Chocolate Coconut Macaroon Birdnests

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Chocolate coconut macaroon bird nest by twocarolines.com

Coconut Macaroons are the little bit messy fun and tasty sister of the French Macaroon.  The French version is always put together with expensive accessories and fancy words but the coconut macaroon is more fun and tasty, a beautiful mess of chewy goodness which makes for an ideal bird nest to hold everyones favorite seasonal candy, Cadbury mini eggs.  I was inspired by a Nigella Lawson recipe that used shredded wheat and melted chocolate for nests, which was cute, but a macaroon nest is yummier and more fun.  In my first batch I baked the eggs which made them really melty and good but they cracked so in my second I put the eggs into the nests when they were right out of the oven which worked perfectly because the hot cookies still made the eggs nice and creamy and with the chewy chocolatey cookie it’s like a little Easter miracle!

4 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
3 large egg whites
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder sifted
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups sweetened dried coconut shredded or flaked.
Cadbury Mini Eggs

  1.  In a heatproof bowl melt your chocolate.  I do this in a pyrex using the microwave on defrost until the chocolate looses it’s shape and I can whisk it smooth.  If you don’t have defrost only melt in 20 second increments or you will burn your chocolate.  You can also use a double boiler if you prefer.  Set aside to cool some while you assemble the rest of your cookie ingredients.
  2. In a large bowl, lightly whisk the egg whites.  Add cocoa powder, sugar, salt and vanilla extract and whisk to combine.  Stir in the coconut and melted chocolate, making sure the coconut is completely coated with the chocolate mixture.  Cover and refrigerate for about an hour or until firm (doesn’t have to be completely firm, but at least firmed up enough to handle and shape).
  3. Preheat oven to 325.  Line 2 baking sheets with sil-pats or parchment paper.
  4. Place small mounds – I used a cookie scoop – on to your lined baking sheet spacing about 2 inches apart.  Once they are on, shape them into nests using hands or dipping a spoon into the center.  I wore some gloves and shaped them by hand.
  5. Bake 13-15 minutes or until macaroons are shiny and just set.  Remove from oven then put your eggs in while the macaroons are still hot.  Wait about 15 minutes to serve and keep leftover cookies covered.

Macaroon recipe adapted from Joyofbaking.com 

 

Toasted S’mores Cake

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Toasted Smore’s Cake by twocarolines.com

I am dubbing this “the cake of summer” with it’s toasty outsides and chocolate graham crackery insides.  It’s such a classic combo and in this cake, the messy, campy, summery dessert we think of as “smores” gets all dressed up and really puts on a show.  I made this for my now 3 year old’s first birthday and people went nuts for it, but I wanted the cake itself to have more flavor and I also felt that using a darker more fancy chocolate for the ganache filling would create more of a flavor sensation.  I decided to make it for my Summer themed dinner party last weekend and I adjusted accordingly resulting in knockout flavor and jaw dropping beauty in it’s presentation.  Original recipe is linked below, but I had a few people who tried both versions and were absolutely blown away by my more flavorful smores cake v2.0.

cake:
1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, softened
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup honey graham cracker crumbs food processed into a fine crumb (85 grams or around 7 of the 4 piece sheets)
1 cup speculoos or biscoff cookies processed into a fine crumb (85 grams)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well shaken (or 1 1/3 cups milk and 2/3 cup sour cream)

filling:
1/2 pound dark chocolate chopped small (I love the trader joes 72 percent pound plus)
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 pinches salt

