Giant Ginger Cookies with Dark Chocolate Chunks

We struggle with simplicity.  Not like actual simple things.  We can tie our shoe laces, drive a car (er...kinda), operate a vacuum and do some basic addition.

More like simplicity as a concept.

You know, like, all white home decor.  Or dainty jewelry.  Good jeans and a white tee shirt.

We certainly appreciate those ideas in theory.  But actual life application? 

Uh yeah, no, not so much.  We're more of the how many animal prints in one room is too many school of thought.  The are there any larger earrings school.  The sequined blazer and blue suede high heels school.  More is more to us cookies.  More is more.

And more is certainly more in baking. 

We were given an absolutely delicious ginger cookie recipe, really, just perfect.  The cookies were lovely bit-sized morsels, soft and chewy with just the perfect amount of ginger.

So did we make those for you?

Um no. Obviously.  We took that fabulous recipe, supersized the cookies and added a healthy dose of dark chocolate.

We couldn't help ourselves.  That giant muffin top pan hadn't been used in ages.  And well, we figure just about anything is better with dark chocolate. 

After all, more is technically more.

Giant Ginger Cookies with Dark Chocolate Chunks
Makes 10-12 giant cookies or 36 regular sized cookies

Print Recipe

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup dark molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
2 cups dark chocolate chunks (or chips)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream sugar and shortening until light and fluffy.  Add molasses and egg and continue to blend until fully incorporated.  Add flour, baking soda, baking powder and spices and mix until just incorporated.  Blend in chocolate chunks.

Drop heaping scoops (we used a 1/4 cup measure) of cookie dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or into the cups of a muffin top pan.  Sprinkle each cookie with some sugar.  Bake until cookies are puffed and just started to brown, about 11-13 minutes.  Transfer cookies to a rack to cool completely.


Mud Pie Cake

We know, we know. We have been totally abstentee. Again. SO SORRY, cookies!!! We really are!!! This time we had a very good excuse. 

Mother Nature hates us. 

I mean, we planted a garden this year (minor fail but that's a story for another day), we recycle and we go for nature walks frequently (read: once a year and not in NYC, duh). We love Mother Nature. She's a cool lady. 

But, clearly we did something to tick her off. Perhaps it was the weed killer? Was it all that cavalier talk about clearing the trees behind the house? Maybe she didn't like our greedy use of air conditioning this summer? Whatever it was, she is not a fan of the blue-eyed bakers because about two weeks ago, she sent a lightning bolt down, hit a tree, had the lightning travel into the house and then proceeded to blow the tree down onto the house.

Like we said, she has it in for us. 

So now that all is well again (no one was hurt, muffins, but the baking had to stop while we dealt with the damage) we feel like it's time to get back into Mother Nature's good graces. Earn some brownie points if you will (ha ha ha, we crack ourselves up).

But what would Mother Nature want?

Granola? Nah, not decadent enough...she's clearly been having a bad couple of years and granola as a dessert just screams "you're doing a bad job" and no mom wants to hear that. We needed something more indulgent.

Morning Glory Muffins? A nice option but, again, too healthy. Fiber will prolly not make her feel better about herself. Plus, she likely gets enough of that while on the job. 

So, Mud Pie (or Cake) felt like just thing to perk Mother Nature up while also being appropriately ingratiating. (Though we did take a short cut and used instant pudding...but we are pretty sure she's ok with that...we noticed her taking a second helping).

Mud Pie Cake
Serves 10
Adapted from Baked Explorations

Print Recipe

For the Cookie Crust:
16 ounces chocolate sandwhich cookies (35-40 cookies, we used Oreos)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Flourless Chocolate Cake:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter 
6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/2 cup strong coffee, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar

For the Pudding:
2 3.4 ounce packages cook and serve chocolate pudding (NOT sugar-free)
4 cups whole milk (or amount according to package instructions)

For the Whipped Cream:
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

So, thie recipe seems like a lot and there are definitely a several steps but each is easy so fret not...

First, make the crust. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line pan with parchment paper and lightly spray parchment and sides of pan. Place cookies in the bowl of a food processor; process to very fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and blitz. You should have about 3 1/2 cups. Pour crumb mixture into prepared springform pan and press evenly with the bottom of a measuring cup into bottom and up sides, leaving about 1/2 inch between the top of the crust and top of the pan. Transfer to freezer until crust is set, about 10 minutes. Transfer crust to oven and bake until dry to the touch, about 10 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool.

