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Pioneer Woman is having an COOL giveaway!

PW is having a very sweet and cool giveaway that you must enter by tonight, Wednesday May 20 at midnight!  She is giving away 5 Summertime Ice Cream parties in part with Edy’s/ Dryer’s Ice Cream.  All you have to do is go to her site and leave a comment on why you would like to win an ice cream party. It is that simple, so hurry over now! She even has a bonus giveaway too, but you’ll have to check out her site to find out what it is.  Good luck!

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What is the ultimate pair with chocolate?

Peanut Butter CupcakeWhy peanut butter, of course!

I had quite a bit of leftover American butter cream from some cupcakes I made recently and I did not want to throw it away.  That would be like throwing away money and was something that I was just not willing to do.  I knew I had a taste for chocolate, but definitely did not want just any plain vanilla frosting.  So I decided to make peanut butter cup cupcakes complete with, from scratch, peanut butter cups.

I was very pleased with how these cupcakes turned out.  Not only did they look beautiful, they tasted great too!  They had a nice rich, chocolate cake base and the frosting was very light and nutty.  I definitely felt like there was a great balance between the chocolate and the peanut butter.  Normally I feel like I am eating all icing on cupcakes, but these cupcakes were more balanced.

The peanut butter cups were a breeze to make and definitely added to the cuteness factor.  Here in Charleston, it gets pretty humid, so I would not recommend making these cupcakes if you are going to have very humid weather or the icing may start to look wet and shiny like the picture you see here. I guess that is what happens when peanut butter and humidity combine.  No amount of powdered sugar seemed to fix this problem but you definitely did not notice flavor wise.

The recipe I used for the cupcakes can be found here while the peanut butter frosting recipe is below along with the peanut butter cups.

Peanut Butter Frosting

Ingredients:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter, (not all natural)

8 cups confectioner’s sugar

1/2 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

Method

In a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment cream together peanut butter and softened butter.  Add 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar and cream to combine.  Add in the milk and vanilla.  Combine.  Add remaining confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time until mixture begins to achieve a frosting consistency.  You may not end up using all of the confectioner’s sugar, depending upon the consistency you want.

Once the desired amount of confectioner’s sugar is added, turn the mixer to medium high speed and whip for 3 minutes until mixed thoroughly and smooth.

Icing can be stored in an airtight container up to 4 days.

Source: Feast on this! original

Peanut Butter Cups

1 package (12 oz.) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup peanut butter

2-3 cups powdered sugar

mini muffin liners

mini muffin tins

pastry brush

Method

Line mini muffin liners in the mini muffin tins.  Set aside.

In a bowl, stir together peanut butter with confectioner’s sugar, using 1/2 cup of sugar at a time.  The purpose of the confectioner’s sugar is to sweeten the peanut butter and to dry out the oils in the peanut butter.  You may or may not use all of the confectioner’s sugar, depending on how dry or wet you want your peanut butter to be.  I like mine to feel more like the consistency of gum paste or rolled sugar cookie dough.  Once you have achieved this consistency, set the mixture aside.

Melt chocolate over double boiler or in microwave for 30 second increments until just barely melted.  Stir chocolate together until the heat of the bowl melts the remaining pieces and is smooth.

Using a pastry brush, brush melted chocolate inside each of the mini muffin liners, taking care to coat the liners evenly.  Once desired amount of liners have been coated, freeze until set.  Repeat process again to create a double chocolate coat on the liners.  Freeze again.

Transfer the peanut butter mixture to a Ziploc or pastry bag. Remove chocolate shells from freezer.  Cut off the tip of the bag (about the size of a dime) and pipe peanut butter mixture into the frozen chocolate shells until the peanut butter mixture is just below the top of the muffin cup.  Repeat with all chocolate shells.

Using either a spoon or a squeeze bottle, pour remaining melted chocolate over each peanut butter filled chocolate shell to make a smooth surface like that of a peanut butter cup.  Repeat with each shell.  Freeze or refrigerate all peanut butter cups until set.

Once set, remove from the freezer and remove the mini muffin liners, if desired.

Peanut butter cups will keep up to 1 month in the refrigerator or up to 2 weeks in a cool, dry place.

