Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cinnamon Butterscotch Monkey Bread

It's kinda funny how you can say that you're having a bad day and everyone instantly understands. Just say "I'm having a bad day" and people say "ooooh, no, I'm sorry, would you prefer ice cream, or a foot rub?"

I always vote for ice cream.

Thinking about it... Everyone filters the "I had a bad day" through their own experiences. Could be you got fired, could be your dog died, could be that your car got smashed by a hit-and-run driver while you were in the grocery store and now you have 2 gallons of ice cream slowly melting while you call for a tow truck. But you don't even have to explain; everyone knows what a bad day feels like.

What this is... is "bad day" food.  Yes, I know, I know, we're not supposed to eat our feelings. Whatever. We're grown ups, we can do whatever we want. And what we want is cinnamon butterscotch monkey bread. It'll make your bad day so much better.
I eat my feelings and they taste delicious!


3 tins of refrigerated biscuits (preferably buttermilk) (I used Pillsbury Grands Southern Style)
1 cup of white sugar
scant 1/4 cup of cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 sticks of butter
3/4 cup of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of rum extract
2 tablespoons of vanilla
1½ cups of walnuts, chopped rather small

1) Preheat the oven to 350º.
2) Open the cold biscuit tins, lay out each biscuit on a large cutting board, and cut them into fourths with a very sharp knife.
3) Put all the biscuit pieces into a sealable zip-top freezer bag. Pour the white sugar, cinnamon, and salt on top.
4) Seal the bag & shake 'er up until the biskies are covered in cinnamon & sugar. Put the bag o' biskies aside.
5) In a small saucepan on the stove, melt the butter. It does not have to be completely melted, mostly melted is ok.
6) Stir in the brown sugar, rum extract, & vanilla, and continue stirring until the butter is completely melted and everything is pretty well mixed. Note that the sugar will sit at the bottom & refuse to play well with others, and this is ok.
7) Pop open the biscuit pieces, and pile them all into a bundt pan, scattering walnut pieces here & there as you lay the dough in.
8) Now pour the sugar sauce over the biscuit pieces.
9) Put the bundt pan on top of a cookie sheet to catch drips, and bake at 350º for 30-35 minutes, until the top is pretty firm to the touch and the whole mass isn't very wiggly or soft.  If it feels like raw bread dough, then it probably is raw bread dough.
10) Let the pan rest on a cooling rack for about 10 to 15 minutes, then turn the whole thing out onto a large plate. Dig in!
Note the battered & disheveled "drippings" cookie sheet.

So there you have it. This is actually one of the easiest desserts/breakfasts you will ever make, but it tastes so good.  You can also make these in cute little individual casserole dishes. Surprise! Sunday breakfast!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

MInty Fudgey Oreo Brownies

My parents live in New York, in a little town called Floral Park, right on the edge of a little borough known as Queens. If you're from the United States, you've heard of Queens. It's kinda funny to me how they're right next door to Queens. It's literally one block over.

*Hop here* Right turn on red.
*Hop there* No turn on red.
*Hop here* Busses.
*Hop there* Subway.

Every time we go up to visit them, my dad barbecues. It's his big thing. And it doesn't matter what time of year; it could be freaking December, and we'll have a barbecue. My father & my husband will be shivering over the grill outside, clutching beers & huddling into their coats, while my stepmother & I sit at the kitchen table, shaking our heads and skewering veggie kebabs.

My husband & I are going to a barbecue today--no, not in NY, down here in Virginia. Last time we had dinner with this particular set of friends, I had made Triple Layer Mint Oreo Brownies, by Averie Sunshine of  The male half of the other couple looked at the dessert, grunted, and immediately went back to his jambalaya; apparently my offering wasn't good enough.  His wife later told me that the very next day he devoured the entire pan of brownies on his own when he thought no one was looking. I think sometimes men get into their own little Alpha Male world, where there's no room for us. Doesn't mean they don't love us, though!

So yeah, of course I had to make those again for today. They're my new secret weapon! But I'm skipping some of the original steps, because they didn't seem to add anything to the first experience, and I'm adding a step of my own. You're gonna like this step.

(PS: Yes, I know, I'm using boxed mixes instead of homemade. Haven't you ever had that day where you've gone swimsuit shopping only to discover that while you're perfectly happy in a size XL tshirt, you apparently wear a size HIPPO swimsuit because you can actually hear seams ripping as you try to pull on the bathing suit over your head in the Walmart changing room, so now you're all depressed and oh great, don't forget you have to make a dessert with like 4 different layers on it because it's that one guy's favorite...  Don't judge me. *Sniff*  And if you have had that day, this will totally make it better.)


