Wednesday, April 17, 2013


When you hear the word "Ganache", do you automatically search for a different recipe without such a scary word? It's ok, I used to do the same thing.  It is such a serious baking term that many think you need culinary training to create it.  Do you know what it is? It's melted chocolate with cream.  Still sound hard? I didn't think so.

The silly thing is that it is so simple to make and very popular, but most people don't really know what it is.  Yet it makes a huge difference when talking about dessert.  If you go to a restaurant and the waiter asks, "Would you like plain cheesecake with melted chocolate on top?" you wouldn't be as excited to say yes as you would be if he said, "Would you like a New York cheesecake with a ganache?"  Apparently there is something in a name when it comes to dessert.  Sorry Shakespeare, a dessert by any other name would not sound as sweet.

So, let's break it down.  Ganache is literally heated cream poured over chopped up chocolate (or chocolate chips) and combined.  Simple.  Now, let's dress it up just for fun.  It's kind of like when you get a beer in a keg cup versus a frosted mug…there is just something about the frosted mug that makes it seem to taste better, right? Am I the only one that thinks that?

Here you can find the printable version.

Instructions: (These can be altered depending on what type of chocolate you prefer, it is a very forgiving recipe.  But the better quality of chocolate the better the ganache will be).

1 C. Heavy Cream
10 oz. Chocolate, chopped*

*The type of chocolate is up to you, as long as you prefer dark chocolate.  White chocolate and milk chocolate are made a little differently than dark chocolate, so you need to change the recipe if you are wanting to make anything other than dark chocolate. But within dark chocolate you have a variety of choices based on the percentage of cocoa content.  The higher the percentage, the more bitter and dark the chocolate will be.  The lower the percentage, the sweeter it will be…but that doesn't mean it is anything like milk chocolate.  If you are good with algebra, here is a basic formula to help you remember which type of chocolate you want.  

Dark Chocolate = Sugar + Cocoa 
*There are a few other ingredients, but for the purpose of this helpful tip just focus on these two ingredients.

So, the more cocoa means less sugar and therefor more bitter.  Less cocoa means more sugar and a sweeter taste.

Ok, let's move on to actually making this delicious treat.

Step 1.  Chop up your chocolate into small pieces, large ones will not melt so make sure they are at least 1/4 inch.  Or you can use chocolate chips but you might need to reduce your cream to 2/3 of a cup.  Place your chocolate into a metal bowl, or plastic if that is all you have but make sure it is heatproof.

Step 2.  Pour cream into large pan and put over medium-high heat on stove.  Continue heating until boiling, which means that it actually rises and creates large bubbles throughout the entire pan.  Be careful because milk can heat fast and boil over very easy. Keep stirring so that the bottom doesn't burn.

Step 3.  Pour boiling milk into melt bowl over chocolate pieces, but don't stir quite yet.  You need to let the heat of the milk begin melting the chocolate, so wait a few minutes.  Then take a whisk and mix it until smooth.

Boiling heavy cream is poured onto chocolate...

Melted chocolate begins to mix together with cream...

…and this is ganache!

At this point, you have ganache…congratulations! But why stop here when you could easily do a few more steps and REALLY impress people!

Plain Ganache: Simply let the ganache cool after you have mixed it thoroughly, then dip your dessert into it.  Just remember that it is hot, so depending on what you are coving with the glaze be cautious.  If you are coving a cupcake the heat won't affect it as much as a strawberry or ice cream bar.

Glazed Ganache:  Make sure the ganache has cooled but still in liquid form, and that the dessert you are glazing is colder than the ganache. Pour the ganache over the center of the dessert and let it spread out naturally.  As you pour it will spill over the sides and, depending on the look you are going for, you can leave it as is or smooth it out with a spatula.  Once you have covered the dessert to your satisfaction, chill for about 30 minutes to let the glaze set up.

Whipped Ganache:  This requires you to chill the ganache overnight and then bring it back to room temp to whip.  Once you have it back to room temperature, all you need to do is put the whisk attachment on your mixer and whip it for a few minutes, or until it looks fluffy.  Be careful not to over whip, though, because it will start to look grainy.  This makes a really tasty filler between layers, but it also is a delicious frosting if you like dark chocolate.

