Chef Emerson’s S’mores Truffles

Emme Truffles

My daughter and little chef-in-training, Emerson, loves to cook and bake and the other day she asked to whip up a fun dessert. She decided to make these scrumptious and super easy S’mores Truffles. Aside from a little assistance with the measuring she made these completely by herself. They are a great dessert to make with your kids as they require minimal ingredients, most of which you should have in the house. Also, depending on their age, it’s something they can make themselves with little to no help which is fantastic for building up confidence in the kitchen.

If you don’t like s’mores or don’t have any marshmallows and graham crackers on hand, feel free to change these truffles up. Use the base truffle mix, roll them into balls and then coat them in crushed cereal, cookies, sprinkles, toasted coconut or even dusted with a little cocoa powder. They are also just as delicious plain as they are coated or in this s’mores version. Let your little one experiment and see what yummy concoction they are able to think up. This recipe makes about 20-25 truffles depending on how large they are rolled. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup heavy cream or half-n-half
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • 20-25 miniature marshmallows
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers

Instructions

Combine the cream, salt and vanilla extract in a bowl. Set aside.

Combine the chocolate chips and vegetable oil in a large microwave safe bowl. Heat in the microwave on high in 15 second intervals, stirring after each interval, until the chocolate is completely melted.

Pour the cream mixture into the melted chocolate and stir gently until well combined. Pour into a parchment lined 8X8 pan and refrigerate for about an hour.

Scoop out about a tablespoon of chocolate, wrap it around one marshmallow and roll into a ball. Roll the truffle ball in the crushed graham crackers and then place on a dish. Repeat until all of the chocolate has been used.

Store the truffles in an airtight container in the fridge, they will keep for a few days.

**Tip – A melon baller or small cookie scoop works great for scooping the chocolate.**

chef emmen

My little chef hard at work!

(Pampered Chef Glass Mixing Bowls – 3 Piece Set$35)

Killer Chocolate Chip Cookies

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For Christmas this past year I received an awesome new cookbook by renowned pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini entitled, “Sugar Rush: Master Tips, Techniques, and Recipes for Sweet Baking“. If you’re interested, you can get yourself a copy right hereIt’s packed with a ton of awesome tips and recipes for delicious treats such as a Pineapple Coconut Meringue Torte, Crumb Cake, Double Lemon Tarts, and the Killer Chocolate Chip Cookies that I made below. This book is great for experienced bakers but it’s also perfect for newbies because he takes a lot of time and care to explain technique while walking you through each recipe step-by-step. It’s a fantastic cookbook and I highly recommend adding it to your collection, it’s been a great addition to mine!

These cookies came out delicious, soft and chewy in the middle with a slight crisp on the edges. Everyone loved them, even my picky kids!! I followed the recipe as is however, I did not have Maldon sea salt for the garnish so I substituted with Fleur de Sel which is also a light, flaked salt. The only change that I would make in future batches of this cookie would be to decrease the amount of cinnamon to just a 1/4 tsp. I don’t care for a pronounced cinnamon flavor in my chocolate chip cookies but other than that small change these cookies were, as the name suggests, killer!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (232 grams) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp pure almond extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (110 grams) cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 14 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), coarsely chopped
  • Maldon sea salt, for garnish

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

Place the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer and toss with your fingers until the butter is coated. Attach the paddle and beat the butter and sugar on medium-low speed until a thick paste forms with no visible butter lumps. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.

With the mixer on low, add the egg and egg yolks one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Sprinkle the Kosher salt over the top. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture stopping frequently to scrape down the bowl. Mix until just combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the chocolate by hand.

Using a small (1/2 ounce) ice cream scoop, scoop level balls of dough and arrange them about 2 inches apart on the lined cookie sheets. Use the bottom of a glass to slightly flatten the dough balls and then sprinkle a little Maldon salt over each cookie.

Bake for 12-13 minutes, rotating the pans once, until the cookies are just set and beginning to brown. Cool for 10 minutes on the pans before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Store the cookies in an airtight container, they will keep for up to 3 days.

