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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Tres Leches (Three Milk) Cake

I think that tres leches cake is seriously the best cake in the whole entire world. I recently made a tres leches cake for a neighborhood holiday party and I was shocked at how many people at the party had never heard of or tried this amazing cake.

So, what is tres leches cake? Tres leches means three milk in Spanish for those of you who are linguistically challenged (like me). A tres leches cake is sort of like an angel food cake, but once it is cooled it is pierced all over with a fork and then soaked with three different kinds of milks. But, it isn't soaked with skim milk, 1% milk and 2 % milk like I joked with my neighbor - it is soaked with sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, AND heavy whipping cream. Um, yum. Then you let the "milks" absorb into the cake and then after that, the cake is topped with a sweet layer of whipped cream. Who wants some tres leches cake (everyone raises their hands now - unless you are lactose intolerant).

I was introduced to tres leches cake when I was growing up because my mom would make it from time to time (but not often enough). I had never made one before though. While returning from our trip to the British Virgin Islands, we had a layover in Miami. We had dinner at this authentic Cuban restaurant and for dessert we ordered the tres leches cake. Greg had said he had never tried it before, and he fell in love with it. That inspired me to make it for the holiday party - and then since it was pretty much devoured I decided to make it again to serve for dessert with our dinner guests. My friend's 5-year old daughter was saying goodbye to us and she said "thank you again for the yummiest most deliciousest cake in the whole entire world." Adorable. I made the tres leches cake today to have for dessert after dinner tonight at my parents' house - I am also making baked chicken taquitos and corn pudding for my birthday dinner! I think you will also love this cake as much as me and everyone else. Enjoy!

Recipe for Tres Leches (Three Milk) Cake

INGREDIENTS:
For the cake
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. of baking powder
1/4 tsp. of salt
5 eggs (they will be separated into yolks and whites)
1 cup of granulated sugar (divided - you will use 3/4 cup with the yolks and then 1/4 cup for the whites)
1/3 cup of 2% milk or whole milk
1 1/4 tsp. of pure vanilla extract

For the three milks
1/3 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 12.5 ounce can of evaporated milk
1 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk

For the whipped cream topping
1 2/3 cup of heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. of almond extract (optional)

Maraschino cherries, strawberries, or raspberries for topping each piece

DIRECTIONS:
For the cake:
Butter a 9 x 13 inch cake pan with unsalted butter or spray it with cooking oil. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the flour, baking powder and salt into  largish bowl and mix to incorporate.

Separate the egg yolks and egg whites into two separate medium-sized bowls. Add 3/4 cup of sugar to the egg yolks and mix with an electric hand mixer set on high speed for about 45 - 55 seconds, or until the yolks are pale yellow in color. Add in the milk and the vanilla extract and stir well. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the dry ingredients and stir gently until it is well combined.

Use the electric hand mixer set on high speed to beat the egg whites until soft peaks form (about 35 - 45 seconds). Continue beating the whites on high speed and pour in the 1/4 cup of sugar and beat until the egg whites are stiff (about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes). Add the egg white mixture to the batter and fold in very gently until it is just combined. Pour the batter into the cake pan and spread evenly.

Bake for about 35 - 40 minutes or until you prick it with a toothpick or fork and it comes out clean.

Place cake pan on a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely.

Once cooled, pierce the surface of the cake ALL over with a fork, making sure you don't poke all the way through the cake.

For the three milk mixture
Combine the condensed milk, heavy whipping cram, and evaporated milk into a 4-cup liquid measuring cup and stir until smooth. Pour the mixture all over the cake, making sure to get a lot around the edges of the cake too.

Cover the cake and place in the fridge to allow it to absorb the milk mixture. I think it's best to allow it to absorb for at least 2 hours before adding on the whipped topping and serving.

Before serving, make the whipped topping.

For the whipped topping
Before making the whipped topping, place a metal bowl and the attachment for the electric hand mixer into the freezer to chill for about 15 minutes. Then put the heavy whipping cream, sugar, and almond extract into the chilled metal bowl. Use the chilled beater on the electric hand mixer set on high speed and beat until the cream turns thick, about 1 1/2  to 2 minutes. Use a spoon or spatula to evenly top the cake. Put cake back into the fridge until ready to serve. Then cut into squares and top each piece with a maraschino cherry, strawberry, or raspberry (or whatever else you desire). Enjoy!

Store cake covered in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Makes approximately 16 - 20 servings, depending on how big you make the slices!

