Chocolate Sheet Cake

chocolate sheet cake slices

I don’t have a whole lot to say about this cake. It’s easy and delicious in that moist, tender bakery-style sort of way; and it feeds a crowd. You don’t need a mixer; it’s almost a dump-everything-in-a-bowl-and-stir situation. The frosting is my favorite ever chocolate frosting: it’s swoopy and glossy and not too sweet, and if you use black cocoa and good dark chocolate it comes out basically black without a smidge of food coloring involved. I love it! Plus it’s all made in the food processor — even easier than the cake. Add a few sprinkles (the colorful ones and/or flaky sea salt) and you’ve got yourself a pretty classy sheet cake with minimal work involved.

frosting sheet cake

single slice

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Note:

  • If you don’t care about the color of the frosting, you can use Dutch-processed cocoa in place of black. The ultimate color of the frosting will depend on how black your black cocoa is (I got mine at a local baking goods store and it’s exceptionally dark) and what kind of dark chocolate you use. The frosting also tends to darken as it sits. The frosting isn’t too sweet — I definitely prefer it this way, but if you like a sweeter frosting, you can increase the amount of confectioners’ sugar to taste.

Chocolate Sheet Cake with Glossy Black Frosting

Makes one 9×13 cake

Ingredients

For the chocolate sheet cake:

  • 284g AP flour
  • 380g granulated sugar
  • 84g dutch process cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 226g sour cream, at room temperature
  • 114g grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 c freshly brewed hot strong coffee

For the glossy black chocolate frosting (adapted from Sweetapolita):

  • 255g unsalted butter, softened
  • 90g confectioners’ sugar
  • 45g black cocoa powder
  • 1/4 c hot water
  • 60g / 1/4 c sour cream
  • 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 145g good quality dark chocolate, melted and cooled (I use Callebaut 70%)

To assemble:

  • Sprinkles
  • Flaky sea salt

Method

For the chocolate sheet cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease and line a 9×13 pan with parchment paper that overhangs on the two long edges by at least a couple inches. This will make it easy to remove the cake from the pan later. (I like to secure the long edges with binder clips so the parchment doesn’t fall onto the cake in the oven.)
  2. Sift together all ingredients from the flour through the salt. In a small bowl, whisk together all the remaining ingredients except the coffee. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Add the coffee and stir just until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and level the surface with an offset palette knife.
  3. Bake until the cake is lightly springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs (but no raw batter), about 28-35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.

For the frosting:

  • Combine all ingredients except the melted chocolate in a food processor and process until combined. Add the melted chocolate and process until smooth. Use immediately. (Note: the frosting is glossy as long as it stays at room temperature; it will harden and take on a more matte look after refrigeration. If you do refrigerate the cake, make sure to bring it back to room temperature before serving. It just tastes better!)

To assemble:

  • Transfer the cake to a serving platter if desired. Spoon large dollops of frosting around the cake and use an offset spatula or spoon to swirl it around. Add sprinkles. Enjoy!

close up slices

Carrot Cake for Two

mini carrot cake

Every February I make carrot and chocolate cakes, one for our anniversary (on Feb. 1st) and one for Valentine’s Day. Since you can…er, should only eat so much cake, I’ve been converting cake recipes to cute little 4-inch versions. You could make one large cake layer and cut out rounds, but this way you don’t have any scraps and the cleaner edges make frosting easier. (I use two pans like these.)

By the way, this is also the perfect size for smash cakes and kids’ birthdays!

Finally, this post was created as part of a blog/Instagram carrot-themed collaboration! Be sure to check out all the recipes and photos of the many delicious carrot creations from around the world (links at the end this post).

mini carrot cake cut

Carrot Cake for Two

Makes one 4-inch cake

For the cake layers (adapted from BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts):

  • 66g toasted pecan or walnut pieces
  • 152g whole, unpeeled carrots (About 1 large)
  • 70g unsalted butter
  • 10g grapeseed oil
  • 52g AP flour
  • 24g WW flour
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 38g light brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • heaping 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • heaping 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, fridge cold

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 150g unsalted butter, softened
  • 180g powdered sugar, sifted
  • 200 g cream cheese, cold
  • Dash of vanilla extract
  • Generous pinch of salt

Method

For the cake layers:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. I like to toast the chopped nuts while the oven is preheating; spread them out in a single layer on a small sheetpan and put into the preheating oven. (Just don’t forget about them! This small quantity should toast pretty quickly — about 5-7 minutes.) Shred the carrots and set aside. Grease and flour two 4-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  2. In a small saucepan, brown the butter. Transfer browned butter (plus all the toasty bits) to a pourable, heat-safe glass cup and add the oil. In a separate bowl, whisk the all purpose and whole wheat flours together and set aside.
  3. In a bowl of a standmixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine the remaining ingredients (sugars through egg). Mix on low speed to combine, then turn up the speed to medium and mix until the mixture is thick and fluffy, 6-8 minutes. With the mixer still running, slowly drizzle in the brown butter/oil mixture. Turn the mixer to low and add the flours. Once the batter is smooth, turn the mixer off and fold in the nuts and carrots with a silicone spatula, mixing just until everything is evenly combined.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake until the cakes are golden and lightly springy to the touch, about 25-30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes, then run a thin spatula around the edges and turn the cakes out of the pans to cool completely.

