Category Archives: Baked Goods and Desserts

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Swirl Cake with Caramel Penuche

(Congrats to Pearl, who won last week’s KIND bar giveaway! And thank you to everyone who showed their kindest support by entering.)

Once every few months, you probably have one of those days where you just stop and think, My god, that was a really good day.

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Maybe your friend surprised you with a late birthday present, or you got to go to the happiest place on Earth with friends, or maybe you ran 10 miles and then proceeded to stuff your face with 40 vendors’ worth of breakfast food samples, a giant chocolate-and-sprinkle dipped cookie dough ice cream cone with more sprinkles on top, and freakin’ bomb Chinese food.

Around here, these days are not the exception: they are the norm.

And yes, ALL of these things happened to me on this exceptionally normal day.

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I was browsing through my Brain archives tonight thinking about what I wanted to write, and it suddenly hit me that it’s been a long time since I’ve talked about ME. Instead, I’ve been off pontificating and musing and philosophizing about a whole bunch of things, which is totally fine, but then you’re probably thinking that I spend my self-professedly “busy” daytimes off running drug cartels or something.

Which I’m not. Btw.

In case you were wondering why I’m posting coffee cake instead of brownies this week. Ahrm.

 

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A lot–and I mean a lot–of my time has been spent researching. I’m also shuttling myself back and forth a lot these days due to personal issues, which is a cryptic way of saying that I’m on the road a lot and majorly burnt out. However, once in a while any time I’m not crashing and burning, I’m having an adventurous time doing things like going to a Pancake Day Festival where over 40 vendors bring out their best samples of food and you spend 3 hours eating 50 bajillion types of breakfast sammies, pancakes (of course), grit parfaits, veganaise-topped frittatas, salted caramel bread pudding, and dulce de leche churros (which is a breakfast food–obvi).

12 hours later, my eyes are still food coma-ing from the mere sight of these pictures which–believe me–don’t even begin to do justice to the ridiculous number of plates we picked up and stuffed into our happy bellies!

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Of course…..

No amount of food comatosification (yes, I just made up a word–I am 94% sure that earning a Master’s Degree in English entitles me to do that) was about to stop us from doing this when we got to DISNEYLAND at 3 PM:

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Yes, that’s sprinkles on top of a sprinkle-dipped chocolate waffle cone and a ginormous scoop of ice cream from Gibson Girl’s. Go big or go bigger, momma always said.

The great thing about being an annual passholder is that days at Disneyland do not feel like a neurotic roadtrip with your in-laws. Granted, I have no idea in holy heck what that would be like (stressful, I imagine), but line-jumping and crowd-weaving and kid-hurtling are all distant memories. We hit up a few shows (Mickey’s Magic Map was AMAZING, for the record), rode the fastest spinning teacup on the Mad Hatter’s ride (note: it’s the purple one), and just chilled and ate ice cream while waiting in line for Aladdin.

And then we went home, and my awesome Disney buddy gave me this drawing he bought from the shop for my (belated) birthday present:

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He knows I love Ellie so. Darn. Much. She and I are basically kindred spirits, except kindreder.

Anyway, that’s kind of questionable proof that I do still exist, and that I do have the busy life that I claim I lead, and that my blog hasn’t been replaced by a semi-automated robotic arm that periodically updates delicious photos here to avoid arousing suspicion about the fact that it actually ate me alive in my sleep.

Or something like that.

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But I’m sure you’ll excuse Homocidal Robo-Arm if you are looking at this bomb Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Swirl Cake with Caramel Penuche I made a few weeks ago for a group of friends. He’s got good taste for an A.I. creature, I’ll give him that much.

This cake was some of the moistest and crumb-iest (not crummy!) cake I’ve made, and no wonder–I adapted it from this Lemon Curd Coffee Crumb Cake recipe that got rave reviews and tons of attention when I posted it for #SundaySupper two weekends ago. But what I love best is the warming, Fall-anticipatory taste of cinnamon that absolutely fills up the kitchen while it’s baking. And that crumb!

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What really sends this cake over the top, though, is the top: yessiree, that caramel penuche! None of the fuss of actual caramel (move aside, candy thermometers)–just a little bit of brown sugar & butter boiling happily away, plus a few staple pantry ingredients, and you’re on your way to one darn good slice of coffee crumb cake.

And believe you me when I say that if this cake was still hanging around in my kitchen, we’d be having a massive tete-a-belly right about now…..even after pancakesicecreameverything.

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Do me a favor and make this ASAP. Then do me a favor and do not send it to me, or I may love you forever and sit creepily outside your front window under the hedges with a fork and a big sign that declares you are the Coffee Cake Queen/King.

With a big heart on it.

Okay, time to stop writing. Cheerios, and happy Today is Coffee Cake Monday!

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 Love,

 Ala

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Swirl Cake with Caramel Penuche

This crazy good streusel coffee cake uses the same base recipe as my rave-reviewed Lemon Curd Coffee Crumb Cake but with a cinnamon-y twist! Heavy on the crumb and packed with a burst of brown sugar flavor from the penuche, this recipe is a great alternative to my other coffee cake recipe. (The zested lemon in this recipe was actually an accident since I had my mind on the other cake recipe--a lovely accident!)

Ingredients

    Cinnamon Swirl:
  • - 1/4 cup white sugar
  • - 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • Streusel Coffee Cake:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons butter or margarine, cold
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, optional
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • Caramel Penuche:
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk or dairy-free milk
  • 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • Vanilla Drizzle:
  • 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon milk, added only as needed

Instructions

    For the cinnamon swirl:
  1. Mix together sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
  2. For the streusel coffee cake:
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10-cup bundt pan and set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in butter using a fork, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside 1 cup of this mixture.
  5. Mix baking powder and baking soda into the remaining large bowl of flour mixture. Add buttermilk, egg, and vanilla, and mix vigorously until batter is smooth and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. (Sally notes here that it should resemble frosting.) Gently stir in lemon zest if using.
  6. To make the crumb: Mix brown sugar into the reserved flour mixture.
  7. Sprinkle half of your crumb topping as evenly as possible into your bundt pan. Pour half of the batter into prepared pan, then sprinkle prepared cinnamon-sugar mixture over the batter, followed by the remaining crumb topping, leaving an inch around the edges so your batter can seep in. Pour remaining batter on top.
  8. Bake in preheated oven for 50-55 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  9. For the caramel penuche:
  10. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar and bring mixture to a boil for 2 minutes. Add milk, then bring to a boil again. Turn off heat and quickly whisk in powdered sugar until penuche is completely smooth. Allow to cool slightly (but not completely) before pouring over cake.
  11. For the vanilla drizzle:
  12. Combine sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add up to 1 tablespoon of milk (as needed to reach drizzling consistency). Drizzle over the top of your cooled coffee cake and enjoy!
http://www.wallflourgirl.com/2014/08/25/cinnamon-streuselcoffee-swirl-cake-caramel-penuche/

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Filed under Cakes & Cupcakes

Life Updates and a KIND Snacks Giveaway

This giveaway is sponsored by KIND Snacks. I received a sample box for review purposes but was not financially compensated for this post. And as always, these opinions are 110% my own!

A billion and one things have been all kinds of crazy here lately. Can you tell?

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No, perhaps not–but it’s been all sorts of insanity! This is my utterly grateful recovery post. This month has been one green light to the next, racking up my traveling miles and teleporting from one zany distance to the next. At one point, I even coughed up a whopping $40 for an Uber trip that got me nothing but terrible traffic and one ballsy driver who asked me if I was single–and get this, he asked me in the first 15 minutes of our trip while I was sitting in the front seat. 

Moral of the story: never sit in the front seat while riding a taxi service, no matter how casual it seems.

Moral #2: 6 miles never feels longer than when you are awkwardly stuck in an enclosed vehicle with a stranger who wants to know your relationship status right off the bat.

