Perfect Chocolate Cake & Frosting

As with much of my spur of the moment baking, this was the result of perusing Pinterest right after my kids went down for naps.  I saw this amazing looking chocolate cake and had to have it.  Now.

Perfect Chocolate Cake | Hottie Biscotti
Perfect Chocolate Cake | Hottie Biscotti

As luck would have it I had all the ingredients (and you probably do, too!) which makes this a terrific cake to make at the last minute.  I decided to make it around 2 in the afternoon and it was cooled and frosted and ready to consume by 5.  Both the cake and the frosting come together so quickly.  Making this cake was a great use of nap time.  It was also a great way to take my mind off of the fact that my due date was going to come and go without meeting our new babe!  If only chocolate cake induced labor…

Perfect Chocolate Cake | Hottie Biscotti

I’ve had this cake before and remember asking who made it and if I could get the recipe.  For some reason I was surprised to find out it was a Hershey’s recipe.  I shouldn’t have been, I guess.  The best oatmeal cookie recipe is found on the top of the Quaker oats container, after all!  I didn’t use Hershey’s cocoa, though.  I had just enough Guittard cocoa left, so that is what I used.  The cake is moist and chocolatey and comforting, as chocolate cake should be.  The frosting is sweet and rich yet light and not dense.  I added a layer of crushed Oreos in between the layers of cake and also pressed some into the sides of the frosted cake and sprinkled some on top.  It adds some nice texture both in appearance and in your mouth, but it also helps to disguise a sloppy frosting job…which mine definitely was.

Perfect Chocolate Cake | Hottie Biscotti

You can make this in 9-inch cake pans, like I did, or in a 9×13 pan, 3 8-inch pans, a bundt pan, or you can make cupcakes.  I can easily see this becoming my new go-to chocolate cake recipe.

ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.

THREE LAYER CAKE: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

BUNDT CAKE: Grease and flour 12-cup fluted tube pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.

CUPCAKES: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.

Perfect Chocolate Cake | Hottie Biscotti

The next time I post I hope it’s to announce the birth of our baby, but I might just find myself doing some more baking if this baby decides he or she is just not ready!  Happy weekend!Perfect Chocolate Cake | Hottie Biscotti

Perfect Chocolate Cake

From Hershey’s

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

Frosting

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional: Crushed Oreos for topping (about a sleeve and a half)

Directions

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Grease and flour 2 9-inch cake pans.  Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl, mix together sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  4. Add in oil, milk, eggs and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes.
  5. Add in the boiling water and mix to combine.  The batter will be very thin, and that’s ok!
  6. Pour batter into prepared pans, dividing evenly, and bake for 30-35 minutes.  A toothpick inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs attached.
  7. Let cool in the pans on wire racks for 15 minutes, then turn out onto the racks to let cool completely before frosting.

Frosting

  1. Measure cocoa into a medium sized bowl.  Melt butter and pour into the cocoa and whisk to combine.
  2. Using a mixer, beat in powdered sugar and milk alternately in 5 batches (sugar, milk, sugar, milk, sugar).  Add in more sugar if you want the frosting to be a little thicker.  Stir in the vanilla.
  3. Frost the cake, layering some of the Oreos in between the layers and press some onto the edges.  Serve immediately or let chill in the fridge for an hour if your house is especially warm (like mine was!).

 

Blueberry & Cream Cheese Coffee Crumb Cake

With the birth of our 3rd baby fast approaching I’m finding myself trying everyday to accomplish things that will make the transition easier.  Having all the laundry cleaned and put away, keeping the kitchen well stocked (and relatively clean) for our older kids for when we’re in the hospital and someone else is watching them, washing newborn clothes for a girl and a boy, checking my hospital bag daily to be sure I haven’t forgotten anything, and going through my lists of baby names to narrow it down.  But what do I decide is the most important?  Making this coffee cake, of course.  Baking is a great way to procrastinate, don’t you think?

