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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Brownie Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Layer Cake


Raise your left hand if you love brownies. Raise your right hand if you love chocolate chip cookie dough.

If you've got two hands in the air right now, this dessert is for you. (Also? Put your hands down. People are staring. lol.)

Today I'm sharing the second dessert of my renowned (haha!) two-dessert birthday-Easter extravaganza offerings.

Since there are a lot of chocolate lovers in my family, I knew I would make something chocolatey for them. 

I was thrilled to find this recipe for brownie chocolate chip cookie dough cake on Home Made Interest. I like recipes that let me make some parts of them homemade while still taking some help from a box mix. It saves time but still gives that impressive homemade flair.

So for this recipe, I used two boxes of brownie mix and made this amazing chocolate chip cookie dough icing from scratch. Then the entire situation gets drizzled with a chocolate ganache and topped with more brownies. It is decadence to the extreme.

As with my last recipe, I hadn't originally intended on sharing it so I didn't take a lot of pictures. But the whole thing turned out so well that I still want to explain how I did it and share the recipe with you so you can try it for yourself.

Luckily, it comes together a lot more quickly than those amazing strawberry cupcakes I shared recently.

HOW TO MAKE 
BROWNIE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE DOUGH 
LAYER CAKE

Step 1: Cook the flour for your no-bake chocolate chip cookie dough

Most people know the dangers of consuming raw eggs. However, it turns out that consuming raw flour can also be dangerous. E. coli bacteria can lurk in there, as well. Therefore, removing the egg from edible cookie dough recipes isn't enough to keep us safe; it is also important to cook your flour before consuming it raw. 

Not to worry–it is a simple process. Simply spread flour on a baking pan, and bake in a 350° oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely, then use according to recipe direction.

Step 2: Make the Brownies 

Prepare 2 family-sized (13x9) boxes of brownies according to package directions. 

I did not combine the two boxes in a single bowl, but instead repeated the process twice. I did this so I would have more control over my batter. Plus, brownies are simple to make so it didn't increase my prep time that much.

Pour equal portions–I weigh my batter with a food scale to be sure I'm dividing it equally–into 3 greased and parchment-lined 9 inch round pans and one 8 x 8 square pan. Note: The original recipe calls for 4 9-inch rounds, but I only had three rounds of that size and I decided that three layers was more than enough. That’s why I poured the last quarter of my batter into an 8 x 8" square pan. That layer gets cut up for the topping anyway. You can do either.

Bake according to the package directions for 8x8" brownie pans.

After the brownies bake, remove them from the oven and allow to cool. I let mine cool 10 minutes in the pan and then carefully remove them from the pans to cooling racks where I left them cool the rest of the way.

Note: Certainly if you have a favorite homemade brownie recipe, you could use that instead of the boxed brownie mix. That's up to you.

Step 3: Prepare the no-bake cookie dough icing

1. In a medium bowl, mix salt with cooked and cooled flour. Set aside.

2. In a mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, Cream together butter, Brown sugar, and white sugar. Add vanilla to combine. With the mixer running on low, add the flour about half half cup at a time until a Soft dough forms.

3. Once fully combined, add milk a tablespoon at a time until your cookie dough reaches a desired consistency for easy spreading. I added close to 1/3 cup of milk (5 Tablespoons) and I really believe I could've added even more sense my cookie dough was still kind of on the thicker side. That will be a judgment call for your personal preference as to how smooth you want it. 

4. Fold in the chocolate chips. Set aside. (NOTE: You could leave out the chips if you like. A few of my family members pointed out that the cake was chocolatey enough without the chips and added that they would have preferred the taste of the cookie dough without the extra textural bite of the chip. That makes sense to me, but is purely a personal preference thing, so feel free to add them in or leave them out. You might also enjoy swapping out a regular-sized chocolate chip for mini-chips.) 

Step 4: Assemble the cake - Part 1
1. Start with one of your three 9 inch round layers on a serving dish. Spread one third of your cookie dough icing on top. Add your second round brownie layer. Spread another third of your cookie dough icing on top of that second layer of brownie. Place your third and final round brownie on top of the cookie dough. Spread the final third of your cookie dough icing on top.