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And that, my friends, is why I am so glad THESE came. I now dub thee “Sanity Keeper Bars,” a.k.a. KIND Snacks. Raise your hand if you love ‘em as much as I do!

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When the wonderful rep K got in touch with me about sampling, reviewing, and giving away KIND bars on my blog, I jumped three feet in the air and immediately tagged in. I’d consumed plenty of KIND bars before the sampler box, but mostly on campus where the vending machine selection is limited to Almond Cranberry (a very good choice–but by no means a gateway to the snackers’ haven that I was about to receive).

And I couldn’t have asked for better timing: what with one of the most insanely pressing, time-crunched months this year, and several unexpected events to shake things up in my personal life, I can hardly find time to haul myself into the kitchen these days (sorry, abandoned oven!), much less prep something satisfying for myself to gnaw on.

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Luckily, that’s where this box kicked in! K from KIND sent me an awesome sample: 3 huge packs of granola, a handful of snack squares, and a variety of about 8 assorted bars in every flavor I had wanted to try. #starvinggradstudent’s paradise? I think so.

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I polished off the majority of these snacks on my post-run, pre-work days, when I needed to refuel but didn’t have time for any sort of fancy knifework or yogurt-spooning. And let me tell you know: they are such a treat after a workout! I’m supposed to be working towards my very first half-marathon at the end of this month (haven’t ran outdoors since mid-July though, oops…) and these bars are helping me stay in tip-top shape. Or so I’d gladly believe! They are, however, definitely keeping me and my on-the-go lifestyle sane. So what’s the verdict, you ask?

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Well, while I loved every single bar that came my way, my Top Three Favorite Sampled KIND Bars were…

#3: Almond and Coconut

It tasted like Hawaii had up and thrown a party in my mouth. Uh-may-zing! This is probably the bar I could eat most frequently without ever getting tired of it. It’s just light & refreshing enough with a sweet zap of coconut flavor to brighten up my day after a workout!

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#2: Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt

I have been obsessed with salty&sweet lately, so it’s no surprise I fell for these bars right away–and fell hard. By the time I’d finished this bar (in about 7.25 seconds, mind you), I was gnawing on my fingers trying to imagine that there was still more of this bar left for consumption. So yeah, I loved the dark chocolate and sea salt combo loads! And finally…

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#1: Caramel Almond and Sea Salt

Did I mention I love sea salt? No, but seriously. If you are at all a fan of salted caramel, you will love this bar. In other words, I am asking you here and now if you are a human being. Because salted caramel, folks. Please do not try and convince me that it could be anything other than a GREAT BAR.

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So while I step aside and attempt to recover from these past few cray-cray weeks (thankfully, I still have quite a bit of granola left with which to nourish myself–hooray!), I’m going to let you enter for a giveaway from KIND Snacks. Eight delicious bars could be headed to your doorstep within the week: just make sure you do all these easy entries for your chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Filed under Giveaways, Snacks

Lemon Curd Coffee Crumb Cake for #SundaySupper

By the way, this cake? Is BOMB. So don’t forget to bookmark and Pin it before you read on: just because I’m straying off-topic today (and I will be you’ll see), doesn’t mean this cake wasn’t devoured in about two seconds to the highest accolade. Did I mention it’s probably in my Top 5 Recipes for this year? 

My blog is my Pensieve, and you are all the unfortunate captive witnesses to my unfiltered thoughts. Muahahaha.

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Well I mean, not “captive,” really. It’s not like I can actually keep you here–unless you find my charm so overwhelmingly paralyzing that your eyeballs stay glued to the screen in spite of your concerted efforts to tear them away. I bet this is a major problem for most of you, right? Right.

Today’s post is going to be a ramblepost…in case your gut didn’t inform you already.

However, I should mention before I continue that today’s post is also a #SundaySupper post with the way-talented SS bloggers! And the theme is Saving Summer, which is why I’m sharing lemons. The best thing about lemons is that you can “save” them by freezing them and simply popping them into the microwave for a few seconds when you need fresh juice/zest! Neat trick, right?

Okay, #continueramble…

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The funny thing about my rambles and writing this food blog is that I’m not actually really into writing about food. Okay, so when it comes to picking recipes from the bajillion-and-fifty-two that live on the interwebs, awesome descriptions about how your (say, random example) Lemon Curd Coffee Crumb Cake features a tangy, sweet, incredibly moist, savor-every-bite crumb topping with the perfect balance of vanilla drizzle might convince someone that they actually want to make your recipe.

But while I could (and probably should) be writing things of that nature on a FOOD BLOG, I’m just standing over here at my computer going YawnyYawnYawnittyYaaaawn.

“Selling” my recipes to you reminds me too much of my marketing days. I’d much rather be doing things other than raving to you about how insanely quickly this coffee cake was eaten up by all my friends.

So many other things, I’m sure.

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Seriously. I don’t feel like talking about it, okay? I mean, look at those gifs and these photos. Who would want to talk about them ALL DAY?

Apophasis, people. English major says: Look it up.

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But let’s be serious for a second here. One thing I’ve never really had a chance to talk about here is that I’m not the stereotypical food blogger. I certainly never considered turning it into a career or more than a really great hobby. In fact, I’m totally a writer first, baker second, social media guru third, photographer fourth, and lord-oh-lord-me an editor/administrative/organized human being disaster last. So when people find out I’m a food blogger and tell me I must looooove baking & taking pics & everything, I’m all just like

Yeah that stuff’s aight

and we all move on with our lives. Maybe eat a slice of lemon curd cake while we write children’s picture books and nonsense stories (which would be my dream line of work someday–now I just need to find someone who will pay me to write little tales and eat homemade desserts all day).

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But that being said,

There is also something indescribably wonderful about being part of a blogging community.

I do love baking, and I do love photographing and being all uppity on my social media. I love the idea of doing all these things, but there are things about it I don’t love: I certainly don’t relish having to wait until my dinner is cold to eat it because I spent the previous hour shooting it in the twilight lighting. I type so much, my carpal tunnel is much worse now and I’m fighting tooth & nail to keep it at bay (this is probably one of the worst job hazards). And let’s face it, my jeans could probably do without the gallons of butter and margarine and delicious enriching refined ingredients that go into a large chunk of my baked goods.

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However, blogging is more than the sum of its parts for me and when I cobble it all together a la peach cobbler,

I lurve it

Like, a lot.

It’s the writing AND the baking AND the photographing AND the communities AND the people AND the life experiences that make blogging so exciting. Just like a sack of flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla, butter, milk, and baking soda all sitting on your counter, nothing about it is inherently exciting…that is, until you combine them and measure them and bake them with care, and you step back to realize that you’ve created a masterpiece.

Sort of like this Lemon Curd Coffee Crumb Cake. Amiright? (By the way, you totally saw that tacky glorious metaphor coming, didn’t you? Ha!)

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That’s why, after this totally off-topic post, I’m still totally happy to rave to you about this Lemon Curd Coffee Crumb Cake, which has been ten years in the making.

Yes, that’s a lot of time spent on one coffee cake. When we were young, my mom would buy this glorious lemon curd coffee cake from Safeway. It isn’t just nostalgia: I loved this cake to pieces. Crumbly, moist pieces. My mom stopped buying it as we got a little older, but I still dream about it a few times a month. It wasn’t until this month, when my mom sent me back with a whole tubful of lemons–yay for SUMMER–that I finally sat down and thought to myself: finally. Lemon Curd Coffee Cake, here I come!

I paired the very best lemon curd recipe I’ve made with the very best coffee cake recipe I’ve made, so it was a sure recipe for success. Combine that with the fact that I tweaked for extra crumb / vanilla drizzle, and you’ll know exactly why my friends absolutely plowed through the 9-inch cake I made last week.