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • Beat the butter on medium-high speed until pale. Add the icing sugar, then beat until light and fluffy. Add the cream cheese, vanilla, and salt and beat just until smooth.

To assemble:

  1. Level the cakes if needed and slice each layer horizontally in half to make four total layers. (You can pop the cooled cakes into the freezer for about 10 minutes; this makes them easier to cut.)
  2. Attach the first layer to a cake board (or cake stand) with a dollop of frosting. Using a small offset spatula, spread on an even layer of frosting and top with the next layer. Continue until you have used all the layers, then cover the entire cake with a thin coat of frosting to lock in all the crumbs. Refrigerate the cake for about 20 minutes, or until the frosting is hard.
  3. Spread a thick, even layer of frosting over the entire cake. Use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to create swoops and swirls if desired. Store covered at cool room temperature until ready to serve.

#24carrotgoals Carrot Collaboration Links

Sourdough Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

stacked swirl bread
I’m pretty excited about this recipe. I have a soft spot for raisin toast, having grown up on that red-packaged Sunmaid Raisin Bread (so good with butter…); and have been wanting to make a sourdough raisin loaf for quite awhile now. But not just a plain raisin loaf: a cinnamon-swirled raisin loaf, because what’s better than slowly unraveling and eating a piece of swirly carbs for breakfast? Well, maybe French toasting said swirly carb, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

So anyways, this loaf took me a few tries to get right. At first I used a cinnamon-butter paste for the swirl, but this left me with gaps (I think the butter generated too much steam during baking) and the texture was too heavy. Egg wash turned out to be a much better solution. The folding technique I first saw on Bake Street, and I love it! The swirl is encased within the loaf and makes for a really striking presentation. I had to try a couple times to work out the proper dimensions for my pan, but in the end I’m really happy with the result.

A few notes:

  • There’s no beating around the bush: this loaf takes time. I like having this loaf for breakfast, so I will make the levain when I get up in the morning, mix the dough early afternoon, shape the bread right before going to bed, and bake first thing the next morning. Keep in mind that the health of your starter and your environment play a big part in fermentation times, so always “watch the dough and not the clock.” If you follow me on Instagram, I have a story highlight called “Swirl Bread” that goes through the entire process. This will hopefully give you some visual cues as to how your dough should look at each stage.
  • The base dough for this bread is the sourdough Hokkaido milk bread that I’ve used a few times on this site before. If you haven’t tried this style of bread before, I highly recommend reading through those posts for more tips and tricks.

uncut swirl bread

cut swirl bread

Sourdough Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

Makes one loaf (I highly prefer a 9x4x4 Pullman Pan for the nicest shape, but a regular 9×5 loaf pan works too)

Ingredients

For the levain

  • 18g starter (100% hydration)
  • 31g milk
  • 57g bread flour
  • Mix and ferment at room temperature until ripe (mine is usually ready in 4-6 hours, but it depends on the strength of your starter). When ready it should be more than doubled in volume, puffy, and domed. You should see large bubbles if you pull back the top.

For the final dough:

  • 284g bread/AP flour (I use half and half)
  • 46g sugar
  • 21g milk powder
  • 53g egg (about 1 large)
  • 104g milk
  • 88g cream
  • All of the levain
  • 6g salt
  • 52g unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
  • 100g raisins

For the filling:

  • 100g brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt
  • One egg, whisked with a bit of water or milk

