Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Classic Recipe With A Twist

The members of the "Lick The Bowl" household are Texas Sheet Cake lovers. Being fans of chocolate cake, cinnamon kissed fudgy icing loaded with homegrown toasted pecans....What's not to love? Well if you're not nut or chocolate fans, then move on, but if you're a sucker for the good stuff like I am, then stick around and pour yourself a glass of icy milk, because I turned the Southern potluck favorite into cupcakes!

Traditionally, a Texas Sheet Cake is baked and served in the same pan. While the cake is still warm from the oven, you pour the molten icing over it and allow it to cool. This gives the icing and the cake ample opportunity to bond and become one with one another as the icing oozes into all the nooks and crannies. It's a good thing, trust me. My version starts off with a simple one-bowl chocolate cupcake then after it's cooled,  gets iced with a rich and sweet cocoa icing loaded with toasted pecans. Allowing the cupcakes and icing to cool a bit before topping them them helps keep the icing intact, rather than sliding off the cupcake and onto the counter. 

"Momma give me a cupcake!" 
These cupcakes were rich and decadent, just like the typical sheet cake. All the elements of the classic cake are still there, just in a new and prettier (updated) package, which makes them perfect for gift giving or celebrations. I don't know about you, but I like classic recipes with a twist- it keeps things fresh and exciting. If you're a Texas Sheet Cake fan, I sincerely hope you'll consider whipping up a batch or two and sharing with your loved ones. 

Texas Sheet Cake Cupcakes from Monica h

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Chocolate Cupcakes:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake tins with 18 paper liners and set aside.

    In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Using a wire whisk, blend the dry ingredients thoroughly.

      Add the oil, water, vanilla and eggs to the dry ingredients. Whisk until well incorporated and no lumps remain.  

      Evenly divide the batter between the lined cupcakes tins.

        Bake the cupcakes for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes; then place them on a rack to cool completely before topping with pecan fudge icing.

        Toasted Pecan Fudge Icing: 
        • 1/2 cup pecans
        • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
        • 2 Tablespoons milk
        • 4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
        • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
        • 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
        • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
        While the oven is still on, place your pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven for 10 minutes until the pecans become aromatic and have turned a slight golden brown, being careful not to burn them. 

        Remove from the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheet. Once cool, chop the pecans and set them aside. 

        In a medium sauce pot, combine butter, milk, cocoa and cinnamon (if using). Stir over low heat until butter is melted. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time while continuing to stir until smooth. Stir in vanilla extract and chopped pecans. 

        Take the pan off the heat but leave the icing in the pot. Allow the icing to cool for 15-30 minutes until the pot is cool enough to touch. The icing will thicken as it cools. You want the icing to be thick enough to stay on top of the cupcake but not too thick that it doesn't spread. If your icing becomes hard and too thick to handle, place it back on the stove over low heat and stir until the desired consistency is met. 

        Using a small ice cream scoop, place a small mound on top of each cupcake. The icing will spread slightly and possibly drip down the sides a bit, depending how warm your icing is. Divide evenly over each cupcake. Allow the icing to cool completely and set before enjoying. 

        Store loosely covered at room temperature. 

        Makes 18 cupcakes. 

        Friday, October 12, 2012

        Because Sometimes You Just Need Pie

        Pie is just one of those comforting desserts that warms your heart and soothes your soul. It doesn't matter if it's warm from the oven crumb topped apple pie or pucker up cool and tangy key lime pie eaten al fresco in the middle of Summer. Pie is just a comfort food, for me at least. So last month when we (The Cake Slice Bakers) were faced with the challenge to make a peanut butter and chocolate mousse "cake" I knew I'd be turning it into a pie. I use the term "cake" loosely, because there's not one part of this recipe that goes into the oven. You start with a cookie crust, layer in some fluffy peanut butter and chocolate mousse and glaze it with a healthy dose of deep, dark and rich ganache. Sounds good, right?
        Peanut butter and chocolate go hand in hand. Most people love that combination, I've just never been a huge fan of it. I know you're all looking at me like I'm crazy, but it's true. I love peanut butter and I love chocolate, separately, on their own, not together. My brother LOVES it though so I made this pie for him. Lately we've all been dealing with some financial stuff. It seems everywhere I turn someone is. This economy is just rough and you do what you have to do to get by. If you're not struggling in some way, kudos to you! For my brother, he had to sell his beloved truck. He is a car "collector"- his favorites being old Cadillacs. He needed some cash flow and this truck needed to find a new home. He was kind down in the dumps about it so this pie was made for him. It was a "I'm sorry this economy sucks and you had to sell your truck, but I still love you" kind of pie. And sometimes we all need that. 

        In fact right now, I could use about a dozen of these kinds of pies. If you're in the same situation, consider this pie for you! There are several steps to make this pie and several dishes to wash! There's a bowl for the crust, one for the whipped cream, another two for the mousse layers and another for the glaze, plus a food processor a saucepan and any measuring tools and spatulas. But is it worth it? heck yes! It seems rather lengthy and involved but each step is fairly simple and straightforward. It just takes time and patience but in the end you'll be rewarded with a creamy and decadent pie sure to warm your heart even if you never turn the oven on. 

        Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Pie adapted from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle

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        For The Chocolate Wafer Crust: 
        • 1 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (I used Oreos, with the filling scraped out)
        • 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
        For The Peanut Butter Mousse: 
        • 2.5 oz. cream cheese, softened
        • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
        • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
        • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
        • 1/8 tsp. salt
        • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
        For The Chocolate Mousse: 
        • 2.5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
        • 2 oz. milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
        • 3 Tbsp whole milk 
        • 3 Tbsp granulated sugar
        • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
        For The Chocolate Glaze: 
        • 3 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
        • 1/3 cup heavy cream
        • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
        To Make The Chocolate Crust: In a medium bowl, stir together the cookie crumbs and the melted butter. Stir until well combined. Pat the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch deep dish pie plate. Refrigerate the crust while you make the peanut butter mousse. 

        To Make The Peanut Butter Mousse: In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter at medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the powdered sugar and mix until well blended. Add the peanut butter and salt and mix until well blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Set bowl aside while whipping the cream. 

        In a large clean bowl, beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer at high speed until soft peaks form. Gently fold 1/2 cup of the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture until almost blended. Fold in another 3/4 cup of the whipped cream until completely blended and no white streaks appear. 

        Scrape the peanut butter mousse into the prepared pie pan and spread it into an even layer. Refrigerate while you make the chocolate mousse. Cover the remaining whipped cream and refrigerate ready to use. 

        To Make The Chocolate Mousse: Place both chocolates in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely ground. Leave the chocolate in the food processor. 

        In a small saucepan, combine the milk and sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently until the sugar dissolves. With the food processor running, pour the hot milk through the feed tube, and process until the chocolate is completely melted. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the vanilla extract, and process until well blended. Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl. 

        Using a rubber spatula, gently fold 1/4 of the reserved whipped cream into the mousse. Fold in the remaining cream until completely blended. Scrape the mousse onto the peanut butter mousse layer and smooth the top using an offset spatula. Refrigerate the pie while making the chocolate glaze. 

        To Make The Chocolate Glaze: Place finely chopped chocolate into a medium bowl. 

        In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil.  Pour cream over the chocolate and let sit for a few minutes. Add the vanilla, then gently stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the glaze is smooth. Do not over mix or you'll incorporate air bubbles. Let the mixture cool at room temperature for 10 minutes before using. 

        Pour the cooled glaze over the chocolate mousse layer. Using a small metal spatula, spread the glaze evenly over the top of the pie. Sprinkle the top with peanuts if desired, for garnish, before the glaze sets. 

        Chill the pie for at least 2-3 hours before serving. Loosely cover pie and store any leftovers for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. 

        Friday, October 5, 2012

        Carrot Cake Ice Pops, My Way

        I received a cookbook for review a few weeks ago for boozy cocktails in Popsicle form, called Poptails by Erin Nichols. It's a super cute book with a variety of unique popsicles. There were several that jumped out at me, but ultimately I went for Carrot Cake Pops made with dark rum. I was super excited to try them, but they were so potent that they were hardly edible. I really wanted to like them, but with every bite, it was like I was sticking my nose into the bottle of Bacardi and inhaling. Sadly, they all wound up in a slurry down the drain. Not to say that this book wasn't a winner, this just wasn't the recipe for me. I plan on trying out the Coquito (coconut) pops really soon. If cocktails are your thing, check out this book!

        Hayden's new trick!
        The problem with this (besides wasting an entire cup of dark rum!) was that I still wanted the flavors of spicy carrot cake but in popsicle form. And there needed to be cream cheese, so I came up with my own recipe and it was a success! I started out by whipping up some cream cheese, sweetening it with brown sugar and vanilla and thinned it out slightly with a little half n half. You could also use a little heavy cream and milk if you'd like. I wanted it tangy without being too sweet like frosting. Then came the carrot layer. It had just the right amount of sweetness and was spiced with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice. And it tasted like fresh carrots- that Bolthouse Farms juice is delicious stuff!

        Into the freezer my concoction went and a few hours later emerged frozen popsicles. Not only were they a gorgeous and vibrant ORANGE, but they were gewd! The cream cheese layer is barely sweet and tangy, and smooth, while the juice layer is spicy and icy. I liked to eat them from the side, taking just a bit of the cream cheese with every juicy bite or the carrot layer. I intended to add a few toasted and chopped pecans to some of them, but I got so excited I just plain forgot. Adding some crushed pineapple or coconut wouldn't be a bad idea either. And while it's no longer Summer, eating carrot cake- in any form- is always in season. 

        Carrot Cake Popsicles from Monica h

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        For the cream cheese layer: 
        • 4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
        • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
        • 3 Tbsp half n half
        • 1/2 tsp vanilla
        For the carrot layer: 
        • 1 1/2 cups carrot juice
        • 1/3 cup half n half
        • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
        • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice 
        • 1/2 tsp vanilla
        In a medium bowl combine cream cheese, brown sugar, half n half and vanilla. Using a hand mixer, beat until creamy and all ingredients are well incorporated. Transfer the cream cheese mixture to a piping bag or a Ziploc bag. Snip off the corner and pipe the cream cheese mixture into the bottom of your popsicle molds, dividing the mixture evenly. Gently tap the molds onto the counter to remove any air bubbles and to help spread the mixture into the corners. Freeze for 30 minutes or until mixture has firmed up.

        Meanwhile, make the carrot juice layer. In a sauce pot, combine the carrot juice, half n half, brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently until the sugar has dissolved. Turn off the heat, add the vanilla and stir. Transfer the mixture to a 2 cup measuring cup and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Place in refrigerator til well chilled. 

        Once the cream cheese mixture has firmed up in the pop molds, carefully pour the chilled carrot mixture over the cream cheese layer, dividing the mixture evenly. Insert sticks or handles for your pops and freeze for a minimum of 4 hours. 

        Makes 8-10 popsicles 

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