I’ve got big gifs and I cannot lie.

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I’m sharing this save-the-summer dessert with my very favorite #SundaySupper crew today, so don’t forget to check out all the amazing stuff they’ve come up with to save this summer!

Ala

Learn how to …

Sip sunny cocktails and smoothies

Scoop up special salsas and sauces

Jump into jellies, jams and preserves

Pucker up for pickles

Slurp and spoon soup and a side dish

Dive into divine desserts

Lemon Curd Coffee Crumb Cake for #SundaySupper

This is the ONLY way to make and serve coffee cake. With a super intense crumb topping and a lusciously tart&sweet lemon curd filling, this decadent dessert will get gobbled up ASAP at any time of day! A personal favorite. Lemon curd recipe adapted from Allrecipes. Coffee crumb cake recipe slightly adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction

Ingredients

    For the lemon curd:
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 + 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Zest of 3 lemons (I used approximately 1/4 cup zest)
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • For the coffee crumb cake:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons butter or margarine, cold
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • For the vanilla glaze drizzle:
  • 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon milk, added only as needed

Instructions

    For the lemon curd:
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar and eggs until smooth. Mix in remaining ingredients.
  2. Heat in microwave at 1-minute intervals, stirring in between each interval. Continue heating until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 4-5 minutes total).
  3. Cover bowl with cling wrap and refrigerate until ready to use (up to two weeks).
  4. For the coffee crumb cake:
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan and set aside.
  6. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in butter using a fork, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside 1 cup of this mixture.
  7. Mix baking powder and baking soda into the remaining large bowl of flour mixture. Add buttermilk, egg, and vanilla, and mix vigorously until batter is smooth and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. (Sally notes here that it should resemble frosting.) Pour half of the batter into prepared pan, then spread 2/3 of the lemon curd in dollops over the batter. Pour remaining batter on top; dollop with remaining lemon curd.
  8. To make the crumb: Mix brown sugar into the reserved flour mixture. Sprinkle crumbs evenly over the cake batter and lemon curd.
  9. Bake in preheated oven for 50-55 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  10. For the vanilla glaze:
  11. Combine sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Add up to 1 tablespoon of milk (as needed to reach drizzling consistency). Drizzle over the top of your cooled coffee cake and enjoy!

Notes

Buttermilk substitute: Instead of the 3/4 cup buttermilk in the recipe, you can make your own buttermilk by using 11 tablespoons of milk/soy milk/coconut milk and add 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Allow mixture to sit for 5 minutes before adding to recipe.

http://www.wallflourgirl.com/2014/08/10/lemon-curd-coffee-crumb-cake-sundaysupper/

Sunday Supper Movement

Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our#SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here—>Sunday Supper Movement.

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Cakes & Cupcakes, Fruit Desserts

Healthy Sticky Fudgy Chocolate Cake/Brownies (GF, Dairy-Free, Nut-Free, & Weird-Free)

Hi there. Yeah, you. I think you’re a really smart and charming person.

No, really! I mean it. And if you leave me a note after reading this post, I’ll take the time to personally tell you what’s great about you, too.

Healthy Sticky Fudgy Brownies 2--080214 (GF, Dairy-Free)But now stop and think for a moment: when was the last time you accepted a compliment?

And I mean honest-to-goodness, wholehearted, modesty-exempt acceptance?

Was it yesterday?

Was it a few weeks ago?

Was it just now, when I told you you were charming and smart and a wonderful human being who has somehow found this hideaway blog of mine?

(And if it was that last one–good on you!)

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Recently I watched this video about the power of accepting compliments. I am a complete sucker for Making Life Meaningful clips. In the video, these social science-y folks do an experiment where couples split up and the one with lower self-esteem gets complimented–genuine compliments, mind you–by their partner.

And here’s the best part: the first person has to accept the compliment with only the words, “thank you.”

The idea behind this experiment is that accepting genuine compliments is a) hard for people who tend to have lower self-esteem, and b) great for boosting self-confidence, since the act of acceptance allows us to reflect on ourselves positively.Healthy Sticky Fudgy Brownies 17--080214 (GF, Dairy-Free)

Now, I can honestly tell you that I suck at accepting compliments. My ability to accept them is inversely proportional to the amount of chocolate I have consumed on any given day, so if you have the godforsaken misfortune to catch me on a day sans Chocolat, be prepared to have your compliments shot down to the point of awkward embarrassment. I usually enter any conversation armed with an arsenal of “no’s,” “it’s really not’s,” and “no seriously, it’s nothing’s.”

It’s not Compliment Fishing. I’d rather call it Anti-Compliment Defense Ballistics.

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I’m not (yet) great at accepting praise I don’t think I’ve earned, which is 95% of the time, and I’m pretty sure I cultivated this defense system because I grew up hearing about how So-And-So had gotten the title of Valedictorian while I had received an A- in Art, Lord have mercy on my subpar soul.

Don’t even get me started on the number of guys who were “paying compliments” wayyy before I had any idea what was going on, just because it never registered that anyone would ever want to do such a thing.

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But before you start thinking I have a complete and concerning inferiority complex, I certainly am getting better at accepting compliments now that I know what to look for. The most frequent one I receive is still mildly (but really only mildly) embarassing: it’s about how much I smile.

Total strangers (usually older folk) will come up to me and tell me that I need to keep up that smile. Recently, a friend told me that I make her feel awesome because I always smile, no matter how incredibly dumb a thing she has just said. And one time I went swing dancing at a downtown venue and my partner shouted to me as he spun me around, “That SMILE! Just look at you!”

Most of the time when I hear this now, I’ll just grin even wider, maybe shuffle my shoes, and not say anything at all. Inside I feel pretty self-conscious, but really, it’s high time I learned to take the compliment, not overthink, and just roll with it.

Yeah, I smile. And yeah, I’ll take that compliment!

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That’s why I was a good girl when it came to accepting compliments about today’s recipe. This weekend, I made Lemon Curd Coffee Crumble Cake (recipe coming next Sunday!), some of the Gochujang Peanut Pasta you all loved, and these Healthy Sticky Brownies I adapted from the inestimable Izy over at Top with Cinnamon, whose blog I consider in my Top 10 Favorites. If for some incredible reason (say,  alien abduction) you haven’t visited her blog before, you need to. This girl pulls out all the stops with her photography and stunning, inventive recipes.

So when my friends all swooned over this incredibly moist recipe and told me it tasted like a chocolatey heaven with the texture of a Fig Newton, I was ecstatic. Rather than gunning down their praise, I smiled and simply said, “Thank you.”

Because deep down inside, I know that they’re right. And it’s not such a bad thing sometimes to let others make you feel good about yourself. This is why I love baking and blogging so much–talk about affirmation community central!

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And of course, the chocolate always helps.

Don’t skip out on this easy peasy, oh-so healthy but not-too-sweet chocolatey recipe and all the compliments it will bring your way!Healthy Sticky Fudgy Brownies 14--080214 (GF, Dairy-Free)

 

So…what compliment can I pay you today? Leave a comment, I’d be so happy to meet your charming lovely self!

