Archive for March, 2012

Chocolate Nutella Bread Pudding

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Sometimes I feel like Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the least interesting days of the week. And when I’m bored I often turn to chocolate…is that bad? Never mind, don’t answer that…

Anyway, today was Tuesday. So I set my sights on Nutella-infused Chocolate Bread Pudding.

It was good. It was so good I would give myself a congratulatory pat on the back, except I’m too full of chocolate to move.

This project began with a quick trip to the store for some Nutella and baking chocolate. I think any day that begins with Nutella is off to a great start…

Chocolate and bread…my two main food groups, together at last!

I really liked how this turned out. Bread pudding can be a little plain-looking sometimes, but this version was a dark, rich color, with pockets of chocolate chunks and puddles of Nutella. Mmm.

It almost looked like a brownie, but of course it was softer and more custardy.

It was good, and a great way to spend a Tuesday.

On another note, I’ve been thinking about how life can be so noisy sometimes. It’s easy to go through the entire day with noise in the background – alarm/radio/work/music/tv etc. I’ve been trying to pause every now and then to think or pray and notice the fleeting moments of life that are easy to miss.

Here are a couple of my recent moments, captured with my iPhone…some of them out and about, and some consciously quiet.

I hope you’ve been having some good/quiet moments as well! I would highly encourage you to spend a few moments putting this bread pudding together, and a couple more enjoying it! Have a great rest of the week!

Chocolate Nutella Bread Pudding

Adapted from Paula Deen

Makes 10 servings

1 (1-pound) loaf French or Italian bread
3 cups milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp instant coffee powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
6 eggs, lightly beaten
8 ounces semisweet chocolate,  chopped
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons Nutella, divided
Whipped cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Chop the loaf of bread into cubes. Lightly grease a 13 by 9-inch baking pan and pile the bread cubes into the pan.

In a large bowl, whisk the milk and cream together. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, brown sugar, cocoa powder, and coffee powder. Add the sugar mixture to the milk mixture and mix well.

In a small bowl, add the vanilla to the beaten eggs. Add the egg mixture to the milk mixture and mix well.

Stir in the chopped chocolate.

In a small saucepan over very low heat, warm the 1/4 cup of Nutella, stirring constantly. Once it is melted enough to pour, add it to the milk mixture, stirring constantly.

Pour mixture evenly over the cubed bread. Let it sit for 20 minutes (or until the bread soaks up most of the egg mixture), stirring occasionally.

Bake for one hour, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. Remove the pudding from the oven and place little dollops of the leftover Nutella over the top.

Serve warm, or chill and serve with whipped cream.

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Peanut Butter and Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

I’ve had my eye on these sandwich cookies ever since I gleefully browsed through the Hershey’s cookbook after my break from sugar in January. I was excited to make them because of the relative simplicity of the recipe, as well as their unique look.

Tragically, the first batch of cookies came out of the oven unacceptably flat.

Typically when something like this happens I just say goodbye to the recipe and go through my grieving process. As I watched these cookies cool, I was fully prepared to burrow mournfully under a couple of blankets and catch up on the E! footage from the Oscars red carpet. (I kind of love Ryan Seacrest, although that didn’t stop me from watching Sacha Baron Cohen dump ashes on him at least three times…)

Anyway, I was ready to give up, until I actually tried the cookies, along with the melted marshmallow filling. They were sooooo good! In fact, they were so good that I had no choice but to turn right around and try again immediately.

I did some research about preventing flatness, drank some coffee, said a quick prayer asking for patience/calmness/peace/perseverance/puffy cookies, and made them a second time.

The second batch turned out much more symmetrical and aesthetically pleasing, although still flatter than I preferred. (My main strategy was to chill the dough for 30 minutes before baking, to ensure the butter was cold enough.)

I wasn’t bothered that they were a little flat this time though because the cookies were perfectly chewy. Combined with the marshmallow, the three flavors come together in a gooey, delightful harmony.

At the end of the day, as I finished the second batch of dishes, put Aquaphor on my pruny hands, and finally left the kitchen, I felt very satisfied with my work and its results. I hope you give these sandwich cookies a try and enjoy them as much as I did!

