Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Dark Chocolate Espresso Ice Cream with Toffee and Salted Caramel

There's something that every man wants, even if he doesn't know he wants it.  But in his subconscious, it's there, lingering on the tip of his taste buds.  A longing for something unspeakably naughty.  Unthinkably decadent.

And that's a doughnut ice cream sandwich.

A few days after the wedding, with a quiet weekend approaching - the first quiet one in months - I impulsively made ice cream.  I already had plenty of cream and chocolate leftover from baking the wedding cakes, and ever since tasting the chocolate espresso cake, our official cake-cutting cake at the wedding, I've been thinking of coffee and chocolate.

The ice cream itself is a very dark chocolate custard base, spiked with a good amount of bitter espresso powder and coarse sea salt.  I find that a little alcohol helps maintain a smooth, creamy texture in the ice cream after it freezes, and so I used a spoonful of a special vodka Jamie found, Salted Caramel Vodka.

That vodka is a little too sweet for me in a White Russian when it's combined with Kahlua, but paired with the dark chocolate and bitter espresso, it was perfect.  After churning, I folded in toffee bits for a little crunch.

It was truly phenomenal just on its own.  But with a jar of homemade salted caramel on hand, how could I not drizzle a little of that over the ice cream and sprinkle it with more toffee?

But for Jamie, my husband, my lover of doughnuts, I wanted to make something completely over the top.  Something he would love maybe even more than he loves his car.

Doughnut Ice Cream Sandwich says it all.

Dark Chocolate Espresso Ice Cream with Toffee and Sea Salt
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Hershey's Special Dark)
  • 3 tablespoons espresso powder
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon liquor such as vodka or bourbon
  • 1/2 cup toffee bits

In a saucepan, whisk together the cream, milk, salt, cocoa powder and espresso powder.  Warm the cream mixture over medium heat, whisking to smooth out the cocoa powder, just until the liquid begins to steam.

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar.  Slowly drizzle a cup of the hot cream into the eggs, then scrape the eggs back into the saucepan.  Whisk constantly, cooking over medium heat, until thickened enough to coat a spoon.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the chopped chocolate, vanilla and liquor, until smooth.  Pour through a fine mesh strainer to remove any bits of cooked egg into a bowl, cover with plastic, and refrigerate overnight.

Loosen up the chilled custard with a spoon, then churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.  Stir in the toffee bits.  Transfer to a container and freeze until firm, about 4-6 hours.

Yields about 2 quarts.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Brown Butter Pecan Cake

Southern butter pecan ice cream has always been a favorite ice cream flavor of mine.  It's got that perfect salty sweet thing going on that I just adore.

I had been developing a cake recipe for a butter pecan cake, and a few weeks before the wedding, I felt like I just couldn't wait any longer to try it.  With as much as I had to do, I wasn't sure why I wanted to give myself even more work, and yet, when I'm inspired to bake something, it's hard for me not to see it through right at that moment.  Inspiration comes and goes, and when it goes, it doesn't always come back when I have the time for it.

This is a cake that celebrates butter.

Between the cake and the buttercream, there are two pounds of butter in this cake.  That's more than you'd find in a pound cake.

I browned the butter, for both the cake and the buttercream, to bring out its nutty richness.  The browned butter, the salt, and the toasted pecans...  it all came together in beautiful harmony in this decadent cake.

In fact, I loved this cake so much, that I nearly switched it out for one of the other recipes I had been planning to make for my wedding cakes.

Baker's Note:
After browning the butter, you'll find that it has reduced a little and you'll have slightly less than what you started with.  I measured out the 1 1/2 cups for the cake first , and used the remaining 2 - 2 1/2 cups for the buttercream.

Brown Butter Pecan Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, browned and cooled to a room-temperature solid
  • 2 1/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 1/3 cups whole milk
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted
  • 2 1/2 cups unsalted butter, browned and cooled to a room-temperature solid
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4-5 tablespoons milk or cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped pecans, lightly toasted and cooled

To make the browned butter for both the cake and the buttercream, place the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Cook the butter, swirling occasionally, until nutty brown solids form at the bottom of the pan.  Scrape into a bowl and refrigerate until solid, then set out to soften to room temperature before using (this step can be done a day in advance).

