Friday, June 29, 2012

nutella s'mores bars

This dessert has been on my to bake list for a while. So when a friend requested a dessert to bring to the cottage for the long weekend, this is what I picked. And of course, I made a double batch so we could have a taste too!  And it was so good, I just had to give some away, ASAP.

The cookie layer is nice and thick, chewy, and very flavorful. Not as strong as gingerbread, but similar. I guess the honey and the dark brown sugar makes it taste like a graham cracker. I mistakenly cooked it at 375 instead of 350, and almost as soon as it started to bake, it smelled wonderful! I was afraid it would be to hard to cut, but it was perfect!

The chocolate layer is a combination of chocolate, nutella and cream. By itself, it's a pretty heavenly concoction. It's smooth, and just melts in the mouth. My topping was very soft and goopy, definitely more marshmallow fluff than marshmallow. Next time, I'll try making a batch of actual marshmallows to spread on top instead! I'm thinking it might cut the sweetness a bit too.

nutella s'mores bars
recipe from My Baking Addiction

For the cookie layer
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

For the chocolate layer
1/2 cup Nutella
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons heavy cream (or half and half)
For the marshmallow fluff layer
2 egg whites

For the marshmallow layer
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper, creating handles to lift the bars out of the pan once baked.

To prepare the cookie dough, cream together the butter, sugar, brown sugar, honey, baking powder, cinnamon, vanilla, baking soda, and salt. Add the egg and beat until incorporated into the creamed mixture. Stir in the flour.

Spread it in an even layer in the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is golden, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean (or with just a few moist crumbs). Let the cookie layer cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Once the cookie layer has cooled, prepare the chocolate filling. Combine the Nutella, chocolate chips, and heavy cream in a large microwaveable bowl. Microwave on high at 15 second intervals until the chocolate chips have melted, for about 45 seconds total. Whisk the mixture until it is smooth and shiny. If necessary, add a few extra drops of cream if the mixture seems too thick.

Pour the thick ganache on top of the cooled cookie bars, and spread evenly with a spatula. Let the ganache cool and set up a bit before you lift the cookie bars out of the pan. Transfer the bars to a large cutting board or a serving platter. Be sure to tuck the edges of the parchment paper out of the way before adding the marshmallow.

Make the marshmallow fluff layer. Bring about 2 inches of water to a simmer in the bottom of a large saucepan.

Combine all of the ingredients in a metal mixing bowl that fits in the top of the saucepan without the bottom touching the water. Place the mixing bowl over the simmering water, and beat the mixture with an electric hand mixer for about 8 minutes. The mixture will gradually become fluffy and then will thicken and turn white and slightly glossy.

Remove the mixing bowl from the simmering water. Continue to beat on high for an additional minute or two. The marshmallow will thicken just a bit more. Allow the marshmallow to cool before spreading it over the chocolate layer. Then, use a kitchen torch to toast the marshmallow topping until it is golden brown on top.

Although the recipe seems long, it's pretty simple, all three layers being a matter of combining all the ingredients in one bowl. Totally worth making!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

battenberg cake

Daring Bakers' reveal day kind of snuck up on me. Mandy of What The Fruitcake?! came to our rescue last minute to present us with the Battenberg Cake challenge! She highlighted Mary Berry’s techniques and recipes to allow us to create this unique little cake with ease.

I made this early in the month, and since I wasn't super pleased with the results, I had plans to adapt it to better suit our taste, but I just didn't get around to it.

So, for my Daring Bakers' submission, I made a pink and yellow Batterberg Cake. The yellow cake was flavored with lemon extract, and the pink, with framboise liquor and raspberry flavoring. I thought the cake was dry and the flavor pretty artificial, but that's to be expected, since I used artificial extracts to flavor it! As for the texture, when our host said we could probably make this cake without a stand mixer, for some reason I thought I could make it all with a bowl and a wooden spoon, and quickly discovered I have no clue how to make cake without a mixer... pretty sad!

I covered the cake with white fondant, on a super hot and humid day, so it turned out... the way it did! Not awesome.

Although my cake didn't quite turn out the way I wanted it to, I had a fun time making and assembling it, and I'm sure I'll use the technique again in the future. I also enjoyed reading about the adventures my fellow Daring Bakers had with chocolate plastic in the private forums! I'll have to try my hand at that some day too!

Thanks for the challenge Mandy!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

chocolate pudding cups

I'm not a big fan of graham cracker crusts. I don't like crumbs in general, and the graham cracker crusts that I make, always fall apart on me (thinking of *you* magic bars that are impossible to cut or eat cleanly). So I was only mildly interested  in this week's recipe for Baked Sunday Mornings, Aunt Sabra King's pudding bars. They sound intriguing, but really, it's just a spiked chocolate pudding on a graham cracker crust.

So I made the crust in individual molds, and in the chocolate pudding, I used Frangelico instead of Whisky, since that's what I had on hand. I started eating the delicious pudding on its own, but eventually paired it with the graham cups I had made and was very surprised at how much it added to the dessert. They were nice and chewy, and not at all crumbly! I'm assuming the massive amount of butter that went into the crumbs had something to do with it!

For the recipe and to see how the other members of the group fared with this one, visit the Baked Sunday Mornings site!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

strawberry pretzel salad

When I offered to bring dessert to a mother's day bbq a couple of weeks ago, I didn't have a clue what to bring. So I looked ahead on the Baked Sunday Mornings recipe schedule, and decided to kill two birds with one stone, and make the Strawberry Pretzel Salad scheduled for this week.

In the book, Matt explains that there are many, many variations of this. In my family, there are two. One of which I've blogged about before (and my personal favorite) made with a pretzel crust, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla pudding and cool whip, and topped with raspberry pie filling. The other has a graham cracker crust, some kind of creamy filling (i'm sure cool whip is involved) and topped with jello.

This Baked version is a combination of the two. A pretzel crust, whipped cream and cream cheese filling, and strawberry jello. Although the crust and the filling is pretty fool proof, I had never made the one topped with jello and struggled with the instruction to wait until the jello is partially set before pouring it over the dessert. I guess I waited to long, because my jello was slightly lumpy. I took a blow torch to it, thinking it would melt down a bit and get smoother, it helped a bit, but it didn't have a significant impact on the over all look. My jello layer remained lumpy.

I waited until we cut into it and served it to whip out the camera, but it was a mess. A delicious mess, but a mess nonetheless. It was basically impossible to cut neat squares of this dessert. The jello layer was way too soft, and was sliding everywhere.

So I decided to make it again, but in a way I could get cute pictures out of it. I made a half batch and got 10 servings out of it. And again, I screwed up the jello layer, letting it set too much before pouring it on the creamy filling. So I started over, and as soon as the liquid jello was cool I poured it on the dessert to get a nice, smooth final layer. I let it set, and added sliced strawberries to the top.

I'm a huge fan of desserts using pretzel crusts (see this insanely delicious tart, here), and you really can't go wrong with a filling of whipped cream, sugar and cream cheese, although, I'm not a big fan of the jello. Ever since my first pregnancy, I have had a weird thing with artificial flavors. So that's basically all I could taste. Still, I thought it was a refreshing dessert, perfect for a summer bbq!

The recipe can be found on the Baked Sunday Mornings website.