Recipe adapted from: The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Peanut Butter and Pretzel Truffles



Are you still trying to think of little treats you can give out to friends during this holiday season? The other day I posted a really easy holiday baking idea, and that was the Pretzel Rolo Turtles. These peanut butter and pretzel truffles are also pretty easy to make and they are absolutely divine. If you like the sweet and salty combination or have friends that do, I suggest you make these truffles today (or tomorrow or the next day). I think that they are probably best with a dark chocolate coating, but you can try them with milk chocolate too. I topped the truffles with a little bit of coarse sea salt and coarse sugar, which added a super nice touch. I made a batch last Sunday when my friend came over for some holiday baking, but they went quickly, so I'm making some more today. I'm also making some more of the Pretzel Rolo Turtles and these yummy chocolate pretzel treats (that have a Hershey kiss and M & M). I hope you are enjoying the holidays as much as I am! I am super happy this holiday season because I just finished another two grad courses and I am off work for 12 days! Life can't get much better than that - but it gets even better when there is a peanut butter and pretzel truffle in my hand. Yum!

Recipe for Peanut Butter and Pretzel Truffles (Makes about 50)

INGREDIENTS:
1 16 ounce jar of creamy peanut butter
4 cups of crushed salted pretzels (about 6 - 7 cups of whole pretzels)
4 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 1/4 cups of confectioners (powdered) sugar
12 - 16 ounces of semisweet baking chocolate (I used Baker's brand)
Coarse sea salt and/or coarse sugar for sprinkling (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
To crush up the pretzels, place them into the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times until they are at the size you want. You can make the pretzel pieces chunky or fine, just don't turn them into a powder! Then measure out the crushed pretzels into four cups, if you need more, add more whole pretzels to the food processor and pulse.

Scoop the peanut butter into a large bowl. Add in the pretzels, unsalted butter, and powdered sugar. Use an electric hand mixer set on medium speed to briefly blend the ingredients, then use a large spoon to mix well until ingredients are combined and well incorporated. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a cookie dough scoop to scoop up batter and form into 1-inch balls with your hands. Place each ball on the baking sheet. Then place the baking sheet in the freezer for 45 minutes to an hour.

Break the chocolate into small pieces (start with 12 ounces of chocolate - if you use it all, then you can melt the remaining 4 ounces) and place in the top pan of a double boiler. Prepare the bottom pan of the double boiler with water and set over medium high heat until steam starts to rise. Then place the pan with the chocolate on top and stir the chocolate until it is completely melted. Turn the heat off. Take the peanut butter pretzel balls out of the freezer. Drop one ball into the chocolate and use a spoon to coat. Place back on the baking sheet and sprinkle with the sea salt or sugar. Continue until all balls are coated with the chocolate. Place in the fridge to harden for about 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

Recipe source: Annie's Eats

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pretzel Rolo Turtles (A pretzel, Rolo & toasted pecan)

Yum - I had forgotten how good these little treats are! I have had them at a couple parties here and there, but I had never made them myself. After posting some holiday baking ideas on Facebook, someone asked me about the Pretzel Rolo Turtles - and I thought it would be fun to make them. I got together with a friend this past weekend and we made a bunch - and then I made some more tonight! I've been giving them out as holiday treats, and I don't think that I am the only one who would say that they are rather addictive. They are super easy to make (and fun to make) too. Enjoy!

Recipe for Pretzel Rolo Turtles

INGREDIENTS:
One bag of Rolo's candies (about 52 in a bag)
52 pretzels (mini regular, waffle, or circle)
52 toasted pecan halves

DIRECTIONS:
First toast the pecans. Preheat the oven to 310 degrees. Spread pecans out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Place in the oven and cook for about 10 - 15 minutes (if you like lightly toasted, do 10 minutes - if you like more toasty - do 15 minutes or more). Remove pecans from oven and allow to cool slightly. Turn off oven.

Unwrap the Rolo's and place into a bowl. Once pecans are cooled, transfer them to a plate or bowl. Arrange the pretzels in a single layer on the baking sheet you used to toast the pecans. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Place a Rolo candy on top of each pretzel. Put the baking sheet in the oven and set a timer for 4 minutes. Take baking sheet out of the oven when timer goes off and place on cooling wrack. Immediately press a pecan down onto a Rolo, and continue until all Rolo's are covered with a pecan. Let cool slightly at room temperature and then transfer to the fridge to harden.

Once they are hardened, store in an airtight container (or eat them all). 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

There are not many vegetables that I don't like, but one vegetable that I have had an aversion to for most of my life is broccoli. My husband has always tried to get me to eat it because of all the health benefits, but I always refuse. For some reason now that I am pregnant I have been wanting to eat broccoli for the first time in my life. Over the summer, I made a broccoli salad a couple times and loved it. While in BVI, I ate all of the broccoli off of Greg's plate that was served with his Mahi Mahi. At the store the other day while grabbing produce, on an impulse I bought...you guessed it...broccoli! I also bought some brussels sprouts, which is crazy, because I have detested them since I was  child! So, with the broccoli I made this broccoli cheddar soup. Greg likes chunky soup so I left it chunky, but you can use an immersion blender to smooth it out if you want. This soup is pretty delicious and it is super easy to make. I hope you enjoy the recipe!