Blueberry & Cream Cheese Coffee Crumb Cake | Hottie Biscotti

I saw this recipe for cream cheese coffee cake from Shugary Sweets on Pinterest and immediately knew I needed to make it.  With a pint of beautiful blueberries in the fridge it became blueberry cream cheese coffee cake because there was just no other option.

Blueberry & Cream Cheese Coffee Crumb Cake | Hottie Biscotti

So I put this together, baked it, and let it cool.  No big deal.  And I had a little corner of it in the evening before I went to bed.  It was delicious.  In the morning I cut myself another square for breakfast.  Something wasn’t right.  It seemed a little underbaked.  I had baked it 5 minutes longer than instructed, so I was surprised.  As I cut a little more into the center I saw that it was mostly raw goo.  I was real bummed about it.  I tried to save what I could around the edges, but then I had to do one of the hardest things a sweets loving girl can do.  I had to scrape all of that goodness right into the trashcan.  Heartbreaking.

Later in the day I restocked on blueberries, cream cheese, and butter and came home and did it all over again.  Because I’d originally misread the ingredients and messed up the streusel topping I was glad to have a second chance at it.  So I guess it was kind of a good thing that I underbaked it the first time?  Regardless, I wound up with this lovely cake when all was said and done and that makes it all worth it.

Blueberry & Cream Cheese Coffee Crumb Cake | Hottie Biscotti

This breakfast dish is delicious and quite decadent, but the blueberries make it good for you!  It’s fruit!  The berries also add a nice pop of color and a lovely tartness to each bite.  The cream cheese filling is amazing, and the crunchy streusel topping is the perfect counterpart to the smooth cake and creamy filling.  Enjoy!

Blueberry & Cream Cheese Coffee Crumb Cake | Hottie Biscotti

Blueberry & Cream Cheese Coffee Crumb Cake

Ever so slightly adapted from Shugary Sweets

Serves 12-16

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk

Cream Cheese Filling

  • 2 packages cream cheese, room temperature (low fat is fine)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pint of blueberries, rinsed and dried and tossed with a tablespoon of four (the flour keeps them from sinking all the way down in the batter)

Streusel Topping

  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups flour

Directions

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F
  2. Grease and flour a 9×13 inch pan.
  3. Beat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt with the softened butter until combined.
  4. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition.
  5. Add in buttermilk and vanilla.  Cream for 3-4 minutes until mixture lightens in color and is fluffy.
  6. Spread half of the batter in to the prepared pan.

Filling

  1. Beat cream cheese, sugar and egg together until creamy.
  2. Spread evenly over the cake batter.
  3. Sprinkle the berries over the cream cheese layer.
  4. Spread the remaining cake batter over the berries.

Streusel

  1. Combine both sugars and cinnamon.
  2. Add in the butter and mix to combine.
  3. Add in a cup of the flour and, using clean hands, mix together until crumbly.  Add in up to 1/2 cup more flour if it seems too wet.
  4. Spread evenly over the batter.

Bake

  1. Bake for 1 hour, until toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few crumbs attached.
  2. Let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting and serving.

 

Caramelized Pineapple Ice Cream

I had an excess amount of pineapple in my fridge last week (a situation I’ve found myself in more than once) after cutting up a fresh one to eat with dinner. Even after we’d had our fill with dinner and I’d done some snacking on it through the week I still have enough left over that I needed to do something with it.  So I started brainstorming what to do.  Pineapple ice cream.

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I found a few recipes, but this one with pineapple cooked down with sugar and cinnamon sounded so delicious.  The blog where I found the ice cream recipe had a great set of pictures showing how to cook the pineapple.  She even includes are warning about being careful not to leave it cooking while you go do something else.  Well, even with the warning I left it cooking over low heat while I spent some time outside with the kids and it cooked a little too much.  After cooling it some of the sugar had hardened on the bottom of the pan.  I kept going with the recipe and was glad I did because the deep caramel flavor with the pineapple and cream was spectacular.

