The @HFXFoodBloggers create something sweet for #DoughBall 2014

If you were one of the lucky folks who snagged a ticket to The Coast’s inaugural Dough Ball (basically a giant bake sale, where you pay admission and get to try all the sweet samples!), you likely had quite the sugar high on Saturday afternoon.

While I wasn’t able to attend (I’m simultaneously sad and grateful that I missed out, because I’m fairly certain my pants would be feeling a bit snugger this morning), I was able to send along a treat for attendees to try out.

My peeps at Halifax Food Bloggers were invited to host a table at Dough Ball, and a few of us sent our sweet concoctions along to be sampled by the crowds (I saw photos of the event and our table on Twitter, and it looked AMAZING).

I decided to try my hand at making homemade caramels. A coworker of mine makes them every Christmas, and while I was slightly intimidated to try and make them (hers are delicious, and frankly, making caramel just seemed like a messy proposition), it was surprisingly simple.

I used a recipe/great step-by-step instructions I found on The Kitchn. You don’t really need any special equipment, aside from a candy thermometer, which I got at Bulk Barn for $4.

IMG_20140909_201459

The real trick to making lovely caramels is making sure you get the right texture. And that’s pretty subjective (I don’t like hard, uber-chewy caramels. Soft, smooth and creamy is how I prefer mine!) To control the softness of your caramels, you need to control the amount of dairy you add in (more dairy = softer, creamier caramels) AND bring your caramels to a lower temperature. If you’re going to try your hand at making caramels, I really do recommend you read The Kitchn post I mentioned earlier to get all the details!

I followed their recipe/directions, and was very pleased with how my two versions of caramels turned out. I made sea salt and peppermint caramels:

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Wrap in wax paper, twist on both ends, and package in mason jars, and behold:

IMG_20140913_100517Wouldn’t they make a nice hostess gift?

Anyhow, here’s what you’ll need if you’re going to try this at home:

 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or, if you’re making mint caramels, substitute with mint extract)

Equipment

  • Square baking dish
  • Parchment paper
  • 2-quart saucepan
  • 4-quart saucepan (make sure you use a big pot!)
  • Candy thermometer
  • Spatula
  • Whisk
  • Wax paper

Have fun, and try not to eat too many! (you’ll end up with a bellyache, and maybe even a cavity or two!)

Lime Margarita Cupcakes for Bachelorette Celebrations (complete with tequila buttercream icing; no joke)

In case you missed the memo, it’s WEDDING SEASON!!! Of course, before the wedding itself, there is the inevitable bachelorette/bachelor party.

A very good friend of mine is tying the knot next weekend, so we hosted a bachelorette party for her last night… Since I love to bake, I was charged with the cake. Now, I’m not a big fan of phallic baked goods, so we skipped the penis-shaped cake. Instead, I found this recipe for lime margarita cupcakes.

Still fun, but more importantly, yummy (especially the tequila lime buttercream icing).

You need kinda a lot of limes (like, a lot: six or seven). And butter. Lots of butter.

Marg Cupcake Ingredients

It also involves candying lime peels (that’s an optional step: just a garnish, really):

Blanching Limes

But the end result is worth it: a beautiful, zesty little cake topped with a not-too-sweet tequila lime buttercream icing:

Lime Margarita Cupcakes!

What a gorgeous group of ladies, right?! (Note: this was taken before we started drinking or consumed any of the tequila lime buttercream icing)… 馃檪

Bridal Party!end

 

Back with a bang: Flourless espresso chocolate cake

Yeah, I suck. No posts in months… What can I say? It’s been busy in my world for the past little while.

BUT, I’m on vacation now, and I have some making up to do in the blog department.

So, by way of an apology, please feast your eyes on this incredible creation:

Flourless chocolate espresso cake

Okay, it may kinda look like a collapsed cake, but it’s actually Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Cake with Espresso Glaze (and it’s supposed to look like that!)

