Friday, April 18, 2014

Cinnamon Bun Cake

This is the kind of recipe that makes me realize why I adore the whole food blogging thing.

You know why I adore it? [ok, ok, I love the photography and writing, social media, working on fun non-food projects and developing relationships with other bloggers and readers]. But the main reason? The food. Plain and simple. Food like this giant cinnamon bun. The food is where I can be creative and the food is really the reason I started blogging - I'm passionate about food so I love making and sharing it with you! Also, there is kind of a little perk. I get to eat all the food I make.

[recently realized that I eat way too many brownies and don't work out nearly enough. ugh.]

Every time I make cinnamon rolls or any dish that is cinnamon roll inspired, I have the same question: is it breakfast or dessert? I know that cinnamon rolls are traditionally considered to be a breakfast-ish food, but let's be real. Who wakes up and thinks "what should I eat for breakfast? ohhh, I know, a cinnamon roll!" I wake up and think about eggs and bacon. Actually, usually, I wake up and realize that I have to leave for school in about 17 minutes in order to not be late to my first class. Those are my eat-a-banana-in-the-car-on-the-way-to-school days. They happen more often than I care to admit.

[shockingly, I've only been late to class a handful of times.]

The idea for this Cinnamon Bun Cake is kind of a funny story. I was actually lying on my bed thinking about cinnamon rolls because I haven't made them in a while and I was trying to think of a new way to make cinnamon buns. I wanted something that tasted just like a cinnamon bun but was in a slightly different format. So I made a cake. It's really just a giant cinnamon bun, but it's delicious and I strayed from my usual recipe and created this all on my own and I'm pretty proud of it. By the way, the funny part of that story is that the idea came to me while I was in bed. Bed + food = happiest place on earth.

Remember when I made these fantastic bread sticks? For this cake, I used that dough recipe, omitted the garlic and savory seasonings and upped the sugar a bit to create a sweeter dough. I knew when I came across that recipe that I'd use it all.the.time because it is so quick, simple and easy to work with. Then I added the filling, rolled it into one huge cinnamon bun and baked it in a cake pan. Of course I added a glaze because everyone knows it's actually the best part [I made the glaze with heavy cream instead of milk - unbelievably good!]. And I cut the whole shebang into little wedges so that there are lots of layers in every single piece.

Do I even need to tell you how incredible this?

Cinnamon Bun Cake (Dough adapted from: Baked by Rachel)

Prep Time: 45 minutes       Total Time: 2-1/2 hours
Cook Time: 25 minutes      Yield: 6-8 servings

1 cup hot water
2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

4 teaspoons butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons heavy cream

In a small bowl, combine hot water, yeast and 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar. Let sit until the yeast and sugar have dissolved and the yeast has proofed, about 5 minutes.
In a mixing bowl, combine flour, salt and 1 teaspoons sugar. With the mixer on low, add yeast mixture and mix until dough forms a ball. Transfer to a lightly greased bowl, cover with a dish towel and let rise until doubled in size, about one hour.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll into a rectangle, about 1/4" thick. Spread the butter over the entire rectangle. In a small bowl, combine both sugars and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the butter. Cut the entire rectangle into five or six strips lengthwise (they should be about 1" x 10"). Roll one of the strips up tightly to form a cinnamon bun. Wrap the remaining strips around the original bun to form a large bun. Transfer the bun to a 6" cake pan. Let rise for 20 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool slightly while preparing glaze.
To make glaze, whisk together powdered sugar and heavy cream. Drizzle over warm cake. Serve immediately.

I want this for breakfast so badly right now...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies

Let's discuss making caramel.

It's a long and somewhat painful process. But it's worth it. I think? Yeah, it's worth it. You just have to be patient and you have to be careful, and whatever you do, you must not overcook it! Basically what I'm saying is this: follow the directions closely and you'll be golden because it's actually a pretty simple process, it's just a somewhat ... picky process. At the end of it, though, you'll have a pot of warm, buttery caramel sauce that's a little bit sweet and a little bit salty and a lot of wonderful.

