Sunday, January 31, 2016

Gooey Texas Sheet Cake with Caramel

Day 122

I found a fairly incredible recipe for a soft-centered Texas sheet cake, prepared in mini cast iron skillets on the blog/website of The Cookie Rookie. You can read and see the original below. What a brilliant idea! In fact, I suspect I’ll be visiting this site frequently for good recipes, from now on. 

Since I don’t have mini cast iron skillets (but they’re on my gift list, now, for sure!), I decided to try the recipe with my shallow crème brulée ramekins, and I wanted to add caramel too.
Photo by Maggie Kapustin
So, once I had the batter in each ramekin, I cut three Hershey’s milk chocolate caramels (see picture below) in half and pushed them into the center, almost touching.  This was a risk since The Cookie Rookie’s cake was pretty much perfection, just as is. 

I then baked the cakes according to the original recipe, but since I had smaller, more shallow baking dishes, I checked each cake frequently. The idea is that you want the cake done around the edges and almost done in the center. The caramels DO change the consistency if you choose to move away from the original recipe, so you have to remove the pans from the oven whenever they have reached your preferred texture. 

Once out of the oven, follow the warm icing directions (warm icing = heaven) or simply top with your favorite ice cream. We tried it both ways and loved them. Coffee ice cream really adds that certain something, but vanilla is superb too!

I hope you’ll check out The Cookie Rookie’s story too; this is a blog so worth following! . I really enjoyed reading about how this blogger got her start. 

Here’s her recipe. You HAVE to try this. Today. 

And, here are the (optional!) caramels I used: 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

TBT—Throw Back to Thanksgiving, 2015!

Day 121

Pumpkin Pie & Tres Leches Cake

This entry took forever to add here. I’m not sure why, since the pictures have been ready for a couple of months. At any rate, that’s why I had to do a “TBT” entry (but instead of Thursday, it’s cleverly Thanksgiving…Okay, okay, not so clever). 

Anyway, every Thanksgiving, my husband’s family comes for dinner. Everyone takes a turn hosting the different holidays, and Thanksgiving is ours.
Photos by Doug Kapustin, Copyright 2016
Planning our menu is always the most fun, and we try to bring all of his family’s traditional favorites as well as some new dishes to the table. This year, we made the usual roasted and smoked turkeys, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, corn, biscuits, herbed stuffing, gravy, Doug’s sister’s awesome cranberry sauce, and Doug’s mom’s scrumptious mashed potatoes.  Then, we accented the meal with a Brussels sprouts salad and a seven-layer salad. Appetizers included artichoke dip, chili cheese dip, and sweet and sour meatballs. 

Dessert was the coup de force, though. This year, in addition to Doug’s signature pumpkin pies for which his whole family actually begs, I made a tres leches cake, served atop a bed of the most decadent caramel sauce you’ve ever tasted. Most of our already full family members still opted for a “sampler plate” of both desserts AND finished them. It was that good.

Then, we cleaned up and went straight to bed. Really, we did!

 And the sleep was glorious; it was the kind of sleep reserved for babies and puppies with full bellies. I can’t wait for Thanksgiving again. 

Here are both recipes, for you to enjoy whenever somebody “slings a craving on you” for some holiday decadence. Bon appétit, and Happy TBThanksgiving!

Pumpkin Pie

1½ cups canned pumpkin
¾ cup sugar
½ tsp. salt
1¼ tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
½ tsp. each, nutmeg and cloves
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1¼ cups milk
2/3 cup evaporated milk (1 -6oz. can)
1 (9-inch) unbaked pastry shell (store bought or homemade)

Thoroughly mix pumpkin, sugar, salt, and spices. Blend in eggs, milk, and evaporated milk. Pour into pastry shell (crimp edges high). Bake in hot oven (400 degrees) for 50 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between center and edge comes out clean. Cool before serving. 

Serve with fresh, whipped cream if desired. 

FYI- We quadruple the recipe for four pies, in case you want to do the same.

