A Sailing We Will Go…

The oppressive heat of the Florida summer is finally starting to wind down, and it’s time for me to gear up the baking again.

Although, not this week. Due to my guilt at not writing anything since June, I had the brilliant idea of giving a report out on the desserts that I’d tried on a recent cruise that Scott and I took. We were on Carnival, which can be a hit-or-miss when it comes to desserts eaten outside of the main dining rooms. And NOTHING beats their Warm Chocolate Melting Cake.

So, let’s dive on in!

Key Lime with Graham Cracker Crust and Almond Napoleon – Upper Deck Buffet

01927a23dbc6de2e0a8de430bcea3dd965b9fdce43

Florida is a good place to track down decent Key Lime Pie. The best place that I’ve ever had a slice was Key West (go figure). So, you would assume that any port in Florida would have access to the right ingredients.

From the first bite, I could tell that they had probably used a lime-flavored gelatin instead of the fresh lime juice. Granted, it is harder to keep ingredients fresh on a cruise ship, so substitutions are common (I won’t go into the “Mushroom Alfredo” that I know started life as cream of mushroom soup).   And I will give them props for making everything fresh on board (they claim). However, not terribly impressed by it.  Perhaps they should have borrowed some of the fresh limes from the bar.

The almond napoleon also left me a bit wanting. A napoleon is not something that I have had a lot of, but I’m pretty sure that the pastry part is not supposed to be limp. And I think that there should have been a bit of almond flavor.  And it had what I think were blueberries in it.  However, they had no flavor, so I don’t know for sure.

Bitter and Blanc – Main Dining Room

018d6a94dc9edbbdbec1394f790e442a20bec8f47b

I believe that this was supposed to be their version of bread pudding. Normally I stick to the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake at dinner, but this was for research (and I just can’t bring myself to order more than one dessert, even if it is a cruise ship and everyone is doing it.) Anyway, I was excited to try this after reading the description.

Overall, I enjoyed it. The semi-sweet chocolate custard was lovely (I would have loved a little dish of it to pour on top since I there didn’t seem to be enough of it, and the vanilla custard soaked immediately into the rest of the pudding), and the “bread” was flavorful. There was also a lot of it. The top was covered with four croutons (toasted bread cubes, for lack of a better description), that I ended picking off since they were a bit too much on the crunchy side for my taste. Once I got past the top bit of custard, I was faced with about three inches of nothing but bread until I reached the bottom. I dug around until I found more chocolate custard on the bottom, but I was so full from the bread, that I didn’t finish it.

Banana Cake – Upper Deck Buffet

012550c0deb5b9c0f90d57f64a43fed24ebee70721

Normally I am not one to like banana in desserts, but this was a delightful surprise. They called it a banana cake, but it was more of a pie, having a lovely crisp crust on the bottom and yummy and banana-y custard filling. If I wasn’t eating different desserts for research and they offered this dessert every day, I would have stuck with this one any time we ate in the buffet restaurant. Sorry about the half-eaten quality of the picture. Scott dove in before I could get a full glamor shot. The cake is also accompanied by two chocolate chip cookies. Those are pretty good, but I don’t cover them in this post.

Warm Chocolate Melting Cake – Main Dining Room

01be0a74f598cff4dcbbe007416c59da3fa5368818

This must be the Mecca of all chocolate cake desserts. I had never had anything like it the first time I ate one, and I doubt that anything will come close. This is not a chocolate dessert for the faint of heart. This is a warm, dense, gooey, cup of soul-soothing chocolate like no other. The top appears to be just another small dish of chocolate cake topped with powdered sugar. The first spoonful soon betrays the secret hidden inside each cup – this cake has molten goodness straight to it’s core. And this isn’t milk chocolate, either. This is grab-you-by-the-tastebuds-and-shake-you-like-a-dog semi-sweet chocolate.  Served with vanilla ice cream so you aren’t too overwhelmed by the chocolate.

0141dcffee6368ac8d3b300c2fec5ad4c82c9c0eb6

I want one right now. I have the recipe. I will have to try making it.

Linzer Torte and Pear Torte – Upper Deck Buffet

013629e298a0bc86bfd7a5a2f1025760507442c679

I took one bite out of each of these because that was enough. The Pear torte was really a piece of chocolate cake that had a bit of candied pear on top with some vanilla custard or something like it (custard is very popular, I’m noticing). The Linzer torte was a piece of spice cake smeared with a flavorless red jam and latticed with an equally flavorless pastry. In comparing pictures of Linzer tortes with the above photo, I’m thinking that they may need to hire a new executive pastry chef.  Thank goodness for the chocolate chip cookie.

