Birthday Cake Truffles

Oreos are like my Mr. Big a la Sex and the City. I go back to them time and time again no matter how bad they make me feel (i.e. this directly correlates to how many I eat). My friends warn me about repeating bad decisions, but something keeps me coming back. I’ve dated them all: the birthday cake, the mint, the double stuf… no matter the flavor, they’re all my old standby.

This recipe gives air to an old flame; it’s amazing what adding cream cheese and chocolate to a relationship can do. These Birthday Cake Truffles are sort of a hybrid between a truffle and a cake pop; the texture is so creamy you wouldn’t know Oreos were the primary ingredient. Though delicious, they are exceedingly sweet, so have a cool glass of milk ready! There I go, pushing milk again.

fullsizeoutput_113d

INGREDIENTS:

16 oz. white chocolate chip morsels, melted

8 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature (not whipped– save it for your bagels!)

1 package Birthday Cake Oreos (you can use golden or chocolate but for the classic cake pop taste, go for golden!)

2 tbsp. rainbow jimmies

1 tbsp rainbow nonpareils

DIRECTIONS:

Set aside a baking sheet.

Put Oreos in a food processor. Process until a fine crumb forms, about 45 seconds– I used to use a meat mallet to smash the Oreos, but it never got the crumbs fine enough.

Dump Oreo crumbs into medium sized mixing bowl with cream cheese. Mix well, then add jimmies until combined. Roll Oreo mixture into balls that are about 1 inch in size. Set on baking sheet. Let chill in the freezer for 30 minutes.

fullsizeoutput_1139

fullsizeoutput_113b

One by one, dip each Oreo ball into the melted chocolate, then set back on the baking sheet. I used a fork to dip the truffles into the chocolate, which was pretty successful. In the past I’ve used toothpicks and they always fell out!

Put a pinch of nonpareils on each ball as you go. Don’t wait until the chocolate has set or none will stick!

Wait until the chocolate has hardened, then eat!

fullsizeoutput_113c

 

 

 

Cheesy Garlic Bread

Growing up in a heavily Italian area of New York, I’ve had every type of garlic bread imaginable. Garlic knots, garlic rolls, French-bread-cut-in-half garlic bread… the delicious list goes on. I have two favorite garlic bread experiences in recent memory. The first was the French bread type of garlic bread at a restaurant called Parm (think old standby Italian spot meets trendy, Instagram-worthy chain). The second was from a pizza place on the Upper West Side, and it entailed six, count ’em, SIX, garlic knots smothered in a melty layer of mozzarella cheese. It was those knots that got me thinking, “I should make this myself so that I can eat them ALL THE TIME!!! Will I gain weight? Probably… but that’s a small price to pay for such a satisfying lifestyle”.

I came down a little from that initial cheese high, but was still craving more. So, you guessed it! I decided to marry these two garlic rich experiences and make my own supply.

fullsizeoutput_1135

fullsizeoutput_1132

If you’re wondering why the end of the baguette looks like a butt, it’s because it was meant to look like a fish tail but the baker had a bad day. No need to buy a fancy loaf for this recipe– I got this butt loaf at my local supermarket!

INGREDIENTS:

1 baguette, cut crosswise and then lengthwise

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella

1/4 cup grated parmesan

6 Tbsp butter, melted

5-6 garlic cloves, finely chopped

 

2 Tbsp chopped parsley

Garlic powder, to taste

Italian seasoning, to taste

1/2 cup red sauce, if desired

fullsizeoutput_112c

fullsizeoutput_1130

DIRECTIONS:

Makes 4 large servings or 8 small servings (i.e. for a non-monster unlike myself)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the cut baguette, crust side down, on the sheet. Set aside.

Sprinkle garlic powder and Italian seasoning into the melted butter. Add the chopped garlic cloves and stir. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes, or until the butter has started to harden again.

Spread the butter mixture over the doughy parts of the baguette. Sprinkle the baguette slices with mozzarella, dividing it evenly over each one. Repeat with the parmesan.

Bake for 15 minutes, then broil for 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese starts to bubble and brown. If you don’t have a broiler you can skip this step, but it makes the flavor even better!

fullsizeoutput_1131

Heat up your red sauce in the microwave or in a small saucepan.

Sprinkle the baguettes with parsley and let cool until it is nice and warm but not hot. Dip in your red sauce and enjoy!!

fullsizeoutput_1134

Jumbo Sugar Cookie

As much as I love baking, sometimes I’m not in the mood to go through all the setting up and cleaning up involved. That’s why this recipe, courtesy of Sally’s Baking Addiction, caught my eye– it just makes one huge sugar cookie. Meaning, it’s a much smaller project than making a full batch. It requires lower ingredient measures and therefore, smaller baking tools can be used.  I LOVE when a recipe only needs 1 or 2 small mixing bowls and teaspoon/tablespoon measures. Small bowls can be popped in the dishwasher and more of them can simultaneously fit on drying mats. Aka, quicker and easier cleanup. Oh, and did I mention the best part? If you only make one giant cookie you don’t have to worry about cookie vultures*; if there’s only one cookie, they know who it’s for.

