Tag Archives: food blogger collaborations

Blackberry Cheesecake Swirl Ice Cream

Blackberry Cheesecake Ice Cream with Mini-Mallows - Inside NanaBread's Head

Know how I know it’s almost summer? The “101 Favorite Recipes” lists start flying around the internet. Last weekend it was Memorial Day Must-Haves. Soon it will be “Fourth of July Favorites”. Today, we’re getting a jump on summer with a celebration of ice cream. Jenni Fields, author of Pastry Chef Online has invited bloggers to join her for Ice Cream Tuesday – Marshmallow Edition. The marshmallow twist can take any form – a fluff topping, stacked on or stirred in, or incorporated right into an ice cream base. Anything goes!

Luckily, I have a secret weapon in my back pocket – Allison, my foodie friend who makes homemade marshmallows. We’re talking serious combinations like honey latte, pina colada, and the latest batch she sent – blackberry sage. For my ice cream, I started by cutting her full-size marshmallows into teeny tiny baby marshmallows. Man, I wish you could taste these blackberry beauties.

Photo from my Instagram feed @HeyNanaBread

Photo from my Instagram feed @HeyNanaBread

It was a no-brainer to pair these puppies with my homemade blackberry jam.
A cheesecake ice cream base, with its slightly tart bite, is a perfect match for Allison’s luscious marshmallows and the sweetness of blackberry jam.

I love it when a plan comes together. Granted, most people don’t have handmade blackberry marshmallows lying around, so fret not – this ice cream, even without pretty marshmallows, is still worthy of any summer party. And there’s no shame in a store-bought bag of mini-mallows. I buy them, too.

Blackberry Cheesecake Ice Cream - So Good - at Inside NanaBread's Head

If you love cream cheese like I love cream cheese, you’re going to love this ice cream. If you like a thick layer of cream cheese on a warm bagel, this one will make your heart sing. The combination of cream cheese, kefir and buttermilk will give you all the tang you crave, and then some.

If, however, you are more of a no-bake cheesecake person who prefers a higher fruit to cream cheese ratio, you can adapt this recipe to lessen the twang. I’ll post a note at the end of the recipe and tell you how to tone it down.

Blackberry Cheesecake Ice Cream - 8

NanaBread’s Blackberry Cheesecake Ice Cream:
1 package (8 ozs.) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup kefir OR plain thick Greek yogurt
1/4 cup sugar
a pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 box (3.4 ozs.) instant cheesecake pudding mix
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup buttermilk (low-fat is fine)
1/3 cup + 3 tablespoons of your favorite blackberry jam
1/2 cup mini-marshmallows (optional)

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese, kefir or yogurt, sugar, salt, almond extract and dry pudding mix. Beat on medium speed until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low and slowly add the whipping cream, buttermilk and 3 tablespoons of the blackberry jam (for color). Beat just until combined and smooth, then scrape the mixture into an electric ice cream maker. Process according to the manufacturer’s instructions, or until the ice cream thickens to a perfect frozen soft-serve consistency.

If you are adding mini-marshmallows, stir them in now.

Into a freezer-safe container with a tight-fitting lid, pour half of the ice cream base and spread to a smooth layer with a rubber spatula. Add the 1/3 cup of blackberry jam and spread into an even layer. Top with the remaining ice cream base and seal the container. Pop it into the freezer for at least 2 hours to set.

Substitutions for a lighter, less twangy cream cheese base:
1. Swap a light berry flavored yogurt for the kefir or plain Greek yogurt.
2. Use vanilla pudding mix in place of the cheesecake pudding.
3. Substitute 2% or whole milk for the buttermilk.

If you’re not into blackberries, this recipe would also rock with raspberry, blueberry or cherry jam. If you really want to go big, leave out the jam all together and add a layer of caramel, fudge sauce and nuts for a Turtle Cheesecake Ice Cream. Personally, I’m really digging the blackberry combo.

Blackberry Cheesecake Ice Cream - Ice Cream Tuesday - Inside NanaBread's Head

But wait… there s’more! Check out these Ice Cream Tuesday posts:
Posts go live throughout the day. If at first you don’t connect – try, try again!

