A Bake ‘n Fill Fail

Recently while doing a little cleaning and organizing I came across something I purchased years ago and never used… A Betty Crocker Bake ‘n Fill Cake Pan. The pans were still in their plastic wrapping. Not really sure why I never used it, but having come across it I figured there was no time like the present to try it out. And obviously from the title of this blog post I wasn’t that successful! The cake part was fine, the fail was the filling… So, we’ll say it was a Bake ‘n Fail!

In case you have no clue what I am talking about. These pans were sold in a set by Better Crocker years ago. They first came out in the early 2000’s. Below is a link to the infomercial if you are curious. The whole idea was that you are able to create cakes with fillings (ice cream, fruit, another cake, etc.) or make a cool design like a baseball or a lady bug.

Betty Crocker Bake ‘n Fill Pan

I decided to follow a recipe for a Chocolate Mocha Cake with Chocolate Mousse Filling that was in the recipe book that came with the pans. I began by prepping two of the pans – the inside of the tall pan and bottom of the insert pan (this is the pan that makes the cavity in the cake so it can be filled). Normally I spray my pan with baking spray, but, I decided to follow the directions and greased them with shortening and then coated them with flour. Next, I prepped the batter. I added all of the ingredients for it into a large bowl and beat them with a hand mixer until they were blended together. I then poured it into the tall pan.

Next, I placed the insert pan over the tall pan and locked it into place and then baked it in a 350 F preheated oven for about 45 minutes. Thankfully the insert pan has small holes in it, which I am assuming is to allow the cake to “breathe” while baking, but, I used them to insert a cake tester to see when the cake was done.

After removing the pan from the oven I let it cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes…

And then I removed the insert pan and let the cake cool completely in the pan for about an hour.

Next I made the filling. In a saucepan I combined heavy whipping cream, sugar and coffee liqueur. I cooked it over medium heat until the sugar dissolved. After removing it from the heat I stirred in semi-sweet chocolate chips with a wire whisk until they were melted. And finally I stirred in vanilla extract before transferring the mixture to a large bowl to cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a chilled medium bowl I beat additional heavy whipping cream with a hand mixer until stiff peaks formed. I then folded the heavy whipping cream into the cooled chocolate mixture.

And finally I spooned the whipped chocolate mixture into the cavity of the cake and then refrigerated the cake thinking that the filling would firm up. It never did! I even put it in the freezer for about 30 minutes and that did nothing to it as well. So, I gave up and decided to invert the cake out of the pan and do my best not to make a mess. Well, taking the cake out of the pan was no easy feat. I had to pry a flexible spatula between the cake and the pan to loosen the cake. I was FINALLY able to invert the cake out and surprisingly didn’t make a complete mess with the mousse filling that was definitely not mousse-consistency.

While I thought about throwing in the towel at this point I decided to go ahead and make the frosting for the cake. I added additional heavy whipping cream to a small saucepan and heated until it was hot. I then stirred in semi-sweet chocolate chips and stirred the mixture until the chocolate was melted. After letting the mixture cool for a few minutes it was the perfect consistency to frost the cake.

I won’t show you what happened when I sliced into the cake. As you can imagine the filling just, I hate to use the word ooze, but, that’s pretty much what it did. It did taste good though! And I was able to spoon it over the cake after slicing myself a piece so it wasn’t a total loss. So, will I attempt to use the pan again? Absolutely, but, I think the next filling will be something like whipped cream folded with some fresh berries, or, I will use the filling I normally make for my other cakes. Oh, and yeah, I will be using baking spray next time. It hasn’t left a cake stuck in a pan for me yet!

Cookie Palooza – No Bake Peppermint Chocolate Cookies

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week of cookies. I’m ending Cookie Palooza 2017 with an easy no bake cookie that only requires three ingredients, four if you count the sprinkles… Peppermint Chocolate Wafers.

First ingredient… Melted semi-sweet chocolate. I melted the chocolate using a double-boiler. You could melt the chocolate in the microwave (which was always my preferred method,) but I find melting the chocolate in a double boiler minimizes the chance of scorching the chocolate and you can keep it warm while you’re working so it will stay smooth and thin. Whereas when you melt it in the microwave after a few minutes the chocolate begins to thicken. Creating a double boiler is quite simple… fill a medium saucepan about a little less than halfway with water – you don’t want to fill it too much because then when you place the bowl in the water it will spill over. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat so the water is simmering. Place a heatproof bowl in the water, add chopped chocolate and stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted. Once the chocolate has melted, reduce the flame to low to keep the chocolate warm and add in the peppermint extract (the second ingredient), stir to mix in.

Dip the Nilla Wafers (third ingredient) in the chocolate and flip them over to get them fully covered. The process will go much easier if you have candy dipping tools, but if not a fork will work well. Once cookies are covered lift the cookies out of the chocolate and let the excess drip and then place them on a wax paper lined baking sheet and sprinkle them with festive sprinkles or crushed peppermint candy/candy canes (fourth ingredient.)

 

Once you are done dipping the cookies place them in the refrigerator for about 10-15 minutes so the chocolate can harden.

And that’s it! A simple cookie that’s perfect for the season and best of all, doesn’t require you to turn on your oven.

Happy Holidays!!!

Peppermint Chocolate Dipped Cookies

Ingredients:

8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped*

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

30 – 36 Nilla Wafer cookies

Sprinkles, optional

Directions:

Melt the chocolate using a double boiler on medium to medium low heat. Once the chocolate has melted add the peppermint extract and stir well to combine. Keep the heat on low for the double boiler so that the chocolate will remain smooth and thin.

Dip the wafers in the chocolate one at a time, making sure to coat the entire cookie. Remove from the chocolate and let the excess drip off before placing on a wax paper lined baking sheet to set.

Sprinkle with sprinkles or crushed peppermint candy. Or let the chocolate set for a few minutes and then drizzle with the left-over melted chocolate. Place in the refrigerator so the chocolate can harden. Store in an airtight container.

*You could also use chocolate chips

**The ratio of peppermint extract to chocolate I used was 1/4 teaspoon per 4 oz.

Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons

Coconut is one of those things that people either love or hate. For me, I love coconut. Come the summer I can never pass up getting a Coconut Italian Ice and while I enjoy most flavors of Chobani Greek yogurt my favorite by far is the Almond Coco Loco Flip. So, it’s pretty surprising that I have never had a Coconut Macaroon. I’ve always wanted to make them, but, some other treat makes its way into my oven instead. I finally got around to making them and I must say I wish I had made them sooner!

These were by far one of the easiest cookies I have ever made… They didn’t require a hand or stand mixer and were easily prepared in one bowl. You can’t beat simplicity like that. I began my mixing together shredded sweetened coconut along with sugar, flour, and salt.

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I then added in egg whites and almond extract and mixed the ingredients until they were well blended. Then using a cookie scoop I scooped up the coconut mixture…

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And dropped them on a parchment lined cookie sheet and baked them in a 325 F preheated oven for about 20 minutes.

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Once out of the oven I immediately transferred the macaroons to a wire rack to cool completely.

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After they cooled it was time to dip them in melted chocolate. Conveniently I had half a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips in my fridge. I melted the chocolate in the microwave and then dipped the bottom of each of the macaroons in the chocolate and then placed them on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and put them in the fridge so the chocolate could set.

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And since I had some chocolate left-over I decided to enjoy a mid-afternoon snack of chocolate dipped pretzels… You can’t go wrong with sweet & salty!

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Overall these macaroons were delish… With the combination of coconut, almond extract and chocolate they were reminiscent of an Almond Joy candy bar!

 

Coconut Macaroons

Makes 3 Dozen

Ingredients:

1 14oz. package sweetened coconut flakes (5 1/3 cups)

2/3 cup sugar

6 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 egg whites

1 teaspoon almond extract

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Line two cookies sheets with parchment paper.

2. Mix coconut, sugar, flour and salt in a large bowl. Stir in eggs whites and almond extract until well blended. Drop by rounded tablespoonful (I used a small cookie scoop which yielded 26 macaroons) onto prepared cookie sheets.

3. Bakes for 18-20 minutes, or until edges of cookies are golden brown. Remove from cookie sheets and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy as is, or dip in melted chocolate for an extra sweet treat!

A Slow Cooker Hit And Half Miss

The cold days of winter call for warm and hearty soups (or stews) to help keep you feeling warm and toasty to beat the winter chill. In a recent issue of Rachael Ray Magazine I came across one such soup that had the added bonus of being made in a slow cooker. A kitchen item I do enjoy using but don’t use often enough.

This stew – a Sausage, Bean & Spinach Stew  – was a cinch to make and was ready in about four hours. I began by adding white beans, chopped onions, carrots & celery, garlic, bay leaves and chicken broth to my slow cooker and cooking it on high heat for three and a half hours. I then added sausage meatballs and let them cook in the soup for about twenty-five minutes. Finally, I added in the spinach for the final ten minutes.

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Final verdict… The stew was delicious. I’ll definitely be it making again. But, I think next time I’ll cook the meatballs a little before adding them to the soup.

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Since I had my slow cooker out from obscurity I figured I would finally try making a dessert in it – a Triple Chocolate Brownie recipe I came across from Martha Stewart.

To begin I whisked together my dry ingredients: flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.

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To get started on my wet ingredients I melted butter and bittersweet chocolate together.

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After giving it a few good stirs I added in sugar and eggs.

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I then folded it into the dry mixture along with walnuts and semi-sweet chocolate chips.

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I then poured it into my slow cooker, which I sprayed with cooking spray and lined the bottom of with parchment paper.

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I cooked it on low for four hours, the final half hour uncovered.

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After letting it cool in the insert for two hours I flipped out the brownies to sadly discover that the edges were quite burnt and definitely not edible.

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All was not lost though… After some clever cutting I was left with six, albeit irregularly shaped, brownies that were quite tasty and definitely not lacking in chocolate flavor.

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Baking in a slow cooker… definitely not my first choice for delicious desserts, but, I wouldn’t rule out trying it again, just not brownies though!

Sausage, Bean & Spinach Stew

Ingredients

1 pound dried large white beans, such as great northern, rinsed and picked through

8 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped

2 ribs celery, finely chopped

6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

8 sprigs fresh thyme*

1 bay leaf**

Parmesan rind (optional)*

1 pound sweet or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed, shaped into 1/2-inch meatballs

1 bunch spinach, trimmed

Juice of 1/2 lemon*

Crusty bread, for serving

Directions

In a large slow cooker, stir together the beans, chicken broth, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and Parmesan rind, if using. Cover and cook on high heat until the beans are nearly tender, about 3 1/2 hours.

Place the sausage meatballs on top of the beans. Cover; cook until the meatballs are no longer pink in the center, about 25 minutes.

Discard the thyme sprigs, bay leaf and Parmesan rind. Stir in the spinach, then cover and let stand until the spinach wilts, 10 minutes.

Stir in the lemon juice; season. Serve with crusty bread.

*I omitted these ingredients when I made my soup

**I added in two bay leaves as opposed to just one

Slow-Cooker Triple Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients

Nonstick cooking spray

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup walnut halves, coarsely chopped

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (6 ounces)

Directions

Lightly coat a 5-quart slow-cooker insert with cooking spray. Line bottom with parchment paper and lightly coat with spray. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.

Place butter and chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until chocolate is melted. Add sugar; stir to combine. Stir in eggs. Add flour mixture, walnuts, and chocolate chips and stir just until moistened (do not overmix). Transfer to slow cooker and smooth top.

Cover and cook on low, 3 1/2 hours. Uncover and cook 30 minutes. Remove insert from slow cooker and run a knife around edge to loosen brownies. Let cool completely in insert on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Turn out onto a work surface and cut into 14 brownies.