Source: Feast on This! original

Chocolate Intensity Multiplied

chocolate-intensity-21This past Tuesday was my friend Jodi’s birthday.  I knew I wanted to make something special for her but wasn’t sure what to make.  Cheesecake? Cake cake? Cookies? Cupcakes?  Ah, so many choices.  When I asked Jodi to name her favorite dessert she was speechless.  I mean, if someone asked you to name your favorite dessert you would probably freeze too!  So many decisions.   Mine, however, is a toss up between hazelnut tiramisu and dark chocolate.   She did mention that she loved molten chocolate lava cakes as well as anything else that was chocolate…any kind of chocolate…and that she was not allergic to anything.  Sweet!  This left me total freedom.

chocolate-intensity-slice1

I set out to search for a new recipe.  While I knew of many tried and true, delicious desserts, I was having the hardest time deciding on one.  First I was going to make a chocolate bourbon pecan cheesecake.  Then I decided that I wanted to make a layer cake and decorate it.  Ok, scratch that.  What about take mini lava cakes to her house and baking them on the spot?  Too messy.  So after reading many cookbooks and cake books, I decided upon this recipe.  Chocolate Intensity.  Yes it lives up to the name.  Here is where my problem begins.  I can’t leave a recipe alone. Nor can I ever make a recipe EXACTLY as the recipe states.  I ALWAYS change something no matter what I make.  Don’t ask me why, I just do.

chocolate-intensity

This chocolate intensity cake is now multiplied because it is THAT intense.  While most chocoholics would probably say that they could eat an entire cake, I beg to differ.  I AM a chocoholic and after just a few bites of this rich cake I am satisfied.  It is rich and dense but not sickening sweet.  It is creamy and smooth almost like a chocolate cheesecake, but it is not.  Definitely add the bourbon to the ganache.  Just trust me it is that good. This cake is also best served right from the refrigerator with a glass of ice cold milk.  With the addition of toasted pecans and golden caramel in the ganache this makes for one sexy cake.

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While this cake is definitely perfect to save for a special occasion, it is also too good to wait to make.  Make it as soon as you can.  This is that cake that will have people talking and asking for the recipe…or maybe just moaning with ecstasy!

Chocolate Intensity Cake

Makes one 9″ cake
Ingredients
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Ghiradelli)
12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, preferably softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brewed coffee (I used hot water and espresso powder)
6 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
Method
Preheat oven to 350º F
Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with a parchment round and butter the parchment.

Place chopped chocolate in a large bowl.  Set aside.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat combine butter, sugar and coffee until the butter has melted and the mixture is boiling. Turn off heat.  Gently pour the hot mixture over your chopped chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute then gently stir until chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs vigorously until blended. Add in the vanilla and salt.  Stir.  Slowly temper 1/2 cup of hot chocolate mixture into eggs, whisking constantly. Add the egg mixture to the hot chocolate mixture and whisk to combine well.  Tempering gradually will prevent from scrambling your eggs.

Strain the chocolate batter through a fine wire mesh sieve then pour batter into prepared pan. Set cake pan in a large roasting pan and fill the pan with enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the center is shiny and set but still a bit jiggly. Transfer cake pan to a cooling rack and cool for 20 minutes.

Run a thin knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Place a cardboard round on top of the pan and invert the cake onto it. Remove pan and carefully remove the parchment paper. Refrigerate the cake for at least 2 hours before glazing with chocolate ganache.

Chocolate Bourbon Ganache

makes enough to cover one 9″ cake
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tsp bourbon

Method

Place chopped chocolate in a medium bowl.

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Remove pan from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute then gently stir until chocolate is melted and the glaze is smooth. Gently stir in the bourbon. Transfer glaze to a small bowl and cover the surface of the glaze with plastic wrap and let cool for 5 minutes at room temperature before using.

To glaze the cake:

Place the chilled cake, still on the cake round, on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Slowly pour the hot glaze onto the center of the cake. Smooth the glaze over the top and sides, letting the excess drip onto the baking sheet.

Refrigerate the cake before adding the topping.

chocolate-intensity-slice-3

Chocolate Caramel Bourbon Pecan Topping
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped and toasted
6 ounces heavy whipping cream
4 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup MEC3 caramel topping, or any other caramel topping
2 ounces bourbon
Method
Combine chocolate in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
In either a saucepan over medium heat or in a microwave safe bowl, heat cream to a boil.  Pour cream over chocolate and let stand 1 minute.  Whisk together chocolate and cream until mixture is combined.  Whisk in caramel topping and bourbon until blended.  Fold in chopped, toasted pecans.
Gently pour mixture on top of chilled cake.  Spread out topping as desired.
Refrigerate cake at least 2 hours before serving. Slice with a hot knife for “clean” edged pieces.
chocolate-intensity-slice-4
Cake and ganache source: The Cake Book
Chocolate Caramel Bourbon Pecan Topping Source: Original Recipe

Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes

chocolate-ganache-cupcake-3Happy Friday the 13th!  Today Kevin’s office is having a potluck lunch.  Every time they have ANY sort of food related function whether they are celebrating a birthday, a promotion, or a retirement, they all turn to Kevin for dessert.  No, he can’t bake…well he could if all of the ingredients and recipe were laid out in front of him, but anyway… I have been known as “Miss Mia” from day one of us dating and me sending in sweets to his office.  I don’t know why the guys in his office use “Miss Mia”, considering I acquired that name through Kevin helping out with boy scouts, but it works.  So they always turn to Kevin for dessert and ask what marvelous thing “Miss Mia” could send in.  This gets my gears turning and I try to come up with the most creative flavors or dessert I can think of at the time. While I am famous for my cheesecakes, I certainly can’t send them into the office every week.  That would get expensive!

Today, Friday, the office gets chocolate ganache cupcakes…or Hershey’s Holiday Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache and vanilla frosting…or Hershey’s Holiday Chocolate cupcakes with creme de menthe spiked chocolate ganache and Magnolia Bakery Vanilla Butter cream (well, frosting in my opinion).  Oh, and green frosting too since St. Patty’s Day is next week!

chocolate-ganache-cupcake-4

I can’t even give you one word to describe these cupcakes.  They are just that good. I had one last night at 10:30 after I finished icing them with the green frosting.  Oh my! SO scrumptious!  The cake itself is super light and fluffy.  The ganache is extremely creamy with a very nice light mint flavor and the frosting is like silk.  Normally I am not a fan of “American” butter cream or confectioner’s sugar and butter frosting, but this batch is so smooth and has the consistency of marshmallow fluff.  Delicious!

(Oh…check out the difference that lighting makes in your pictures.  The pictures above were taken with natural light this morning, while the picture right above the vanilla butter cream recipe were taken super early this morning in my kitchen lighting.  What a difference in shades of green!)

Hershey’s Holiday Chocolate Cake with creme de menthe chocolate ganache and Magnolia Bakery Butter Cream

serves 24

Ingredients

2 cups sugar

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup Hershey’s cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup strong black coffee

1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola oil)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Method

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare cupcake pans with liners.  Set aside.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla; beat at medium speed of mixer 2 minutes (batter will be thin). Pour batter into cupcake liners filling 2/3 way full.

Bake 12- 18 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

Source: Hershey’s Kitchens

Creme de menthe chocolate ganache

makes enough to top 24 cupcakes

Ingredients

6 ounces heavy whipping cream

8 ounces Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup creme de menthe

Method

Scald heavy cream in microwave or on stove top.  Pour hot cream over chocolate chips.  Let sit for 5 minutes to allow the chocolate to melt from the heat of the cream.  Whisk mixture together until just combined.  Add creme de menthe and continue to whisk until blended and uniform in consistency.

Let ganache sit on the counter for 10 minutes before topping cooled cupcakes.

When ganache is cooled, lightly spoon a few teaspoons of ganache on top of cupcake, spreading over the entire top of the cupcake.  Let ganache set until “tacky” before icing with butter cream.

Source: Original Recipe

chocolate-ganache-cupcakes-2

Vanilla Butter Cream

makes enough for one 2-layer 9 inch cake or 2 dozen cupcakes

Ingredients

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

6-8 cups confectioner’s sugar

1/2 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Method

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl.  Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla.  Fitted with the whip attachment on medium speed, beat until smooth and cream, about 3-5 minutes.  Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency.  You may not need to add all of the sugar.  If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly.

Use and store the icing at room temperature because the icing will set if chilled.  Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Source: More from Magnolia

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

chocolate-almond-biscotti22This past week I was leafing through recipes and stumbled upon David Lebovitz’s chocolate biscotti.  The pictures looked so amazing, I was practically drooling.  I loved this recipe because it did not require butter and therefore cut out a lot of calories.  Flavor was not sacrificed by doing this either.  Because of the addition of roasted almonds with almond and vanilla extract these little biscottis were bursting with flavor.  Dip them in dark chocolate for an extra treat.  They definitely satisfy the cookie and chocolate craving.

