Monday, September 24, 2012

Almond Joy Cupcakes


1 box devil's food cake mix - I used Duncan Hines
½ cup canola oil
3 eggs
1¼ cup coconut milk
24 single bars of Almond Joy, Bounty, or Mounds 

Coconut frosting:
cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup finely shredded coconut
⅔ cup coconut milk 
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or paste
½ teaspoon coconut extract

Chocolate coating:
2 cups good, quality chocolate wafers or chips
1 teaspoon vegetable shortening

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 2 muffin tins with cupcake liners; set aside.  

In a large mixing bowl, prepare cake mix according to box, with the exception of changing up the water to coconut milk. 

Place a tablespoon of cake batter into each cup and coat the bottom, I used a skewer to evenly coat it.

Place a coconut chocolate bar on top and cover with more batter, filling it until ¾'s full. 

Bake for 18-20 minutes. Remove cupcakes from oven and allow to cool for a minute or so. Remove from tins and transfer to a wire rack. Allow to cool completely. 

Using a mixer, beat butter until fluffy. Carefully add powdered sugar and coconut milk. Add vanilla and coconut extracts. Mix well. Add coconut and blend until incorporated.

Line cupcakes onto a tray. Pipe frosting onto cupcakes into a mound shape and place an almond on top. Place tray in freezer for 5-10 minutes to help solidify for dipping. 

Melt wafers or chips along with shortening in a heatproof dish for about a minute or so. The dish needs needs to be deep enough as well as wide enough to dip cupcakes into. Use care when melting chocolate as you don't want to overheat chocolate. It can and will seize up. 

Once chocolate is melted, remove cupcakes from freezer a few at a time and dip until frosting is coated. Once I dipped, the almond's shape from inside didn't show up, so I added one on top of cupcake as well immediately after it was dipped. 

Place in refrigerator to allow chocolate to firm up.

 Yields: 24 Almond Joy Cupcakes. 

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Caramel Cashew Cookies

I took my daughter to her bestie's birthday party this past weekend. 

The event was held at a super fun indoor play center - a place we visit frequently when the weather is less than stellar to release some pent up energy that somehow and for some reason only seems to occur in kids. Especially mine.

Anyway, there were about 3 or 4 other birthday parties in motion at the same time, so as you can imagine, a space that is very large when empty can get pretty busy and confined the more bodies you cram into it. This, however, is not my issue. 

My issue is the mothers of the children that are invited to these parties. Now, let me just say that I'm not sitting here saying I am a perfect Mom or Mother of the Year - not by a long shot and far from it, but what the hello operator is wrong with some of these women? And just to clarify, I'm not talking about any of the mothers at the party we were invited to. They were all lovely. 

What got my knickers in a twist this particular day was four mothers standing around, pointing out random children's outfits and how awful they were!

As my mouth was on its way down to the ground, I was like, 'Did I hear what I think I just heard?' Are you kidding me? Your have to stoop so low and talk about a child? Yes, I understand that we are all entitled to our opinions, but there are just some topics one doesn't discuss - especially in public. Let's not even talk about the hurt the Mom of one of those children would have felt had she been privy to that conversation.

It took all my wits not to lose the plot and whack them upside the head with a double issue of Better Homes and Gardens that was sitting on the table next to me.

What's even more remarkable was as soon as one of them left the group, to use what I assume was the facilities, the three other women actually started talking about her! When did I step into an episode of Real Housewives of the Sad and Pathetic?

As if the universe heard me mentally complaining, a few minutes later, no word of a lie, one of them got rammed in the back of the leg by a kids Cozy Coupe car, lost her balance, and spilled her coffee on the woman next to her.

Seriously, you can't make crap up like this. It was FABULOUS. I don't think I ever laughed so hard at someone else's misfortune. Too bad she wasn't wearing all white, but the light pink top was good enough for me. 

Moral of the story: Make cookies, not gossip. No one gets emotionally hurt that way. 


2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt 
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1¼ cup cashews, roasted, salted, and chopped 

Caramel Drizzle

24-28 caramel cubes
¼ cup heavy cream 

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, salt, and baking soda together. 

In a separate bowl, using a mixer, combine butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.

Slowly add flour mixture to butter mixture and blend until incorporated. Add cashews and stir with wooden spoon. 