Ganache Icing:  This is a bit of a marriage between American icing and ganache. Let the ganache cool to room temperature, you can even leave it out overnight with plastic wrap over the top to prevent a film. Then mix in a half cup of butter, one small chunk at a time, and 2 cups of powdered sugar.  This will lead to a much sweeter taste, obviously, which might be better for kid parties who don't tend to like the bitterness of dark chocolate.

Whipped Ganache…yum...

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookies

There aren't too many things in this world that just make you feel complete and utter happiness…outside of baking of course. Because when it comes to baking, there are few times I am unhappy. For instance, looking at the dishes in the sink after I have put my last pan of cookies in the oven. Or hearing from your husband, "I love your baking, but I seriously don't think I can sample another cookie today." But all that is washed away when I see people enjoying wonderful food that they have baked from scratch in the comfort of their own home from my recipes. So thank you for reading, trying and reporting back to me on your adventures of baking. I love hearing from you how recipes went!

Now today's blog is a recipe that stems from many versions that have been around the world a few times, but never gets old. I've tried more chocolate chip cookie recipes than I can remember and they all consisted of the same ingredients with slight alterations to the quantity. Some called for more flour, making the cookies much more cake like, while others added more butter or salt. It wasn't until I found a recipe from Apple a Day that something new caught my eye: Corn Starch.

So naturally, I had to try it.  Could there be anything more mouth watering than a fluffy, chocolatey, warm cookie? You tell me, here is a picture of my 100th batch of these cookies…I just can't seem to stop baking them.

What makes this recipe different? Hm, how do I explain it….

Do you sample the cookie dough before you bake it? Yeah, I know it has raw egg in it and you could get sick from eating it….but be honest, do you? Do you perhaps arrange your cookies on the baking sheet in such a way that, oops, there's just a little extra dough that won't fit…better eat it??? Have you ever secretly made the cookie dough and stuck it in the freezer to nibble on when nobody was looking? It's ok, you can tell me. I love cookie dough, it is my secret passion.  I think I might actually like it better than the actual cookie when baked.  And that is why I love this recipe.  Once you have baked the delicious dough, the cookie still has the same taste.  It tastes like dough! It just comes with a little crunchy outer shell and is combined with melted chocolate.  Trust me, it is good.

Because everyone is different, I will admit that I love a ooey-gooey center for my chocolate chip cookies.  I detest the cake version where they puff up super high, but I'm not judging if you do.  This recipe is very simple to edit so that your cookies will puff up; simply add more flour.  The corn starch does make a difference though.  But what does the corn starch do, you wonder? Well, don't worry.  I didn't know either and had to Google what makes corn starch different from baking powder/soda…and for that matter, baking powder vs. baking soda.

This is what I found. The three are similar but totally different.  Confused? Think about roses; they are all the same plant, but they can look completely different.  Here is a break down:

  • Corn Starch:  Primarily used for thickeners and stabilizers in liquids (like gravy). When heated, it expands and unwinds, then starts to bond together when the hot liquid (like melting butter) moves around them. After a while, the bonds are formed and they begin to absorb the hot liquid. This allows the cookie, for example, to retain moisture while not being too gooey.  If you watch a cookie baking, it will transfer from the dough ball, to a sort of wet looking puddle, then slowly lifts into a normal cookie form.
  • Baking Soda:  Consist mostly of sodium bicarbonate, which means that a recipe needs an acidic ingredient to activate it.  This includes things like buttermilk, lemon juice or brown sugar.  (Why is brown sugar acidic? Because brown sugar is made up of cane sugar and molasses, which is acidic.  See all the stuff you are learning!).  So baking soda produces gas immediately when contacted with the acidic ingredient and your dough will begin rising the minute you mix it in.  (Another reason why you wait unit the end to add your "dry" ingredients).
  • Baking Powder:  This combines baking soda, corn starch and one or more acidic salts (cream of tartar and calcium aluminum phosphate).  Baking powder creates a little gas when you first mix it, but even more once the salts fully dissolve, and even a bit more when you put it in the oven.  It usually needs heat to fully work.
Now, don't you feel all smart and scientific! Who knew there was so much in such a little ingredient! What's that…you have no idea what sodium bicarbonate is? Ok, let me explain. They all do the same thing, right...just slightly different; baking soda helps the dough rise immediately, baking powder rises when heated mostly, and corn starch is a bit of a hybrid.