Carrot Cake – On board coffee shop

012174f2ddff3d7d91a373a9c7ad0ddcad8c4643e3

Sweet mother of carrot cakes, this is a tasty thing to eat! Again, Scotty dove in before I had a chance to get a full shot.

This was everything a piece of carrot cake should be – nutty, carroty, just enough spices in the cake, slightly sweet cream cheese frosting…my mouth is drooling just at the thought of it!. And to top it all off, your own marzipan carrot!  We split this while playing multiple rounds of trivia on a rainy afternoon (Silly people thought they could beat me at Ultimate Disney Trivia.  Peasants.)

I have one or two more that I tried, but frankly I’m on so much of a sugar high from just writing all this that I need to stop!  I promise that I will update more often now that the weather has cooled off.  Sure, it’s in the high 80’s vs the mid to high 90’s, but that is a start, right?

Until next time,

Peace, Love, and Cupcakes

Advertisements

Cookies At Midnight

I got to pick the recipe this week since the hubs wasn’t really craving anything in particular. I picked this one due to the fact that I normally don’t do a chocolate cookie base, and I wanted an excuse to buy Oreos. I know, why buy Oreos when I’m making cookies, but Scott likes the variety. 🙂

Original recipe is here: http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/oreo-doodles-oreo-crusted-chocolate-cookies/

What You Need:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

4 ounces coarsely chopped dark or semisweet chocolate

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

12 Oreo cookies, finely-crumbled

And Here’s What You Do:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (besides the sugar and chocolate) and set aside. Place the butter and the chopped chocolate in a microwavable bowl and melt slowly in the microwave, stirring every 15 seconds or so.
  3. Using a stand mixer, combine the chocolate and butter mixture with the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Mix until combined. Gradually mix in the dry ingredients, and fold in the chocolate chips.
  4. Roll the batter into tablespoon-sized balls. Roll in the crumbled Oreos, then place 2 inches apart on a prepared baking sheet. Bake until cookies flatten and surfaces begin to crack, about 12 – 15 minutes. Transfer onto wire racks to completely cool.

Reaction

These little guys are as dark as midnight. They are probably as close to a dark chocolate cookie that I have gotten to yet. They were very crumbly upon moving to the wire rack, but they did firm up once cooled. They also tasted better once cooled, if you believe that. Normally, I like my cookies freshly warm out of the oven, but I do like these better than their toasty predecessors.

photo

Keep an eye on the chocolate while you are melting it. You can also melt it over a double boiler on the stove top. If you do melt it in the microwave, take the bowl out every 10 seconds or so to check to make sure that it hasn’t burned. If the chocolate still holds its shape, try to break it up with a spoon and stir it into the butter. Chances are, the chocolate will yield and will combine easily.

Until Next Time,

Peace, Love and Cupcakes!

Muffins Got the Blues

I know it has been a while since I put up something new. Truth is, we’ve been watching the waistlines around here (or at least trying to), so we decided to give up our weekly homemade treat. That is, until today.

We’ve had some beautiful weather here lately, and Scott and I have been making every attempt to get out in it this long weekend. Sunday’s outing was to a local blueberry farm where you pick your own berries. I’d never been, and now I can’t wait to go back! We came home with 4 pounds of deliciously warm berries (try to resist popping one of those gorgeous and warmed-by-the-sun beauties in your mouth. I dare you!), and my fingers itched to do something with them. I’ve sorted them into two-cup bags for future use. And I came across this beauty of a recipe.

Original recipe is here: http://domesticatedacademic.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/power-muffins-blueberryoatmealyogurtpower/

What You Need

2 cups flour

1 cup oats

2/3 cup sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 ½ cups plain Greek Yogurt

2 eggs, slightly beaten

2 tbsp butter, melted

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup fresh blueberries

And Here’s What You Do

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Either spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray or line with paper liners
  3. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl
  4. Combine all wet ingredients (minus blueberries) in a separate bowl
  5. Carefully fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients
  6. Gently fold in the blueberries
  7. Divide batter into muffin tins
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean

What I Did

The original recipe calls for rolled or quick-cooking oats. I only had old fashioned oats, so that is what I used. I feel that it gives a certain heartiness to the texture. It also called for honey Greek yogurt, but since I knew that I would have leftover yogurt, and I’m more prone to eat the plain, that is what I went with. I also kept a few blueberries back to stick on the tops of the muffins right before they went into the oven. I topped each one off with a small sprinkling of sparkle sugar, and I’m very pleased with the way that they turned out!

