Between trying to get the house back in order from new flooring in July, to the magazine, I’ve been been a wee bit busy these past few months. And yes, that has also been the extent of my summer – what have you been up to?
These cookies were inspired by a commenter who wanted to know if I had a peanut butter version of these cookies here. I did not, so of course I had to make some! They are not an exact copy in the sense that there is no delicious candy bar sandwiched in the middle, but they are the same cookie base (just with peanut butter added) and feature decadent chunks of chocolate dispersed throughout. So, thank you Frank – I had fun creating these and hope you get to try them!
The lowdown: Chewy peanut butter cookies loaded with chocolate chunks (1/2 pound!!) make for a delightful peanut butter + chocolate snack. They are very easy to make and are a one bowl affair – always a win!
one 3.5 oz package instant vanilla pudding mix (not sugar-free and not ‘cook & serve’)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 lb. (8.8 oz) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (see note below!)
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl using an electric mixer), combine the butter, peanut butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until creamed and well combined, about 4 minutes.
Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of bowl. Add the flour, pudding mix, and baking soda and beat on low speed until just combined, about 1 minute.
Stop the mixer and again scrape down sides of bowl. Add chocolate chunks (or chips) and mix briefly with mixer on low speed, just until combined - this could also be done by hand with a spatula.
Using a cookie scoop or spoon, form dough into balls and flatten slightly. How much dough you use depends on how big you want your cookies - the original recipe calls for 1/4 C. dough per cookie. However, I used about between 1-2 tablespoons of dough per cookie - give or take a little - and they baked into a good size.
Place balls of dough onto a plate, container, or tray and chill in fridge for 2 hours (or up to 5 days).
Preheat oven to 350° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place balls of dough onto baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart and bake for about 11 minutes, or until the edges have set and tops are just set - they will probably look underbaked, but do not overbake! The cookies will firm up as they cool.
Let the cookies cool on baking sheet for about 10 minutes before serving.
For the chocolate, I absolutely love Trader Joe's 72% Cacoa Dark Chocolate - it's a bittersweet chocolate. I love it because: 1. it's delicious in cookies (uh, chocolate in every bite #win) 2. it's easy to chop (and this is coming from the girl who will always elect to use chocolate chips when possible to avoid chopping chocolate) 3. it comes in 1 pound bars! at a reasonable price!!
Wow. What a last couple of months it has been! I suppose you might be wondering what I have been up to? OK, maybe not, but remember in my last post I mentioned that I was working on a big and exciting project? Now I’m thrilled to be able to tell you more about it.
Since March, my brother and I have been working together to start a magazine devoted to the subject of food photography. I’m super pumped about this. It was a rather quick progression of events, starting with one of my brothers mentioning the idea at lunch one day. I took the idea, played around with it, and then it sort of became a “why not?” situation. It was such a good idea. So after some time on the internet, I approached Landon (my 4th brother and the dude behind most of the photos on here) with a serious proposition to start this magazine thing. Not only did he agree to do it, but to my surprise, he was rather excited about the idea (he’s usually an Eeyore with new ideas).
Long story short, here I am with a deadline to meet and very little time for blogging these days. If you would like to know more about the magazine and its purpose, please visit our website (and PLEASE give us some social media ♥! Though, I have yet to become very active on the social webs yet… one thing at a time, right? ;) – to tide you over until you do though, here is the gist of it: the name of the magazine is Whisk & Camera (“The Art of Food Photography”). It is going to be an online magazine with an option for print-to-order copies published quarterly (3 issues a year). The first issue will be available on August 29th – 9 weeks away!!
We are starting Whisk & Camera primarily because in our current culture that seems to be enamored with food, as well as the photographing, blogging, and Instagramming of food, we truly believe that there is a need for a publication that could help others in their (food) photography endeavors. I know that I, personally, have wished for a magazine geared to food photographers and have been bummed at the lack of one. There are a lot of resources to help people with food photography and photography in general (workshops, countless blog posts, books, etc.), but not one place where a person can find tips and information from multiple food bloggers and photographers… in the same place!
It’s Awesome. So awesome.
So there you have it. I do hope you will visit the website (of which I put a lot of time and effort into… ;P) and I hope even more that you will join us come August!
OK, item No.1 on the list is done, now onto item No.2: these Espresso S’more Bars. These bars have been floating around in my mind for quite some time now.
They are: easy, quick (excluding cooling and chill time, but even then…), tasty, tasty, TASTY! And the oven is hardly needed – 5 minutes of baking time, that’s all. No advanced skills needed for this one, folks. They are a super summer (or any time) treat! I mean, when is graham crackers + ganache + espresso + marshmallowy meringue ever a bad idea? Like, never.
A couple of things to note: I like espresso in my desserts and really liked the idea of espresso combined with s’mores, but, if this combination doesn’t send you delicious thoughts, cut out the coffee granules – no biggie. Secondly, the meringue is technically a Swiss meringue which to me, tastes like marshmallow. I believe I slightly prefer the texture of the Swiss than that of that of a marshmallow meringue, but if you would rather use marshmallow then I recommend this recipe here.