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for about an hour in refrigerator.  

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line baking sheet with silicone mats or parchment paper.
Using a medium ice cream scoop with a retractable mechanism, scoop out dough and place on prepared baking sheets. 

Bake cookies 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Mine took 11 minutes.
Remove cookies from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheets for several minutes before transferring to a wire rack. 

To make caramel drizzle:

Place caramels and heavy cream in a non-stick saucepan on stove over medium heat; stir frequently.  Once caramel starts to bubble, remove from heat, continuing to stir until cubes are completely melted. Using a large spoon, drizzle over cookies.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Pots de Crème - *Gluten-free & Dairy-Free!*

I had a funny email from a reader not so long ago. Not 'haha' funny, but more like interesting funny. 

Actually, the more I think about it, it wasn't really funny at all.

I wasn't sure how to address it, so I thought posting it would be the way to go. This way, I can refer back to it if needed.

I'm paraphrasing just a bit here, but was asked, "Why don't you have anything posted about yourself? I know nothing about you aside from what you share in your blog. I would love to know what makes you tick."

I sat and thought pretty hard about this question. The only thing I could come up as to why I haven't said anything is because there really isn't much to say. I'm just, well, me. Nothing fancy, nothing frilly. Just me. I mean I do understand how one would like to know the person behind the blog, I really do and I totally get it, but I've never been one to talk about or bring attention to myself, so it seems a bit weird if I'm honest.

After some contemplating, I came up with some things you may be interested to know about me. If you're not, hey, I won't be offended. Just scroll right past and down to the amazeballs Pots de Crème recipe and whip yourself some up. It's unbelievably easy peasy and totally delish! 

A Ditty about Me.

My name is Jenny, not ‘The Brunette Baker’, believe it or not. I HATE to be called Jen and I absolutely cringe when people call me Jennifer, although I won’t correct people that do either. I’ll just secretly judge you.

I have the best husband a girl could ask for as well as two incredibly funny and amazing kids. They are my life, my world, but I have never forgotten who I am.

I am a Christian and I absolutely love the Lord. He is my personal savior and I will defend Him until my last breath. However, I'm not this perfect little Christian who does right all the time and I won’t pretend I am. I’m flawed. I say 'shit' a lot. People piss me off daily, but I still love Jesus and consider myself a work in progress. I won’t shove my beliefs down your throat, but if you want to talk about the Lord or want me to pray for you or with you, then I’m your girl.

I am a very loyal and trustworthy friend. I am kick ass. Yeah, I said it. I enjoy being around people and I am very social, but I’m also a good judge of character, so if you gain my trust, you are a friend for life. If you manage to slip through my cracks somehow and betray or disrespect me, you will lose me forever. I forgive, but I do not forget and I’m not dumb enough to let you back into my life. There are no do overs with me. Harsh, but true. Friendships are something that should not be treated lightly or loosely and I feel there are way too many people that don’t understand the word ‘loyal’. If you can’t accept that, then you need to move onto the next person that feels the same way you do. People that gossip need not apply.  

I am often very misunderstood. Imagine that.

I love to read. I have been known to have 3 books going at once and can keep up with each storyline and characters. 

I am a tidy and organized person, but my laundry room is an absolute disgrace on any given day.

I’m a germaphobe. I clean my bathrooms with rubbing alcohol. I figure if doctors swab my arm with a alcohol pad before an inoculation to prevent anything entering my bloodstream, it’s good enough to kill the germs on my toilet. It hasn’t let me down yet.

I can’t ignore a homeless person on the street no matter how hard I try. I ultimately end up talking to them and buying them something to eat. Not that I’m looking for a pat on the back with that admission, but it truly breaks my heart. Unless you know their entire life story, don’t judge. 

I adore children and being around them. I am a huge advocate for charities that work closely with them. 

I carry dual citizenship of the United States and Canada. I will defend both if provoked.

I am a science geek to the core. I can still recite many of the elements and their symbols on the Periodic Table as well as most of the 206 bones in the body.

I will never own a manual transmission car. Ever. I have tried to drive one at least 20 times in my life and failed. Miserably. I just can't get the hang of it. 

I enjoy being alone.

I hate having my photo taken. HATE. IT.