Don’t expect a runny or thin batter. Due to the high water content of the berries, the batter alone needs to be a little on the dry and sticky side. And be patient getting the ingredients combined. Just when you think that all of the flour has been incorporated into the wet ingredients, you find another little pocket. Just keep gently working at it, and you will eventually get there.

It will look something like this:

Bit dry

Reaction

Scott and I split one right after the first pan came out of the oven, and we both agreed that they were delightful. The muffin itself is not terribly sweet, having to balance the sweetness of the berries. The moisture from the berries also does a fine job of getting through the batter, so don’t worry about dry muffins. I assure you, they will turn out just fine.

I’m waiting on the reaction from coworkers, as the muffins will be making their way to my work in the morning. I figure that everyone needs a little pick-me-up coming back to work after a three day weekend.

There really should be more of those.  Three day weekends AND blueberry muffins.

Glorious!

Until Next Time,

Peace, Love, and Cupcakes

Butterfinger Cookies

I can see how this recipe could be adapted to use up all the upcoming leftover Easter candy that we are all about to have next week. Maybe nothing terribly soft, but definitely some of the crunchier chocolate candies. I had a lot of fun working with the little Butterfingers, and luckily I found a 10 oz. package in the candy aisle of unwrapped miniature Butterfingers, so a lot of the breakdown work was done for me!

Original recipe is here: http://www.plainchicken.com/2010/08/butterfinger-cookies.html

What You Need

½ cup butter, softened

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup brown sugar

2 egg whites

1 ¼ cups chunky peanut butter (or smooth)

2 tsp vanilla

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

5 (2.1 ounce) Butterfinger candy bars, chopped

And Here’s What You Do

1. Preheat oven to 350. 2. Cream together the butter and sugars. Add in the egg whites and mix well. Mix in the peanut butter and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix well. Stir in chopped butterfingers.

3. Shape into 1 1/2-inch balls and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cookies just start to turn brown. Let sit on cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Cool completely. What I Did

It was fun to get out the mighty chocolate knife again. And Scott was sure to help me clear up the bigger pieces (i.e. he ate them).

photo 1 (3)

Reaction

These smelled very good while they were baking. Scott had to test a few right out of the oven, of course. I don’t think they were supposed to turn out as flat as they did, however. I would like to see if this one can be improved with a little tweaking.

I could see how these could be really good with vanilla ice cream…yum!

photo 4

Until Next Time,

Peace, Love and Cupcakes

Browned Butter Cinnamon Chip Bars

Various coworkers have been bugging me to bring baked things in again. I really haven’t brought anything in since the holidays, so it was definitely time to do so. I learned how to do something new, and I think it turned out very well…
Original recipe is here: http://picky-palate.com/2014/02/03/brown-sugar-cinnamon-sugar-cookie-bars/
What You Need
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose Gold Medal Flour
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup cinnamon chips

2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

And Here’s What You Do
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Line a 9×13 inch baking dish with foil. Place butter into a saucepan over medium heat. Melt the butter and cook until browned, swirling the pan occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool for 20 minutes.
3. Pour the butter into a stand mixer. Add sugar and mix until well combined. Add eggs and vanilla, stirring well. Add flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and cinnamon chips, mixing until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish, and press evenly into the bottom of the pan. Stir together the 2 tbsp of sugar and 1 tsp of cinnamon in a small bowl, then sprinkling over top of pressed dough. Bake for 25-30 minutes until baked through. Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes then cut into square and serve.
What I Did
So, I was making a batch of cookies at the same time, so I got the butters mixed up. It was a little too late for the cookies (which turned out fine even with the extra butter), but it gave me the opportunity to practice with browning butter. What a trip that is! I had never done that before, so I’m glad that the recipe came with instructions on browning butter. Just don’t turn your back on it. It goes from golden and frothy to brown and hearty in a blink of an eye.
See this?
photo 1 (2)
Compared to this:

photo 2 (2)

That is some browned butter in there!  When the bubbles come up a lovely caramel shade, then take it off the heat.

Reaction
I was a little hesitant about these. When I cut them, they seemed to be quite dry and hard. But after trying one of them, the bars seemed to be living up to their promises. I had Scott try one, and he said that they were really good.
So, with a little faith, I took them to work. And they disappeared quickly.
So, apparently they were better than I thought they were.

photo 3

That’s not a great picture, but I forgot to get a pretty one before I went to work.  They look a bit like inedible bricks.

Until Next Time,

Peace, Love, and Cupcakes!

Somoa Cookie Bars

Another Girl Scout cookie season has come and gone, but you can still whip up a batch of these babies to satisfy your Samoa (Or Caramel de Lite) craving!