Jenni @ Pastry Chef Online:
Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream with Key Lime Marshmallow Swirl

Karen @ Pint-Sized Baker:
Frozen Coconut S’Mores Bars

Dionne @ Try Anything Once Culinary:
Strawberry Ice Cream with Marshmallow Swirl and Toasted Walnuts

Liz @ That Skinny Chick Can Bake:
Fudge-Topped Marshmallow Ice Cream

Betsy @ Desserts Required:
Kahlua Marshmallows/Marshmallow Sauce

Stacy @ Food Lust People Love:
No-Churn Coffee Amaretto Ice Cream with Almond Marshmallows

Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic:
Traverse City Cherry Cordial Frozen Yogurt

Donna @ Cookistry:
Strawberry Marshmallow Ice Cream

Allison @ Decadent Philistines Save the World:
Horchata Ice Cream with Mocha Mallow Swirl

Sophia @ NY Foodgasm:
Princess Badass Vanilla with Bourbon Cherries & Marshmallow Fluff

Jenni's Ice Cream Tuesday -Mallow Week logo

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Pizza Week: Pepperoni Rolls Two Ways

Pizza Week Calzones - Cut - Vertical

It’s hard to compete with pizza places – they’re fast, cheap and sometimes a little too convenient, if you know what I mean. How does any parent compete with a $5 pizza from Little Caesar’s? We can’t, really. But we CAN make easy pizzas at home. Are these going to pass for gourmet? No way! But that’s not what I’m going for here. For Pizza Week, I’m shooting for quick and easy.

TIP: I use frozen bread dough. You can make your own, but I’m a confirmed yeast slayer so prepared frozen dough works for me. To thaw it more quickly on a cold day, spray the inside of a gallon zip bag then insert 2 loaves of frozen dough and seal the bag shut. Place the bag on an electric heating pad turned to high heat and cover the dough & heating pad with a thick towel. Every once in a while, check to see how it’s progressing and flip the bag over.

Once the dough is soft and warm, flour your cutting board or work surface. I always get excited when a board gets floured. A myriad of warm and wonderful goodies begins right here.

A Floured Board - Inside NanaBread's Head

Place your bread dough onto a floured board, and using your fingertips, gently press the dough into a rectangle (roughly 8″ x 12″). Cover it with a lightweight kitchen towel and allow it to rest for 10-15 minutes. When it is well rested, grab a rolling-pin and roll the dough into a larger rectangle (about 12″ x 18″).

Pizza Week - Bread Dough

I like a simple sauce on my pizza, so a small can of tomato sauce with Italian herbs & spices blended in is perfect for me. I usually throw in a little garlic salt and hot chili flakes, as well as an extra pinch of dried oregano, but that’s optional. When you’re ready to assemble, lay out your toppings and get busy. Here’s how I put together an easy Pepperoni & Mushroom Calzone.

Pizza Week Calzones - Collage

Top to Bottom: a little sauce, provolone, pepperoni, button & baby bella mushrooms sauteed in butter, Italian 5-cheese blend & parmesan; stretch out the sides of the dough & cut with pizza cutter; pinch together ends, brush with olive oil (or see below) & bake until golden.

Want to blow your family’s mind? Melt half a stick of butter, throw in a little garlic salt & oregano and then brush it all over the top of your calzone just before you pop it in the oven. Bake until golden brown, then remove from the oven and allow it to cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing. Soft, gooey pizza has to be one of the greatest things to ever come out of an oven. Can I get an amen?

Pizza Week Calzones - Vertical

Pizza Week Calzones - Cut - Horizontal

Okay… so everyone loves pizza, but sometimes we don’t have time to make bread dough or wait for it to rise. Here’s my second version of quick pizza rolls – wonton-style. These could not be simpler. You’ll need a package of wonton wrappers (produce section), a package of string cheese, a package of pepperoni, a small bowl of water and a frying pan with about 3/4″ of canola or vegetable oil.

Pizza Rolls - Wonton Style - Collage

The key to these is that small bowl of water. Use the water to ‘paint’ the edges of the wonton wrappers. It acts as glue and causes the cornstarch coating on the wrappers to seal these puppies shut, which is really important when you drop them into hot oil. If yours start to peel open again, just dip your finger in water and stick it back together again. Fry in hot oil (325F) until golden brown, then remove to paper towels to cool. Presto! Pizza Rolls!

Pizza Rolls - Wonton-Style & Ready to Serve
I like to serve these with warm marinara. Again, I usually toss in some oregano and chili flakes. I like my marinara zippy. If you like your cheese ooey and gooey, just microwave these for 30-45 seconds just before serving.

Pizza Rolls - A Perfect Bite

Ready for MORE pizza? Check out our merry band of Theme Weavers and their gooey contributions to Pizza Week:

Monday:
Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama – Pizza Dough & a King Arthur Flour giveaway

Tuesday:
Kat @ Tenaciously Yours – Zorbaz Taco Pizza
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – 30-Minute Cornmeal Pizza Crust

Wednesday:
Megan @ Country Cleaver – Proscuitto & Pear Pie
Madelyn @ La Petite Pancake – Tangy BBQ Chicken Pizza

Thursday:
Beka @ Kvetchin’ Kitchen – Clam & Bacon Pizza
Monica @ The Grommom – Pesto & Roasted Veggie Pizza on Gluten-Free Crust

Friday:
Jeanne @ Inside NanaBread’s Head – that’s me!
Lauren @ Climbing Grier Mountain – Caramelized Onion, Sausage, and Barbecue Pizza with Ranch Dressing
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Greek Pizza

PizzaWeekBadge

Honorable Mentions: The following are blog posts I’ve drooled over on other blogger’s websites. While not a part of our Pizza Week shenanigans, they are definitely worth a mention.