My ultimate dream is to own and operate a bed and breakfast. 

I have an insanely weird fascination/borderline obsession with airplanes. I’m in complete awe how they work, but I’m actually a really bad flier.

I own more socks and bowls than most people should. 

I love Mexican food and could eat it everyday.

That's about it.

Now go and make someone smile. 

Recipe slightly modified from The Pioneer Woman

1½ cups good, quality semisweet chocolate chips - I used Ghirardelli
4 large eggs, at room temperature*
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pinch salt 
1 cup VERY HOT strong coffee
1 cup heavy cream**
2 tablespoons sugar

*It is important the eggs are at room temperature in this recipe. If you forget, just place them in a bath of hot water for 10-15 minutes. 

**Can be omitted for a dairy-free option. This is also a gluten-free treat!

Place the chocolate chips in the blender. Pulse several times to cut down the size of the chocolate chips to allow for easier melting. Add eggs, vanilla, and salt. Turn on the blender and allow to mix for a minute or so.


Remove inner cap of the blender lid and pour coffee through in a steady stream. It is extremely important that the coffee is VERY HOT. I brewed a cup and threw it into the microwave for a minute to ensure the hottest temperature. This step is crucial as it will melt the chocolate and help 'cook' the eggs. 

Place the inner section back onto the lid and blend mixture for about 3 minutes until smooth and creamy.


Pour mixture into small cups or dishes. Place on a tray and refrigerate them for 2 to 3 hours, or until firm.

Whip the cream with the sugar and place or pipe a dollop onto the top of each dessert.

Yield: About 6-8 servings. 

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Monday, September 10, 2012

The Apple Lady's Apple Cake

Flu bugs are not fun. 

NOT. FUN. my lovelies.

First week back to school and we had already received our first and most enthusiastic 'Welcome Back' pep rally from Team Parasite. 

They arrived at precisely 8.30pm, dressed in their jerseys, helmets, and cheerleading uniforms, complete with pom-poms, razor sharp cletes, and one billion of their most loyal fans, ready to cheer loud, play hard, and take no prisoners. And yes, I said pom-poms, not pom-pons, which is the most ridiculous word ever.

Needless to say, they won the game, battle, and war. It was hardly a contest and I didn't stand a chance. But in all seriousness, I can't remember the last time I was that sick.

It's been a few days since my last bout of grossness and I'm only just accepting the sight of food. When one can't stomach the sight of a cupcake or cookie, you know one is very ill. In fact, it was so bad that my mother-in-law, bless her heart, came over to help out and ended up washing and folding my laundry, which is the BIGGEST no-no in my household. Like, HELL no-no. And I didn't even care. I was that sick.

As I started to gain a pulse again and join the human race, I had to slowly ease myself back onto food. Without going into detail, I found that out of everything I tried to eat, applesauce was the best going down and staying put. 

To show my appreciation to apples, I decided to murder a bushel and make a lovely French apple cake. Gâteau aux Pomme. The French always manage to make everything sound so much nicer...and sexier. September is also apple month, so it just made sense to make this. 

An apple a day is supposed to keep the doctor away. Well, I've had my fair share of them this week. 

And I dare those disgusting, freeloading leeches to come back. 

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from The Paris Cookbook 

I'm not sure why they call this a cake as it's more like a flan. 

½ cup all-purpose flour
⅓ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
A pinch of fine sea salt or regular table salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract - I used the seeds of a vanilla bean
2 large eggs, at room temperature and lightly beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
⅓ cup whole milk
Zest of 1 scrubbed lemon
2 pounds (4 to 6) baking apple, cored, peeled,and cut into thin slices

⅓ cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 425º F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; stir to blend. Add vanilla extract/vanilla seeds, eggs, oil, milk and lemon zest; stir until well blended. Add apples and stir to coat them with batter. 

Spoon or place the mixture into prepared pan. I placed them in a uniform layer so once the cake was cut, the slices would yield a neater look. Bake until cake is golden and firm, about 25 to 35 minutes. Mine took 30 minutes. 

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, egg, melted butter and lemon zest and juice; stir to blend. Set aside.