Origingal Recipe is Here: http://www.crazyforcrust.com/2014/02/samoa-magic-bars/

Here’s What You Need

½ cup butter, softened
1 ½ cups flour
½ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 cups chocolate chips (semi-sweet or milk)
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
18 square caramels, cut in half
1 can (14 ounces) fat-free sweetened condensed milk

And Here’s What You Do

1. Line a 9×13 pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Trust me, you don’t want to try to remove these babies if you don’t have the foil and the cooking spray
2. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a stand mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Add in the flour, sugar, and salt. Once combined, the mixture will be crumbly and look very dry. However, you should be able to press it together with your fingers and have it stick together. (see picture below) Press into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes.
3. Remove hot crust from the oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips, coconut, and caramels. Finish with sweetened condensed milk evenly over the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden around the edges. Cool completely before cutting.
4. Store in an airtight container.

photo (2)

What I Did
I should have thought about the layers on these bars before I dove into the recipe. I should have layered chocolate first (of course they were the little mini chips), then the caramel, then the coconut, then the sweetened condensed milk. It would have looked prettier that way. Instead, I have this lovely mess of mini chocolate chips glistening over the pale coconut. They would have tasted the same either way, but aesthetically would have been more appealing, I think.

As revealed in another post, I am a sucker for sweetened condensed milk. Lord only knows why. There isn’t anything truly appealing about the stuff, and it tends to get everywhere if you don’t pay attention while you are pouring it out of the can. Still, I can’t help but love the way it splodges up and oozes into every nook and cranny of whatever you are baking.

photo(1)

Reaction
Since this recipe contains several of my favorite things, I am an unfair judge as to how these turned out. Scott would have liked them better if the caramel was spread out a bit more, so that can be accomplished by cutting the caramel a little smaller or using caramel chips instead of the squares.

Still, I think that this one will be for the recipe books.

Until Next Time,
Peace, Love, and Cupcakes

 

Duo – Chip Pecan Cookies

After last week’s fiasco of a recipe (although they did turn out to be ok. Just really cakey and soft), I knew that I wanted to step up my game and give Scott something really good this week. I thought about ingredients that I had, and what I wanted to accomplish. I was dreaming up this grand recipe that had cinnamon and pecans and white and semi-sweet chocolate chips in it, and I turned to Pinterest to help me find something that was similar enough to my vision that I could work off of.

Turns out, I pinned exactly was I was looking for a few weeks ago. Yeah, so much for grandiose original ideas.

Whatever. The cookies are awesome. And I feel redeemed.

Original Recipe is here: http://www.thecafesucrefarine.com

 

Here’s What you Need

1 cup butter

1 ¼ cups Brown Sugar

½ cup Sugar

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

1 cup oats

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp cinnamon

1 cup white chocolate chips

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup roughly chopped pecans

 

And Here’s What You Do

1. Melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the sugars until incorporated and smooth. Remove from heat and chill the mixture for 10 minutes.

2. I chopped my pecans during the 10 minute chill out. And measured out the white and semi-sweet chocolate chips for ease of adding to the recipe.

3. Remove the butter and sugar mix from the fridge and stir in the egg and egg yolk and the vanilla. Add the oats, flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon and stir until combined.

4. Stir in the chocolate chips and the nuts. At this point, I removed my rings, washed my hands thoroughly, and went to town on the mix with my hands. The poor spoon could not hold up.

5. Roll into small balls and place on your prepared cookie sheets.

6. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Chill those little cookie dough balls for 30 minutes.

7. Bake the cookies for 14-18 minutes. Let them chill out on the sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

What I Did

Normally, I am not one to chill dough. I have not had good experiences with it at all. But, due to the hearty nature of this dough, I felt that it had a fighting chance of standing up to whatever strange chemical reaction normally happens when I chill dough and it turns out poorly. But, since this dough started out life pretty warm, I thought that it would be ok.

I also used my trusty cookie scoop instead of rolling them into balls.

The recipe calls for 1/4 tsp of cinnamon, but I used more like 1/2 tsp.  I was in a cinnamon mood. And we have plenty.

Oh, and you know that I used the mini chocolate chips.  I bought another bag, just to have them around.

photo 2

Reaction

I didn’t leave these guys for a minute when they were in the oven. I hovered over the door like a mother hen over her newly-hatched chicks. I turned the light on, looked nervously every few seconds…I wanted nothing to happen to these. I should not have worried so much as they turned out perfectly. Not too big, not too dark on the bottom, just all shades of perfect!

I think Scott liked them, as cookies kept disappearing throughout the afternoon as they cooled. Of course, he looks innocent and never knows what I’m talking about when I asked him about the missing cookies…

photo 1

Until Next Time,

Peace, Love, and Cupcakes