Spiced Cranberry Ricotta Scones

Well here we are approaching Christmas, and I actually have my act together enough to post a festive recipe for you ahead of time! Hopefully you can make this for your family on Christmas morning…or on any morning :)

Before I met Nate, I had never celebrated Christmas. I guess every family does it differently, but at his house (or technically his mom’s house) the whole family wakes up Christmas morning, opens presents, and then has a big, yummy breakfast. You need food after all that exhausting unwrapping.

Spiced Cranberry Ricotta Scones

The first year I got to spend Christmas morning with them, I wanted to contribute something, so I made these delicious overnight cinnamon rolls. They’re definitely a good choice! They get prepped the night before and then you just take them out about an hour before you wanna bake them to let them warm to room temp. Nate’s mom also makes turkey sausage and bacon and has plain croissants and chocolate croissants and blood orange juice! I told you it was a big, yummy breakfast ;)

 Spiced Cranberry Ricotta Scones

If you want to be really decadent, you could make this thick and rich hot chocolate too. It’s practically like eating (drinking?) dessert.

But another great breakfast food is scones. Ok, maybe not in England because I think they eat them for tea time there. But in America, scones are lovely for breakfast.

Spiced Cranberry Ricotta Scones

We had some leftover ricotta the other day and I knew Nate loves scones, so I tried to  come up with something festive. Not only did I succeed (I think cranberries and spices definitely scream holiday), but Nate said they were “AMAZING.” And I think I have to agree ;)

Spiced Cranberry Ricotta Scones

Spiced Cranberry Orange Chocolate Ricotta Scones

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Makes 8 large scones

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp cinnamon
6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
1 cup fresh cranberries (or thawed frozen ones)
1 cup dark chocolate chips (I actually used mini nonpareils because I had them and they’re festive!)
1 cup whole milk ricotta
1/3 cup whole milk + 2 Tbsp to brush tops of scones
zest of one orange (about 1 Tbsp)
1 egg

Preheat oven to 425. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and cinnamon together.

Add the butter and use the a pastry cutter (and/or your fingertips/ potato masher or ricer) to cut/blend the butter into the flour mixture until the biggest pieces are the size of small peas. Toss in cranberries and use the cutter again to break them into pieces and quarter berry sized chunks. Add chocolate chips.

In a small bowl, blend ricotta, milk, egg and orange zest. Stir them into the flour mixture to form a dough with stiff spatula or wooden spoon. The dough will be very wet.

Dump dough on to a very well-floured counter, flour the top of the dough and pat it into a 1-inch thick circle. With a large knife, divide the dough 8 pieces, cut like a pizza (or whatever shape you like your scones). Transfer the scones to prepared baking sheet with a spatula and keep them at least 1-2 inches apart because they will spread. Brush scones lightly with milk.

Bake the scones for about 20-25 minutes, until lightly golden at the edges. Cool in pan for a minute, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Best served warm but still delicious the next day. They even stay pretty moist when straight out of the fridge!



Cookies and Cream Bars

I know I shouldn’t be tempting you guys more dessert posts after that last doozy. But since my blogging is falling by the wayside, it’s been a week since then…and if you’re living in my household, that cake is long gone!

Cookies and Cream Bars

I also know I shouldn’t be making these desserts when I have 6 weeks left to look lovely in my wedding dress. And now that I’ve had my first fitting I’d really not like to gain any weight!

But I’m sorry I just had to share these. I saw them online thinking they reminded me of “cookies ‘n cream” (even though they were called Oreo Cheesecake Bars), but figuring they wouldn’t really taste like it….but they did!

Cookies and Cream Bars

You can’t taste the cheesecake tang in these as much as just a creamy vanilla filling and they’re CHOCK FULL of oreos- like almost-two-entire-packages-full. And worth every little calorie.

Cookies and Cream Bars

I was afraid to figure out how many calories are actually in these, so I didn’t. Instead I cut myself off a half of a piece each night and savored it…and then sometimes went back for the other half. Oops.

This week i’m only eating salad…let’s hope I fit in my dress!

Luckily LC doesn’t have to fit in a dress for the wedding, because she’s one lazy cat…

Cookies and Cream Bars

From Blissfully Delicious (following her doubling directions) via Annie’s Eats

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makes 24 bars

For the crust
46 Oreo cookies (almost 2 entire packages including the ones in the cheescake layer)
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake:
24 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4  cup. sour cream, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large egg plus 2 egg yolk
24 Oreo cookies, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 325˚ F. Line a 9×13 pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

Make the crust: place cookies in the bowl of a food processor. Process, pulsing, until the cookies are finely ground. Add in the melted butter and pulse until the cookie crumbs are moistened. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan. Press the crumbs into an even layer over the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then set aside and prepare the filling while maintaining the oven temperature.

Make the filling: add the cream cheese to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until light and smooth, about 2 minutes. Mix in the sugar until well combined. Blend in the sour cream, vanilla and salt. Beat in the eggs and egg yolks on medium-high speed until incorporated, scraping down the bowl as needed. Stir in the chopped cookies with a rubber spatula.