Bake the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray the bottoms of four 8-inch pans with non-stick baking spray, line with parchment paper, then spray the paper as well.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 3-4 minutes, until fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Add the flour mixture to the mixing bowl in 3 additions, alternating with the milk and sour cream, starting and ending with the flour, stirring just until moistened.  Fold in the pecans.

Pour batter into the pans.  Bake cakes for 22-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool cakes in the pans on a wire rack, covered loosely with a clean kitchen towel.

Make the Buttercream:
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter until smooth.  In a separate bowl, combine the powdered sugar, meringue powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  With the mixer on low, add by spoonfuls.  Add the milk/cream and vanilla and increase speed to medium high, whipping until very light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes.  Fold in the chopped pecans.

Fill and frost the cooled cakes with the buttercream.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

We're Married!

It was a breathtakingly perfect day.  My heart was pounding and the tears were threatening to spill down my cheeks as I walked down the aisle to marry the most wonderful person I have ever known.

Our photographers, Bri Lamkin Photography, and her mother and my friend Talitha, are teasing me with sneak peeks of photos.  It will be a few weeks, I'm sure, before the photos are ready, and until then, I will be waiting most impatiently for more...

Monday, August 25, 2014

Good Morning Muffins

In one week's time, I will be a Mrs.!

I have officially finished making all the decorations, including handmade napkins, paper flower garlands, a pretty fabric bunting garland that says "just married", nine batches of homemade jam for guest favors, homemade rhubarb cordial and limoncello for our signature cocktails, chalkboard easels for the dinner menu and signature cocktails, take home boxes for extra cake, cake menu sign, chocolate chip shortbread cookies which are waiting in the freezer, book page flowers to decorate the cakes, escort cards, table number cards, and tiny wooden spoons with guest names for seating assignments for dinner, my headband and veil, a "here comes the bride" sign for the ring bearer, flower girl baskets... and I'm not even sure what else.

All that's left for me to do now is bake and decorate the cakes and make the fillings for the mini tartlets.

My mom arrived yesterday, and while she's working on my dress alterations, I am introducing her to the magical world of Harry Potter.  It's a win-win situation, I think.

These muffins, which I'm calling Good Morning Muffins - because, really, they would make any morning good - are a variation of my oatmeal raisin muffins, but with the addition of chocolate chips, pecans and coconut, as well as a coffee glaze drizzled on top that adds that special something.

So I'll leave you with the recipe, which I hope you try and love.  In the meantime, I'll be getting married!

Good Morning Muffins

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or melted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup natural unsweetened grated coconut
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 6 tablespoons powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a muffin pan with 14 paper liners.

In a medium saucepan, combine the oats, raisins, brown sugar, salt, espresso powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Stir in the milk.  Over medium heat, cook the oats until the raisins are soft and plump and the oats have thickened.  Spread the oatmeal out onto a plate and let cool for 10 minutes in the freezer.

Scrape the cooled oatmeal into a bowl and whisk in the eggs, vanilla and oil.  In a separate bowl, combine the flours and baking soda; stir into the oats just until moistened.  Fold in the chocolate chips, pecans and coconut.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups filling them to the top.  Bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack while you make the glaze.

In a small saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, espresso powder and water.  Over medium low heat, dissolve the sugar, whisking occasionally.  Whisk in the powdered sugar until smooth.  The glaze will begin to crust as soon as you remove it from the heat, so quickly drizzle the glaze over the muffins.  The glaze will set quickly, in about 5 minutes, and the muffins will be ready to eat warm.

Yields about 14 muffins

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

You're probably not counting down the days like I am, but it is 12 days before the wedding!  I've been up to my eyelashes in preparations these past few months and weeks.

I did take the time to bake and photograph a batch of cookies after Jamie had been away at Sturgis for a week.  After a hot days' ride home on his motorcycle, what could be better than the scent of peanut butter and chocolate to welcome him home?

