Whipped Chocolate Pudding Frosting

puddingfrosting

When I was a kid, my Mom used to make the infamous Wilton cakes. I’d watch in awe as she made gorgeous roses out of something as simple as Crisco and sugar, meticulously turning a simple cake into a work of art. For our birthdays, she’d spend hours working on the infamous bear cake (or other character pans), and after all of that work, within 20 minutes, the cake was gone. My siblings and I used to stand by the mixer and wait for the batter bowl. It was the best! Or even better…when Mom would level her cakes, she’d give us the extra cake pieces. Such a treat! To me, the cake was the best part. :-)

However, when it came to the icing…blech. That nasty decorative icing…I was never a fan of it. However, in Louisiana…you kind of need the Crisco if you want things to remain in their decorated state. :-P This made birthday cake eating a task for me…I always ate around the icing. ALWAYS. To this day, decorative buttercream is disgusting to me. I really don’t like it. To note: I can deal with buttercream (made with real butter), but I can’t eat a lot of it…I usually find it too sweet. Swiss Meringue Buttercream is my jam.

Anyway…

I remember one year in high school, my Mom purchased a whipped icing cake for me for my birthday. I was eating around the icing as usual, but Mom told me to give this icing a try…it’s supposed to be lighter and fluffier. I was hooked! I’m sure what they use in the grocery store bakery is full of chemicals, so I just figured I could never replicate this icing…until now.

A while back, my coworker (who LOVES Pinterest just as much as me) found a frosting recipe featuring pudding mix. I didn’t know what this would do to the icing, but I was willing to give it a try. This was it. It had that light, fluffy texture…the not-too-sweet flavor…it was perfect! I got the recipe from her, and decided to try it with chocolate pudding mix. Yup…still perfect. I could eat this stuff out of the bowl…it’s that good! (I usually pour dish soap on the bowl and super hot water to avoid the temptation…I seriously could make a happy bowl ha!)

Note: If you make this, PLEASE pay close attention to mixing times. The pudding mix is sort of grainy, and you need to mix it adequately for everything to dissolve together. Also, just wanted to note that this buttercream is very butter-y in flavor.

Whipped Chocolate Pudding Frosting
Source: adapted from Cooking with Carrie

Ingredients:

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 small package instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup confectioners sugar

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed for 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  2. Turn the speed on low, and add in the pudding mix and salt. Once it’s all mixed, add the cream slowly. Once those ingredients are fully incorporated, turn the speed on high and beat the frosting for 5-7 minutes.
  3. Turn the speed on low, and add 1/2 cup of the confectioners sugar. Once it’s mixed, give it a taste…if it’s not sweet enough (it was for me), add the extra 1/4 cup. Beat for another 5 minutes on high speed. Scrape down the bowl, and add the vanilla extract. Beat the frosting on low for a minute for the extract to be well-mixed in the frosting. Enjoy!

 

 

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

reesescookies

My husband and I are huge fans of warehouse club shopping. The only one out here is Sam’s Club, but we’re getting a Costco soon, and I couldn’t be more excited to check that place out!

Even though there’s just two of us in the house, we buy a lot of staples there. To name a few, we like to buy cheap spices, baking ingredients, frozen fruits, meat (we use our FoodSaver religiously), dog treats and a lot of times, even clothes!

Clothes are a new thing, for sure. Before my weight loss journey began, I barely fit in the shirts they would sell there. It’s very odd to now go to Sam’s, and purchase jeans/shirts/cardigans from there. It all fits now! It’s awesome, because it’s dirt cheap and most of the time, they offer fairly classic pieces.

The nemesis of warehouse club shopping, however, are the impulse buys. Whew…can’t tell you how many times random things just hop in our cart! In fact, just recently, there was a bulk box of Reese’s mini cups (the already unwrapped kind) that somehow found its way in our cart. :-P

Since I had a plethora of Reese’s cups to now use up, I decided that cookies would be an awesome idea. I searched the Internet, and found these giant cookies. I was immediately smitten. These were so good…they have the classic chewy peanut butter cookie flavor with Reese’s all throughout. Can’t go wrong here, folks!