Wanna know what's even more difficult though? Stuffing the cookies with caramel. Warm caramel sauce and soft cookie dough is a really difficult combination to work with. I found that flattening balls of cookie dough into a semi-thick disk, filling with just a little bit of the caramel sauce then wrapping the dough around the caramel and rolling the whole thing between your hands was the most effective way to fill the cookies. Did that make sense? Clearly, my incredibly long sentences aren't the best way to explain things.

And clearly, I am not doing my job today.

My job is to make the food look/sound incredible and to convince all of you lovely readers to make it and I'm pretty much doing the opposite of that. Seriously. I just wrote two paragraphs about how painful making caramel is and how difficult stuffing it into cookies is. Maybe you should just disregard the first two paragraphs of this post? UGH. I'm so conflicted/contradictory. If you couldn't tell, I can barely write a blog post these days. I'm all over the place. My brain is a scary place to be.

My kitchen, thankfully, is not [smooth transition there] because it's full of these delightful Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies. The only way, in my opinion, to make a chocolate chip cookie better is by adding salted caramel to it. I'm not kidding or overreacting when I say that these cookies are probably the best I've made in a long while [yes, I'll admit that once in a while, I may slightly overreact about the deliciousness of some food item ... I just really like food and I really like to eat]. Anyway. Hopefully, this paragraph has made up for the other paragraphs that aren't convincing at all.

And hopefully, the pictures are making your mouth water.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chips Cookies (Source: Two Peas and Their Pod)

Prep Time: 45 minutes        Total Time: 2 hours
Bake Time: 10 minutes       Yield: 3 dozen cookies

1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 sticks butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips

For caramel sauce: add sugar to a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar starts to clump and melt. Once it begins to melt, stir it constantly until completely melted. After it is completely melted, stir occasionally until it turns an amber color [this happens quickly, so watch closely!]. Add butter, stir constantly. Remove from heat and gently whisk in cream and salt, whisking the entire time. Cool in pot for ten minutes, then pour into a jar and let cool completely. Store in the refrigerator for up to one month.
For cookies: preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream melted butter and both sugars until smooth and combined. Add egg, egg yolk and vanilla extract and mix. Add in flour, baking soda, salt and chocolate chips and mix just until combined. Roll dough into balls, flatten into disks, add a little dab of caramel sauce to the center of each desk then wrap the dough around the caramel and gently roll into smooth balls. Place on baking sheets and bake for 9-10 minutes or until golden brown and set. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

I'm too scared to go back and proofread this post. Just ... enjoy the cookies.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Dark Chocolate Banana Brownies

Remember that incredible whipped ganache that I used last week in these sandwich cookies?

Well, I'm using it again. This time, I plopped it on top of a pan of brownies. And then, of course, I drizzled some melted chocolate all over it. Because, why not?

Here's the thing. I really, really, really love brownies. A lot. They are almost always my dessert of choice. But sometimes, I get a little bit bored with them. And I just want to add to them - pretzels and peanut butter and m&m's and bananas and caramel and extra chocolate and any other ingredient that looks good at the moment. Obviously, that would be overkill. So I try to find fun and somewhat simple ways to jazz up an ordinary brownie.

On a semi-unrelated note, I just ate a Twix bar and the entire time, I was thinking about chopping it up and tossing it in some brownie batter. This is not normal. I think I have a problem.

By the way, I'm almost too embarrassed to tell you how long I stood in the cafeteria trying to decide on which candy bar to buy. Obviously, I went with a Twix bar, but I was pretty close to getting a Milky Way bar. It's been a rough couple of days, so chocolate was necessary [I'm such a typical girl].

Anyway. I told you in this post how much I adore this whipped dark chocolate banana ganache. Since I loved it so much, I decided to spread it all over a pan of brownies. It doesn't end up being too heavy or rich because this brownie base isn't overly sweet at all. Instead, the brownies and the ganache end up being the perfect, balanced match. And of course, you need to drizzle a little extra chocolate on top to make it extra pretty. Which is making me realize that there are three different chocolate components in this brownie. I mean, obviously, I don't have a problem with that. You know.