Method

  1. Mix together all final dough ingredients except the salt, butter, and raisins until just combined. Cover and autolyse (rest) for 45-60 minutes.
  2. Add salt, and knead dough (with the dough hook attachment if using a stand mixer) until gluten is moderately developed (I use speed 3-4 on a KA mixer). The dough will start out sticky and rough but should gradually come together and feel quite smooth and stretchy. Turn the mixer to low and add butter about a tablespoon at a time, incorporating each batch before adding the next. Turn the speed back up and continue kneading until the gluten is very well developed and the dough passes the windowpane test as demonstrated here. The dough should be smooth and supple (and quite lovely to handle!). This will take quite some time, especially if done by hand. Consider it your arm workout for the day! Mix in the raisins just until incorporated.
  3. Transfer dough to a clean and lightly oiled bowl, cover, and bulk rise at room temp for 2 hours. The dough will be noticeably expanded, but not doubled. Fold, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight (or at least 6 hours, and up to 24).
  4. When ready to shape, mix together the filling ingredients and prepare the egg wash. Line a loaf pan (I prefer a Pullman pan) with parchment and lightly grease. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll into a large rectangle about 10″ x 15″, doing your best to maintain an even thickness (the more accurate your shape, the better your swirl will look at the end).
  5. Brush the rectangle with an even coat of egg wash and sprinkle on about half the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Go all the way to the edges and gently press to adhere.
  6. Fold in the long edges so they meet at the middle, like you are closing the shutters on a window. You should have a long, skinny rectangle about 15″ x 5″. Repeat the egg wash and cinnamon-sugar process, again going all the way to the edges.
  7. Starting with the short end closest to you, roll the rectangle into a tight log. Transfer, seam side down, to the prepared pan.
  8. Brush the loaf with a coat of egg wash (this keeps it from drying out) and cover with a piece of lightly oiled plastic wrap. Proof at room temperature until the dough is puffed and roughly doubled (if you’re using a pullman pan, the dough should fill the length of the pan and be about an inch from the top). This usually takes me ~8 hours, or overnight. Cover and refrigerate the egg wash; you’ll use it again later.
  9. About 45 minutes before you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 400F with a rack in the middle. When the oven is preheated, gently brush the loaf with another coat of egg wash. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350F, rotate the pan, and bake for another 20-30 minutes. (If the loaf is browning too quickly, tent a piece of tinfoil over the top.) When finished, the loaf should be well browned and register at least 195F in the center.
  10. Gently remove the loaf from the pan and cool on its side (this helps the loaf retain its shape and keeps the bottom from getting soggy). Resist the urge to cut before the loaf has cooled; otherwise the texture will be gummy. Leftovers keep well at room temperature for a few days, well wrapped; it also makes excellent French toast.

side by side swirl bread

House Biscotti

biscotti

This is a recipe near and dear to my heart. I first made biscotti soon after getting married, in our tiny basement kitchen oven. It’s a very simple recipe that can be easily adapted to your preferences. David often brings a batch of them to work for quick breakfasts / snacks (they keep really, really well), and now some of his co-workers come looking for them as well. 😉

I recently made a batch with Marcus for the first time. He loved using a whisk and dumping all the mix-ins in…and, of course, eating the crumbs off the tray.

stir biscotti

biscotti logs unbaked

biscotti log sliced

A few notes:

  • The dough should be fairly stiff and you shouldn’t need any additional flour to shape it into logs. If it’s sticky, just pop it in the fridge for a few minutes before shaping.
  • The trickiest part of making biscotti is cutting them. I find it’s all about the timing — you want the biscotti logs to be cool enough to handle, but not completely cold or they’ll be more likely to crumble. Twenty minutes after the first bake is usually the sweet spot for me.
  • This recipe is very adaptable. My personal favorite flavor combination is below, but as long as you keep the add-ins to ~1 1/2 to 2 cups you should be able to swap in your choice of nuts/fruits/chocolate/seeds and even jazz up the spices if you want.

House Biscotti

Makes 3-4 dozen biscotti

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 3 large eggs, straight from the fridge
  • 200g (1 c) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp almond extract
  • 1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 400g (3 1/4 c) AP flour (I have swapped out 50% of the flour for sifted whole wheat flour with good results)
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 85g (1/2 c) dark chocolate chips
  • 75g (1/2 c) raisins
  • 140g (1 c) toasted and chopped almonds
  • Handful of flax seeds

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat (if your baking sheets are small, use two).
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, sugar, and extracts until smooth. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to gently combine.
  4. When the dry ingredients are almost fully incorporated, mix in the chocolate chips, raisins, and almonds. Stir just until everything is combined and there are no streaks of flour remaining. If the mixture is sticky, cover the bowl with plastic and chill for ~15 minutes before proceeding.
  5. Divide the dough into two equal parts. Working with one part at a time, transfer to the prepared baking sheet and pat into logs about 1/2 an inch thick. Leave at least 3 inches between the two logs as they will spread a little.
  6. Bake until the tops are lightly golden, firm, and beginning to crack – about 25-30 minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool for about 20-30 minutes, or until the logs are cool enough to handle but still slightly warm.
  7. Use a large offset spatula to transfer one log at a time to a cutting board. Use a sharp serrated knife to slice each log crosswise into ~1/2″ logs. (I find it easiest to just press down firmly with the knife rather than saw.) Place the cookies back on the baking sheet(s) cut side up and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until lightly toasted. (You can flip the cookies over halfway through baking, but I usually don’t bother.)
  8. Cool completely on a wire rack (cookies will crisp us as they cool). Serve biscotti with coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. Leftovers store well for weeks in an airtight container.