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
Source: Real Mom Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 32 mini Reese’s peanut butter cups, quartered

Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add the butter and sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer, and mix on medium-high until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Scrape down the bowl, and add the peanut butter, eggs and vanilla. Mix until well-combined
    2. With the mixer on low, add in the baking soda, salt and flour. Mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and Reese’s cups using a spatula.
    3. Using a large cookie scoop, scoop the dough onto a parchment or silicone mat lined cookie sheet. For me, 6 cookies fit on each sheet. Slightly flatten each scoop with your hand, and then bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes.
    4. Allow the cookies to cool for 2 minutes, then place them on a cooling rack to finish cooling.

 

 

 

Chocolate Malted Milk Ball Cookies

whoppercookies

Do you ever smell something that just takes you back to a memory? I had a memory like that when I was making the batter for these cookies.

When I was a kid, one of my uncles used to own a snoball stand. In case you don’t know what New Orleans style snoballs are, you’re missing out they are basically ice, VERY finely shaved with flavored syrups added throughout. I know it doesn’t sound like anything special, but the ice is what makes it. Next time you’re in NOLA for the Spring/Summer, seek out a snoball. It’s worth it.

I remember going to my uncle’s snoball stand quite frequently, and just watching them work. Since they were close to so many refineries (lots of people working outside in the Louisiana heat), there was never a dull moment there. They were always busy. Since he also had a soft serve machine in his stand (to make stuffed snoballs), he would also offer malts and shakes. OMG…the banana shakes that he would make were just amazing. To this day, banana is my favorite flavor in a shake. However, when I tried the malt, I was ehh…it was the ONE THING I just didn’t like. Am I weird for not liking malts?

Ever since trying a malt as a kid, I’ve just steered clear of anything malt-y flavored. Malts, malted milk balls…if it has anything to do with a malt flavor, I’m out. After Halloween, I was sorting through our leftover candy and found a TON of malted milk ball packs in the bowl. I stashed them in the fridge, and forgot about them…until this month. I was looking through one of my cookbooks, and came across these cookies. Perfect.

I whipped up the dough for these, and decided since I haven’t tried malted anything in at least 15 years, I’d try a cookie. I found that I’m still not a fan of malted anything…ah well! So, I brought them to my coworkers. Y’all…if you’re a lover of the malted milk balls, try these cookies. I had quite a few coworkers stop by my office asking for this recipe. They were apparently that good. :-)

Chocolate Malted Milk Ball Cookies
Source: Baking From My Home to Yours

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup malted milk powder (regular or chocolate flavored)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 stick + 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups Whoppers (malted milk balls), coarsely chopped
  • 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Prepare two cookie sheets by lining them with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Set aside. Sift together the flour, malted milk powder, cocoa, baking powder and salt into a medium sized bowl, and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. Mix in the vanilla extract.
  3. Reduce the speed on the mixer to low, and add in half of the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Add in the milk, and then the remainder of the dry ingredients, mixing again, until just combined. With a spatula, fold in the Whoppers and chocolate chips.
  4. Scoop the dough with a tbsp. sized scoop onto the lined cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches of space between the cookies. Bake the cookies for 11-13 minutes, rotating the sheets in the oven halfway through the baking process. Do not overbake…these cookies will be puffy and set, but still slightly soft to the touch when done. Allow the cookies to cool for 2 minutes after baking before transferring the cookies to a cooling rack.
  5. Repeat until all of the dough is used, keeping in mind to allow the cookie sheets to fully cool between batches. Enjoy!

