Tag Archives: coffee

Foodbuzz 24×24: The Make-Ahead Holiday Breakfast Party (Recipe: Salted Caramel Mocha Hot Chocolate)

I remember that Christmas morning with all the clarity of the glass icicles adorning our Christmas tree — at least one of which was shattered each year, an inadvertent Christmas tradition. Mom was sitting on the couch in her dramatic floral robe. The scent of coffee — which I loved, despite being averse to the bitter taste — filled the house. The rest of the family was milling about the living room, preparing to distribute the presents.

Suddenly, with a pine needley, jingle-jangly harrrrrumph!, the Christmas tree outright fell on my mother.

I mean, one minute that thing was standing tall, looking regal and festive, and the next it was on her head. She let out a startled cry and flailed from between its branches, sending ornaments and pine needles flying around the room.

Mom will disagree — and okay, my little brother’s First Christmas ornament broke, and that was sad — but this was quite possibly the most hilarious and lively Ruble Christmas morning to date.

Other Christmas mornings were notable too. There was the one where I found, after opening all my gifts, that I hadn’t received the one thing I wanted most: a pedal go-kart. I pasted on a happy face, but I was disappointed. I did have one present left, but it was a card and didn’t look promising.

The card turned out to be from Santa. I scanned it halfheartedly, and realized that it was a set of instructions. I was supposed to head upstairs to my sister’s room. Suddenly, my heart filled with hope. I charged up the stairs eagerly and shot through the door. There, in all its bright yellow glory, was my go-kart!

Other years brought a dose of holiday reality. When I was around 6, I opened my parents’ closet a few days before Christmas to put some clothes away. To my great surprise, I found myself staring at a gigantic dollhouse. I was so stunned that it took me a few moments to realize that this must be a poorly hidden Christmas present.

My tiny heart filled with glee as I briefly surveyed the three-story mansion, complete with furniture, a balcony, and landscaping. I’d always been enamored with miniatures, and now my parents had apparently decided to indulge my dollhouse obsession. I closed the door, thrilled at my discovery and determined to act surprised when I received my gift.

On Christmas morning, I ran downstairs and sure enough, the dollhouse was standing in the living room like a beacon of childhood happiness, boasting a big bow. I squealed joyfully and ran over to it, only to hear my parents call out, “That’s for your sister!

Those four words — so tiny! so brief! — cut me down faster than a fir tree on a Christmas farm.


family photo!

Then there was the Christmas morning I woke up and accidentally stabbed myself in the nose while trying to brush my hair out of my face. My entire family, probably bemused but not surprised by the fact that I’d managed to injure myself immediately upon waking, waited patiently while I tried to stop the bleeding.

I couldn’t make this stuff up.


salted caramel.

It’s true; Christmas morning has varied wildly over the years — exciting, disappointing, joyous, dangerous, absurd. One constant that we’ve all come to cherish, though, is Christmas morning breakfast. Every single year, without fail, my mother wakes up early, bakes an egg casserole, and rolls out dough to make fresh cinnamon rolls. While we’re all still counting sugar plums in our jammies, she’s hard at work in the kitchen.

This year, in her honor, I decided to design some recipes specifically for a holiday breakfast — dishes that in addition to being fancy and indulgent, could be prepared almost entirely in advance. To test my menu — that’s my excuse, and I’m stickin’ to it — I threw a Make-Ahead Holiday Breakfast Party, where I decked my halls and created a make-believe Christmas morning.

The party turned out to be special even beyond the menu. See, Mike and I have never spent a Christmas morning together, despite being in a relationship for most of the past 12 years.

I’m not complaining. So many families are separated on Christmas morning because of deployment, distance, and even death. Our situation is downright joyful by comparison. We’re separated each year because both of our families have Christmas morning traditions. We spend time with our own parents in the morning before meeting later to enjoy Christmas afternoon together. This year, though, my Make-Ahead Holiday Breakfast Party was the perfect way to create a “Christmas morning” for just us.

So yesterday morning, we donned our PJs and slippers in true Christmas morning fashion. I lit my first ever fire, put the finishing touches on all of the make-ahead dishes I’d prepared earlier in the week, and we sat down together to eat. Little Byrd sat between us eating her Christmas kibble. Our plates, however, were loaded down with Gingerbread Coffee Cake, Cinnamon Stix with Eggnog Glaze, Savory Bread Pudding with Cranberries and Fennel, Winter Breakfast Chili in Sourdough Bowls, and Buttered Toast with Bright Pepper Jam.