Almond Pound Cake with Chocolate Ganache

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I’ve struggled for years to find a pound cake recipe that results in a cake that has the right texture and level of moistness. Then I stumbled across this recipe in one my old cookbooks from Williams-Sonoma and I instantly fell in love. (“Williams-Sonoma Holiday Entertaining” – page 206 – “Almond Pound Cake with Cherry Glaze”) Because the cookbook is quite old you can’t find it new anymore however, if you’d like a copy for yourself you can click the image below to find some used copies available through various sellers on Amazon.

The original recipe calls for the pound cake to be served with a cherry glaze (see recipe below) which is absolutely delicious but this time around I decided to take the cake into a different direction. Instead of the cherry glaze I covered the pound cake in a chocolate ganache so that it took on a similar flavor to one of my favorites, rainbow cookies! Because I was bringing this cake to a late holiday get-together I used Christmas colored sprinkles to decorate but of course, feel free to use any color sprinkles that you have on hand.

What I like most about this cake is that there are various ways to make and serve it, all of which are equally yummy. If you want a lighter cake, try dusting it with some powdered sugar instead of the ganache or cherry glaze. If you prefer a more traditional pound cake flavor, you can easily replace the almond extract with pure vanilla extract. Also, don’t be afraid to try other flavored extracts as well, there are so many awesome ones to choose from such as brandy, hazelnut, and coconut! This is truly a great “base cake” that lends itself to so many other flavor options and presentations! Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups (235 grams) sifted cake flour (sift the flour FIRST, then measure)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 cups (315 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups (500 grams) granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup (6 fl. oz.) buttermilk*
  • 1 1/2 tsp almond extract

*If you do not have buttermilk, make your own.  Measure out 1 cup of milk and add to it 2 tbs of vinegar or lemon juice.  Let stand 5-10 minutes and then it will be ready to use.  It will not be as thick as store bought buttermilk but it will work just the same in recipes.

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a bundt pan and dust lightly with flour, shake out the excess.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter and sugar. Beat until creamy and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat thoroughly after each addition.

Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, one-third at a time, alternating with one-third of the buttermilk. Combine thoroughly after each addition. Lastly, beat in the almond extract.

Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan then gently tap the pan to release any air bubbles. Bake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45-55 minutes depending on the size/shape of bundt pan.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and allow it to cool for about 15 minutes. Then, slip a knife between the cake and the pan to loosen any stuck edges and turn the cake out onto a wire rack. Cool completely. Drizzle with the chocolate ganache and cover in sprinkles.

To store, cover loosely and place in a cool, dry place. This cake can be made a day ahead of serving as well.

Cherry Glaze

  • 1 cup (125 grams) dried cherries
  • 1 cup (8 fl. oz.) port wine
  • 2 tbs granulate sugar
  • 1 jar (8 oz.) cherry preserves

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the dried cherries, port wine and sugar and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring often, until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the preserves, reduce the heat to low and simmer until thickened, about 6-7 minutes. Let cool slightly. Drizzle the cooled cake with the cherry glaze or serve on each individual slice. If making the glaze ahead of time, allow to cool completely, cover, and keep in the fridge. Reheat with 1-2 tbs of water.

Homemade Holiday Fudge

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Since I was itty-bitty my mom has always made homemade fudge for Christmas. It was such a treat as a kid because she would only make it one time a year and when it was gone, it was gone. As I got older and started hosting the holidays myself I continued the tradition of making homemade fudge at the holidays. It’s a treat that everyone always loves and even though it’s super easy to make everyone will be so impressed that you actually made homemade fudge!

The nice thing about this fudge is that you can change it up with whatever add-ins that you prefer. My mom would always make a plain batch and another batch with walnuts which is super simple and pleases most everyone.  For fun, I started making my fudge in different ways just to change up the flavor profile. I’ve made it with graham crackers and marshmallows for a yummy S’mores version, I’ve made it with Craisins® and shredded coconut (pictured above) and a few times I did batches of Rocky Road fudge which had both nuts and marshmallows. The possibilities are pretty limitless with this recipe so go ahead and add your own signature touch to the next batch you make!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (18 oz) of semi-sweet OR dark chocolate chips
  • 1 (14 oz) can of sweetened condensed milk
  • dash of Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Red and green decorative sugar sprinkles
  • 1/2 -1 cup chopped walnuts or other add-ins (optional)

Instructions

In a pan set over low heat combine the sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips and salt and stir until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and any add-ins such as nuts, marshmallows, etc.