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting

chocolatepbfrosting

If you put a bag of Reese’s in front of me, consider it gone almost immediately. It’s one of my vices, and I know I can’t keep that kind of stuff in my house. When my husband and I went shopping at Sam’s Club a few weeks ago, however, I saw Reese’s minis…in bulk. Ugh. I totally bought it, justifying that I would bake with them. Haha. Yeah…

Well, 1 bag mysteriously disappeared :-P, but then I was asked to bake up a simple cake for my work’s birthday club. Every month, they have a cake to celebrate birthdays for those in the office who had a birthday that month. Previously, they would just buy a sheet cake from a grocery store, but since my coworkers know I love to bake, they asked me to do it from now on. Um…how could I say no to that?!

I figured a Reese’s cake would be a tasty one, so I made chocolate cake with a chocolate peanut butter frosting, and then topped it with chopped Reese’s minis. The cake may not be the prettiest (ugh…my cake totally stuck to the pan in the corners so I used frosting to glue it back together), but darnit…it was GOOD! I had to pour dish soap on the leftover frosting or I seriously would have eaten the rest with a spoon. So good!

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting
Source: cake from Ina Garten, frosting adapted from this post

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

For the frosting:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 5 tbsp. heavy cream
  • optional: Reese’s minis (chopped), for decoration

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 9×13 inch cake pan by lining the inside with baking spray or butter/flour
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer, and mix on low speed with the paddle attachment until combined. In another large bowl, mix the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla together. Turn the mixer on low speed again, and slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula, and then slowly add the coffee and mix until everything is just combined.
  3. Pour the cake batter into the prepared 9×13 inch pan, and bake for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 30 minutes, and then turn it out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.
  4. While the cake is cooling, make the frosting. Place the two sticks of butter in a clean bowl of your electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment and cream it on medium-high for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Turn the mixer to low and add the confectioners sugar, cocoa powder and salt until well-mixed. Scrape the bowl down, and then, add the vanilla extract, peanut butter and heavy cream and mix on low for 30 seconds to incorporate the ingredients. Turn the speed up to medium and whip up the frosting for 2-3 minutes, until fluffy.
  5. Once the cake is completely cool, frost your cake and if preferred, add the chopped Reese’s on top for decoration.

Melting Chocolate Cake (for two)

Melting Chocolate Cake for Two

My husband and I went on a Carnival cruise this past December. It was our first cruise together (and individually), so we really weren’t sure what to expect. We decided to go the week before Christmas, which meant our holiday prep had to be done way in advance. I have to admit, it was really bizarre coming back to New Orleans two days before Christmas. It just didn’t feel like Christmas after spending a week snorkeling, eating island food, sampling lots of Jamaican rum & battling a mean sunburn (ha!). :-) We ended up having a wonderful time, and we’re actually planning our next one!

One of the things that I was looking forward to was the food. I read reviews that the meals in the dining room were like going to a fancy restaurant every night. Oh man….and those reviews were right. Every single dish we had we loved. In fact, I loved the food so much that I gained 5 pounds in a week (whoops!). The dish I looked forward to the most (based on reviews from friends and online) was the warm melting chocolate cake. After trying my first one, I was hooked. It was such a rich, decadent dessert, and usually I can’t finish desserts like this, but I couldn’t let any of the cake go to waste. They served them in small ramekins with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The cake itself is baked along the edges, but in the middle is a warm, gooey center of chocolate. Amazing. It’s worth breaking a diet over…seriously.

When we got home, I immediately searched for this recipe. There were a couple of popular variations, but this one is apparently straight from the cruise line’s newsletter. I ended up halving it to make this a dessert for two. This recipe is so simple (you will need a food scale for this one)…the batter was done within minutes, and I only used two regular sized bowls to make the batter. It’s the perfect ending to a nice dinner (hint hint: Valentine’s Day or Anniversary). You could add fresh fruit, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on top, which I would recommend since it’s so rich.

