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Baking Is Science For Hungry People: Belgian Chocolate Truffles

Hello Friends,

I mentioned yesterday in the Charlotte Beer Babes September Beer Class post that I would be giving everyone the lowdown on the Belgian Truffles that I made for the beer event.

As promised, here we go into chocolate land!

So I had been researching and trying to find some good, easy to transport Belgian recipe ideas for the Belgian Beer Class that we were doing for September, and all I could really find were mussels (I love y’all but not that much!), endive (doubt that would’ve been eaten), Waffles (hard to transport), and truffles (winner winner truffle dinner!). I think I chose well. ūüôā

So to make the truffles, I needed a recipe to go off of, and I found a great one from the Belgian Travel site. I did change a little, but these were SUPER easy to make up. Warning: you will become addicted to these, and they do take some handling work to assemble… totally worth it though!

Take 1/4 cup of butter and 8 oz of bittersweet chocolate chips (I use Ghiradelli) and melt in a metal baking bowl placed inside a saucepan filled with water (double boiler cheat!) over low heat, stirring occasionally to keep smooth. Use a wooden spoon or silicone spatula for best results.

Once completely smooth, remove from heat, stir for 15 seconds, and then add in 1 tbspn vanilla extract and 3/4 cup sugar. Stir until completely dissolved. Place the mixture in the freezer for 25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until starts to harden just a bit. Mixture should still be a little liquidy.

Remove the bowl from freezer and add 1/3 cup powdered sugar to the mixture, stirring until fully incorporated. Take a cookie sheet that will fit in your fridge, and line with wax paper. Take 3 small bowls and place 1/2 cup coconut flakes, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, and 1/4 cup chopped pecans (or similar nut) in each “topping bowl”.

Take pinches of your chocolate mixture and roll into 1-inch¬†balls in your hands, then roll the ball in one of the 3 “topping bowls”. Place on cookie sheet in rows, and note that you don’t need to have space between these like you do anything you’re baking. Once sheet is filled completely, place in fridge for 1 hour to allow to set.

Serve and enjoy! (Tip: These go especially well with darker beers like the Pater 6 we tasted in Beer School!)

cocoa belgian truffles chocolate no bake desserts

Cocoa Belgian Truffles!

coconut belgian truffles chocolate no bake desserts

Coconut Belgian Truffles!

pecan belgian truffles chocolate no bake desserts

Pecan Belgian Truffles!

Craft You Later,
Beth

Baking Is Science For Hungry People: Little Snowballs

Hey again Baking Friends!

One of my favorite series of books to read is the Hannah Swensen Mystery series by Joanne Fluke. I like that it’s murder mystery style books, with a lot of the every day monotony thrown in that most books leave out, and then the best part is¬†the recipes! I have tried lots of Joanne’s recipes, and have yet to find one that I don’t like. One of these days I will try her coffee trick, I swear, but I need a huge batch of coffee drinkers to do it.

Anyways, a few years ago my work did a Cookies for Civil Servants thing around Christmas where everyone brought in bags of scratch-made cookies, and volunteers distributed them to Charlotte Mecklenburg Police, Fire and Medic stations across the county. I had made some extras for my co-workers, small samples of the 4 cookies that I made, and one of my friends LOVED the Little Snowballs that I made. Think similar to a Wedding Cake Cookie.

Little Snowballs!

Since her birthday is at the end of June, I decided to make her a batch of cookies for a snack. Hee. Birthday cookies will get you every time! Muahahaha.

So anyways, here is the recipe, and hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

What You’ll Need:
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, melted (3 sticks)
3/4 cup powdered sugar, plus 1/4 cup for coating
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (walnut chips and sliced almonds are my go-to choices for these cookies!)

How To Make Them:
1.
Preheat over to 350 F. Melt the butter in microwave for 2 minutes.
2. Add in 3/4 cup powdered sugar, vanilla, nutmeg and salt, and mix well. Add the flour and mix throughly. Stir in the nuts until evenly distributed.
3. Form the dough into one-inch balls (just pat them into shape with your fingers), and place them on an UNGREASED baking sheet.
4. Bake them for 10 minutes, until they are set but not brown. Remove from oven.
5. Let the cookies cool for 2 minutes, then roll them in powdered sugar. (You must do this while they’re still warm.) Place them on a wire rack and let them cool completely.
6. When the cookies are completely cooled, roll them in powdered sugar again. Let them rest for several minutes on the rack, and then store them in a cookie jar or a covered bowl, or a large freezer ziploc bag! Enjoy them with friends!

