Mint Trifle

Week 5 of the Reddit 52-week baking challenge was trifles. I have never made one of these before, but have drooled many a time at pictures of them. Mint isn’t generally a winter favorite of mine (cool and refreshing are for summer!), but my son is a huge fan of mint so I threw him a bone this week 😉

The dark chocolate layer you see is a fabulous Taste of Home chocolate chiffon cake – http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/chocolate-chiffon-cake – The icing was left off since I was just going to cut it up into chunks anyway. This cake was so light and airy, and my daughter actually (almost) requested this specific cake for her birthday. A winner!

The white layer is just a standard homemade whipped cream, i.e. heavy cream tossed with a bit of sugar and whipped up.

Finally, the Leprechaun-green color is a mint pudding. I had to “wing it” for this, as the only recipes I found online were for chocolate mint pudding, and that wouldn’t get me a cool green color 🙂 Layers are alternated, and a few crushed Andes candies are on top for good measure.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Mint Trifle
An easy and versatile recipe! Just cake, pudding, and whipped cream in alternating layers.
mint trifle
Course Desserts
Servings
Ingredients
Course Desserts
Servings
Ingredients
mint trifle
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan off the heat, whisk together your sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Slowly add in milk while whisking. Add your food coloring now; I used about 3 drops of green leaf gel coloring.
  2. Cook on medium heat while whisking. It will thicken and start to boil. Boil for 1 minute more while stirring.
  3. Take about 1/4 cup of the hot pudding and mix with your egg yolks in a separate small bowl. You are "tempering" them so you don't get scrambled eggs! Now add your yolks back into your saucepan of boiling pudding. Keep whisking and boil for 1 more minute.
  4. Stir in the cut up butter and peppermint extract.
  5. Strain your hot pudding into a separate bowl to get rid of lumps. Pour into dessert cups, Pyrex container, another bowl, etc. Let cool for 2 or 3 minutes and place plastic wrap on top to prevent a skin from forming.
  6. Refrigerate for at least an hour to firm up and get cold.
Recipe Notes

Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker's vanilla pudding.

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Homemade Fortune Cookies

Happy Chinese New Year! Week 4 Reddit baking challenge – https://www.reddit.com/r/52weeksofbaking/ – was something Chinese New Year related. Surely fortune cookies are authentic, right?!

I really can’t speak to their authenticity, but they are a part of the American Chinese food tradition, so I’ll just go with it 😉

These cookies fall into the category of *why bother* because they are so cheap to buy. My reason is simple – Because I can! I get a kick out of attempting something so commonplace (like these!). The effort put into these cookies used to be a requirement, and now they are so prevalent that we just pitch what we don’t eat into the trash. I appreciate these little guys now 🙂

The recipe below in the link is spot on in taste, but not texture. These aren’t as crisp as a packaged one, but the flavor is there! Also prepare to burn a few fingers, as you have to work quickly molding your cookies by hand into the required shape. Parchment paper is your friend, as chiseling hot cookie batter off your pan is the opposite of fun…not that I know from experience 😉 Your first few will be duds, but keep at it and you’ll improve!

Official link to recipe – http://allrecipes.com/recipe/9684/fortune-cookies-i/ – Thank you random Allrecipes stranger for helping me bake homemade fortune cookies! BTW – I altered the batter and included 2 tablespoons of water, as per some of the reviews. The original batter is extremely thick.

Enjoy!

Little Lemon Pudding Cakes

Something about winter makes me crave lemon/lime/orange stuff. Maybe my body trying to avoid scurvy during these cold and gray Pennsylvania days? I’m not entirely sure, but it will be my excuse for making these lovely little lemon pudding cakes!

You may be asking, “Wait…is this PUDDING or CAKE? Make up your mind, woman!” They are in fact both – light springy cake on top and creamy lemon pudding hiding underneath. Perfect for 35 degree weather and pretending it’s another season entirely!

You will find exactly zero lemon zest in this recipe because I truly hate zesting anything. Maybe I have the wrong tools, maybe probably I’m too lazy to scrape my knuckles against my grater for a teaspoon of fruit peel, but I’ll pass on that nonsense. I have, however, found a close second to zesting…CITRUS OILS. Think extracts but stronger and much less is needed. They give fabulous flavor without the hassle 🙂

Enjoy!