Melting Chocolate Cake for Two
Source: mildly adapted from Carnival Cruise Lines, found on Mommy Musings

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (chopped)
  • 3/4 stick butter
  • 2 eggs (at room temperature)
  • 3 oz. granulated sugar
  • 1 oz. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • confectioners sugar, for dusting

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 390 degrees. Prepare two small ramekins (or cocottes) by spraying the inside with a baking spray. Place the two ramekins in a 9×13 inch baking pan, and fill the baking pan (not ramekins) with water until it is surrounding the ramekins halfway up the sides.
  2. In a bowl, microwave the chocolate and butter, stirring the mixture every 30 seconds, until the chocolate and butter are homogenous mixture. Allow the mixture to cool until it’s just warm.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together for about a minute, until well mixed. Add in the flour and vanilla extract and mix together.
  4. Once the chocolate/butter mixture is no longer hot, pour the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture, whisking well as you pour it in.
  5. Once everything is mixed, divide the batter into the two ramekins. Bake for 15-25 minutes (it varies this much based on the size of your ramekins/cocottes…mine took 21 minutes), until the top of the cake is crusted, the edges are baked/firm, yet the middle of the cake is still gooey.
  6. To serve, sift confectioners sugar over the cakes and enjoy warm!

 

 

One Bowl Brownies

onebowlbrownies

Ok ladies. You know how you have a craving and no matter how many times you try to shake it, you just can’t until you actually eat what you’re craving? Yeah, that was me this WHOLE week.

It was a burrito salad at this place called Izzo’s. I’ve been thinking about it all week, and while the salad that I enjoy is well within my calorie count for the day, for some reason the food there makes me bloat like crazy. Oh, TMI…whatever. You ladies who are reading this get it.

And with my latest DietBet ending today, I was able to go to that restaurant today (right after the gym, mind you) and I savored every last bite of that darn salad. I will never have the mentality of “eat to live”…but at least it wasn’t an order of nachos or something, right? I could have done worse…way worse. :-P

After Christmas, I had a similar craving for brownies. I just couldn’t shake it, and one night, I figured if the recipe was easy enough, the darn brownies were meant to be. And then I came upon this recipe. One bowl brownies.

Meant to be, I guess. :-) I only had one out of the pan (coworkers had the rest), and oh man, these brownies were so rich and fudgy. I was pleasantly surprised since the recipe was so simple! I ended up throwing some leftover Christmas Hershey kisses in there as well, just to get rid of the candy. The brownies are a great, basic recipe…they would probably be amazing with peanut butter or caramel sauce mixed in as well.

One Bowl Brownies
Source: Kraft

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. Baker’s unsweetened chocolate
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 13×9 inch cake pan by lining it with foil and spraying the inside with cooking spray.
  2. Microwave the chocolate and butter in a large bowl for two minutes, or until the butter is melted. Stir the mixture until the chocolate is completely melted, and stir in the sugar. Wait for the mixture to be cool to the touch, and whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract. Add in the flour and mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake the brownies for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few fudgy crumbs (making sure not to overbake). Allow the brownies to fully cool in the pan before serving.

 

Monster Cookies

Monster Cookies

In the 13 months that I’ve been on my weight loss journey, I’ve never found myself as challenged as I am this month. Last January, when I started counting calories, I was on a weight loss high. I was dropping weight left and right, and it was completely motivating to stay on track. This January, however, my weight isn’t coming off as quickly as it did (of course), and for some reason, I keep having a raging craving for all things sweet. I usually have some awesome willpower to say “no”, but I’m finding that I can’t trust myself lately.

Example: I bought a king cake for the first time this season. That same day, I ate THREE slices. The scale went up 2 lbs. ::sad:: Must.find.willpower.ASAP!

Now, I find that I’m improving a bit since Christmas. Y’all….the holidays had a ton of food. It all started with a cruise that my husband and I went on. Unlimited food that was already included? Well, let’s just say five pounds later I found myself standing on the scale in awe. You would think my mind would say GET BACK ON TRACK, but no…my mind said WHERE’S THE CHOCOLATE? Ugh.