1 box of brownie mix, plus whatever oil/eggs/water is required per box directions
Step 1: Brownies
1 jar of Marshmallow Fluff, at least 7 ounces
1 tub of vanilla frosting (Homestyle, not Whipped)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon mint extract
Green food coloring
1 package of Mint Oreo Cookies
5 ounces of semisweet or bittersweet Baker's Chocolate
1/3 to 1/2 cup of half & half or cream

1) Preheat oven to 350º.
2) Line an 8x8 or 9x9 pan with aluminum foil & spray with PAM or something similar.
Step 2: Minty stuff
3) Make up the brownie batch. As the last step in mixing the brownies, gently mix in 8 or 9 broken-up Oreos into the batter before turning it out into your prepared pan.
4) Bake the Oreo-spiked brownies as directed on the package, then let the brownies cool completely.
5) Mix together 1 cup of marshmallow fluff & the tub of vanilla frosting.
6) Add in 1/4 teaspoon of mint extract. Keep tasting, and add more mint as needed. I ended up using 1/2
teaspoon of mint extract.
7) Mix in the green food coloring; start with 10 drops of food coloring, then add more as needed until you get the shade of green that you want. Or red. You could use red food coloring. Or blue. Eh, do what you want.
8) Now spread the minty mix over the cooled brownies. Once it's evenly spread, pop the pan into the fridge.
9) While the brownies are in the fridge, make chocolate ganache:
Step 3: Fudgey stuff

  • Roughly chop up 5 ounces (5 squares) of Baker's chocolate. Sweep the chocolate into a small mixing bowl.
  • Measure out between 1/3 and 1/2 cup of half & half (keep pouring until the half & half is between the 1/3 and 1/2 lines on your measuring cup); heat this in a small saucepan or pot on your stove, at low-medium, until it comes to a rolling boil.
  • Slowly pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate in the mixing bowl, whisking carefully; keep whisking gently until the mixture suddenly comes together and looks like chocolate syrup.
Step 4: Cookie stuff
10) Walk away and leave the ganache sitting on your kitchen counter for about 30 minutes. Go read a comic book. Better yet, break up about 15 to 20 more of the Mint Oreo Cookies and leave them on a plate or cutting board or something, and then go read a comic book.
11) After 20 to 30 minutes, pull the brownies out of the refrigerator and carefully pour the chocolate ganache over the top. Spread it out evenly, being careful not to dig into the marshmallow mint layer underneath.
12) Now sprinkle the remaining broken Oreos on top of the chocolate ganache. 
13) Put the whole thing back in the refrigerator to set; make sure it's completely set before cutting into them with a sharp knife.

There you have it. You make your brownies, you throw on some frosting, you throw on some chocolate, you throw on some Oreos. Not bad, right? You could even make these in a muffin pan using cupcake liners instead. These things are insanely sweet and rich, but definitely impressive. You know, if you're trying to impress someone.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ganache-Covered Chocolate Cake with Rum Frosting

Today my husband tried his hand at making beer. There was home-brew paraphernalia all over the kitchen vying for space with my cake-making paraphernalia. I guess I had the advantage though, because he doesn't like chocolate. Even the smell of chocolate will give him a headache after a while.

Isn't that odd?

I mean, I can accept having defective taste buds. Happens to the best of us, and it means he'll never make sneak attacks on my Godiva truffles. But the headache...? Weird, right?

I hope his beer turns out okay. My kitchen is covered in tubing and what appears to be several gallons of oatmeal, but I like to see a man with a hobby. Well, a normal hobby of the non-shrunken-head-collecting variety.

Ever meet someone and you're like.... dang, you need a hobby. Go play some golf, or decoupage coffee tables, or build birdhouses, or or or scrapbooking, everybody likes scrapbooking, right? Go do that.

Me, I bake cakes when I'm bored. Then I find out that there's only like 3/4 of a cup of powdered sugar in the cupboard, so I teach you how to make chocolate ganache to cover a cake.
Like this.

To start, I made my favorite chocolate cake recipe. I made the full recipe, but baked it in 6" cake pans. I just wanted a little cake. Little things are so cute.  I then made a small batch of chocolate rum frosting that had way too much milk & not enough sugar (because I was out of sugar; see above) so I added more butter, frosted each layer of cake separately, and stuck the layers in the fridge for about an hour to get the rum frosting to stiffen up enough to carry a cake.  Finally, late at night, I poured on a coating of chocolate ganache, and then swirls of caramel on top because it's my birthday cake and I ♥ caramel.