Between bites, we sipped this Salted Caramel Mocha Hot Chocolate. I’m not one for hot breakfast drinks, usually, but I’d make an exception for this thing any day. You coat the mug with hot, buttery salted caramel before pouring in the steaming mocha hot chocolate (where coffee plays a supporting role rather than the lead). The whole thing is topped with a mess of caramel whipped cream and a caramel drizzle.

I’ll be sharing the other make-ahead breakfast recipes with you throughout the coming weeks as you prepare for the holidays. In the meantime, share your favorite Christmas morning memories. Anyone have any harrowing experience with falling Christmas trees?

Salted Caramel Mocha Hot Chocolate



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, inspired by Savory Sweet Life, adapted from Martha Stewart (caramel and cream) and TLC
Yield: 2 big mugs of hot chocolate

I can’t really quantify how buttery, caramelly, chocolatey, and delicious this Salted Caramel Mocha Hot Chocolate is, so let me just say: mmmmmm. I don’t like coffee, but in this recipe it’s there to add richness and balance, and isn’t the dominant flavor. The recipe is designed to be completed mostly in advance, making it lovely for a holiday morning breakfast — or anytime you’re in a festive mood. Also, don’t be afraid of caramel. This recipe includes temperatures, and as long as you use a candy thermometer, you’ll be great!

Mocha Hot Chocolate Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup brewed coffee
2 tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate chips (I love Ghirardelli 60% cacao)
2 tablespoons sugar

Caramel Sauce and Cream Ingredients:
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of coarse salt

Directions:
1 to 3 days in advance: Make the hot chocolate and the caramel. First, heat the milk, coffee, chocolate, and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly until it comes to a boil. Remove it from the heat and whisk it to ensure it’s fully combined. Pour it into a bowl and let it cool, stirring periodically, before covering it and refrigerating it.

Make caramel sauce: Prepare an ice-water bath and set a heavy bowl in it. Heat the sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until mixture boils and sugar dissolves (don’t stir at all, or crystals will form and make your caramel grainy). Use a pastry brush to wash down sides of pan often to prevent crystals from forming. When the sugar starts to turn amber, you can swirl a couple of times to ensure it’s caramelizing evenly.

Cook until the sugar turns a dark amber (definitely use a candy thermometer here! You’re looking for it to read about 345 degrees), 5 to 7 minutes more. Immediately remove from heat, and slowly whisk in 1/2 cup cream (reserve the rest of the cream in the fridge). It will bubble up when you do this, so be careful. Return the caramel to medium heat, whisking and heating until the sugar melts completely and the mixture boils.

Remove the pan from the heat and pour the caramel into a bowl set in an ice-water bath. Let the caramel cool, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Whisk in creme fraiche or sour cream, vanilla, and salt. Cover and refrigerate this.

The morning of: Reheat the chocolate mixture in a saucepan over medium heat on the stove (or for a couple of minutes in the microwave), stirring often. In the meantime, whip your remaining 1/4 cup cream in a cold bowl to stiff peaks.

Coat the sides of two mugs with caramel sauce, reserving a little over half of it. Gently fold most of the rest of the caramel sauce into your whipped cream (reserving a little to drizzle on top). Fill caramel coated mugs with mocha hot chocolate. Top with caramel cream and drizzled caramel. Serve immediately.

Note: I received a stipend from Foodbuzz for creating this meal.

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Coffee Mousse Filled Double Chocolate Chunk Cookie Sandwiches

Last weekend I spent 48 hours with 14 of my seventh graders. At camp. Doing campy things (pun intended).

That probably sounds like a unique form of teacher-torture, but it was actually a fantastic experience, and one I’m planning on telling you all about. For now, though, I just want to tell you about highs and lows.

Highs and lows is a game we played while sitting in one of those kumbaya campfire circles you may remember from the summers of your childhood. Each student listed a high from the day — some accomplishment or moment of frolicking they particularly enjoyed — and a low — something they would change if they had fancy superhero rewind powers.

This may sound strange, but listening to them recite their lows was encouraging. If you’ve ever been close to a seventh grader for a prolonged period of time, you know that they can lapse into sarcasm and negativity about as quick as you can say, “Do your homework.” At other times, though, they can be pretty special little people to be around.