*A cookie vulture is a person or animal that circles the kitchen while you’re baking and snags a cookie before it’s even hit the cooling rack. When I’m not the one baking, I am one hundred percent a cookie vulture.

This is the first time I’ve made a small batch version of a classic, and part of the reason I chose this recipe to be my first is that it still calls for an oven. I keep seeing recipes for single serving microwave brownies and microwave cakes, but there’s something about *baking* by *microwave* that feels wrong to me. Would it taste the same? Maybe. Would I think it tasted the same? Most likely not.

fullsizeoutput_1126

INGREDIENTS:

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

3 Tablespoons sugar

2 Tablespoons beaten egg (crack the egg, beat it, and use 2 tbsp)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 Tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 Tablespoons sprinkles — the more colorful, the better!

fullsizeoutput_1122

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Either spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray or cover it with a piece of parchment paper.

In a small bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Stir in the 2 Tbsp of egg and the vanilla extract.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix until just combined. Be careful not to overdo it!

fullsizeoutput_1123

Flip the cookie dough out of the bowl and onto the baking sheet so that it looks like a tall ball (if it’s too flat it will be way too thin!). Bake for approximately 15 minutes until the edges are lightly browned. I took mine out at 13 minutes because I wanted an ooey gooey center, but that’s your call! Just remember that it will continue baking for a few minutes after you take it out of the oven, so don’t overcook it.

Allow the cookie to cool completely on the cookie sheet– no cooling rack needed here.

fullsizeoutput_1124

 

Sprinkles Vanilla Cupcakes

I remember the first time I heard of the California based cupcake bakery, Sprinkles. I was watching acclaimed reality show “The Girls Next Door”, the fairytale saga of Hugh Hefner and his collection of girlfriends. Bridget, his number 2 GF, was throwing a birthday party and brought in Sprinkles cupcakes for the occasion. “Doesn’t everyone order cake for a birthday? What’s the big deal?”, you ask confusedly. Well when you have your own kitchen staff like the Playboy mansion, you don’t have ANYTHING brought in unless it’s really spectacular.

IMG_3199

Several years later when I was interning at “E! News” in LA, I finally laid my paws on one during an event at the office. Little did I know that by then, a Sprinkles had opened in my home state of New York. It was everything I dreamed of: moist and delicate, with dense, creamy frosting. So when I found a recipe online, of course I wanted to try it. The recipe I found is for their peppermint cupcakes, so I adjusted it slightly to be plain vanilla, and to make 24 cupcakes rather than 12. I also used this fondant recipe to make the heart garnishes. Yes, I know they make the cupcakes look vaguely boob-like, for better or worse.

IMG_3145

Servings: Makes 24 cupakes

INGREDIENTS:

For the cupcakes:

3 cups all-purpose flour , sifted

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. coarse salt

1 cup whole milk , room temperature

4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter , room temperature

2 cups sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature*

4 large egg whites, room temperature*

*If your eggs are warming too slowly, gently place them in a cup, then fill the cup with lukewarm (not hot) water until they reach room temperature

For the frosting:

2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter , firm but not cold

1/4 tsp. salt

7 cups confectioners’ sugar , sifted

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. milk


DIRECTIONS:

For the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350°. Make sure the racks are in the lower two thirds of the oven. Line 2 cupcake tins with liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together milk and extracts; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just combined.

With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula until just blended.

Divide batter evenly among prepared cupcake liners. Gently shake the tins so that any raised batter flattens. Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes– I know this is a super scary way to test them as opposed to the toothpick method, but they’ll keep cooking in the pan so take them out as soon as you can touch the top without getting any residue on your finger. Rotate tins once while baking. Transfer tins to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely in tin before icing.

IMG_3124

For the frosting:

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Reduce the speed to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until incorporated. Add the extracts and milk and beat until smooth and creamy. Do not overmix or the frosting will incorporate too much air; it should be creamy and dense, like ice cream. Add additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, if frosting does not have a spreadable consistency.

IMG_3164

To assemble:

While gingerly holding a completely cooled cupcake, scoop a large amount (thing about a half a tennis ball) onto the top of the cupcake using a spatula. Then, swipe the sides of the cupcake in a circular motion until the top looks flat and the sides are smooth, almost like a volcano. Place any decorations on top, then eat!

These can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days.

IMG_3182

 

Fudgy Cheesecake Brownies

I’ve been craving cheesecake brownies for upwards of two weeks. I had off from work today, it’s raining, and my uterus hurts*. Three prime reasons to make them on this fateful Tuesday afternoon. These particular cheesecake brownies have a very fudgy chocolate brownie base, and a creamy cheesecake layer that sits on top like a duvet on a mattress. (Yes I’m in bed writing this, SO WHAT?!).