I enjoyed a few biscotti slices that were not baked twice while I cut the second log.  They were so delicious and had a nice crunch like a harder cookie but not as hard as a biscotti.  Yum!  The batch I made also yielded a different amount than in the original recipe.  It could be the way that I cut them or shaped them.  Whatever reason, they were still yummy. I also made my biscotti in the food processor.  I thought that this was MUCH easier than having to use the mixer, but that is personal preference.

Biscotti Dough

makes: 40-50

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cups dutch processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup almonds, toasted and very coarsely-chopped (I used roasted almonds)
3/4 cups chocolate chips

Glaze

1 large egg
2 tablespoons coarse or crystal sugar

2 c. dark chocolate, if desired for dipping or drizzlingchocolate-almond-biscotti

Method

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment add in 3 eggs, sugar, and vanilla & almond extracts.  Mix until smooth.

Gradually pulse in the dry ingredients, then flip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Fold in the nuts and the chocolate chips by hand until the dough holds together.  Take care not to fold in any extra flour.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into logs the length of the baking sheet. Transfer the logs onto the baking sheet, evenly spaced apart.

Gently flatten the tops of the logs. Beat the remaining egg and brush the tops of the logs liberally with the egg. Sprinkle the tops with the coarse sugar and bake for 25 minutes, until the dough feels firm to the touch.  I started checking my dough logs after 20 minutes and removed them when the tops began to crack and the dough was firm.

Remove the cookie dough from the oven and cool 15 minutes. On a cutting board, use a serrated bread knife to diagonally cut the cookies into 1/2-inches slices. Lay the cookies cut side down on baking sheets and return to the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, turning the baking sheet midway during baking, until the cookies feel mostly firm.

Once baked, cool the cookies completely then store in an airtight container for up to two weeks. Dip or drizzle in dark chocolate if desired.

Source: David Lebovitz

Potato Soup in Bread Bowls

potato-leek-soup-in-bread-bowlKevin and I rarely eat out.  If we do go out to eat we normally hit up our favorite sushi place or grab some good barbecue.  Back when we first met, we would frequent places like Panera Bread or Atlanta Bread Company for lunch or a quick dinner.  Kevin loved their soup in bread bowls.  I loved their soups.  The thought of eating a bread bowl on top of a bowl of soup widened my hips even more.   After discovering how much hidden sodium is in soup and bread I stopped eating out at these places.  What I thought was a healthy meal was laden with salt.  Now don’t get me wrong, once in a while it is okay to have these things like when we are traveling or in a pinch, but definitely not all of the time like we used to do.

Since it has been colder here than usual I decided to make potato soup.  Potatoes were on sale a few weeks ago so I stocked up and it was time to use them before they went bad.  I also had a few leeks in my refrigerator, that were on sale this week at the grocery, so I decided to add them as well.  Knowing that Kevin loves bread bowls, I decided that it would be an unexpected surprise that he would enjoy.  Once he found out, he looked like a kid in a candy store!

We like our soups on the thicker side with more of a heavy stew consistency.  This soup was thick and chunky, even though you could puree the entire thing if desired.  It was smooth and creamy without the additional fat from cream and butter.  It was nice and toasty from the bacon, which you could omit if desired.  The bread bowls were nice and fluffy too.  They also had a great nutty sweetness from the addition of flax seed and honey.  This is a great meal whether you have time to make the bread bowls or just the soup.  I hope it puts a smile on your face.

Potato Leek Soup

makes 5 servings

Ingredients

3 slices of thick cut bacon, diced.  I used Smith-field.

1/2 medium sweet onion, finely diced

2 medium/large leek, washed, trimmed, and chopped

1 rib celery, diced

1 lb. 12 ounces potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks

1 1/2 c. low fat buttermilk

2 3/4 c. milk, I used skim

1/2 c. Greek yogurt or sour cream

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Garnish

scallions, chopped

sharp white cheddar, grated

plain Greek yogurt or sour cream

bacon, reserved from frying

Method

In a large pot add chunks of potatoes and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until fork tender.  Drain potatoes and keep warm.

While potatoes are boiling, in a small saucepan over low heat warm the milk and buttermilk.  Keep warm until ready to use.

Combine the drained, cooked potatoes with the warm milk.  Keep warm over low heat.  At this stage you can choose to mash this mixture for a chunkier soup, leave the mixture alone and keep chunky potatoes, or puree the mixture for a pureed potato soup.

In a large pot or dutch oven on medium heat add diced bacon and cook until crisp.  Remove bacon from pot and reserve for garnish.  Turn down heat to medium low heat and add in onion, celery, and leek.  Cook until tender.