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I wound up using the raw egg version, but here are some cooked egg custard vanilla ice cream base recipes that you could easily substitute.  Just stir the cooled pineapple puree into the cold custard and freeze in the ice cream maker.

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This ice cream is rich, which isn’t hard to predict without trying it when you see the ingredient list!  With all that cream and milk a little goes a long way.   I really prefer to eat rich and creamy ice cream, it’s so much more satisfying.  I always wind up eating more of the light and airy stuff and it’s never as good as a small amount of the good stuff.

Caramelized Pineapple Ice Cream

From La Gringa’s Blogicito

Ingredients

  • 5 cups of fresh pineapple chunks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups milk

Directions

  1. Place pineapple chunks in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add sugar and cinnamon and stir together.
  2. Cook, stirring occasionally and monitoring the heat so that it is just at a medium simmer, for 20-30 minutes.  The pineapple will release a bunch of juice at first and then start to thicken up.  Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes.
  3. Place pineapple and as much of the sugary stuff as you can scrape from the pan into a blender or food processor and mix until very smooth.
  4. Transfer to a bowl and let cool in the fridge until cold.  (You can also put it in the freezer to speed up the process without letting it freeze.)
  5. Whisk eggs in a large bowl for 2 minutes.  Add in the cream and the pineapple puree (Add in all of it if you have 1 1/2 cups or less, if you have more than 1 1/2 cups, then save the excess for ice cream topping).
  6. Add in enough milk to make no more than 5 cups of ice cream mix.
  7. Place the bowl in the freezer and stir every 30 minutes for 1-2 hours, until the edges of the mixture begin to freeze.
  8. Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturers instructions.
  9. Transfer to a freezer safe container and let chill in the freezer for at least 1 hour.

Green Posole with Black Beans

This is far from a summer recipe.  It’s soup.  It’s hot and comforting.  Not exactly what anyone is looking for when temps are rising outside.  The last thing you probably want to do is eat a bowl of something warm.  But my sister sent the recipe to me after trying it herself and I didn’t want to wait!

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This spicy vegetarian posole is super delicious.  I’ll definitely be bringing this recipe out again in the fall.  But even with the warm weather my husband and I still really enjoyed this soup and will be having leftovers tonight.

I topped this subtly spicy soup with chunks of avocado, monterey jack cheese, cilantro, tortilla strips, sour cream and a spritz from a lime wedge.  My sister recommends radish slices and shredded green cabbage.  Having all of those things as options would be a great way to serve this soup to guests.

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The recipe calls for a blender to puree some of the ingredients, but it just about filled my blender to the brim.  My sister used an immersion blender with great results, so use one of those if you have one.  A blender works fine if not.

I forget how much I love posole.  There’s just something about the hominy that makes me happy.  It has such a great texture, especially in soup.  The chiles and poblano add a nice heat, but it’s not terribly spicy.  If you like it hot, then don’t be so careful when seeding the peppers.  Be sure to check the seasonings after the soup has simmered.  Mine needed a nice dose of salt along with the lime juice.  You could easily add some cooked shredded chicken for a heartier version.

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Green Posole with Black Beans

From Martha Stewart adapted from Homesick Texan

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 poblano chile
  • 1/2 pound fresh tomatillos, husks removed
  • 2 serrano chiles, stemmed, quartered, and seeded
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro (extra for serving)
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 ounce baby spinach leaves, 1 large handful, about 1 cup
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 cans (15 ounces) hominy, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • fresh lime juice from 1 lime (extra wedges for serving)
  • kosher salt
  • monterey jack cheese
  • 1 avocado, sliced or cut into chunks
  • sour cream
  • tortilla chips or baked tortilla strips

