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PRETZEL BROWNIE PIE

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Happy Birthday, George! Except, not really. George’s birthday was a few weeks ago. He’s an early April baby, an Aries, who shares a birthday with Hugh Hefner, Dennis Quaid, and Blair Waldorf herself Leighton Meester. And this Aries loooves his brownies. He’s probably one of the few guys out there who will choose to make brownies from scratch on a Saturday night just because he’s craving them something fierce. I always bake him something for his birthday and, as usual, this year I asked him if he wants anything specific. He didn’t really have an answer for me so I jumped in with “…because I saw this recipe and kind of wanted to try it.” It was a brownie. It was a pie. And it was from the previously mentioned cookbook Favorite Brand Name Baking that had the super delicious Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie. After the success of that pie, I was itching to try this “Decadent Brownie Pie” recipe. I was particularly intrigued because instead of flour it called for biscuit mix. Interesting, no? I don’t know why that sounded so interesting to me, but I was just dying to see how that would affect the flavor and texture.

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Luckily George was game, so the Saturday before his actual birthday (he would be traveling for work on the real day) I got to work in the kitchen. And of course, I changed a few things. The pie recipe calls for a typical pie crust, just like the Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie did. And we both said “Yeah, no, that sounds lame,” just like we did for the Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie. This time, I made a crust out of pretzels and store-bought shortbread cookies. It seemed more fitting, and the salt from the pretzel crust would be perfect with the chocolate. I wanted to mix it with shortbread cookies because a) the buttery flavor would add a subtle richness and b) the cookies would pulverize to a smaller crumb that the pretzel wouldn’t be able to fully achieve.

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And that gooey stuff? Yeah, that’s chocolate ganache. Say it with me now: guh-NOSH. I make a mean chocolate ganache that would even make cardboard delicious (okay, maybe that’s a little drastic). Ganache, if you’re not familiar, is a mixture of heavy cream and melted chocolate to create a liquidy chocolate sauce. You can make it a thick or thin as you like, depending on the ratio of cream to chocolate. While ice cream is always welcome, the real topping you want for this pie is the ganache. Just trust me on this. The brownie has a lighter, milkier chocolate flavor (yes, even if you use bittersweet chocolate. I used 62% from Ghirardelli). The ganache’s darker chocolate flavor and warm, gooey texture marries so well with the pie and really makes it sing. Plus, ganache could not be easier to make. For today’s purposes, I’ll lead you to a link online for ganache because I want to cover my ganache recipe in another lesson another day. (Yes, it will be worth the wait!)

The pie is actually better the second day, if that makes any sort of sense. Normally that’s the kind of thing you say about chili, not baked goods, right? But that’s what happened. If you store it in an airtight container, the flavors and moistness of the pie get to mingle a little longer and get absorbed into the entire pie. I would NOT store it with ganache, since it has dairy. Keep the ganache in a separate container, store it in the refrigerator and heat it in the microwave for a few seconds as needed. If you drizzle it over the entire pie and don’t end up consuming the whole thing like you thought you might, then just keep the whole pie in the fridge (airtight container still applies!).

Alright, that’s enough of that. Let’s get to the good stuff.

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::: PRETZEL BROWNIE PIE :::

CRUST:
• 2 cups pretzel sticks
• 10 shortbread cookies
• 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
• 2 TBSP sugar

PIE:
• 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (approx 6 oz by weight)
• 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
• 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
• 1/2 cup biscuit baking mix (I used Pioneer brand)
• 2 eggs
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 1 cup chopped nuts (OPTIONAL! I did not use these. While I like nuts, I don’t like them getting in the way of my homogenous brownie texture, but to each his own!)

1. Preheat oven to 325°.

2. Make the crust. Spray your desired pan (pie pan or springform) with non-stick cooking spray. Measure out your pretzels and cookies, then pulse in a food processor until you have a fine crumb.

3. Melt the butter. Mix melted butter and sugar with pretzel and cookie crumbs. If you need more melted butter to get it to stick together, then knock yourself out.