Ala

Healthy Sticky Fudgy Chocolate Cake/Brownies (GF, Dairy-Free, Nut-Free, & Weird-Free)

Incredibly sticky and moist, this healthified chocolate cake/brownie features no weird ingredients and a superstar chocolatey taste! Sure to convert even the wariest of friends into healthy dessert addicts. Adapted from Top with Cinnamon

Ingredients

  • 6-7 tablespoons honey (or substitute agave), to taste
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons applesauce (or pumpkin puree)
  • 2 tablespoons cookie butter or Biscoff spread (which I used for a nut-free alternative) OR cashew/almond/nut butter (Izy's original recipe)
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons ground flax seed
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dairy-free semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease two mini-3x5 loaf pans, or one larger 5x7 loaf pan, and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together honey, egg, vanilla, applesauce, and cookie/nut butter until smooth.
  3. Add flax, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in until just incorporated into wet ingredients. Fold in chocolate chips.
  4. Divide batter between two mini pans or pour directly into larger loaf pan. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes (mini pans) or 20-25 minutes (loaf pan). Cool completely before cutting into bars/squares, and enjoy!
  5. PS: you rock!
http://www.wallflourgirl.com/2014/08/04/healthy-sticky-fudgy-chocolate-cakebrownies-gf-dairy-free-nut-free-weird-free/

19 Comments

Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Brownies & Chocolates, Cakes & Cupcakes

Hawaiian Chantilly Layer Cheesecake Cake for #cheesecakeday

Hawaiian Chantilly Layer Cheesecake Cake 2--073014

 

July 30th: Cheesecake Day.

Otherwise known as the day on which my daily obsession becomes a justified necessity. Oh cheesecake, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

Hawaiian Chantilly Layer Cheesecake Cake gif

If you’ve been following Wallflour Girl for any time, you’ll know that I have been writing and philosophizing and waxing poetic about a bunch of abstract topics lately. So if you’re looking for really elegant expostulations on the state of the human race and our speckle of presence in the wide universe, you’ll want to read those posts I’ve cited.

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There is nothing abstract about this post.

It is 100% pure chocolatey creamy cheesecake frosted tangible goodness, thank you very much.

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When I found out about the #cheesecakeday round-up these wonderful bloggers were doing on Facebook, I was thrilled, hungry, busy–and extremely nervous. It was Thursday, and I had exactly 6 days to develop, make, photograph, edit, and write about the perfect recipe. Six days. What’s a girl to do with six measly cheesecakey days, I ask you?

I hope you realize that question was a rhetorical one.

Make a damn good seven-layer fusion cheesecake…that’s what. This may be my favorite cheesecake, ever. Period.

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This cheesecake was born of an innocuous Friday night conversation over two plates of free Jewish diner cake. My friend and I had just watched Boyhood in theaters, so by the time we sat through 180 minutes of angst-laden adolescent and walked out at 10:30 PM, of course we had a big bad case of the HANGRAYS.

Luckily, our movie tickets got us free dessert with the purchase of a meal, so we ordered up a storm from the menu and promptly terrorized the bakery manager by raiding the huge desserts display outside the restaurant. This place has everything–red velvet cake, blackout cake, decker cake–but most of all, it had German chocolate cake, at which point I was all like “OH YEAH I LOVE THAT STUFF IT’S TOTALLY MY JAM Y’KNOW.”

Okay, so I had never tried German chocolate cake in my life. But it’s just one of those things you can’t imagine hating, ever, even if it kidnapped your pet turtle and gave you a massive wedgie. German chocolate cake is like a baby panda.

You don’t hate on something as epic and universally acclaimed as cake and baby pandas. You just don’t.

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As we chatted, my friend asked me if I had ever heard of a chantilly cake: he described it as a classic Hawaiian dessert that resembled German chocolate cake, with a custardy frosting and fluffy chocolate base but without the coconut. And of course, this sweet conversation got us talking about what I was planning to make for Cheesecake Day, which is how this epic layer cheesecake cake was born.

This is a creamy seven-layer cake with

four layers of insanely fluffy moist chocolate chiffon cake,

three layers of perfectly creamy, smooth New York style cheesecake,

a generous coating of cool, not-too-sweet chocolate whipped cream frosting,

a custardy smooth chantilly frosting, and

nicely toasted crunchy sweet coconut.

 

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This is, hands down, the best cheesecake layer cake I have ever made, and possibly in my top 5 desserts ever!

Sink your fork into absolute cheesecake indulgence today–or tomorrow, or the day after, or for all time eternal–and find out why we’re all SO excited to be celebrating Cheesecake Day over here today. Trust me, you NEED this recipe in your book!

Hawaiian Chantilly Layer Cheesecake Cake for #cheesecakeday

8-inch springform pan; 7-layer cake

This creamy twist on a Hawaiian classic cake beats out any cheesecake I've ever tried! With a perfectly textured cheesecake sandwiched between layers of fluffy rich chocolate cake, tempered by a cool whipped chocolate cream & chantilly frosting, this cake only gets moister with time. Don't be daunted by the multiple steps--it only took me 4 hours from start to finish. An instant Wallflour Favorite!

Ingredients

    New York Style Cheesecake Layer
  • Adapted from Allrecipes
  • 3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/2 cup + tablespoon milk or soy milk
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup 0% Greek yogurt (or low/full-fat; may also sub sour cream)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Chocolate Chiffon Cake
  • Adapted from Taste of Home
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons instant coffee granules (optional)
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup + 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 7 eggs, separated, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanhilla extract
  • Chantilly Frosting
  • Original recipe from Guava Rose
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • Whipped Chocolate Frosting:
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes

Instructions

    For the cheesecake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch springform pan and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together cream cheese and sugar until very light and fluffy, with no lumps remaining.
  3. Stir in milk.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, stirring in until just incorporated. DO NOT OVERBEAT.
  5. Stir in yogurt, vanilla, and flour until mixture is just combined and smooth.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan and place the pan inside a larger one (to catch leaks). Bake in preheated oven for 55 minutes, then turn off oven and DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR. Allow cheesecake to sit inside oven for another hour before removing and placing in refrigerator; the gradual cooling will prevent your cheesecake from cracking. (If your cheesecake does crack, though, there's nothing to worry about: it'll be stuffed inside scrumptious layers anyway!)
  7. Allow to chill completely (at least 3 hours) before assembling cake.
  8. For the chocolate cake:
  9. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8-inch springform pan and set aside.
  10. In a medium bowl, stir cocoa powder and coffee granules into hot water until dissolved. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
  11. Using a colander, sift flour and cornstarch together into a large bowl. Mix in sugar, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  12. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks, oil, and vanilla. Gently fold this mixture, along with the cooled cocoa mixture, into the dry ingredients until smooth.
  13. In another grease-free bowl, beat egg whites with a hand mixer until they form stiff peaks, about 3-4 minutes. Fold egg whites into batter.
  14. Pour 1/4 cake batter into prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow cake to cool before removing to a cooling rack, then refill with another 1/4 batter and repeat until you have four prepared cake layers. (Alternatively, you may bake all your batter at once, but make sure you adjust baking time accordingly!)
  15. Wrap cooled cakes in cling wrap and place in freezer until ready to use.
  16. For chantilly frosting:
  17. Combine all ingredients except cornstarch in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.
  18. Allow mixture to come to come to a slow boil, then continue stirring occasionally and boil mixture for 2 minutes before removing from heat.
  19. Quickly whisk in cornstarch, taking care to continue whisking until mixture is completely smooth. If lumps appear, strain your mixture through a sieve.
  20. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using.
  21. For whipped chocolate frosting:
  22. Place all ingredients in a food processor. Blend for about 15 seconds, until frosting stiffens and becomes just spreadable.
  23. For assembly:
  24. Spread coconut flakes on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven (at 250 degrees) for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until flakes become golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool as you assemble your cake.
  25. Remove all cake and cheesecake layers from refrigerator/freezer. You should have 4 chocolate cake layers and 3 cheesecake layers. (If you do not, use a serrated knife at this time to slice your cakes into the appropriate number of layers.)
  26. Place one chocolate cake layer onto a large serving plate. Carefully top with a cheesecake layer, then continue layering until you have seven alternating layers.
  27. Frost entire cake with whipped chocolate frosting using an offset spatula. If desired, frost a circle around the top of the cake to hold in the chantilly frosting, which may leak slightly.
  28. Gently spread chantilly frosting on top of frosted cake.
  29. Top with toasted coconut flakes.
  30. Store cake in fridge or slice immediately for instant creamy gratification! Happy cheesecake day!
http://www.wallflourgirl.com/2014/07/30/hawaiian-chantilly-layer-cheesecake-cake-cheesecakeday/

Need your cheesecake kick on Cheesecake Day? Check out these awesome features from other #cheesecakeday bloggers!

