V-Day Baking Brainstorm

On the one hand, Valentine’s Day is all about the date night, but on the other hand it’s all about classroom card exchange and an excuse to baking everything in the shape of red and pink hearts. As we know I love an excuse to bake with a theme or season in mind, so I have done a lot of the latter over the years. If you’re thinking about baking this week, I have three ideas at three different difficulty levels.

Sadie Dishes- Valentine's Day Baking

Heart Shaped Pink Rice Krispie Treats

This options wins when you think about effort vs. reward. You just take the standard recipe, add a little red food coloring, and presto- Valentine’s Day Rice Krispie Treats!

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbs butter
  • 1.5 10 oz. bags of mini marshmallows
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • red food coloring
  • 6 cups Rice Krispie Treats
  • Themed mix ins- sprinkles, white chocolate chips, etc.
  • Heart shaped cookie cutter

Method

  1. Melt the butter in a sauce pan or small stock pot over the stove on low/medium heat.
  2. Add 1 bag of marshmallows to melted butter and allow to melt together. Add vanilla extract to melted mixture. Add drops of food coloring until you get the color you want (less is more for food coloring, take it easy).
  3. Have the six cups of Rice Krispies and half bag of marshmallows ready in a large bowl.
  4. Add warm butter and marshmallow mixture to the cereal and leftover marshmallows. Stir until uniform. At this time you can add in sprinkles or any other mix-ins you would like. I add the sprinkles later on so they don’t melt completely.
  5. Transfer to a 9 x 13 baking pan and allow to cool. Then use cookie cutters to create heart shapes!

Heart Shaped Shortbread

Shortbread sounds a little boring, but you bring these to work and your co-workers have one with their morning coffee and you will be their best friend forever. You can dip half the heart in chocolate and add pink or red sprinkles to make them fancy. I use Ina Garten’s classic shortbread recipe for this. It says is makes 20 cookies, but my guess is that you get more than that.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature (three sticks)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 to 7 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (you can use chocolate chips)
  • Sprinkles or nuts for decoration

Method

  1. Cream butter and sugar together until the mixture is light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add vanilla extract to mixture.
  2. In a separate bowl sift together the flour and salt. Then slowly combine the wet and dry mixtures, trying not to over mix.
  3. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes to overnight.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350.
  5. Roll the dough out to quarter to a half inch thick depending on how thick you would like the cookies. Use your heart shaped cookie cutter to cut out the cookies and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
  6. Bake cookies at 350 for 20-25 minutes until just slightly golden brown. They shouldn’t get too much color.
  7. Melt the chocolate in 30 second increments in the microwave. Once it’s shiny you can just stir it until it’s all melted together.
  8. Use a spoon to paint half of the baked and cooled cookies with chocolate. If you would like you can dip the chocolate part in sprinkles or chopped nuts to add a little je ne sais quoi. Allow chocolate to cool and solidify before storing.

Heart Shaped Marshmallows

Here’s where the degree of difficulty gets ramped up a little. This is for when you’re baking to impress. If I were you, I would not start making these on a whim because they take some time, effort, and a serious clean up. The plus side is you get major bragging rights, because you just made marshmallows from scratch!

Ingredients

  • 3 packets of unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • red food color gel (optional)
  • powdered sugar for dusting
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips

Method

  1. Prepare a 9 x 13 brownie pan with parchment and dust the bottom with powdered sugar.
  2. In a mixing bowl combine the gelatin with a ½ cup of water.  Allow the gelatin to “bloom” (I think it’s called) while you cook the other mixture.  Some recipes recommend a full half hour.
  3. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the corn syrup, sugar, and a half cup of water. After the sugar melts, turn the heat up to high, and cook until it reaches 240 degrees (use a candy thermometer).
  4. Once the mixture has reached the correct temperature, remove from heat.  Use an electric hand or stand mixer to mix the gelatin on low as you pour in the warm mixture in very slowly.  Once the mixture has been completely poured in, mix it on high for about 15 minutes until the “fluff” is pretty thick.
  5. Add vanilla, salt, and food coloring and mix until well distributed.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula smooth it out.  This process will be a little sticky and difficult, but you will persevere.
  7. Dust the top of the fluff with powdered sugar (it is easy if you pass it through a sifter).  Allow the fluff to “dry out” overnight.
  8. The next day, lift the large marshmallow out of the pan and place on a cutting board.  Use a knife or a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut out the marshmallows.
  9. Microwave the semi-sweet chocolate chips for 30 seconds at a time until mostly melted.  Use a fork to stir the chocolate until smooth. Dip the marshmallows in the chocolate, and allow to dry.
  10. Microwave the white chocolate similarly and place in a pastry bag with a fine tip or a Ziplock bag with a small corner snipped off.  Once the semi-sweet chocolate has set, use the white chocolate to drizzle a design on top of the layer of chocolate.
  11. Allow to set at room temperature or place in the freezer to speed up the process.  Enjoy!