Directions

  1. Heat broiler with rack in top position.  Place a sheet of foil on the rack.  Broil the poblano until charred and skin is bubbling, 4-5 minutes per side.   You can also do this over a gas burner using tongs.  Transfer to a paper sack or zip-top plastic bag, close it tightly, and let steam 20 minutes.  Rub the poblano with paper towels to remove skin.  Stem, seed, and place in a blender.
  2. In a large pot of boiling water, cook tomatillos until soft, about 5 minutes.  Drain and transfer to the blender.
  3. Add serranos, onion, garlic, cilantro, parsley, spinach, cumin, oregano, and 2 cups of broth.  Blend until smooth.  OR you can put everything from the poblano to the broth to a pot and blend with an immersion blender.
  4. Pour tomatillo mixture into a large pot and stir in 4 cups broth, the hominy, and the black beans.
  5. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes.
  6. Add lime juice.  Taste, add salt and adjust seasonings.
  7. Garnish with avocado, cilantro, cheese, sour cream, chips and extra lime juice if desired.

Buttermilk Chess Pie

This buttermilk chess pie is declared “the easiest pie to prepare in this chapter” in the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.  And it truly is simple.  It’s also quite delicious, creamy, smooth, rich and downright heavenly.

Buttermilk Chess Pie | Hottie Biscotti

After making this strawberry rhubarb pie and finishing off the last of it recently I was seriously craving more pie.  I’ve typically reserved pie for the holiday baking season, making cobblers more often in the summer.  But that’s just silly.  Pie can easily be a year round food and should be embraced as much now, when the weather is warm, as when it’s chilly out.  While some pies are better for cool weather and some for warmer days, this one can be enjoyed any time of year.  Pairing it with some fresh seasonal berries during the coming months will make it a great summer dessert.

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You can serve this custard pie warm, room temperature, or chilled.  The flavors shine through best when it’s warm or room temp, though.

The crust in this pie, as with most if not all pie, is important and can really make the dessert special.  If you use a store bought crust the dessert will be fine, but if you have the time to make your own it will be extra delicious.  I’ve used this all butter pie crust recipe from Smitten Kitchen the last couple of times I’ve made pie and I really like it.  The recipe makes enough for 2 crusts, so just stash one away for another time.

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The ingredient list is simple and straightforward, you probably have everything in your kitchen right this very moment.  Once you make the crust all you have to do is whisk everything else together, pour it into the pie crust and bake.  So, what are you waiting for?!

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Buttermilk Chess Pie

From America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

Ingredients

  • 1 pie crust, fit into a pie plate, chilled and unbaked
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon fine-ground cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Berries for garnish
  • Whipped cream for garnish

Directions

  1. Prepare pie crust by fitting it into a pie plate and placing the plate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Place a rimmed baking sheet into the oven and preheat to 375°F.
  3. Whisk all of the ingredients together and pour into pie shell.
  4. Place onto heated cookie sheet and bake for 40-45 minutes.  Top of the pie should be golden brown and center should be just set.
  5. Let cool on a wire rack until just warm or all the way to room temp.
  6. Garnish with fresh berries and/or whipped cream.

Honeydew + Mint Sorbet

I am not a huge fan of honeydew.  I enjoy a good cantaloupe, but find honeydew to be an inferior melon.  But I wound up with a whole honeydew melon after trying unsuccessfully to take some cute maternity shots with it when baby was about the size of a melon.  So I had to find something to do with the honeydew.  I figured sorbet would be a good choice and it wound up being one of the best choices I’ve ever made with unwanted fruit!

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I found this recipe on Simply Recipes.  There is also a variation for a cantaloupe sorbet.  The mint in this honeydew sorbet makes it extremely refreshing and a perfect light summer dessert.  I think it would be a spectacular ending to a spicy meal.

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It’s lovely all by itself, but also quite good with some sparkling water poured on top, making for a rather wonderful slushy drink.  Come June I can easily see myself adding in a little vodka for a spiked version.