Baked Cheesecakes:

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Filed under Cakes & Cupcakes, Cheesecakes

Salty Oatmeal Cookie Chocolate Bars–and On Being A Wallflower/flour

“Because you saw me when I was invisible.”

Salted Oatmeal Cookie Chocolate Bars 2--071614

I was thinking about this post last week and Googled that quote, expecting to be smothered by a deluge of cliche love saying sites and poems written by angsty teens with next-to-nil metrical know-how. Instead, I was thrown into a Flashback Friday moment when images like this and this popped up one after another, reminding me of why I liked The Princess Diaries so much in the first place: because who doesn’t feel like they’re an invisible little nobody some days?

I know some people who thrive on being invisible. They would Avada Kedavra the holy hippogriffs out of somebody to own an Invisibility Cloak. (Excuse me, I have Harry Potter on the mind lately–clearly.)

Then there’s me–I need attention and notice like Robin needs Batman, a.k.a. a lot. It would not be inaccurate to say that I am a human dog except much less adorable. (Debatable: I know.)

Salted Oatmeal Cookie Chocolate Bars 5--071614

 

I’m not talking about wanting negative attention or experiencing desperate withdrawals in my room’s darkest corner, but there’s no doubt that my parents raised a bouncing baby extrovert. I’m the only one in my family who feeds off human energy the way the monsters in Sailor Moon do: fervidly and unceasingly (seriously, do they never give up?).

What even my closest friends may not know is that I can also be super self-conscious about my hyper-enthusiasm. I’ll laugh if you tell me with a straight face that I am way too excited (because yeah, I am), but if you tell me that in an aw-look-how-cute-it-is-that-she’s-excited or deadpan way chances are I’d like nothing better than to punch you in the face.

Just kidding–I don’t like to get my knuckles dirty. But you’d probably see me skulking around a dark alleyway later that night, all brooding and Edward Cullen-like.

Okay, I wouldn’t. But you get the point.

Ala = super self-conscious ball of physics-defying energy who likes attention.

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Do any of you out there feel the same way? I’ve always just assumed that the road to food bloggerdom is paved with extroverts, because who else would spend half their waking hours publicly documenting the other half of their life, but that’s probably not true. Even as an extrovert, I loved writing because it didn’t require me to be “on” all the time or think of unparalleled witticisms on the spot (by the way, I suck at instant witticisms so if we ever meet in person, you’ll probably want to start the conversation on a particularly slooooow note). I don’t think I’m an awe-inspiring writer or anything, but I most certainly wouldn’t consider myself a natural A-game talker, either.

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I am dreadful at mingling at parties or among large confident groups of people–hence the “wallflower girl” nomenclature–and even when it seems like I am totally in my element, I am probably gauging every facial tick and restless eye twitch for disinterest from my listener. I actually do think of my interactions in terms of the Relationship Meter from the Sims game, which may not be an accurate representation of how relationships work in real life.

And when I’m the only one who’s not holding a drink or laughing along like hurr-hurr-hurr at some dumb humor joke that everyone has managed to find funny, I’d like nothing better than to melt into the wallpaper behind me like that creepy Clay Aiken creature who invisibly watches you in your room and serenades you with the suggestion that he could be your perfect man.

Yeah, I never understood that song either.

Whenever I start to feel particularly Clay Aiken-y, though, I have to remind myself that the total number of people in the room who probably notice my awkwardness is one: me.

Judgy folks will still judge, but being awkward is sort of like being a fart–yes, people notice, but most of the time nobody will say anything and everybody will forget about it, unless you’re a particularly big silent smelly fart, in which case people won’t forget but then again you should’ve known better than to go back for seconds on the refried beans anyway.

If we ever meet in person, these are the types of terrible, not particularly reassuring metaphors toward which you can look forward. Enjoy.

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But let’s go back to where I started when I first wrote this rambling post: invisibility. As far as I know (and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong), there are two types of social invisibles in this world: those who like being invisible, and those who think they are invisible.

One of the reasons I took up baking in the first place was because I wanted the friends and acquaintances in my life to feel noticed. Trust me: it can be difficult, creepy, not to mention imposing to walk up to a lonely wallflower and tell them that they aren’t as invisible as they may think. Do I walk up to the person who just farted and start small talk while pretending to ignore the doomsday fumes enveloping their three-foot bubble?

That’s probably the last thing a farter needs at that mortifyingly awkward moment: company. But if you plop a little bag of home-baked cookie bars with a nice note on their desk for them to find the next day,  it’s a gesture that they’d probably appreciate. That bag of bars says, Hey so this has nothing to do with you farting at the party last night not that I noticed or anything but I just wanted to say that we should be friends, so yay, let’s be friends through cookies.

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A few weeks ago, I was browsing through Facebook and found some posts by a good friend whom I haven’t seen in a long time but who is also one of the kindest, most genuine people I know. From what I read, it sounded like she was having a tough time at her new job–it was one of those nonchalant-but-really-not-nonchalant status updates that wants to be noticed, but is afraid to ask.

“We accept the love we think we deserve,” that wonderful novel-turned-film The Perks of Being a Wallflower reminds us. Apart from my family (and even then, sometimes), I am terrible at accepting love, but I do believe that everyone deserves it, especially when we think that nobody notices how badly we need it. Some people like being invisible, but nobody likes feeling invisible. That night after we chatted, I made these wonderful salted oatmeal cookie bars, packed them up, and shipped them up north the next day.

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Then of course I forgot all about them, until I opened up my Facebook a few days later and found this awesome, surprising message:

What a super surprise! Thank you!!! You, you, you Big Sweetie!”

And then this Facebook status she posted:

“Wow! I came home yesterday, tired and low, when I discovered a package of salty chocolate granola bars made by the amazing Ala, child lit scholar/master chef!! What a wonderful surprise! (You can check out her web page at wallflourgirl.com)

If awkwardness is like farting, then giving is like giving your kid a five-dollar bill at the carnival prize booth–they run off with a greenback and come back with their arms so laden with STUFF (they still give out those giant inflatable hammer toys?!) that you can hardly believe all that came out of a measly slip of paper currency. I read my friend’s message with a huge grin and danced around the room for a few minutes, because giving rocks. And the funny thing about giving to others is that you’re not just letting them know you notice them: chances are, they’ll notice you a little bit more in return, too.

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So that’s the story behind these salty oat bars, which were my first experiment with using coarse sea salt (by the way, I am a total convert now–it’s so cheap! Bought a huge box at the dollar store). My friend loves chocolate so I threw in a few handfuls for good measure, then whipped up a batch of good ol’ chewy chunky oat bars and sprinkled it with a liberal dose of sea salt for good measure.

These bars are the perfect way to show a friend that he or she’s not invisible! They’re a wonderful, addicting mix of salty and slightly sweet, with a perfect balance of chocolate heartiness for care packages. What do you think–is there anyone you can think of who needs a little noticing today?

Ala

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Filed under Bars

Guest Post from Neighbor Food: S’more Cake Pops

It’s only Tuesday, but T.G.I.C.: Thank goodness it’s Courtney from Neighbor Food!

This girl is a lifesend and a lifesaver, period. It has been nearly one–count it, one–full month since I’ve last had a chance to bake. Cue brief flickers of bloggy unease, followed by a 9.6-magnitude shock of panic, immediately assuaged by the soothing tones of Courtney’s calm, smiling (I imagine) assurance that she could write this guest post for me.

You’ll see why I love her, her blog, her recipes, and just everything about her so much once you read on! Plus, since I haven’t had time to do baking of my own, I had my face plastered to the screen as I attempted to lick the pixels clean off while writing a coherent introduction. The results are disappointing, but that’s why I’m handing this space over to Courtney, who has her stuff together way better than I do today.

So without further ado–here’s Courtney!

*******************************

Hey Wallflour friends! I’m so excited to be visiting today from my little cozy Internet home, Neighborfood. The World Wide Web can be a royal World Wide Pain at times, but it’s things like this that make me incredibly thankful for its existence. Thanks to Ala for inviting me to share this virtual space with all of you today!

S'more Cake Pops- An easy bite-sized treat!

Let’s talk about cake pops. Are they out of style? I seem to always be about 8.5 months behind the food trend curve. I’m just now getting into donuts, and I feel like everyone’s already moved on to ice cream sandwiches. Don’t mind me. I’ll just be the one raving about the cronut two years from now, when I’m sure some other bizarre hybrid food (pizztacos? waffleburgers?) will have taken the blogosphere by storm.

Frankly, the reason I never got into cake pops is because I simply didn’t like them. I always thought they were sickly sweet and required way more work than their taste was worth. But sometimes you bake too much cake, and as much as I’m not a fan of cake pops, I’m even less a fan of wasting cake. So there I was with a big ol’ bowl of yellow cake crumbs and nothing to do but craft a cake pop.

s'more-cake-pops-7

Friends, I’m happy to tell you I’ve had a change of heart. These cake pops are different. Easy to make. Not overly sweet, and covered in chocolate. They’ve got a lot going from them.

Let’s start with the cake itself. The typical cake pop is made with a combination of crumbled cake crumbs and canned frosting. Until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t questioned this formula, but since I don’t normally stock canned frosting, I found myself scrambling for another option. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and I’ve found this to be absolutely true in my kitchen endeavors. It’s amazing the creative juices I can work up when it means I can avoid an extra trip to the store.

A little pantry searching led me to a half opened jar of marshmallow creme just begging for its time to shine. I snatched it up and added it to the cake crumbs until they adhered to each other and could be rolled into balls.

S'More Cake Pops

Of course, the moment the marshmallow creme hit the crumbs, these cake pops were destined for smoredom. After being rolled into balls and frozen so they stayed together, the balls got dipped into melted chocolate then rolled into crushed honey grahams. Of course, you can use regular graham crackers as well, but the honey grahams stayed crunchier, which I liked.

Now this is a cake pop I can’t resist. The marshmallow creme and chocolate keep these from becoming overly sweet, and the grahams add a nice unexpected texture I appreciated. These disappeared at my work, and when coworkers requested the recipe I was happy to tell them it was only 5 ingredients and easy peasy.

S'more Cake Pops

If you’ve never made cake pops before, here are my suggestions. Cake pops are made more on feel than precision. What I mean is, don’t get caught up too much in specific amounts, especially when it comes to the crumbs and the marshmallow creme. You can easily adjust this based on the amount of crumbs you have. The important thing is to add just enough creme to get everything to stick together.

My second tip? Always, always freeze the balls before dipping. I usually put the sticks in them then freeze for at least a half an hour. A little shortening in the melted chocolate will help keep it nice and smooth and make it easier to dip.

And finally, I find the easiest way to store these is to punch the sticks through an empty egg carton once they’re dipped. They’ll be able to dry without touching. Recycling is awesome isn’t it?

S'mores on a stick!

I really hope you’ll give these summery treats a try! And if you’re not a cake pop lover, I think a change of heart might be in your future.

S’more Cake Pops
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 20
Ingredients
  • 4 cups yellow cake crumbs
  • 1/4-1/2 cup marshmallow creme
  • 12 ounces milk or semi sweet chocolate
  • 2 Tablespoons shortening
  • 1 cup honey graham cereal, crushed
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine the cake crumbs and marshmallow creme. Add just enough marshmallow creme to get the mixture to stick together. You should be able to roll it into a ball without it falling apart.
  2. Roll the mixture into 1-2 inch sized balls and place on a baking sheet. Place the popsicle sticks three quarters of the way through the balls then freeze for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate and shortening together in the microwave (in 30 second increments) or in a double boiler. Place in a deep bowl for dipping. Place the graham cracker crumbs in another bowl.
  4. When the balls are frozen, dip them into the chocolate, making sure it overlaps the stick slightly. You can use a toothpick to get rid of excess dripping chocolate. Immediately roll the balls in the crushed graham crackers then place right side up in an egg carton or foam core board to dry. Store in a cool, dry place.
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I am 11005% behind Courtney on this one–I’m not usually a cake ball fan either, but with this killer s’mores combo, how could anyone resist? My choco-graham-mallow senses have been set ablaze with the fire of a really big flaming star called da Sun. And luckily, this s’mores-inspired recipe doesn’t require a single flame in this godforsaken hot weather. Win-win? I think so!
Thank you, Court, for guest posting today–ISN’T SHE LOVELY FOLKS?

Loving what you read today? Connect with Courtney!

Blog: http://www.neighborfoodblog.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/NeighborFoodie

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Neighborfoodblog

Instagram: http://instagram.com/neighborfoodie

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/neighborfood/

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Guest Post from Blahnik Baker: Hazelnut Macarons with Chocolate Ganache

Folks, I haven’t felt this excited since I heard that these brand spankin’ new episodes of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon would be hitting the screen after nearly a decade of muffled silence. I told Zainab I’ve been crazy busy lately doing Grown-Up World things–like maniacally hurling homemade spiky shells at my fellow street-sharers on a FIVE-hour commute–but really I’d rather just lock myself in my dust-infested closet with my laptop and gorge on unhealthy amounts of Sailor Moon.

And maybe try like the moron I am to eat the pixels right off these gorgeous macaron photos Zainab sent me.

Have you met the stunning Zainab from Blahnik Baker? She’s the grad student baker blogger who knows what’s up. As a crazy Legilimency expert As a crazy someone who read Zainab’s post before posting it (duh), I know what she’s going to say about me and would like to add that I say the same about her, except times about a bazillion and forty. I admire her work, her dedication, and most of all her ability to excel as a fellow grad student while somehow managing to keep her marbles all where they belong: in her brilliant noggin of Nogginness.

So before I get carried away by my effusive praises (which are, by the way, super deserved), I’m turning over the floor to the lovely lady herself!

Hazelnut Macarons with Chocolate Ganache via Blahnik Baker_3

Hello everyone!! My name is Zainab and I am so excited to be here today. I am a HUGE fan of Wallflour Girl and she is one of my favorite blogs to read. I’m sure she is one of yours too because you are here :) I blog over at Blahnik Baker where I love sharing easy but creative desserts.

Hazelnut Macarons with Chocolate Ganache via Blahnik Baker_1

I just recently met this wonderful lady through a guest post she did over on Nancy’s blog. That post resonated so much with me that I spent all morning checking out her blog, writing and recipes!! Only to discover she is a PhD student like me and a passionate, honest and intelligent lady!! On her guest post, she wrote about her “Wall of Smiles” and I’m in love with her idea. I struggle very much with finding the happy moments in my daily life being a graduate student (it’s really hard) but ever since I read her post, I’ve been trying hard every day to pause and notice the little things. And at the end of every night, I think of one thing, event or person that made me smile and write it down in a notebook (or make a mental note if I am really tired and in bed already. I really need to move that notepad to my nightstand).

Thank you Ala! You inspire me daily :)

Hazelnut Macarons with Chocolate Chambord  Ganache

Anyway enough small talk, on to the sweets now. Macarons!!! I love making macarons and have fallen madly in love with these French delicacies. I make them just for fun most times and I experiment a lot with flavors, texture and fillings.