I also made a delicious dish with those brussels sprouts - recipe to come soon!

Recipe for Broccoli Cheddar Soup

INGREDIENTS:
For the soup
2 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
1 cup of diced yellow onion
1 cup of thinly sliced carrots (cut on the round) and then cut into halves
3 1/2 cups of small broccoli florets
3 cups of chicken broth OR vegetable broth (to make it vegetarian-friendly)
1/2 tsp. of garlic powder
1/8 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes
A pinch or two of ground nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper

For the cheese sauce
4 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
4 Tbsp. of all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups of whole or 2% milk
1/4 cup of heavy cream
2 cups of medium or sharp cheddar cheese, grated

DIRECTIONS:
For the soup
Melt the 2 Tbsp. of butter in a Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add in the diced onions and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add in the carrots and cook for another 2 - 3 minutes. Add in the broccoli florets, broth, garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes, nutmeg, and black pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low while you make the cheese sauce.

For the cheese sauce
Melt the 4 Tbsp. of butter in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Add in the flour and cook for 1 minute, whisking constantly until the flour is golden brown in color. Whisk in the milk and cream and cook until it thickens and bubbles (about 5 minutes). Then whisk in the cheddar cheese and stir until it is fully melted. Remove the saucepan and add the cheese sauce into the soup. Stir well. Allow the soup to simmer until it is completely warmed through and the broccoli is tender. Ladle into bowls and top each bowl with a little salt and pepper and a dollop of sour cream (if desired). Serve with a side of french bread.

*I left the soup chunky. If you prefer smoother, use an immersion blender to puree the soup.*

Recipe Adapted from: Annie's Eats

Makes about 6 servings

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Pumpkin Pie Bars

Well, I'm back to the real world! It's time to face up to all my responsibilities - work, papers, getting ready for the holidays, preparing for the baby, and BLOGGING! My husband and I went to the British Virgin Islands for 10 days. We chartered a sailboat for 8 of those days with my sister-in-law, brother-in-law, nieces, and nephew. It was a good time - but it was harder than I thought it would be to be on boat for so long. It was definitely nice to get away and enjoy some tropical weather and sunshine. Thanksgiving fell while we were on vacation. We had the option of spending $40/person for a Thanksgiving buffet at a restaurant on Virgin Gorda, but considering that we had already spent so much money on food and water (bottled water is $3), we decided to pass. We ate dinner at the pub in the Bitter End. Greg and I shared a tropical pizza and a chickpea salad and for dessert we had a virgin Pina colada! Needless to say, I did kind of miss eating my favorites like stuffing and pumpkin pie. My parents picked us up from the airport at 12:30 AM Wednesday, and my mom brought us some leftover turkey, stuffing, red potatoes, and pumpkin loaf cakes. On Wednesday night, Greg and I ate turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes for dinner and had the pumpkin loaf cake for dessert. So we didn't totally miss out. But I was craving more pumpkin, so I decided to go ahead and make some pumpkin pie bars on Thursday morning. I made them before I left town and loved them so much, and because I love them so much I thought I would share the recipe with you. The pumpkin pie bars have a delicious sweet and buttery crust and they are filled with pumpkin and heavenly spices - then topped with some reserve crust mixture and coconut. Yummy!

Recipe for Pumpkin Pie Bars 

INGREDIENTS:
For the crust
1 1/3 cups of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup of old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup of almonds
12 ounces of very cold unsalted butter chopped into small pieces (put in freezer for about 15 minutes before using)

For the filling
2 cups of canned pumpkin puree
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened at room temperature
2/3 cup of granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
2 tsp. of ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. of ground ginger
1/4 tsp. of ground cloves
1/4 tsp. of ground nutmeg

For topping
Reserved crust mixture
Sweetened shredded flake coconut

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9 x 9 square pan.

Put the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, oats, and almonds into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse for a few seconds to incorporate. Scatter the butter pieces over the mixture. Pulse for several seconds until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour some of the crust mixture into the prepared pan. Use your hands to press down the crust evenly. You should have plenty of reserve crust mixture, but make sure you have at least 1 1/4 cups. Set aside reserved crust mixture. Place pan in oven and cook for about 15 minutes.

While crust is cooking, put the pumpkin, cream cheese, eggs, vanilla, and spices into a large bowl. Use an electric hand mixer set on medium-high speed to mix ingredients until smooth and well incorporated (about 3 - 5 minutes). Pour the pumpkin mixture into the crust. Top with the reserved crust mixture and then top with coconut. Place back in the oven and cook for 25 - 30 minutes. Allow it to cool completely at room temperature, and then cover and refrigerate. Refrigerate for a couple hours before cutting and serving. Makes about 16 servings. Serve with homemade whipped cream, if desired.

Recipe Adapted from: Joy the Baker, originally from Kraft recipes