Chocolate Whiskey Brownies with Caramel Drizzle

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Happy (early) St. Patrick’s day everyone!  And also Happy Fiesta Friday, The Novice Gardener’s blog party!  So much to celebrate today! Whether you’re going out, throwing a party or just staying in these brownies are the perfect way to celebrate.  The brownie is nice and chocolatey, while the addition of the whiskey gives you just a little kick. I decided the flavor of the whiskey in the batter wasn’t quite enough after they baked, so I brushed some more on top of the cooked brownies. You can adjust how much you add if you want more or less whiskey taste.

I also had trouble deciding how to frost these. I usually like a thick layer of butter cream on brownies but I didn’t want to outshine the whiskey so I opted for a caramel drizzle instead. I suggest saving some of the caramel and pour a little extra over each brownie before you eat it – but that’s just my idea!

Chocolate Whiskey Brownies Recipe adapted from Hershey’s Ultimate Chocolate Brownies
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup melted butter
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup whiskey
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
pinch of salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Caramel Drizzle
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract

1. Preheat oven to 350. Combine the cocoa powder and baking soda in a large bowl. Add the boiling water and mix well.

2. Add the butter and sugar to the bowl and mix. Next add the eggs mixing after each one. Then add the flour, whiskey and salt and combine until the mixture is smooth.  Finally, add in the chocolate chips.

3. Pour the batter into a greased 9×13 baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  If you want a stronger whiskey flavor, poke the baked brownies all over with a fork and brush some more whiskey on top.

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4. Next make the caramel. Combine the heavy cream and butter in a pan on low heat. Then add the brown sugar, salt and vanilla. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. Let it cool. When the brownies have cooled and the caramel has thickened lightly pour the caramel over the brownies, enjoy!

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Half Moon Cookies

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Half moon cookies bring back great memories for me. My grandpa used to own a carpet shop in my hometown and the store was later turned into a bakery. Because it was once my grandpa’s, I always felt a big connection to that bakery.

Often on Saturday afternoons, after a day of running errands with my mom, our last stop would be the bakery and as a reward I got to pick out my sweet treat. Even though I have an almost insatiable sweet tooth, there was only one cookie in the bakery that I was interested in. My eyes saw right past the cakes, the chocolate chips and the muffins and were only focused on the chocolate half moon cookies. The moist soft cake and the mounds of chocolate and vanilla frosting made this cookie irresistible to me.

I don’t see half moon cookies in many bakeries anymore. Lately I’ve been thinking of these cookies and really craving one. I tried one recipe a few weeks ago and they came out terribly. I tried to make my own recipe, but couldn’t get the consistency right. So, after an extensive Google search for a well reviewed half moon recipe, I found this one from Saveur. The only thing I changed to the cookie batter was using almond milk instead of dairy milk. Instead of the frosting they show, I used a good old buttercream. Sinking my teeth into these frosting covered circles of goodness were well worth the three tries it took to get them right!

To make it even better, it’s Fiesta Friday! Check out Angie’s Blog and join the party!

Half Moon Cookies
Cake:
3 3/4 cups flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 1/4 cup sugar
16 tbsp. butter cut into pieces
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups almond milk

Frosting
3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoon milk
1/2 cup cocoa powder

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter, sugar and cocoa powder. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

2. One at a time, add the eggs to your sugar and butter, beating and scraping the sides of the bowl after each one. Then add the vanilla extract.

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3. Add half of the flour to the sugar and butter and mix to combine. Next add half the milk. Then and the remaining flour followed by the rest of the milk and mix until it has all combined.

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4. Spoon out tablespoon sized amounts of the batter and place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. These cookies tend to spread quite a bit so leave a good amount of room between them. Wet your finger with a little water and gently press down each ball of batter to flatten it a little, this will help you get a flatter cookie instead of one with a huge bump in the middle. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

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5. While the cookies are baking make your frostings. Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla extract. If you’re frosting is too thick add the milk 1 tablespoon at a time. Remove half of the frosting and place it in another bowl. Then add the cocoa powder and combine thoroughly.

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6. Cool the cookies after taking them out of the oven. Once they’ve cooled turn them upside down and frost the flat side. Frost the vanilla halves first, then the chocolate. Enjoy!

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Breakfast Bites

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I have to admit, these aren’t the prettiest little things but they came about out of necessity. I usually start my mornings with a large coffee and a yogurt. Unfortunately, the past couple months I haven’t been feeling great after eating my morning yogurt. I’m not sure if I’ve developed some type of lactose intolerance (is that possible?) or what, but I’ve decided I need to switch out my yogurt for something else at least a few days a week.

While trying to figure out what else would be a good morning snack, I rummaged my cupboards for healthy ingredients. I also knew I would need a little bit of sweetness in this to make it just as appealing as my delicious creamy yogurts, hence the chocolate chips. These little breakfast bites only take a few minutes to make and you can add whatever you like into them. If you don’t have wheatgerm, feel free to leave that out. Add some dried fruit or try another kind of nut if you want.

Breakfast Bites
1/2 cup almonds
2 teaspoons water
1/4 cup oats
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons wheat germ
2 Tablespoons chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons honey
pinch of cinnamon

1. Place the almonds in a food processor and pulse them a couple times, then add the water and continue pulsing them until you get a sticky mixture. It should be a little soft but still have tiny bits of almonds in it.

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2.  Add the almond mixture and the rest of the ingredients to a small bowl and mix to combine.