Pour the cheesecake batter over the prepared crust, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the cheesecake is set around the edges but slightly wobbly in the center. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool about an hour to room temperature. Cover the pan and refrigerate until well chilled, about 3 hours or overnight.

To cut the bars, pull the cake from the pan by lifting the foil up out of the pan. Place on a cutting board, peel away the foil, and slice into bars. Clean the knife blade between each slice to keep the edges neat. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

As you all know, this past Thursday was Nate’s birthday….or as Nate likes to call it, the day he’s “on vacation.” By this he means that I’m not allowed to make him run any errands.

Nate’s currently home during the day while I’m at work, and as most of us working folk know, most stores that you need to run errands at are only open during the hours we’re at work. So annoying, right?! I’ve been having Nate run some errands for me and he’s been none too pleased.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

I did really want to give him “the day off” on his birthday, but my library books were about to expire so I asked him to do me a favor and return my books to the library across the street from our apartment. I don’t even want to tell you how much he complained….but then I reminded him about this wonderful cake that I’d be serving him that evening. I didn’t hear another word. At least for a day.

Nate is a man of simple tastes, so when it came time to figure out what to bake up for his bday, I only had to think of his few favorite combos: chocolate-mint, red velvet/carrot cake + cream cheese frosting, and of course, chocolate peanut-butter.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

It seems that Deb’s ( from Smitten Kitchen) husband is a choco peanut butter fan too, and so when I saw this recipe on her site, I knew I had to make it. I’ve had good luck with the recipes on her site because they’re well-tested, so I was pretty sure this one would be a winner.

I have to say that as I added the 1.5 cups of water the recipe calls for and stirred it up, I was slightly skeptical. The batter before the water was added had normal cake consistency but after it was incredibly watery. I checked the site and no one had said anything in the comments about a typo, so I forged ahead.

please ignore the giant glob of glaze puddled on that side…

35ish minutes later I had the most fluffy looking cake I’d ever seen. After cooling the cakes in the pans for 20 minutes, I following Deb’s advice and shoved them in the freezer for about 30 minutes, which seems to have been a good choice given how delicate these cakes were.

My only other comment is that the glaze seems kind of clumpy when you melt the chocolate, pb, etc in the pan, but after adding the half and half and vigorously mixing, it smooths out nicely….so fear not!

Anyway, I know this is a bold statement, but I think it may be the most delicious cake I’ve ever made or eaten. Ever. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

And I wasn’t the only one who thought that. Nate and I had 3 friends over to dinner and the only sounds coming from them after biting into the cake were ooohs and aaaahs…and a few “this is amazing”s.

I know it may look complicated, but following Deb’s tips regarding the cooling times, it was surprisingly easy. I made the cake and pb frosting and frosted it all within 3 hours or so after I got home from work. After sticking it in the fridge overnight, I made the chocolate glaze the next evening, poured it onto the cold cake, stuck it back in the fridge to firm up while we started eating dinner. I then took the cake out about 30 min to an hour before we were ready for it so it could soften up.

YOU NEED TO MAKE THIS. Seriously, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze

From Smitten Kitchen via Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes

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makes one 8 inch 3 layer cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans. **Note batter will be incredibly watery

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. (Deb’s note: These cakes are very, very soft. I found them a lot easier to work with after firming them up in the freezer for 30 minutes. They’ll defrost quickly once assembled. You’ll be glad you did this, trust me.)

4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. (Deb note 1: Making a crumb coat of frosting–a thin layer that binds the dark crumbs to the cake so they don’t show up in the final outer frosting layer–is a great idea for this cake, or any with a dark cake and lighter-colored frosting. Once you “mask” your cake, let it chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm, then use the remainder of the frosting to create a smooth final coating. Deb note 2: Once the cake is fully frosted, it helps to chill it again and let it firm up. The cooler and more set the peanut butter frosting is, the better drip effect you’ll get from the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze.)

5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving. Decorate the top with chopped peanut brittle.

Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. **Note the consistency will be incredibly thick and slightly grainy but this is normal.

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. **It will separate before it combines and smooths out. Use while still warm.

Crispy Peanut Butter Bars

Yep, I’m back with another oven-free recipe. You do need to turn on the stove but only for all of 10 minutes max.

I found this recipe at one of my favorite sites: Serious Eats. Their recipes are, from my experience, well-tested and reproducible.

Crispy Peanut Butter Bars

I made these for a little impromptu dinner party I had. One of my friends came over because she is contributing to the little video Nate is making to show at the wedding. I can’t wait to see the finished product…it’s going to be amazing :)

Anyway, these are seriously awesome, and incredibly rich. I sent my friend and her husband home with extras to take to their 4th of July party and they were thrilled. Mostly because we were too full from dinner to really enjoy them that night.