Ok, now on to the actual baking.  Here is the printable version, but don't worry about me going into too much detail about something that everyone has made using some form of the recipe.  I mostly just wanted to share with you how corn starch can make a difference.  It is also a cheap way to bake with your kids or for a quick pick me up after a rough day. For about two dozen cookies, it only costs a little over $3.  Now, go clean your kitchen and tape your recipe to the cabinet…it's time to bake!


3/4 C. Butter
3/4 C. Brown Sugar
1/4 C. Sugar
1 Egg
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 C. Four
2 tsp. Cornstarch
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 C. Chocolate Chips

Step 1. Sift together flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt in small bowl. If you are wondering why you have to sift, I made a little video showing you how much extra flour there really is after sifting.

Step 2. Beat butter until smooth, then add brown sugar and white sugar.  Mix until evenly distributed.

Look at how beaten down that butter is.  When you add the sugar make sure you mix it enough.
The picture in the middle is not mixed enough…keep mixing until it looks like the right photo.

Step 3. Add egg and vanilla, and beat until smooth again.

Step 4. Slowly add in dry ingredients, scraping sides as needed, until dough is firm and pulling away from the wall. Now like I said, I don't love a big cookie so I don't add extra flour. But if you do, then add a half cup at a time until it fully pulls away from the wall. If you aren't sure, go ahead and take a small dough ball out, stick a couple chocolate chips on top and bake it by itself. If it doesn't puff up enough, add more to the mix. (Then eat the test cookie while you mix it!)

Step 5. Add desired amount of chocolate chips, stirring until they are evenly distributed. I like to have every bite filled with a couple chocolate chips, so I put in a few extra handfuls! Most recipes will tell you to hand stir it in, I don't. Just use the mixer, it will be fine. Actually, in my opinion, it will be better because the mixer will chip off the chips (sorry, couldn't help myself) and those little bits of chocolate will melt into yummy hints of chocolate, while the larger chips will melt like normal. It's kind of like dusting the chocolate chip cookies with a little extra chocolate!

Step 6. Make 1” dough balls and place them on a cookie sheet approximately 2” apart.  They will spread as they bake. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until the edges are beginning to brown and the tops look dry. Let cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes after removing from oven, then grab some milk and dig in!

A helpful tip for baking: Have an adorable cookie jar. It is fun to fill, and even more fun to empty!

Happy Baking!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Coconut Bread

Coconut Bread…could anything sound more intriguing? Last night I was thinking about how fast spring has come and how beautiful this time of year is with the bulbs blooming and the trees blossoming, the smell of fresh cut grass in the air and warm days playing in the yard with my kids.  I felt like baking something that was spring-ish.  So, instead of searching through my pile of yummy sounding recipes, I simply googled "must bake bread".  That's how I came across this recipe from smittenkitchen for coconut bread. I had never heard of such a thing, but it sounded like something that I would have to make first thing in the morning.

If you are wanting something to put turkey and mayo on, then keep on going because this is as much "bread" as zucchini bread.  In other words, slab a bit of butter on the top and eat as a snack! This is a quick bread, which means that it doesn't have any yeast to activate and let rise.  It is simple, delicious and (obviously) quick.

Just look at that heavenly thing!

I love this bread for many different reasons.  First, I love the level of sweetness.  Note that I didn't say I loved how sweet it is.  It isn't a real sugary-sweet bread, but it has this subtle hint of sweet that comes from the coconut.  The second thing I love is the touch of cinnamon.  I'm not a huge fan of cinnamon because it can over power everything.  But in this recipe it is just a slight taste at the end of each bite.  Finally, I love the texture of this bread.  The outside is the perfect "soft" crunch (for those who don't speak in the same code as I do, this means that it is firm but not crispy), and the inside is fluffy and chewy.  How can it be fluffy AND chewy, you ask? Well the bread itself is very fluffy but the shredded coconut  remains just slightly chewy (just like when you happen to take a pinch from your recipe while baking to…um, taste test).  Overall, I would have to simply say that this bread is my favorite of all quick breads.