Add the potato/ milk mixture to the onion/celery/ leek mixture and stir to combine.  Continue to cook over medium low heat until the soup is thoroughly heated.  In the last 5 minutes of cooking, stir in 1/2 cup of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt.

Ladle soup into bread bowls.  Garnish with sour cream/ Greek yogurt, cheddar cheese, reserved bacon pieces, and green onion.

Nutritional Information (approximately per serving without bread): 263 calories, 4 g fat, 43 carbs, 14 g protein

bread-bowl-1

Whole Wheat Bread Bowls

makes 4 bread bowls

Ingredients

1 c. warm water (110 degrees)

1/2 c. warm milk

2 Tablespoons honey

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/3 c. flax seed, ground

1/2 c. whole wheat flour

1 c. whole wheat pastry flour

2 c. bread flour, divided

2 teaspoons salt

1 egg white, beaten

Sea salt, for sprinkling

Method

In a medium bowl combine warm water, honey, and yeast.  Let sit until it starts to foam, about 5 minutes.  Stir in warm milk.

While yeast mixture is starting to foam: In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all flours, salt, and flax seed, except for 1 cup of the bread flour.  You will need this later while the dough is kneading.  You will use some of it, but you may not need all of it depending upon the stickiness of the dough and the humidity.  Briefly stir flours together and put bowl on mixer fitted with dough hook.

Pour yeast mixture into flour mixture and turn the mixer on low (or level 2 on Kitchen Aid  brands).  Allow the mixer to combine the wet and dry ingredients.   You may need to scrape the bowl down in the beginning to help the mixture along.  Once your mixture has formed a nice dough, begin sprinkling in the reserved flour a little at a time.  As I stated before, you want your dough to be soft but not too sticky.  Once your dough is soft and has formed a ball in the mixer, let the dough knead for 10 minutes on speed 2.

After the dough has kneaded for ten minutes, turn off the mixer and remove the bowl.   Cover the bowl loosely with a towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

Punch down dough.  Let rest for 5 minutes. Equally divide the dough into 4 pieces and knead each piece into a ball.  Place the small “bowls”  of dough onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  Cover loosely with a towel and let rise in a warm place for one hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Brush risen dough balls with egg white and sprinkle with sea salt if desired.  Bake in a 375 degree oven until bread bowls are nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, approximately 30-40 minutes.

Let cool on sheet pan for 5 minutes.  Cut out top of bread bowl, scoop out insides, and fill with desired soup.  Serve.

Oatmeal Is Not Boring

morning-oats-2

I love oatmeal.  I can’t get enough of it!  I think about what my morning oatmeal will be like every night before I go to bed.  (Yes, I know that sounds crazy.)  Oatmeal is a blank canvas and anything can go on it. You can add anything from fruits, to nuts, to dairy…even leftover muffins or cookie crumbs.  I like to add all sorts of toppings!

I normally begin my oatmeal in the microwave when I am in a hurry, but on days that I have more time I cook my oats on the stove top.  I begin with 1/3 cup of old fashioned oatmeal combined with 3/4 cup of water cooked over low heat until the water is almost absorbed.  Why so much water?  Well, after I cook my oats down, I have just enough liquid left to absorb the ground flax seed that I add.  I stir in about 1 tablespoon, although you can add more if like.  Next I stir in my wheat berries and pour my oats into a bowl.

Now comes the fun part….toppings!  Who says oatmeal is boring?  Obviously they do not play with their food.  I normally add in whatever fresh fruit I happen to have in the house.  A little of this…a little of that…a pinch of this…you get the idea!  I like to add plain or vanilla Greek yogurt to my oats as well.  This gives a nice creamy tang that pairs well with the fruit.  I also add another kick of protein with my favorite crunchy almond butter.  My goal is to pack as much protein and deliciousness into every bowl so that it holds me over well past lunch time.  How late can I go until my stomach starts growling?  How late can you go?  Think that the cereal you ate this morning will hold you over?  Try oatmeal and let me know how it goes.

morning-oatsIn my morning bowl:

1/3 c. old fashioned oatmeal

3/4 c. water

1 Tablespoon ground flax seed

1 Tablespoon wheat berries

3 small strawberries, diced

1/3 c. blueberries

1 Tablespoon Greek yogurt, vanilla

1 Tablespoon crunchy almond butter

1 Teaspoon almonds, ground

2 dates, chopped