Spread the fudge mixture into a 8X8 pan lined with wax paper and sprayed very lightly with cooking spray. Sprinkle with colored sugar sprinkles. Chill until firm and then cut into bite-sized cubes.

**Tip – Keep the cut-up fudge covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated until ready to serve. It becomes very soft at room temperature.**

S’mores Fudge

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Thick and Fudgy Brownie Cookies

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I’ve been making these fudgy brownie cookies for years and they are always a hit with everyone. They are SO good. Soft, fudgy, and bursting with chocolate flavor. The best part? They are super easy to make and require only a few ingredients that most everyone will have on hand. For this batch I added some Sno-Caps® candy to the top but you can either leave them plain or add any other topping that you wish. Be sure to watch these cookies closely as they bake. They can go from perfect to overdone quickly and you want to be sure to not overbake them or you’ll lose that soft, fudgy middle.

These cookies also make great holiday gifts! I’ve made big batches of them, packaged them nicely into holiday cookie tins and then secured a bag of good quality coffee to the top of the tin with pretty, festive ribbon. It’s the perfect gift for bus drivers, teachers, group leaders or anyone else on your holiday gift list! You could even assemble the dry ingredients into Mason Jars and secure the recipe to a tag on the jar and that way your gift recipients can make a batch of fresh, warm cookies at home. These are also great cookies to bring for your next cookie swap! Enjoy!!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder (the darker the better)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 3 tbs heavy cream
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.

Cream the butter and sugars. Add in egg, yolk and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add half of the dry mixture to the butter mixture.

Pour in the heavy cream and mix until combined. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Scoop 2 tbs of dough (I use a medium cookie scoop) onto the cookie sheets. Flatten tops slightly and leave about 1.5″ between cookies. Bake for 9-11 minutes. The tops should be puffy, rounded and set. DO NOT OVERBAKE or they’ll be too dry. Let cool on cookie sheets for a few minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes exactly 2 dozen cookies.

 

Halloween Bark

Halloween Bark2

Inevitably Halloween will bring a surplus of candy into your home so why not pick out a few of your favorites and make some Halloween Bark! It’s super easy to do and your kids will have so much creating their own chocolate concoctions. You will find many variations of this recipe online but they are all similar. All you need is a pan, some plain chocolate and assorted Halloween candy which can be anything from gummy worms to broken up bits of candy bar. I also like to add some spooky eye candy to my bark, it gives it a little extra Halloween flare!

For the chocolate, I like a nice bittersweet chocolate as it offsets the sweetness of the other candies that are mixed in but feel free to use whatever you have on hand. You can either melt down plain chocolate candy bars from your kids trick-or-treat bag or use a bag of chocolate chips, both will be perfect in this recipe. Once your chocolate is topped with all of the goodies and has hardened, use a knife to break it up and enjoy! Happy Halloween!!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of chocolate (dark, milk, bittersweet, etc)
  • 2 – 2.5 cups of assorted Halloween candy

Instructions

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat®.

Over a double boiler, melt down the chocolate until smooth.

Pour the chocolate onto the baking sheet and using a spatula, smooth it into an even layer about 1/4″ thick. Top the chocolate with the assorted Halloween candy.

Place the tray into the refrigerator for about 35-40 minutes or until the chocolate has fully hardened.

Slide the cold chocolate onto a cutting board and using a knife, chop it up into large, irregular pieces and serve. Store the bark in an airtight container in a cool place.

 

 

Rocky Road Layer Cake

Rocky Road Cake 1

This past Father’s Day I wanted to make my husband an extra special, over the top cake to celebrate so I decided on this amazing Rocky Road Layer Cake. It was every bit as delicious as it looks and it was so decadent too! I found this recipe on the Preppy Kitchen blog, the original recipe along with step-by-step pictures can be found here: Rocky Road Cake .

