Chocolate Stout Cake

Chocolate Stout CakeIt’s For The Kids
A friend of mine is holding a beer pong tournament this weekend. In fact, this will be the 6th Annual tournament and my husband and I will be there. Our attendance is remarkable for two reasons: 1. At the age of 46, I don’t really feel the need to relive the days of my ill-spent youth (it hurts too much). And, 2. As a general rule, I don’t like to drink beer.

The first reason is easily overcome because it is a fun night hanging out with friends and raising money for charity. The people-watching entertainment alone is pure gold. The second reason my attendance is strange is much more problematic.

There have been only a few occasions where I have purposefully ordered a beer and was satisfied with my choice. The bucket of ice-cold beer with lime I enjoyed while lounging on the beaches of Mazatlán 20 years ago was beyond perfect, both in setting and in thirst-quenching achievement. The winner for best beer I ever tasted in my life was the pint of Guinness I drank after taking the tour of the brewery in Dublin, Ireland with a pint of that same brew that I had in Boston being a very close second. Both pints were smooth like liquid chocolate and both were the best remedy for a very blustery cold day.

I doubt very seriously that the beer being poured into keg cups this weekend will be of the same quality. I’m pretty sure it will be a mix of the cheaper fraternity party favorites in the beginning with the better stuff only coming out as the competition gets tighter. My husband, a beer lover, has vowed to take one for the team and drink the beer for me ‘cause he’s a giver like that.

In a preemptive strike, I am planning on making this chocolate stout cake to bring to the party to help take the bitter cheap beer taste from everyone’s mouth while still sticking to the theme…

Chocolate Stout Cake
Yields 12 servings Read more…

Chocolate Hazelnut Scones

Chocolate Hazelnut SconesOregone
I spent last weekend in Oregon and it was glorious. True, I spent four years living there—so I may be biased. But, the drive down to Eugene from Portland reminded me just how much I love it up there, green rolling hills, fields of frisky animals, charming red barns….

There is no greener state than Oregon. And yes, it does rain up there. A lot. And that rain makes for some of the most stunning scenery you can ask for. This time around, I was blessed to experience one of the few absolutely perfect-weather weekends. No rain and 70 degrees. Perfect. Add to that a football win for the home team and you just can’t get much better than that…unless we start talking about the food.

Oregon is a food lover’s dream and it’s no secret that the hot Portland restaurant scene is where innovation is happening. With the abundance of fresh-grown veggies and humanely raised meats available within an hour or two of the city, you’d have to work pretty hard to not to produce a quality product. Needless to say, I ate pretty well on this trip.

I took advantage of what there was to offer including the fresh veggies, and the Pinots, and of course, the coffee. Coffee is a religion up there. Like, literally. Oregonians don’t mess around. While consuming more than the recommended daily allowance of caffeine at one of my favorite coffee stops, I had the privilege of snacking on a hazelnut chocolate scone freshly made from Oregon grown hazelnuts and fresh butter. It was ah-may-zing!

I brought a bunch of coffee beans home with me in an effort to extend my trip (if only in my mind and coffee cup). For this same reason, I have been searching for a hazelnut scone recipe on the internet. I found this basic recipe on Food 52 and have been experimenting to duplicate my Oregon scones. It’s a tough job but I am definitely up to the task….

Chocolate Hazelnut Scones
Adapted from Food 52
Yields 12 servings Read more…

Chewy Chocolate Brownies

Chewy Chocolate BrowniesBrownie Brain
Labor Day weekend is almost here…which is awesome because, Hey!, a three day weekend! Tradition suggests that I am supposed to be thinking about barbecue but truth be told, I’m kind of sick of grilling. With as hot as it has been lately, I haven’t even looked twice at my oven. Everything we’ve eaten in the past two weeks has been hot off the outdoor grill. Needless to say, I am finding it hard to get too excited about a barbecue for Labor Day.

That being said, I will be going to a barbecue on Sunday. The good news is the decision to figure out what to throw on the grill rests entirely on my sister’s shoulders. I have a feeling that I will be in charge of bringing something sweet to the party. And, for some reason lately, I have had brownies on the brain.