It is also really pretty inexpensive to make, as far as store bought specialty breads go. You can see my cost of ingredients list to see how this recipe breaks down if you want.  Your overall cost might be different if you buy generic store brands, catch a great sale or use slightly different ingredients (such as substituting all-purpose flour for bread flour).  For one 9 x 5" loaf, it cost me a total of $4.14.  It was more expensive than other quick breads because the coconut is a bit more expensive than such things as zucchini or banana.  But it was still worth it! This is a really great gift to bring as a hostess gift or to new neighbors because they will be impressed with such a unique bread and think you've slaved away in the kitchen to make it (but really it only will take you about 30 minutes of prep work and an hour to bake).

If you want a simple step by step printable version, click here. For those that enjoy my process of baking, read on and enjoy…just try not to slobber on your screen!

Do you see the yummy bits of coconut!?!
As usual, make sure you have a clean kitchen to start with.  It really does make baking so much easier if you have a clean area to begin in.  Then print out the recipe and tape it to the fridge, microwave or cabinets…pretty much anywhere up high and off your counters where you will know it will be there and you can easily read the ingredients and steps.


2 Eggs
1 1/4 C. Milk
1 tsp. Vanilla
2 1/2 C. Bread Flour (Substitute All-purpose if you wish)
1/2 tsp. Salt
2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon, Ground
1 C. Sugar
1 1/2 C. Coconut, Shredded and Sweetened
6 Tbsp. Butter, softened (not melted)

Step 1. Sift the bread flour (or all-purpose flour if you don't want to buy bread flour), salt, baking soda and cinnamon in a large bowl. 
  • Sifting all-purpose flour is really important because it settles into clumps and you will end up adding too much flour if you don't sift it.  What you need to do is take 2 1/2 cups of flour and sift it twice, then remeasure.  Most likely, you will have closer to 3 cups.  If you aren't sure how to sift, it is easiest to sift over a sheet of parchment paper, then fold that sifted flour back into the sifter over a second sheet of parchment.  Then fold that parchment paper and pour into a measuring cup. 
  • Bread flour will give you a bit more chewy texture because it will retain gas while it bakes, but all-purpose will work too.  
Step 2.  Stir in the sugar and coconut into the flour mixture and make a well in the bottom of it.  
It's hard to see from this picture, but I pushed the dry mix up from the center out
to make a small hole in the center for the milk mixture to be poured into.
Step 3. In small bowl, mix milk, vanilla and eggs with a fork until blended.  Add to the well of dry goods and mix until just combined.  

Step 4.  Stir in softened butter until evenly mixed, but don't over mix. 
  • Mix by hand, don't worry you probably won't burn too many calories…it isn't that hard to do. The reason for hand mixing is because mixers will over mix the batter, causing your bread to have holes inside while it bakes, creating tunnels that allow moisture to escape.  This leads to tough loaves instead of glorious, fluffy loaves.

Step 5. Prepare your 9 x 5 bread pan by spraying it with nonstick spray, laying parchment paper on the bottom and then spraying again.  Make sure the sides aren't completely covered.

Step 6. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for about an hour.  I have a convection oven that usually requires me to bake goods for a bit longer, so I ended up baking mine for an additional 30 minutes. Just make sure that a toothpick will come out clean when inserted into the middle.  Try to insert the toothpick in a "crack" on top of the bread to get a more accurate reading.

Look at that glorious baby baking…this is when the smell engulfs you and might feel inclined
to rip it out of the pan and shove your whole face in the center…try not to do that.
Step 7.  Once you have a golden top and a clean toothpick, remove it from the oven and let cool in the pan for about 10 - 15 minutes, then remove from pan and cool on rack…if you can stand to wait much longer.  (I couldn't! I sliced that lovely loaf and smacked some butter on it as soon as those 10 minutes were up! I was not disappointed.)

This bread is so delicious without anything, but it is even better when butter is melted on top from the warm slices. It doesn't need any jam, though I suppose you could try it.  If so, let me know how it is because my loaf only lasted one day! Which reminds me, don't worry about how to store this.  Simply leave it on your cutting board for about an hour and people will become intoxicated by the smell and come knocking at your door.  

Enjoy your bread! I would love to hear any comments from you; success, failure, questions or anything! Happy Baking!

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