While no one part of this recipe was what I consider to be hard to make, overall it was a time-consuming cake to pull together. You have to first bake the cakes and cool them, make the filling, make the ganache and then assemble it all. The recipe calls for the layers to be baked in three 6X2″ pans however, I used the Wilton 2105-0112 Easy Layers! 5-Piece Cake Pan Set, 6-Inch and they worked out great. There is enough batter to make a full five layers for this cake however, during assembly I only used four. At that point it was tall enough and adding the last layer would’ve made the cake a little too unstable so I just set the extra layer aside.

Before assembling the cake make sure to trim the tops of the layers so that you have a flat surface. If there is any curvature to the layers the cake will be unbalanced and unstable. Also, do not overfill the layers or you will find that they slip and slide too much which will also effect the structure of the cake. After assembling the layers I ended up with extra ganache and filling which you can store in the fridge to use for another recipe. Once the cake was complete, I immediately placed it into the fridge to chill and set-up. Because it was also hot outside I decided to leave the cake in the fridge until it was served, I found that allowing it to sit at room temperature caused the chocolate and filling to begin to soften.

To keep the layers moist, you can brush each layer with simple syrup before adding the filling. To make a simple syrup simply combine equal parts water and granulated sugar. Warm on the stovetop until the sugar melts and you’re left with a syrup. Cool slightly and then brush directly on the cake using a pastry brush.

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour
  • tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 13 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • tbs coffee
  • tbs vanilla paste
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • cup cocoa

For the Ganache

  • cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • cup toasted walnuts
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows

For the Buttercream

  • 2/3 cup semi sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1/3 cup hazelnut chocolate (Nutella™), melted and cooled
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • lb unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

For the Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour three 6-by-2-inch cake pans.

  2. In a small bowl mix together the buttermilk, sour cream coffee and vanilla paste.

  3. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

  4. In a the bowl of a standing mixer beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. With mixer on low, beat in eggs and yolks, one at a time. Beat in flour mixture and buttermilk in three alternating batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

  5. Mix just until almost combined. Use a spatula to scrape the bottom and complete the mixing.

  6. Divide batter between pans, smooth tops. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in pans 10 minutes then invert onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

For the Buttercream

  1. Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Mix in the confectioners sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, salt and melted chocolate. If buttercream is a bit thick you can add a tablespoon or two of heavy cream to thin it out.

For the Ganache

  1. Scald the cream in a small saucepan over medium. Bring it just to a boil then pour over the semisweet chocolate. Let sit for two minutes then whisk until smooth. Reserve about 2/3 a cup of the ganache for the drip. Mix in the walnuts and fold in the marshmallows once cool.

To Assemble

  1. Pipe a ring of buttercream around the top edge of the first layer. Use a spatula to fill the center with the ganache. Place the next layer on top and repeat. Cover the outside with buttercream and smooth.

  2. Drizzle the ganache on top of the cake. If it’s thickened then you can mix in a bit more cream and zap in the microwave for a few seconds at 50% power.

  3. Pile the extra rocky road mixture on top of the cake and then press in a few extra marshmallows and walnuts and give a final light drizzle of chocolate.

Rocky Road Cake 2

“How-To” Baking – Melting Chocolate

When melting chocolate be careful to not allow any moisture or steam to come in contact with the chocolate otherwise it can seize or stiffen.

To Melt on a Stove Top

  • Chop the chocolate into large chunks and place inside a heat safe bowl.
  • Place the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water creating a “double boiler“. Do not allow the bottom of the bowl to come in contact with the water.
  • Give the chocolate a stir periodically as it begins to melt down. When the chocolate is completely liquefied remove the bowl from the heat and allow it cool slightly. Do not cover the chocolate as it cools.

To Melt in a Microwave

  • Chop the chocolate into large chunks and place inside a microwave safe bowl.
  • Heat the chocolate on medium (50% power) for one minute.
  • Continue to melt the chocolate in 30 second increments to prevent it from scorching.
  • When the chocolate looks shiny and soft remove it from the microwave. It will not completely melt in the microwave but as its stirred it will become smooth and liquid.