Remove cake from oven and pour topping mixture over it. Return cake to oven and bake until top is a deep golden brown and cake feels quite firm when pressed with a fingertip, about 10 minutes. Be sure to keep watch as the topping WILL caramelize quite quickly. I love little bits of crispy apple and topping, so I left mine in a couple minutes longer, but if you want it a nice golden color, take out after designated time. 

Transfer cake pan to a rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Then run a knife around the sides of pan, and release and remove springform ring, Serve warm or at room temperature. Top with powdered sugar, homemade whipped cream, or warm cream.

Yield: 8 servings.

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Monday, September 3, 2012

Kahlua Mudslide Cupcakes

Note to self: Never again follow three glasses of Champagne with a Martini.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that I am not much of a drinker. I volunteer to be the designated driver simply because I cannot handle my alcohol. Well, that and I just don't really care for the stuff. Mind you, I will have a cocktail every now and again and take one for the team (see above), but when I say 'a' cocktail, I mean that as in 'singular' and nursed all night. That's my limit. Hence the 'Note to self'.

A sweet friend of mine celebrated a milestone birthday a couple of weeks ago, but we officially celebrated it this past weekend with a night on the town in the beautiful city of Toronto. Five Scots and one American. These girls know how to have a good time. Trust me, I know this all too well first hand....

Four score and seven years ago, just a couple weeks shy of my wedding day, Three of these lovely Scots were responsible for planning and executing my hen night. It was the first and last time in my life I was intoxicated to the point that I couldn't remember anything that had happened the night before. Not my finest, shiniest, or proudest moment. The embarrassing part about it? Wine coolers were the main culprit for my inebriated state. Yes. Wine coolers. Nothing wrong with that, but it would have been nice to brag it was tequila or vodka shooters that did me in. Ah, good times.

This morning I woke with a bad headache and my sweet girl wanting to have a tea party for eight of her closest friends. I did my best to be a gracious guest, but Sleeping Beauty and Hello Kitty were giving me evil stares and I swear Barbie gave me the stink eye. I never did trust Barbie. 

But I trust that you will love these cupcakes. They're chocolatey and boozy. In a really good way. No more cocktails for a long while. Unless they come in the form of a cupcake. 

Then I'll leave the driving to someone else and really let my hair down.

Cupcake recipe adapted from Worth the Whisk

2¼ cups all purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1½ teaspoons baking soda
¾ cup brewed coffee
 ¾ cup Kahlua Coffee Liqueur
3 eggs 
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar

Kahlua Buttercream Frosting
¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
6 tablespoons Kahlua Coffee Liqueur
6 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream Liqueur
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons brewed coffee

Chocolate shavings
White chocolate cappuccino sticks

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line two 12 cup muffin pans with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, sift or whisk flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda together. In a small bowl, combine coffee and Kahlua together. Set both aside.

Using a hand or stand mixer, cream butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Alternately add flour mixture and coffee mixture to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. 

Using an ice cream scoop with a retractable mechanism, fill liners about ¾ full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool for several minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the buttercream frosting:

Beat butter until pale in color. Slowly add powdered sugar, coffee, and both liqueurs until frosting starts to comes together. Add the cocoa powder and increase speed. Beat for several minutes until frosting is smooth and fluffy.

Pipe or spread onto cupcakes and garnish with chocolate shavings and/or chocolate cappuccino sticks, if desired. 

Yields: 24 Kahlua Mudslide Cupcakes.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Coconut Basmati Rice Pudding - *Gluten-Free!*

So this dairy-free situation has me all nutso.

It really does.

Every time I go for a piece of cheese or glass of milk, my brain goes into protective overdrive and literally makes my 'sensible' other hand smack the dairy-grabbing one up against the wall, wrestles it to the ground, and makes it surrender by screaming, 'Mercy'. Not the song, although that would be hilarious. But just know that I don't condone violence. Consider this a sibling rivalry situation.

I mean, I feel SO MUCH better sans dairy, like oodles better, but it's not like I had to go cold turkey, right? I can still have a small morsel of enjoyment, can't I? Cheese was my thing. My compadre. My go-to comfort food. Let's not discuss the macaroni and cheese I've been scratching my eyes out to have. I just know how bad I will feel afterwards if I do and I'm not ready to go back that far into the dark side. Just not yet anyway. 

This whole situation is like a bad romance.