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and both sugars for 4-5 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Scrape down the bowl and beat in the peanut butter, eggs and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.  With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients by spoonfuls, then the milk.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.  Shape the chilled dough into balls, place two inches apart on the baking sheet and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand.  Bake for 8 minutes, until pale golden brown.  Cool for 1 minute on the baking sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Yields about 4 dozen cookies.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Of Chocolate and Pink

I've never had a request for chocolate frosting on a cake for a little girl's birthday party, and I have a theory about this.

People who order all chocolate are the ones who want a cake that tastes amazing, and aren't so concerned about feminine touches or looking "pretty".  But many people's idea of a "pretty" cake is one frosted in soft, creamy pastels (and I'm not going to lie, I prefer decorating pretty cakes over cars and trucks in primary colors).

Come to think of it, vanilla frosting versus chocolate is the blond versus brunette debate of the cake world.  Even cake has its politics.

As a brunette, I've never believed that blondes have more fun, and as a cake decorator, I think that a chocolate frosted cake can be just as pretty as a beautiful white cake, so I decorated these little 6-inch cakes with sweet and simple pink fondant accents.

And I'll tell you something else - I'd much rather eat the chocolate frosting.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Lavender Honey Shaved Chocolate Ice Cream

There's a scene in "It's Complicated" where Alec Baldwin shows up at Meryl Streep's house late one night to try to seduce her.  After finishing her leftover croque monsieur from dinner, he sees a bowl of ice cream on the counter.

"What kind of ice cream is that?"

"Lavender honey," she says, with an alluring tilt of her upswept hair.

Later, while she is soaking in the bathtub in her gorgeous house, Alec Baldwin sits on the floor by the tub, eating lavender ice cream.

"I love how quiet it is in your house.  I have no quiet in my life.  Ever."

And just like that, I knew I had to make lavender honey ice cream.

I have plenty of quiet in my life.  Since it's just the two of us, I can't complain about not getting any time to myself, because I do get time to myself in abundance.  We both do.  But I'm busy, too, because I choose to be busy, with this blog, with baking, with running a baking business, with working on my photography, with a full-time day job.  And currently, with so many DIY projects for our wedding.

All things I enjoy, although some days, I wouldn't mind being a little less busy.  I don't remember the last time I watched a movie without simultaneously editing photos or working on something for the wedding.

I brought home a small bag of dried lavender from Paonia, so for my ice cream, I started by steeping a few spoonfuls of lavender in cream and milk.  I cooked the custard, adding egg yolks and raw honey, and let the custard chill overnight to thoroughly infuse the lavender flavor into the custard.

Before churning, I strained out the lavender and whisked in a little vanilla and vodka (to promote creaminess when frozen).  I also added a few drops of purple food coloring, because I wanted my lavender ice cream to be lavender colored, but that's just personal preference.

Just when the ice cream was thick and creamy from churning, I added finely chopped bittersweet chocolate.

The lavender flavored the ice cream with a lovely floral earthiness that was a little unexpected, and completely unique from anything you can buy at the grocery store.

It was subtly sweet with raw honey, which complemented the lavender beautifully.

One Year AgoApricot Almond Tart
Two Years AgoProsciutto Egg Cups
Three Years AgoFruit for Dinner and a Quiet Week Ahead

Lavender Honey Shaved Chocolate Ice Cream

  • 2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons dried lavender
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon vodka
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Combine the cream, milk and lavender in a saucepan.  Bring to a gentle simmer, then turn off the heat, cover the pan and let steep for about an hour.  Return to a gentle simmer over medium heat.

In a bowl, whisk together the honey and egg yolks.  Gradually whisk a cup of the hot cream into the honey/eggs to temper the eggs, then scrape the egg mixture into the saucepan.  Cook the custard while whisking constantly, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the vodka and vanilla.

Cover with plastic wrap, resting right against the surface of the custard, and chill overnight.  Strain out the lavender, and churn the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.  Stir in the chopped chocolate.

Transfer to a container and freeze until firm, about 4-6 hours.

Yields about 2 quarts

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen