Mocha Truffle Cookies

Delicious chocolate cookies with an intense coffee kick!

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Saturday already!  I’ve fallen into a bad habit of not writing my blog posts in advance, like I used to do, and instead writing them on the day I plan to post.  I like doing it the other way better, but somehow the week disappeared.

I’m not sure what I was doing.  Besides, like, trying to figure out my life.

And thinking about what I’ll be sharing with you next week.

So this will be a short post!  This is one of those recipes that I’ve had saved (okay, pinned) for ages but never got around to making because of that one silly ingredient I didn’t want to buy.  In this case that ingredient was instant coffee.  I know, I know, a small purchase, but I really wouldn’t have used it for anything else, except for the odd chocolate baked good, maybe.  I’m not a huge coffee drinker, instant or otherwise.  (Ha, as I’m writing this, I’m thinking about how fantastic an iced coffee would be.  I may not be a huge coffee drinker, but when it’s warm enough to go around without a sweater, I love a mid-afternoon iced coffee).

When paired with chocolate, though, I am much, much more open to the consumption of coffee.  The mocha flavor in these cookies really comes through–like a mocha from a good coffee shop, one that’s not too sweet.  These may not be the prettiest, but they definitely are quick, chocolatey, and chewy!  What more could you ask for in a cookie?

The Wordy Baker

Mocha Truffle Cookies

From Cooking a la Mel

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (for melting)
  • 1 T instant coffee powder
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 2 cups flour (I used half white whole wheat)
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (to stir in at the end)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease 2-3 cookies sheets, or line them with parchment paper instead.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter and chocolate chips.  When melted, remove from heat and stir in instant coffee.  Let cool for five minutes, then stir in the sugars, eggs, and vanilla.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.  Add the chocolate-butter-sugar mixture to the flour mixture and stir until mostly combined, then add remaining 1 cup chocolate chips.  Stir to combine.  The mixture will be on the drier side.

Scoop dough in rounded tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets about 2 inches apart.  These do not spread much.

Bake for about 10 minutes.  Let cool briefly on the cookie sheet before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Garlic Knots {Campfire Cooking}

You don’t just have to have hot dogs and baked beans on camping trips!  Next time you’re cooking over a fire, try these garlicky bread rolls to change things up!

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As mentioned, I spent this past week camping and visiting relatives.  My sister is a (relatively) recent vegetarian, which meant that the usual hot dogs were not an option.  The little stores in rural West Virginia really left us scratching our heads on the first night (thank you onions, potatoes, and aluminum foil), but when we remembered to hit a big grocery store before getting to the backwoods campsite on night #2, we had the ability to be really creative.  With all of Kroger as our oyster, we had so many options!  What do my mom, my sister, and I all like to cook with?  Garlic, and lots of it.

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Garlic knots, all ready to be packaged and set over the fire.

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Crimped and doubled aluminum foil packet of garlic knots, plus a few stray veggies to be grilled.

This version of garlic knots is perhaps a bit heartier and, yes, I’ll admit it, a bit sloppier than whatever you might make in your kitchen.  But it’s really quite easy and doesn’t involve too many steps or hard-to-transport ingredients.  It’s a great vegetarian addition when you’re cooking over an open fire, especially served with some grilled veggies and a possibly-breaking-the-campsite-rules bottle of white wine.

All you need to make these is refrigerator pizza crust (I used a tube of Pillsbury whole wheat), a few ounces flavored butter (mine was garlic and herb), a few cloves of garlic, aluminum foil, and (of course) a campfire preferably with a grate.  The results may not win any prizes for beauty, but they certainly win on flavor!

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Almost dinner time: garlic knots, the stubborn veggies that don’t want to cook, and hot water.

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All done! And only a little burned.

Campfire Garlic Knots

makes about 6 large knots

Ingredients

  • 1 – 14 (ish) oz tube of pizza dough
  • a few ounces flavored butter, such as garlic and herb flavor, softened
  • about 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

Special Equipment

  • heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • a campfire with a grill grate

Instructions

Spread out a large rectangle of double layer of aluminum foil.  Butter a smaller rectangle on the foil–this is where you will place your garlic knots.  You should leave about 2 inches on all sides unbuttered, as these edges will be folded over.

