Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

It’s no secret that I’ve got a thing for cookies. Maybe it’s because cookies are like personal size, portable desserts. If you have a sweet tooth, you can just grab one and go. And it doesn’t hurt that they are easier to sneak, too. 😉

These cookies some how slipped under my radar when they were made by the blogging group Tuesdays with Dorie last year. Luckily, when I was browsing my friend Jessica’s blog last week I stumbled across her post for these cookies. I liked that they were different from regular oatmeal cookies. And I loved that they were chocolate! I am happy to report that they were just as delicious as I hoped they would be. Jessica said they were like eating a spoonful of oatmeal and ganache. I’d have to agree!


Peanut Butter Chocolate Swirl Cookies

There is no telling why I chose a mangled cookie to go right on top of this pile when there was perfectly formed cookie just to it’s right.

It’s no secret that Jesse and I have a little bit of thing for chocolate and peanut butter together. Cookies, cake, brownies, more cookies, and now more cookies. It’s definitely one of our favorite dessert combinations. I also have a soft spot in my heart for fun, slice and bake, swirled cookies. Needless to say, the moment I saw these cookies on Katie’s blog I started thinking of a way to incorporate them into my baking plan for the week (yes, you know you bake way too much if you have a baking plan for the week).

In the end, these cookies taste pretty similar to the Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies I make all the time, but the presentation is so fun and a nice change-up.  Yes, they take a little more time to make than my usual recipe (especially because these include time to chill before slicing). Other than the extra time, they really aren’t too difficult to make. I did find that when I tried to roll it up with just my hands that it got a little messy. Once I figured out that I needed to use the parchment paper to roll the log it was smooth sailing.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Swirl Cookies 

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the peanut butter, milk, vanilla extract, and egg to the bowl and stir until combined. Sprinkle the flour, salt, and baking soda over the wet ingredients, then stir until combined.

Dump the dough out onto a sheet of parchment paper then knead together and form into a rough brick shape. Place another sheet of parchment paper over the dough and use a rolling pin to roll out into a 10×17 inch rectangle.

In a microwave safe measuring cup, microwave the chocolate chips for 1 minute. Stir until melted, microwaving for an additional 30 seconds if needed.

Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and pour the melted chocolate over the rolled out dough. Use a knife or spatula to spread the chocolate over the surface, leaving just a little edge all the way around. Using the parchment paper to guide the dough, roll into a log, starting with the long side (so after taking theses pictures I turned the dough a quarter turn and then rolled the long side towards me). Chill the dough for 34-35 minutes.

While the dough is chilling, preheat oven to 375 degrees and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or baking mat.

Slice the dough into 1/4 inch slices* and place slices on a baking sheet 2 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges start to turn golden brown. Let cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes then transfer to a rack to cool.

I recommend serving alongside a glass of chocolate milk (or regular milk if you’re into that sort of thing).

*After removing the log from the fridge I noticed there was a flat side, so I gave the log a few rolls on the counter before slicing to try and soften the edges.

Adapted from So Tasty So Yummy, originally from Salad in a Jar

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

I am sure that by now it’s pretty obvious how much I love finding ways to make typically store bought things at home. Pretty much everything I make and blog about can technically be classified as “homemade” since, well, I make it all at home mostly from scratch. But I’m talking about the posts where I recreate things that you normally associate with store bought brands. Like when I made Milano Cookies, Oreos, Funfetti Cupcakes, Fish Sticks, Hamburger Buns, and Mayonnaise. Now that I’m in China and certain kitchen staples are a little harder to come by, you will probably find a lot more of these kinds of posts.

I am a nut for chocolate milk. Like at least a glass a day, sometimes two, kind of nut. So when Annie posted a recipe for homemade chocolate syrup a few months ago, I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning. I knew it would be love at first sip, and it was. I may or may not have drizzled a little directly into my mouth from the squeeze bottle. Rich chocolaty goodness! And of course, as I have found with a lot of DIY foods, it is so much easier than I thought it would be!

As with most things, the quality of ingredients you use will directly relate to the results that you get. Using Hershey’s cocoa powder won’t mean that your syrup is bad or gross, but it won’t be quite as good as if you use a better brand. I had Ghirardelli on hand, which isn’t the highest quality in the market but is a step up, and my results were great.

