All Posts Tagged ‘chocolate

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Holiday baking recommendations

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The first snowfall has landed in D.C. and the rest of the country too judging by all of the Instagram Stories I just watched. Is there anything as magical as living in a snow globe?

I’m torn between baking up a storm and watching holiday movies all day. Alas, I used up all the eggs in a frittata this morning (a rare activity reserved for weekend mornings when I can pull myself out of bed early enough), and I’m not about to leave the house anytime soon for said eggs. Holiday movies it is!

I thought it might be helpful to wrap up the (semi-holiday, always delicious) recipes I recommend to friends in one neat list. I’ve tried and loved most of the recipes listed below with the exception of the chai cookies, Italian wedding cookies and the peanut butter blossoms. But I’m including them here a. because they look delicious and b. because I’ve made recipes from these bakers before, and everything has turned out wonderfully. I’m sure these will be no different!

The recipes are separated into categories based on how I tend to categorize treats this time of year: Sharing, Shipping, Last-minute baking, and Lazy weekend recipes.

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Sharing – Treats which are too decadent to keep to yourself and deserve to be shared

Shortbread cookies with royal icing

Smitten Kitchen’s Chocolate peanut butter tart – Tarts always sound intimidating to me, but this one is a lot less scary if you think of it like a giant Reese’s cup.

Small batch cookie dough dip

Shipping – Snacks to send to friends in all corners of the world

Criteria for shippable cookies includes, but is not limited to: must hold up to being jostled around, nothing dipped lest it melt en route and nothing iced with soft buttercream.

Joy the Baker’s vanilla bean confetti cookies

Masala-Chai chocolate chip cookies

Gluten-free Italian wedding cookies

Last-minute baking – Recipes to make when you remember you’ve got a cookie swap in less than 24 hours

Shortbread cookies – Skip the icing, and just bring shortbread! No one will know anything’s missing.

Classic peanut butter blossoms

Gluten-free almond flour chocolate chip cookies

Lazy weekend recipes – For when you’ve got extra time on your hands

Molly Yeh’s basil marscarpone buttercream frosted chocolate cake

Joy the Baker’s cream cheese cinnamon rolls

Hi-hat chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting

Is this round-up helpful? Is there a recipe you think I should add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

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If my family was dessert: My mom

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(These cupcakes are the peanut butter hi-hat cupcakes from Sally’s Baking Addiction.)

Chocolate muffins

I will never forget that I was the first Grdina in my family to get a C on her report card.

I was finishing my math homework (for the class I might as well have been failing by my family’s standards) while waiting for a Jonathan Safran Foer reading at a Borders in downtown Chicago when my mom snapped, “The reason you got that C is because I wasn’t home when you were younger.”

My mom returned to teaching full-time a few years after I was born. Her going back to school meant many things for our family. But for me, it meant more time with my dad helping him around the house and running errands around town just he and I.

I remember our days full of activities: running errands around town but always making time for the candy store, handing my dad paint brushes while he was on the ladder, and making chocolate chip cookies together while anxiously waiting for my sisters to return from school and rejoin our fun.

Iced peanut butter cupcakes from the side

While my mom might chock up my first C to her not being home to encourage studying, what I hope she has now come to realize – after a very full, very fun sixty years on earth – is that by returning to work  and later pursuing her Master’s all while raising the three of us, my mom modeled for all of us exactly the kind of woman we hope we will become.

It is because of her that my sisters and I  stumbled through dance classes, played volleyball and soccer, tried out for nearly every school play, participated in Speech and Debate, wrote for the college paper, studied abroad and more. She is the one to thank (or blame? 😉 ) for our stubborn personalities and thinking we can conquer anything, obstacles and the patriarchy be damned!

She and my dad both encouraged us to try everything and to never stop learning. To always carry a book on your person and to be kind to everyone because you never know what someone else is going through.

Open cupcake

By going after her own dreams both big and small, my mom showed us how to do everything with big love – to embrace the lows for we will overcome them stronger in the end and to cherish the highs for you never know how long they will last.

