Red Velvet Marble Cheesecake Brownies

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I am pretty certain that this red velvet cheesecake brownie takes the cake for being an all-star red velvet recipe. If you’re at all familiar with what makes red velvet red velvet, you’ll know that it is a subtle balance of tang and cocoa. It’s chocolatey but not quite (from a scant amount of cocoa powder), sour but not quite (from the buttermilk). Another defining quality of red velvet cake is its cream cheese frosting. Last weekend, I happened to be in Grand Central and I bought a Magnolia red velvet cupcake to satisfy my craving. No dice – the frosting was a weakly flavored meringue frosting, ugh. My palate teased, I had to make some legit red velvet.

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This recipe though, was a winner. While it may not be a classic red velvet cake, it’s got the key elements in it – cream cheese and a cocoa-y tang. I love how simple it is to whip up – it didn’t require any finicky preparation method, and I enjoyed that the “frosting” in this brownie is dolloped onto the brownie batter and haphazardly swirled in. It ended up not looking too shabby even though I was supposed to reserve some of the brownie batter to layer on top of the cream cheese dollops so the swirls would be more refined.

The texture of the brownie is more cakey/fudgy than dense, like a traditional brownie. I personally like the brownies chilled since the cream cheese is a little more refreshing there. All those who have tried the brownies like it a lot (although I’ve learned to recalibrate the compliments I receive re: my cooking – very good means good, good means okay, okay means it was terrible.)

This recipe differs from the Food Network recipe it was derived from (which I made 4 years ago) in that there’s more butter in the brownie batter and less egg in the cheesecake filling, so it’s more moist and the cheesecake layer tastes less eggy.

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Red Velvet Marble Cheesecake Brownies
Makes 1 8×8 pan
Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

This recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction had grams pre-calculated – yess!

Brownie Batter
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick or 115g) unsalted butter
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup (21g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon liquid or gel red food coloring
3/4 teaspoon white vinegar
3/4 cup (95g) all-purpose flour

Cheesecake
8 ounces (224g) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

Make the brownie layer first. In a small bowl, beat the 2 eggs together. Set aside. Melt the butter in a large microwave safe bowl in 30 second increments until melted. Stir in 1 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, cocoa powder, salt, food coloring, and vinegar. Mix each of those ingredients into the batter in that order. Whisk in the eggs, then fold in the flour until completely incorporated. Do not overmix. Pour the brownie batter into prepared baking pan, leaving about 3-4 Tablespoons for the top.

Make the cheesecake swirl. With a hand-held mixer on medium speed (or a stand mixer, which is what I used), beat the softened cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, egg yolk, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in a medium bowl until completely smooth – about 1 minute. Dollop spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture on top of the prepared brownie batter. Cover with the last few tablespoons of brownie batter. Glide a knife through the layers, creating a swirl pattern.

Bake the brownies for 28-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow the brownies to cool completely before cutting into squares. Cover brownies and store at room temperature for 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 6 days. Brownies will freeze well, up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

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As a reluctant vegetable eater, I’d love any way I can sneak vegetable into my dessert. Summer is when zucchini is in abundance, and while I heartily enjoy a simply-seasoned zucchini roast, I’m actually a big fan of zucchini bread. The biggest reason why this is the case is because you barely taste the vegetable. It adds moisture and fiber while adding a touch of earthiness to an otherwise too-sweet confection. I don’t make zucchini bread more mainly because a) grating zucchini is so tiresome and b) I’m more of a cookie girl myself. Crunch over crumb!

I chose this recipe for its simplicity. There weren’t any funky ingredients that I didn’t already have in my pantry. Zucchini being as forgiving as a baking ingredient as it is, I added in about a 1/4 cup than the original recipe stipulated (didn’t want to waste that last nub of vegetable!) and reduced the oil needed. I also subbed half of the flour with Carol Fenster’s baking mix of 1 cup rice flour, 1/2-3/4 cup potato starch and ¼ cup tapioca starch. I also judge a recipe by the number of bowls I need to use, and this just used two. Yay for fewer dishes!

The texture of the cake ended up quite moist, if a tad too sweet. I may reduce the sugar by two to four tablespoons in the future. The cake didn’t have as much volume as I would have liked, but it was still appropriately fluffy and voluminous.

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Chocolate Zucchini Cake
From Cookie Madness
Makes 1 9×5 loaf pan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used half gluten-free flour)
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 1/2 tbsps cocoa powder
1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups grated zucchini
1/4 cup hand-chopped dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×5 inch metal loaf pan.

Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.

Beat eggs with an electric mixer. Gradually add sugar and continue beating until light. Reduce speed of mixer and beat in vanilla, cocoa powder and oil. By hand, stir in the flour mixture. Fold in zucchini and chopped chocolate. Pour batter into pan.

Bake at 350° for 60 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan.

No Bake Homemade Cranberry Chocolate Oat Clif Bars

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I’m a big fan of Clif chocolate brownie bars. They’re only a dollar at Trader Joe’s, taste like a brownie, and unlike Luna Bars, don’t have rice crispies in them. I might have discovered the holy grail to making no-bake, gluten-free sweets that taste very similar to Clif bars – Medjool dates. By themselves, they are sweet, chewy, and have a rich caramelly flavor that makes me think of chocolate. However, I do find them a tad bit dense, and they are fairly caloric (about 60-70 calories per date; for context, an average apple is about 90 calories). However, their sticky nature means they act as an effective binder when blended in with oats and other nuts.

I browsed around for some recipes, and it is really great how flexible this recipe is. Some combination of dates and oats along with almond flour and other berries would work well. I think this would be a pretty good hiking mix since it’s so compact and easy to eat, but note that there isn’t a ton of protein in it compared to the Clif bars. I made my version with cranberries and cocoa powder, but I imagine you can switch up the flavors as you like, using dates (to bind) and almond flour (for protein) as a base. I imagine raisins, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, maple syrup, and honey would work well here too. I also used a Vitamix to blend the ingredients since I don’t have a food processor, but that seemed to work out fine.

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No Bake Homemade Cranberry Chocolate Oat Clif Bars
Makes 6-8 snack-sized bars

120g Medjool dates, pitted (10-12 dates)
3/4 almond flour (or 1 cup raw almonds)
1/2 cup cranberries
1 cup oats
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 cup water

Put everything in a food processor and blend till it is reasonably mixed up. You still want some chunks, so no need to puree it up. Mold it with your hands into balls or bars, and either eat right away if you’re hungry, or refrigerate so it hardens up.

Dark Chocolate Rum Cake Balls

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I made some of these incredible chocolate rum cake balls for a work party and judging by how only two out of 60+ balls were left at the end of it, I’m guessing they were a big hit. Chocolate and booze just never goes wrong!

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As someone who prides herself on making things from scratch, I opted to make the chocolate cake and the glaze from scratch, even though I would be mashing them up into little balls later. The original recipe didn’t include rum, but I subbed some of the hot water that went into the cake with rum for some added booze. The cake itself was pretty darn delicious and moist and rich, but I knew I couldn’t just bring in a sheet cake to the party. No, that wouldn’t have been nearly as impressive nor delicious. I saved half the cake for non-party eating purposes, giving it away to appreciative friends who don’t get no homemade goodies all that often.

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As for the other half, I smushed it all up into little balls, while also throwing in some rum, heavy cream, and chocolate sauce, the proportions of which I eyeballed until the cake mixture became suitably compact.

While the original recipe called for a dark chocolate coating, I knew it was going to be a bit too bitter, so I used half milk chocolate and half dark chocolate instead. It was an excellent call.

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Dark Chocolate Rum Cake Balls
Adapted from Cookie Madness
Makes 60~ balls

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups (8 oz) all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, natural type (try Dutch)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk, room temperature
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water (or coffee)
1/2 cup rum

Ganache
3 ounces of chopped semisweet chocolate
3 ounces of heavy cream
6 oz milk chocolate
6 oz semisweet chocolate

Instructions
Preheat oven to 325 F. Spray a 13×9 inch pan with flour-added baking spray.
Mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Add oil, milk, eggs and vanilla. Beat two minutes with electric mixer at medium speed. Stir in water and rum until blended. Batter will be thin.
Pour batter in the pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until skewer or pick inserted comes out clean.
Let the cake sit in the pan for about 10 minutes, then carefully turn it from the Bundt.
Let the cake cool and then drizzle it with ganache. To make ganache, heat 3 ounces of heavy cream in microwave or saucepan. Pour over 3 oz chopped dark chocolate and stir until smooth. Let cool until thick enough to drizzle.

When you are ready to make the cake balls, set aside half the cake in a large mixing bowl. Mash up the cake. If you used all the ganache in the recipe, you won’t need any extra. Add rum, heavy cream and/or chocolate sauce until cake balls hold together. I recommend adding more rum than the other two ingredients.

Line a baking sheet with wax paper or parchment. Shape the scoops into smooth balls. Line the balls up on a tray, cover the with plastic wrap and put them in the freezer until firm.

In a chocolate melting pot, top of a double boiler or in the microwave, melt the milk and semisweet chocolate.

Dip cake balls into melted chocolate and lift with two forks, allowing extra chocolate to drip back into the pot. Put the balls on a wax paper lined cookie sheet to set.

Chocolate Pudding (Without Cornstarch)

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Most homemade pudding recipes require the use of cornstarch to solidify its texture, but not having any on hand, I used a recipe that used flour as a thickener instead, and the results were pretty good! Flour creates a more custard-like texture than cornstarch would; a spoon that cuts into a pudding thickened with flour leaves a spoon-shaped cavity, whereas a cornstarch-thickened pudding probably wouldn’t. The downside to this recipe is that it requires an immersion stick blender, whereas a cornstarch-thickened pudding just requires your tireless attention for about 15 minutes.

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This recipe ended up really rich for how little pudding it generates, so it really stretches your dessert dollar. It’s rich and chocolatey, and for some added texture, grate some semisweet chocolate over it.

Chocolate Pudding (Without Cornstarch)
Makes 4-5 portions
From Christian HomeKeeper

1/4 c flour
6 Tablespoons sugar
2 1/3 cups whole milk (I used 2% and it was fine)
dash of salt
4 Tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon good vanilla extract

Place all dry ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Gradually add the milk and butter, blending thoroughly with a stick blender.
Set over a low flame and stir until the pudding thickens and starts to bubble when you stop stirring for a moment.
Turn off heat. Cool slightly, blend in vanilla.

P.S. Check out my blog post: It’s True, The Way To A Man’s Heart *Is* Through His Stomach

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

IMG_3893I started my first real job out of college about a month ago, and now that a considerable chunk of my time is devoted to work, I have much less time to blog. I still cook and bake quite often – I recently made two chocolate cakes and a soy sauce chicken, but not having daylight to snap my food in makes blogging an afterthought. These red velvet cupcakes, however, were for a specific occasion. Every month, my work place hosts a birthday party for people born in that month. I wanted, nay, needed an excuse to bake up something more elaborate than a utilitarian chocolate cake that fulfilled my dessert cravings.

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The original recipe for these were for an 8-inch layer cake, but for ease of transport, I decided to make them into cupcakes. I’ve made the cake a few days ahead in time and froze them, and I intend to frost them in the office pantry. Transporting frosted cupcakes often require large, bulky carriers, and as a bike rider, I prefer to fit everything into my backpack as much as possible. I used all-purpose flour instead of cake flour for the cupcakes, and that contributed to a slightly coarser but more firm texture that’s transportation-friendly. I baked up about 18 cupcakes with the batter, and I would recommend checking for doneness at around 15 minutes and swapping the racks at half-time. Also, I cannot stress how important it is to sift your flour and confectioner’s sugar before mixing. It’ll help create a more uniform texture with less lumps and clumps.

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Red Velvet Cake
Makes 18 cupcakes
Adapted from Cookie Madness

Ingredients
4 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 whole eggs, room temperature
2 slightly heaping tablespoons cocoa powder (natural)
2 ounces (1/4 c) red food coloring
2 1/4 c of cake flour (9 oz), sifted
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Frosting for Red Velvet Cake
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1 stick (4 ounces) butter, softened
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional)

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 18 (or potentially more) cupcake moulds with cupcake liners.

In bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar and salt until light. Add the vanilla and the eggs beating 30 seconds after each egg is added. Make a paste of food coloring and cocoa and add to the creamed mixture. Add buttermilk and flour alternately, beating at low speed until mixed.

In a small cup, combine the soda and the vinegar and let it foam up. Pour the foaming mixture into the batter and stir until it’s mixed in. Immediately pour into the cupcake liners and bake for 15-20 minutes. When a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake emerges without crumbs, it is done.

Let cool for 10 minutes in pan set on a rack. Remove from pan and let cool completely. Make icing.

Beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Add confectioner’s sugar slowly, beating until smooth. For a little tartness, beat in some lemon juice.

Chocolate Whiskey Cake

IMG_3583When I saw this recipe, I instantly knew I had to make it. I know I’ve been diverting my attention lately to more European desserts, but you could never tear me away from anything combining chocolate and whiskey. I was deciding between using Jim Beam and some cheapo scotch lying around, and went for the scotch because I was counting on all that sugar and chocolate to cover it up. Cooking is the best way to use up bad alcohol anyway.

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What was interesting about this recipe was the preparation technique. I had to heat up a saucepan with coffee, butter, whiskey and cocoa powder, and then the addition of sugar turned it into a gloopy, caramelly liquid. Fortunately the cake turned out well, though. I really liked the slightly crisp muffin top-esque shell that formed, which was a nice foil against the tender and moist crumb. The chocolate chips added some gooey-ness to its insides so it was reminiscent of a molten chocolate cake. It didn’t taste very alcoholic at all, and I wish it had. This is a very decadent cake, and in a future iteration I might add a pinch of salt, or sub some of the coffee with whiskey, or omit the chocolate chips.

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Note: Although the recipe called for making a whole cake, I think the cake would benefit greatly from being split up into about 8 or so 3.5-inch ramekins, or even cupcakes. Reduce the bake time accordingly. You’d also get that delicious crusty muffin top.

Chocolate Whiskey Cake
Makes 1 10-inch round cake
Adapted from NYTimes

INGREDIENTS

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, more for pan
85 grams unsweetened cocoa powder (about 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
1 1/2 cups brewed strong coffee
1/2 cup whiskey
200 grams granulated sugar (about 1 cup)
156 grams light brown sugar (about 1 cup)
240 grams all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
8 grams baking soda (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
3 grams fine sea salt (about 3/4 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground clove (I omitted)
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used regular chocolate chips)
Powdered sugar, for serving (optional)

PREPARATION

1.Heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 10-inch springform pan. Dust with 2 tablespoons cocoa powder.
2. In a medium saucepan over low heat, warm coffee, whiskey, 12 tablespoons butter and remaining cocoa powder, whisking occasionally, until butter is melted. Whisk in sugars until dissolved. Remove from heat and cool completely.
3. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, pepper and cloves. In another bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla. Slowly whisk egg mixture into chocolate mixture. Add dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Fold in chocolate chips.
4. Pour batter into prepared pan. Transfer to oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack, then remove sides of pan. Dust with powdered sugar before serving, if you like.