It was Kevin’s birthday yesterday, and I try and bake his cake every year (I don’t think I’ve bought one yet!). As you can see from previous years’ creations (last year and the year before), he kinda has a thing for chocolate. I tried to persuade him to let me make something lighter/fruity this year, but he was having no part of it.

So, after a bit of time with my good friend Google, I found a recipe that was simple, but classic: a decadent chocolate dessert, which used coffee to temper some of the sweetness.

IMG_20140609_112347_hdr_editIMG_20140609_112759_hdr_edit IMG_20140609_124714_hdr_edit

The recipe was easy to follow and really didn’t feature any odd ingredients (you can find everything you need at your local grocery store). Since there’s no flour in this recipe (NO, I am not gluten-intolerant, or gluten-free, or whatever you frigging call it these days), the cake’s volume comes from a meringue that you fold into the chocolate/espresso batter. I had a moment during this part of the baking process where I lost faith and started to panic, thinking that it wasn’t going to turn out properly, but I soldiered on (planning to go to Dairy Queen and get an ice cream cake, if all else failed).

Thankfully, it turned out perfectly! Well, aside from my terrible writing on top (it’s really hard to write on a cake, okay?!) I actually had these cool chocolate scribbler things from Laura Secord (thanks, Mom!) but even with those handy little things, my writing was pretty messy.

Anyways, topped with a drizzle of warm espresso glaze, we quickly forgot about my poor icing-penmanship. 馃檪

TIP: If you make this recipe, I’d serve it warm, with French Vanilla ice cream.

Mini carrot cake + cream cheese frosting = Happy Valentine’s Day!

Screw the Valentine’s Day cards… skip straight to the sweets, please!Roses, just for you!

I know that Valentine’s Day is just a commercial holiday designed to make money… and I don’t normally buy into it, much. But this year, I came across some adorable Valentine’s Day-themed cupcake accessories at the grocery store, and remembered a recipe I came across in a new cookbook I received from a good friend for Christmas.

Before I knew it, the kitschy cupcake paraphernalia was in my shopping cart.

Cupcake Accessories

The recipe I was using was actually for mini cupcakes, but I decided to make full size ones (because, let’s face it, who wants JUST ONE BITE of carrot cake?!) I rather liked how the recipe turned out — fluffy and flavourful, with just a hint of orange and spice), but I prefer my carrot cake to be a bit juicier (with raisins or pineapple). I also added some cinnamon to my cream cheese frosting, which worked nicely with the flavour of the cake).

Spiced Mini Carrot Cupcakes

They turned out quite well, I think! (Kevin ate NINE. NINE!) I wish I could eat nine cupcakes without gaining 40 pounds. Life isn’t fair. Just sayin’.

...With Cream cheese frosting

Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink loaf!

I almost called this recipe my “Leftover Loaf,” but then I realized it kind of sounded like it might be leftover meatloaf, and that’s not really delicious, is it?

Here’s the deal: I had a bunch of bananas that were past the perfect point of ripeness, and some leftover crushed pineapple and unsweetened applesauce in the fridge. And I wanted something super yummy to eat… so I turned to Google and found this recipe.

A few tweaks later, I had invented this delicious dessert!

Kitchen sink loaf

Inside Kitchen Sink loaf

Loaf slices

The recipe yielded 2 big loaves, which is kind of awesome, because you can freeze one (unless your boyfriend, like mine, can inhale an entire loaf in one day… Then you won’t need to freeze either).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1-1/4 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
  • 2 cups mashed ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

DIRECTIONS:

  • Grease and flour 2 loaf pans, set aside, and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Sift together the first 5 ingredients (all dry ingredients) in a medium bowl and set aside.
  • With an electric mixer on a low setting, combine eggs, applesauce, vanilla, pineapple and bananas.
  • Add the dry mixture into the wet gradually, combining until you have a fairly smooth batter (you’ll still have some lumps and bumps from the fruit).
  • In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, pecans and cinnamon (this is your topping).
  • Pour the batter into your pans, and sprinkle the brown sugar/pecan mixture on top.
  • Bake for 1 hour (or longer… basically until an inserted toothpick comes out without batter on it).
  • Enjoy!