What are you making to celebrate?

With Our Powers Combined

This graduation season was a big deal for my family because my older brother graduated Law School.  Exactly what my family needs, another lawyer…  But seriously, he definitely took the road less traveled during law school, not necessarily by choice, but because he had tremendous obstacles, and that made all the difference.  We are all very proud of his perseverance, and are crossing our fingers that the Bar goes smoothly and employment in the field of law is on the horizon.

Graduation = Celebration

and

Celebration = Special Dessert

I asked my brother for his flavor profile of choice for his special dessert and his answer was: chocolate.  Typical.  I decided to combine a couple recipes that I found recently: mocha shortbread, and mocha icebox cake.  I used the mocha icebox cake recipe, but nixed the coffee, so it was just chocolate.  And rather than using chocolate ship cookies, I made a couple batches of mocha shortbread to layer with the mascarpone mixture.  Then to add even more texture, I introduced some mini chocolate chips.

Chocolate Mascarpone Icebox Cake with Mocha Shortbread

adapted from Ina and Martha

Ingredients for Mocha Shortbread (you will make 3 batches of this total)

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 Tbs AP flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 Tbs instant coffee granuals
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • pinch salt

Ingredients for filling

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 12 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 10 oz bag of mini chocolate chips

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Start with one batch of mocha shortbread baked in the bottom of a 9 in spring form pan to act as the bottom crust of the cake.  Cream together room temp butter and  sugar.  Add the rest of the shortbread ingredients.  Mix until clumpy, then press dough into the bottom of the spring form pan.
  3. Bake 20 minutes and set aside to cool completely.
  4. Make a double batch of the mocha shortbread on a cookie sheet to break up and use as layers in the cake.  Allow to cool completely before layering in cake.

    The extra shortbread for layering
  5. Prepare the filling by mixing together all ingredients except for the chocolate chips.  Mix until it is the consistency of a heavy whipped cream.  Remove a third of the mixture to a different bowl, and add a cup of mini chocolate chips to the third for the middle layer of filling.
  6. Use the shortbread in the bottom of spring form pan as the bottom crust and add half of the filling from the “plain” bowl without chocolate chips.  Spread it out evenly and break up pieces of the shortbread from the cookie sheet to layer on top of the filling.
  7. Add the portion of the filling with chocolate chips on top of the shortbread.  Then repeat another layer of shortbread.  Finish off with the rest of filling as the top layer.
  8. Garnish the top of the cake with a handful of chocolate chips, and place in the freezer or fridge to allow to set.  If you freeze it, allow at least a half hour for it to soften up before serving, or move it to the fridge a couple hours before serving.

    Look at those layers of goodness.

Spring Cleaning

As I’ve mentioned before, when I want to bake with the ingredients I already have in my pantry, it usually ends up as shortbread.  I’m heading out of town for summer which means it would be nice use up some ingredients in the cupboard before I leave.  Among these ingredients: a stick of butter, unsweetened cocoa, instant coffee, and powdered sugar.  All leftover from past baking adventures.  What does that equal, you ask?  You guessed it:

Mocha Shortbread

From Martha (who else)

Yields about 8 cookie slices from cake pan

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup plus 3 Tbs AP flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter room temp
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar (plus more for dusting garnish)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Sift together flour, cocoa, and salt.
  3. Cream butter and sugar together then add flour mixture a little at a time.
  4. Mixture will be crumbly.  Make sure you mix it until it’s relatively uniform and all of the dry ingredients are incorporated.
  5. Press dough into the bottom of a round cake pan (8 or 9 inches).  No need to prepare the pan, cookies with this much butter don’t stick.
  6. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.  Allow to cool and slice like a pizza.
    Oops, I broke a couple. I guess I’ll just have to eat the rejects…

    These aren’t super sweet, I would say they’re more of a grown up cookie.  They would be great with some summer berries and a dollop of whipped cream, or paired with some after dinner coffee or tea.  I would even consider using this recipe as a cookie crust for a mousse/cheesecake/pudding type of cake.

    PS- I recently added this song to my workout playlist.  I am obsessed.