frosting:
4 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  1. First make the cake.  Preheat oven to 350.  Spray or butter two 9 inch round cake pans (this cake is high volume, so if you have 9 1/2 it might work a little better, but 9 inch works, just keep an eye or put them on a cookie sheet to avoid spills).  Line your cake pans with circles of parchment paper, with most cakes, you can skip this step, but this is a moist and sticky cake and lining with parchment makes a big difference in how they come out so please do this.  Coat parchment and pan with more cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cracker and cookie crumbs, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.  Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl down after each addition.  Add a third of the dry ingredients, then half the buttermilk, a third of the dry ingredients, the remaining buttermilk, and then the remaining dry ingredients, mixing between additions until combined.  Scrape down the bowl, and mix again briefly if needed.
  3. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans, smoothing tops.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes.  Cool in pan on rack, then run a knife between the cake edges and pans before turning out onto a rack to cool.  Let cool completely, a process you can speed up in the fridge.
  4. To make the filling, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl.  Combine the heavy cream and salt in a small saucepan, and bring to a simmer.  Pour over the chocolate, and let sit for 1 minute, then whisk until smooth.  Set bowl over another bowl filled with ice water, and stir it until it firms up to a spreadable consistency.  You can let it cool down in the fridge, but it works best if you stir it every now and then so it cools evenly.
  5. To prepare the cake arrange a single layer on a serving platter, cake stand or cake board.  For a neat looking cake, use a long serrated knife to level the top gently – they don’t puff up super big as some cakes do so it won’t be a lot, and you will find plenty of people willing to eat your cake scraps.  Spread the chocolate thickly over the bottom layer.  Place top layer over it and level this one too if you would like.
  6. To make the frosting place the egg whites, granulated sugar and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer.  Set over a saucepan of simmering water.  Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch – about 3-5 minutes.  Transfer the bowl to an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat starting at a low speed, gradually increasing to the high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 4-7 minutes.  Add vanilla and mix until combined.  You will want to use this frosting right away, it won’t keep well.
  7. Spread a thin layer of the frosting over the top and sides of the cake covering all the crumbs.  Transfer cake to the fridge for 5-10 minutes to let it set.  Next generously coat the top and sides with additional frosting making a pretty pattern.  You could even pipe on big pretty peaks, but I just made it look artistic and delicious.  Remove any flammable objects and people from the cake area and with a kitchen torch on a low setting, lightly brown the outside of your cake creating a toasted marshmallow effect.
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smore’s cake by twocarolines.com

Recipe adapted from S’more layer cake – Smitten Kitchen cookbook by Deb Perelman

Chocolate Chess Pie

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There are so many chocolate pies that I want to eat every day, and I’ve posted enough for you to probably eat a chocolate pie every day for a month straight!  Some of my favorites are of course, Chocolate Cinnamon Mousse, Chocolate Granola, Double Chocolate Pecan and the creamy dreamy Chocolate Cream, but today I’m sharing one of the easiest chocolate pies I’ve ever made.   I think we can all agree that low effort with big reward can be nice sometimes.  The pies listed above have varying levels of difficulty, and perhaps some ingredients you don’t keep in stock – but this one is not only easy, all of these ingredients are in your pantry.  You can make it any time and you will love the surprise of a custard pie texture with a rich chocolatey taste.  Plus, we know how to make a super easy and delicious pie crust now, so chocolate chess pie is on the menu TONIGHT!

Standard 9’Pie Crust – We use a shortening crust, but whatever you prefer will taste great!
(If you’re using a deep dish pie crust go 1 1/2 on this recipe but 2 eggs is still fine)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons cocoa (if you want to be fancy step up your game and use dutch process cocoa like the valrhona one pictured – hershey’s works fine though)
pinch of salt
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
2 eggs beaten
3 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional, but come on, who doesn’t choose chocolate chips?)

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Mix sugar, cocoa, and salt together then blend in the milk, eggs, butter, and vanilla then fold in chocolate chips.  Pour filling into crust.

Bake 45-50 minutes, until almost completely set.  The filling should just barely wobble in the center when pan is jiggled.

Cool to room temperature on a wire rack.  You can serve room temp or you can chill in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours or overnight before serving chilled.  I recommend serving with whip cream or even a scoop of ice cream.  If you serve hot, the butter will not set into the filling so painful as it is, it’s best to wait for pie to cool.

Recipe adapted from Mrs. Rowe’s little book of Southern Pies.