IMG_2975

As much as they’ve been on my mind, I was only able to eat 1 1/2 because they’re so intensely rich and gooey. If you think about it, cheesecake brownies are kind of an epic dessert; essentially the lovechild of two gold medalists at the dessert olympics, brownies and cheesecake.

*If you think it’s gross of me to mention this in a post for a food blog, I don’t know what to tell you.

This recipe is derived from this brownie recipe, and this cheesecake brownie recipe.

IMG_2931

I use Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder, which makes the brownie base a little bittersweet

IMG_2937

The shiniest brownie batter in town

INGREDIENTS:

For the brownie layer:

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

For the cheesecake layer:

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg, room temperature

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

IMG_2943

This is already looking decadent

DIRECTIONS:

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang for easy removal. Spray with non-stick baking spray, or butter lightly.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for one minute intervals, stirring in between, until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Be careful not to microwave it on high if you have a powerful microwave (mine is quite strong so I heated it on level 6). Set the mixture aside until it cools slightly and is no longer hot to the touch. It’s okay if it looks a little gritty– this is normal.

IMG_3000

This paper, which truly makes me smile, is from Paper Source

Stir in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring to combine after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes. Dump into the lined pan–I say “dump” because that is essentially the noise it will make when you pour it in–and spread out using a spatula. Wiggle the pan if necessary to flatten the batter more.

Combine the cheesecake sugar, cream cheese, vanilla, and egg in a bowl, and beat with an electric mixer on medium-low until everything is combined and there are no lumps or watery areas. Pour onto the brownie batter. Spread out with a spatula. Using a knife, swirl the batter and cheesecake topping as much as possible. Because the brownie batter is so dense, it will not combine with the cheesecake layer very much.

IMG_2965

It’s not gonna look perfect, and that’s okay!

Bake for 35-40 minutes, checking every 5 minutes after the 25 minute mark. Brownies are done once a toothpick is inserted and comes out with only a little bit of moist residue. It will not crumb like a cakier brownie would, so do not look for crumbs as a sign that it is done! The cheesecake layer never completely hardens, so just because it’s soft doesn’t mean it’s undercooked.

Let cool on a wire rack, then place in the refrigerator for about an hour. Cut into 16 squares. Will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 3 days for optimal freshness.

IMG_2971

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

When I think of dyeing Easter eggs, PAAS is the first thing that comes to mind. For those of you who did not grow up with the neon, staining, metal egg dippers included, brand, PAAS is the mother of all Easter egg dyeing kits. If Easter was a a game of Monopoly, PAAS would be the Atlantic City Boardwalk. I have nothing against PAAS; it’s given me and my family wonderful memories of pink and purple tinted fingers, eggs dripping with a myriad of colors onto newspapers and plastic tablecloths, writing our names on the eggs in crayon before dipping… the list goes on. BUT, for the sake of trying something new, this year I made my own *natural* Easter egg dyes out of vegetables.

IMG_2669

The colors of the *natural* rainbow

The process was truly exciting for me. I loved seeing the colors emerge from the boiling plants, and enjoyed it even more when they transferred beautifully onto the eggs for the first time. This process does take longer than ripping open a box o’ PAAS, but I highly recommend it if you have the time!

I combined two sets of directions, from The Kitchn, and Food52.

IMG_2698

Beet, turmeric, red cabbage, yellow onion, red onion.

INGREDIENTS:

1 dozen hardboiled eggs

5 cups water

1 heaping cup chopped red cabbage

1 heaping cup red onion skins

1 heaping cup yellow onion skins

1 heaping cup shredded beets

5 tbsp white vinegar, separated

2 tbsp turmeric

1 tbsp vegetable oil

IMG_2643

The ingredients

IMG_2653

Boiling veggies

DIRECTIONS:

In 5 separate saucepans, combine 1 cup of water with 1 of the vegetable/spice ingredients listed above (not the vinegar). Bring each to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the color has reached its desired intensity. Bear in mind that the color will appear several shades lighter on the eggs.

IMG_2660

Eggs taking a dip in the dyes

Let mixtures cool. Once cooled, strain using a fine mesh sieve into whatever bowls or cups you’ll be using for dipping the eggs. Add 1 tbsp of vinegar to each color mixture, and stir.

Dip eggs into mixtures. Remember: the longer you keep an egg in the dye, the more concentrated the color will be. Wipe off with a paper towel upon removal. Once sufficiently dry, dap with a tiny bit of vegetable oil.

TAKE THAT, PAAS.

 

IMG_2733

Beautiful eggs!

IMG_2735

They almost look like Cadbury eggs. Almost.