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Making the mint simple syrup doesn’t take much time, and neither does the prep for the melon.  But then you do have to let it sit in the fridge for a while.  And then you do have to let it freeze for a while longer after it freezes in the ice cream maker.  So this isn’t something you decide to make in the morning and enjoy that evening, unless you’re amazing or have a super cold freezer.  Make it a day or two or a week in advance and it will be ready when you want it.

The texture of my sorbet wasn’t super smooth, more on the icy side.  But it’s still delicious, lovely and sweet with added interest from the mint.  This is definitely a summer dessert that I’ll be making again in the coming months.

Honeydew + Mint Sorbet

From Simply Recipes

Ingredients

  • 5 cups honeydew melon chunks (1 medium sized honeydew melon)
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves (I used 1 pouch of mint, a little less than 1/2 cup)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions

  1. Make the simple syrup: combine sugar, water and lemon zest in a small saucepan set over medium heat.  Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved.  Remove from the heat and stir in the mint.  Let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Puree the melon in 2 batches in a blender until very smooth.  Transfer to a large bowl after blending.
  3. Strain the simple syrup and pour it with the pureed melon.
  4. Stir in the lemon juice and corn syrup.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
  5. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions.
  6. Scoop into a freezer-safe container and freeze for at least a few hours.  Sorbet will be hard, let warm up on the counter before scooping.

Daring Bakers: Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)

This challenge was so simple, so fun and so delicious!  As always I was given the opportunity to try something I’d never tried before, and something I’d never even heard of!  These little light and airy cheesy Brazilian bread balls are something special and I’m excited to share them with you.

Pão de Queijo | Hottie Biscotti

This month’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge took us on a trip to beautiful Brazil! Renata of “Testado, Provado & Aprovado!” taught us how to make Pao De Queijo, tasty cheese buns that make the perfect snack or treat, and that will make your taste buds samba!

Pão de queijo are almost like popovers.  Their airy texture combined with their rich cheese flavor makes them super addictive, especially when eaten warm.  They’re great right after coming out of the oven just cool enough to handle.  But I rewarmed room temp ones in the microwave for about 8 seconds with great success :)  If you’re gluten free, then you’re in luck!  Instead of wheat flour you use tapioca flour here, which I found without any trouble at my grocery store with all the other specialty flours.  The texture is different than a bread made with all purpose flour, of course, but it still has a nice bready chew that would’ve fooled me if I didn’t know they were gluten free.

Pão de Queijo | Hottie Biscotti

Renata gave us the option of using any cheese we liked.  When I searched recipes I found Parmesan to be a popular choice.  So I went with 6 ounces of a goat cheddar and 2 ounces of Parmesan.  I liked the way it turned out, but she says any cheese or combination of cheeses would work, so get creative!

pao5 Pão de Queijo | Hottie Biscotti

The dough is very easy to make, but a little messy since you get in there with your hands and it is a bit sticky.  You don’t need any fancy equipment and your mixer doesn’t have to get dirty.  The recipe I used calls for 1-3 eggs and you may or may not use them all.  I did use all 3.  She recommends whisking all 3 eggs together and then adding what you need as you begin working the dough together.  Once it’s all together it rolls quite easily into balls and bakes up beautifully.

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Since these are best eaten fresh from the oven I just baked half of the dough, then shaped the rest of the dough and froze it.  I haven’t tried it, but apparently you can bake them straight from frozen!  And that is what I plan to do the next time I need a last minute appetizer or snack for guests.  Bam.

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Something I wish I’d tried was making this dough in a waffle iron.  I cannot begin to imagine the deliciousness of using this as the bread for a breakfast sandwich!

Thanks for the great challenge this month, Renata!  I really enjoyed it and am excited to experiment more with this terrific bread.

Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)

From Renata of Testado, Provado e Aprovado

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (500 grams) tapioca flour/tapioca starch
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • pinch of salt (or more if your cheese is not salty)
  • 9 ounces of coarsely grated cheese (I used a goat cheddar and Parmesan)
  • 1-3 large eggs, beaten

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Sift tapioca flour into a large bowl.
  3. Combine milk, butter and salt in a saucepan and heat over medium until mixture boils, then remove from the heat.
  4. Pour hot milk over tapioca flour and begin stirring with a fork, working the mixture until the milk is evenly distributed.  It will look crumbly.  Let it cool off a bit.
  5. With clean hands, work in the grated cheese.
  6. Add in the eggs, a little at a time, working the dough together with your hands.  Once the dough holds together, you’re done.
  7. Line cookie sheets with parchment.
  8. Roll dough into balls about the size of ping pong balls.  They puff a little during baking, so don’t crowd them  too closely on the pan.
  9. Bake for 15-20 minutes. until tops just begin to brown.  Remove from the oven and cool just slightly before eating.

 

Chocolate Chip and Toffee Pudding Cookies

In high school and college I was a lifeguard at a community pool during the summers.  A couple of the other girls and I baked treats and brought them up to share with everyone a couple times a week.  One of the cashiers brought chocolate chip pudding cookies a few times and I fell in love with them.  She shared the recipe with me, but since this was more than 10 years ago and it was written on a piece of notebook paper I have lost it.  But thanks to Pinterest I found another recipe for pudding cookies that seems close to the recipe I got from Ashley!  What would we do without the internet?!

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These are thick, chewy and soft chocolate chip cookies, the kind I prefer.  It’s a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe, but contains a secret ingredient,  a small package of vanilla pudding mix!  This makes them softer than typical cookies and quite addictive.  I added in some toffee pieces along with the chocolate chips.  The options are endless when it comes to mix-ins though.  You could add any kind of chocolate chip, nuts, caramel bits, crushed up pretzels, etc.

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These are my favorite chocolate chips, milk chocolate chips from Guittard.  They’re bigger than the standard chip, have terrific milk chocolate flavor and melt terrifically in these cookies.  And in your mouth.  I may or may not eat them by the handful straight from the bag on occasion….or daily.

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 Chocolate Chips and Toffee Pudding Cookies

From Life in the Lofthouse

Makes 24-30 cookies depending on their size

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks of butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 small box (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 bag (11 ounces) chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup toffee pieces

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugars until fluffy.
  3. Add in the pudding mix and beat to combine.
  4. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating between additions, followed by the vanilla.
  5. Beat in the flour, baking soda and salt until just combined.  Use a spatula to stir everything together from the bottom of the bowl.
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips and toffee with the spatula.
  7. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Scoop dough by rounded tablespoons onto the sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart, 6-8 cookies per sheet.
  8. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until cookies are slightly browned.
  9. Let cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.  Scoop dough onto the other cookie sheet while the one you just used cools off.
  10. Cookies will firm up as they cool, so if they appear under-baked wen you take them out of the oven, don’t worry.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

This past weekend was spectacular.  The weather has been so nice and I am embracing spring in Texas and trying hard not to think too much about what summer will bring.  We spent this weekend at my husband’s family lake house on Lake LBJ, northwest of Austin.  While we were there we took a little trip to Sweet Berry Farms.  It’s in Marble Falls, a quick drive from the lake.  It’s a quaint and fun place to visit for berry picking in the spring and summer.  It’s also where Ben and I got engaged 9 years ago.  Yes, NINE.  So visiting this past weekend was sweet and nostalgic for me.

Berry Picking

We picked strawberries and had a lovely time (except for my son who kind of lost it due to lack of good sleep and just being 3 1/2.)  If you are ever in the area, please make the time to visit, especially during blackberry season.  Blackberry cobbler is what summer is all about!  And other things too, I guess.  But mainly cobbler.