Next, make the Flourless Chocolate Cake: Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees. Place butter and chocolate in a microwave proof bowl. Cook on high for about 2 minutes, stirring every 30-seconds until almost melted (residual heat as you stir will melt any small chunks). Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together espresso powder, coffee, salt, and vanilla; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until light and almost doubled in volume, about 5 minutes. Add melted chocolate mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down sides and bottom of the bowl and mix on low speed for 5 seconds. Add coffee mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix on low for 5 seconds.

In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually increase speed to high and slowly add remaining 1/2 cup sugar, beating until soft peaks form. Transfer 1 cup egg white mixture to chocolate mixture and, using a rubber spatula, gently fold to combine, about 30 seconds. Add remaining egg whites and continue gently folding until they are almost completely combined; do not overmix. Pour cake batter into the cooled cookie crust, being careful not to over may actually have some batter leftover. Transfer to the middle rack of the oven. Bake until the cake is set but still jiggles slightly, 38 to 42 minutes. It may not appear completely cooked. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Cake will deflate in the center as it cools. Tightly wrap cooled cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hours and up to overnight.

Meanwhile, make the chocolate pudding. Clearly, we used the instant stuff, but should you want to remain a purist, the lovely Bake or Break made this cake and her recipe is here. If, however, you want to elimnate a step, make two packets of good instant chocolate pudding according to the package instructions. Then, press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Transfer to refrigerator until chilled, at least 3 hours.

After 3 hours, stir pudding to loosen and pour on top of cake, again making sure to stay within the cookie crust border and not over fill. Using an offset spatula, spread pudding to form an even layer on top of the cake. Transfer to refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Prepare the Whipped Cream Topping: In the chilled bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a chilled whisk attachment, beat cream until soft peaks form, about 1 minute. Sprinkle sugar over cream and continue whisking until stiff peaks form. Spread whipped cream over chilled pudding layer, working all the way out to the sides.

Unmold cake and serve immediately. The cake can also be kept, covered, refrigerated, for up to 2 days.


Fudgey Banana Brownies

Alright cupcakes, let's lay all our cards on the table. This is a safe place. Circle of trust. (If you happen to be out mother, you might want to stop reading now).

Although 99% (er...90ish) of our baking is from scratch, elbow grease, nose to the grindstone business, there is a time and a place for shortcuts. And by shortcuts we mean boxed baking mixes. (You were warned Mom).

You wanna know an excellent time for boxed baking mixes? Vacation.

Here's why. We're thrifty gals (um, just go with it). And being thrifty gals, baking on vacation in an uber under-supplied beach house rental kitchen would require us spending far more than we'd like to. Or perhaps far more than we can. No but really we couldn't live without those earrings. Or those shoes.

Seriously, stocking up on pans, baking soda, brown sugar, good chocolate - it can really set a gal back.

Enter the boxed brownie. Slapped together with a little bit of creativity and some bananas we bought for our healthy beach vacation breakfasts ( comment) we ended up with something rather superb.

These brownies are probably the most deliciously soft and fudgey boxed baked goods we've ever had. And that's coming from a team who have a serious affection for Funfetti.

So if you find yourself in need of a little help, a little shortcut, give these banana brownies a try.

Circle of trust cookies.

Fudgey Banana Brownies
Makes 16 brownies
Adapted from The Cake Doctor  

Print Recipe

1 box of brownie mix (we used Ghirardelli Double Chocolate)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 eggs
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup pecans, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 8 x 8 square baking pan.

In a large bowl, combine brownie mix, butter, eggs, bananas and nuts if using. Mix until fully incorporated. You do not need to add anything else despite what the box may say (no oil or water).

Bake brownies for 30 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a cooling rack. Brownies should still be soft in the center.


Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

You know us, cookies. We are not ones for a mess. In fact, we clean for the cleaners. We are those girls.

But, sometimes, ONLY sometimes (read: often), we just can't keep it up. We have to let it all go. To heck with all that cleaning and organizing. Seriously, we just don't care anymore. Let the dishes pile up. Leave the bed unmade. No one will notice the milk stain on our shirt. And, no, no, we did NOT get the mail today and we are totally ok with that. For now. 