Whole grain banana bread, and baking with kids


Over the last few months, my two year old has started “helping” me in the kitchen. This is kind of a big deal because for the first almost two years of parenthood, the kitchen was my safe place. Not just because I would cook / bake to relax, but because we literally put up a gate to keep our inquisitive toddler out of the kitchen.

But when we moved earlier this summer, my husband and I, figuring we’d have to teach kitchen safety sooner or later, decided it was time to rip off the band-aid and go gate-free in our new house. I’ll be honest — those first couple of months were a struggle. Being a normal 2-year-old, Marcus wanted to touch everything and open all the cabinet doors. (I found toys in the freezer a couple of times.) Now, about 6 months later, I can’t remember the last time I had to say, “Don’t touch the stove!” Progress.

So now we’ve graduated to Mommy-Marcus kitchen adventures. I’m trying to make it a point to choose one or two recipes a week where he can actively participate. At first I was concerned with the mess, the safety, and the unpredictability of it all. I quickly realized that I just needed to let go. Baking with kids is not about being picture-perfect or detailed or anything close to fancy. It is about creating memories, teaching independence, and having fun. Marcus absolutely loves helping, and I’m thrilled to be able to share one of my hobbies with such an eager little buddy.

Marcus with flour

One of our current favorite things to make together is banana bread. Marcus likes it because he gets to smash bananas and later eat the banana bread. I like it because there’s no mixer or special ingredients required. I’ve been making our house banana bread for years, but we tried this King Arthur recipe recently and it was a hit — it’s a little more cake-like and moist (thanks to a full pound of bananas). Both will be in our recipe rotation this year.

Marcus eating

Some tips:

  • When baking with Marcus, I prepare some things in advance: I pre-measure the ingredients, toast/chop the nuts and fruit, and line the pan. I’ll give him a few tasks like smashing up the bananas, pouring in the pre-measured ingredients, stirring, and sprinkling on the topping. And he definitely helps with clean-up too (I give him a damp cloth to help wipe down the counter).
  • I used 100% sifted red spring wheat flour and it worked beautifully — not heavy or stodgy like completely whole grain products can be. I think you can definitely play around with the flours in this recipe; white whole wheat or spelt would be good choices, or you could mix regular AP and regular WW.
  • I like baking quick breads in my 9x4x4 pullman pan for nice straight sides (baking time is generally about the same for me), but this recipe certainly works in a regular loaf pan.
  • Like a good banana bread, this recipe holds up well to substitutions. Switch up the nuts and dried fruit for chocolate or omit them completely. Change the spices to suit your tastes. I’d love to try this with a teaspoon of espresso powder.
    One of Marcus’ favorite things about helping in the kitchen is getting to wear his apron (and making me wear mine). I absolutely love the aprons from Hedley & Bennett — not sponsored, though they can if they want. 😉
  • The key to really good banana bread is really ripe bananas. Like so ripe they’re “dead” — basically black all over. I usually let them get to that state then pop them into the freezer. When I want to bake with them, I measure out the amount I need into a bowl and defrost in the microwave. There will be a lot of liquid; just add it to the recipe.
  • I generally lower the sugar in my baked goods a bit, so if you like a sweeter loaf you can increase the sugar to 200g (1 cup). I think this recipe would actually be fine with even less sugar and will probably lower to 150g next time (especially if dried fruits are added).
  • Please don’t skip the topping! The caramelized crunchy lid is one of my favorite parts of this banana bread.

Other kid-helper-friendly recipes on Cook Til Delicious:

Whole Grain Banana Bread

Makes one 9×5 loaf | Barely adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:

  • 454g thoroughly mashed, very ripe banana (4 – 5 medium bananas)
  • 99g vegetable oil (I prefer grapeseed)
  • 175g light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 226g sifted whole grain flour (see note above)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 57g chopped, toasted walnuts (optional)
  • 57g chopped dates (optional)

For topping:

  • 15g coarse or granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center position. If your nuts aren’t yet toasted, put them in while the oven is preheating (just don’t forget about them!). Lightly grease or line a pullman pan/loaf pan with parchment.
  2. Place the bananas in a large bowl and mash them with a wooden spoon or fork until mostly smooth (a few lumps are ok). Whisk in the oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.
  3. Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to combine gently. When the batter is almost completely combined (there should still be a few streaks of flour visible), add the nuts and dried fruit. Mix until just combined.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and level the top with a palette knife. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle over the batter.
  5. Bake the bread for about 60 to 75 minutes, until the bread feels set on the top, and a paring knife (or other thin knife) inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs (but no wet batter). If the bread appears to be browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil for the final 15 to 20 minutes of baking.
  6. Remove the bread from the oven. Cool it in the pan for 15 minutes, then loosen the edges, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool completely. Store leftover bread, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.

Three years, and Everyday Chocolate Chunk Cookies

chocolate chunk cookiesHappy New Year, folks. We’re in Seattle visiting my family for a couple weeks. Despite a long travel day due to weather, we got to wake up to a white Christmas — possibly my first ever! All of my brothers eventually made it in town and we spent the day opening gifts, eating our fill of prime rib and cookies, watching Marcus race his new fire engine toy all over the house, and falling asleep to “Jingle All the Way.” So basically, a perfect Christmas. Since then, we’ve been keeping it pretty low key — catching up with old friends, trying old and new coffee shops and bakeries, and going to sleep long before midnight.

And guess what? Cook Til Delicious is turning three years old! I’ve never celebrated this blog’s birthday before because I’m generally too lazy to blog while on vacation. But in reality, CTD was started as sort of a new year’s resolution to document recipes and become a better baker. When we first started out here, I had never made a layer cake, let alone a wedding cake; I had yet to bake a good sourdough loaf, choux pastry was far out on the horizon, and I didn’t own a tart pan. My to-bake list is still a mile long, but progress has been made — one bake at a time.

One of the things I’ve been focusing on more this past year (and hopefully into the next) is building a library of solid “base” recipes — go-to scones, everyday brownies, and the like. And, of course, chocolate chunk cookies.

I definitely believe in different recipes for different occasions. My “special occasion” chocolate chunk cookie is a riff on Sarah Kieffer’s now-famous pan-banging chocolate chip cookie recipe. But this recipe here is my everyday go-to. You don’t need to soften butter, and you don’t need a mixer. This is the recipe I turn to when I want to make cookies for a crowd (I actually made dozens of these for my brother’s wedding), or just need to refill the cookie jar at home.

Notes:

  • For the gooiest, chocolatiest cookies, I definitely recommend using chocolate callets or chopping up chocolate bars — unlike chocolate chips, they melt into puddles, which is definitely a good thing. I like Callebaut 70%, but I often just use good quality chocolate bars.
  • I love experimenting with different flours in this recipe. My favorite combination is to use 1/3 AP flour, 1/3 spelt flour, and 1/3 bread flour — the spelt adds some wholesome nuttiness and the bread provides height and chew. But all AP definitely works, if that’s what you have on hand — the cookies will just be flatter.
  • I love subbing a little bit of turbinado sugar for some of the brown — it adds a delightful crunch (I learned this from Not Without Salt’s recipe, which I also love.); espresso powder or finely ground coffee adds a slight bitterness that offsets the sweetness beautifully.
  • If you keep the total add-ins to ~240-300 grams, you can certainly make this cookie your own by adding in toasted nuts, dried fruit, toffee bits, etc. The base itself is plenty sweet so I sometimes cut both the sugars by a couple tablespoons if I am adding sweeter add-ins, or just feel like being slightly healthier.

Everyday Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Makes 26-28 cookies | Adapted from Tara O’Brady, with a HT to Not Without Salt

Ingredients

  • 225g unsalted butter, chopped
  • 415g all-purpose flour (see note above)
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp espresso powder, or very finely ground coffee (optional)
  • 300g light brown sugar (optional: swap out 50g for turbinado sugar)
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 240g chopped semi or bittersweet chocolate (I recommend at least 55%)
  • Flaky sea salt for sprinkling

Method

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder/coffee (if using). Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat, stirring occasionally. Use the lowest heat possible — you don’t want to boil or brown the butter or lose any more moisture than necessary.
  3. Pour the melted butter into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar all at once and whisk until combined. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, mixing just enough to combine. Whisk in vanilla.
  4. Pour in the dry ingredients and stir to combine, using a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. When the flour is almost all incorporated, stir in the chocolate. Mix only enough to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl and scooping from the bottom of the bowl to make sure all the flour is incorporated.
  5. Chill the mixture for five minutes while you line three cookie sheets with parchment or Silpats.
  6. Portion cookie dough into golf ball-sized rounds (~50 grams or 3 Tbsp) and place on prepared cookie sheets (I can fit 9 cookies on a normal sized cookie sheet). Sprinkle with flaky salt.
  7. Place cookie sheets in the freezer and preheat the oven to 360F (yes, 360!) with an oven rack in the middle. If you don’t have enough room in your freezer for all three sheets, put all the pre-shaped cookies on one sheet and remove 9 at a time to bake, using a cold/room temperature sheet for each batch.
  8. Bake each sheet one at a time for ~10 minutes, rotating halfway through. The cookies should be lightly golden and cracked, but still soft in the center.
  9. Sprinkle on a little more flaky salt, if desired (I like to sprinkle some on any large chocolate puddles), and allow to cool on the sheet for 2-3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies keep well for up to 5 days in an airtight container.