Yield: 90-100 cookies (Nutrition Information: 47 calories per cookie, 2.9g fat, 4.2g carb, 0.6g protein, 8mg sodium, 7mg cholesterol)

So there they are, try it out, enjoy, and please let me know what you think! YUM!

I will say, I do intend to try a few variations on this cookie throughout this summer: substituting butter for Butter Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil, adding lemon juice + lemon rind to make Lemon Snowballs, substituting butter for applesauce + canola oil, substituting nuts for dried fruit, substituting macadamia nuts + coconut for the nuts, and finally doing the original recipe around a jumbo chocolate chip. I will, of course, keep you all posted on how these all turn out!

Craft You Later,
Beth

Brunch Stuffed French Toast

Hiya Yummy-Brunch Fans,

I did a brunch with some friends awhile ago, and we all pitched in and brought something ‘to pass’. There were only 4 of us, so we kept it simple. Mimosas, Crab Quiche and Stuffed French Toast. I made Stuffed French Toast because it’s a go-to recipe I have used for years, and it is one of my favorite brunch items to make. It’s simple, delicious, and pretty cheap to make too. All three of these are great things in a recipe!

Cooking Light’s Stuffed French¬† Toast¬†recipe is a stand-by staple that you can make without feeling all the guilt that usually comes (for me at least) along with making something so decadently delicious. I rarely alter this at all, though I do have a couple things I change, more for personal taste than anything, though!

Ingredients to Serve 8-16 people (depending on how hungry everyone is):
16 slices cinnamon-raisin bread (I use Pepperidge Farm)
Cooking spray
3 cups 1% low-fat milk
2 cups egg substitute, divided
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup sugar, divided
1 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
3 teaspoons fresh-ground cinnamon, divided
1/8 cup sugar
1 (8-ounce) block fat-free cream cheese, softened
1 (8-ounce) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened

Directions:
1) In one 13×9 cake pan, or 2 8×8 cake pans, sprayed with cooking spray, arrange 8 pieces of cinnamon raisin bread evenly along the bottom of the pan(s).
2) Combine 3 cups milk, 1 1/2 cups egg substitute, 1 cup half-and-half, and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Pour half of milk mixture over bread in dish(es).
3) Combine 1/2 cup egg substitute, 1/2 cup sugar, vanilla, 1 tspn nutmeg, 1/2 tspn allspice, 1 1/2 tspn cinnamon, and cream cheeses in a food processor or blender, or you can mix by hand if you want some good exercise; process or mix until smooth.
4) Pour cream cheese mixture over moist bread in dish(es). Top with remaining 8 pieces of cinnamon-raisin bread. Pour remaining milk mixture over bread, spreading evenly.
5) Cover and refrigerate 8 hours, or overnight.
6) Uncover, place in cold oven, set oven to 350¬į, and then set the oven timer (where it turns your oven off afterwards) for 55 minutes. Let bake completely, and let sit in cooling oven 10 minutes. Remove from oven.
7) Mix remaining 1/8 cup sugar with 1 1/2 tspn cinnamon until fully incorporated, then sprinkle evenly over tops of stuffed french toast. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving or covering.

Note: This works beautifully if you are wanting to take a dish to pass, because you can slice the bread and literally come out with stuffed french toast sandwiches to serve everyone easily! Whole or half sandwiches, they slice easy and serve very prettily!

Glaring Changes:
– I obviously add in the cinnamon and allspice, you don’t need to do that.
– I fully intend to make the next one with a reduced fat flavored cream cheese, in lieu of the 1/3-less fat cream cheese, to add some flavor. Then top with sliced flavor-of-choice fruit or veggies. We shall see how that turns out!
– I have before sprinkled the top instead of cinnamon-sugar, with powdered sugar, or a sugar-cocoa powder mix. Both are just as delicious.
– When layering my bread, I don’t stack it like in the CL picture, because I realized (finally) that laying them flat makes easy-to-cut sandwiches as a result! SO, you can layer it, but I recommend you use a loaf of 24 pieces of bread instead, and use 12 on top-and-bottom instead of the 8 I used! Just so you know!

Enjoy this wonderful and simple brunch with sides of fruit, tea, mimosas or bloody mary’s!

Craft You Later,
Beth

Baking is Science for Hungry People: Triple-Chocolate Cake

Hello again baking friends!

I have become a baking fiend again in recent weeks, as I’m sure you can tell, so hope you enjoy this latest adventure I made in the kitchen!