Anyone who has spent just five minutes with her has seen this for themselves and can attest to how fun she is. I was scolded at a Jonathan Safran Foer lecture, for heaven’s sake! 

At the last wedding we attended, the table mates we hardly knew at the evening’s beginning told me as they left that she made the whole party more fun! And they said this despite the fact we toasted our deceased aunt not once but three times, which is most definitely a blog post for another time.

Iced peanut butter cupcakes

Many years before D.C. and I.U. and Munster High School but always sitting at our big round kitchen table, I remember answering a worksheet which asked many things, one of which was, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

When I asked my mom (see, I remember you helping me with homework!) she replied, “A strong, independent woman who contributes to society.”

I panicked after seeing there wasn’t nearly enough room for such a long-winded answer (which comes as no surprise to anyone who has seen firsthand how chatty our family is). I suspected everyone else would write something tangible like “teacher” or “artist.” And yet I squeezed “a strong, independent woman who contributes to society” in between the lines and placed my worksheet in my folder for the next day.

Sliced hi hat cupcake

To the most fearless and fun woman I know whose mottos include, “Glitterize it” and “What’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine,” you are, without a doubt, peanut butter hi-hat cupcakes: chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting dipped in chocolate. Chocolate cupcakes are the great equalizer. They’re fitting for every event and always the life of the party. 

And if the whipped peanut butter frosting wasn’t enough, these cupcakes have a hard chocolate shell on top. Which sums up my mom’s third life motto: “More is more.”

My only regret is that I didn’t order edible glitter. Alas, there’s always your sixty-first.

Sixtieth cake topper on a cupcake

I have no idea what happened to that worksheet or how my classmates responded, but the lesson has stuck with me: I can go after anything I want no matter where it will take me.

By simply being, my mother encourages me everyday to cultivate my relationship with myself, to never underestimate the healing power of a good manicure, and that I can do more than I believe is possible.

This post is late by logistical birthday standards, but its publishing the last day of birthday month is a fitting end to an amazing start to her sixtieth year! Birthdays always last the full month, anyways. For these lessons and a million more, we will never come close to repaying you, Mom. You’re the best in the world. Happy belated birthday!

(These cupcakes are the peanut butter hi-hat cupcakes from Sally’s Baking Addiction.)

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If my family was dessert: my sister Genevieve

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Champagne cake

My oldest sister is five years older than me to the day. Happy birthday, Genevieve!

I put off Part Two of the series If My Family was Dessert for a long time. What dessert could possibly represent the beautiful, smart young woman who has blown out more than twenty years worth of birthday candles with me?

What flavors capture crying at every Christmas movie we watch no matter how many times we’ve seen it? Is Promptly Replies to Emails No Matter How Bizarre My Request Is a boxed cake mix? And in what aisle can I find the seasoning that personifies the sister who would wake us up for school by saying Mac and cheese was on the breakfast menu?

Berry cake with mumm napa champagne

To the sister who is equal parts kindness, humility and fun, you are without a doubt champagne cake! This golden butter cake with champagne ganache nestled between each layer and topped with a chocolate glaze is the definition of sophistication with a side of whimsy. As are many older sisters, the directions are somehow both sensitive and demanding in a way that makes complete sense by the end.

The ganache combines champagne, vanilla and brandy with melted bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate chips. After spreading the layers and sides with ganache, a chocolate glaze coats the top and sides. You can see your face in the glaze’s reflection! (Certainly there’s a metaphor here.)

By time I got to try this rich layer cake (three days after I started making it), I realized the directions were right all along and as is almost always the case with Big Sister Advice, I’m glad I listened to the directions yadda yadda you were right all along there I said it.

Chocolate layer cake pre-glazePost-double glaze

Genevieve is the rare kind of person who brings out the best in people simply by being in the room. She never settles for less than the best and she challenges those around her to do the same with grace and compassion.