2. Cut your Square pan of brownies into small chunks. Set aside.


Step 5: Make the ganache
Heat cream in the microwave until it begins to boil–about a minute. Pour chopped chocolate into hot cream. Allowed to sit one minute and then stir until smooth and melted.

Step 6: Finish assembling the cake

Pour ganache over the top layer on the cookie dough iced layer cake. It will cascade down the sides and look gooey and delicious. Arrange chunks of brownie on the top middle of the cake for the final decoration.



***
Brownie Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Layer Cake 
(adapted from HomeMadeInterest blog as linked above)

Ingredients:

(for brownies)
Two boxes family sized brownie mix and eggs, oil, water as per the box directions

(for chocolate chip cookie dough icing)

2 1/4 cup flour (cooked to kill bacteria)
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cups (150g) sugar
3/4 cups (170g) packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-6 Tablespoons milk
2 cup chocolate chips

(for ganache - note: I halved the original recipe as I suspected rightly that I wouldn't need as much. Feel free to double these amounts.)

1 cup dark or semi-sweet baking chocolate (not chocolate chips), chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream



This is a rich, decadent, chocolate-lover's dream cake. My favorite part is the chocolate chip cookie dough. I could eat that by itself. I urge you to give this a try. MMM! 


Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Ultimate Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes


There are times when you have an idea and you try to execute it and it doesn’t work, and you’re sitting there all disheartened, like, “Crap. That should’ve been so great…”

We all know those moments

But here’s the great thing about life: for every however-many of those situations we face, we occasionally get the opposite. 

The time when not only does the thing turn out the way you’d hoped, it actually turns out even better and you’re sitting there all smug and ecstatic, and you just want to go up to everyone you meet and call all your friends and even all the people who did you wrong in life and just be like, “DID YOU SEE WHAT I DID??? It was A-MAZE-BALLS! I am queen of the universe and I can’t even with myself right now because I’m just that good!” 

Yep. Those are the good ones. 

And today, I’ve got one of those to share with you and I know you’re gonna love it. (Sadly, I don't have as many photos to share as I usually do; when I made these I wasn't planning  to share them. But they turned out so well and I do have *some* pictures, so I hope you get the idea.)

My younger daughter turned 7 around Easter. Therefore, my extended family had a combo birthday-Easter meal. I volunteered to handle dessert because, well, desserts are my thing. Obvi.

There’s some big chocolate lovers in my family. But I personally love fruity desserts, so I wanted to offer a non-chocolate option as well. What resulted were two of the most amazing desserts I’ve ever produced, and I’m going to share them both with you. (One now; one in the next few days.) 

I’m starting with my favorite, though, which are strawberry shortcake-like cupcakes based on those Good Humour ice cream bars I used to enjoy as a kid (I got them at lunch in grade school. Ah memories...) Since my birthday girl had recently tried one at her own school and raved about it, I was inspired.

I searched the internet to see what was already out there. Lots of layer cake options, it turns out. Including this gorgeous one from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen. I didn’t feel like making a layer cake, though, because I was already planning to do the giant chocolatey layer cake option.

No. What I really wanted was something small and grab-and-go. Like a cupcake. But could I do a layered cupcake? Then there was the question of striking the right vanilla and strawberry balance. What if I used two types of buttercream and two flavors of cake instead of one, and I alternated them for effect? Then I’d put the strawberry shortcake crumble on top for a texture and flavor boost. Yeah, that sounded amazing. I wanted to try it. So I did. 

With that, a star was born. 

If we are getting specific, they are strawberry and vanilla layered cupcakes filled with strawberry buttercream, and topped with vanilla buttercream and strawberry shortbread crumbles. 

But we can call them strawberry shortcake cupcakes for short. *The ultimate. 

Now, full-disclosure, these cupcakes are a lot of steps and take a while to execute. But the recipe also makes a lot of cupcakes (I got 40 full layered cupcakes and an extra 3 I served as plain cupcakes.) So if you are going for a show-stopper cupcake, these are it. And the taste and wow factor more than make up for the effort.

I'll start by outlining the process for you, then I'll post the recipes below it.