This past weekend, my Aunt was visiting from Michigan for her 60th birthday! She doesn’t look a day over 40, though, so of course my brother found this great card that said “Happy 40th Birthday!” on it from us – she loved it!

I had asked what her favorite type of cake is, after much debate with my parents about it — and her response was “chocolate – and more chocolate!”. So I set out trying to find a good recipe to make her birthday request extra yummy. I wanted to create a Triple-Chocolate Cake for her!

Triple Chocolate Cake!

So I decided upon a recipe based from the Food Network Kitchens’ Decadent Chocolate Cake, and further plotted on making a homemade Chocolate Ganache Frosting, with a drizzle on top of Tastefully Simple’s Amazing¬†Amaretto Chocolate Sauce (truly is amazing).

So here goes for the way I made it.

I preheated the oven to 325, and greased an 8-inch round pan, 2 mini fluted pans, and 3 mini-round pans.

Next, in a large bowl,¬†I whisked together 2 cups flour, 1 1/3 cups sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda (should’ve been 1/2 but it came flying out of the box!), 1/2 teaspoon allspice, 1/2 teaspoon cinammon, and 3/4 teaspoon salt, until completely mixed.

In a small bowl, mix together 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I didn’t use espresso powder),¬† 1/2 cup boiling water and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract.

In another small bowl, whisk together 1 cup lowfat Greek yogurt (I used vanilla flavored), 1/2 cup lowfat milk, 1/3 cup corn oil, 1 large egg, 1 large egg white, and mix until well blended. Mix in the cocoa mixture until fully blended together.

Gradually add in the cocoa mix to the flour, mixing continuously until fully incorporated. Pour the batter into the pans, but not to the top, then place in the center of the oven (mini pans on a cookie sheet!), and bake for 42 minutes. Yes, that is a random time, but they came out perfectly! Yay!

While your cakes are baking, you can now make your ganache frosting!

First, get your chocolate melting in a double boiler (or an improvised one of 2 pans, like I use!). Put in 3 squares each bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate, and 1/3 cup of unsalted butter. Let this sit over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until everything is completely melted and stirred together well.

While that is working, take 3 cups of powdered sugar, 1/8 cup cocoa powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and whisk together until fully incorporated. Add 1 cup milk, 3 teaspoons Amaretto Disaronno and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract and stir until fully combined. This will be more liquid then thick at this point. Which is what you want.

Once the chocolate is fully melted in the double boiler, add it¬†to the powdered sugar mixture, and stir until fully mixed. Mix it about 3 minutes more. Trust me on this, it’s worth it. Let sit 10-15 minutes until starts to thicken.

Once your cakes are done, let them cool in the pans about 10 minutes, then put them on serving plates or wax paper to cool another 10 minutes. Once this is done, pour the ganache over top of them – or you can dip the tops if you have mini cakes, as they are small and easy to hold onto for this process! Set aside and let sit about 10 minutes until ‘frosting’ firms up. Then drizzle or drop dollops of the Amazing Amaretto Chocolate Sauce on top of the mini cakes, and across the big cake.

If you have extra Ganache, like I did, you can also dip in fruit, pretzels and other assorted goodies and let them cool on the wax paper as well!

If you’re feeling really frisky, you could add Cr√®me Fraiche or Whipped Cream or Cool Whip on top of the cakes as well!

Voilà, ready to enjoy!

Mini cakes and ganache-dipped pretzels – mmm!

Once it’s cut open, it’s anyone’s treat!

Until next time, hope you enjoy this cake, or at least the look of it, and have a great week!

Craft you later,
Beth

Baking is Science for Hungry People: Honey Almond Berry Crostatas

Hello Baking Buddies!

I had a request at work to make a specific recipe for my coworkers. They volunteered themselves as guinea pigs this time! Okay, fine, I should be honest. Three of them volunteered everyone up as guinea pigs. But that still counts!!! Right?!? Please?!? Yessssssss, success!

Honey-Almond-Berry Crostatas!

The Recipe: Betty Crocker Mini Honey Almond Cranberry Crostatas
The Task: Bake for us please.
The Date: I missed a good friend’s birthday (I thought it was 2 days later, dangit) so decided to bring this in for his birthday treat on the day I thought his birthday occurred.
The Challenge: Follow the recipe exactly.