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Little Lemon Pudding Cakes
Easy to bake lemon pudding cakes in individual portion sizes.
lemon pudding cakes
Course Desserts
Servings
Ingredients
Course Desserts
Servings
Ingredients
lemon pudding cakes
Instructions
  1. Grease 6 ramekins and lightly dust with a bit of sugar. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Using a hand mixer, gently blend together egg yolks, milk, bottled lemon juice, and lemon flavoring oil. You want a smooth consistency.
  4. Sift your flour, sugar, and salt into the egg/milk mixture and blend the batter briefly.
  5. In another small bowl, mix your egg whites until the soft peak stage. Fold the whites into your lemon batter.
  6. Ladle your batter into your ramekins and place them into a large pan. I just used a glass 13 x 9, but you could use something smaller as long as the ramekins fit inside with room around them.
  7. Pour water into the pan around and halfway up the sides of the ramekins; you are making a water bath to gently bake your cakes.
  8. Bake 20 to 30 minutes, or until your cakes are lightly browned and springy to the touch. Lightly dust powdered sugar on top. Enjoy warm or room temp!
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Savory magazine, Light Lemon Pudding Cakes, January 2017 issue

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Chocolate-Dipped Meringue Cookies

I find meringue to be fickle sometimes. I went through 2 batches of another meringue recipe on a drizzly day and it refused to make stiff peaks both times! Almost weekly I whip up egg whites for macarons, so I’d like to THINK I have my technique down at this point. I’ll blame it on the rain that day 😉

This recipe was used to make tiny mushrooms for a Buche de Noel for Christmas…they were the best meringues EVER. They literally melted in my mouth, which was quite a change from other dry, hollow hockey pucks I’ve made in the past. I’ve narrowed it down to temperature being important here; too high a temp seems to create giant gaps in meringue cookies. So go low and slow!

Like macarons, this recipe only uses whites and you’ll need to either throw out your yolks or save them to make this deliciousness.

Shockingly enough, these are even better dipped in chocolate and the bottoms bathed in nonpareils. The texture rocks on these – crunchy sweet bottoms with light and airy meringue on top. I really enjoy the contrast! I also just drizzled some bittersweet chocolate on a few of them, because why not?

One more tip – make sure your cooled meringues are stored in an airtight container. They like to absorb moisture from the air and become sticky, although still tasty 😉

Enjoy!

Print Recipe
Chocolate-Dipped Meringue Cookies
Meringue cookies are both easy to make and impressive to serve to guests! A batch of these would make a welcome gift.
Chocolate-Dipped Meringue Cookies
Course Desserts
Servings
Ingredients
Course Desserts
Servings
Ingredients
Chocolate-Dipped Meringue Cookies
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 200 F and cover a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place your egg whites and cream of tartar in a very clean bowl; any fat/oil/grease in the bowl will prevent your eggs from peaking.
  3. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, start to mix on low and inch your way up to medium speed until soft peaks form.
  4. Increase your speed to high and slowly add your granulated sugar. I just hold the small bowl over the mixer while it's running and just sprinkle it in small amounts until gone. Mix until you get stiff peaks.
  5. Now you can either use a spoon to place small teaspoon-sized mounds on your parchment, or you can use a piping bag with tip to make a small "kiss" shape on your parchment. I made these about 3/4 inch in diameter.
  6. Bake for 1 hour at 200 F and turn your pan around; my oven has "hot spots" and this keeps one side from browning before the other. Bake for another 30 minutes and turn the oven off, leaving them inside another 15 minutes. Depending on the size of your meringues, you may need more or less time in the oven. When they feel light, crisp and airy and come off the paper easily, they are done. They will start to shrivel a bit if overcooked, although taste will still be yum 🙂
  7. Dip the bottoms of your cooled meringues into the melted chocolate and then into nonpareils, or alternatively you can drizzle the chocolate over them. They will rock either way!
  8. If you have leftovers (why would you??), then keep them in an airtight container to prevent "chewiness" from absorbing the humidity.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Chowhound's Meringue Mushroom recipe.