***
HOW TO MAKE THE ULTIMATE 
STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE CUPCAKES

Step 1: Prepare the cupcakes (prep batter, bake, cool, & cut)

I made two boxes of cupcakes— one each of vanilla and strawberry--so I could layer them later. Each finished cupcake will be half vanilla and half strawberry (see photo at top of post). I followed the package directions to prepare and bake the batter. Note: I DID NOT use cupcake liners. Instead, I generously greased each cupcake well with Crisco so the cupcakes wouldn’t stick. After they baked, I let them cool for 10 minutes in the pans and then transferred them to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

*Note: The boxes of vanilla & strawberry cupcake mix I used were about an ounce different in weight which made for an uneven cupcake yield. I had 2 or 3 fewer strawberry cupcakes than vanilla. I used the odd ones as “samples" for me and my family. 

Once the cupcakes had COMPLETELY COOLED, I used a serrated knife to cut each cupcake in half horizontally, mostly making my cut as though separating the domed “muffin top” section from the straight bottom (like removing a mushroom cap from the stem). I lined a tray with the bottoms (and left the tops on the cooling racks) and set them all aside until I was ready to use them. 

Step 2: Make the crumble topping

I actually did mine the night before because I knew I had a lot to do on baking day, but you don't have to. Prepping this stuff while the cupcakes bake would be a good use of your time. The crumble comes together quickly with the help of a food processor. 

*Note: If you do yours ahead and need to store it overnight, or you want to store your inevitable leftovers (the recipe makes more than you'll need but it's delightful as an ice cream or yogurt topping so I say YAY) I’d recommend not storing them in plastic. I find that the plastic smell can get into the topping and that’s gross. I stored mine in a shortbread cookie tin, but glass would also work nicely. 

When it's time to use it, pour about a cup at a time into a bowl with low sides. The reason I recommend not just starting with it all at once is because if there's leftovers, there's no danger of frosting bits getting into your crumble topping. 

I portioned mine out in these little liners simply because they were already in the storage tin. 

Steps 3 & 4: Prepare strawberry buttercream & pipe onto bottom section of cupcakes

Once I made it (using my stand mixer), I scooped it into a piping bag and used only a plain coupler as my "tip" since I wasn't going for any design. I piped about 1-1.5 Tablespoons of frosting on the bottom portions of all the cupcakes. Half of your bottoms will be strawberry cake and half will be vanilla, but regardless of the cake flavor, the strawberry buttercream will serve as the middle sandwich layer of frosting.

*Note: It probably would have been just as efficient to use a medium OXO scoop (which is about 1.5 Tablespoons of frosting) for this task and then give it a quick spread. Either way is fine. Since this was my trial run, I opted for a piping bag because I thought it would be faster. 
Strawberry frosting on the bottom sections
In progress - bottoms done!
Step 5: Prepare vanilla buttercream 

Again I used my stand mixer to make the frosting. When it was time to use it, I didn’t bother scooping it in a piping bag because I needed to spread it on the cupcake tops. 

Steps 6 & 7: Frost top portion of cupcakes and dip into crumble topping

I scooped 1 small OXO scoop of frosting (which is about 3/4 T) on top of each cupcake top. I did all my scooping first. Please remember that half of your cupcakes will be vanilla cake and the rest will be strawberry, but regardless, the vanilla frosting will go on the top of the cupcake. After portioning out the frosting dollops, I went back and spread out the icing, working one cupcake at a time. After spreading, I dipped each one gently, icing side down, into the crumb coating. I worked one at a time because I didn’t want my buttercream to set at all before dipping. 

Step 8: Assemble cupcakes 

Gently place a top half cupcake onto a bottom half and give it a light press to make it stick. I used the opposite flavor cake top as I used for the base so that I achieved a striped look of a layered cake. i.e. if the bottom half of my cupcake was vanilla, I topped it with a strawberry cupcake, and if the bottom half of my cupcake was strawberry, I topped it with a vanilla cupcake. 


A perfect, delicious offering!
If you're eating them the same day or the next day, they should be ok at room temperature.  (I've never had an issue.) But because of the buttercream, you should aim to keep them refrigerated if they will be out for any longer than that. If you don't prefer eating them cold, you can always take them out of the fridge 30-60 minutes prior to serving so they can come to room temperature. 

