No-Bake Deconstructed Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

You guys, I am so very excited about this. It’s definitely not healthy at all, but if you need a nice delectable dessert for a dinner party… or to eat all by yourself… this is where it’s at. At least, as long as you like chocolate and peanut butter and cheesecake.

Best part? It’s EASY. Traditional cheesecake is normally pretty tricky (having to bake it in a water bath and getting all those air bubbles out and having it just the right consistency… it’s tedious business!) but this one is NO BAKE and NO STRESS!

No Bake PB Cup Cheesecake

You’ll use the same cheesecake base for both flavors, so you can make that all in one batch. Using a stand mixer, beat together 1 cup of sour cream and 16 ounces (that’s two 8 oz blocks) of softened cream cheese until they are beginning to stick together, then add 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 tsp of vanilla. Beat this on high speed until it’s well combined and there are very few lumps left. Turn the mixer down to medium-high and then slowly pour in one (14oz) can of sweetened condensed milk.

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula routinely throughout the mixing process!

Once this is all mixed together, ta-da, you have a basic vanilla cheesecake batter!

No Bake PB Cup Cheesecake

Now comes the fun part. Pour half of the batter out into a medium mixing bowl and set that aside. Then, to the batter remaining in the stand mixer bowl, mix in 3/4 cup of creamy peanut butter to make the peanut butter flavored half of the batter.

Then, melt a cup and a half of milk chocolate chips (I usually do 30 seconds in the microwave, stir them, and then an additional 30 seconds) and then fold the melted chocolate into the reserved batter in the other bowl to make your chocolate half of the batter.

Using a table spoon, evenly divide the peanut butter batter between 8 single serving dessert dishes.

No Bake PB Cup Cheesecake

Then, on top, evenly divide the chocolate batter. Use your spoon to smooth it out to the edges.

No Bake PB Cup Cheesecake

Cover, and put in the fridge to set for at least 2 to 3 hours.

When you’re ready to serve them, you can make the graham cracker topping! Just melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small bowl, and then add 5 sheets of crushed graham crackers (that’s 10 squares) and a table spoon of sugar. Stir it all together before topping the cheesecakes.

No Bake PB Cup Cheesecake

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Crushing them by hand is best, because then you’ll get a lot of different sized pieces!

Once the cheesecakes are topped, serve & enjoy them right away!

No Bake PB Cup Cheesecake

This dessert is sure to please all tastes and ages! It’s classy enough for adults, but sweet and fun enough for kids. Honestly, the kind of dish you serve it in is really all you need to determine how fancy (or not!) this is!

Full Recipe:

No-Bake Deconstructed Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup sour cream
16 ounces softened cream cheese
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
1 (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 & 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips, melted

5 sheets (10 squares) graham crackers, crumbled by hand
2 tbsp melted butter
1 tbsp white sugar

Process:

1) In a stand mixer, combine sour cream and cream cheese until just starting to combine together, then turn mixer up to high and add in sugar and vanilla. Mix until well blended, with almost no lumps left. (Make sure to scrape down sides of bowl occasionally.)

2) Turn mixer down to medium-high and slowly pour in condensed milk. Allow to mix until fully combined.

3) Pour half the batter into a medium mixing bowl and set aside.

4) Add peanut butter to batter still in stand-mixer bowl and beat in until combined. Evenly divide peanut butter batter between 8 dessert dishes.

5) Fold in melted chocolate to reserved batter, and then divide on top of the peanut butter batter in the dishes.

6) Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours to set.

7) When ready to serve, combine melted butter, graham cracker crumbles, and sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle graham cracker topping on top of each mini cheesecake before serving.

Triple Chocolate Brownies

If you are not a chocolate lover, please feel free to leave this blog post. I won’t be offended, I promise.

Now that I have the full attention of the remaining chocoholics: You. Will. Love. These. Brownies.

They are RICH.

They are DECADENT.

They are CHOCOLATEY.

And they are NOT AT ALL good for you. (Diabetics, beware!!)

Best part? They’re EASY!

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There are a few things that make these extra awesome, so pay close attention!

Start by preheating your oven to 375 and coating a 9×9 baking pan with cooking spray. Next comes the first deviation that makes these extra delicious – a sweet “crust” that goes on the bottom of the brownies! Crush up 4 graham cracker sheets and 15 Nilla wafers and add them to a medium bowl, along with 4 tbsp of melted butter and 1/4 cup of sugar. Stir this all together and then dump it into the baking pan.