My mother-in-law and I split the berries and my brain was working on all kinds of ways to use them.  I don’t subscribe to Food Network Magazine, but picked up a copy last week to have some mindless reading material for the lake.  When I saw the recipe in the magazine for strawberry rhubarb pie right after we’d been berry picking I knew it was a sign.  Plus I’d never made or even eaten a strawberry rhubarb pie before.  I had to give it a try.

Sweet Berry Farm Strawberries

I had a few hiccups with this pie.  First the crust.  It says to chill it for 30 minutes.  I chilled it for an hour.  I rolled it out between parchment but when I went to transfer it to the pie plate I lost half of it, all stuck to the parchment in a seriously gooey mess.  So I tossed it and decided to try a different crust recipe.  I went with this one from Smitten Kitchen.

Unfortunately I’d already made the filling, anticipating that the first crust was going to work out.  Silly me!  Fruit releases juice when it sits with sugar and lemon juice, and strawberries and rhubarb release a LOT of juice.  I stuck it in the fridge while I waited for my new crusts to chill for 2 hours.  I think 2 hours is the minimum time for pie crust, you just can’t rush that step.  Unless you roll out the dough between parchment first and then chill it in the freezer…wish I’d thought of that…

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After rolling out the new crust I went to fill it.  I used a slotted spoon and left all of the liquid in the bowl.  I had a tough time doing it since I knew that stuff had to be good.  But I am so glad I resisted the urge to add a little to the pie.  As the pie baked it released even more juice and even managed to escape the pie plate and get all over the bottom of my oven and fill the kitchen with smoke.  Fun times.  I can’t imagine the mess if I’d added more liquid.  NOTE:  This is why you put foil under fruit pies when you bake them.

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A lattice top adds something so special to pie.  It takes a little extra time than just a top crust, but is well worth the effort.  A little cream and turbinado sugar on top creates a terrifically crunchy and beautiful topping.  Don’t skip this step.

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After cooling the pie I cut a slice and knew that we were in for a mess.  Maybe the filling could use more flour for thickener?  Or maybe this is just the way it is with this type of pie.  But there was lots of juicy goodness going on that creates a delicious, but not incredibly aesthetically pleasing piece of pie.  The bottom crust was pretty soggy, but the top crust was so crunchy that I didn’t care a bit.  We enjoyed this a la mode, but fresh whipped cream or simply plain would be great.  The filling is tart and sweet but not cloying.  The rhubarb cooks down so nicely and gives a texture to the filling that strawberries alone could not achieve.  And again, that top crust.  Amazing.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie | Hottie Biscotti

So if you find yourself with some strawberries and/or rhubarb this summer, give this a try.  Or these, or this.  Or THIS!  Tis the season!  Why has it taken me this long to try rhubarb?  The checker at the grocery store didn’t even know what it was.  Oh, and if you have access to free or cheap rhubarb, be ever so thankful.  I had no idea it was so expensive, almost $8/pound at our HEB.  Someone tell me, where can I get it for less?

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie | Hottie Biscotti

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Filling adapted ever so slightly from Food Network Magazine

Crust from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

Crust

  • 2 sticks of cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2-3/4 cup ice cold water
  • heavy cream, half and half or milk
  • coarse or turbinado sugar

Filling

  • 1 pound rhubarb, end trimmed and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 pounds strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon

Directions

Crust

  1. In a large bowl whisk flour, sugar and salt together.
  2. Add in the cold butter cubes and using either your hands or a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it is relatively evenly incorporated with just a few larger pieces.
  3. Pour in 1/2 cup of the cold water and use either a spatula or your hands to bring the dough together.  Add a little more water, a tablespoon at a time, if the dough seems dry.
  4. Turn out onto a clean work surface and work into a nice ball of dough.
  5. Cut in half, take each piece and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill for at least 2 hours.

Filling

  1.  Combine strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, salt, cinnamon, vanilla extract and lemon juice in a large bowl and stir to combine.  Set aside.