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3. Roll the mixture into bite-sized balls and store in the fridge until you’re ready to eat them, enjoy!

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Eclairs

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Sundays during football season have pretty much become my official “spend the day in the kitchen trying something new” days. I only have the patience for one football a week, tops, so instead I amuse myself by cooking and baking while everyone else is busy paying attention to the games. A few weeks ago I was browsing through possibilities of things to make that Sunday and asked my husband how he felt about eclairs. Given that he doesn’t really care for sweets (something I’ve never understood) I wasn’t expecting more than an unenthusiastic “eh” as his answer. However, “ECLAIRS ARE MY FAVORITE DESSERT” he immediately shouted back! I have no idea how I didn’t know this already, but that was all the justification I need to spend the day making them.

Although this might look like a fairly complicated recipe, each part isn’t too difficult, it can just take a bit of time to make each component and put them together. Even so, they’re totally worth it and you’ll be glad you spent the time to make them!

Eclairs
Pate a choux (the dough):
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
6 Tablespoons of butter, cubed
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 cup flour
4 egg yolks

Filling:
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks, beaten
3 cups milk
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache:
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. First make the Pate a choux. Combine the water, milk, butter and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once it starts to boil, turn off the heat and dump in the entire cup of flour all at once. Using a wooden spoon stir in the flour until it forms a ball of dough. Remove the dough and place it in the bowl of a stand mixer (if you have one) or a a mixing bowl. Let the dough cool off. Once it has cooled add the egg yolks on at a time, mixing after each one you add. This should get you a pretty runny dough. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper, then put the dough mixture in a pastry bag and pipe the dough into 3-4 inch logs. Bake the dough for about 30 minutes, until it begins to brown.

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Next, make the filling. Whisk the sugar, cornstarch and salt together in a saucepan. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and milk. On medium heat, slowly add the egg and milk mixture to the saucepan. Whisk the mixture constantly until it reaches a bowl and begins to thicken. Let it boil for just one minute then remove from heat, add butter and vanilla and mix to combine until the butter melts. Pour the filling into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to avoid it from forming a “skin.” Let it cool on the counter for at least 30 minutes, then refrigerate until cold.

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After your filling has cooled, begin to put everything together. Cut each log of dough lengthwise but don’t cut through the entire log, just about 3/4 of the way through. Use a small spoon to fill the opening in the log with the filling.

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Finally, make your ganache. Heat the heavy cream over low-medium heat. Slowly add the chocolate in thirds, stirring constantly. Once all the chocolate has been added continue to stir until it’s melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter.
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Complete your eclairs by dipping each one in the ganache. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving, enjoy!

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Chocolate Almond Truffles

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So I’m definitely really into the chocolate and almond combo this year (as if you couldn’t tell already) and keep trying to find new ways to combine them. I always thought of truffles as such a decadent luxurious treat, and couldn’t believe how simple they were to make when I read this Food Network Magazine article on them last year. The article made truffles seem so feasible and simple I had to give it a try. I used a slightly different method to melt the chocolate than they suggested, but the truffles came out so great you’d think they were from a fancy chocolatier! Also, it’s such an easy recipe to switch up with different flavors, Food Network gives some great suggestions. I decided I had to share this with all of you and encourage you to try your own truffles! They make very impressive holiday gifts – if you can keep from eating them all yourself!

Chocolate Almond Truffles adapted from Food Network Magazine
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon butter
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup chopped almonds

1. Add the heavy cream, salt and butter to a saucepan on low heat.

2. Begin to slowly add your chocolate, about 2 ounces at a time, stirring constantly. This part takes a bit of patience but the end result is totally worth it!
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3. When all the chocolate has melted stir in your almond extract.

4. Pour the mixture into a shallow baking dish and refrigerate for a few hours until firm.

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5. Once the mixture is firm, scoop out small spoonfuls (I found an ice-cream scoop worked really well for this) and roll into balls. If the mixture gets too soft while you’re doing this you might need to pop it in the fridge again for 20-30 minutes and then finish.

6. Roll each ball in the chopped almonds, enjoy!

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Chocolate Almond Cookies

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I can’t believe that I haven’t blogged about more about baking and sweets.  For a long time all I could do in a kitchen was bake cookies and cupcakes, I had no idea how to actually cook any “real” food. So due to my lack of sweet posts I’ve decided it’s time to get some holiday treats on here! Holiday baking is truly one of my favorite things. I have so many great memories of baking sugar cookies and watching my mom come up with lists of new recipes to try each holiday season, constantly increasing her list of family favorites that she needed to make every year.

I recently discovered a new ingredient that is definitely going to be making an appearance in a large amount of my holiday baking this year. A few weeks ago my husband and I took a cooking class at Sur la Table where we made a cake with this almond paste . It adds a slightly different flavor than almond extract. Of course you could always substitute almond extract if that’s what you have in the pantry.

Chocolate Almond Cookies
2 cups flourphoto(5)
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick butter at room temperature
1 tablespoon almond paste
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup crushed almonds

1. Combine flour, sugar, butter, almond paste and salt in a large bowl and mix until everything is smoothly combined.

2. Roll the dough out on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch thickness. Use a cookie cutter to cut out the cookies.

3. Bake at 350 for about 8-10 minutes.

4. When the cookies have cooled, melt your chocolate in a double boiler. When the chocolate has melted carefully dip each cookie half of the way in. Then dip the cookie into the crushed almonds, enjoy!