The lowdown: This recipe provides all the delights of s’mores in bar form. A thick graham cracker crust is topped with a lush layer of espresso ganache and then finished with a toasty Swiss meringue. Easy to put together and super delicious, these Espresso S’more Bars will be sure to make your summer extra special!
9 oz (about 1 ½ C.) chocolate, chopped *see note below!!
1 C. heavy cream
1 tbsp. coffee granules (espresso powder would probably work as well)
3 egg whites
¾ C. granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 325° f. Line a 8x8 square baking dish with foil or parchment paper.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Pour in melted butter and stir to combine.
Press mixture evenly in pan (I like to use the bottom of a measuring cup for even spreading). Bake for 5 minutes, or until crust is firm.
Place pan on a cooling rack and let crust cool completely.
While crust is cooling, make ganache.
For the ganache
Place chopped chocolate and espresso powder in a medium-sized bowl.
Heat heavy cream in a small saucepan until almost simmering. Pour over chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes.
Whisk until completely smooth. Cover bowl (I used a kitchen towel) and let sit at room temperature for about 1 hour, stirring with a rubber spatula every 15 minutes.
Pour ganache over crust, cover pan and transfer to fridge. Chill for 1 hour, or until ganache is firm.
Make the meringue
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together egg whites and sugar. Place bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure bowl does not touch water).
Whisk until mixture reaches a temperature of 160° f. or until sugar is completely dissolved and egg whites are warm to the touch, about 3-5 minutes.
Transfer bowl to stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form and mixture is thick, glossy, and marshmallow-like in texture – about 5 minutes.
Remove pan from fridge. Pull bars out from pan and carefully slide off of foil and onto desired serving platter. Spread meringue evenly over top of bars. Using a kitchen torch, toast meringue to desired toastiness – serve immediately or return to fridge until ready to serve.
Leftover bars (what are those?) can be stored in fridge.
For the ganache, I used a combination of bittersweet and semisweet chocolate (1 C. chopped bittersweet and 1/2 C. chopped - or chips - semisweet). I highly recommend this combination but you can use whatever type of chocolate you desire! :) For my bittersweet chocolate, I used Trader Joe's 72% cacao dark chocolate - super yummy (super yummy in cookies too)!
For measuring purposes, my measuring cup was a heaping 1 1/2 cups of chocolate, so don't worry too much getting a perfectly even measure.
Adapted from Southern Lady (crust) Baker Bettie (swiss meringue)
Adapted from Southern Lady (crust) Baker Bettie (swiss meringue)
Where has the time gone? One day I’m blogging in March and the next, April (which is creeping flying closer to May – like, two days close). March kept me crazy busy with kitchen renovations and visiting family. April has been keeping me busy with a new (and very exciting, I might add) project that I can’t wait to reveal soon. *jumps up and down*
We finally renovated our kitchen (actually, it’s still a work in progress) and what a process/experience that has been! When it’s all said and done I hope to share some before, during, and after photos with a little on how we did it, but for now let me just say that sometimes there is a reason you pay professionals to do things for you… It’s not all Fixer Upper and Property Brothers, people. It’s real life everything is out of order and I’m tired of eating fast food and can’t wait to cook an actual meal again. In the end it’s all good but wow, what a process!
I need some popcorn. Popcorn covered in butter. And cinnamon sugar. And maybe some chocolate too. Yes, this my friends, is what I am calling Churro Popcorn. I’m sure it’s been done before, but I refuse to check on this fact so that in my mind of blissful ignorance, mine is the brain behind this recipe. ;^) To me, it seems kind of silly to call this churro popcorn, as popcorn is nothing close to churros. But it was a better name than just calling it cinnamon sugar coated popcorn ⇐ see what I mean?
This popcorn is so easy peasy (and um, addicting!), I really shouldn’t be posting it in recipe format, but here you go!
The lowdown: Popcorn that is coated in butter and then finished with a cinnamon sugar mixture (and…maybe some chocolate too) is sure to please all. Easy as pie to put together and super addicting, this sweet snack would be perfect for parties and gatherings.
For some that means a glimmer of spring shines near off in the distance. For me (and other Texans), well, March arrived back in January. The trees are in bloom and even yesterday my mom and I saw some bluebonnets in full bloom, and bluebonnets never bloom until late March/April… Bleck, bleck, BLECK! (not bleck to the flowers, just the weather!)
I hate warm winters.
Oh, I know; if I lived somewhere where it snowed day after day and had to deal with winter depression I might not mind these warm winters so much, but all I’m asking for is a little balance. A small burst of cold for a few days, then maybe some sunshine and warmer (I don’t mean 60’s or 70’s, either) temperatures and then maybe a little cold again – balance, you know? To put it in the words of Pepi from Shop Around The Corner (best Christmas movie ever): Am I asking too much??
Ah, well – c’est la vie!
Since we’re on the subject of all things bright and sunshiny… where do we stand on Grapefruit?