Butterscotch Cinnamon Twists with Grandma Ruth’s Icing

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I have a well-documented history of food experimentation, and this is the latest in my pursuit of kitchen Dr. Frankenstein madness. I love cinnamon rolls, but sometimes they can be a bit too bready or dry, so I wanted to try a twist, rather than a roll, with really goopy filling and tons of glaze. What is a more gooey filling than sticky-buns? My mom’s recipe kills, so I went with that for the filling and the ever-famous Grandma Ruth’s icing (with one minor tweak). I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I’m going to say that these twists may have broken a friends’s long-standing diet, and received their fair share of accolades. These will be the perfect weekend baking project, so get crackin’ y’all!

Ingredients

        Butterscotch Cinnamon filling:

  • 1 small pkg. butterscotch pudding (regular or instant)
  • 1 ½ cubes butter, melted
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • 1 t. cinnamon

    Brioche:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs (room temp)
  • 3 1/2 – 3 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups soft butter

    Grandma Ruth’s Icing (barely altered):

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 6-7 cups powdered sugar

Directions

Butterscotch filling:

In a saucepan melt butter and add brown sugar and cinnamon. Add nuts and butterscotch pudding and mix until combined. Cover and let ingredients “settle” for 4 hours or overnight. (You want the butterscotch pudding mix to have time to incorporate with the rest of the ingredients.)

Brioche dough:

Heat milk until lukewarm (about 100 degrees). In a large bowl lightly whisk together sugar and warm milk. Add 1 cup of flour, mix until smooth. Lightly beat the eggs then mix into the milk mixture until combined. Add in instant yeast and another cup of flour and continue to mix, adding salt and a half a cup of flour and mix till the dough comes together. Knead dough in machine for 3 minutes, incrementally adding the rest of the flour—dough should be sticky. Add 1/4 of the soft butter, mix until the the butter is completely incorporated, then add another 1/4 of butter, continue till all 1 1/2 c. of the butter is mixed in. Pour dough into greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit in fridge for 4 hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 350°. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out to approximately a 18×12″ rectangle. (To be honest, I totally eyeballed all of these measurements and they can be adjusted to whatever you find easiest) Spread butterscotch filling evenly all over the dough. On the wide side, cut dough into three portions, then cut about 8 strips in each of those three portions. To assemble, lay two strips together—the filling facing inward—then twist. Place each twist on a prepared baking sheet and let rise for about 45 minutes. Bake twists for 15-20 minutes or until golden and filling is bubbling. Cool twists on a tray (could be a two spatula job to transfer while hot). Drizzle generously with icing while still warm.

Grandma Ruth’s Icing:

In a large saucepan put evaporated milk, sugar, salt and flour. Mix on medium heat until mixture is bubbling and thick. Stirring constantly, add butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Once it’s done—as instructed by 2.0 in the recipe for the original, glorious Cinnamon Rolls—pour it through a strainer and push it with a rubber spatula to get all the lumps out so it’s nice and smooth. Drizzle over warm twists.

-CK 1.0

 

Black Bottom Vanilla Cream Pie with Salted Caramel Sauce

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Black Bottom Vanilla Cream Pie with salted caramel sauce by twocarolines.com

As my loyal readers have noticed, I have a new habit of slapping a black bottom on every pie I make – it’s my new favorite party trick.  I put one on the incredibly delicious peanut butter chocolate pie, my nutella pie, and lately I’m throwing this down on all my cream pies like banana cream and coconut cream pie.  This cream pie recipe is one you’ve maybe seen here before, but not when it’s atop a decadent layer of ganache and dripping with salted caramel sauce.  This was an experiment that paid off MAJOR! I was so happy with it and it’s not very hard to make! On this pi day I give you this super winning equation of chocolate + vanilla + salted caramel = PIE that will rock your world!