So, all of the candy had to go. All of it. The best way I’ve discovered to get rid of a bunch of random candy? Add oatmeal and peanut butter and make some monster cookies! This was my first time making these cookies, and y’all….I think these were a worse temptation than the darn candy! I had to revert back to the days when I couldn’t resist baked goods, and immediately wrap the cookies in saran wrap, and ask my husband to just take them to his office. I know…I really need my willpower back, y’all. My husband told me some people took 5-6 of these cookies with them, so I know they were a hit in the office!

Monster Cookies
Source: adapted from Paula Deen

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 12 oz. creamy peanut butter
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup M&Ms
  • 1/2 cup assorted chocolate candy (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 4 1/2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal

Directions:

    1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
    2. In a mixing bowl, mix the eggs and sugars for about a minute on medium, or until mixed well. Scrape down the bowl and add the salt, vanilla extract, peanut butter and butter. Mix everything on medium high for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and using a silicone spatula or spoon, stir in the M&Ms, chocolate candy, chocolate chips, raisins, baking soda and oatmeal.
    3. Scoop the cookies out with a medium sized scoop, allowing 2 inches between each cookie, onto the already prepared baking sheets.
    4. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, making sure not to over-bake the cookies. Allow the cookies to cool for about 3-5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring the cookies to wire racks to finish cooling. Enjoy!

 

 

Top 10 Recipes of 2012

Man, what a year it has been! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season with their friends and family. :-)

Most years, I feel like time has flown by, but for some reason, it feels like last January was truly a year ago. So many great things have happened to us this year (as well as some really crappy events).  

Some highlights and not so highlights:

  • It was our first full year in our new house, which has been such a blessing. It’s just awesome to finally have friendly neighbors, who don’t throw their trash in our backyard or play loud music at 2am (side-eye to the neighbors at the old house).
  • My husband and I have both decided to live healthier. Between us, we’ve lost over 150 lbs. this year. (I’m sure my husband is rolling his eyes at me sharing this, but seriously..I’m gonna brag here!) That’s just amazing to me. I’m so proud of us.
  • Another weight loss highlight. I fit into a clothes size that I haven’t been able to wear since 10th grade. That was 12 years ago. OMG!
  • A not so highlight. Hurricane Isaac…don’t want to go into too much detail with that one, but yeah, hurricanes suck. Oh, and for the record, labradors don’t care if the winds are 50 mph outside. If there’s rain/water, it’s playtime! (ugh)
  • I think I’m making some good progress on my 101 Goals in 1001 Days list.

And of course, it’s been another fun year blogging. I really appreciate all of y’all taking the time to read my tiny corner of the Internet. Thank you for your sweet comments, emails and tweets. In January, it’s gonna be this blog’s 5th anniversary, and I’m just amazed by all of the friends I’ve made and people I’ve “met”  through this blog. You guys are the best!

Just to round up the year, I wanted to share with y’all your top 10 most read posts from 2012.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies w/ Salted Caramel Buttercream

10. Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Salted Caramel Buttercream - These whoopie pies were made for a work fundraiser, and they were a huge success. Great pumpkin/spicy flavor, and the salted caramel buttercream just makes them super indulgent. Pumpkin + caramel is a wonderful combination!

Red Velvet Bundt Cake

9. Red Velvet Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting - I love anything red velvet. This bundt cake is a fun change from a regular cake, and it was pretty easy to throw together and bake!

Baked Oatmeal

8. Baked Oatmeal - My breakfast has been forever changed by this. This oatmeal is not soggy at all (which I hate about cooked oats), and it’s very sweet with the addition of bananas.

Peanut Butter Cookies

7. Peanut Butter Cookies - Just simple, classic peanut butter cookies. :-) Very good!

Candy Corn Oreo Truffles

6. Candy Corn Oreo Truffles - Oreo truffles are insanely good, and it was fun to make these with seasonal flavors. Always a favorite when I bring these truffles to work!

Fresh Strawberry Pie

5. Fresh Strawberry Pie - I’m SO glad strawberry season is back. I need to make this pie again…it’s not rich at all, and since it involves no cooking (except for the crust), it tastes so fresh!