WHOA! WHAT?! Follow the recipe exactly?!? What madness is this, you ask? I was challenged by a friend to actually follow a recipe without straying from it by even a smidgen. He didn’t think I could do it. Honestly, I didn’t think I could, either!

Ingredients Compiled!

So here are the ingredients: 1/3 cup water, 1/3 cup honey, 1.25 cup fresh or frozen berries, 1 Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust (thawed), 3 tablespoons almond paste (3.5 oz tube), 1.5 teaspoons sliced almonds, 8 teaspoons honey.

I decided that I wanted to make a double recipe of fruit, so I actually had 1.25 cup frozen cranberries AND 1.25 cup fresh blackberries (hey, a Harris Teeter sale for $1 per pint, heck yes I bought some!). I started off with the cranberry. Partly to prove that I CAN follow a recipe, and partly to make sure it worked right before wasting blackberries. ūüėČ See, I plot and plan when I bake!

So first step, preheat the oven to 425. Second step, place a sheet of wax paper down on the counter. Third step, put aluminum foil on a cookie sheet and spray lightly with cooking spray.

1) Heat 1/3 cup water and 1/3 cup honey (okay, I probably had closer to 1/3 cup PLUS 1 tablespoon, but that is from not wanting to dirty more stuff than necessary) over medium heat until boiling. You will only need to stir a few times, promise. This should take about 4-5 minutes, tops. Once boiling, add in your berries, reducing heat to medium-low setting (halfway between the two is where I put it). Cook for about 10-12 minutes, stirring every minute or so, until berries are tender (blackberrie) or popping (cranberries). Once this happens, remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes.

Cranberries Cooking!

2) While the berries are popping, unroll one of the crusts onto your wax paper. I used a lid for my Magic Bullet, but a normal drinking glass should work also. Take your ‘cutter’ and cut rounds out of the pie crust dough. Take scraps, re-roll out and cut again until all used up. Move them from the wax paper onto the aluminum foil on the cookie sheet. The recipe says make 4-inch rounds, however I think mine were more like 2.5/3-inch rounds, so I scaled the portions up accordingly. I love almond paste, so I was a bit generous here. Take a pinch of almond paste and center it in your pastry rounds. Make sure this is like a small dot in the center, though, and not taking up too much space!

Cranberries Cooking!

3) Once the berries have cooled, and the liquid is thicker, take a spoon and top the almond paste with 1 teaspoon of berries. For the cranberries it was about 4 berries per round, and for the blackberries it was about 3 berries per round. Once these are topped (and be sure you’re not putting in the juice here!), pinch the crusts together so they form balls. Don’t roll them into balls, and don’t worry if a few areas are thin, or a little holed on top. Just make sure the bottoms are solid! Top with some slivered almonds. Since mine were going to be smaller, I actually pounded the slivered almonds a bit so they were more like crushed pieces, and just sprinkled those on top.

Completed Crostatas!

4) Bake 14 minutes until golden brown, and remove from oven. Let cool 2 minutes then remove from pan. I actually moved mine into cupcake foils (cute ones) since I was taking them into work and that makes it easier to transport AND grab. Once they are moved, though, drizle the top of each crostata with a dollop of honey. Let cool the rest of the way.

Honey-Almond-Cranberry Crostatas

5) Repeat steps above with the other berry, using everything the same. The recipe says it will make 8 crostatas with 1 pack pillsbury pie crust (which is 2 8-inch crusts), however I was able to make 12 crostatas with EACH crust, only using 1 package for both berry varieties. So I made 24 crostatas using 2/3 cup water, 1 cup honey (total), 2.5 cups berries, 3.5 oz almond paste, 3 tablespoons sliced almonds, and 1 package Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust! WOOHOO! GO ME!

Honey-Almond-Blackberry Crostatas

My coworkers really enjoyed these, and a few people tried both. The consensus was that the Cranberry tasted better than the Blackberry for these, probably because the flavor profiles match up better for the overall effect. However if I were to do these again, without having to TRY (and fail) to prove that I can follow a recipe, I would probably add some vanilla extract with the Blackberries as they are cooking, and maybe use a walnut or pecan instead to sprinkle on top (while still using the almond paste inside). New idea for next time, woohoo!

Okay that is it for today, so I will catch you all next time, and hope you enjoyed this blog entry! Definitely think these are a GREAT baking idea if you are pressed for time, not wanting anything too complicated, and are needing a cheap item. I think I spent $15 for the actual items that were used (I bought extra paste, pie crust and fruit), counting having honey & water already… ūüôā

Craft You Later,
Beth

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