Fudgy Brownies with Mocha Buttercream

This recipe today comes courtesy of Amanda from the food blog Fake Ginger.
I seriously love these brownies! I have made them three times already, which, if I say so myself, is quite a feat considering this recipe was posted on her blog on November 30th. Guess I have been in a brownie kind of mood lately!
The best statement to describe these brownies was said by my brother’s girlfriend: “They taste like Gloria Jean’s smells!”
Coffee and chocolate – a match made in heaven.

Ingredients
For the Brownies:
½ Cup of Butter
1 Cup of Sugar
2 Eggs
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla
1/3 Cup ofCocoaPowder
½ Cup of Flour
¼ Teaspoon of Salt
¼ Teaspoon of Baking Powder
For the Mocha Buttercream:
½ Cup Unsalted Butter, softened
1 Tablespoon of HOT Water
1 Heaping Teaspoon of Instant Coffee*
1 Tablespoon ofCocoaPowder
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla
1 Cup of Powdered Sugar
*I really liked the kick from a good heaping teaspoon of Starbucks Via Mocha flavored instant coffee. I also may have put more than a teaspoon into the mix. I really like coffee ok!
To Make the Brownies:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 inch square pan with parchment paper. Melt the butter. Let the butter cool slightly before adding in the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Beat in cocoa powder, flour, salt, and baking powder. Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck directly into the center comes out clean.
To Make the Frosting:
Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Dissolve the coffee in the hot water. Add to the butter, along with the vanilla and cocoa powder. Beat until combined. Start adding the powdered sugar, ¼ cup at a time, beating after each addition until it reaches the desired consistency. (You can use more powdered sugar if you prefer a stiffer buttercream).
Wait until the brownies have completely cooled before adding the buttercream. Otherwise, you are going to end up with coffee soup on top of your lovely brownies! (Trust me, I made that mistake the first time I baked these.)
Have a fantastic Friday and a wonderful weekend everybody!

White Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

I have a lot of great memories from Christmases as a child. One of my favorites was baking cookies with my mom (well not so much baking as taste testing). Everybody has positive memories of their mom baking and the house smelling so wonderful. I would always sneak a cookie off the cooling rack when my mom wasn’t looking. When I got older I would help my mom roll out the cookies and bake them. Then after a year of doing that, I realized how irritable she is while baking and went back to being just a taste tester. I don’t know what it is about the women in my family and baking. They just don’t go together.
Another great memory was heading out to pick the family Christmas tree. My mom and I were picky when it came to finding the right tree. We would stand out in the cold and make my poor dad and brothers lift trees and spin them around to check for bald spots. We would make them slam the tree on the ground to see if any needles were falling off. The trips to the Christmas tree lots were usually an hour long ordeal, but all worth it to find that one special tree.
Once we found that perfect tree, we would watch them cut a little of the base off and wrap it in twine. We would wait in anticipation of what was coming next, our favorite part about the trip, the free candy canes!
My father instead of chancing a shoddy attachment on the roof of the car always shoved our tree in the mini-van. The tree would fit perfectly right down the center of the car. It served as a perfect camouflage for sneak attacks against your sibling on the other side of that tree.
 
Maybe we were bad kids, I don’t know. But, we used to fashion our candy canes into a sharp, pointed shank-like object. We would then take turns stabbing each other through the tree all the way home.
Sigh…memories. Life was so simple back then. All I needed to be happy was a cookie and a pointy candy cane to wield as a weapon toward my brothers.
Ingredients (makes approx. 30 cookies)
2 ¼ Cup Flour
1 Teaspoon of Baking Soda
1 Cup of Soft Unsalted Butter*
¾ Cup Light Brown Sugar
¼ Cup Sugar
1 Package of Jell-O Chocolate Instant Pudding
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla
2 Eggs
12 oz White Chocolate Chips
4 oz Crushed Candy Cane Pieces
*If your butter is in the slightest bit cold, the cookies will not puff up, they will be flat. They are fine to eat, but they look better when you use soft room temp butter.
First, using a whisk, mix the flour and baking soda together in a large bowl. In a separate large bowl, combine the sugars, instant pudding, butter, and vanilla. Beat with a hand mixer until smooth. Beat in one egg at a time. Mix until evenly combined.
Gradually add in the flour and baking soda mix. It is best to use a stand mixer or hand mixer for this part, since the dough is very hard. When all the flour has been mixed in, add the chocolate chips. Place a handful of mini peppermint candy canes in a plastic bag, and using a rolling pin or meat tenderizer, smash up the candy canes into small pieces. Measure out 4 ounces and add it to the dough.
Form 1-inch sized balls of dough. Place them about 2 inches apart on an un-greased baking sheet. Bake cookies in the oven at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes. The cookies keep cooking the longer you keep them on the sheet. So to maintain a nice soft cookie, get them off the baking sheet and on to a wire rack to cool as soon as possible.

Enjoy this cookie that combines three of the greatest holiday pastimes: candy canes, cookies, and fond memories of sibling brutality!

Dark Chocolate and Cayenne Cookies

 I am living in a family divided! The constant debate of my flavor combinations has taken me over the edge. I can’t take it anymore!
Why is it so hard for people to like and appreciate the flavor combinations of sweet and spicy? If it works in a mole sauce, why can’t it work in a cookie?
Half of my family told me not to post this recipe on the blog. They said this is not a traditional cookie that you sit down and eat ten in a row of with a glass of milk. Who died and made them judges of what passes for a “traditional” cookie? Maybe I don’t want to make a “traditional” cookie!
I might be generalizing here, but most of the people that don’t like this cookie are not fans of spice. Their taste buds shy away from a fight. In other words, they live a rather bland life. (I can say this because they are my family and have to love me regardless.)
If you are adventurous when it comes to taste and want to stick it to the man every chance you get, you are a man/woman after my own heart!