Crispy Peanut Butter Bars

They’re kind of somewhere in between a rice krispie treat and a buckeye ball. You have to keep them refrigerated but they stay soft straight out of the fridge and they stick together really well.

Speaking of sticking together, here’s a little something my soon to be mother-in-law shared with me. I knew I liked elephants for a reason! You have to watch til the very end…sooooo cute!!!: http://www.youtube.com/embed/f_gBWPs4r3U

Crispy Peanut Butter Bars

No-Bake Crispy Corn Flake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

From Serious Eats

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makes 16 (2 inch)squares

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup light brown sugar
Pinch salt
4 cups corn flakes, lightly crushed
1/3 cup salted peanuts, chopped and divided
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Line 8- by 8-inch baking pan with foil. In medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add peanut butter, corn syrup, brown sugar, and salt and continue to cook, stirring, until melted and smooth.

Stir in corn flakes, 1/4 cup peanuts, and vanilla until just combined. Spoon into prepared pan and smooth top.

In heatproof bowl over pan of barely simmering water (or in microwave), heat chocolate until just melted. Spread over top. Sprinkle with remaining chopped peanuts.

Chill until firm, about 2 hours. Remove from pan and cut into 2-inch squares.

chocolate souffle

Pardon the iphone pics…

Nate went to California this weekend with his mom, to visit his brother who lives there. I wish I could have gone but I hate having to take a red eye and having such a long flight for such a short trip.

I knew that I should spend the weekend doing some wedding-related projects, but I also decided to sign up for a souffle baking class! I’ve made a chocolate souffle before but I figured I could use a few pointers, and I had a coupon for half-off. I can’t refuse a deal!

The class was through DessertTruck Works. Dessert Truck used to be an actual truck that drove around NYC, dispensing tasty treats out its window. I guess their business grew so much that they decided to open a store. I saw them on the Food Network once in a Throdown with Bobby Flay…and they won!

chocolate souffle

My friend did it with me and had a great time. We got to catch up and eat chocolate…what could be better ;)

I did learn a few things. There are 3 different types of meringue: French, Swiss, and Italian. They differ in that French is the least stable is is simply whipped egg whites with sugar. Swiss is slightly more stable because the whites are cooked with the sugar over a water bath. Finally, Italian is the most stable and involves pouring a boiling sugar syrup into the whites while they’re being whipped.

French meringue is therefore the simplest, quickest and easiest. Because the teacher wanted to show us how to make souffle without any fancy appliances, we had to whip the egg whites by hand. My friend and I switched off whipping and my arm is still SO sore! I told the teacher that she should have an exercise class that consists of different cooking techniques. Kneading dough without a KitchenAid made my arms and abs extremely sore the last time I did it!

chocolate souffle

I also learned that you should run your finger around the inside rim of the ramekin so that the souffle doesn’t get stuck on the sides as it begins to rise, and thus has an easier time rising. This will prevent slanted souffles and also cracks on top. Good to know :)

Souffles were a perfect recipe for a 1.5 hour class because you assemble and cook them in a very short amount of time. They only have to bake for 10 minutes when made in small ramekins.

I highly recommend this recipe. It was the perfect texture, not too sweet and very chocolatey. We got to eat it with a Creme Anglaise they had that was perfect with it.

*They gave this recipe out and already had everything measured for us, so sorry it’s in grams instead of cups. If I make it again I’ll update the recipe.

Chocolate Souffle

From DessertTruck Works!

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makes Five 4 oz. ramekins

approx. 4 Tbsp of softened unsalted butter (for ramekins)
approx. 1/2 Cup of granulated sugar (for ramekins)
250 g egg whites
120 g granulated sugar
3 g cream of tartar or lemon juice
150 g 70% dark chocolate
35 g egg yolks

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Using a brush, generously brush the interior of the ramekins with softened butter, ensuring that the entire interior is buttered. Coat the butter with sugar, knocking out any excess sugar.

Using a double-boiler, melt the chocolate over simmering water, stirring occasionally.

Place the egg whites, the cream of tartar or lemon juice and a pinch of sugar in a large bowl. Using a whisk or an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, whip the whites and gradually add the rest of the granulated sugar. Whip the whites until you get stiff peaks. You now have a meringue.

Stir in about one-third of the meringue into the melted chocolate. Then fold this mix into the remaining meringue, making sure you use a rubber spatula at this point.

Now fold in the egg yolks into approximately one-third of the chocolate-meringue mixture. Fold in the rest of the chocolate-meringue mixture into the mix with the yolks.

Spoon or pipe the souffle mix into your ramekins. Level the tops of each ramekin so that the souffle mixture is even with the top of the ramekins.**Note, at this point you can refrigerate or freeze your souffles for baking at another time. If you refrigerate them, just take them out of the fridge 15 minutes before you plan to bake them.

Run your thumb along the inside edge of each ramekin rim. Bake the souffles on the middle rack until they have risen, formed a crust on top, but are still jiggly in the center, approximately 10 minutes.
Serve immediately.