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Nutella Tart with Hazelnut Crust

Who’s sick of Nutella yet? NOT ME. Hence this fabulous tart complete with a toasted hazelnut crust. Think creamy smooth filling and melt-in-your-mouth crunchy base. It is seriously worth baking!

I have had this recipe printed out since November and it has sat in my recipe file pile waiting for me to make it. Half the time we are out of Nutella, and hazelnuts are seriously hard to find here in Central PA for some reason. I had to go to a mom and pop candy store in the area and buy the very last bag they had around Christmas. Apparently they are called filberts, too, for inquiring minds who enjoy food trivia 😉 Thanks to a Costco stock-up of our favorite chocolate spread, we were good to go. Here’s the link to a little slice of heaven – CLICK HERE FOR NUTELLA DELICIOUSNESS

If you are wondering why there are sliced ALMONDS on the top instead of the obvious choice, it’s because my small pile of decorating hazelnuts fell on the floor. I’m not above using the 5-second rule, but that would have been a lot of little crumbs to rescue from my only occasionally washed kitchen floor 😉

This was not at all difficult and gave me a reason to use the new false-bottom tart pan I got for Christmas. Like many other Nutella recipes, this is not for the faint of heart. You must LOVE the substance that is Nutella, as it is literally a mouthful of Nutella in creamy dessert form. Enjoy!

Book Review – Simply Beautiful Homemade Cakes

Book Review of simply beautiful homemade cakes
MY HUSBAND WILL WANT IT STATED THAT HE DIDN’T TAKE THIS PIC

Check out the cover on this book! As a highly visual cookbook kinda person, I can say without hesitation that the author nailed the pic on the front. The mouthwatering Neapolitan cake with a super-shiny ganache crowning it – now I want to make it myself! Mission will eventually be accomplished 🙂

The title is apropos, BTW – it really is a book filled with simply beautiful homemade cakes. The author is Lindsay Conchar, blogger over at Life, Love & Sugar. I happened across her book in the library before her blog in the interwebs, but after checking out her blog I think I’m going to subscribe. Her recipes photos are stunning and the recipes look like winners, just like the book!

I got this tome from the library and have dog-eared several pages already (shhh, don’t tell the librarians). Clear instructions and pictures (even some how-tos on decorating) are throughout, which is not always the case in every cookbook I’ve perused 😉

On my to-bake list from Simply Beautiful Homemade Cakes –
– Tiramisu Cake
– Chocolate Mousse Brownie Cake
– Cannoli Cupcakes
– Cherry Almond Cupcakes <<<< underrated combination, BTW
– Triple Lemon Cupcakes
– Neapolitan Cake
– Samoa Layer Cake
– Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream Cake <<<< is now a request for my daughter’s birthday and has replaced my own cake 🙁
– Pink Velvet Rose Cupcakes
– Sparkling Cranberry White Chocolate Cupcakes

Another crappy cell phone picture for your viewing pleasure –

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Icebox Cupcakes
I WILL MAKE THIS

Those are Chocolate-Covered Strawberry-Covered Icebox Cupcakes. Perfect for Valentines Day, right? I have never eaten nor made an icebox cake in my life and I feel incomplete. This is a thing, apparently – layers of stuff not baked and kept cold. I will try it and report back.

I believe at this point I’ve read every.single.baking.book at the library, and am very pleased to have found this one! Many dog-ears in book = WINNING

Link for author’s blog – http://www.lifeloveandsugar.com/

Homemade Chocolate Marshmallows

Confession time – candy-making has always intimidated me. I’ve been brave enough to check out a few candy recipe books from the library, but always skipped right over the ones that required a thermometer. I am apparently allergic to learning new things and using new tools, and didn’t want to justify the expense. A perfectly good (and cheap!) thermometer sat on my Amazon wish list FOREVER and I still never took the plunge and bought it. Finally my husband bestowed it upon me for a birthday. Now I had no excuse!

First up to make – MARSHMALLOWS! I didn’t know these could be made from scratch for a long time. To be honest, why bother? They are seriously 99 cents a bag at any grocery store. But don’t they all taste the same? Isn’t it a hassle? Is there any difference at all in a homemade marshmallow versus a store-bought one? The answers are no, sorta, and yes, respectively 🙂

My expectation upon eating a homemade marshmallow was what comes out of a store bag: a chewy, cornstarch-coated, semi-tasteless fluff-ball, i.e. nothing to write home to mom about. But the scratch confection is unbelievably fluffy and soft, like a cloud. The ones above have a deep chocolate flavor and melt into a puddle of sugar ooze in your hot cocoa.

Are they a hassle? Yes, compared to throwing a bag in your cart. But these are so satisfying to make and you will feel like a magician. Be prepared for oohs and aahs when you share these 🙂

One thing I don’t have, which would be fabulous for this process, is a stand mixer. You will be mixing for what seems like FOREVER until it finally comes together. A hand mixer works, though. Just recruit helpers to hold the mixer when necessary 😉

A tip for those giving it a go – your mixture is ready when it starts to climb up your beaters, roughly 10 to 15 minutes in. Resist the urge to quit mixing sooner or you’ll end up with marshmallow fluff instead.

Also, be prepared to make a sticky mess everywhere in your kitchen. It will stick to your beaters, your fingers, the bowl, and you’ll probably get some in your hair. All part of the fun!

Here is the recipe I used – http://www.thekitchenismyplayground.com/2015/12/homemade-chocolate-marshmallows.html

So don’t be intimidated like I was! You got this 🙂

BTW, these marshmallows were chosen for week 1 of https://www.reddit.com/r/52weeksofbaking/

 

Garlic Breadsticks

Some meals just lend themselves to a side of bread. A few that come to mind are spaghetti, your standard meat and potatoes meal, or a hearty bowl of soup. These garlic breadsticks are quick and easy enough to serve alongside any of those, or as an appetizer to dip in marinara sauce or a good olive oil.

Have you ever seen a fabulous bread recipe, but realize it takes 22.5 hours to make and it’s just not.going.to.happen? Especially if it happens to be a half-hour before my family wants to stuff some grub in their faces. Said recipe is then relegated to my “one day” pile, as in one day I’ll get to it when I have 22.5 spare hours. For most other days when I don’t have spare time, these breadsticks are my go-to for a soft, garlicky side. If you aren’t into (or don’t want!) lengthy kneading or a 2-hour rise time, you are in luck. These tasty morsels only require about 10 minutes to proof and you are good to go.

The picture shows them without cheese, but this recipe would lend itself well to a bit of improvisation. A sprinkle of parmesan cheese on top or other spices that suit your fancy would totally work.

If you have any left (unlikely), then just pop your cooled leftovers into a Ziploc baggie to warm up later. Like almost every bread product I’ve ingested, these are just tastier warm 😉

Print Recipe
Garlic Breadsticks
A quick and easy garlic breadstick recipe. Great as a side dish for dinner or a yummy appetizer for dipping.
garlic breadsticks bread
Course Side Dish
Servings
sticks
Ingredients
Course Side Dish
Servings
sticks
Ingredients
garlic breadsticks bread
Instructions
  1. In a measuring cup, add the warm water, olive oil, sugar, and yeast. Lightly whisk together and leave to sit in a warm spot for 5 minutes or so.
  2. In a large bowl combine 2 cups of flour and salt. Using a mixer with a dough hook, add in your water/yeast. It will be a goopy mess, but add in the remaining flour until you have a nice smooth ball that doesn't stick to you. If you need to add in a sprinkle more, that's okay.
  3. Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot for 10 minutes. You aren't looking for a doubling in size, just a bit puffed up.
  4. Preheat to 375 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Using a lightly floured surface, grab slightly larger than golfball-sized pieces of dough and use your hands to roll them into breadstick shapes, roughly 6 inches, but a little bigger is okay too. I get 12 from this recipe, but you could get more if you make them a little smaller. They will puff up in the oven, so keep them about 2 inches apart from each other.
  6. Melt half of your butter and brush over your sticks.
  7. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on size, until lightly browned bottoms.
  8. While they are baking, melt remaining 3 tbsp butter.
  9. When breadsticks are done, immediately brush remaining butter on top and sprinkle your garlic salt and Italian seasoning on top. Serve warm.
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