Rice Krispies Snowmen: Treats for Toys

Rice Krispies Snowmen

This post is sponsored by Kellogg’s Rice Krispies. As always, all ideas and opinions expressed here are my own.

I grew up in the mild Pacific Northwest, where snow doesn’t necessarily make an appearance each winter. So when it did snow, it was a huge deal — school would get cancelled for the lightest of dustings, and we’d all bundle up and head outside to make snow angels and build snowmen (largely because there was hot chocolate waiting for us afterwards). My Canadian-born kids, on the other hand, will probably build more snowmen before kindergarten then I did my entire childhood.

But whether you have half an inch or twenty inches of snow outside, you can make these cute Rice Krispies Snowmen! They’re a breeze to whip up (no oven required!) and are a great creative activity for the little ones in your life. This is the second year that I’ve made something for the Kellogg’s Treats for Toys campaign (remember last year’s DIY Christmas Forest?), which donates funds to provide real toys for children in need. If you’re looking for a way to make a difference this season, I encourage you to make your own Treats for Toys, either using this recipe or something from your own imagination! It’s simple: create a toy-inspired Rice Krispies treat, upload it to the Treats for Toys site or social media (using the #treatsfortoys hashtag), and Kellogg’s will donate $20 to the Salvation Army to buy real toys for children in need.

A few notes:

  • These Rice Krispies snowmen are easy to make, but you have to work fast! The cereal mixture is easiest to mold within the first 5-8 minutes, so it definitely helps to have an extra pair of hands — one person can portion out the cereal and the other can shape the portions into balls.
  • Grease your measuring cups and hands well — otherwise you will spend more time scraping sticky marshmallow than making snowmen.
  • Use a skewer or chopstick to make light indents for facial features and arms. This makes it much easier to stick your candies/pretzels in place.

rice krispies balls

snowmen undressed

snowmen couple

Rice Krispies Snowmen

Ingredients

  • 56 g / 1/4 c unsalted butter
  • 250 g marshmallows (I used mini)
  • 168 g / 6 c Rice Krispies cereal
  • Flaked coconut
  • Pretzel rods
  • Assorted candies for decoration (such as mini chocolate chips, gummies, mini candy canes)
  • Melted white chocolate / royal icing / frosting for glue (optional)
  • Measuring cups
  • Cooking spray
  • Parchment paper

Method

  1. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper. Melt the butter over low heat in a large pot (big enough to hold the Rice Krispies).
  2. When the butter is melted, add the marshmallows, stirring frequently to avoid sticking. When the marshmallows are melted, turn off the heat, add the cereal, and stir with a silicon spatula or wooden spoon to coat evenly.
  3. Using well-greased measuring cups, portion out cereal in a few different sizes (I used 1/4, 1/3, and 1/2 cup measures) onto the prepared sheet pan. When all the cereal is portioned out, use well-greased hands to shape the portions into round balls. Pack firmly but not so hard as to crush the cereal.
  4. Roll each ball in flaked coconut for a snowy effect. Press two or three balls together to form snowmen of various sizes. Use a bit of melted white chocolate / royal icing / frosting for glue, if desired.
  5. Use pretzels and candies to decorate snowmen as desired. Some ideas:
    • Pretzel sticks for arms
    • Mini chocolate chips for eyes and mouths
    • Small orange gummies or candy corn for noses
    • Small round candies for buttons
    • Mini candy canes for skis

Matcha Mint Oreos


Matcha mint Oreos! I’m pretty excited about these cookies, because homemade Oreos have been on my baking bucket list for awhile now. I’ve tried a few different recipes in the past, but none of them really did it for me. But the base recipe for these Oreos comes from Stella Park’s fantastic book, BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts, and they are the real deal. Bake a batch of these and your house will smell like an Oreo factory.

For a festive twist, I decided to go with a matcha mint filling, inspired by the perennially popular Candy Cane Joe Joe’s from my favorite grocery store not in Canada (sad face). I added matcha mostly for color, but its earthy flavor also tempers the sweetness from the candy canes.

matcha mint oreos

A few notes:

  • When making the wafers, I find it easiest to roll the dough to the desired thinness right after mixing. Divide the dough in half and roll each half between two sheets of parchment paper. Stick the rolled out dough in the fridge for about half an hour just to firm it up, then cut your rounds. This way, you don’t have to use any extra cocoa powder for rolling and you can use the parchment to line your sheet pans.
  • Make and completely cool your wafers before making the filling, as the filling sets quickly and must be used right after mixing. (The wafers keep really well, so you can definitely make this recipe over a couple of days.)
  • Crush your peppermint candies really finely. Otherwise your piping tip will get clogged when you fill the cookies and it’ll be hard to get your cookies to lie flat. Also, someone could break a tooth.
  • Matcha powders vary quite a bit in potency. I liked how my filling tasted with 1 Tbsp, but if you’re unsure start with less and add more to taste. You can also omit the peppermint extract if you want a more prominent matcha flavor.