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MAKE OR BREAK TIP: It’s best if there are crumbs mixed in with bigger chunks, so don’t use a food processor! Crushing with your hands works great.

Level it out with your hands, and then use a drinking glass to tamp the crumbs down to form a firm, even layer.

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Once the oven is preheated, bake the crust BY ITSELF for 10 minutes.

Now, if you’re feeling a little lazy, you could totally skip this step and just bake the brownies on their own in the pan without the crust. But for real, I think the crust is definitely worth it!

While your crust is baking, get the batter together:

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together 8 ounces of softened cream cheese and 1 and 1/2 cups of granulated sugar.

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Say what? Cream cheese? That’s right. Cream Cheese. Another one of the things that makes these brownies extra awesome. Not butter, not oil. The fatty component necessary for any brownie recipe comes from the amazing kitchen wonder that is cream cheese. And boy does it make them rich!

After you’ve creamed this together, beat in two eggs until well combined.

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Scrape down the sides of the bowl FREQUENTLY. As in between each and every addition of anything. It’s super important!!!

Once you’ve beaten in the eggs, melt 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips in the microwave (30 seconds, stir, 30 more seconds) and then stir an additional 1/4 cup of room temperature dark chocolate chips into the melted chocolate to temper it. Turn your mixer on medium-low and use a spatula to scrape the chocolate slowly into the mixing bowl. This is chocolate #1!

Once the melted chocolate is mixed in, lower the mixer speed to “stir” and add 1/2 cup of cocoa powder a 1/4 cup at a time. (Chocolate #2!)

Once the cocoa powder is combined, add 3/4 cup of flour (while the mixer is still on) 1/4 cup at a time.

At this point, it should look like brownie batter:

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Brownie batter is notoriously thick, so don’t let that concern you! Remove the mixing bowl from the stand and then fold in 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips by hand with a wooden spoon. (Chocolate #3!)

Spoon the batter into the pan on top of the crust, spreading it carefully so you don’t pull the crust off the pan. (The batter is really sticky!) Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out MOSTLY clean. There should still be some crumbs sticking to it, but no visibly wet batter.

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Using all of the self-restraint you can muster, allow the brownies to cool for at LEAST a half an hour before attempting to cut into them!

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If you’ve REALLY got a sweet tooth, it’s great served with ice cream, too! I used Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream, in keeping with the graham cracker crust and cream cheese content of the brownies – but just about anything would be fabulous!

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Full Recipe:

Triple Chocolate Brownies

Yield: 16 brownies

Ingredients:

4 graham cracker sheets, crumbled
15 Nilla wafers, crumbled
4 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 & 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

Process:

1) Preheat oven to 375 and coat the bottom and sides of a 9×9 baking pan with cooking spray.

2) In a medium bowl, stir together crumbled graham crackers and Nilla wafers with melted butter and 1/4 cup sugar. Pour this into the baking pan and then level out and tamp down with a drinking class until a cohesive, firm crust is formed. Bake crust for 10 minutes at 375 degrees.

3) Using a stand mixer, cream together cream cheese and 1 & 1/2 cups sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat in two eggs. (Scrape the bowl again.)

4) Melt 1/2 cup of the dark chocolate chips in the microwave, and then stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of dark chocolate chips to temper. Turn the mixer on medium-low and scrape the melted chocolate into the mixing bowl.

5) Once the chocolate is mixed in, scrape the bowl again, and lower the mixer speed to “stir” and add cocoa powder, 1/4 cup at a time. (Scrape the sides of the bowl!) Then, add the flour 1/4 cup at a time. Once all the dry ingredients have been mixed in, turn the mixer off and remove the bowl from the stand. (Batter will be thick.)

6) Fold in 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips by hand with a wooden spoon, then pour batter on top of the prepared crust, carefully leveling it out to the sides and corners without pulling the crust from the bottom of the pan.

7) Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with some crumbs still stuck to it. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting and serving.

*Valentine’s Week* Chocolate Martini / Peppermint Hot Cocoa

Happy Valentine’s Day to all! As a finish to my Valentine’s Day themed week, here’s two fabulous sweet, chocolatey drinks that are sure to be a fabulous cap to any romantic evening. (How convenient that Valentine’s Day fell on a Friday so I could finish off with my weekly Friday drink post!)