4. Press mixture to bottom and sides of pan.

5. Next, melt chocolate chips with butter over low heat (or slowly in microwave, in increments of 30 seconds. Stir in between.).

6. In bowl of electric mixer, beat chocolate mixture with sweetened condensed milk, eggs, vanilla, and biscuit mix. Mix until smooth. Pour into pie crust.

7. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

8. While the pie is baking it’s time to make the ganache! I trust Ina Garten’s recipe, but reduce the ingredients by half. You won’t need the entire amount for this pie.

9. Serve the pie warm or at room temperature. Top with warm ganache and ice cream. Dig in. Enjoy the chocolatey coma.

What do you guys normally do for birthdays? Do you demand the traditional cake, or do you like to venture outside the box?

MILKSHAKE MONDAY: BARELY BOOZY HOMEMADE SHAMROCK SHAKE

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Does anyone else have fond memories of Shamrocks Shakes or is it just me? You know, the McDonald’s pastel green, mint-flavored shakes that pop up in March in honor of St. Patrick’s Day? I can hear you now, “Ohhhh yeeeaahhhh…those things…” For some reason I loved them when I growing up. It’s not like I’m an especially huge fan of mint-flavored sweets but the idea of them just makes me all smiley.

The story behind the Shamrock Shake is actually pretty awesome! The shake was created as a promotional item to raise money for charity. Philadelphia Eagles tight end Fred Hill had a daughter suffering from leukemia, and after seeing all of the families who travelled to visit their young, sick loved ones but had no place to stay, Hill and other team members decided that something had to be done to raise money to fix this. Thus, the seasonal shake was added to the menu and the first Ronald McDonald House was built from the profits. Cool, huh? Talk about “pimpin’ joy! You can read all the details here on Irish Central. (Also, if you’re confused about this “pimpin’ joy thing, it all started with the Bobby Bones Show out of Nashville. You can read more about the awesome movement here. #pimpinjoy)

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Image via Irishcentral.com // Image by McDonald’s. I’m lovin’ it.

The last time I got a Shamrock Shake it wasn’t quite as magical as I remember, unfortunately. They’re in the new (i.e. not circa 1989) McDonald’s clear cups and it was marbled in color because the green minty flavoring wasn’t mixed in that well and it was just such a bummer! And is it just me, but does its green color look a little weirder than it used to? It was my first Shamrock Shake in YEARS and here it was, all its magical glory stripped away. Le sigh. It’s all about the presentation, people!

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This year, this girl’s doin’ it for herself.

Ice cream. Milk. Creme de menthe. Bada bing, bada boom! I chose to use creme de menthe as my mint flavor because I have it in my cabinet. Yes, it’s that cut and dry. Also, I didn’t think straight up peppermint extract would do the trick because the shamrock shake is NOT just straight, clean, peppermint flavor. And it’s not really straight spearmint either. So what do you do? Other references online mention using mint syrup, like a coffee-flavoring. If you want to go that route, go ahead. But we’re more likely to use booze (hello, creme de menthe in hot cocoa is kind of awesome) so c’est la vie. It’s also what supplied the green coloring, as our creme de menthe is the bright green stuff, as opposed to the colorless kind. If you want to pump up the color, add a few delicate drops of green food coloring.

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: : : BARELY BOOZY HOMEMADE SHAMROCK SHAKE : : :
• 2 1/2 cups vanilla ice cream
• 1 1/2 TBSP creme de methe
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1/4 TSP mint extract (whatever you have—peppermint, spearmint, etc. It’s just a light dosage to pump up the flavor)

: : : For Sprinkle Rim & Garnish : : :
• 2-3 TBSP chocolate syrup
• 3 TBSP sprinkles
• whipped cream
• cherry or raspberry (I had raspberries so there you go)
• cute straws are a bonus!

1. Place all ingredients in pitcher of blender.

2. Whiz blender for a few seconds, just enough to get everything well-mixed but not overly runny.

3. If garnishing, skip to next steps. If not, pour into glasses and enjoy!

If garnishing…
1. Place chocolate syrup on shallow dish, like a saucer for a teacup. Place sprinkles on second shallow dish.

2. Dip glasses in chocolate syrup, then dip in sprinkles. Carefully turn glasses over so sprinkles stay in place.

3. Carefully pour milkshake mix into each glass. You did it without making a mess? Yay! Good job!

4. Top with whipped cream and cherry or raspberry. Grab a few straws. Cheers!

The painful part of talking about McDonald’s milkshakes is that it makes me want the fries. That is something I haven’t indulged in in…well…a really long time. Dang. Distract yourself, ML. Think about puppies. Rainbows. Salads taste just like french fries (yeah, right).

On another note, how do you guys feel about a semi-regular milkshake feature? Because doesn’t Milkshake Monday feel like a good way to brighten up a case of the Mondays?? What do you think? Are you into it? Or not at all?

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE PIE

Hello.

This is a chocolate chip cookie pie.

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Do you ever have one of those days that’s not really a bad day, it’s a just-fine-day, but it’s just so darn busy/all-over-the-place that you’re like “I NEED A DRINK,”?? Yeah, today was one of those days. After so many hours of being here-there-and-everywhere, you just need to rush home, sip on some whiskey and let your brain chill out. That, however, is not the reason I made this cookie pie. It just happens to be a fabulous leftover that makes my whiskey-sippin’, brain-chillin’, How I Met Your Mother-watching evening that much better.

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It all started when I was cleaning out our bookcase this weekend. Do you have an Ikea Expedit bookcase? Of course you do, because apparently the entire world does. Our Expedit tends to be a major workhorse with each and every cubby chock full of stuff (mostly cookbooks, lots of magazines, random design books, and blog props) but those things tend to look better when they’re clean and organized! Time to reevaluate what we have—what we want to keep vs sell vs donate. As I was cruising through our random assortment of cookbooks we just happened to acquire, I flipped through the pages of one book and passed this recipe—Chocolate Chunk Cookie Pie. Nothing else in the book enticed me at the time so I tore that page out and tossed the book aside to give away (I know, I know, that’s probably terrible but whatever). That pie, however, was quickly escalating to MUST EAT NOW status. That was on Sunday.

I made the pie Monday night. George’s parents were coming into town for a conference and they’d be over for dinner Tuesday night. Do I hear an opportunity for dessert knocking? This seemed like an easy and delicious recipe, so…why not?

Smart decision. It’s fabulous. George gave it a very emphatic “Oh my God.” It’s as delicious as a chocolate chip cookie, but ooey-gooier and who wouldn’t want that?? And yes, it’s totally easy.  I’ll give you some quick notes on what I did, why I did it, and get to this recipe before I ramble on any longer.

PS: This is the book: Favorite Brand Name Baking. And you will be happy to know that I have decided to keep it…a least a little while longer. 🙂

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The original recipe calls for a refrigerated pie crust. I didn't love that idea; for some reason it didn't seem to mesh well in my head. Instead, I went the route of an Oreo pie crust. Mine is homemade because I had Oreo pieces I should use (a bag of these from GFS). If you want to use store-bought, knock yourself out.
The recipe needs salt. The original doesn't have any, and I added 1/4 teaspoon, being careful not to add too much since this was my first time making it. Guess what. It needs more. Anywhere from 1/2 tsp to maybe even a whole 1 tsp would be acceptable, depending on your salty chocolate chip cookie preference.
I used a springform pan because I like how it releases the pie cleanly, and I don't have to dig into a pie pan. There's no necessity for this, other than preference.
I don't use springform pans all that often, so I conveniently forget how they can drip and ooze things like butter. Do yourself a favor and prevent a smoky oven by putting a cookie sheet under your pan if you do indeed use a springform (or even tart) structure.
Sprinkles. I can't resist the urge to use sprinkles. They're cute and fun, and that's really the only explanation I have. Because obviously.

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: : : PIE CRUST : : :
Note, I used a 9.5″ springform pan
• 3 cups ground-up, crushed-to-a-pulp Oreos. Since I already had the pieces, I don’t know how many whole Oreos this requires.
• 1/3 cup melted butter

1. In a large bowl, combine crushed Oreos and melted butter thoroughly.

2. In pie pan/springform pan/tart pan, press mixture tightly to the bottom and sides of pan. If using a taller pan (like a springform), don’t worry about making it all the way up the sides. A partial side crust is totally fine.

3. No need to pre-bake. Nice, right?

 

: : : CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE PIE FILLING : : :
Adapted from Favorite Brand Name Baking
• 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 1/2 cup flour
• 1/2 tsp salt, at least
• 1/2-1 cup bittersweet chocolate, chopped (amount depends on your preference)
• 1/4 cup rainbow sprinkles (optional)
• 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (totally optional)

1. Heat oven to 325°. Mix flour and salt in a small bowl, and whisk to sift.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl with a hand-held electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars until fluffy (about 4 minutes).  Add vanilla and eggs; beat well.

3. Slowly add the flour and salt mixture, beating until incorporated. Gently stir in chopped chocolate and rainbow sprinkles/nuts if using.

4. Pour mixture into pie crust and pop into the oven. If using a springform or tart pan, make sure to place a cookie sheet underneath it.

5. Bake for 45-60 minutes, but please be vigilant in checking on the pie. The original recipe said to bake for 65-70 minutes, but my pie took about 45-50 minutes to bake. Not all ovens are created equal, and not all ovens are accurate in their temperatures. The pie is finished when a toothpick or cake tester is inserted in the center and comes out clean. Be careful not to over-bake, as that will prevent the pie from being ooey gooey!

6. Remove from oven. Cool on a wire rack. Dig the heck in.

I will also mention that this pie tastes waaaay better warm. I’m a huge proponent of warm baked goods. If you’re eating leftover pieces, then pop them in the microwave for a few seconds. Trust me. It’s worth it.

DARK CHOCOLATE COOKIE DOUGH PUDDING PARFAITS

It’s been a little too long since we last posted something. Our excuse is that work became a little too cray and I was just so tired. While I had photos ready, the posts were only just partially written, so let’s get back to normal and make some content! BTW, it will help if you imagine this post going up 3 days ago. Please and thank you. 🙂

• • •

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Sochi-inspired cookie dough!

Let me tell you how this all started.

I was trying to be a good on-topic blogger and find a Russian recipe or two to bring you in honor of the Winter Olympics. I love being festive. But by the time we found something we wanted to make and then actually had the time to make it the “Yay! Sochi Olympics!” excitement was kind of gone. Celebrating the Olympics several days in isn’t as exciting as celebrating the Opening Ceremony. We did try making a traditional Russian mulled spiced drink and spiking it with some good ol’ fashioned vodka, but it was overly cinnamon-y (my fault)and the addition of alcohol made it taste like cough medicine. Blech. Normally, I would not admit to either of those occurrences but you know what? Them’s the breaks, dude.  So you know what’s coming in the next few posts instead? Desserts, y’all! It’s just how my brain works. In terms of cooking vs baking, I’m a more experienced baker, and generally better with the sweet flavor palette overall. The flavors and combinations (and experimental pairings) just tend to make more sense. Which is kind of ironic b/c in terms of having a sweet tooth, it’s actually rather tame.

Cookie dough just sounded really damn good. Like most of y’all, I love a good chocolate chip cookie, and I’m sorry but who doesn’t love cookie dough? I mean, really??? And isn’t a chocolate chip cookie as American as apple pie? So maybe I can spin this eggless cookie dough as Go Team USA cookie dough? Maybe? I’d be real grateful if you’d just smile and nod. Thank you for your cooperation.