 

Ingredients (makes approx. 30 cookies)
2 ¼ Cup Flour
1 Teaspoon of Baking Soda
1 Cup of Soft Unsalted Butter*
¾ Cup Light Brown Sugar
¼ Cup Sugar
2 ½ Teaspoons of Cayenne Pepper
1 Package of Jell-O Chocolate Instant Pudding
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla
2 Eggs
12 oz Dark Chocolate Chips
½ Teaspoon of Coarse Sea Salt
*If your butter is in the slightest bit cold, the cookies will not puff up, they will be flat. They are fine to eat, but they look better when you use soft room temp butter.
First, using a whisk, mix the flour and baking soda together in a large bowl. In a separate large bowl, combine the sugars, cayenne, instant pudding, butter, and vanilla. Beat with a hand mixer until smooth. Beat in one egg at a time. Mix until evenly combined.
Gradually add in the flour and baking soda mix. It is best to use a stand mixer or hand mixer for this part, since the dough is very hard. When all the flour has been mixed in, add the chocolate chips.
 
Form 1-inch sized balls of dough. Place them about 2 inches apart on an un-greased baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with the sea salt. Press some of the granules in to the dough to make sure they stick. Bake cookies in the oven at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes. The cookies keep cooking the longer you keep them on the sheet. So to maintain a nice soft cookie, get them off the baking sheet and on to a wire rack to cool as soon as possible.
 
This is a bad ass cookie that spits on the glass of warm milk and instead, demands a shot of tequila! The perfect addition to any up-scale classy holiday party you plan on attending or crashing this year!

Mom’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

This week is all about cookies and sweet treats!
My mom makes these cookies all the time. Everybody loves them! My dog loves them, even though he can not eat chocolate. He still comes creeping around whenever a batch is baking.

My niece Kate loves them. Cute right?
And thanks to the wonders of the secret ingredient, Jell-O, there are no limits to the flavor combinations you can make to accommodate every type of palate.
This week I am going to share three variations of this basic recipe so you can now add these puffy clouds of goodness to your holiday baking repertoire.
Ingredients (makes approx. 30 cookies)
2 ¼ Cup Flour
1 Teaspoon of Baking Soda
1 Cup of Soft Unsalted Butter*
¾ Cup Light Brown Sugar
¼ Cup Sugar
1 Package of Jell-O Vanilla Instant Pudding
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla
2 Eggs
12 oz Chocolate Chips
*If your butter is in the slightest bit cold, the cookies will not puff up, they will be flat. They are fine to eat, but they look better when you use soft room temp butter.
First, using a whisk, mix the flour and baking soda together in a large bowl. In a separate large bowl, combine the sugars, instant pudding, butter, and vanilla. Beat with a hand mixer until smooth. Beat in one egg at a time. Mix until evenly combined.
Gradually add in the flour and baking soda mix. It is best to use a stand mixer or hand mixer for this part, since the dough is very hard. When all the flour has been mixed in, add the chocolate chips.
Form 1-inch sized balls of dough. Place them about 2 inches apart on an un-greased baking sheet. Bake cookies in the oven at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes. The cookies keep cooking the longer you keep them on the sheet. So to maintain a nice soft cookie, get them off the baking sheet and on to a wire rack to cool as soon as possible.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s cookie recipe: Dark Chocolate Cayenne Cookies!

DIY Hostess/Holiday Present: Homemade Cranberry Orange Liquor

*Recipe adapted from thekitchn.
During these interesting, to say the least, economical times, I find myself being more frugal than I would like to admit. I am usually the one not looking at price tags when I am shopping for Christmas presents because I would rather get a thoughtful gift for somebody than worry about how much it costs.
This year is a bit different though. Cost and spending is definitely more of an issue on my barometer since I got married over the summer. We have definitely been focusing on saving (trust me, not my idea) rather than spending.
When my husband and I sat down to talk about who we needed to get gifts for this Christmas/Holiday season, I was definitely thinking, “How are we going to stay within our budget and get nice, thoughtful gifts for all these people?”

I immediately turned to my imaginary food blogger friends and found this lovely recipe for festive-looking homemade cranberry liquor. It was super easy and cheap to make. Put the liquor in a jar, tie a bow on it, include a little recipe, and BAM – instant hostess or holiday gift.
Ingredients (Makes 4 ½ Cups)
2 Cups of Sugar
1 Cup Water
1 12oz Package of Fresh Cranberries
3 Cups of Vodka
The Zest/Peel from 2Oranges(Other variations include lime or lemon peel or even a vanilla bean.)
Combine the sugar and water in a small sauce pan. Cook over medium heat for five minutes, until the sugar dissolves, stirring consistently. Remove from heat and cool completely. Place the cranberries and vodka in a food processor. Process for two minutes until cranberries are finely chopped. Combine the vodka and cranberries with the cooled simple syrup in a large bowl, and add the orange peels.

I portioned out even amounts into four small quart jars (4 for $4 at Target). Cover and place in a cool dark spot or the refrigerator for three weeks. After three weeks liquor is fully sweetened and flavored and ready for use. Remember to include a tag on the jar that states that you should strain the contents before using in a cocktail. It is also a cute idea to include your favorite vodka-based cocktail recipe with the liquor.
For those of you receiving this lovely liquor from myself or my husband, sorry to ruin the surprise!
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