Of course, if these sound like too much effort, a shared bottle of wine wouldn’t hurt either. 😉

First up is the strong one, for you dessert drink lovers. I really like this blended, but it’s easy to make as a shaken cocktail, also!

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If you want to be really fancy with it, rim your glasses with a mix of cocoa powder and powdered sugar. (A teaspoon of each should do.) Mix those up in a shallow dish wide enough for your martini glasses and use a spoon to make a ring of it that’s about the same size as the rims of your glasses. Dip the glasses in a shallow dish of water (only a fraction of an inch in), shake off the excess, and then dip the glasses in the cocoa mixture.

Rimming 1

Turn them right side up and set them aside while you make your drink.

Rimming 2

In a blender, combine 1 scoop of chocolate ice cream, 1/2 cup chocolate milk, 2 ounces RumChata, 2 ounces Creme de Cacao, and 2 ounces Kahlua. (You could also replace the RumChata with Bailey’s, which I think might be a more popular liquor in most households.) Blend for a few minutes or until it’s well combined and there’s no chunks of the ice cream. Pour into 2 martini glasses and serve with whipped cream and a sprinkle of the cocoa mix you used to rim the glasses!

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If you’d rather have a shaken drink, replace the ice cream with an additional 1/2 cup of chocolate milk and shake everything together in a cocktail shaker instead.

Next up is the hot chocolate mix!

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This is a recipe for a dry mix that can be stored for up to three months and makes about 6-7 servings or so. I typically make a bunch of it starting around Thanksgiving and always keep some on hand throughout the whole winter! If you don’t have any candy canes left over from Christmas you can always leave them out, or buy some generic peppermint candies at the grocery store.

In a food processor, add 1 cup instant nonfat dry milk powder, 1 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 cup white chocolate chips, and 2 candy canes (or 10 round peppermint candies) that are crushed into small pieces. Pulse it together until everything is combined and the white chocolate chips and peppermint candy pieces have been ground up finely.

When you’re ready to serve, put 1/3 cup of the mix into a mug and heat 6 ounces of milk in a separate cup. Pour the hot milk overtop of the mix, stir, and serve! Top with whipped cream and a candy cane, if desired. You could also add an ounce or two of Baileys, which I have found tastes fabulous in peppermint drinks. (A peppermint latte with Baileys – heaven!)

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Full Recipes:

Blended Chocolate Martini

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

1 tsp powdered sugar
1 tsp cocoa powder

1 scoop chocolate ice cream
1/2 cup chocolate milk
2 ounces RumChata (or Bailey’s)
2 ounces Creme de Cacao
2 ounces Kahlua

Process:

1) Combine powdered sugar and cocoa powder in a shallow dish, making a circle with the mixture about the size of the rim of your chosen glasses.

2) Dip the rim of a glass in the water about 1/4 inch, shake off the excess, and then dip it in the cocoa mixture. Repeat with second glass, then set aside.

3) In a blender, add ice cream, chocolate milk, RumChata, Creme de Cacao, and Kahlua. Blend 1-2 minutes or until smooth. Pour into prepared glasses and garnish with whipped cream and leftover cocoa mixture!

Peppermint Hot Cocoa Mix

Yield: About 6-7 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup instant nonfat dry milk powder
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
2 candy canes (or 10 peppermint candies), crushed

Process:

1) Combine all ingredients in a food processor.

2) Pulse until combined and chocolate chips and candy pieces are finely ground.

3) Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

To serve: put 1/3 cup of the mix into a mug. Heat 6 ounces of milk in a separate container. Pour the hot milk over the mix, stir well, and garnish with whipped cream and a candy cane.

*Valentine’s Week* Chocolate Mousse

Okay, so I’m breaking the Valentine’s rules here a little and doing a recipe that isn’t for exactly two servings, but this mousse is so good you might just eat it all between the two of you anyway!

There aren’t many more decadent, Valentine-y desserts than the sweet, dark, rich concoction that is chocolate mousse. And sure, you could buy one of those little boxes from the store where you just add milk and whip it up, but this is sooooo much better, and doesn’t require all that much work!

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Start by putting your mixing bowl and beater(s) into the freezer to chill them. (This is important, trust me!)