Have a great weekend!

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Slightly adapted from Hershey’s Best-Loved Recipes

Makes approximately 24 sandwich cookies

1/2 cup Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips
3 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened and divided
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Hershey’s Cocoa (unsweetened)
5 tablespoons butter, melted
Additional sugar
About 4 dozen large marshmallows

Melt the peanut butter chips and 3 tablespoons of softened butter in a small saucepan over very low heat until melted and smooth, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

In the bowl of a large electric mixer, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of softened butter with the 1 cup sugar, beating just until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the corn syrup, egg and vanilla. Blend just until combined.

In a small bowl, stir together 2 cups flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and beat until combined.

Remove 1 1/4 cups of the dough, and place in a small bowl. With a wooden spoon, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour, as well as the melted peanut butter chip mixture. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Add cocoa, 5 tablespoons melted butter, and remaining 1/4  cup sugar to the rest of the dough. Combine and chill for at least 30 minutes.

While doughs are chilling, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll both doughs into 1-inch balls, and roll in sugar. Try and create the same amount of peanut butter and chocolate cookies so that they’re the same size – about 2 dozen.

Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake until set, about 1o-11 minutes. Cool cookies on pan for a minute or two, then remove to a wire rack.

Once cookies are completely cool, set two marshmallows on the flat side of a chocolate cookie. Microwave for 10 seconds at 50% power. Spread slightly melted marshmallow around with a knife, then press peanut butter cookie down lightly. These are best enjoyed immediately.

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Mint Chocolate Cookies and Cream Pudding

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

This past Saturday was my little brother Mike’s 17th birthday.

I was 10 when he was born, so I was old enough to appreciate how adorable he was. The days of chubby cheeks and little boy suspenders seem like yesterday…

This is what he looks like now, as of last Friday night…

He’s so old and handsome! He needs to stop that!

Anyway, I wanted to make a little dessert for the family celebration this weekend. We already had cake, so I needed something different.

Fortunately, I had just received my Joy the Baker Cookbook in the mail a couple days ago!

(I also bought Mockingjay that day. I’m not even sure how it happened but I am a little Hunger-Games-Consumed right now…)

I really really love Joy’s blog ( Her writing/recipes/photos are unique but also so easy to relate to. I’m excited to meet her in a couple weeks when she comes to Seattle on her book tour!

This cookbook is beautiful and witty. Her recipe titled Chocolate Cookies and Cream Pudding caught my attention right away. I noticed Cool Mint Oreos when I was shopping for ingredients, and so I decided to give this recipe a mint twist.

This dessert turned out really good. On their own, the two elements actually don’t taste very sweet. But when the chocolate pudding combines with the minty oreo whipped cream, it is a sweet fluffy dream.

Seriously though, go out and buy Joy’s book! It is a great read, and I can’t wait to try more of her recipes.

Mint Chocolate Cookies and Cream Pudding

Adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook

Makes 5 pudding cups

For the chocolate pudding:
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant coffee powder
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the whipped cookies and cream:
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
6 drops green food coloring
12 chocolate sandwich cookies, crumbled

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, coffee powder, and salt. Gradually whisk in the whole milk and heavy cream, bringing to a low boil over medium-high heat. Boil for two minutes, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and whisk in the milk chocolate and vanilla extract. Stir until completely smooth.

Transfer pudding to a medium bowl and cover with plastic wrap (allowing the wrap to touch the surface to prevent a skin to form on the pudding). Chill for two hours, or until the pudding is set.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk the heavy cream at medium-high. As it thickens, add in the powdered sugar, peppermint extract and food coloring. When soft peaks form, fold in the crumbled sandwich cookies.

Layer pudding and whipped cream in serving dishes (or in one large dish). Sprinkle the top with crumbled cookies and enjoy!

Notes: I was cautious with the peppermint extract, because too much mint is no fun at all. Feel free to (carefully) add a little more than the recipe calls for. I also might add a little more green color next time. I also tossed in a couple extra Oreos, but that just depends on your preference.

If you want to make the original recipe, just use 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract in the whipped cream instead of peppermint. Eliminate the food coloring, and use regular Oreos.

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