Funny thing, when the husband walks in and I am making macarons, he can almost assume I had a long hard day at work and just need some peaceful baking time. And macarons do that for me. I know people think they are temperamental and hard to make, but to be honest they are actually very easy cookies to make.

Hazelnut Macarons with Chocolate Chambord  Ganache

These hazelnut macarons were an attempt to make macarons with hazelnut flour instead of the traditional almond flour. The macaron shells are pillow-y soft and are filled with a sweet chocolate ganache spiked with Chambord.

I hope you enjoy these macarons! And thank you for having me today. Let’s all take a page from Ala’s book and enjoy the small things and moments in life. (Including these cookies!!)

Hazelnut Macarons with Chocolate Ganache via Blahnik Baker_5

Hazelnut Macarons with Chocolate Chambord Ganache

Ingredients

    For Macarons
  • 125g hazelnut flour
  • 175g powdered sugar
  • 105g egg whites
  • 75g sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • For Chocolate Chambord Ganache
  • 1⁄2 cup bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream (plus more if needed)
  • 1 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons Chambord (raspberry liqueur)

Instructions

  1. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. I used a 11⁄2-inch round cookie cutter to draw circles on the parchment paper and flip over the paper (drawing side down). Prepare a pastry bag with a round tip. I used Wilton 2A.
  2. Using a food processor, pulse the powdered sugar and hazelnut flour into fine powder. Sift several times until there is less than 2 tablespoons of hazelnut bits left. Add these to the mixture.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, combine the egg whites and sugar. Whip on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the meringue and fold with a rubber spatula. Gently fold to deflate the meringue by pressing against the side of bowl and scooping from bottom until batter is smooth and shiny; about 20-25 folds. To check consistency, drop a spoonful of batter and it should have a peak that quickly relaxes back into the batter. Start checking the batter after 20 folds.
  5. Transfer batter into pastry bag and pipe the batter into the pre-traced circles on the baking sheet. Tap baking sheet hard on counter to release any air bubbles trapped in the batter. Let shells sit on counter for 20-30 minutes to dry, until a slight skin forms.
  6. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until shells hard, rotating cookie sheets halfway through baking time. You should be able to peel off the macaron from the parchment. Cool completely on cookie sheets before peeling from the parchment.
  7. For the Ganache:
  8. Combine the chocolate and heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30-45 seconds and stir until chocolate melts. Remove from microwave and stir in butter until melted and chocolate is smooth. Whisk in Chambord with butter. Match same size cookies; pipe a little mound of buttercream onto flat side of one cookie and top with another. Store refrigerated for at least 24 hours before serving.
http://www.wallflourgirl.com/2014/07/07/guest-post-blahnik-baker-hazelnut-macarons-chocolate-ganache/

I’ve never made a macaron in my life–commitment issues are the least of my problems–but you can bet your holy eggbeaters that I’m going to make this recipe ASAP. Thank you, you wonderful lady!

As if we needed more proof that Zainab is Wonder Woman in civilian disguise, I’ve taken a leaf out of her book by recruiting quite a few lovely guest posters for July and some of August. With life spinning out of control faster than a Mario Kart hit by ten red shells in succession, I’m up to my nose in sleepless work and am incredibly grateful for this wonderful crew that will be helping me survive. Look forward to meeting them all over the next few weeks–you’re going to love them all!

Oh, and for the record: Zainab, you totally made my Wall of Smiles today. Just FYI. ;)

Loving what you read today? Connect with Zainab!

Blog: www.blahnikbaker.com

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Cookies

Hot Fudge Chocolate Brownie with a Killer Choco Frosting (V, GF, Raw, No Added Sugar)–And the Importance of Meeting Strangers

My earliest memory of talking to a stranger goes back to Ala at age 6, standing in a ballet class, chatting happily and obliviously in her pink tutu to one of the nice ladies sitting near the side of the room.

Hot Fudge Larabar with Killer Choco Frosting 8--062914

“My mom told me not to talk to strangers,” I confidentially informed the lady, whom I remember now as friendly-faced and quite tall. “I’m Ala,” I continued, holding out my hand and solemnly shaking her, which was proffered with a smile. Then I added, just in case she didn’t understand, “Now we aren’t strangers anymore.”

And then I went right on chatting.

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My mom still laughs about this incident now, but in many ways it foreshadowed my later affinity for striking up random conversations  in the most unexpected places. Some of my closest friends or most interesting memories today have emerged from chance encounters of the Love Actually sort: getting a ride with another grad student to a surprise banquet, sitting down at a conference table with a Disney Imagineer, chatting with the night shuttle officer on my way back from school, catching public transportation and whiling away the time with surprisingly fun conversation.

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Though I don’t consider myself particularly confident (blog name, anyone?), I still love love love to meet random people. One of my best grad school friends is a bright, energetic gal I met in a Zumba class my first year: we spent the entire quarter beaming at each other in the mirror as we grooved and moved and body rolled with as much grace as flopping fish–and when we both arrived on the “last day of class” only to realize that the last day had been last week, we ended up jamming to our own tunes by setting up an improv class with her friends. Anytime anyone asks us how we met, we turn and positively grin at each other before launching into one of our favorite stories.

Hot Fudge Chocolate Brownie gif

Meeting strangers isn’t only an exciting way to make new friends–it’s good for you, too. Friends frequently ask me how I manage to stay so friendly and open to meeting new folks all. The. Time.  Well, a) I am not friendly and positive and open all the time. Just this week I had a total meltdown at 1 AM and practically shook my parents with my not-too-generous hysteria over the phone for 90 minutes. (Thank you, Mom!) b) When I am friendly, though, and that’s most of the time–it pays off. And it’s addicting. This month alone, I’ve met three people while standing in lines for things and actually managed to stay in touch with them. And most of the time, if they’re willing to engage in a random conversation with you, chances are that they’re lots of fun to be around, too.

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Like any book-crazy kid, I distinctly remember reading this book about the Berenstain Bears and stranger danger. I’m not advocating dumb, reckless danger-seeking encounters with sketchy people–I’m talking about putting away your cell phone as you wait for the cashier to ring you up and asking them if they still have a long day ahead of them. 95% of the time that’s where the conversation ends, but trust me: for the tiny amount of effort it takes on your part, other people sure notice it a lot.

Recently, a friend asked me where I get my endless stream of conversation starters from. How do I keep a conversation going organically? My answer was first, nervousness–I’m really not a “casual silence” kind of person, so if I sense the end of a conversation coming up, chances are I’ll already be thinking ahead to the next tangentially related thread. Second: questions. I once attended a keynote about the art of communication, and the speaker made a point that has resonated with me ever since. Do you ever notice how nervous we get when we get up to speak in public, but how comfortable we are listening?

Well, the same goes with conversations. If you’re nervous, ask a question and make the other person do the talking. They’ll feel like you’re genuinely interested in their lives (and hopefully, you are), and you’ll feel much more at ease for having got the ball rolling. You may brush off your hands and congratulate yourself on a job well-done now!

Hot Fudge Larabar with Killer Choco Frosting 14--062914 It takes some time to adjust, but as I’ve grown more comfortable reaching out to more and more strangers, I’ve found myself encountering an incredible new circle of acquaintances and–I’m proud to say–even friends. For 30 minutes every morning this month, I chatted with a bus driver named David, who turned out to be one of the most intelligent, gracious, and knowledgable people I have ever had the privilege of meeting. Forget my preconceptions about what bus drivers do–this man, who has an oldest daughter my age–even gave me some of the best advice for dealing with rambunctious neighbors that I have ever received. He transferred bus lines recently, but it’s still amazing to think that our paths still have every chance of crossing again in the future, and in the most unexpected circumstances.