RECIPES

For the cupcakes

1 box vanilla cupcakes
1 box strawberry cupcakes
Eggs, vegetable oil, and water per box directions

Directions: Prepare cupcakes according to package directions. Allow to cool 10 minutes in pan before removing to cooling rack to completely cool prior to cutting and icing.

For Crumble Topping for use on top of cupcakes
(crunch recipe from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen's Strawberry Crunch Cake)

Ingredients:

12 Golden Oreos 
12 shortbread cookies (I used Royal Dansk)
3 Tablespoons melted butter
1 cup freeze dried strawberries

Directions: 

1. Pulse Oreos and shortbread to a coarse crumb. 
2. Add melted butter and pulse to combine. 
3. Add freeze dried strawberries and pulse to combine. 

For Strawberry Buttercream for use between top & bottom layer of cupcakes
(adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction's Raspberry Frosting from her Chocolate Cupcakes with Creamy Raspberry Frosting - which are delish, by the way!)

Ingredients:

3/4 cup butter, room temperature
3 1/2 cup (420g) confectioners sugar
3 Tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup (165g) thick strawberry preserves or jam (I happened to be low on my jam when I was making mine, so, in a pinch, I used 1/4 cup strawberry preserves, 1 Tablespoon of 4 Fruits preserves, and 3 Tablespoons of strawberry sundae topping)

Directions:
  1. Beat softened butter on medium speed until creamy, about 3-4 minutes. 
  2. Add sugar, cream, vanilla, and salt with mixer running on low.
  3. Increase speed to high and beat for 1 minute.
  4. Add preserves and beat until thick and creamy, about 2 minutes.  
(If too thin, wet, or curdled-looking due to the addition of the preserves, add more sugar. If too sweet, add more salt. However, I found mine perfect as listed.) 

For Vanilla Buttercream for use on top of cupcakes and doubling as glue for crumble
(recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction's Vanilla Frosting from her Funfetti Sheet Cake)

Ingredients: 

3/4 cup butter, room temperature
3 cups (360g) confectioner sugar
2-3 Tablespoon whole milk or heavy cream (I used cream)
2 teaspoons vanilla 
1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions:
  1. Beat softened butter on medium for 2 minutes.
  2. Add sugar, cream, vanilla, and salt with mixer on low.
  3. Increase to high and beat for 3 full minutes.
***

Like I said, these are real show-stoppers and they taste SO amazingly divine you won't believe it. Everyone who tried one raved about them. And that was a lot of people because I shared them around. Besides my family, I brought some to the gym for the staff and I sent some with my husband to a meeting. (One individual has mentioned them to me almost every time he's seen me since he ate one!) 

I LOVE LOVE LOVE these cupcakes and I know you will too. If you make them, you'll end up celebrating yourself for sure!

Friday, April 27, 2018

Meaty Mushroom Burgers


Hey all! Long time no recipe. But that ends today because I've got one I need to share. 

You know how there’s mushroom people and NOT mushroom people? 

Right. Well, my family falls pretty squarely in the “NOT mushroom people” camp. 

In general, I don’t cook with them. When we eat out, we ask for them to “hold the mushrooms.” And, with the exception of the occasional surprise of a satisfying mushroom bisque, we just generally steer clear of this particular fungus. 

That said, when I saw a Tasty video featuring a Sonic chef recreating a popular Sonic burger (they call theirs a "Slinger") that uses ground mushrooms to bulk up the burger patties, I was intrigued.

I liked the thought of fewer calories and red meat than an all-beef burger, plus added veggies. But could it possibly taste good? How could a family of non-mushroom lovers get behind this concept?

But then I thought about it. Mushrooms can be quite meaty. People eat portabella “burgers” wherein they grill and dress an entire mushroom cap as though it were a meat patty. So grinding some up and mixing it with meat...it might work.

I decided to try it. I bought lean ground beef and baby ‘bellas, and didn’t mention my plan to my family. 

I was nervous the whole time I made them. When raw, the mushrooms smelled earthy and unappetizing. Plus, the meat-veggie mixture took on a grayish hue because of the mushrooms. (However, once they were grilled on my cast-iron skillet they looked “normal” once more, and with the exception of a few larger bits of mushrooms, you couldn’t actually *see* the mushrooms in the burger.) 