Cake: My Favorite Chocolate Cake
FrostingMy Favorite Chocolate Rum Frosting 
Caramel: Easy Microwave Caramels, microwaved for 30 seconds and dribbled on with a fork
Ganache: That's this stuff down there ↓


2/3 cup of half-and-half
7 ounces of bittersweet baking chocolate, rough-chopped

1) Put your roughly-chopped baking chocolate in a medium mixing bowl. Get out your whisk.
2) Place the half & half in a small saucepan & heat it on the stove on low-medium. Bring it to a rolling boil. Be careful! This will happen quickly! Don't leave it unattended because it's guaranteed to boil over as soon as your back is turned!
3) Slowly pour the milk over the chocolate, carefully whisking all the way.
4) Keep whisking slow-to-medium until sauce is no longer grainy. It will suddenly come together and be shiny and perfect like Hershey's Syrup.

Now walk away! Put your un-chocolate'd cake in the fridge, leave the chocolate sitting out on the counter, and walk away for a half hour or so. Go watch an episode of Adventure Time or something.

Once the sauce has thickened (20 to 30 minutes) you can pour it over your cake. Slowly pour it onto the middle of the top, and guide it down to the edges & sides with a spatula.  You can then put the whole thing in the fridge for a little bit just to make sure it hardens nicely into candy-bar-coating consistency.

This would also be really nice poured on top of a cheesecake. Or shortbread cookies. Or bacon (it's the latest craze).

Thursday, July 4, 2013

My Favorite Chocolate Rum Frosting

Have you ever made a frosting so good that you didn't even care what kind of cake you put underneath it? It could be plain white toast, it could be those weird hard breadsticks they sell at the grocery store, you don't care, bring it on!  Well, this frosting is like that. I see leftovers in the fridge and I pull out the bowl and pick off a chunk and it's like candy. Better than a Dove bar. Dip this stuff in chocolate melts and call it truffles. Yummmmm....

As we all know there are a lot of great reasons to make your own frosting. For one thing, you know exactly what's in it. No partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, no sodium stearoyl lactylate, no hexamexadrexablah blah blah. Just butter, sugar, milk, & a pinch of salt. For another, you can put any leftovers in the freezer and it'll keep just fine for months. For months. Can't say that about grocery store frosting.
This is what's in my frosting. And milk. Forgot the milk.

Ok, those are only two reasons, but they're very compelling.

This here is my absolute favorite frosting. I'm a fan of rum extract in general because you get that yummy buttery flavor; I've never used real rum in my recipes because we generally don't keep a lot of liquor in the house. We're not teetotalers, it's just that alcohol is not a priority for me, and my husband prefers beer (or very expensive scotch).

Here's a tip for making your own frosting: the butter must be softened, but not shiny. If it's shiny, then it's too soft, and your frosting won't come together smoothly. Put the butter back in the refrigerator for a little bit, and try again.


1 stick of butter, softened but still slightly cool
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 teaspoons rum extract
A pinch of salt (1/8 teaspoon)
2-3 tablespoons of milk

1) Pop the butter into the mixing bowl of your stand mixer. Mix it with the paddle attachment, on low to medium-low, until it's pretty well spread out and softened in the bowl.
2) Add in everything but the milk, and mix thoroughly. Start off low, and take the speed higher as needed, but don't spend more than a few seconds at a time at the highest settings. Going too fast will melt your butter too much.
3) Once the mixture is a consistent dark brown color all the way through, but the texture is like thick, somewhat dry mud, add in 2 tablespoons of milk. Keep mixing, and you can stay in the higher speeds now.

Then you can take your spoonula (heh. spoonula.  it's like spoon Dracula.) and scoop it into a baggie or piping bag set up in a mug for piping onto your cupcakes. You know. If you're into that sort of thing.

-If it's still too dry, add more milk. Start off at a half tablespoon, and see how that does for you.
-Too wet? Add more sugar.
-Keep tasting the frosting; if it needs more chocolate, then add more chocolate. More rum? Add more rum. -The secret to a good frosting is to keep tasting it until it tastes how you want. Wait, we actually have to eat the stuff first before anyone else gets to? Oh no! What a bummer.
-You can put any extras in a freezer bag and freeze it for next time. Just take it out a couple hours ahead of time to thaw, and remix it as necessary to even out the consistency.

And there you have it. Voila, beautiful chocolate rum frosting that even your kids can eat.  This stuff... It's happy in your tummy.