Dino Oreo Truffles

To most people, this past Saturday was the Fourth of July. But to me, it was my nephew’s third birthday party. (And also the Fourth of July; it’s one of my favorite holidays). Last year his birthday was Sesame Street themed, so I made sugar cookies with Cookie Monster and Big Bird faces on them. This time around it was dino themed, and I initially had no idea what to make. I perused Pinterest for recipes, but mostly found complicated fondant* cakes and cake pops, which I wasn’t in the mood to experiment with. Also, it seems there’s a divide in dino party concepts: some are scarier and more Jurassic Park-like, while others are more cartoonish and friendly.

122

^Cookie Monster cookies from last year^

123

^Big Bird cookies… a little sadder looking than their Cookie Monster counterparts^

IMG_0912

Finally, I came across a picture of some dino cake pops that I realized I could make using an Oreo truffle recipe that I use every Christmas. As with most Pinterest recipes, mine didn’t come out exactly how the originals looked, but they’re still very cute, if I do say so myself. Over time it’s occurred to me that unless your family is brimming with Martha Stewarts and Julia Childs, whatever you make will probably be impressive to everyone, even if it’s not one hundred percent perfect. So, relax. Make what you want to make. Try something that’s a little out of your comfort zone; make the dino truffles. And if they come out poorly, eat the evidence.

IMG_0889

I think this recipe, if we can even call it that since it’s really a rough outline of what I did and in what order, makes about 14-16 dinos. Mine were on the large side, so if you want to make more with the same amount of ingredients, just form the heads to be a little bit smaller.

*Fondant is basically equivalent to the f word in my family. Every time we watch “Cake Boss” and Buddy uses fondant (which he always does) my family screams, “ew! Not the fondant, it’s so dry!”

IMG_0897

INGREDIENTS:

1 package Oreos (I used regular Oreos since I needed to use white chocolate, but if you’re using milk or bittersweet chocolate I recommend trying mint oreos)

1, 8 oz. bar cream cheese, room temp.

1/2 regular sized bag of M&M’s

1, 12 oz. bag of white chocolate chips

1 tbsp. black frosting

Blue food dye

Brown sprinkles

IMG_0918

DIRECTIONS:

Put the oreos into a Ziploc bag and seal tightly. Put on a cutting board, and whack with a meat pounder until crushed into small bits. I used a hammer since I just moved into a new apartment and was not successful in stealing my mother’s meat pounder while packing. Once the Oreos are adequately crushed, carefully pour them into a medium-large mixing bowl. Add the cream cheese and mix with a spoon or your hands until combined.

IMG_0821

Cover a baking sheet with wax paper. Roll the Oreo mixture into balls a little bit smaller than ping pong balls. Use your best judgment. Then, roll a much smaller ball for each large one, and stick the smaller ball into the side of the larger one. This will be the dino’s nose, so make sure it’s firmly packed onto the head, or it will come off when you’re coating them in chocolate. Also, try to flatten the smaller ball a bit so that it looks more like a nose. Put each complete head on the wax paper tray.

IMG_0916

Once you have as many complete heads as you’d like, place the baking sheet into the freezer for at least an hour, or overnight.

IMG_0886

Using a toothpick, dot the flat side of 36-40 white chocolate chips with black frosting– these are the eyes. I made a few extra since I knew a couple would probably come out wonky. When my roommate saw the eyeballs on the dinosaurs she said, “some of these are gonna go extinct sooner than others”. Case and point.

IMG_0930

Melt about half of the white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, 30 seconds at a time on high, stirring in between. White chocolate takes a little bit longer to melt than milk, and also hardens more quickly. As soon as it’s adequately melted, add the blue food dye. You can add as little or as much as you’d like; mine was sort of baby blue, but I think a darker, more neon blue would have looked even better.

Once your chocolate is blue, pick up an Oreo head and gently paint it with the chocolate using the backside of a metal teaspoon. Don’t worry about getting the bottom, or making the chocolate perfectly smooth. Once it’s sufficiently coated, put the dino back on the tray, and stick on a row of M&M’s (these are the spikes of the dinosaur) from the top of the head to the base of the neck. Add the white chocolate chip eyes just above the nose, then add two brown sprinkles to the flat protruding part of the nose, giving the dinosaur nostrils. Repeat with remaining dino heads.

You can put each dino in a cupcake liner for an easy cleanup, or put them directly on a serving tray. I cut up some green peeps in an attempt to make grass, but it wound up looking more like tentacles, according to my friend Emily who came over to help.

IMG_0911

^Emily helping/dancing/hair whipping.^

The white chocolate will harden on its own, so no need to freeze the dinos again. But, remember to refrigerate them if you’re not serving them immediately, as they do contain cream cheese.

IMG_1081

^My scrumptious nephew. He called the M&M’s “dinosaur hair”.^

IMG_1084

Enjoy!

Leslie