I heard a few people say, “I can’t think of any lows.” A couple commented on minor annoyances like bugs or pollen. One was sad his team didn’t get to float their raft because of the rain, but even that was qualified with, “but I really enjoyed the process of building it anyway.” What cool kids.

Their highs were even better. They were proud of how everyone had worked as a team, enthusiastic about spending time with their classmates, excited that one team’s makeshift raft had made it to the dock and back without disintegrating. All in all, the circle was a sweet, s’more-punctuated time — even without joining hands or braiding daisies into each other’s hair (though that would’ve been fun).

I’m a thoroughly reflective person — a trait happily amplified by my profession — and there’s been quite a lot to digest in my life beyond the campgrounds lately. Perhaps that’s why my thoughts turned today toward the highs and lows game — mountains and valleys, waterfalls and mud puddles. I’ve been trying to revisit the campfire in my mind to catalog and categorize recent events.

My lowest low this week was disconnecting from a good friend. I’ve been seeing a boy for awhile now who was special to me during my own middle school years, but I realized recently that things weren’t going to pan out. I’m trying to be all Joy-the-Baker about this and say, “Oh, boys come and go like brownie recipes,” but I think you must need curly hair and adorable freckles to pull that off, ’cause it’s not working for me. I guess I’ll stick to unattractive moping.

There are other, more mundane lows. My basil plant is looking droopy. The weather’s been rainy and chilled. A cloud bank today on the horizon reminded me of unreachable mountains, somber moments.

But:

-Today my sweet friend and coworker Ashley brought me a happy hippo.
-I just bought two of the sweetest sundresses ever from Target.
-I literally own at least 5 jars of On the Border salsa at this very moment.
-My family is healthy.
-I’m watching a bit of Kings of Pastry each evening.
-I found out a local cupcake truck is selling a version of one of my cupcake recipes, which they’ve named after the blog.
-Flippin’ SAVEUR listed Willow Bird Baking as one of the “50 More Food Blogs You Should Be Reading.”

Such soaring highs! I’m so grateful for those.

Another sorely needed high came in the form of these sweet little sandwich cookies. Driving home with Ashley, who bravely co-chaperoned the camping trip, I started brainstorming ways to use the coffee mousse I’m now enamored with. We thought of a gorgeous roulade, filled cupcakes, and lots of other things, but then Ashley mentioned how she loved to invent new cookie recipes. Cookies are so simple, so quick, so satisfying — everything I needed after a rough and tumble couple of days.


Mom’s hydrangea bushes are blooming — another high!

They’re also delectable, particularly when the words double chocolate are involved. These little sandwiches turned out rich and indulgent, with the perfect balance of flavors (sweet chocolate combined with the bitter, matte flavor of coffee) and textures (voluminous cream between chunky cookies).

For me, there’s also something simple and childlike about the experience of eating a cookie sandwich. It reminds me of pulling an Oreo or an Oatmeal Cream Pie like a treasure from a Care Bears lunchbox. And if that sort of memory isn’t a high, I don’t know what is.

What are your highs and lows lately?

Coffee Mousse Filled Double Chocolate Chunk Cookie Sandwiches



Recipe by: Cookies adapted from Cathy Lowe, mousse adapted from coffee pastry cream by Rebecca Franklin
Yield: About 48 cookies or 24 sandwiches

Cookie Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup bitterweet chocolate chips (I love Ghirardelli)
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Coffee Mousse Ingredients:
1 ¼ cups whole milk
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
3 egg yolks
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon gelatin

Directions:
Make the cookies: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, cream the butters and both sugars together for a couple of minutes until fluffy. Add egg, vanilla and cocoa and mix. Gradually add flour mixture and mix until combined. Add chocolate chips and pecans, stirring until they’re evenly distributed.

Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet or one covered with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Bake for 8-10 minutes and cool on the pan for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Make the mousse: While cookies are baking and cooling, make the mousse. Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, flour, and cornstarch until the mixture is completely smooth and set aside. Place the milk in a saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over it. Let it soften for 2 minutes before adding the coffee granules and setting the saucepan over low heat. Heat until it’s just hot enough to steam, stirring the gelatin in to dissolve.