Eat up!

Dark Chocolate Banana Brownies (Inspired by: Love and Olive Oil)

Prep Time: 30 minutes         Total Time: 5 hours
Cook Time: 20 minutes        Yield: 16 brownies

1 cup dark chocolate chips 
1/2 cup heavy cream 
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Line an 8" cake pan with aluminum foil or plastic wrap; set aside. Place the chocolate chips in a bowl. Heat the heavy cream in the microwave in 30-second increments until very hot but not boiling. Pour over the chocolate. Let sit for 2 minutes and then stir till smooth and combined. Pour the chocolate mixture into a blender. Add mashed banana and vanilla extract and blend until smooth. Pour into prepared pan. Chill for at least four hours before using.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8" x 8" pan with parchment paper; set aside.
In a microwave safe bowl, melt butter. Add cocoa powder and both sugars and stir until a thick paste forms. Add eggs, vanilla extract and salt and whisk until smooth. Stir in flour just until incorporated. Spread into prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely.
Spread chilled ganache in a smooth layer on top of cooled brownies. Drizzle with additional melted chocolate, if desired. Store in refrigerator until serving.
ps: my biology lab for tomorrow got canceled and I'm over the moon about it!!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

weekend stuff {04/12/14}

[Follow along on Instagram]

This week: food, family and the occasional workout - this post is such an accurate representation of my life that it's almost scary.

Have a wonderful weekend!!

[follow along on facebook, twitter & instagram!!]

Friday, April 11, 2014

Chocolate Marshmallow Pie

This is the pie that made me a pie person.

Because usually, I'm so not a pie person. Flaky crusts and fruit fillings just aren't for me. Once in a while, I'll pick around the crust and eat a little bit of the filling, but I generally don't care for a fruit pie [except this oatmeal cookie crumble topped apple pie that I made last year!]. Chocolate pie, however, is a whole different ballgame. Of course. How very predictable of me.

I have reasons though! For me, a great pie starts with a great crust. I know that most people adore the usual flaky pie crust, but I just don't like it. I never have. Fancy-ish pastries freak me out. BUT. Graham cracker crusts or Oreo crumb crusts? I'm all over those! They are the best. They may actually even be better than the actual pie filling. But, uhm, this particular pie filling is made with chocolate and marshmallows, so that is definitely not the case here. But like I said before, a great pie needs a great crust and that's exactly what this pie has. A really great crust.

I'm making a conscientious effort to make more pies because my parents and my family love pie, but also because I'd like to start branching out more in my baking and being a little more adventurous. Which is so not my thing, but I'm trying to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. You've got to get outside of your comfort zone to accomplish greatness. So this is me, accomplishing greatness, one Chocolate Marshmallow Pie at a time.

[I'm being serious about getting outside of your comfort zone. you should try it some time!]

At some point here, I should probably actually describe this pie to you. The filling is a fudgy, a little bit creamy and not as rich as you might expect. This is a cream cheese based filling, so we've almost got a chocolate cheesecake flavor going one here, which obviously, I love!! And I love the contrasting texture provided by the mini marshmallows. Plus, they add a little extra flavor. When you add it all up - crust, filling, taste, texture - there is nothing about this pie that I don't adore [except the 8-hour chill time, ugh].

Please do yourself a favor and make this.

Chocolate Marshmallow Pie (Source: Taste of Home)

Prep Time: 25 minutes         Total Time: 8-1/2 hours
Cook Time: 10 minutes        Yield: 1 pie (8 servings)

1-1/2 cups Oreo cookie crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
11 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup chocolate syrup
1-1/3 cups chocolate chips, melted
8 ounces frozen whipped topping, thawed
1-1/2 cups mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a bowl, combine cookie crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Stir together until crumbly. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9" pie plate. Bake for 10 minutes until set; cool completely.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese and chocolate syrup until smooth and combined. Add melted chocolate chips and beat well. Fold in whipped topping and marshmallows. Spoon into completely cooled crust. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Top with a little additional whipped topping before serving.

This pie is the perfect weekend project. Do it!