On a clean surface, roll out your pizza dough.  Smear with about 2/3 of the remaining softened butter and all the chopped garlic.  Slice into approximately six slices.  Fold each slice in half, then tie with a knot and place on the buttered aluminum foil.  Spread a small amount of butter on top of the garlic knots.

Cover the garlic knots with another double-layer of aluminum foil and tightly crimp on all sides to make a foil packet.  Place on the grill grate over a hot campfire.  Flip halfway through cooking.  Cooking time will vary greatly depending on the heat of the fire, how close the grate is to the fire, etc.  Ours took about 10 minutes on each side.  Serve hot.

Banana Boats {Campfire Cooking}

A decadent camping dessert alternative!  The campfire classic combo of marshmallows and chocolate gets a little healthier with bananas!

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After being home for just under two weeks, I was ready to hit the road again.  Not really, but I had places to go and people to see, so I headed out on a road trip with my family.  After visiting relatives and debuting a special 65th anniversary surprise-inside cake, we dug out the camping equipment (and by that I mean the most basic of basic camping supplies) and turned west.

We go camping at least once a year, but not as often as we did when my mom was a Girl Scout Troop leader.  It was never something I begged to do when I was younger, but now I enjoy it quite a bit.  And outdoor cooking is one of the most fun parts of camping, in my opinion.  I’m not going to claim that I sleep better in the outdoors or anything, because I don’t, or that I go camping to become “one with nature,” because that’s not true either.  I go camping because it’s fun, it’s always an adventure, and because I love the smell of campfires.

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On our first night camping we had the traditional campfire dessert, ooey-gooey marshmallow-y chocolate-y s’mores.  Before our second night we hit the store to replenish our supplies, and picked up some bananas to make an old Girl Scout staple: Banana Boats.

If you like bananas, banana bread, or are just looking for some way to change up your camping routine and you’ve never had these before, you’ve really got to try this the next time your sitting around the campfire.  Banana and chocolate is such a winning combination, and you just have to have marshmallows when you’re camping.  And marshmallows and chocolate and a winner, too.

Ideally, you roast these over hot coals once the fire has died down a bit, but if you don’t have time to wait, you can set them towards the side of a fire.  You could probably bake these in a regular oven, too, if you’re dying for some campfire  food but can’t get away to the great outdoors.  If you do make these on an open campfire, be sure to take all necessary safety precautions to ensure a good time (i.e. hair tied back, no loose clothing, keep small kids away from open flames)!

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Campfire Banana Boats

Ingredients

  • 1 banana for every person
  • chocolate chips or a chocolate bar chopped up
  • mini marshmallows, or regular marshmallows if you’re willing to tear or chop the marshmallows

Special Equipment

  • heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • campfire

Instructions

Peel one section of a banana and slice a small “V” down the length of the banana, as pictured above.  Remove the banana V, and either eat or set aside.  Stuff the carved out section with chocolate and marshmallow pieces, then replace the banana slice if you haven’t eaten it as a snack, then fold the peel back over.  Wrap tightly in heavy-duty aluminum foil.  Place carefully in the coals of your campfire or near the edge of the fire (or even on the grate).  Turn occasionally, and cook until the banana reaches the desired tenderness.  Cook time will vary greatly depending on the temperature of your fire and where your banana is in relation to the heat.  It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes.

Eat with a spoon before singing all the folk songs you can remember ’round the campfire.

Ma’s Cornbread

A simple but flavorful yellow cornbread, baked the traditional way in a cast iron skillet!

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There are some things that you don’t mess with.  Like the mint and chocolate flavor combo.  Or peanut butter and chocolate.  Or mom’s go-to cornbread recipe.

Baked in a cast iron skillet.

I’m a huge fan of cast iron.  Have I mentioned?  I grew up with a 10″ and a 6″ skillet in the kitchen, the former of which was used for basically all stovetop cooking.  And for baking cornbread.  When I finally moved to an apartment with a real kitchen senior year of college, I missed the cast iron.  I find it heats and distributes better than anything else.  You can put your cast iron skillets in the oven, too!  Can nonstick do that?  Nonstick is good for some things, like pancakes, but other than that…I don’t know.  Perhaps I’m stuck in my ways.  Anyway, I asked for a cast iron skillet for my birthday that year and ended up getting three.  All from my mom.  She said she didn’t know which size to get for me.  Since I’m currently back at home, we have five cast iron skillets.  So many cornbread possibilities.