Crust: Traditional pie crust – our recipe is awesome and easy.  I made this in a deep dish pie pan, but it would work in a standard 9″ – it would just be really full – you could save some ganache for later if it looks like you’re filling it too full before you get to your cream filling.
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup crisco
4 tablespoons ice water

Ganache:
1 cup chopped chocolate or chocolate chips (I love it with a dark bittersweet chocolate)
1/3 cup heavy cream

Filling:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 (scant) teaspoon salt
3 3/4 cup whole milk
7 large egg yolks
4 tablespoons butter (cut into small pieces)
2 teaspoons vanilla

Salted Caramel: 
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt

Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

  1. To make the crust, mix your flour and salt, then add the Crisco and cut it into the flour with a pastry blender as you add the cold water.  It will start to come together at which point you can pull in all the dry parts with your hands and quickly knead it into a ball.  Flour your work surface and roll it into a thin circle.  Roll it onto your rolling pin and slowly into your (ungreased) pie pan.  Make a ridge around the outside and crimp as desired.  Poke all over with holes or put beans or pie weights into your crust with parchment before baking.  Blind bake at 450 7-9 minutes until lightly browned.
  2. While crust is cooking and cooling make your chocolate ganache.  You can melt your chocolate and cream in a double boiler on the stove, or with  my preferred method –  Place chocolate and cream in a glass pyrex in the microwave on defrost for a few minutes or in 20 second increments on full power until the chocolate loses it’s shape and you can whisk it all smooth.   You don’t want it to get too hot so the key is to heat is slowly.  Pour your ganache layer into your (mostly) cooled pie crust and put it into the freezer or fridge so it can harden while you make your filling.
  3. Put sugar and cornstarch in a large saucepan with a thick bottom.  With your burner on medium/high (I keep mine just above medium) slowly pour in the milk and stir until combined then add your egg yolks one at a time, whisking after each until no yellow streaks remain.  Now switch to a heat proof rubber spatula and stirring constantly bring to a simmer.  Once the bubbles come up and you know it’s starting to boil scrape down the sides of the bowl and whisk until smooth then return to the heat and stir constantly for 1 minute while your mixture slowly bubbles (wear an apron!).  Remove from the heat and stir in butter and vanilla until all is combined then pour into your prepared pie crust on top of your cooled ganache.

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    black bottom vanilla cream pie by twocarolines.com

  4. Put plastic wrap directly over the top before refrigerating.  Be sure to let it cool a solid 4 hours or so before you top it with whipped cream and salted caramel.
  5. For the Caramel whisk together sugar and water in a medium (heavy bottom) saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until sugar is just dissolved.  Add butter and bring to a slow boil without stirring.  Continue cooking over medium heat until the mixture turns a deep golden brown, almost copper (DO NOT STIR).  Remove from heat and immediately but slowly add the heavy cream.  Be careful as your caramel will bubble and steam.  Add salt.  Whisk the final mixture together well and set aside to cool – it will get thicker as it cools.
  6. To make the cream, whip heavy cream in a cool bowl and add sugar as it starts to thicken to desired consistency.
  7. To serve, drizzle caramel over each slice then serve and store refrigerated…if there’s anything left!

Cream Pie recipe adapted from Joy of Cooking vanilla cream pie and Salted Caramel adapted from Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book.

Ultimate Zucchini Bread

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Ultimate Zucchini Bread by twocarolines

I love all the sweet breads and muffins, but for me, none can trump my Mom’s Ultimate Zucchini Bread. The origins of this recipe are quite mysterious, my Mom got it from a neighbor who had a book of desserts for “Navy Wives” – and I guess everything she ever made from this book was incredible.  I follow my Mom’s recipe pretty closely, just switched out the vegetable oil for coconut oil, added another egg, and I substitute some brown sugar for white because I like the flavor with some of both.  It makes two loaves which is handy because people tend to eat it 3 slices at at time, but if you’re not in a house of hungry animals half the recipe or bring a loaf to your neighbor.  I’m guessing they will lay off the next time you need to have a loud backyard dance party if you feed them zucchini bread on the reg.  Plus, the smell this bread permeates your house with is absolutely BONKERS, it’s seriously one of the best smelling baked sweets this world has to offer.  Now hop to it!

1 cup coconut oil melted
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons (or up to 1 tablespoon) cinnamon
2 cups grated zucchini (I grate it finely, but my Mom likes to grate it with the standard grater)
(optional) 1 cup chopped nuts – either pecans or walnuts (I omitted the nuts because my kids are insane, but it tastes awesome with them if you’re into that kind of thing)

  1. Preheat oven to 325.  Prepare two standard loaf pans with cooking spray (I line the bottom with a small rectangle of parchment just to be sure my loaves come out clean every time.)
  2. In a large mixing bowl mix your coconut oil and sugars for 3-4 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time making sure they are totally incorporated.  Mix in vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl mix flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon together.  Add to the wet ingredients with your mixer on low until all incorporated.
  4. Add shredded zucchini mixing just until there are no dry spots and the zucchini is consistent throughout your batter.  If using add nuts last.
  5. Divide batter into your prepared loaf pans and bake for 65-70 minutes until nicely golden brown and a toothpick in the middle comes out clean.  Let rest in pans 5-10 minutes before turning out on a rack to cool, but get real, you’re going to want to eat this bread as soon as it doesn’t burn your hand!
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Ultimate Zucchini Bread by twocarolines

Recipe courtesy of CK2.0’s Mom’s neighbor and her book of desserts for Navy Wives

Orange Brown Sugar Cake with Orange Whipped Cream

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orange brown sugar cake with orange whipped cream by twocarolines.com

For me, the beach is not the best thing about living in Southern California, I’m not a beach kid, but nothing beats the taste of my backyard oranges – they are the flavor of sunshine, healing, bright happiness, and sweet citrus bliss – hands down my favorite thing about California.  Lately, we’ve been picking a bunch in the morning when they’re cold and juicing them for the family – it’s such a luxury.  When I saw this cake, I knew it would be a revelation with my So. Cali citrus and I was right!  It’s got such a sunny bright flavor and a very delicate crumb that makes it feel extra special.  Plus the glaze makes it have an incredible outside texture and flavor pop then you melt into the fluffy flavorful center and with a dollop of orange flecked whipped cream it’s pretty much winter dessert perfection!

For the Cake: 
8 ounces unsalted butter (2 sticks)
3 cups (12 ounces so a scant 3 cups) cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons salt
2 oranges
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk (I used buttermilk which was awesome, but normal milk will still taste great)
1/2 cup fresh orange juice

For the Glaze: 
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon orange marmalade

For the Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream chilled
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

  1.  Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350.  Spray or butter a 9″ springform pan and I made a parchment circle in the bottom so it would be easier to take the cake off the pan.  Also it’s helpful to wrap the bottom with a layer of foil to avoid any leaking.
  2. In a small bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  Use a rasp-style grater to remove 1 tablespoon zest from the oranges.  Juice one of your oranges to yield 1/4 cup juice.
  3. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and orange and lemon zests on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until light and creamy, about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition just to combine.  Add the vanilla, and beat briefly to combine.
  4. In 3 additions and alternating with the milk and orange juice, add the dry ingredients, beating on medium speed after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan, tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and smooth the surface with a spatula.
  5. Bake until the cake is just set in the center and golden brown, about 45 minutes.  A toothpick in the center should just come out with some moist crumbs.  If it looks like your cake is browning too much towards the end you can tent it with foil – but I didn’t need to do this.  Let your cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then slide a knife around the cake to release the sides and pop open your spring form.  I recommend letting your cake cool for at least 30 minutes before moving it off your springform base onto a cake board or cooling rack.
  6. Poke little holes all over cake with a toothpick in 3/4 inch intervals.
  7. Make your glaze by combining the juice, sugar, and marmalade in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer, lower the heat to low, and whisk often until syrupy, about 10 minutes.  Brush the glaze onto the cake, letting some drip down the sides and into your holes.
  8. For the whipped cream, whip the cream on medium speed until it starts to thicken, about 2 minutes.  Add the sugar and zest, raise the speed to medium high and continue to whip until medium soft peaks form, about 2-3 minutes more.  Serve the cake with whipped cream.

Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine Feb/March 2017 “Orange and Brown-sugar-glazed Cake with Orange Flecked Whipped Cream”