We will do all that stuff tomorrow.

Now imagine that attitude, if you will, muffins, applied to baking. Only instead of being messy for messy's sake (er, or something like that), and dealing with the mess tomorrow, with baking you are messy and you have to clean tomorrow but, BUT, you get a giant cake at the end!

Sweet jackpot of lazy flour bomb explosions! CAKE!!!

And not just any cake. Carrot Cake. 4-layer Carrot Cake. The Cake of Cakes. With Cream Cheese Frosting. The Frosting of Frostings. Or whatever. You get it. It's totally worth using every bowl in your kitchen. We promise.

You can have your cake and eat it now!

And clean up tomorrow.

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Serves 10-12

Print Recipe

For the Cake:
4 eggs
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups canola oil
6 tablespoons (about 1/2 cup) buttermilk 
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cup plus 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 dash ground nutmeg 
4 cups tightly packed freshly shredded carrots (not pre-shredded)
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

For the Frosting:
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
24 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 cups confectioner's sugar

Additional whole walnuts for decoration

Position a rack in the center of the oven.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Generously butter and flour 2 8-inch cake pans (we also lined them with parchment rounds, available at the grocery store pre-cut).

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and brown sugar on medium-high speed for 3 minutes until the mixture is light and thick.  In a seperate small bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk and vanilla.  On low-speed, slowly add the oil mixture to the egg and sugar mixture.  In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking power, baking soda, salt, and spices.  Add to the mixer and mix just until folded into the egg-sugar-oil-spice blend. Add the carrots, raisins, coconut and walnut and using a rubber spatula, fold into the mixture until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake for 60-75 minutes or until the top is golden brown and springs back when you press into the middle with your finger.  Allow to cool completely on a wire rack in the pan.  

To make the frosting, in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Then add the vanilla and slowly add the confectioner's sugar. Mix until smooth. 

Then, once cooled, remove the cakes from the pans and slice in half horizontally, working slowly using a serrated knife and spinning the cakes until the knife works it way all the way through.  

Place one half of one of the layers cut-side up on a cake plate and spread one layer of frosting on top, then press another layer of cake on top, cut-side up, and repeat ending with the top layer cut-side down. Spread a thin layer of frosting on the top layer and sides of the cake, the crumb coat (we love how Martha does it). Refrigerate the cake until the frosting has firmed up then continue to frost the top and sides using the rest of the frosting.  

Decorate as you wish using whole walnuts, toasted coconut, marzipan carrots or whatever you wish!


Banana Soft Serve

Raise your hand if you've already RSVP'd to the banana soft serve party.  Raise 'em high muffins!  We need to see what kind of people we're dealing with. 

How many of you have RSVP'd?  RSVP'd, put on your party dress, gone to the party, bought the tee shirt and commemorative mug? 

Well look at those hands!  Banana soft serve is sweeping the nation.  We understand of course.  It's delicious, easy, tastes like ice cream but somehow magically made from BANANAS.  As in FRUIT.  Plus it takes to additions superbly. 

Like toffee, or peanut butter, or chocolate, which kind of defeats the healthy fruit business we suppose.  But surely bananas with toffee, peanut butter and chocolate is better than ice cream with toffee, peanut butter and chocolate? 

Whatever.  That's our story and we're sticking to it.

Wait!  What's that?!  Second to last row, third from the left?  Sheepishly downcast eyes and no hand raise?  You haven't been to the party!?!  NO RSVP?!!

Well then cookie, this is for you.  And for the rest of you soft serve experts?  Scoot over, this party's about to get a lot more crowded.

Banana Soft Serve
Serves 2

Print Recipe

3 bananas, sliced into disks & frozen (we just keep them in the freezer at the ready)

Optional add ins:
Peanut butter (or any nut butter)
Chocolate chips
Crushed candy bars of your choice
Vanilla, almond or orange extract (1/2 teaspoon)

Place frozen bananas in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade.  Puree bananas for a few minutes, stopping the blade and scraping down the sides every 30 seconds or so, until the mixture is a smooth and creamy consistency.  It may take a bit if time depending on how many bananas you're using and the size of your food processor.

If you're adding in any additional ingredients, place in the food processor with the bananas before you start pureeing the mixture.

For soft serve serve immediately.  Can also be frozen further if you prefer a firmer ice cream.

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