I can’t tell you how long it has been since I have made a batch of brownies. I love brownies and because of that love I just can’t have them lying around. I will simply end up eating them. Hence, I have not made them in over a year. As a general rule, I am a brownie purist but I am not above swirling in a little peanut butter before they go in the oven or even mixing some espresso into the batter. There are never any nuts in my brownies. Not because I don’t like nuts—but I just don’t want anything to interfere with my chocolate intake. And, no nuts means there is more room for chocolate in each bite.

Brownies, or chocolate anything really, are a great way to end a barbecue because chocolate just goes well with grilled meats. Even better, you can serve them with the ice cream of your choice on the top for a sundae. Or, take it a step further and use the brownies as the base for an ice cream cake!

Chewy Chocolate Brownies Read more…

Giant Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Cookies

Giant Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter CookiesCookie Monster
If you ask my husband what he wants for Father’s Day, he will tell you without hesitation that he neither needs nor wants anything. He has said, however, that he would be okay with a clean and organized house. I wish I could say that is an easy request….

The love of my life is not a person that needs stuff (unless you count musical instruments). In fact, his preference is for the least amount of stuff he can get away with. Because of this, it is hard to recognize his awesomeness as a father in the usual ways. That is why birthdays and Father’s Day are usually celebrated with some sort of special food item.

There are many treats that our #1 Dad thinks are the best thing ever. The first would be ice cream. Whether it is a bowl of his favorite Tin Roof Sundae or an ice cream sandwich, anyone who thinks they might be able to keep a stash on hand for craving emergencies would be very, very wrong. You’d be lucky if either lasts the night. There is one other tasty treat that trumps even the most decadent ice cream and that treat would be cookies.

One of the first things I learned about my husband when we met was of his love of cookies. In fact, cookie was the first word he spoke as a child. To say that he has never met a cookie he didn’t like would be a massive understatement. But, his hands down, absolute favorite is classic peanut butter cookie dipped in melted chocolate.

While I love peanut butter cookies they are a variety I don’t make very often. Mainly because most of the cookies I make are for school functions and peanuts are generally a bad idea at school. So, to celebrate and thank the best father to my kids that I could ever have thought of, I will be making these to go with the milk in his World’s Greatest Dad mug.

Giant Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Yields about 2 dozen giant cookies Read more…

Fudgy Bundt Cake

Fudgy Bundt CakeCoffee Cooking
I wasn’t a big coffee lover until I went away to college. Even then I only started drinking it because “everyone was doing it”. See, I went to college in the Pacific Northwest during the early days of micro-breweries and the use of words like Venti and Grande. It was a good time to be in Oregon.

It took a while but eventually, it got to the point where I had to have a cup in the morning to even have a chance at functioning. And yes, I am well aware of the signs of caffeine addiction.

The actual flavor of coffee has always appealed to me even before I became one of the millions who must have their daily infusion of dark-roasted nirvana so that they can play well with others. From a young age, anything coffee, mocha or cappuccino flavored drew me in like the siren’s song. Nine times out of ten, if I was ordering any sort of ice cream or frozen yogurt I would go for the coffee or espresso flavored one. If it had fudge and some nuts swirled into it, so much the better. Same goes for cakes and cupcakes.

When I started to bake, I was pleasantly surprised that coffee was a common ingredient in any sort of chocolate cake, cupcake, or cookie. Turns out, coffee enhances the flavor of the chocolate in many desserts without making the result actually taste of coffee. Using coffee gives the chocolate a dark. fudgy richness.

The recipe below is a perfect example. It is a simple chocolate cake recipe adapted from Samin Nosrat’s book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. It is one of my favorites because of its density of flavor and moist lushness. It’s a great ending to a nice meal or even better as cupcakes for a fun event.

Because it’s pretty rich, this cake is best served topped with fresh whipped cream and some sliced strawberries or a light dusting of powdered sugar. The more decadent among us might go for some cream cheese frosting.

Fudgy Bundt Cake
Adapted from Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat
Yields two 8-inch cakes or one bundt cake  Read more…