I admire her ability to navigate change and look to her when I need anything from words of encouragement to a make-up recommendation, because chances are, she’s been there before or already bought that lipstick and is about to save me some moolah.

Layer of vanilla cake with chocolate ganache

When I was younger and less gracious than I’d like to admit I am now, I didn’t like sharing a birthday. As the youngest sister, I often feel like I’m playing catch up to my older two sisters. When I finally reached teenagehood at 13, my sister became an adult. (It doesn’t help that my sisters always move up the qualifying age for being an “official teenager.” Now that I’ve reached twenty-six, I think you’re not truly a teenager until you’re twenty-seven.) When I turned sweet 16, my sister turned 21, so on and so forth.

But now that I’m nearly a real teenager, I no longer look at the five years between us as space to catch-up. Having sisters is all sorts of wonderful, and I’m incredibly fortunate to have two of the best to look up to as incredible models who have navigated several paces ahead of me and regularly reassure me everything will turn out fine.

Top of the sliced open cake

There are many joys of sharing a birthday, but the number one by far is that we never celebrate alone. Happy birthday, birthday buddy! I’m raising a glass of champagne to you from D.C. and toasting to everything the upcoming year has in store for us – champagne cakes included!

(I used the champagne cake recipe from the cookbook Sweet by Valerie Gordon. Champagne ganache is found here. Milk chocolate glaze here.)

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Homemade Twix

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The best part about living in a city with seasons is the in-between window when summer isn’t quite over and fall is just rolling in. I’m completely wooed by cooler evenings, and all of my griping between June and August about the hot weather is a thing of the past.

Unfortunately it takes me until Labor Day to realize I will actually miss everything I love about summer: reading by the pool, playing Scrabble in the park and staking out a patio whenever possible. A few days relaxing in DC this past weekend was exactly what I needed to soak up all the wonderful summer activities one last time and prepare for a new season just around the corner.

To welcome cool nights and sweatered days ahead of us, these homemade twix are the perfect (thought probably short-lived) companion. They are the stuff dreams are made of, the exact dessert you’ll want on the nights when the windows are open and the A/C is off. While they will test your patience as you wait for everything to cool, the end is so so worth it.

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Homemade twix: Serves about 16; Time: 90 minutes

Grocery list

Shortbread

  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups white flour
  • 2/3 cup cubed butter

Caramel

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

Chocolate coating

  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

Directions

  1. Set out the butter and sweetened condensed milk (if you kept leftovers in your fridge like I did). This recipe comes together better when everything is room temperature.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover a 9×9 baking pan with a strip of parchment paper. This will make it easier to remove the shortbread and caramel from the pan. The parchment paper functions as handles.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup sugar and 1 1/4 cup of flour.
  4. Add 2/3 cup cubed butter with your hands until the butter is incorporated. The mixture will be crumbly and a little sticky.
  5. Press the mixture into the bottom of the 9×9″ pan, and bake for 20 minutes – until the edges start to turn a golden brown.
  6. Remove from oven and let it cool completely. To cool the layers quicker, I pop mine in the freezer until cool to the touch.
  7. In a sauce pan over medium heat, combine the 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 tbsp. corn syrup for shine, and 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until everything is incorporated (you don’t want the mixture to burn, so keep stirring). Once boiling, stir for 5 more minutes, then remove from heat and stir for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  8. Pour the caramel mixture over the shortbread crust while still in the pan. This keeps the caramel on the top of the cookie.
  9. While that is cooling, melt the cup of chocolate chips with 1tbsp coconut oil in the microwave. Stir every 30 seconds for about 2 minutes. Don’t add more chocolate chips once you start melting everything. It will not melt evenly and your chocolate will be lumpy like mine is in the pictures.
  10. Once the caramel has hardened, remove the cookies and caramel from the pan and cut into strips. I cut 1-in cookies and then cut the whole square down the middle leaving me with about 16 twix.
  11. Pour chocolate on top and let it cool. Enjoy!

 

Adapted from the Six Sisters