Once the milk is steaming, add half of it, whisking constantly, to the egg mixture to temper the eggs (this ensures they won’t cook when you add them to the hot mixture). Add the milk and eggs back into the hot milk and continue stirring, and heat it for 1-2 minutes, until the custard reaches 170 F on a digital thermometer and is very thick. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract, and set the pan in a bowl of ice water, stirring every few minutes. Cool completely in this manner.

In the meantime, whip the cream in a chilled bowl until it holds stiff peaks. When the coffee mixture is cool, mix about 1/3 of the cream into it to loosen and lighten it. Then fold the rest of the cream in gently. Chill the mousse for at least 30 minutes before using.

Assemble the sandwiches: Turn half of the cookies upside down on the cooling rack. Pipe or dollop a good amount of cream onto these cookies and place the other cookies on top of them. Serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container.

P.S. One of my high school cooking students had the idea to try this coffee mousse with bacon and it was fantastic! Have I mentioned that I love my students?

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Coffee Mousse Filled Doughnuts

Remember these?

What you may not remember (because, um, I didn’t tell you) is that the lovely Maple Bacon Doughnuts aren’t the only avant garde doughnuts in town. (Can you describe a doughnut as avant garde? I call poetic license.)

Introducing Coffee Mousse Filled Doughnuts!

Much like their Maple Bacon cousins, these dreamboats are capitalizing on a quintessential breakfast pairing. The puffy, fried orbs are filled with a sweet coffee mousse and topped with either melted chocolate or rolled in powdered sugar. Serve them alone, or combine them with Maple Bacon doughnuts for a breakfast extravaganza!

What’s your favorite doughnut filling?

Coffee Mousse Filled Doughnuts



Recipe by: Doughnuts adapted from Cherry Tea Cakes, mousse adapted from coffee pastry cream by Rebecca Franklin
Yield: about 12 3-inch doughnuts

Doughnut Ingredients:
1 0.25-ounce package yeast
2 tablespoons hot water, roughly 110 degrees in temperature
3/4 cups milk, scalded (heated to a slight simmer-not a boil) and cooled
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons shortening
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
melted chocolate and/or powdered sugar for topping
vegetable oil for frying

Coffee Mousse Filling Ingredients:
1 ¼ cups whole milk
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
3 egg yolks
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon gelatin

Directions: Make the doughnut dough: Dissolve the yeast in warm water in the bowl of your stand mixer, and then let it sit for about 5 minutes. The yeast should foam to show that it’s active. Beat in milk, sugar, salt, eggs, shortening, and 1 cup flour (scraping down bowl when needed). Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes to fully combine. Mix in remaining flour completely. Cover this dough and let it rise in a draft-free place (I warm my oven for a few seconds on 200 degrees just to get the chill out — make sure it’s not hot! — and then put my dough in there to rise) until doubled, about 50-60 minutes.

Make the Coffee Mousse: While the dough is rising, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, flour, and cornstarch until the mixture is completely smooth and set aside. Place the milk in a saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over it. Let it soften for 2 minutes before adding the coffee granules and setting the saucepan over low heat. Heat until it’s just hot enough to steam, stirring the gelatin in to dissolve.

Once the milk is steaming, add half of it, whisking constantly, to the egg mixture to temper the eggs (this ensures they won’t cook when you add them to the hot mixture). Add the milk and eggs back into the hot milk and continue stirring, and heat it for 1-2 minutes, until the custard reaches 170 F on a digital thermometer and is very thick. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract, and set the pan in a bowl of ice water, stirring every few minutes. Cool completely in this manner.

In the meantime, whip the cream in a chilled bowl until it holds stiff peaks. When the coffee mixture is cool, mix about 1/3 of the cream into it.

Make your doughnuts: Flour a surface well and turn your doughnut dough out onto it, flouring the dough as well. Gently roll the dough out to 1/2-inch thick and cut into solid rounds with a 3-inch cooking cutter. Place each round on a baking sheet and let these rise until doubled, about 30-45 minutes. About 25 minutes into their rise time, start heating your oil in a heavy, deep stock pot to 350 degrees F on a candy/fry thermometer.

Fry your doughnuts: Gently lower 2-3 doughnuts at a time into hot oil with a slotted spoon. Fry about 1 minute on each side or until golden brown. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

Assemble doughnuts: Melt some chocolate and/or prepare a plate of powdered sugar to coat doughnuts. Use a chopstick or butter knife to poke into each doughnut and “sweep” gently to create a pocket. Pipe mousse into each doughnut using a piping bag. Then dip them in the chocolate or roll in the powdered sugar. Best eaten the same day.