Grapefruit is a food I’m funny about; I don’t like it plain as it’s too tart for my tastes. But, I do like it in other things – like cake, for example. (Especially cake covered in marshmallow buttercream and topped with a blood orange glaze… ;P )
I am so excited to share this recipe with you guys! All three components have me thrilled to pieces:
1. We start with a buttermilk cake (once again, I love buttermilk cakes as they are usually moist and of course delicious) and give it a little edge by adding grapefruit zest as well as actual grapefruit chunks (if you don’t like the idea of the chunks, just leave them out – no big deal!).
2. To decorate the cake, I made a marshmallow buttercream frosting – which, as a side note, has to be one of the only buttercream that I could eat by the spoonful.
For the frosting, we’re making a basic buttercream and adding a whole jar(!) of marshmallow creme which turns it into pure deliciousness!
3. To finish, I made a blood orange glaze – which turns into a lovely shade pink – for some tangy sparkle. The glaze consists of two ingredients: blood orange juice and powdered sugar. It’s really fun – wait, did I just say a glaze was fun? – and pretty; it adds the right amount of tang to compliment the cake but doesn’t overshadow any of the other flavors.
If you like citrus desserts and need a little sunshine, I highly recommend trying this cake. It’s pretty (I could so see this adorning a dessert table) and not hard at all to make. I’m excited about it and think you would be too!
If you try it, I would LOVE to know how you liked it – comment, send me a message, or SOMETHING, just let me hear from you! :D
The lowdown: A buttermilk cake enhanced with grapefruit zest and actual chunks of grapefruit flesh is covered in a marshmallow buttercream and then finished with a blood orange glaze – the perfect cake to use up some winter citrus!
12 tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, but not too soft!
1 1/2 C. granulated sugar
5 eggs, room temperature
1 C. buttermilk (I highly recommend using full fat buttermilk)
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
3 C. powdered sugar
1 C. (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 (7 oz) jar marshmallow creme (you could try fluff as well)
Blood Orange Glaze
juice of 1 blood orange (1/4 C.)
1 1/2 C. powdered sugar
For the cake
Preheat oven to 350° f.
Spray three 8" round pans with baking spray (this is the kind with flour in it) or grease and line bottoms with parchment paper.
Zest grapefruit and set aside. Then, cut grapefruit in half and scoop out flesh, using the same method you would as if you were going to eat it. Place grapefruit chunks in bowl and set aside.
In a medium sized bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add in grapefruit zest, and using a slotted spoon to remove chunks from bowl (you will want to shake off excess juice), add grapefruit chunks. Toss to combine.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a large bowl and handheld mixer), beat butter for about 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat for 2-3 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition, scraping down bowl a few times as needed.
Add 1/3 flour mixture and 1/3 of the buttermilk. Beat on low speed (or by hand) until just incorporated. Using a rubber spatula and mixing by hand, add vanilla and remaining flour and buttermilk in two batches. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed. The batter will look a little grainy, but that's okay - just be sure you've mixed all of the big flour patches.
Divide batter evenly between pans.
Bake for 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs, or when when the tops of the cakes springs back when lightly pressed in the center.
Transfer pans to a cooling rack and cool in pans for 1 hour, or until no longer warm.
Once cooled, invert cakes onto racks (you may need to coax them by running a knife around the pans).
While cakes continue cooling, make frosting. (Remember, that they already need to be pretty cool when you invert them, otherwise let them cool a bit longer before making the frosting)
For the frosting
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk (or paddle, see note below) attachment, cream together butter and sugar for 2 minutes.
Add marshmallow creme and vanilla and beat for an additional 2 minutes.
Place one cake, top side down, on a cake stand (or whatever you want to decorate your cake on).
Evenly spread about 1/2 C. of frosting on the first layer. Place second layer on top of first, again with the top side facing down. Spread with about another 1/2 C. frosting. Place 3rd layer on top of second, using the same top side down method.
Cover the sides and top of cake with a very thin coating of frosting and freeze for 15 minutes. While freezing, place frosting in fridge.
Remove cake from freezer and spread remaining frosting evenly around sides and top of cake.
Make the glaze
In a small bowl, whisk together fresh blood orange juice and powdered sugar. Note: if you want a thicker glaze, add more powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it reaches your desired consistency.
Pour glaze on top of cake and let drizzle down sides, using as much or little of the glaze as you would like - I didn't use quite all of it.
(Once you have finished decorating, you now have permission to lick any beaters and bowls clean... ;P)
Serve cake immediately, or cover and keep in fridge until ready to serve. If keeping in fridge, bring to room temperature before serving.
For the frosting: I'm not sue if a regular paddle would work or not, but my brother gave me this awesome paddle attachment for our KitchenAid, (which I absolutely LOVE) and is what I used. This special paddle is super great; I now know creamed butter like I've never known it before! It has a rubber coating and a special feature that scrapes the sides of the bowl. Plus, it's dishwasher safe - big win! If you are interested in checking it out, I've included a link at the bottom of this post below the recipe. As a side note: I have not been paid or anything to tell you about this product. I just thinks it's awesome and want to let you in on it! :^)
Adapted from The Dessert Bible (cake) & Food Network (frosting)
Adapted from The Dessert Bible (cake) & Food Network (frosting)