Megan @ Country Cleaver – Carnitas Pizza with Mango Margaritas

Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama – Jalapeno Popper Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Lauren @ Climbing Grier Mountain – Pot Roast Naan Pizza with Caramelized Onions & Fontina

Anne @ From My Sweet Heart – Sausage, Egg & Cheese Breakfast Pizza

Michelle @ Brown-Eyed Baker – Pizza Dip

Christina @ Dessert For Two – Chocolate Raspberry Dessert Pizza

Bev @ Bev Cooks – Simple Tandoori Chicken Naan Pizza

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Berry Week: Annie’s Blackberry Cake

Blackberry Cake - InsideNanaBreadsHead

Hooray for summer berries and Berry Week! Fresh produce from the farmers market is one of my favorite things about summer and each year I look forward to hitting all the fruit stands. Fresh berries, peaches, watermelon and all those glorious veggies make me happy to my core.

This week, our Theme Weavers band of bloggers is taking on summer’s bounty with Berry Week. Contributions include pies, cakes, cocktails and breakfast treats so stay tuned and plan to visit all this deliciousness.

Berry Week Logo

Monday:
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Fresh Strawberry Pie
Madelyn @ La Petite Pancake – Berry Sangria

Tuesday:
Anne @ From My Sweet Heart – Summer Berry Terrine with Mascarpone
Jeanne @ Inside NanaBread’s Head – Annie’s Blackberry Cake (below)

Wednesday:
Lauren @ Grier Mountain – Vanilla Gelato with Peach-Blueberry Compote
Kat @ Tenaciously Yours – Strawberry Smash

Thursday:
Megan @ Country Cleaver – Strawberry Basil Sorbet Bellini
Haley @ Girly Girl Cooks – Strawberry-Rhubarb Stuffed French Toast

Friday:
Christina @ Buffy & George – Raspberry & Cherry Pie (gluten-free crust)
Beka @ Kvetchin’ Kitchen – PNW75 Berry Cocktail
Monica @ The Grommom – Papaya-Berry Crisp (gluten-free)

Saturday:
Madeline @ Munching in the Mitten – Cherry Clafoutis
Allison @ Decadent Philistines – Raspberry Marshmallows (2 ways)

Blackberry Cake & Vintage Square Cakestand - Inside NanaBread's Head

Now let’s talk cake! I am a self-proclaimed Pie Girl. Basically, it’s because I despise dry, over-frosted cake. Yuck. I’d rather skip dessert all together than eat dry cake. Luckily, this is not that cake.

I first got this recipe from my dear friend Annie. We worked together in an elementary school front office for years and became soul sisters. She shared this gem with me and I shared it with my mom and sisters. Now it’s a family favorite. Best of all, it’s incredibly easy to make and absolutely packed with blackberry flavor. I know some people hate the M word (rhymes with hoist) so I’ll refrain. Just know that this cake is the furthest thing from dry.

Annie’s Blackberry Cake

For the cake:
1 box white ‘super moist’ cake mix (18 ozs.)
1 box black raspberry or raspberry Jell-O (3 ozs.)
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/2 cup milk
4 whole eggs
4 Tablespoons seedless blackberry jam
1 cup fresh or frozen blackberries
1 cup sweetened coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

For the Whipped Cream Frosting:
2 cups heavy whipping cream, chilled
1/4 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar (to taste)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons seedless blackberry jam
fresh blackberries for garnish

To Make the Cake:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F. The original recipe called for three 8″ round pans for a layer cake. I used a vintage square tube pan I found at an antique shop last summer, but you could also bake this cake in a 13″ x 9″ rectangle pan (even easier). Generously grease & flour your baking pan(s) and set them aside.

Next, put the coconut & pecans into a food processor and pulse until both are well combined and ground into small pieces; set those aside, as well.

Combine the cake mix, dry Jell-O powder, oil, milk and blackberry jam in a large bowl and beat with a mixer until thoroughly combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Gently fold in the berries, coconut and pecans until evenly distributed. Pour the batter into your pan(s) and spread it into a smooth, even layer.

Bake at 350F until a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. My square tube pan took 40 minutes. A 13″ x 9″ square should take 25-30 minutes, and three round layers should take 20-25 minutes. As with all recipes, baking time may vary depending on your oven, so keep an eye on it for the last 10 minutes and check it often with a toothpick. Once it’s done, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans until cool to the touch.

To Make the Whipped Cream Frosting:

While your cake is cooling, place your mixing bowl and beaters in the refrigerator and chill for at least 15-20 minutes. Once chilled, remove from the fridge and add the cream, sugar, vanilla and jam to the bowl. Beat on medium-high to high speed just until firm peaks form.

If your cake is still warm to the touch, put your prepared whipped cream in the fridge and wait until the cake is completely cooled to prevent your cream from melting. Once the cake is cool, you’re ready to frost.

For my tube pan cake, I used a serrated knife to cut the cake into two even layers. If you use a 13″ x 9″ pan, simply top with whipped cream frosting and sprinkle with fresh berries. For a layer cake, stack one layer at a time onto a serving plate and fill with 1/2″ of the whipped cream, then top with last of the whipped cream and fresh berries. I had extra berries, so I tossed them with some sugar and used them between my layers as well.

Because of the whipped cream frosting, this cake must be refrigerated. It’s also best when eaten within 48 hours. That’s one of the reasons my family makes this for family gatherings. It’s a lot of cake to consume for two people in one weekend. If that’s an issue, you might consider baking this as cupcakes and freezing them un-frosted. Then when you need a cake fix, you can thaw as many as you want/need and make just enough whipped cream for those few.

If you’re thinking “I’m not really a blackberry fan” then try it with raspberries or strawberries. Don’t like pecans? Substitute toasted almonds. Allergic to nuts? Leave them out! I draw the line at coconut. It’s just too good to leave it out, but if you have to I promise to look the other way. It’s not brain surgery – just cake. Tweak it any way you like. Food should be fun, so play with it!

Now all that’s left to do is to dig in. My cake is going to Mom’s house. Luckily, she’s a good sharer. Speaking of sharing, here… I saved you a piece.

Blackberry Cake - A Slice - Inside NanaBread's Head

Note: This recipe was adapted from a copy of a recipe taken from an old unspecified spiral-bound cookbook. It is credited to Billie Kendrick of Springdale, Arkansas. Her original recipe called for a heavy fudge-like frosting made with one pound of confectioner’s sugar. Since I’m not a buttercream fan, my family and I opt for a lighter whipped cream topping. I also took the liberty of adding blackberry jam to the cake batter for extra flavor. My heartfelt thanks go to Ms. Kendrick for her perfect summer berry confection and to my sweet friend Annie who was kind enough to share it. XOXO

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Caramel Week: Chocolate Alfajores

Chocolate Alfajores for Caramel Week - Inside NanaBread's Head

Definition: Alfajores (Al-fa-ho-res) are a South American type of shortbread sandwich cookie that are filled with dulce de leche (caramel filling). These delicious cookies can trace their origin back to the Moorish occupation of Andalusia, Spain and the great culinary traditions of the Mediterranean Basin.

Caramel Week Logo

To celebrate Caramel Week, I tried a new twist on a traditional favorite – a chocolate version filled with homemade salted vanilla bean caramel, both in the traditional scalloped round shape and a less traditional square.

Chocolate Alfajores Close-Up - Inside NanaBread's Head

Chocolate Alfajores: The Cookie Dough (makes 3-4 dozen)

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (or 2 tsp. vanilla extract)
Dulce de leche caramel (recipe below or store-bought)
powdered sugar & cocoa for dusting

Cream the butter & sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and egg yolks one at a time, mixing after each addition, then beat in vanilla bean paste or extract until well blended. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and cocoa; sift to remove all lumps. Turning the mixer to low speed, gradually add the flour and beat until it just starts to come together; turn the mixer to medium and beat 10-15 seconds. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead the dough into a smooth ball; pat into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour or until firm.

Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Line several baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats and set aside. Lightly flour your work surface and roll the dough to 1/4″ thick, making sure the dough doesn’t stick to the counter or board. Using a 2″ cookie cutter (round & fluted is traditional), cut out the cookies and carefully transfer them to the baking sheets, about 1″ apart.

Place the cookie sheets into the freezer and allow the dough to chill for 15-20 minutes, or until very firm. Once firm, pop them into the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the tops are firm to the touch. Cool on the baking sheet for 10-15 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

You can save time by buying a jar of dulce de leche caramel (Trader Joe’s has a great one) but if you want to tackle it from scratch, here’s mine.

Salted Vanilla Bean Caramel: (makes approximately 2 1/2 cups)

2 cans ( ozs. each) sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 to 2 cups heavy whipping cream, as needed
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

In a large heavy bottom saucepan, heat the sweetened condensed milk until it comes to a boil, stirring often. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook, whisking constantly, until it turns a golden tan color. If the mixture starts to thicken, add heavy cream 1/2 cup at a time, whisking constantly. Continue to cook until the caramel turns a light brown shade, adding cream to thin it out some as needed. The finished caramel should coat a spoon thickly, but still pour from the spoon easily. When it reaches that stage, remove it from the heat and add whisk in the vanilla bean paste and sea salt. Allow the caramel to cool completely before using.

To Assemble the Alfajores:

Lay the cooled cookies out in rows so you can work quickly. I like to place one row ‘bottoms up’ and the next ‘face up’ so I can keep my pairs matched. Scrape the caramel mixture into a piping bag with a star tip and twist it until the caramel is compressed into the bottom of the bag. Pipe a generous layer of caramel onto the bottom side of half of the cookies. Using the remaining cookies, put a lid on each alfajor and gently press to make sure it’s seated. Once all cookies are filled, dust them lightly with powdered sugar or, as I did, a combination of powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Then try not to eat them all at once.

Chocolate Alfajores by Inside NanaBread's Head

If alfajores have piqued your interest, please drop by my friend Kirsten’s blog at Comfortably Domestic. She baked up a batch using her favorite shortbread recipe and a deep, dark caramel that will make your mouth water. Pinky swear.

Recipe Source: The caramel shown is my own recipe. The alfajor cookie dough was adapted slightly from Vianney Rodriguez at Sweetlifebake.com, who used the recipe from The Cookiepedia cookbook by Stacy Adimando. If you’d like to see Vianney’s traditional vanilla alfajor dough, CLICK HERE.

Chocolate Alfajores with Salted Vanilla Bean Caramel - Inside NanaBread's Head

For more Caramel Week goodies, visit our other Theme Weavers:

MONDAY:
Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic – Crock Pot Dulce de Leche Caramel

Madelyn at La Petite Pancake – Caramel Banana Bread Pudding

Rebeka at Kvetchin Kitchen – Caramel Apple Pie

TUESDAY:
Allison at Decadent Philistines – Salted Caramel Pork Loin with Shaved Brussel Sprout & Apple Salad

Carrie at Bakeaholic Mama – Chewy Milk Dud Brownies

WEDNESDAY:
Jeanne at Inside NanaBread’s Head – Chocolate Alfajor Cookies (that’s me!)

Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic – Vanilla Alfajor Cookies

Haley at The Girly Girl Cooks – Almost Famous Fairground Caramel Sauce

Lauren at Climbing Grier Mountain – Dulce de Leche Milkshakes

THURSDAY:
Kat at Tenaciously Yours – Caramel Popcorn Crunch Sundae

Beka at Kvetchin’ Kitchen – Red Wine Caramel Sauce

Christina at Buffy and George – Butterscotch Pudding

FRIDAY:
Megan at Country Cleaver – Pear & Caramel Mini-Cheesecakes

Madeline at Munching in the Mitten – Caramel Cake

SATURDAY:
Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic – DIY Dulce de Leche Caramel Coffee Creamer

Katie at The Hill Country Cook – Salted Caramel Pie

Caramel Week Logo

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It’s Beer Week! Wait… what?!?

You heard me… Beer Week. And I’m not a beer drinker. There, I said it. It feels good to put it out there from the very beginning. My name is NanaBread and I am not a beer drinker. I never really have been, except for this one time in Fayetteville, Arkansas in the very early 80’s when I drank half-frozen slushy beer loaded with green olives. And it was delicious. If you’re not a drinker, stay with me. There’s a cake later in this post. I promise.

When Beer Week was proposed by my blogging friends and I was intimidated. But then I made beer bread and saw a few chocolate stout cakes on Pinterest, so after some research I embraced our Beer Week with open arms. In fact, I embraced it so well I ordered and drank two beer samplers on vacation in Vancouver. Here’s what I tried (for the team, of course):

The Sampler at Granville Island Brewing Co., Vancouver

Yeah. Doesn’t look like something a non-beer drinker would order, does it? For this one, The Complete Package helped out. It was a good plan – he enjoyed the boring flavors (pale ale, lager) and I enjoyed sampling the more exotic flavors (raspberry, honey, maple cream). Check this out:

The laminated Tasting Map was the best coaster ever & so informative!

What I liked best about this Granville Island Brewing sampler was that their flavored beers were gently flavored. Raspberry beer can be obnoxious, but this one was gently kissed with raspberry flavor. And it was lovely. My favorite was the maple cream ale. Second favorite was the one placed in the “Limited Release” section of the tasting mat – Ginger. Mmmm… ginger. And third place goes to the honey lager. Hard to describe, but so very easy to drink.

Next up (and several days later, I promise) was the Irish sampler from Mahony & Sons at Canada Place in Vancouver. The Complete Package abandoned me and ordered his own beer, so I was on my own for this sampler. I did what any team player would do – I cracked my knuckles and rolled my head to loosen up my shoulders and dug in. “We can do this!” It’s our family motto. TCP’s beer:

He wanted something light to go with salmon. Tsk.

Compared to his, mine looks like a Party on a Plank. This one included four Irish classics – 6 ounces each of Smithwick’s, Harp, Kilkenny and Guinness.

Slainte! (SLAHN-chə) – that’s Old Irish for ‘good health’ or something like that

I started with the pale lager and worked my way up to the Guinness.

Light & refreshing, but still a lager. Meh.

Then the Kilkenny Irish Red Cream Ale.

Oooo… I liked this one a lot; so I set it aside so I could savor it later.

Third – the Smithwick’s.

Smithwick’s Irish Ale – it was just okay; sorry, Smithwick.

And lastly, the Guinness. It’s so dark it looks like iced coffee.

Gorgeous, if a beer can be called that; who can resist that foam?

And that leads us to Beer Week. I chose the Guinness and I paired it with dark chocolate, then smothered it in a Caramel & Kahlua Whipped Cream. Sounds pretty good, don’t you think? Want a sneak peek? Here ya’ go.

Dark Chocolate Stout Cake with Caramel & Kahlua Whipped Cream

Here’s how I made the dark chocolate stout cake:
(adapted from The Realistic Nutritionist‘s bundt cake)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons butter, softened
4 ounces applesauce
2 whole eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup Guinness stout
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a jellyroll pan with parchment or a silpat mat, then spray with Pam for Baking or grease & flour liberally; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugars, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt; whisk to combine. Add the softened butter, applesauce, eggs, vanilla extract and Guinness and beat with an electric mixer until thoroughly combined. Stop the mixer and fold in the chocolate chips. Pour into the jellyroll pan and spread evenly to all edges and corners. Tap gently on the counter, then pop it into the oven. Bake approximately 20 minutes, or until a toothpick just comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool completely.

For the Caramel & Kahlua Whipped Cream:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 cup thick dulce de leche caramel
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon Kahlua (or espresso, cooled)

In a saucepan, combine the whipping cream, espresso powder and caramel; arm over low heat, whisking until the caramel is melted and thoroughly combined. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool; refrigerate for at least 2 hours (I put mine in my KitchenAid mixer bowl and placed the whole thing in the fridge so the bowl & cream were both cold). Once properly chilled, place the bowl onto the mixer and whip until soft peaks start to form. Add the sugar and Kahlua and continue to beat until it begins to thicken. In my case, stiff peaks did not form and that’s okay. It’s all going to be layered with cake in a minute.

To assemble:

1. Start with the cake (this is where parchment/silpat mats come in handy).

Baking it in a jelly roll pan makes the cake layers about 1/2″ thick.

2. Use a round metal biscuit cutter to cut the cake into circles. How big should your circles be? That depends on what you’re building your layers in. Measure your jar or glass to determine which size cutter or can to use, then cut the cake into circles. One jellyroll pan yielded 30 cake circles for me.

A metal biscuit cutter makes quick work of cutting the layers.

3. To pipe the whipped cream, I like to spoon mine into a ziploc-style plastic bag. It helps to put that bag into a glass and fold the top edge of the bag over the glass. Once the bag is full, pull it out of the glass, press out the excess air and zip it shut.

My favorite piping tool – a plastic bag; makes for easy clean up, too.

4. Using a pair of scissors, snip the corner off the bag just before you start piping whipped cream. I like to keep a small but deep mixing bowl nearby so I can set the bag down without it falling over and spilling out.

Snip the corner and start piping; when you’re done, throw it away.

5. Start by placing a cake round in the bottom of your jar or glass; top with a 1/2″ layer of whipped cream, then continue to rotate cake and cream layers.

Start with cake & work your way up to within 3/4″ of the top.

6. Finish with a nice swirl of the whipped cream.

A layer of the whipped cream goes on top.

Then a nice spoonful of caramel goes on top of the cream.

Then sprinkle with cake crumbs. Nothing goes to waste.

6. If you’re using serving glasses, cover them with plastic wrap and keep them refrigerated until just before serving. If you’re using canning jars, place a lid and ring on the top and tighten gently. Then feel free to decorate any way you see fit. I went with burlap and ribbon, and I was happy with the way they turned out.

That’s burlap held with a rubber band; rustic yet decorative.

Finish with a pretty brown satin ribbon & suddenly it’s fancy.

And that is my version of Dark Chocolate Stout Cake with Caramel & Kahlua Whipped Cream. My favorite thing about this dessert is… everything. I love how they look layered in jars. I love that the jars make them portable. I love that these were even better the next day, which means you can make them in advance and have more free time to entertain. It also means the leftovers (if any) will keep getting better and better until they’re gone.

Oh, yeah…there’s the money shot. Someone pass me a spoon.

Trust me, these go fast and they go down smooth – even if you’re not a beer drinker. If you are, then these are just the thing, lassie. Cures what ales ya’.

Now who’s ready for another round?
Visit these Beer Week bloggers throughout the week to see what they’re up to:

Monday:
Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic – introduces us to a local Michigan home brewer turning passion into a business in her “Welcome to Beer Week” intro

Tuesday:
Madeline at Munching in the Mitten – shares her thoughts on Beer Week as well as a recipe for Pumpkin Beer Bread – just in time for fall
and
Kat at Tenaciously Yours – shares an overview of Gasthof’s Oktoberfest where young & old come together to celebrate what else but BEER!

Wednesday:
Anne at From My Sweet Heart – turns beer into Pumpkin Ale Pretzel Caramels; what sweet magic is this?
and
Lauren at Climbing Grier Mountain – tries to steal The Complete Package from me with her Pale Ale Shrimp Po’Boy; it’s one of his all-time favorites

Thursday:
Megan at Country Cleaver – celebrates her heritage and Octoberfest in style with one of my favorites – Schnitzel & Dumplings
and
Beka at Kvetchin’ Kitchen – joins in the fun with her review of the Outlander Brewery.

Friday:
Mads at La Petite Pancake – creates a fiesta for your mouth with her luscious Beer Battered Shrimp Tacos
and
Allison at Decadent Philistines – takes Four Peaks Brewery Kilt Lifter Scottish Ale to new levels with a spicy German mustard, ale-soaked sweet potato oven fries and Maple-Ale Ice Cream; some people are just overachievers.

Saturday:
Katie The Hill Country Cook – visits the Double Horn Brewery outside Marble Falls, Texas to take in $2 pints & Happy Hour Apps
and
Kirsten of Comfortably Domestic – is back with Black & Tan Brownies
and
Carrie at Bakeaholic Mama – thinks outside the box with hard cider and a fabulous Woodchuck Sweet Potato Bisque; this is why I love fall.

I’ll be your mouth is watering now, isn’t it? I’ll be updating the links above throughout the week, so stay tuned. Beer Week may just prove to be our greatest endeavor to date. Cheers!

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Filed under Blogger Collaborations, Food & Recipes, Travel Tales

Lemon Cream Crepe Cakes for Two

It’s Crepe Week! I love these collaborative cooking weeks with my blogging buddies. Having never made crepes before, I’ll admit this one caused me some doubt and anxiety. Then I read the America’s Test Kitchen crepe recipe we chose as our common element, and those doubts evaporated. I’ve said before that I’m a huge fan of America’s Test Kitchen. Why? Because they work diligently to perfect all of their recipes; they do the work so you don’t have to.

For Crepe Week, we’re using this America’s Test Kitchen Crepe Recipe. It’s so adaptable and easy to follow, my fears evaporated when my first crepe came out of the pan. It was perfect. They’re so easy, your French friends will sing your praises with “Vous êtes tellement fabuleux parce que vous pouvez faire des crêpes. Je suis très impressionné!” Translated, that’s “You are so fabulous because you make crepes. I am so impressed!” Now that I know how easy crepes are to make, this could become a regular and delicious thing.

Love to cook? Then I encourage you to register as a user of the ATK website. It’s free, it only takes a second, and you’ll find yourself going there over and over to take advantage of their recipe collection. As a bonus, there’s a video linked to this recipe so you can watch their crepe-making tutorial. They really do think of everything. And now, here’s my contribution to Crepe Week.

Lemon Cream Crepe Cakes for Two
makes two 3″ diameter crepe cakes

For the lemon cream:
one box (5 ozs.) Jell-O Cook & Serve Vanilla Pudding Mix
2 cups milk (whole or 2% works best)
1 carton (6 ozs.) lemon-flavored yogurt
1/2 jar (9.5 ozs.) Dickinson’s lemon curd (or your favorite)

In a saucepan, whisk the pudding mix and milk until well blended. Cook over medium heat, whisking often, until the mixture is thick and smooth; remove from heat and allow to cool completely. To speed up the cooling process, I like to transfer the pudding to a mixing bowl and set it over an ice bath; just whisk often to prevent lumps. Once the pudding is chilled, whisk in the lemon yogurt and half of the jar of lemon curd (4-5 ounces) until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator while you make the crepes.

For the crepes:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup whole milk
3 large eggs
2 tablespoon butter, melted & cooled
a non-stick skillet or crepe pan
1/2 teaspoon of oil for the skillet

I followed the America’s Test Kitchen crepe recipe exactly as it was written. As a crepe novice, I had no intention of playing around with this. The key to perfect crepes is to properly oil and pre-heat the pan for 10 minutes, so don’t skip that part. Mix up the crepe batter and cook as directed. If you don’t have a crepe pan, don’t worry. I used a 10″ non-stick skillet and it worked perfectly. I also prepped 12-14 sheets of waxed paper and stacked my cooked crepes to keep them from drying out. Let the crepes cool completely.

When I finished my crepes, the stack was about 1″ to 1.5″ tall. Since I had envisioned a crepe cake at least 3-4″ tall, this was a problem. And because there are only two of us at home, it made no sense to make 2-3 more recipes for crepes. Two people really shouldn’t eat 36-48 full-size crepes. Instead, I decided to grab my 3″ biscuit cutter and turn my 12 full-size crepes into mini-crepes, as pictured. In my case, that was 3 minis per crepe for 36 total.

Once cut, I layered them in waxed paper again and covered them with a clean kitchen towel to prevent any air from getting to them and drying them out while I assembled the crepe cakes. It actually worked really well, as I could peel off one sheet of waxed paper and work with a few crepes at a time.

With my baby crepes cut and prepped, I was ready to assemble. Removing the lemon cream from the fridge, I gave it one last whisk to add a little air, then I grabbed a spoon from my silverware drawer and dug in for a sample. My eyes then rolled back in my head and I murmured “Man! That is really great stuff!” But that’s not really part of the recipe. :)

Now, layering custard between crepes and stacking them high can be a slippery mess. I was warned of this by another blogger before I started. So with a little forethought and planning, I decided to build my crepe cake on a piece of waxed paper so I could move it easily from my cutting board to my cake plate. I also decided to build each crepe cake inside the same biscuit cutter I used to cut mini-crepes to help keep them straight and tall. It was a good call.

Starting with a baby crepe, I laid it into the mold and made sure it was flat against the waxed paper. I then spooned in one tablespoon of lemon cream and topped it with another crepe. Using a flat-bottomed juice glass, I lightly pressed the crepe into place, working around the edges of the mold just until the crepe was flat and I could see the custard around the edges. The key here was to press gently enough to disperse the custard evenly between the crepe layers, but not so hard that the custard squished out. The juice glass worked perfectly.

Once I hit the top of the mold, I finished with a good layer of lemon cream. I confess – the hardest part of crepe cake construction is controlling the urge to hork down the entire bowl of lemon cream with a big spoon. I kid you not.

Now here’s an important tip: to keep the cakes from collapsing like dominoes when the mold is removed, cut two bamboo skewers about a 1/2″ taller than the crepe cake and pushed them in just off-center. Then put the crepe cake into the refrigerator (still inside the mold) to firm up completely. Before serving, run a thin-bladed knife around the edge of the mold and lift it off; remove the skewers and top each crepe cake with whipped cream and a fresh slice of lemon. Voilà! Light, lemon lusciousness in single-serve form.

Here’s what I learned:
1.) This was so much easier than I had imagined, and so fun to make!
2.) No biscuit cutter? Use a clean empty can with both ends cut off.
3.) Stacking these higher than 3″-4″ will make them tricky to eat.
4.) Slide these off the waxed paper onto a plate before removing the mold.
5.) You can substitute any filling – other custards, jam, ice cream, etc.
6.) Leftover lemon cream makes excellent popsicles or fro-yo; seriously.

Now, here’s the best part of Crepe Week! Eleven other bloggers are putting up their best crepe creations throughout the week and four will be giving away the following America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks thanks to the fine folks at ATK: the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook, the Baking Illustrated Cookbook, the Family Baking Cookbook, and Simple Weeknight Favorites. Also, be sure to check out the Crepe Pan Giveaway sponsored by King Arthur Flour on Bakeaholic Mama’s blog starting this Thursday. This week promises to be epic, so be sure to follow our Crepe Week shenanigans and enter to win!

Monday:
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic (*) – savory Tuscan Crepes
Megan @ Wanna Be A Country Cleaver (*) – sweet Grand Marnier Berry Crepes

Tuesday:
Kat @ Tenaciously Yours – savory Southwest Crepes with Cilantro Pesto
Jeanne @ Inside NanaBread’s Head – sweet Lemon Cream Crepe Cakes for Two

Also on tap as Crepe Week unfolds:

Wednesday:
Lauren @ Climbing Grier Mountain (*) – savory Pork Belly & Mushroom Crepes
Madeline @ Munching in the Mitten – sweet Blueberry Ginger Crepes a la mode

Thursday:
Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama (*) – savory Vermonter Ham & Cheese Crepes
Katie @ The Hill Country Cook (*) – sweet Blackberry Orange Crepes

Friday:
Monica @ The Grommom – savory Prosciutto & Asparagus Crepes with Fresh Mango Cream Sauce
Mads @ La Petite Pancake – sweet Strawberry Crepes Au Lait

Saturday:
Allison @ Decadent Philistines – savory Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Crepes
Anne @ From My Sweet Heart – sweet Red Velvet Crepes with Mascarpone

Note: Bloggers hosting Crepe Week giveaways are marked with (*) above.

A very special thank you goes to America’s Test Kitchen for partnering with us for Crepe Week. Their help and support, along with the donation of cookbooks for giveaways has helped make Crepe Week particularly special. As a collective group of superfans, it’s a thrill for us to collaborate with America’s Test Kitchen.

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Filed under Blogger Collaborations, Food & Recipes