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Mini Doughnuts for Your Coffee Cup (a creative use for yeast dough scraps!)

I baked something so flippin’ fantastic this weekend that I cannot wait to tell you about it. Except that telling you about it involves a video tutorial. And a video tutorial involves hours of editing. So while that’s going on, I’ll share this other flippin’ fantastic idea.

Naturally, you’re planning to make doughnuts, right? Or perhaps you have some other yeast dough plans in the works? After rolling and cutting, you’re bound to have scraps of dough lying about unused.

Personally, I’ve always been a re-roller, piling the dough scraps together and rolling them out again to try to get a few more pastries. The resulting goods will be a little tougher, but it seems like a waste otherwise.

As I was browsing through doughnut recipes, however, I saw these sweet miniature doughnuts used as coffee (or hot chocolate!) cup decorations. They were the perfect use for dough scraps!

After cutting out all of my doughnuts, I used a couple of smaller cookie cutters to cut out these minis. I proofed them with my regular doughnuts, fried them quickly on both sides in 350 degree oil, drained them on a paper towel lined plate, and then rolled them in a mixture cinnamon and sugar. They were hot, fluffy, and as cute as a button on a kitten carrying a cupcake. Translation: adorable.

P.S. – While poking about, I found a fun tip for using yeast dough scraps for savory dishes. Now you have sweet and savory ideas in your tool belt!

P.S. 2 – I wish I could find the site where I originally saw these coffee cup doughnuts; I like to put up a link if something inspires me. If you stumble across it, let me know.

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Rich Ice Cream and Coffee Cheesecake

I don’t love coffee. If I wanted something scalding, bitter, and hard to swallow, I’d google the Carolina Panthers’ season record. Ha ha.

Yeah, that’s one of those jokes that’s kind of more sad than funny. Oh well.

My mother (yes, of cross stitching birthday party fame) used to feel certain that I would acquire an affinity for coffee as I got older. Periodically she would test this hypothesis, urging me to take a sip from her cup or buying me something frothy and caramely at Starbucks, only to find that things weren’t unfolding as she anticipated.

What can I say? Coffee is gross.

I could load it up with sugar and cream (and donuts — can you do that?) and probably choke it down, but if I’m going to ingest that many calories, I’d rather just have some dessert.

Paradoxically, despite my antipathy towards coffee in its beverage form, I’ve always loved coffee-flavored confections. Coffee ice cream was my absolute favorite treat as a little girl, for instance. Coffee also plays an Oscar-worthy supporting role in Coffee Cookie Dough Fudge Cheesecake, one of my current faves. I adore the coffee-brownie combination in my Ice Cream Cupcakes. You get the idea.

And besides all those things, I’m in love with this cheesecake. IN LOVE. Like, buy it a ring, get down on one knee, drag it to the altar kind of love. It might be one of the best cheesecakes I’ve ever made. Basically: swoon.

For one thing, it has the perfect ratio of rich coffee cheesecake to cold ice cream (oh, and did I mention the layer of fudgy ganache in there as well?). For another thing, the ice cream flavor I chose rocked the Casbah.

I considered coffee or chocolate ice cream, but decided that might be too rich. I also knew I wanted brownie chunks. Ben & Jerry’s makes a Cheesecake Brownie ice cream that fit the bill (how perfect is that, seriously?)

Apart from inspiring a matrimonial sort of adoration in me, this cheesecake is one of the easiest I’ve ever put together. It’s as simple as baking and cooling your cheesecake, softening up your favorite ice cream, and spreading it on top. Freeze the whole thing until it’s firm, cut it with a hot knife, and then call up the preacher. That’s about how it goes.

What ice cream flavor would you like to spread all over your coffee cheesecake?