Matcha Mint Oreos

Adapted from BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts | Makes about 20 2-inch sandwich cookies

Ingredients

For the Oreo wafers:

  • One batch of this recipe, cut into 2-inch rounds and completely cooled

For the matcha mint filling:

  • 170g unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp pure peppermint extract
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 240g powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp matcha powder
  • 1/3 c finely crushed candy canes or peppermint candies

Method

For the matcha mint filling:

  1. Before making the filling, flip half the chocolate wafers upside down so they can be filled immediately after preparing the filling.
  2. Sift the matcha powder and icing sugar together and set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, completely melt butter over medium-low heat. Simmer, stirring with a heat-resistant spatula, while butter hisses and pops; if you notice brown bits forming along the edges, reduce heat to low. Continue cooking and stirring until butter falls silent, then strain into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add the peppermint extract and salt, followed by powdered sugar and matcha. Mix on low to moisten, then increase to medium and beat until creamy and soft, about 5 minutes. If your filling is runny, stick it in the fridge for a few minutes to stiffen slightly (this should only take a few minutes). Stir in the peppermint candies. Transfer to a heavy-duty pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch tip and use immediately.

To assemble:

  • Pipe about a tablespoon of filling onto each upturned wafer, then sandwich with the remaining halves. Gently twist the cookies to evenly distribute the filling. Allow cookies to set for about half an hour before serving. Store leftovers (if there are any) in an airtight container. They keep well at room temperature for about a week. (For longer storage, keep in refrigerator or freezer; serve at room temperature.)

Matcha Mint Oreo stack

Granola Biscotti

Granola biscotti
A couple of weeks ago, I was thrilled to receive a copy of Deb Perelman’s new cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites. I’ve been reading Smitten Kitchen for…well, probably about as long as it’s existed. In an internet now overloaded with food blogs (sorry, not sorry) it’s one of the few that I still enjoy reading regularly. Deb’s clear and candid writing style is a breath of fresh air, and her recipes strike that rare balance between “stuff I want to attempt” and “stuff I’ll actually make.” (Her hidden kid pictures are a genius touch as well.) Can you tell I’m a fangirl? OK, moving on now.

While there are plenty of recipes that caught my eye (hello pretzel linzers with salted caramel and chicken and rice, street cart style!), I knew right away that granola biscotti would be the first I’d tackle because 1) we’d just run out of granola, 2) my 2-year old asks for “two cookies, please” most days (yes, he’s very specific about the “two” and no, he doesn’t always get them) and 3) previously mentioned 2-year-old is also obsessed with “helping” in the kitchen. (Recipes with lots of add-ins are perfect for little helpers, because they get to dump lots of things in bowls.) These have been a hit with the big and little people alike, and I can personally vouch that they’re equally good dunked in coffee or dipped in yogurt.

Smitten Kitchen cookbook with biscotti

As Deb notes, these biscotti are very tweakable. I’ve included the recipe here as it appears in the book and my own substitutions in brackets. Also, I think these would make great Christmas cookie gifts — perhaps dunked or drizzled with chocolate. You can make these biscotti ahead of time as they keep very well, always a plus at this time of year.

A couple of notes:

  • While I love butter and never shy away from it in baking, I used grapeseed oil because I prefer the texture of oil-based biscotti (they’re generally crisper and less crumbly than butter-based).
  • I also like my biscotti bakery-style (i.e. long), so I made mine bigger than indicated and got 24 instead of 36.
  • Slicing biscotti can be tricky business. If the logs are either too warm or too cold, they tend to crumble rather than cut. I have the best success when I cut them when they’re still slightly warm and push down (not saw) firmly with a sharp, serrated knife.