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Okay, Reader, I guess I’ve done my little preach-y bit about cast iron (did I mention it can go in the oven as well as on the stove so you can use it for cornbread?).  Back to cornbread.  I’ve called this “Ma’s Cornbread” because it’s the recipe she always uses.  And now I always use it, too.  There are some things my family bakes with relatively frequency but never with the same recipe, like coffee cake and pumpkin bread.  But this one is an unquestioned staple in our house.

The bottom and sides are slightly crispy, the top is lightly browned, and the inside is golden.  Crumbly but not too crumbly.  Sweet but not too sweet.  What more could you ask for?

Ma’s Cornbread

From the back of the Indian Head Old Fashioned Stone Ground Yellow Corn Meal bag, ages ago (it’s still there)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup yellow corn meal
  • 1 cup all-purpose or white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup vegetable, canola, or melted coconut oil

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Grease a medium (8 or 10″) cast iron skillet, and place it in the oven while it is preheating.

In a medium bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.  Make a well in the center of the mix.  In a small bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.  Pour the wet into the dry, and mix quickly, just until incorporated.  Carefully remove the frying pan from the hot oven, and pour the batter into it.  Bake for about 25 minutes, until the cornbread begins to pull away from the edges of the pan and is a light golden brown.  Serve hot with butter and honey.  Eat the leftovers for breakfast.

Tangy Mint Chocolate Chip FroYo

Super tangy frozen yogurt like the mint chocolate chip ice cream you used to eat as a kid, just a little bit healthier!

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I know some people are anti-mint, and this has caused the creation of ridiculous toothpaste flavors like cinnamon, strawberry, and bubblegum.  (I apologize if you use one of these.  Don’t take it personally.)  But I love mint, and mint chocolate chip has been one of my favorite ice cream flavors since I can’t even remember when.  And I can’t remember a time when I disliked the flavor of mint toothpaste, either.  Age twelve-ish in particular, I think, was the time when I claimed mint chocolate chip as my favorite ice cream.

But then I think I started exploring more and expanding my palate, and forgot a little bit about good old mint chocolate chip.  While traveling earlier this month, I had some mint chocolate chip gelato from one of Europe’s many gelato stands, and remembered how fantastic the flavor is.  When I discovered my mom had picked up a functioning ice cream maker, I decided I needed to try making my own mint chocolate chip.  Especially since my dad’s herb garden has an impressive crop of fresh mint, parsley, and other herbs this month.

So I set about making my own version of my childhood summer treat.  Since I first tried soft-serve frozen yogurt about four years ago, I’ve been in love with the tangy frozen treat.  While here in north Jersey we have more than our fair share of froyo places which are fantastic for going to with friends in the evening, whenever I go out to get it I can’t help but think that there must be a way to reproduce the flavor at home.  There is, of course.

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Greek yogurt is key to this frozen yogurt’s tangy-ness.  If you don’t like “plain,” “natural,” “tart,” or “California” style frozen yogurt, use regular yogurt instead of Greek, or up the amount of sugar.  Because this is seriously tangy.  The dark chocolate pieces pair so well with the slightly tart yogurt, as do the herbal notes of the mint.  And we all already know how well chocolate and mint pair.  (If you disagree…I will be judging you.  I’m sorry).  I’m not dietitian, but I do know that this recipe has less sugar and cream than almost any you’ll find at the store or your local ice cream shop.

Tangy Mint Chocolate Chip Frozen Yogurt

Adapted from the Cuisinart MixItIn Recipe Booklet, with help from David Lebovitz and Katy’s Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup fresh mint, packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 – 2 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • optional: 1/4 tsp peppermint extract

Instructions

In a small saucepan, whisk together milk, sugar, and honey.  Add mint leaves.  With heat on medium low, bring to a simmer and let heat for a few minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside, leaving the mint leaves in to infuse into the milk.  Chill milk completely before using.  You can leave the mint leaves in while the milk chills in your fridge (mine went into the fridge for about 3 hours).