What makes this mousse so chocolatey is the fact that it uses real melted chocolate for the bulk of its flavor – NOT cocoa powder! So, start by melting 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate in the microwave. (30 seconds, stir, 30 more sections, stir. If it still isn’t all melting together after that, do another 15 seconds, but remember that the heat from the melted chocolate will help to melt any remaining chunks as you stir it!)

Melted Chocolate

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: The better the chocolate, the better your mousse. Nestle semi-sweet chips are great and work fine, but if you really want to kick it up, use a brand like Ghirardelli or Godiva.

Once your chocolate is melted, stir in 2 tbsp instant coffee and 2 ounces of RumChata (or a dark spiced rum). Set this aside so it cools a bit.

Take 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream in a glass measuring cup and add 1 teaspoon of raspberry gelatin powder to it. (You could use unflavored gelatin as well, or orange flavored, but I really feel like the slight hint of raspberry gives great depth to the finished mousse!) Let this stand for about 10 minutes on the counter, and then microwave it for a minute or so to heat it up. (Make sure the cream doesn’t boil!)

Gelatin

Stir the cream & gelatin together to combine, and then fold this mixture into your melted chocolate and transfer the new chocolate mixture to a medium-sized mixing bowl.

Take your bowl & beaters out of the freezer and add 1 cup of chilled heavy cream. (If you’re using a stand mixer, use the whisk attachment.) To the cream, add 2 tbsp of cocoa powder and 2 tbsp powdered sugar. Put the mixer on a medium to high speed and whip for about 2 minutes or until the cream has solidified to stiff peaks.

Whipped cream

**Fun fact, this by itself is simply a chocolate whipped cream and is fabulous on top of a myriad of desserts, from hot chocolate to ice cream to cake!**

Once the cream is done, carefully fold it into your melted chocolate mixture in 3 batches.

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: “Folding” is done by using a spatula; you move it down into the chocolate, across the bottom of the bowl, and then back up out the top. This allows the mousse to remain airy and fluffy. You might still have a few streaks of the cream visible, but that’s okay – you don’t want to over-work it!

Once you have everything folded together, spoon it into 6 dessert dishes and refrigerate for an hour before serving.

Finished

Between the coffee, rum, and raspberry gelatin, this mousse goes from good to fabulous! It has so much depth, so even though it takes a little bit of work, it’s very, very worth it!

Full Recipe:

Chocolate Mousse

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp instant coffee powder
2 ounces RumChata or dark spiced rum

1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp raspberry gelatin powder

1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp powdered sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder

Process:

1) Put a mixing bowl and mixer beater(s) in the freezer to chill. (If using a stand mixer, use the whisk attachment.) In a microwave safe bowl, melt 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Microwave for 30 seconds, then stir. Then for another 30 seconds, and stir again.

2) To the melted chocolate, add 2 tbsp instant coffee powder and 2 ounces of RumChata or dark spiced rum. Set aside to cool.

3) To a glass measuring cup, add 1/4 cup heavy cream and raspberry gelatin powder. Let stand for 10 minutes, then microwave for about 1 minute. (Don’t allow the cream to boil.) Stir to combine.

4) Fold in the cream-gelatin mixture to the melted chocolate.

5) Remove your chilled bowl and beaters from the freezer and attach to stand mixer. To the bowl, add 1 cup chilled heavy cream, cocoa powder, and powdered sugar. Beat on high for 2 minutes or until stiff peaks form.

6) Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture in 3 doses. (Don’t overwork it.) Spoon the mousse into 6 dessert glasses and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

*Valentine’s Week* Chocolate Parfait with Rum Whipped Cream

Happy Valentine’s Week! This week is dedicated to decadence and romance, since Valentine’s Day is this Friday! These recipes are of course good the rest of the year, too – but for a day that practically worships chocolate, I’m focusing on that delightful sweet dessert ingredient all week!

I’m kicking things off with a recipe that can actually prove to be very versatile, as the two components of the recipe (the chocolate cake and the whipped cream) can be used by themselves elsewhere, or together in other combinations than what I’ve given here.

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I truly feel like I’ve stumbled onto a gold mine with this mini chocolate cake recipe. It’s just enough batter for two light, fluffy, and moist cupcakes – and it’s decadently dark and rich!