Granola biscotti 2

Granola Biscotti

Makes 36 biscotti

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for your work surface [I used half spelt flour by weight]
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (130 grams) rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon table or fine sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, melted, or virgin coconut oil, warmed until liquefied [I substituted 64g grapeseed oil]
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated or raw (turbinado) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) light- or dark-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional) [I also added 1/2 tsp almond extract]
  • 1/2 cup (45 grams) thinly sliced almonds [I used whole almonds, roughly chopped]
  • 1/2 cup (40 grams) shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup (about 150 grams) dried fruit of your choice, such as raisins, cranberries, cherries, or chopped dried apricots or figs, or a mix thereof
  • 1 egg white [I omitted this]

Method

  1. Mix the flour, rolled oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Whisk the melted butter and sugars in the bottom of a large bowl. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients, nuts, coconut, and dried fruit. Expect a stiff batter.
  2. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. On a floured counter, using floured hands roll half the dough into a log a little shy of the length of your baking sheet, 12 to 14 inches. Transfer the dough log to the baking sheet, and pat lightly until it becomes more oval- shaped. Repeat with the second half of the dough. Beat the egg white until foamy, and brush it over logs. Bake the logs for 20 minutes, until they are lightly golden brown and beginning to form cracks.
  4. Let cool almost completely (it’s okay if the centers are still lukewarm), about 1 hour. With a serrated knife, cut the logs on the bias into 1/2-inch-thick slices. They will be crumbly; cut as gently as possible. Transfer the slices back to the parchment-lined baking sheet, and lay flat in a single layer. Bake for another 20 minutes, until toasted and crisp. (If you like, you can flip them halfway for more even browning, but you will have good color on them either way.)
  5. Cool the biscotti on the baking sheet, or transfer to a rack.

Note: This recipe should prove very tweakable; you could use cinnamon, or almond extract, add citrus zest, vary the fruits and sweeteners. You could swap half the flour for whole wheat or even oat flour. Or you could add some chocolate chips. Who could blame you?

Do ahead: Biscotti keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks, and longer if well wrapped in the freezer.

Excerpted from Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites. Text and photographs copyright © 2017 Deb Perelman. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Really Good Brownies

brownies from top

A couple of weeks ago I posted a photo of a batch of brownies, and I was flooded with requests for the recipe. I get it — as much as I love tinkering with flavors and techniques, hands down the dessert I crave most often is a good old brownie.

I realize that what constitutes a good brownie varies tremendously from person to person, which is why this is the millionth brownie recipe on the internet. To me, a good brownie is crackly-topped, chewy but tender, and deeply chocolatey. Oh, and well-salted.

brownie in hand

These brownies check all those boxes for me. I still have some tweaks I want to try so I won’t go as far as to call them “perfect,” but for the time being this is the batch to beat.

Without getting too brownie-nerd on you (there’s plenty out there should you wish to delve into that world), here’s a little bit of the rationale behind this recipe:

  • Both butter and oil for a mix of flavor and moisture
  • Both cocoa powder and melted chocolate, the first for a rich chocolate flavor and the second for texture and that crackly top
  • A touch of brown sugar for moisture, flavor, and chew
  • A modest amount of flour to keep things from getting too cakey, but enough so we’re not completely in fudge territory
  • Espresso powder to enhance the chocolate flavor
  • The eggs and sugar are whipped together to provide structure and also to aid in getting that crackly top
  • Baked in an 8×8 square pan for thick, non-wimpy brownies

brownie cut

This recipe is the result of a lot of tinkering, which is why the measurements are a bit weird. I developed it using gram measurements (I bake by weight 99.9% of the time), but the cup measurements are below as well — just know I haven’t tested them myself.

To great brownies!

Really Good Brownies

Makes one 8×8 pan

Ingredients

  • 85g (6 Tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 75g neutral vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
  • 85g (3 oz) bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I like Callebaut 70%)
  • 100g (3/4 c + 2 tsp) AP flour
  • 57g (2/3 c) Dutch process cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
  • 169g (3/4 c + 1 Tbsp) granulated sugar
  • 56g (1/4 c + 1 tsp) brown sugar
  • scant 1 tsp coarse kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp espresso powder
  • Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8 square pan with foil and lightly grease.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, oil, and chocolate. Melt over low heat, then set aside to cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and cocoa powder.
  3. Combine all ingredients from the sugar through the espresso powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on low briefly to combine, then crank up the speed to medium high and continue whisking until the mixture is thick and pale (about 5 minutes).
  4. Reduce the speed to low and drizzle in the butter-chocolate-oil mixture. Once incorporated, add the flour-cocoa mixture, mixing just to combine. Use a silicone spatula to stir from the bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is well-mixed and there are no pockets of unincorporated flour.
  5. Pour into the prepared pan, sprinkle generously with flaky sea salt, and bake until the top is cracked and glossy and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few wet crumbs (not raw brownie batter, but not completely dry), about 25-30 minutes (start checking at 20 minutes — baking these just the right amount of time is critical to getting the right texture!).
  6. Allow brownies to cool completely before slicing. Store leftovers in an airtight container, or freeze for later. (I actually like chilling my brownies in the fridge for an hour before eating — I find this gives them the perfect amount of chew!)