When ready to churn, strain milk and mix with Greek yogurt, dark chocolate, and peppermint extract.  Taste. adding more mint or honey as needed.  Do not add more sugar at this stage, as it will not have time to dissolve.

Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions, then enjoy with some chocolate shell!

Chocolate Shell

For 2-3 people, melt 1/4 cup chocolate chips with 1/2 T coconut oil in the microwave until smooth.  While still warm, pour over ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Surprise-Inside Cake {Daring Kitchen}

For the July Daring Baker’s Challenge, Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to bake a cake. But not just any cake; she asked us to add in a special surprise for our eyes as well as our taste buds!

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Before I get to the real blog post, I need to start off by saying IF YOU ARE RELATED TO ME AND READING THIS (*tara*lona*), YOU ARE BEING LET IN ON A SECRET.  KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT!  This is part of a Daring Baker’s Challenge, and those are always posted on the 27th of the month.

I was super excited to see that the July Daring Baker’s Challenge was to bake a surprise-inside cake.  Anyone who has spent long enough looking at food-related websites (or Pinterest) has seen some version of a surprise-inside cake.  I understood the mechanics of hidden image/surprise-inside cakes, but had never really thought about making one myself until recently.  We’ve got a special family event coming up soon, and I naturally volunteered to bake the cake.  It was then that I started thinking of actually making a surprise-inside cake to try something new and extra-special.

And then, as fate should have it, the Daring Baker’s Challenge for July was announced, and it became the perfect chance to practice the surprise-inside technique before baking my special celebratory cake in August.  To fit with the theme of my cake, I (okay, it was Ma’s suggestion) found a gingerbread man and woman.  In the end, they looked like a dancing couple.  Pretty perfect for a wedding anniversary, right?

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The technique is actually pretty basic.  You don’t need any fancy equipment, just a relatively sturdy cake, normal loaf pans, a cookie cutter or two, and an offset spatula.  And food coloring, if you’re making your two cakes from the same color batter.  I chose blue because the final version of this cake will be to celebrate a sapphire anniversary!

For this challenge, I browsed through some other posts about surprise-inside cakes, and decided to make mine a pound cake.  Pound cakes are simple, require no special ingredients, and seemed like they should hold up well (which they did).  Since this was just practice and I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, I didn’t take any step-by-step photos, but if you look around there are plenty of tutorials elsewhere.  For baking basics I often turn to Martha Stewart, and I did that again here for a pound cake recipe.

All in all, I’m pretty pleased with this.  It’s not 100% perfect (see missing arm of gingerbreadman), but I’m hoping version #2 will come out better (if not perfect)…hopefully all arms will stay in place on my gingerbread people!

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Surprise-Inside Pound Cake

The proportions listed below are for one cake, you will need to make two cakes (that is, two batches from this recipe) to complete the “surprise-inside” look.  The first batch will create the shape inside your pound cake loaf, so color the first batch whatever color you’d like if you want the shapes to be colored like mine are, making the batter slightly brighter than you think will be necessary to account for any change of color while baking.

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • zest of one lemon or lime
  • food coloring

Special Equipment

  • a cookie cutter that is no larger than your pound cake loaf
  • offset spatula

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease and flour a 4 1/2 x 8 1/2″ loaf pan.

With a mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add in eggs, one at a time, beating each until fully incorporated.  Add in salt, vanilla, and zest.  With a mixer on low, beat in flour gradually.  Add food coloring, if desired.  Do not overmix.

Pour into loaf pan and bake for about 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool completely, first in the pan.  Remove to a wire rack after 15 minutes.

Once the cake is completely cool, slice the entire cake into 1/2″ thick pieces.  Using your cookie cutter, cut out enough shapes (usually one per slice) to fit the length of your loaf pan.

Follow above instructions to make a second batch of pound cake.  You do not have to color this batch if you colored your cut-out shapes.

After your  second batch of pound cake batter is prepared, spread a little on the bottom and sides of the pan.  Lay your cut-out shapes of cake in the pan.  Squish them nice and tight against each other, and against the two short ends of the pan.  If you want the shapes to “float” (like the woman is in my cake), spread a thicker layer of batter on the bottom.  Cover with remaining cake batter, using the offset spatula to assist.  Bake and cool according to above instructions.

Voila!  You’re finished!

Posted to Sweet & Savoury Sunday!