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees and putting two cupcake liners in a cupcake pan. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave for 30 seconds and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup flour, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together 1 egg, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/4 cup milk. Slowly pour in melted butter, whisking steadily while you’re pouring. Once this is combined, switch to a wooden spoon or spatula and stir in your flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Once it’s combined, pour into the two cupcake liners.

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If you’re like me and can’t resist having a bit of the batter while you’re mixing, it should fit nicely into two cups. If you do have a little extra, then just bake three cupcakes instead of two!

Bake them for 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Once they have cooled, take a serrated knife (a steak knife works great) and slice each cupcake into 3 even layers.

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Place the layers on a dish lined with parchment paper and pop them in the freezer, along with your stand-mixer mixing bowl and whisk attachment, for ten minutes or so.

Once your bowl and whisk are chilled, attach them to your stand mixer and a 1/2 cup of chilled heavy cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and one tablespoon of RumChata (or another favorite rum). Beat this on a high speed for a minute or so, then add 1/3 cup powdered sugar and continue to beat on high until stiff peaks form.

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Once the whipped cream is done, you’re ready to assemble! Make sure your glasses are wide enough to accommodate the width of your sliced cupcakes. Start with the whipped cream, add a layer of cake, and then topped with whipped cream. Continue until both glasses have 3 cake layers with whipped cream at the bottom and the top. Serve immediately, or keep refrigerated until you’re ready to serve!

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If you don’t wan’t to be so fancy, you could also just make the cupcakes and frost them with the whipped cream, or even pipe the whipped cream inside them!

*You could also make chocolate whipped cream by swapping out the rum for chocolate liqueur and adding 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the powdered sugar!

Full Recipe:

Chocolate Parfait with Rum Whipped Cream

Yield: Two parfaits

Ingredients:

Chocolate Cupcakes:
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

Whipped Cream:
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp RumChata
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup powdered sugar

Process:

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with two cupcake paper liners.

2) Melt butter in the microwave for 30 seconds. Set aside to cool.

3) In a small bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

4) In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together egg, sugar, milk, and vanilla. Slowly pour in butter, while whisking continuously.

5) Once wet ingredients are combined, switch to a wooden spoon or spatula and stir in flour mixture to wet ingredients.

6) Pour finished batter into prepared baking pan and bake for 12-15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

7) Cool in pan for 5 minutes and then move to a wire rack to cool completely.

8) Once the cupcakes are cooled, cut them with a serrated knife into 3 layers each and place them on a parchment paper lined dish in the freezer, along with your stand mixer’s bowl and whisk attachment, for 10 minutes.

9) After the 10 minutes has passed, attach the bowl and whisk to the stand mixer and beat heavy cream, RumChata, and vanilla on high for about a minute, then add powdered sugar and continue to beat on high until stiff peaks form.

10) Layer whipped cream and cake layers in parfait glasses, so there is whipped cream on the bottom, top, and between each cake layer. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Chocolate Covered Cherry Milkshake

Happy Friday! This delightful little treat has all the goodness of a sweet shop ice cream sundae blended into a portable shake! Even better, it’s very easy to make this either alcoholic or virgin!

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All you have to do is combine 2 (hefty) scoops of chocolate ice cream, about 1/3 cup of frozen cherries, and 1/2 cup of milk in a blender and blend until smooth! It’s that simple! (For a thicker shake, use less milk.)

If you’d like to make it alcoholic, reduce milk to 1/3 cup and add 1 ounce of cherry rum (or vodka) and 1 ounce of creme de cacao!

That’s it! Enjoy!

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Chocolate Caramel Lava Brownie (In the microwave!)

So there I am. It’s 9:00 at night. I’m minding my own business, working in my home office, when suddenly… it hits. It’s silent, sneaky, and conniving… The dreaded…

Chocolate Craving.

Just about every woman, and maybe even most men, can identify. It’s cruel. It’s mean. It’s unstoppable. You need chocolate, and you need it RIGHT now.

Fear no more, my chocolate loving friends: this super easy, super fast, super delicious recipe is here to save the day.

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I think probably just about everyone has heard of this whole “sweet-delicious-chocolatey-concoction-in-the-microwave” business. And I confess, I have tried it before last night, and was disappointed with the results. It was just always lacking something. Usually sweetness. It always came out bitter, or dry, or just… tasteless. So, while I believe I have conquered all of those demons with this little gem, it goes without saying that this fabulous treat is not at ALL good for you.

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I did top mine with sliced bananas. And there’s no egg in it. So that counts for something. Right? Right. We’ll go with that.

Anyway, here’s the super simple process. Yes, it does involve making caramel. I PROMISE it’s easy. I’m going to list it out in the most time-effective way, which involves starting the caramel first and then doing everything else while the caramel is cooking, but if you’re really afraid of burning your caramel, please feel free to do everything else and then devote a few minutes at the end to standing in front of your stove and staring at a saucepan of boiling sugar.

So, for you brave souls, put 2 tablespoons of sugar and one tablespoon of water in the smallest saucepan you’ve got. Stir it around to dissolve the sugar, and then put it on a high heat.

Sugar in pot

Bravely walk away from the stove and commence with the main brownie component. Take two tablespoons of butter and put it in whatever microwave safe bowl you’re planning on using for serving your brownie in.

Butter

I used a 6 inch ramekin, but any mug, bowl, or other ceramic dish with high sides will do. Melt the butter by putting it in the microwave for 30 seconds. If it doesn’t melt the butter completely, just stir it around until it’s totally liquid. To this, add 2 tablespoons of milk and a half teaspoon of (PURE) vanilla extract. A whole teaspoon if you’re really feeling adventurous. Stir that up until it’s blended together, and then add 2 tablespoons of flour, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 1/3 cup of sugar (yes, really, that much), and a dash of salt. (A dash would be a couple of shakes of your salt shaker.)

Add dry ingredients

Carefully stir this up until everything is blended and it looks like… well, brownie batter. Try not to over mix it! Just stir until there’s no more huge dry clumps.

Batter

Restore your sanity and do a quick check on your sugar on the stove. Realistically only about a minute and a half should have passed at this point, so your sugar should be at a rolling boil but still decidedly white.

Boiling sugar

Give that a quick stir and then return to your brownie batter. Add a scant 1/4 cup of whatever chocolate chips you prefer. I used semi-sweet, but I expect milk or white (or even butterscotch or mint) would also fare well.

Get a 1/2 tablespoon of butter ready, and then check your sugar again. After about 3 minutes or so from the first moment you put it on the stove, it should be turning an amber color. Once this happens, IMMEDIATELY remove it from the heat and add your little pat of butter.

Amber sugar

Quickly stir in the butter – the liquid will foam up and then relax down into a lovely liquid caramel:

Caramel

Now, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Just be careful and work quickly, because once it’s in its caramel form, it will harden up pretty quickly unless you do something else with it. In our case, we’re pouring it right into our brownie batter and swirling it in.

Batter with caramel

Do yourself a favor and take a second to get your saucepan and spoon soaking in hot soapy water to prevent the caramel from hardening and making an awful sticky mess for you to clean up later!

Put your prepared bowl of batter in the microwave on high for 1 minute and 30 seconds. When it’s done, it WILL be boiling angrily. DO NOT PANIC. This is normal. Carefully take it out of the microwave and put it on a rack to cool for 2-3 minutes, then top it with whatever you like. I used banana and whipped cream with chocolate syrup, but that was only because we didn’t have any ice cream around. I’d bet a lot of money vanilla ice cream would be PERFECT on top of this. Someone try it and let me know!

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Once you’ve topped it with your sweet of choice, dig in! It might still be pretty hot, so be careful!

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Just look at that gooey, chocolatey goodness. Makes me want to go make another one!! If you’re exceptionally hungry or just really addicted to chocolate, go ahead and keep it all to yourself. However, I really think it’s the perfect portion size for sharing. You could even mix it up in one bowl and then transfer it to two mini ramekins to microwave it.

Full Recipe:

Chocolate Caramel Lava Brownie

Yield: 1-2 servings.

Ingredients:

Caramel:

2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp water
1/2 tbsp butter

Brownie:

2 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/3 cup sugar
dash salt
Scant 1/4 cup chocolate chips (any variety)

Process:

1) Dissolve 2 tbsp sugar in 1 tbsp water in small saucepan and put on high heat.

2) Combine melted butter, milk, and vanilla in a small microwave safe bowl.

3) Add flour, cocoa, sugar, and salt to butter mixture. Stir until just combined.

4) Stir in chocolate chips.

5) When sugar turns an amber color, immediately remove from heat and quickly stir in 1/2 tbsp butter to create a caramel. Pour caramel into brownie batter and swirl it in.

6) Microwave on high for 1 minute 30 seconds. Place on a rack to cool for 2-3 minutes, then top with your choice of sweets and serve!

Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hi! Welcome to Sweet, Spicy & Neat! I’ve been meaning to get a cooking blog together for a while now, and since the entire upper right quarter of the United States is currently covered in snow that rendered most productivity today absolutely impossible, I decided there was no better day than today to start!

In keeping with the snowed in theme, there’s not much better to do on a snow day than bake cookies! So, what a perfect place to begin – a fun, sweet twist on an old classic that everyone loves: Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Now, my cookies have long been lauded as the best among my friends and family (I’ve even turned folks against their own mom’s cookies!) but they aren’t the best because of a magical cooking fairy that sprinkles twinkle dust on my pans. No, no, it’s tried and true tips and tricks that are easy to overlook, but believe me, they make ALL the difference. I have several favorite “weapons” in the kitchen, and there are quite a few of them in this post alone!

So, let’s get to the baking, shall we? These cookies are a nice twist on the classic chocolate chip “drop” cookie, and are especially good for those with a strong sweet tooth!

Go ahead and start off by getting your oven preheated to 375 degrees and lining a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper. The parchment paper isn’t ABSOLUTELY necessary, but it really makes clean up SO much easier, and the cookies come off the pan with no effort! But, if you don’t have parchment paper on hand, go ahead and use non-stick baking sheets and do NOT grease them with anything!

Next, mix up your dry ingredients in a medium size bowl.

Flour Mixture

It’s mostly just flour (2 1/4 cups) but you’ll also need to add a teaspoon of baking soda and a teaspoon of salt.

Baking Soda

Set this aside and then get out your stand mixer and use the bowl of that for your wet ingredients. (If you don’t have a stand mixer, you’ll have to use a hand mixer and a large mixing bowl. Also, if you don’t have a stand mixer, buy one as soon as possible or ask for one for the next available gift giving holiday, because they are worth absolutely every penny, and you’ll see me use it a lot!) The wet ingredients begins with two sticks of softened unsalted butter and a cup of brown sugar with a 1/2 cup of white granulated sugar.

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: It is imperative that the butter be “soft” or room temperature – NOT melted! More on why in a bit. I find that two sticks of butter in the microwave for 25-30 seconds usually does the trick to make it soft enough, if you didn’t have the time to leave the butter on the counter for a couple of hours.

To measure out my sugar, I use one of my favorite kitchen tools ever, my Pyrex glass measuring cup. I think I use this probably at least once a day, every day, for all kinds of cooking and baking. The brown sugar has to be “packed” down (in order to make sure you’re getting a full cup of it, since brown sugar tends to be sticky and airy!) so I pack the cup of brown sugar in the bottom and then add the white sugar on top until it reaches the 1 1/2 cup mark.

Sugar

Put your softened butter and both sugars in the mixing bowl. If you’re using a stand mixer, make sure you use the paddle attachment for mixing! It looks like this:

Paddle Attachment

Mix this for about 15 seconds or so on the lowest setting (usually called “Stir” on a stand mixer), then for another fifteen seconds on the next highest speed, and then finally kick it up to medium for 2-3 minutes.

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Why mix the butter and sugar so long? It’s called “creaming.” Allowing the butter and sugar to “cream” together takes a bit of time, but it makes sure they are one cohesive unit, and makes ALL the difference to the softness and chewiness of your cookies in the end! This is why your butter has to be soft, and not melted, because it’s impossible to cream butter that’s in a liquid state!

In the final stages of creaming together the butter and sugar, you can add 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract.

Vanilla

Vanilla is another one of my secret kitchen weapons!

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: I cannot possibly stress enough how important it is to use PURE vanilla extract. If it says “imitation” anywhere on the bottle, throw it away and buy the good stuff! Vanilla is one of those places where substituting in the fake stuff simply cannot be done if you want really good food. This gigantic bottle was only $7.00 at BJ’s, so don’t try and tell me it’s too expensive!

Once you’ve got the butter, sugar, and vanilla all blended together, STOP and scrape off the paddle and the sides of the bowl!

Paddle

Use a rubber spatula for this – it’s the only way to cleanly scrape everything off and get all the way to the bottom of the bowl!

Spatula

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Stopping to scrape off the bowl may seem unnecessary, but it’s so important for ensuring everything blends together properly! Trust me, it’s worth the extra 30 seconds to do!

Once you’ve scraped off the bowl it’s time to add your binding agent. This recipe uses two eggs, but you can check out the bottom of this post for an amazing egg substitution in a variation I’ll give at the end!

Add the eggs one at a time, blending them in after each addition.

Add Eggs

Once the eggs are blended in, STOP again and scrape the paddle and bowl!!

Now that all your wet ingredients are blended and your dry ingredients are combined, it’s time to put them together! Grab your set-aside bowl of flour mixture and turn the stand mixer to “stir.” (For those of you using a regular hand mixer, unfortunately this is where you and the mixer must separate and you’ll have to do this part by hand with a wooden spoon.) Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, allowing the flour to be totally mixed in before adding more.

DSC_5286

This will take a little bit of time, but you have to add it little by little or else you’ll have flour everywhere and the dough will seize up!

Once all the flour is mixed in, it’s time for the best part… the chocolate chips! What makes these cookies so unique and sweet is the blend of chips that I chose to use. You can stick to my version, or use your own combination. (The classic recipe calls for all dark chocolate chips, but be creative!)

I used my handy dandy Pyrex cup again and filled it to the brim with dark, milk, and butterscotch chips.

Chips

I tried to divide it evenly into thirds, but a little more one way or the other won’t hurt! As long as it ends up being a bit more than 2 cups worth.

Take the paddle attachment off the mixer (we can’t use it to mix the chips in, as the dough becomes too stiff) and set it aside. And try not to lick it clean. I dare you. Then dump that whole glass of chips into the batter and fold them in with a strong wooden spoon.

Add Chips

This will take a bit of elbow grease, but when you’re done, the chips should be evenly distributed through the dough and it’ll look like this:

Finished Dough

It’s handy to leave the bowl attached to the stand mixer for this, as it helpfully holds the bowl in place while you stir!

By now your oven should have fully preheated, so go ahead and drop the cookies onto your baking sheets with a mini ice cream scoop (1-inch diameter). If you don’t have one, use a teaspoon, but I’m telling you, that little scoop is awesome for making sure all your cookies are the same size. You can get them from around $12-20 depending on where you look.

Mini Scoop

Drop the balls of dough about 2 inches apart from each other on the baking sheets. I can usually fit 13 comfortably on a 17×11 baking sheet, or 8 on a 15×10 baking sheet.

13 cookies

8 cookies

Bake them for 8-10 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes.

On cookie sheet

Then, transfer them to a wire cooling rack to cool completely. And try not to eat them all in one sitting.

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Warning: Making these in a house with children may cause unwanted flooding of young ones into your kitchen. Proceed with caution.

Cookie Rack 2

For those who patiently waited for the egg substitute version I promised, try this out: Instead of two eggs, use 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree. (NOT pumpkin pie mix! Make sure the can says 100% pure pumpkin.) It doesn’t alter the flavor too much to just use the pumpkin puree, so if you really want to give them a pumpkin kick, add 2 tablespoons of pumpkin spice syrup (I use Torani) and a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice at the same time that you add the vanilla extract.

Full Recipe:

Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield: About 60 cookies.

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
3/4 cup butterscotch chips

Process:

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2) Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Set aside.

3) Cream together softened butter and sugar using a stand mixer with paddle attachment. (“Stir” for 15 seconds, speed 1-2 for another 15 seconds, and then a medium speed for 2-3 minutes.)

4) Scrape off paddle and sides of the bowl, then blend in vanilla and eggs, one at a time, on medium speed.

5) Scrape off paddle and sides of the bowl again, then add in flour mixture little by little with the mixer on “stir” setting, allowing flour to completely blend in before each new addition.

6) Remove paddle attachment and add chocolate chips to dough, folding in with a wooden spoon.

7) Drop dough balls with a 1-inch ice cream scoop onto baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of space between each one, and bake for 8-10 minutes or until bottoms of cookies are golden brown.

8) Allow to cool for a couple of minutes outside the oven on the baking sheet, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to a week. (If they last that long!)