But I need something. I miss it and I've been sooooo good. I figured if I'm going to make my digestive system go through all sorts of helter skelter for the next 12-24 hours, I should make it worthwhile.

So made some rice pudding. Why not? I suppose it's the lesser of the two evils.

But this is not just any rice pudding. Oh, no siree. If you love rice pudding or you think you do, this version takes it to a whole other level. Trust me.

I know it's about to get all Battlestar Galactica from the depths within.

But it's one mission I am willing to accept.

Coconut Basmati Rice Pudding

1 cup Basmati rice, uncooked
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups whole milk*
½ cup heavy cream*
½ cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cardamom or cinnamon or ¼ teaspoon of both
½ cup raisins, if desired
Toasted coconut for garnish

*This recipe can also be made dairy-free and vegan. You can substitute the whole milk and heavy cream with water, coconut water, rice milk, soy milk, or almond milk. Amounts may need to be slightly adjusted.

Thoroughly wash rice until water runs clear. Set aside.

Pour milk, coconut milk, and heavy cream into a large saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar, vanilla seeds, nutmeg, and cardamom or cinnamon (or both). Bring to a rapid boil and add rice. Cover pan, reduce to low heat, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Yields: 4 servings.

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Double Chocolate Malted Custard Tart

I was watching Food Network's, Chopped, the other night. Fascinating show.

I'm often intrigued by the mad skills the chefs that are featured, have. You see, I love to cook and I obviously love to bake, but I'm not much of a creative either, if you will. I'm definitely more adventurous when it comes to cooking, but baking is a whole other brioche. Mainly because it's a science. And science is very finicky. I should know. I've blown up, broken, and corroded my fair share of beakers and Bunsen burners in high school just to see what would happen when I mixed certain acids with Dr. Pepper. 

I have no problem duplicating a recipe, but if I had to come up with a dessert using 4 ingredients like Goji berries, rum, Limburger cheese, and Eye of Newt in under 30 minutes, you'd very likely find me in a corner, with the bottle of rum in hand, tucked into a fetal position, rocking myself, singing 'Soft Kitty'. (Can I get an AMEN Big Bang fans?)

You see, I'm more of what you'd call a tweaker. 

Unfortunately, by being a tweaker, one tends to have A LOT of kitchen disasters. More than one cares to admit. It's so disappointing because when a recipe goes belly up, especially when it was perfect to begin with, all I can think about is the time and ingredients I've just wasted. On a positive note, I guess it's very possible that one could conjure up enough smoke to set off the alarms to have the firefighters fire department come out and see what the commotion is all about. That could make one forget one's mishaps. Very quickly.

Thankfully, this was one of those desserts I tweaked that had neither smoke, tears, nor upset in the outcome. I'm not much of a malted milk kind of gal to begin with, but throw chocolate into it and we. have. got. ourselves. a. party. Heck, throw chocolate into anything and I guarantee a party somewhere.

Seriously folks, this is really good. Especially shared with a firefighter. Topless.

Him. Not you. But either way, I won't judge.

Recipe adapted, tweaked, and renamed from paper, plate, and plane

For the crust:
2½ cups Oreo Baking Crumbs or Famous Chocolate Wafers
⅓ cup butter, melted

For the custard filling:
3 cups whole milk
1½ cup malted milk powder, like Horlicks or Ovaltine
½ cup corn starch
6 egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
8 ounces of good, quality chocolate, melted

1 bag Maltesers or Whoppers Malted Milk Ball Candies

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Using a food processor, grind cookies to a fine crumb. Transfer crumbs into a small bowl and add melted butter. Mix together with a fork until incorporated. Place crumb mixture in a fluted 10-inch tart pan and using the back of a measuring cup, line sides and bottom. Bake for 5-7 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk corn starch with 1 cup of milk until dissolved. In a large sauce pan, whisk malt powder in remaining milk until malt powder is dissolved. This will ensure there is minimal lumping. Turn heat to medium and add malted milk mixture, egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla. Whisk continuously and very quickly until the mixture boils and thickens, which should take approximately 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in chocolate and whisk thoroughly. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

Pour custard into cookie base. Use an offset knife to smooth.

Let tart sit at room temperature until cool. Garnish with your favorite chocolate malt balls then place in refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight for best results.

Keep refrigerated. 

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