As I bit into mine, I was surprised to find I also couldn’t detect much of a mushroom taste either, particularly with all the burger toppings I’d used. And I was even more surprised to discover how satisfyingly juicy the burgers were. 

My 10-year-old eyed me suspiciously and asked if there was something different in these burgers. Between bites, my 7 year old (who’d helped me make them) casually said, “Yeah, there’s mushrooms in them.” I held my breath, waiting for an explosion of disgust or a refusal to eat the burger. Which, okay, she did try. She was like, "No way I'm eating a burger with mushrooms IN it." (Presumably as opposed to on top which she could pick off.) Still, we have a "3 bites, no thank you" rule here at my house, so she knew she'd need to give it a try. That was the last she said for several minutes as she ate and ate in happy silence. Then 
she declared, “Well, I think you should make burgers with mushrooms from now on. For one thing, you can’t even taste the mushroom. For another, the meat is so moist and easy to chew!” 

She had a point. Every one of us devoured our entire burger, and I’ve made them 3 more times in the past two months. She requested them two of those times.

Now, overall, I still wouldn’t call us “mushroom people,” but we are unequivocally “meaty mushroom burger people.” I feel strongly that you will find yourself in that camp, too, if you give these a try. 

Meaty Mushroom Burgers

(Recipe Note: You can tweak the recipe to suit your preferred burger size and yield. Just keep the meat to mushroom ratio the same. You want a 2:1 meat to mushroom ratio. I’ve made these several times and varied my ingredient amounts and, subsequently, burger sizes. The recipe I’m sharing today will yield four generous quarter-pound patties)

Ingredients: 

12 ounces lean ground beef (I use 93% lean)
6 ounces baby portabella mushrooms, caps only, pulsed in food processor until fine (note: aim for a similar width as the circumference of the ground meat)
4 burger buns
4 slices cheese (American or cheddar, per your preference)
20 dill pickle sandwich slices
4 slices beefsteak tomato
Lettuce, torn to fit burger bun
Red onion, finely chopped
Mayo, mustard, ketchup

Directions:

1. Place meat in a medium bowl.

2. Gently wipe mushroom tops with moist towel. Slice and place in food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. (Note; the smaller your pieces, the more they’ll “disappear” in the meat. If you leave your chunks too large, the burgers won’t hold together as well and the mushroom flavor will be stronger since you’re biting into a chunk of mushroom. See the photo below.) Don’t be afraid to stop several times and stir around the mushrooms in the bowl to make sure they’re all getting equal blade attention. 
*Also, feel free to blot the tiny mushroom pieces with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. (In my 4 times making these, I've only done this once, but I found the burgers held together better and were still juicy when cooked.) 





3. Pour chopped mushroom into bowl with the meat. (See how the mushrooms are the same general size as the meat?)

4. Use your hands to work the meat and mushrooms together.

5. Divide into 4 portions (I use a food scale for this.) *Full disclosure: in this photo, there's two 3oz burgers and two 5oz burgers. Your eyes aren't deceiving you if you think they don't look uniform.

6. Flatten into thin patties. Salt and pepper the side facing you. 

7. Heat a cast-iron skillet on medium-high heat. When hot, drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil onto the skillet and place the burger patty, seasoned-side down, in the pan. Salt and pepper the side facing you. (If your pan isn’t big enough to accommodate 4 burgers at once, you can do this in batches, 2 at a time.) 

Leave the patty alone until it cooks about halfway up the side of the patty and has a golden sear on the side that’s pan-side down. (About 3-5 minutes depending on thickness and your preferred burger temperature. Mine usually end up well-done because I prep my veggies while they cook, but they're still very moist.) Flip the burger and cook for another 2-3 minutes. 

9. Place cheese on burger patties and let cook another minute or so. While the cheese melts, place buns in toaster for one toast cycle. (Alternately, though I've never done it, you could place your bun face down in your skillet to get a toast on it.) 


10. Assemble the burgers. 

Bottom bun: 1 teaspoon mayo, pickle slices (the burger patty will go next, on top of the pickles)

Top bun: mustard and ketchup, onions, lettuce, tomato

And there you have it. What a beaut! (Not my messy counter--that burger!)


See how you can't see those mushrooms in the cooked burger??
MMMMMM! Delicioso!