks, gently fold in your ground nuts.

Step 5:
In using a large piping bag or a large zip lock bag, pipe the egg white mixture into the circles you've just drawn on the parchment paper.  You can quickly use a spatula or off-set palette knife to smooth out the tops.

Step 6:
Place in the oven for a long time.  This can take anywhere from 1-3 hours.  Check on it every hour to see how it's doing.  Once it's dry and slightly brown, turn the oven off but leave your meringues in there overnight to let them cool.

Step 7: (Make the Caramel Sauce)
Make your caramel sauce.  Let it cool to room temperature.

When you're ready to assemble ..

Step 8: (Whip the Cream)
Put your cold cream in the bowl of your stand mixer and put it in the freezer for about 5 minutes.  Cold cream whips up faster and better.  Add your icing sugar and your stabilizer (if you're using it) and whip until stiff peaks form.

Step 9 : (Assemble)
Assembly is really easy.  Place one of your meringue discs on a cake stand, plate, or cake board. Cover with 1/3 of the cream.  Using a piping bag and a small round tip (or a squeeze bottle if you have one), drizzle your caramel sauce onto the cream (you can use as much or as little as you like).  Repeat with the next meringue disc.  When you get to the top, drizzle your sauce into a nice design.

And you're done!  Keep this cake refrigerated or the cream will start to melt.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

St. Patty's Day Cupcakes

I feel like I've been planning to make this cupcake for at least a year now.  This was inspired by the Irish Car Bomb shot!  Guinness cupcake, filled with a Jameson ganache, and a Irish Cream whipped cream topping.  It's like dessert, but it gets you drunk...seriously.  Fantastic cupcake for St.Patty's day, and really easy to make.

Stout Cupcake: 

Makes 24 cupcakes (original recipe found on
  • 1 1/2 cups Irish stout (recommended: Guinness)
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a cupcake pan with 24 regular cupcake liners.

Step 1:
In a medium size sauce pan, add the butter and the stout. Melt the butter on medium heat. Then turn the heat off.

Step 2:
In a side bowl, add the cocoa powder and dark brown sugar, mix it around and then add it to the sauce pan. Give it a good mix to combine.

Step 3:
In a bowl, add the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla.  Mix with a fork and then slowly add it to the sauce pan while stirring the chocolate mixture.

Step 4:
In a bowl, sift the flour and the baking soda together.  Then add this to the sauce pan and give it a mix until it's all the same colour.  The batter will be a little lumpy, don't worry, it's perfect the way it is :-)

Step 5:
Fill your cupcake liners to about 3/4 's full  and bake for 13-18 minutes.  I know this is a big range but with a convection fan it took me 13 minutes, but without it you will have to leave them in closer to 18 minutes.  They will spring back when touched if they're done. Or check with a toothpick, it will come out with a couple of soft crumbs.  While they are cooling you can go ahead and make your ganache....

Chocolate Whiskey Ganache:

  • 10 oz dark chocolate ( I used one of those big Lindt chocolate bars)
  • 8 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 4 Tbsp whisky (You might want to start with 3 and then add another one if it's not strong enough, I liked mine with 4)
Put everything into a microwaveable bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds.  Stir until melted and then put the mixture in the fridge to cool (or to make it faster, put it in the freezer, just don't forget about it).  Check on it every 5-10 minutes, you don't want it to get too hard or you won't be able to get it in the cupcakes.  It should be the consistency of chocolate pudding when you fill the cupcakes.

While your ganache is cooling, make your Irish cream whipped topping.....

Irish Cream Whipped Topping:

  • 2 cups heavy cream (very cold)
  • 1/3 cup Irish cream
  • 1/3 cup icing sugar
Put everything in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until stiff peaks.  You can add more Irish cream or sugar to make it taste just the way you like. 

Once your cupcakes are cool and your ganache is the consistency you want it (pudding consistency , you're ready to assemble.

Step 1:
Cut a hole in the cupcake and remove the cake, try to keep the top in tact so that you can place it back but remove a little bit of the cake so there is room for the ganache.  