Snickers Cupcakes

4. Snickers Cupcakes - Oh, I totally need to make these again. If you love Snickers, you will LOVE these!

Homemade Strawberry Lemonade

3. Homemade Strawberry Lemonade - Meyer lemon season + strawberry season? Um…guess I need to make this too and ASAP!

Red Velvet Swirl Brownies

2. Red Velvet Swirl Brownies - These were just delicious, and so pretty too! Perfect for Valentine’s Day!

Spinach Strawberry Salad with Feta

1. Spinach, Strawberry, Pecan and Feta Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette - This is a huge favorite of y’alls. I think Pinterest made this a popular one, and it is VERY easy to throw together! This is a salad you want to make for your next party…it’s an awesome combination!

Thanks so much for reading this blog, and I hope everyone has a Happy New Year! Time to get used to writing/typing “2013″. :-)

Peppermint Bark Chess Pie

Peppermint Bark Chess Pie

The past couple of months have been a whirlwind for me. I love to check the local news sites for random giveaways, because hey, you never know, right? While checking one of the station’s websites, I saw that they were accepting applications for a baking competition. I didn’t hesitate at all to apply, because it sounded pretty fun! A couple of weeks later, I got a call from someone at the station informing me that I was a finalist.

I was floored.

As one of the finalists, I had to bring cupcakes for tasting and an interview. Since it was just before Thanksgiving, I thought…why not pumpkin? So I brought these to the interview. Since my interview was one of the last interviews of the day, I think the interviewers were “cupcake-ed” out. I couldn’t really tell if they liked what I brought, so I left the interview feeling a bit unsure. However, a few days later, I got the call saying I would be one of the competitors! WHOA…

The person from the show told me that we had to bake a pie. Any pie, as long as it had some sort of holiday theme. When I heard pie, I have to admit that I cringed a little. I’ve mentioned this before, but pie is something I just haven’t worked with a lot. Cakes? Cookies? Cupcakes? I’m good. Pie? Ehhh…

First thing was first. I had to have a pie idea. I didn’t want to do anything too common, so sweet potato, pumpkin and pecan pie were all out. I brainstormed with eggnog and gingerbread, but nothing in particular really came to mind. Then I thought about chocolate. Everyone loves chocolate, but what could I do to make it more a holiday-ish. Then, it hit me….peppermint bark. Who doesn’t love the infamous chocolate/white chocolate/candy cane combination?

I started searching for chocolate pies online, and came across this idea for a chocolate chess pie. So, I adapted the recipe to make two pie fillings: one being chocolate, the other being white chocolate candy cane. Since the competition asked for the competitors to bake two pies, I simply put half of each filling into each pie crust (which is an amazing, flaky all butter crust…seriously, make this crust someday), and swirled them together. Then, I baked the pie up, tried a piece (hoping and praying I got the mint amount just right), and whew! I did. I brought to pies to my husband and I’s work asking for some tough love, and there really weren’t any complaints. Everyone seemed to love it!

I can’t wait to share the links to the show with you all (the show aired locally last night), but for now, here’s the recipe to my competition pie.

Peppermint Bark Chess Pie
Source: pie crust from Smitten Kitchen, filling adapted from Ezra’s Pound Cake

**makes two 9″ pies**

Ingredients:

For the crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. table salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cubed and very cold
  • 1/2 cup ice cold water

For the fillings:

  • 3 cups sugar, divided
  • 3 heaping tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 2 oz. of white chocolate, melted and slightly cooled (I used Baker’s squares)
  • 4 candy canes, grinded in a food processor until it’s a dust
  • 2 pinches of salt, divided
  • 10 oz. evaporated milk, divided
  • 1 stick butter, divided in half and melted (cooled)
  • 4 eggs, divided
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour, sugar and table salt. Mix for about 30 seconds, and then add the cold, cubed butter on top and mix everything until the butter clumps are about pea sized. Drizzle in the ice water while the mixer is on low, a little at a time, until the pie dough is just wet enough to hold together in a dough ball.
  2. Divide into two 5″ wide disks, wrap in plastic wrap and allow to chill in the fridge for about an hour or two (or overnight).
  3. While the dough is chilling, you can make the fillings. Take out two large bowls, and add 1 1/2 cups of sugar to each, as well as a pinch of salt to each. To one of the bowls, add the cocoa powder. To the other, add the candy cane dust. Whisk the dry ingredients in each bowl.
  4. In the bowl with the cocoa powder mixture, add in 1/2 stick of melted butter, 5 oz. of evaporated milk, 2 eggs and a tsp. of vanilla extract. Whisk the mixture well and set aside. In the bowl with the candy cane mixture, add in the other 1/2 stick of melted butter, the last 5 oz. of evaporated milk, melted white chocolate, the other 2 eggs and the last tsp. of vanilla extract. Whisk the mixture well.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Take the pie dough disks out and roll them until they are about 1/8″ thick. Add each dough to a buttered pie dish (this is a fantastic tutorial), and then add half of the chocolate pie filling to each pie dish. After that, add half of the white chocolate candy cane filling to each pie dish. Then with a butter knife, gently swirl the two fillings (being mindful not to hit the crust).
  7. Place the pie dishes in a baking sheet, and bake the pies for 45-50 minutes. Allow the pies to cool for a couple of hours before serving (if you’d prefer to serve it warm) or after they cool, refrigerate overnight and serve cold. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Chewy Chocolate Mint Chip Cookies

Chocolate Peppermint Chip Cookies

Last Christmas, my in-laws got me this awesome cookbook as a gift. I’m a big fan of Cook’s Illustrated’s recipes, and so I was so thrilled to unwrap this book last year. I immediately skimmed through it while we still had family at the house…I just couldn’t wait! While the cookbook doesn’t have pictures throughout, I have to say it’s a VERY comprehensive cookbook, full of tips and recipes that are well-tested. Whenever I think of a recipe I want to make in the kitchen, this is the first book I look to for a recipe, and it hasn’t let me down yet!

I wanted to try a new cookie this year for food gifts, so of course I had to flip to the index to find a chocolate cookie.  The original recipe calls for chopped semi-sweet chocolate, but I just had to use up the Andes chips that I had in the pantry. (I used both the creme de menthe and peppermint crunch varieties since I made a ::gulp:: triple batch of this dough..)

This cookie is insanely rich and fudgey…I could barely finish one without gulping down water! The addition of the mint chips makes it so festive, not just flavor wise, but color wise, since the two chips are green and red. :-)

Chewy Chocolate Mint Chip Cookies
adapted from: The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup + 1/3 cup granulated sugar (separated)
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dutch processed cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. + 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 12 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup mint chips (like Andes)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and prepare two baking sheets by lining them with parchment or a silicone sheet.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and remaining 1/3 cup of granulated sugar for 2-3 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Place the 1/2 cup of granulated sugar in a small, shallow baking dish or pie plate and set aside. Whisk the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt together in a medium-sized bowl, and in a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the corn syrup, egg white and vanilla.

Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium-low, and add in the corn syrup mixture. Beat the mixture for about 20 seconds, until everything is fully incorporated, being sure to scrape down the bowl as needed.

Turn the mixer to a low speed, and add in the flour mixture, as well as the mint chips. Mix everything together until the dough is just incorporated (do not overmix), making sure to scrape down the bowl as needed. This should take about 30 seconds to mix. With a spatula, turn the dough a couple of times to make sure there are no pockets of flour in the dough. Chill the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow it to firm a little.

Roll the dough into tbsp. sized balls, and then roll the top half of the dough balls into the sugar (in the baking dish or pie plate) to just coat them. Place the dough balls about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet (with sprinkled sugar halves facing up), and bake the cookies until they are puffed and cracked, about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway into baking. The edges of the cookies will have begun to set, but the middle of the cookies will still be soft. Be mindful not to over-bake these.

Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, and then place them on a cooling rack to remain cooling. Enjoy!