I was really pleased with how the recipe turned out, considering all of the substitutions and changes I made. Next time, I might even add some shredded coconut into the mix to give it a more tropical flavour! 馃檪

Carrot cake has lots of Vitamin A, right? So this cake must be super good for you… #wishfulthinking

I spend way too much time on Pinterest.

There, I said it.

Scouring Pinterest boards before I go to bed has become a nightly routine for me, and while I could probably put that time to much better use (like tackling those baskets of dirty laundry), I can’t resist sifting through the eyeroll-inducing, sappy motivational messages, on the hunt for particularly brilliant finds.

Like this: “To-Die-For-Carrot Cake”

Actually, I think it was Pinned as “Best Carrot Cake Recipe EVER,” or something equally outlandish.

But it was late, and hey, I was craving something sweet, so I pinned it… And since I have a ridiculous number of carrots in my fridge right now (thanks to my weekly delivery of fresh fruit and veggies), I decided last night was a good time to test out the recipe.

What originally caught my attention — aside from the mouth-watering picture of the cake — was that the recipe includes applesauce instead of oil (yay!), and coconut, which isn’t in every carrot cake recipe.

Carrot Cake1

It was easy to make, but I only have one small round cake pan (my other mysteriously disappeared, probably during some other random Pinterest-inspired craft or baking adventure), so I decided to just use my BIG round cake pan.

It turned out very well (though I had to extend the bake time because I swapped out the pan): moist, sweet, and not greasy or heavy. And hey, you can’t really go wrong with cream cheese frosting, am I right?

Carrot Cake2

 

Carrot Cake3

Carrot Cake4

If you’re partial to carrot cake, and happen to have a fridge full of carrots, like me, I’d definitely recommend trying it out. You tell ME if you think it’s the聽“Best Carrot Cake Recipe EVER.”

馃檪

 

Coffee Cr猫me Br没l茅e Brownie Bombs! #ECOMilkComp @JustUsCoffee @ECOMilkNS #hfxfb

A few weeks ago, an email popped up in my inbox from the lovely ladies who run/organize the incredible Halifax Food Bloggers group I am so proud to be a part of. Anyhow, the aforementioned email mentioned a brown bag challenge, which my fellow Food Network junkies may know as a black box challenge. Essentially, we were being invited to invent a recipe using a bag of mystery ingredients. Very cool.

Also, very scary. Let’s be real: I’m a home cook, not a chef… so I was a little worried.

BUT, as soon as I saw the competition was being sponsored by Just Us! Coffee and East Coast Organic Milk, my heart gave a little flutter. See, I absolutely adore coffee (note: good, strong coffee, not weak-ass, coffee-flavoured milk & syrup), and frankly, a good latte just wouldn’t be possible without quality milk, right? So, with Just Us! & East Coast Organic Milk on-board, I was pretty sure competitors would be given top-notch ingredients.

I wasn’t wrong.

I signed up, picked up my bag from the Spring Garden Road location of Just Us! coffee, and gleefully tore open the bag right at the counter (what can I say? I’m impatient). I was very pleased with what I found inside: a bag of Tarrazu Honey Costa Rican coffee beans, bars of 70% cocoa dark chocolate and a bag of organic cane sugar from Just Us!, as well as a full carton of homogenized milk from East Coast Organic Milk.

SCORE!

Contents of my brown bag!

Right?

After mulling over recipe ideas for a few days — do I try and get fancy, and pull out some of the toffee, field berry and wine flavours in the coffee? Or maybe go for something savoury, like a chili? — I gave my head a shake.

Seriously: why mess with a good thing? Coffee and chocolate are two of my favourite things in life.

So, I decided to keep things simple, and combined two of my favourite classic desserts: a decadent chocolate brownie and espresso cr猫me br没l茅e. Thus, the Coffee Cr猫me Br没l茅e Brownie Bomb (or CCBBB) was born:

Ready to enjoy!

Inside the CCBBB!

These are a dangerously decadent dessert. But they also aren’t very difficult to make. You don’t even need to own a cr猫me br没l茅e torch to make them (little-known baking fact: you can simply use the broiler in your oven, rather than buy a silly torch you probably will only use once or twice a year. Actually, if you try these, you may find yourself in need of one more often. So nevermind. Invest in a torch.)

Here’s how I made them:

Coffee Cr猫me Br没l茅e Brownie Bomb (CCBBB)

(6 servings)

INGREDIENTS

Brownie Bombs:

  • 1/4 cup espresso (I used Just Us! Tarrazu Honey beans, ground and brewed in my home espresso machine)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate (Just Us! 70% cocoa dark chocolate, chopped)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (Just Us! organic cane sugar)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate (Just Us! 70% cocoa dark chocolate, chopped into chunks)

Coffee Cr猫me Br没l茅e:

  • 2 cups homogenized milk (East Coast Organic Milk, 3.25%; you could use cream if you want it to be richer)
  • 6 tbsp. ground coffee (I used Just Us! Tarrazu Honey beans, ground and brewed in my home espresso machine)
  • 8 large egg yolks (I used Maritime Pride eggs)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (Just Us! organic cane sugar)
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

General prep:

  • Pour your milk into a French Press, stir in 6 tbsp. ground coffee, and let sit.
  • Lightly butter and flour your ramekins & set them aside.
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Brownie Bombs:

  • Pull a fresh espresso shot and measure out 1/4 cup. If you don’t have an espresso maker, that’s okay: Just brew a small very strong batch of coffee and set aside 1/4 cup.
  • In a small saucepan, combine your coffee, butter and chocolate and stir at a low heat until everything is melted and your mixture is smooth.
  • Remove the pan from the stovetop and add your sugar, eggs and vanilla. Stir until you have a smooth consistency.
  • Add in your flour and salt, and mix gently until combined, then fold in chocolate chunks.
  • Spoon approximately 3 tablespoons of batter into each of your ramekins, and place onto a parchment lined tray (the parchment just makes for easier clean-up if you spill any batter).
  • Bake for 15 minutes, or until you insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.
  • Set the brownies aside to cool, and reduce the heat in your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Coffee Cr猫me Br没l茅e:

  • Slowly press the coffee and milk you set aside earlier, and pour the milk into a small saucepan. Heat this coffee-infused milk over a low heat until it almost reaches a simmer.
  • Mix your egg yolks and sugar together, and gradually add the hot coffee/milk, stirring until the mixture is smooth.
  • Pour the custard mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a large measuring cup (with a lip for pouring: it makes it much easier).
  • Add vanilla and stir gently.
  • Once your brownies have cooled down a bit, place them in a water bath (line an oven-proof casserole dish with a cloth, place the ramekins inside, making sure they don’t touch one another, and pour hot water into the casserole dish until the reaches about 2/3 the way up the sides of the ramekin).
  • Pour an even amount of the custard mixture into each ramekin, on top of the brownies (don’t be alarmed if the brownies pop up to the surface: this is what makes them brownie bombs!)
  • Carefully place the pan in the oven and bake for approximately 35 minutes (bake until the custard has set, and the edges are just starting to bubble and brown). Remove the ramekins from the water bath and let them come to room temperature.
  • Cover each with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for at least 8 hours.
  • When you’re ready to serve them, place your ramekins on a pan, dust them with a fine coat of sugar and sit them under the broiler for a few minutes (until the sugar melts — watch them carefully, or they might burn!) or use a cr猫me br没l茅e torch.
  • Enjoy! I recommend preparing these and serving them the same day (storing them in the fridge for long periods of time can cause the cake to become very dense). Serve with a glass of milk or even a latte… 馃檪

Many thanks to the contest sponsors and my fellow Halifax Food Bloggers for allowing me to participate in this very fun challenge!