Step 2:
Fill the cupcake with the ganache and place the top of the cake back on.  To do this I put my ganache in a plastic sandwich bag and cut off one of the corners to create a makeshift piping bag.

Step 3:
Ice the cupcakes with the whipped topping.  I used a big star tip on a piping bag to do this.

Serve immediately (or keep cold until you can serve it).

If you leave it at room temperature for too long the whipped cream will start to lose it's shape.  To help prevent this you can add a stabilizer to your cream before you whip it.  I usually go with Dr.Oetker's whip it which is about a dollar for two small packs.  I think Cool Whip sells one too.  It will be in your local grocery store in the baking aisle.

Yum !!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Easy Homemade Bread

With a little help from a Le Creuset pot (with a lid) you can made wonderful homemade bread.  I don't really make a lot of bread.  I took a class at George Brown College here in Toronto that gave me some of the basics of how to make bread ... this recipe uses NONE of those basics.  Naturally I was skeptical about the whole thing but now, I'm a believer.

This recipe is splattered all over the internet, so much so that I don't know where it actually originated.  I found it on Simply So Good but after reading I also found it on Michael Rhulman's page too although his technique is more like what I'm used to.   The big difference between the two is the technique ... SSG pretty much throws everything into a bowl, stirs it around, lets it rise, and then bakes while Rhulman's technique is more time consuming ... stir ingredients, kneed for awhile, let rise, beat down, let rise again, bake.  Rhulman's technique is much more of what I'm used to but just for kicks I figured I'd make both and see which one I liked better. While I did prefer Rhulman's baking method, it was the rustic texture of SSG's bread that won me over ... no one was more surprised than me!  And it's so freakin' easy!  I made a couple of small adjustments and used a couple of Rhulman's tips.


3 cups flour (I used bread flour but the original recipe calls for all-purpose ... use what you have)

1 1/2 tsp. salt ( I like kosher salt)

1/2 tsp dry active yeast

1 3/4 cups warm water

Step 1:
In a small bowl add your warm water.  Sprinkle the yeast on top and let it sit while you get the rest of your ingredients

Step 2:
In a large mixing bowl, add your flour and salt.  If you want to make some kind of flavoured bread, add in your additions now.  I used fresh rosemary and pickled garlic in mine.  You can use whatever you like ... or nothing at all.

Step 3:
Add your warm water with yeast mixture to the flour and stir.  That's it.  It will be pretty messy looking and definitely sticky. Cover your dough with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight.

Step 4: (once you're ready to bake the bread)
Set your oven to 450 degrees F.

Once the dough has risen dump it out on a floured surface.  Keep flour handy because this dough is very sticky.  Form the dough into a bit of a ball.  It won't be a perfect ball by any means, mine was quite flat, but it works.

Step 5:
Pour a little oil on a paper towel and use that to oil the inside of your enameled cast iron pot.  It doesn't have to be Le Creuset, but make sure that whatever you use can be in the oven at temperatures over 400 degrees.  Some pots have handles that won't take this temperature.  I used my Le Creuset French Oven.

Step 6:  
Place your dough in the oiled pot.  Rub a little oil on the top and use a sharp knife to score the bread (make cuts across the top to allow the bread to expand, you can see my picture below).  Sprinkle with a little kosher salt if you'd like and then put it in the oven with the lid on.  Bake for 30 minutes then remove the lid and reduce the heat to 375 degrees F and continue baking for another 30 minutes.

Step 7:
Take it out of the oven and let it sit for another 20 minutes before eating

That's it!  Super easy and tastes amazing!

Now start experimenting with flavours! Rosemary, cheese, cinnamon raisin, cranberry walnut, orange almond, basil and oregano .... have at it!  :-D

The dough after it has been out overnight ... a sticky mess
Turned out onto a floured surface
Floured and ready to be put into the cast iron pot
Dough has been oiled, scored, and salted

Right out of the oven .... you can almost smell it!

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