If opting for a homemade crust, here’s my favorite recipe, courtesy of Ina Garten;  it’s truly foolproof, just as promised by The Barefoot Contessa

Tres Leches Cake

For the cake-
1 box Pillsbury Moist Supreme yellow cake mix

4 eggs (at room temperature)
1½ sticks butter (¾ cup), softened to room temperature
½ sugar
8 oz. container sour cream
1 tsp. cinnamon 
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. cloves
¼ tsp. nutmeg

1 can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup heavy cream

For the icing: 
1 pint heavy cream
4 tbs. sugar
1 8oz. container mascarpone cheese

Fit a mixer with the paddle attachment, then combine the butter, sour cream, and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, then cake mix. Blend well. Add cinnamon, vanilla, cloves, and nutmeg and blend just until incorporated. 

Pour into greased and floured 9x13 glass baking dish. Bake at 350 until a knife in the center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes (since ovens vary, start checking at 25 minutes and keep checking every 2-3 minutes until done).  Remove from oven.

Immediately take a fork and make holes all over the cake’s surface while hot. 

Mix evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and ¼ cup of heavy cream in a bowl until combined, then slowly pour over hot cake, giving it time to absorb properly. Get as much around the edges as possible too.  You might have as much as ½ -1 cup of the mixture left over after drenching the cake, and that’s okay. 

Allow cake to absorb the mixture as it cools, for about 30 minutes. Refrigerate until cool.

To make icing:
Whip heavy cream, sugar, and mascarpone cheese until thick and spreadable. Spread on cake and sprinkle with additional cinnamon and chocolate shavings. 

As an optional but extra delicious treat, serve each slice of cake atop a bed of the Pioneer Woman’s caramel sauce. Here’s her recipe link: 

Also, the original Tres Leches cake I made (not this one) was from The Pioneer Woman too. Hers is outstanding—as are all of her recipes, come to think of it. But, I opted to make my own with a doctored cake mix only because I like the denser, more pound cake-like texture when it’s drenched with liquid. There’s just less mush and I prefer that. If, however, you prefer a spongier, more traditional tres leches, you really should try this one: 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Pie Bars

Day 120

This is what I came home to this afternoon. No, really.

I walked through the door, feeling tired and even a little grumpy, but the aroma of cooked sugar and butter overwhelmed me. My daughter, Tate, was baking, and she had found a new recipe that she wanted to tweak. The original was for a chocolate chip pizza, which sounds amazing, but her idea was much, much better.
Photos by Taylor Fowler

Brainstorm with me here. What texture would be even more complementary to brown sugar, butter, and chocolate than a pizza crust? A pie crust. Tate decided to turn a dessert “pizza” into dessert “pie” bars. The results were incredible, and I do not exaggerate when I say that these might be my new favorite dessert bars. They are that good.

The nicest part, aside from the flavor, is how easy they are. Please make these right as someone is entering your front door tonight or tomorrow or sometime soon. They will love you forever and ever for it.

Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Pie Bars
2 (store bought) refrigerated pie crusts
2 sticks of butter, melted
1 box of Betty Crocker Super Moist Yellow Cake Mix
1 cup chocolate chips
¼ cup dark brown sugar, packed
¼ cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Unroll/Spread pie crusts on large baking sheet covered in parchment paper, side by side, overlapping slightly. Press overlapping portion together to form solid sheet. Cut off any sides that fall over the baking sheet and use them to fill in the two crust circles, if desired. Bake pie crust for 5-7 minutes. Take out crust and rest on counter. If there are air bubbles, they will collapse once filling is added.

In a bowl, stir together granulated and brown sugars with a fork, breaking up any lumps. Mix
together butter and yellow cake mix (there may be lumps.) Spread mixture onto crust, leaving approximately ½ inch from the edges without batter.
You might need your hands for this, to keep the crust from breaking apart; this part is messy. 

Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top of batter (more or less than 1 cup, if desired; ½ cup even tastes great if you prefer the stronger brown sugar taste). Gently press chips into batter.

Sprinkle sugar topping over pizza, covering batter and chips but avoiding the lip of the pizza. You might not choose to use all of the sugar, but use as much as you can.

Bake 10-14 minutes on upper middle rack of oven (check at 9 minute mark).

If after 12 minutes the topping has not browned, switch oven to broiler for approximately 1 minute….Watch carefully.

Cool 10-15 minutes. Cut into bars (some “bars” will have rounded edges, but just embrace that imperfection). Enjoy!