Rich Ice Cream and Coffee Cheesecake



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking
Yields: 15 servings

Crust Ingredients:
37 chocolate sandwich cookies, finely processed into crumbs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Small pinch of salt

Ganache Ingredients:
3/4 cups heavy cream
10 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I combined both)

Filling Ingredients:
3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons instant coffee granules
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons mild-flavored (light) molasses
3 large eggs

Topping:
Ice cream of your choice (I used Ben & Jerry’s Cheesecake Brownie ice cream)
dark chocolate candies of your choice for decorating (I used Ferrero Rondnoir)

Directions:
To make the crust, butter a 9-inch springform pan. Combine the chocolate cookie crumbs, melted butter and salt in a small bowl. Toss with a fork to moisten all of the crumbs. Press into a thin layer covering the bottom and sides of the springform pan (at least 3 inches up the sides). I did this using a smooth glass to press crumbs into place.

Bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Once the cream reaches a simmer, pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk in small circles until a smooth ganache has formed. Pour 1.5-2 cups of the ganache over the bottom of the crust (if you have leftover, save it for eating or decorating with later). Freeze until the ganache layer is firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F and position a rack in the middle of the oven. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium-high speed until well blended. Beat in the flour. In a small bowl, combine the coffee granules, vanilla and molasses, stirring until the coffee dissolves. Add to the cream cheese mixture and beat until well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition.

Pour the filling over the cold ganache in the crust. Enclose the bottom of the springform pan in tightly wrapped foil and place it in a baking dish. Fill the baking dish with hot water about halfway up the cheesecake pan, careful not to let the moisture touch the cheesecake. Bake until the top is lightly browned, puffed and cracked at the edges, and the center moves only very slightly when the pan is lightly shaken, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire cooling rack. Let cool at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Transfer to the refrigerator and let cool at least 3 hours, until completely chilled and set.

Soften ice cream of your choice (I used Ben & Jerry’s Cheesecake Brownie ice cream) for 10-15 minutes or until soft enough to spread. Scoop out a few big scoops onto the top of your cheesecake and spread with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Add more ice cream until it’s flush with the top of your crust. Freeze cake until solid (overnight is best). Decorate with dark chocolate candies of your choice (I used Ferrero Rondnoir). Slice with a knife held under hot water to serve. Keep in freezer when not serving — it melts quickly.

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Ice Cream Cupcakes

My sister Sarah is a Tetris addict. Something about spinning those awkwardly shaped blocks around and packing them together must release happy chemicals in her brain. It’s serious: she played Tetris in her wedding gown right before walking down the aisle, and she thinks this guy is totally hot.

I really can’t talk. I play real-life Tetris. All my errands have to be planned to ensure maximum efficiency: no driving out of my way or backtracking. My groceries are arranged on the checkout belt so that they fit together nicely. Periodically I’ll rearrange my fridge so that all the food is organized by shape (flat items on bottom, tall items shoved together in the back, and materials to make a quick dinner wrap all stacked together neatly for easy grabbing). But the fridge is nothing compared to the freezer.


Pistachio Ice Cream Cupcakes

My roommate and I are world champions at Freezer Tetris. We both overshop, and every now and then one of us will come home with a month’s worth of foodstuffs to shove into our already-full freezer (cue the excuses: “It was on sale! It’s cheaper when you buy in bulk!”). Let the games begin! We set to work emptying, rearranging, tossing, organizing, repackaging, and creatively stuffing until every last green pea has its own chilly little space in the freezer. There ought to be an international competition we can enter or something — why let all this talent go to waste?

I don’t know about other bakers, but the bulk of my freezer space is consumed by dessert scraps: leftover cake, extra frosting, the last piece of blueberry pie, curds, berries, ice creams, doughs. For someone who only eats dessert on the weekend, I have a lot of fixins! Well, my Freezer Tetris has served me well. This week I went out and bought some of my favorite ice cream flavors, grabbed out some of my scraps, and created Ice Cream Cupcakes. If you have sweet bits and pieces lying around your freezer, this is just the leftover makeover you need!


The Coffee Cupcake decided it was too sophisticated to be photographed with the others. Love that beautiful stamped mug as much as I do? It’s made by local artist Julie Payne. She also makes lovely clay pendants.

This post is actually more of a method than a recipe (as such, you’ll find detailed process photos below). You can use any ice creams, cakes, brownies, cookies, or creative add-ins that suit your fancy. The overall idea is to create a personal ice cream cupcake with three layers (two cake layers sandwiching a thick slab of ice cream), freezing the layers as you build. The whole thing is topped with icing and decorated before being stuck back in the freezer.


Clockwise from top: Cake Batter Ice Cream Cupcake, Cherry Garcia FroYo Cupcake, and Pistachio Ice Cream Cupcake.