While the cookie dough is all well and good and tasty enough to eat on a spoon, is it worth going through the fuss of making a whole batch of eggless cookie dough if that’s all you’re going to do with it? Even if you will really-honestly-put-the-rest-in-the-freezer-I-swear-I-won’t-eat-it-all-I’ll-only-have-a-few-small-bites? No. Buy a log of the Toll House slice & bake stuff, hunker down in a corner with your feelings and a TV show to binge watch and take that thing down while you cross your fingers that you don’t get sick. (But seriously, that’s maybe not a good idea. And if you do that, then maybe don’t blame me if you do get sick. But I’ve totally almost done it. #ionlyateahalf #tryitatyourownrisk)

Eggless cookie dough can go on to bigger and better things! For instance, a pudding parfait. Eggless cookie dough layered with dark chocolate pudding and topped with a creamy marscapone whipped cream? Oh yeah talk to me baby!  For those of you with serious chocolate cravings, this will do the trick. The chocolate pudding is a rich and luscious cocoa dream. And it just so happens that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner still totally valid to celebrate this weekend! Bingo, it’s a festive recipe after all! Whip this up for someone special or for a small party because this will yield multiples. A few notes before we get started…

 

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I added peanut butter to the cookie dough to deepen the flavor. The extra fat from the PB also makes the dough creamier, thus giving us a better texture for straight-up cookie dough eating. Also, I'm a fiend for peanut butter. #canthelpit #dontjudge If you're allergic, try almond/cashew/etc. butter.
If it's just you and your boo (or even just you b/c you're awesome), cut the pudding recipe in half. The rest of the cookie dough can be stored in the freezer for another day.
Make small parfaits. The components are all delicious, but definitely rich. A smaller portion will be perfect. Promise.
If you don't want to use marscapone for the whipped cream, that's totally okay. You can go with virgin whipped cream, or you can do like the fancy chefs do and mix in some sour cream.
The parfaits will keep in the refrigerator for a few days. Just keep your eye on the whipped cream b/c that will be the first part to get funky.
 

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: : : EGGLESS COOKIE DOUGH : : :

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup peanut butter (if you’re allergic to peanuts, use a salted almond butter)
3/4 cups packed brown sugar
2 tsp granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 – 1 cup all-purpose flour (depends on how malleable you want the dough)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Cream together the butter, peanut butter, sugars, vanilla, and salt. Mix for 3 minutes until light and fluffy.

2. Add in half of flour, mix well. Add in rest of flour. Blend until well incorporated.

3. Fold in chocolate chips.

4. Find a spoon. Go to town. Store leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer.

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: : : DARK CHOCOLATE PUDDING : : :
Recipe by Geoffrey Zakarian, Food Network

12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 pinches of fine salt
8 large egg yolks

1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over low heat. In a medium saucepan, bring the cream and milk to a bare simmer. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, vanilla, salt and egg yolks.

2. Slowly pour the milk mixture into the egg mixture to temper it, whisking all the while. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 4 minutes. Pour in the melted chocolate and whisk until smooth.

3. Pour into glasses or custard cups. Refrigerate until chilled and set, about 3 hours.

: : : MARSCAPONE WHIPPED CREAM : : :
Note: This is for topping a few small parfaits, so you may want to increase the quantity depending on your yield goal.

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 TBSP confectionary sugar
1/4 cup marscapone cheese

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or in a medium bowl with a hand-held electric mixer, whip the heavy whipping cream until you have soft peaks.

2. Add the confectionary sugar, then continue to beat until you have stiff peaks.

3. Add marscapone, and blend just until marscapone has been uniformly incorporated.

: : : ASSEMBLING THE PARFAITS : : :

Freestyle! I recommend the cookie dough as the bottom layer, pudding as the middle layer (and the thickest), and the whipped cream as the last. To reference my quantities, I used cookie scoops (the slightly larger size, not the weensie size) to measure it out, except for the whipped cream. It’s one scoop of cookie dough pressed down to fill the bottom, three scoops of chocolate pudding, and a dollop of whipped cream.

So tell us! What desserts did you make for Valentine’s Day? Did you make any fun foods for the Olympics? Inquiring minds want to know!