Slow Cooker Sunday: Triple Chocolate Brownies

Sometimes baking in my slow cooker is a hit or miss situation. I recently made a Banana Bread Pudding in it and that was a definite hit and I once made a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake that was more burnt than cake. I don’t let those mishaps discourage me though. I recently tried making brownies in my slow cooker and while they tasted good, there were a few pieces along the edge that were burnt. But, I believe I know what the problem was. The recipe called for a 5 quart slow cooker and I used a 5.5 quart slow cooker. You wouldn’t think it would make a difference, but, having a slightly larger slow cooker means that my brownies were probably slightly thinner than the recipe intended, hence the baking time I followed was too long which resulted in slightly burnt brownies.

I prepped my slow cooker by spraying the insert with non-stick cooking spray and then lining the bottom with parchment paper that I then sprayed with the spray as well.

After making the batter for the brownies I poured it into my slow cooker and smoothed the top with a small offset spatula.

And while I let the brownies cook for 3.5 hours, I really should have let them cook for only 3 hours and then uncovered the slow cooker for the final 30 minutes of cooking. Truth be told, I am not greatest at gauging when I should take my brownies out of the oven. I know they are supposed to be slightly underdone when you take them out, but, I inevitably leave them in a minute or two too long because I don’t want them to be too underdone. I should learn by now. So, while I had a feeling my brownies were done at 3 hours, I ended up leaving them in too long and I ended up with burnt edges, but, I was able to salvage most of them and they were delicious.

You may be wondering why I don’t have any pics of those brownies I did salvage…. Well, by the time the brownies cooled and I sliced them it was too dark in my house to get a good picture. It’s so much easier to take pictures during the summer months! I debated whether or not to share the recipe since there were so many mishaps, but, they were good nonetheless and worth another try at perfecting. Or maybe just baking them in the oven instead!

Slow Cooker Triple Chocolate Brownies

  • Servings: 14 brownies
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Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces

8oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut into pieces*

1 cup sugar

3 large egss, lightly beaten

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Non-stick cooking spray

 

*I used 1 1/3 cups of bittersweet chocolate chips

 

Directions:

Spray the insert of a 5-quart slow cooker with the cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper and then spray the paper with the spray as well.

In a small bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Place the butter and the bittersweet chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave on 30 second intervals, stirring after each, until the chocolate and butter has melted. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Stir in the eggs, then add in the flour mixture, the walnuts and chocolate chips. Stirring everything together until just combined, be sure not to overmix. Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker insert and smooth the top.

Cover and cook on low for 3.5 hours*. Uncover and cook for an additional 30 minutes. Remove the insert from the slow cooker and run a knife around the edges to loosen the brownies. Place the insert on a wire rack and allow the brownies to cool completely, at least 2 hours. Turn the brownies out onto a cutting board / work surface and slice into 14 brownies. Store in an airtight container.

*If using a larger slow cooker your cooking time will be less. I used a 5.5 quart slow cooker and I probably should have uncovered them for the last 30 minutes at around the 3 hour mark.

Recipe from Martha Stewart

Valentine’s Day Cookies

While I enjoy decorating cakes one thing I rarely do is decorate cookies. Around the holidays I always have this grand idea of making sugar cookies and decorating them with royal icing. I actually have a mitten shaped cookie cutter that I have been meaning to use for the past two Christmases to make decorated cookies and it just hasn’t happened. Part of the reason is that I run out of time and the other part is that I am not fond of royal icing. I think it goes back to when I was taking Wilton decorator classes and one of the courses involved making flowers with royal icing. While I liked that the flowers would harden because of the royal icing, which meant you could make them ahead of time to decorate with them later, I just didn’t like the way my flowers looked. And I found working with the royal icing to be a bit of a headache. You have to keep it covered so it doesn’t harden and so forth. Because of all these little things I just avoid it. It’s actually been years since I’ve made royal icing, but, I decided that this year I wanted to make Valentine’s Day cookies that were decorated not just with sprinkles.

I began by making sugar cookies (I also made a batch of Gingerbread Cookies that you can see in the pics as well). I actually took a major shortcut in making the cookies. I purchased Pillsbury’s Sugar Cookie Dough, the one that comes in a roll not the pre-cut ones, and per the instructions on the wrapper I kneaded in flour before rolling the dough out on a floured surface. I then used a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out the cookies. I placed them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and placed them in the refrigerator for a few minutes before baking them. I was hoping that chilling the cookies for a few minutes would help the cookies keep their shape while baking – cold cookies don’t spread as much while baking. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case. Some of my hearts ended up looking like circles or wonky shaped hearts. The two arches at the top weren’t as noticeable as I hoped they would be. I just figured I would make them look like hearts by decorating them. I ended up reading some reviews about the cookie dough and quite a few of them were negative and expressed what I had experienced. The dough spread way too much while baking. Oh well, I know for next time.

While the cookies were cooling I made a batch of royal icing. I removed about 1/2 cup of the icing and transferred it to a piping bag fitted with a small round tip. I then added in 2 tablespoons more water to the remaining icing to thin it to a syrup consistency. I then removed half of it and transferred it to another piping bag fitted with a small round tip and tinted the remaining icing a light pink and then transferred it to another bag, with, you guessed it, another small round tip. I used the thicker consistency icing to pipe the outline of the hearts on each cookie. After letting that set for a few minutes I then used the thinner consistency to flood the cookies. I didn’t go too crazy with my decorating. I piped horizontal lines in the contrasting color on some of the cookies and made a heart design in other. For both, I piped the secondary color on the icing while the first one was still wet this way the icing would dry together and be smooth. To create the heart designs I piped dots onto the cookies and then used a toothpick to drag a vertical line down the center of the dots. If you want to create a 3-D design on your cookies wait until the flooded icing dries and then pipe whatever design you would like onto the cookies.

I must say, decorating these cookies with royal icing was a lot easier than I remember it being. Or it could be that I find it easier compared to some of the cake decorating I do. I remember when I first started baking making some things seemed so daunting. Just last week I was working on a cake. I had just finished filling and crumb coating it and was about to make another batch of frosting to decorate it when I realized I had a major fail so I had to toss the cake and start over. I was able to bake and decorate another 3-layer 9-inch cake in just a few short hours. Thankfully I didn’t freak out and was able to manage my time to get it done. Had this been a few years ago I wouldn’t have been so calm.

So, will I attempt to make cookies decorated with royal icing again? Absolutely! Although next time I will be making the sugar cookies from scratch or possibly using a store-bought mix I only have to add a few ingredients to in hopes that they will keep their shape better. My gingerbread ones baked up perfectly, but, I also had made the dough a few weeks back and then rolled, cut and froze them until I was ready to bake them.

Slow Cooker Sunday: Barbacoa Beef

My second new recipe of the New Year and it’s another slow cooker one and while this is a savory one, it’s just as good as the sweet Banana Bread Pudding from two weeks ago. This time around I made barbacoa in my slow cooker. Barbacoa is a way of cooking meat that results in the meat being very tender. Usually by steam cooking it. While you can use different types of meat for barbacoa I opted to use chuck roast.

I added all of the ingredients to the insert of my slow cooker and gave it a few good stirs. Don’t be concerned by the small amount of liquid required. The meat will release its juices while cooking and keep in mind this isn’t a stew, as I mentioned, with barbacoa you are steam cooking the meat. You are going to use the meat for tacos, a burrito, burrito bowl and so forth, so while you do want the meat tender and juicy, you don’t want it to be soaking.

After cooking for 8 hours on the low setting the meat was perfectly tender and perfect for shredding.

I transferred the meat to a bowl and using two forks shred it into bit-sized pieces, leaving any juices in the insert of my slow cooker. I then transferred the shredded meat back to my slow cooker and let it soak up some of the remaining juices for about 10-15 minutes while my slow cooker was on the warm setting.

Finally, I transferred the meat to a dish.

I opted to use the meat to make quick and easy burrito bowls, so I made cilantro lime rice and pico de gallo to go along with it. Along with the rice and pico de gallo you could also add in shredded cheese, sour cream and/or guacamole.

Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef

Ingredients:

3 pounds chuck roast*, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces

1/2 cup beef broth

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 chipotles in adobo, chopped (if you like your meat spicier add in 1 more)

1 4oz. can chopped green chiles

Juice from 3 limes (1/4 cup)

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

3 bay leaves

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Salt and pepper

* I used 2.5lbs. of chuck roast cubes meant for beef stew

Directions:

Add all of the ingredients (except the salt and pepper) to the insert of your slow cooker and stir to combine.

Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or until beef is tender.*

Once the meat is ready remove it from the slow cooker, leaving the juices behind, and transfer to a bowl and using two forks shred the meat.

Remove the bay leaves from the liquid and transfer the shredded meat back to the slow cooker. With the slow cooker set to the warm setting let the meat sit in the liquid for 10-15 minutes.

Transfer the meat to a serving dish and season with salt and pepper.

*I left my meat in for 8 hours.

Recipe from Chef Savvy

 

Cilantro Lime Rice

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups basmatti rice

1 garlic clove, minced

2 1/4 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

Zest of 1 lime

3 tablespoons of fresh lime juice, from about 2-3 limes

1 cup lightly packed cilantro, leaves and tender stems, chopped

Directions:

In a medium saucepan heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the rice and stir to coat with the olive oil. Cooke the rice until it has begun to lightly brown. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.

Add the water, salt and zest and raise the heat to bring the rice to a rolling boil. Cover the pot and then reduce the heat to low to maintain a low simmer.

Cook for about 15 minutes (check you package from instructions). Let sit for 10 minute and then fluff with a fork.

Pour the lime juice over the rice and add in the cilantro and toss everything to combine.

Recipe from Simply Recipes

 

Pico De Gallo

Ingredients:

3 cups grape tomatoes, quartered

1 small red onion, finely chopped

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

1 cup lightly packed cilantro, leaves and tender stems, chopped

Juice from 2 limes

Salt and pepper

Directions:

In a medium bowl combine the tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and fresh lime juice. Gently toss the ingredients together and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and refrigerate for a few hours so flavors can marinate before using.

Slow Cooker Sunday: Banana Bread Pudding

It’s been a while since I have used my slow cooker and even longer since I have used it to make dessert but recently I decided to dust it off to make a bread pudding, well, not just any bread pudding, but a Banana Bread Pudding. If you’re not a fan of banana flavored desserts don’t worry, the banana flavor is not overpowering.

The night before actually making the bread pudding I did some prep work. I cut a loaf of Challah bread into cubes and then toasted them in the oven for 20 minutes at 300 F. While the bread was in the oven I generously greased the inside of my slow cooker insert with softened butter. The recipe called for one tablespoon, but, I ended up using about 4 tablespoons. I have “baked” things in my slow cooker in the past and regardless of me following the directions to a T my items have always been burnt. I’ve chalked it up to not using enough butter and I didn’t want that to happen again.

After removing the bread from the oven I let it cool for a few minutes and then placed it in an even layer inside of my slow cooker insert.

In a large bowl I combined the ingredients for the custard – eggs, half-and-half, granulated & brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and mashed bananas – and whisked them together until they were combined. I then poured this mixture over the bread in the insert and pressed the bread into the liquid to submerge it. I covered it and then refrigerated it overnight.

The next morning I removed it from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes uncovered.

After the 30 minutes I placed the insert inside of the slow cooker base, covered it and cooked it on the low setting for about 4 ½ hours. The bread pudding will rise considerably while it’s cooking, mine almost touched the cover.

Once the bread pudding was done I removed the insert and let the bread pudding cool before inverting it onto a dish.

I attempted to make a caramel sauce to go along with the bread pudding but I had two failed attempts. The first time my caramel had a burnt taste to it and the second time my sugar never melted. So, I decided to nix the caramel sauce and just enjoy a piece with vanilla ice cream. Which was just perfect.

The was by far the best bread pudding I have ever made and I will definitely be making it again.

Slow Cooker Banana Bread Pudding

Ingredients:

1 16 oz. Challah Bread, cut into cubes

3-4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

8 large eggs

4 cups half-and-half (1 quart)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 medium ripe bananas, mashed

vanilla ice cream and/or caramel sauce for serving

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 300 F

Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on a large baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring them halfway through toasting. Let them cook for 10 minutes.

Grease the insert of your slow cooker with the softened butter.

Once the bread is cool, transfer it to the slow cooker and arrange in an even layer.

In a large bowl whisk the eggs and then add in the half-and-half, both sugars, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and mashed bananas. Whisk everything together to combine.

Pour the egg mixture over the bread and press the bread to submerge it into the liquid. Cover and transfer to the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

Remove from the refrigerator, uncover and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Place the insert into the base of your slow cooker, cover, and cook on high for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours or on low 4 to 5 hours. The bread pudding is ready when it is set and not jiggly in the center. The internal temperature should be above 175 F when tested. It will be considerably puffy, but will subside as it cools.

Remover the insert from the base and let the bread pudding cool for about 15 minutes before inverting onto a plate. Alternatively, you could just serve it from the insert itself.

Enjoy with ice cream and/or caramel sauce.

Recipe slightly modified from Simply Recipes

Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year! The holidays are quickly winding down. Truthfully, and I think most would agree, the holidays just seemed to fly by this season. Mainly due to the short time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. With Thanksgiving falling so late there was less than a month to get everything ready for Christmas. Besides posting my annual Cookie Palooza recipes I just didn’t have time to blog anything else during the month of December. That doesn’t mean I didn’t do a lot of baking though. There were chocolate covered pretzels, Almond Biscotti (these were so good that I ended up baking a second batch the day after making the first), a few cakes (one of which was supposed to be a tangled lights decorated cake but turned into a congratulatory cake for my oldest niece after competing in her very first gymnastics tournament and placing in a few of the events), and of course cookies, cookies and more cookies. I baked about 300 cookies in one day and by the end of the day the smell of sweets and sugar was just too much for me to handle.

So here we are in a new year and a new decade. Truthfully it didn’t really dawn on me that a new decade was upon us until I was watching the news and they started talking about it. I was just thinking of how the year had gone by so fast. And granted one could say that about every year, but, 2019 in particular seemed to fly by to me. I was thinking about things that happened and they didn’t seem like months ago but more so days ago. I have heard that one of the perils of getting older is that time goes by faster. Maybe it’s because you have a greater realization of things happening. As a kid I think you forget more than you remember but as an adult everything that happens gets filed away so it’s easy to measure things by the events in our lives. My dad has been gone 4 years and I still measure things from before and after his death as well as before and after he got sick. I’ll remember something or see something from a particular year and I measure it against these dates. Not always a good thing. But, it is a good reminder to me of how quickly things can change and can happen. It’s true what they say that life can change in the blink of an eye.

And for many a new year means resolutions to change things in their lives or do things differently. I myself have never made a New Year’s resolution. I personally believe that there is no time like the present to make a change for the better. Every day you are given the opportunity to do things better and/or differently than the day before. So why not grab on to that as opposed to waiting for the year to change. Let’s say you fail at your resolution in February, does that mean you should wait 10 months to try again? Absolutely not! So, instead of resolutions I’ll look back and see if I have grown as a person over the course of time. Of course there are things that I would like to be different, but, at the end of the day I am content. And being content makes it a bit easier to work on those things that I would like to change.

So, what’s on my plate for 2020 so far… A semi-monumental college reunion that I may or may not attend and a pretty exciting vacation! And of course more baking and crafting. Next month marks 8 years that I have been blogging. And while I may not have the amount of followers that others have, I am still trudging along and thankful for those of you who do follow me and welcome any and all new readers. I enjoy baking, crafting, photographing, writing, and everything else that makes up my blog so I will continue on! Besides, good things come to those who wait.

I leave you with two pics…

A pic of the Christmas cake I made (this was totally not the design I had in mind for this cake, but, I had a frosting fail at 10p on a work-night so I had to improvise and was happy with the outcome)…

And the cake I made for New Year’s Eve – I decided to try out the decorated sheet cake trend. After piping the designs on to the cake I then sprayed it with Wilton’s Color Mist in pearl and sprinkled it with a mixture of festive sprinkles…

Happy 2020!

 

 

 

Cookie Palooza: Chocolate Dipped Shortbread Cookies

I hope you have enjoyed this year’s Cookie Palooza cookies. Today I am bringing you a no bake option for those of you who are not fond of baking, just don’t have the time, just don’t want to but have somehow got roped into “baking” something and everyone else in between. It’s a shortbread cookie dipped in chocolate and then sprinkled with either jimmies, nonpareils or crushed candy canes.

I opted to use two different types of shortbread cookies… Pepperidge Farm’s Shortbread cookies (which I had some trouble finding, I am wondering if they are only available around the holidays) and Keebler’s Sandies Classic Shortbread Cookies (I found these in the cookie aisle at my local supermarket.

I melted 8 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate using the double boiler method (fill a pot with a few inches of water and then place it on the stove over medium heat, place a bowl over the water making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the bottom of the pot, and then fill the bowl with the chocolate) I normally melt my chocolate in the microwave, but, have decided to switch back to doing it on the stove since there is less of a risk of burning the chocolate and truthfully it works just as quick. Once the chocolate had melted I stirred in a tablespoon of shortening to keep it smooth.

To prep my workspace I placed the melted chocolate on a trivet, poured the sprinkles and crushed candy canes into small bowls and lined two large cookie sheet with wax paper. And then I was ready to start dipping.

I dipped half of each cookie into the melted chocolate then placed it on the prepared cookie sheet and then topped it with either the sprinkles or the candy. Once the sheet was full I placed it in the refrigerator for a few minutes so the chocolate could harden.

Once the chocolate was set I arranged the cookies on a platter. These would be the perfect addition to any dessert table, as a gift wrapped in cellophane, or just to snack on while you are getting your last minute decorations or wrapping done.

And while I went with sprinkles and crushed candy canes to decorate the cookies, you could also do chopped nuts, crushed pretzels, or drizzle the chocolate part with more chocolate in another color.

If you’re looking for more no-bake options click on the links for the cookies below…

Peppermint Chocolate Cookies

Cannoli Wafer Sandwich Cookie 

Hope you have enjoyed this year’s Cookie Palooza. Happy Baking!

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread Cookies

  • Servings: 30 cookies
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Ingredients:

8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate*

1 tbsp. shortening

Shortbread Cookies**

Assorted toppings: sprinkles, crushed candy canes, chopped nuts, crushed pretzels

 

*You can use baking bars or chocolate chips, I used a combination of both

**I used 1 package of of Keebler’s Sandies Shortbread Cookies (about 20 cookies) & 1 package of Pepperidge Farm Shortbread Cookies (12 cookies)

 

Directions:

Line two large baking sheets with wax paper and set aside.

Pour your toppings into individual small bowls to make them easily accessible.

Melt the chocolate using your preferred method. If using a double boiler stir the chocolate as it melts from the bottom. If using the microwave, microwave the chocolate in 15 second intervals until melted, stirring between each. Once melted add in the shortening and stir to incorporate.

Dip half of each cookie in the melted chocolate then place on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with your desired topping. Place the cookies in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes until the chocolate is firm. Enjoy!

Cookie Palooza: Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

I kicked off Cookie Palooza on Monday with a chai spiced inspired snickerdoodle and here I am a few days later bringing you another snickerdoodle variation, a pumpkin one. I figured snickerdoodles are the perfect cookie for the season since they are rolled in sanding sugar (along with other spices) prior to baking giving them a nice glisten to go with the season so why not share two. And with this pumpkin version you can keep those pumpkin lovers happy and not let them go overboard with the traditional flavor of the season… peppermint.

I began by making the dough for the cookies. In one bowl I whisked together all of the dry ingredients and in another bowl I mixed together the wet ingredients and then I added the dry to the wet to make the dough. I then set the dough aside for a few minutes and combined sanding sugar, cinnamon and allspice in a small bowl to roll the cookie dough in. Using a cookie scoop I scooped the dough and then rolled it in the sugar mixture and then placed it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Per the directions I placed the cookies about 3 inches apart on the sheet. Truthfully you could get away with 2 inches. While the cookie dough looks small the cookies will rise and spread a little while baking.

Next, I flattened the cookies with a spatula (use could also use the bottom of a glass cup) to about 1/2 inch thickness. I then baked them in a 375 preheated oven for 10 minutes.

After letting the cookies cool on the sheet for 5 minutes I then transferred them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Final verdict… I must say these are probably one of the best cookies I have ever made. They are firm on the outside but have a nice cakey center that isn’t dry. That is thanks to the addition of pumpkin puree. And while pumpkin often results in baked desserts that are super moist, the ingredients are so well balanced that that is not the case here. No one wants to eat a pumpkin cookie that is reminiscent of pumpkin pie.

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

  • Servings: 30 Cookies
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Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 large egg, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup fine sanding sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl whisk together the dry ingredients – flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and nutmeg.

In a large bowl using a handheld mixer beat together the butter and pumpkin until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and continue beating until combined. Add the flour mixture and continue beating until combined.

In a small bowl mix together the sanding sugar, cinnamon and allspice. Using a cookie scoop, scoop the dough and then roll it in the sugar mixture and then place it on the prepared cookie sheet 3-inches apart. Flatten the cookies with a spatula to about 1/2-inch thick and then bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes.

Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 5 minutes until transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe from Martha Stewart