“How-To” Baking – Chocolate Ganache

Making chocolate ganache is a very simple task that you’ll be glad you mastered as it’s an incredibly versatile accompaniment to many desserts and baked goods. While warm, it’s a fantastic pourable glaze however, once it cools and thickens, you can also use it as a frosting, fudge filling, or even to make truffles! My “go to” recipe for ganache is from the “Williams-Sonoma Mastering” cookbook series. Get it here:

 Williams-Sonoma Mastering: Cakes, Frostings & Fillings

Ingredients

  • 8 oz (20 g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup (5 fl oz/160 ml) heavy cream, plus more to adjust consistency
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

If using chocolate bars, chop the chocolate with a serrated knife.

Heat the butter and cream over medium low heat. Heat until the butter has melted and tiny bubbles have formed along the edges of the pan, about 2 minutes. Do NOT allow the mixture to boil or it could scorch which will make the ganache taste burnt.

Remove the pan from the heat and add in the chocolate. Let the chocolate sit in the hot cream mixture to soften, about 30 seconds to a minute.

Using a whisk, mix the ganache until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

Let the ganache cool to the desired texture and it’s ready to be used as follows:

  • To use as a smooth pourable fudge sauce, use right away
  • To use as a pourable cake glaze, allow to cool for 10-15 minutes
  • To use as a thick fudge filling, allow to cool for 1-2 hours
  • To use as a frosting for cakes/cupcakes, allow to cool completely

**Tip** – If your finished ganache looks broken or curdled, heat it again over a double boiler and let it melt down. Chill for 30 minutes in the fridge and whisk it to bring it back to the desired consistency.

Chocolate Bundt Cake with a Ganache Drizzle

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Leftover Ganache? Do This!

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This weekend I decided to bake my husband an awesome Rocky Road Cake for Father’s Day and even though it was overflowing with yummy ganache goodness, I still had a bowl full of leftovers. You better believe there was NO way I would be throwing out perfectly awesome ganache, in this case, loaded with marshmallows and toasted walnuts! So I set it aside for later when I had time to think about how I wanted to use up what was left.

There are so many wonderful things you can do with any extra ganache you may have, in fact, soon after I made the cake I warmed some of the ganache and poured it all over a bowl of chocolate ice cream for my husband. It was the most decadent and delicious hot fudge sauce imaginable. Then, after chatting with a friend on FB who suggested I make truffles, I was inspired to write a quick blog with some ideas for other things you can do with leftover ganache. Shout out to Michelle G. for giving me the great idea, thank you!! xo

Truffles – Once the ganache is chilled you can scoop it out into little truffle balls. Dust them in cocoa powder or roll them in chopped nuts or shredded coconut and you have a perfect little candy treat.

Chocolate Dip – Warm the ganache and use it to dip your favorite goodies in. Things like brownies, cookies, candies, or even Rice Krispie Treats work great! Sprinkle a little crushed cookie or nonpareils on after dipping and you’ve just turned a simple treat into something much more decadent.

Fudge – If you have plain leftover ganache simply warm it up a bit and then stir in whatever mix-ins you prefer such as: nuts, sprinkles, candies, or even dried fruit. Spread in a pan and chill until firm then cut into bite sized pieces. I personally LOVE dried cranberries mixed into my fudge, especially around the holidays!

Chocolate Mousse – Add a little heavy cream to the leftover ganache and whip in a stand mixer until it reaches a mousse like consistency. Spoon into cute serving glasses and serve with a dollop of whipped cream!

Chocolate Fondue – Warm the ganache and serve it in a small bowl as a fondue alongside a plate of pretzels, pound cake, fresh fruit, cookies, or marshmallows for dipping.

Frosting/Filling – Use the leftovers as frosting for a batch of cupcakes. Better yet, use the ganache as a delicious filling inside of your cupcakes.

If all else fails and you don’t have the time or energy to use it up right away, simply freeze it to be used at a later time. Either wrap it tightly in a plastic wrap, if the ganache is already firm, or seal in an airtight container. To thaw it out, place a metal or glass bowl over a pot of simmering water on the stovetop and add the frozen ganache. Continue to stir it as it melts down, once it’s thinned out and smooth it’s ready to be used.

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