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium sauce pan, whisk together the sugar and cocoa powder, making sure to break up any lumps in the cocoa. Turn the heat to medium-high and stir in the water and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Once it has reached a boil, reduce heat to low and continue to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, allowing the mixture to thicken. Once the mixture has thickened remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in the vanilla. Store in the refrigerator.

Use for chocolate milk, ice cream topping, brownie topping, or any recipe that calls for chocolate syrup.

Source: Annie’s Eats, originally from 52 Kitchen Adventures

Basic Chocolate Cake

Hello from China and happy Valentines day!

Well after months of anticipation and weeks of hard work, packing, moving, and flying, I have finally arrived in Suzhou. So now what?

It’s a bit strange because I have pretty much always been a busy person. Much of my adult life has been spent working a full-time job and teaching dance part-time or working a full-time job, a part-time job and teaching dance part-time or going to school full-time, working part-time and teaching part-time or packing/moving and working part-time/full-time. See the pattern? Busy girl. So this abundance of free-time feels a little funny.

Of course I can’t sit still for too long so I am working on filling my time back up. I’m in the process of enrolling in a online BSN program, I also want to start taking classes to learn some Mandarin, and we will be looking for an apartment soon. We went out the other night and found a great grocery store, so once we get in an apartment I can hopefully get back on the cooking and blogging bandwagon. In the meantime I will appreciate the time I have and just be thankful that I am able to take it. I definitely understand how lucky/blessed I am right now.

On the topic of keeping myself busy, in the weeks leading up to the move I did my best to build up a collection of photos and recipes. I also told you that I wanted to share some great baking basics, that might not be the fanciest of techniques, but were great jumping off points and good for when you’re in a pinch and need a go-to dessert recipe.

I’ve already started to compile a collection (and gave it it’s own label of Baking Basics) that includes go-to recipes for Chocolate Chip Cookies, Brownies and Blondies. I wanted to add to that list of basics a recipe for both classic chocolate cake and yellow cake.

Today I’m sharing the chocolate cake recipe. You might be confused because the picture is clearly of chocolate cupcakes. And you’re going to be even more confused when I tell you now that this recipe is much better suited for regular layered or sheet cake, and not cupcakes. The crumb is super light and airy and it just doesn’t lend itself to being a sturdy cupcake. It’s also perfect for a layer cake because it *doesn’t* dome up much, which is what you want when you’re stacking cakes but isn’t what you’re looking for when you make cupcakes. Are you sufficiently confused now?

I can’t tell you why I decided that night to make cupcakes instead of pouring it into cake pans and making a regular cake. It probably had something to do with the mountain of boxes and missing kitchen supplies that were surrounding me at the time.

After realizing how ridiculous it would look and sound to tell you it’s better suited for cake, I wanted to remake it and get new pictures. Alas, I ran out of time. Now it’s Valentines day, I am craving chocolate cake and it just feels like the right time to share it.

So again, this recipe makes a KILLER CHOCOLATE LAYER CAKE. The crumb is light and airy, but still rich and chocolatey. It uses regular all-purpose flour (which most everyone has on hand) and not cake flour which I look at as a bonus. It calls for coffee, but don’t be worried. It doesn’t taste like coffee it just enhances the chocolate flavor. It can obviously be made into cupcakes, but, again, it’s better suited for CAKE. It’s one of those do what I say and not what I do things. And actually the cake tastes just as rich, moist and delicious in either form so it’s not like making the cupcakes would be wrong… Eek, I should stop before this turns into the worlds longest novel about cake vs. cupcake.

Basic Chocolate Cake

Butter, for greasing the pans
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two 8-inch cake pans with butter, flour, and parchment paper. (Grease pans with butter. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of each pan. Butter the parchment paper then add about a tablespoon of flour to each pan, shake and tap until it’s evenly distributed)

In a glass measuring cup stir together the buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a standing mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment). With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients, mix until evenly combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and, with the mixer on low, add the hot coffee. Mix just until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl one more time.

Evenly distribute the batter between the two cakes pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and set on a wire rack. Allow the cake to cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then flip out onto the wire racks. Frost with your favorite chocolate frosting.

Source: Ina Garten via Food Network