More recently, I got to know a guy on the airport shuttle and we got dinner while talking about our PhD programs, vegetarianism, and cooking. I befriended so many children’s literature conference folks that I probably wouldn’t have met had I mummed up and kept to myself during the breakfast lines. I met another vegan friend while waiting to get airbrush tattoos drawn at a festival. I met yet another acquaintance while lining up for cake at an event.

And yes, I’ve kept in touch with all these people that I have met in the past 30 days: people who may end up flitting in and out of my life eventually, but are for the present moment at least such important, fun players in my daily excitement. You never know if the next person you meet may be your future employer, a great friend, a romantic interest, or just a plain pleasant person to chat with.

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While I’ve singing all these preachy praises about de-dangering strangers, however, you’ve probably been wondering about these brownies–these wonderful, gorgeous, delectable little bites (or huge hunks) of raw brownie. Many folks I know think that “raw,” “vegan,” and “gluten-free” are crazy fad words accompanied by terrible food. If you haven’t met raw bars like these before though (and I’m betting you haven’t, though you may have seen similar versions like my recipes for this and this)–keep an open mind and try them out. They’re sweet but only naturally so–they satisfy all those processed-sugar cravings you’ve been getting and trying to deny–and they’re actually insanely delicious. They taste more like chocolatey larabars than brownies, but the raw chocolate frosting sends these bars over the top.

In short, these are probably the best strangers you’ll ever meet in the food spectrum. Make them! And don’t forget–every person (and recipe) you pass could be the next connection you’ve been waiting to meet!

Ala

Hot Fudge Larabar with Killer Choco Frosting 10--062914

This week, I challenge you to put aside your phone, book, distractions, whatever–and to meet one stranger. Try striking up conversation in the supermarket or ask them a question about the book they’re reading, and then report back here. What was your experience like? Was it a positive, negative, or neutral one? How did you feel afterwards?

Hot Fudge Chocolate Brownie (V, GF, Raw, No Added Sugar)

The perfect chocolate fix without any of the guilt--a refined sugar-free, no-bake, 3-minute recipe that my friends have been requesting left and right. Perfect for the vegans, chocolate-lovers, or general human beings in your left!

Ingredients

    Raw Brownie Recipe:
  • 35 pitted dates, any variety (I used pitted deglet noor dates)
  • 1 1/4 cup almonds (or your preferred nut)
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • Chocolate Frosting Recipe
  • 15 dates
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Instructions

    For the Brownies:
  1. Throw everything in the food processor and pulse until dough comes together.
  2. Pour dough into aluminum foil, smushing dough until it forms a rectangle about 2/3-inch thick. Pour or spread chocolate frosting (recipe below) evenly on top. Chill in fridge until ready to cut into bars.
  3. For the Frosting.
  4. Blend dates in food processor until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Add coconut milk and cocoa powder; continue blending until completely smooth, to a thick liquid state. Pour evenly over brownies.
http://www.wallflourgirl.com/2014/07/02/hot-fudge-chocolate-brownie-v-gf-raw-added-sugar/

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Filed under Bars, Brownies & Chocolates

Classic Spiced Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I am sorely tempted to write about one of the most wonderful, exciting days of my life, which happened just two days ago–but that will have to wait for my Tuesday post (mostly because it’s going to take a lot more pictures and I’m dead on my feet from this 4-day conference).

Instead, I’m writing a short piece about the perks of meeting cute people in random places under crazy bizarre circumstances. Yes, I’m meeting cute boys and getting their numbers all over the place these days. Cat got yer attention yet?

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Over the past few months, armed with a newfound confidence that seemed to spring from my post-exam europhia in alarming abundance, I’ve grown dead comfortable in my own shoes and frankly love meeting everyone and anyone. I strike up conversations with people waiting in line for coffee, I allow the person asking for the time follow up with questions about the copy of Dr. Seuss I’m reading, and I hardly bat an eye anymore when that handsome waiter comes over bringing trays of appetizers “on the house,” “just ’cause.” I’ve noticed that freebies tend to be a side perk of being friendly, and as a wallet-scrunching grad student, I’ll take what I get.

Possibly my favorite part about staying open-minded about random encounters, though, is the potential for hilarious stories to tell all your friends afterwards. Most recently, I walked into a Starbucks and spotted a really good-looking guy about my age sitting at one of the counters with a laptop. On a scale of 1 to 10, he was a 9.5–Zac Efron meets Orlando Bloom and bonus points for the clean shave.

After about 5 minutes of fiddling with my bike outside debating whether or not I should leave (as I had planned), I finally made the decision: I bolted my bike lock, strode determinedly back to the door (slapping on my ‘Hi my name is Ala and I’m friendly not psychotically over-deliberative’ face in the process), and plopped myself onto a stool next to his friend, where we struck up conversation about who knows what–and frankly, I didn’t really care what. It might have been about his college’s finals or something. Anyway, about a minute into this conversation, he looked up from the other side of his friend, caught my eye, and smiled at me.

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Ignoring the impending swoon that threatened to keel me over like a dehydrated dandelion, I smiled back and asked him if he, too, was a student. This sent us spiraling into a whole other conversation (he was a business student, he lived not too far away, and we both loved coffee shops) and before I knew it, we had been chatting for near ten minutes. It was about this time, however, that we hit our first lovely bump.

Him: Sooo, your last name–what is it, Chinese?

Me: Yeah, it is.

Him: Oh, very cool. (beat. Then, proudly) I’m half Japanese, too.

(silence)

Me: …Oh. Uhhh. Really, is that so?

Him: Yeah, I am.

Me: Um, cool.

Him: So we have a connection there.

Call me crazy, but last I checked, Japan and China were two entirely different political, cultural, socioeconomic creatures, bro.

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Strike 2 came pretty soon after–and like the aftershock of an earthquake, it came in with some pretty hefty speed behind bump #1.

His friend (to me) : “So like, you don’t look Chinese.”

Me: “Oh?”

Him: “Nah, you look like–”

Friend: “Filipino!”

Him: “Yeah, or Hawaiian or something. Definitely not Chinese.”

Friend: “Nope.”

Me: (laughs–probably torn between amusement and doubt)

Him: “You look too dark to be Chinese, y’know? (beat) I thought maybe you were half or something. Yeahh, that’s it. You look half. Kinda like me. I’m half Japanese.”

Me: “Oh.”

Joy?

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Anyway, the takeaway from this short anecdote is that people really do say just the strangest things. However, if you never take the chance and open up to new meetings with strangers (cute or not), you’ll never know what funny, strange, wonderful conversations you might have missed as a result. My friends and I got a good laugh out of it for a whole day afterwards, so if nothing else it made for a good story!

Speaking of keeping open-minded, I thought I’d experiment with a technique called “painting by light” and photographed my favorite spiced oatmeal cookie recipe today in complete darkness. I used an LED flashlight to “paint” the cookies with short bursts of light that would illuminate them in certain ways and strategically cast shadows. I was mostly playing around, but hey–these are still darned good cookies! How do you like ‘em? Are they intriguing? Fun? Half-Japanese? ;)

Regardless, make them! More substantive conference shenanigans to come on Wednesday!

Ala

Classic Spiced Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Yield: 18 cookies

The chewiest, classic spiced oatmeal raisin cookie recipe you'll find out there! The wonderful combination of subtle warm spices and sweet plump raisins will make you melt in your shoes!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup margarine or butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup raisins

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar, and white sugar.
  3. Beat in egg and vanilla extract.
  4. Gently mix in flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt until just incorporated.
  5. Fold in oats and raisins.
  6. Scoop out cookies into 1-inch balls and drop 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, until outside has set and turned golden brown (but not overly hard). Allow to cool completely on sheet (on stovetop) before transferring to a separate plate.
http://www.wallflourgirl.com/2014/06/21/classic-spiced-oatmeal-raisin-cookies/

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Filed under Cookies