Personally, I had some leftover chocolate sheet cake (the best cake in the world, and so easy!) and cream cheese frosting. I made four variations: Cake Batter Ice Cream Cupcakes (with and without toffee pieces added), Pistachio Ice Cream Cupcakes, Cherry Garcia FroYo Cupcakes, and Coffee Ice Cream Cupcakes (with and without Ferrero Rocher or toffee pieces added).


The ice cream line-up.

I can’t decide which was my favorite! The deep coffee flavor complemented the chocolate cake and Ferrero Rocher perfectly, creating a rich, indulgent cupcake. The cake batter cupcake tasted just like a big ice cream birthday cake. I think if forced to choose, though . . . I might have to go with the pistachio! Something about the sweet, otherworldly flavor of pistachio ice cream with toasted pistachios and chocolate cake just bowled me over. Speaking of bowls, that’s how we ate these: in a bowl with a spoon. No sticky fingers!


Shall we call this a Café au Lait Cupcake?

Grab a couple of pints of ice cream, some leftovers, and go wild! You could even whip up a small cake or some brownies just for the purpose of tearing it up and making some ice cream cupcakes! I won’t tell. What ice cream flavor would you pick for your cupcakes?

Ice Cream Cupcakes



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking
Yields: Varies depending on amounts of ingredients

Ingredients:
Cake or brownie scraps, crumbled (I used Chocolate Sheet Cake)
Ice cream of your choice, softened slightly
Frosting of your choice (I used this delicious cream cheese frosting)
Add-ins (chocolate, peanut butter, cinnamon, or butterscotch chips; toffee; candy; nuts; frozen berries etc.)

Equipment:
muffin tin
plastic wrap
a glass with a bottom that fits into muffin wells
wax paper

Directions (also see process photos below):
1. Clean out some space in your freezer. You’ll need room for the muffin tins in addition to the container you’ll eventually store your cupcakes in. You don’t want to have to clear out space in the middle of the process while your cupcakes melt on the counter! Don’t ask me how I know this.

2. Line your muffin tins with plastic wrap, leaving an overhang. I did this by cutting a long sheet of plastic wrap in half lengthwise. I then used each long, thin strip to line one column of wells on my muffin tin — using 3 strips total.

3. Form the base cake layer: Place a heaping scoop of cake or brownie into each well. Lay a small square of wax paper over the wells one at a time, pressing on the cake with the bottom of the glass to flatten and pack it. Carefully peel wax paper away and continue until all wells have a base cake layer. You also might be able to put wax paper over all of the wells, press down with the bottom of another muffin pan, and pack cake into all the wells at once — but I didn’t try this.

4. Form the ice cream layer: Scoop a heaping spoonful of ice cream over the packed cake and level it with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle any add-ins over the ice cream layer. Try to leave some room at the top of the well for another cake layer!

5. Cover muffin tin with plastic wrap and freeze for a few hours.

6. Form final cake layer: Working quickly, scoop a final spoonful of cake over each well. Lay a small square of wax paper over the wells one at a time, pressing on the cake with the bottom of the glass to flatten and pack it. Carefully peel wax paper away and use a table knife to scrape away any uneven edges. Continue until all cupcakes have a top cake layer.

7. Cover muffin tin with plastic wrap and freeze for about an hour.

8. Frosting and decorating: Do this step in batches if possible! Things can get melty and messy if your cupcakes sit out too long waiting to be decorated. Don’t ask me how I know this. Pull 4 cupcakes out of your tin at a time using the plastic wrap overhang, keeping the rest of the cupcakes in the freezer. Place cupcakes carefully into cupcake papers if desired, or directly into storage container. Frost with a big star tip and decorate with sprinkles, nuts, or frozen berries as desired. Place finished cupcakes into your storage container and then into then freezer while you move on to the next batch. Keep cupcakes frozen until you’re ready to enjoy them (no need to soften before eating)!


Step 2: Cut long strips of plastic wrap to line columns of wells in your muffin tin.


Step 3: Spoon cake into the well, cover with a square of wax paper, and use the base of a glass to pack and flatten.


Step 4: This is a good time to add Ferrero Rocher halves! Add ice cream layer and freeze for a few hours.


Step 6 and final cupcakes! Pack another layer of cake on, cover and freeze, and then decorate!


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