Assembly

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F and place a piece of foil or a foil lined cookies sheet on the lower rack.
  2. Roll one dough ball out (between parchment if you like that method) on the counter into an 11-12 inch circle.  Transfer to a 9 inch pie plate, press into the plate and leave the overhang.
  3. Fill with the strawberry filling.
  4. Roll the other dough ball out into an 10-11 inch circle.
  5. Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to slice the dough into long strips, between 1/2 and 1 inch wide.
  6. Lay out half of the strips on to the pie, evenly spacing them about 1/2 inch apart.  Use strips that are longer in the middle and shorter on the edges.
  7. Peel back every other strip and lay a strip perpendicular to the first set, replace those strips, peel back the others and repeat.  Here is a truly entertaining step-by-step for this. (Complete with toddler commentary!)
  8. Trim off any excess from the lattice work, then fold the overhang from the bottom crust over the edges and crimp everything together.
  9. Brush the crust with cream, then sprinkle with sugar.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven to 375F and bake for another 40-50 minutes, until filling is bubbling and crust is nicely browned.  Don’t forget to put foil or a foil lined cookie sheet on the rack under the pie!
  11. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before slicing and serving.  Serve with ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.

 

Coconut Milk and Pineapple Popsicles

I might have a little bit of an obsession with coconut and pineapple at the moment.  These ice cream sundaes, the coconut milk and honey lotion I bought yesterday and these popsicles make me wonder if I have a problem.  Maybe it’s the thought of summer and I’m just trying to mentally transport myself somewhere sunny and tropical.  And maybe it’s a pregnancy craving thing.  Either way, I’m ok with it.  And I’m totally ok with these pina colada-like popsicles.  They’re refreshing, the ingredient list is short and they take almost no time to make!  If you haven’t tried making your own popsicles (like me up until I made these) you should try it!

Coconut Milk and Pineapple Popsicles | Hottie Biscotti

All you need for these is a can of coconut milk, a small can of crushed pineapple, a little vanilla and a little sugar.  Mix it up, pour the mixture into popsicle molds and pop them into the freezer until they’re frozen solid.  That’s all there is to it!  Then you can sit outside and eat one of these and pretend you’re at the beach somewhere.  Maybe put on some island music, wear a big floppy hat and put your feet in your kid’s sandbox for added effect.

Coconut Milk and Pineapple Popsicles | Hottie Biscotti

Betsy couldn’t resist trying these, and I was surprised how much she liked it.  She enjoyed her bite so much that I had to go get myself another one because there was no way I was going to pry it from her hands.

Coconut Milk and Pineapple Popsicles | Hottie Biscotti

I found these popsicle molds at World Market.  I like that they have the built in drip catchers, it’s perfect for my kids who get all kinds of bothered when their hands start to get messy.  And really it’s a good thing for adults, too!  To unmold them after a full 24 hours in the freezer I had to run them under warm water and occasionally wiggle the sticks until they were ready to come loose.  Overall I was pleased with the $5 purchase.

Coconut Milk and Pineapple Popsicles | Hottie Biscotti

The texture of these popsicles is creamy thanks to the luscious coconut milk, but with just enough chew from the pineapple to make them interesting.  I found one tablespoon of sugar to be enough sweetness, but if you like things sweeter you could add another tablespoon.  These are also really satisfying because of the coconut milk.  It’s almost like eating ice cream.  Do you have a favorite at-home popsicle recipe?  I’d love to hear about it!

Coconut Milk and Pineapple Popsicles

Makes 6 pops

Ingredients

  • 1 can of full fat coconut milk
  • 1 small can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Directions

  1. Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Pour mixture into the popsicle molds.
  3. Freeze for at least 8 hours or until frozen solid.
  4. Unmold by letting popsicles warm up on the counter, or by running molds under warm water (without letting water get into the tops of the mold) wiggling sticks occasionally to see if they’ve thawed enough to remove easily.
  5. Eat and enjoy.