I’ve Created a MONSTER!

Biscoff Spread has been making its rounds in baking blogs over the past few months, and I have been dying to get my hands on a jar. I knew that Trader Joe’s sold a version of it as Speculoos Cookie Spread, but I hadn’t been able to find it because I always seemed to go there at the busiest times possible and preservation of my sanity didn’t allow for browsing.

Everything changed on Thursday, though. It was February vacation for the public schools, which meant no work for me. I used my free morning to go grocery shopping, because I hadn’t gone since my birthday, which was two weeks before. Can I just say, a calm and empty Trader Joe’s is even worse than a jam-packed Trader Joe’s. It was amazing to actually be able to walk calmly down the tiny aisles and actually LOOK at the products. I usually go in with my list and a plan of attack and leave hating everyone and everything because there were so many people inside. Thursday was the exact opposite, and it was heaven. But not for my poor wallet. It was totally worth it, though, because I finally found the coveted Speculoos Cookie Spread.

I came home and almost immediately opened the jar and stuck a spoon in it. Heaven. In. A. Jar. That is all I have to say. My suitemates weren’t much more articulate when I gave them a taste. I’m absolutely going back next week and getting another jar or two because Trader Joe’s is notorious for discontinuing items, and I don’t want to lose my heaven unexpectedly.

After tasting I started looking for all the recipes involving Biscoff that I saw and bookmarked for making once I got my hands on a jar. Unfortunately I didn’t have all the ingredients called for in a lot of them, but I finally found the perfect first recipe. It required no baking at all, but it let the Biscoff flavor SHINE. What could it be, you ask?


I found the recipe on Sugarcrafter, and it actually wasn’t one the first recipes I had in mind. But it was perfect.

I was slightly skeptical about it at first, because it didn’t call for the normal fudge ingredients, or at least it didn’t call for what I normally think of as being in a fudge recipe. But come on, it had Biscoff, butter, and powdered sugar, so even if it didn’t turn out like fudge it would still be amazing.

The final product didn’t even come close to disappointing. It was amazing. So amazing that my roommate demolished it all by early the next afternoon. I didn’t even get a chance to take pictures. My fault for only making half a batch, though.

Some comments: eyes popping out of heads, silence, “OMG, it’s better than SEX!”, “You’re making more. What do you need for it?!?!”, and frequent trips to the fridge for “breakfast”. I’d say it was a success.

After the fudge, I made another Biscoff recipe. Biscoff Swirl Brownies from Bake at 350. No words.  Except that they definitely get better after sitting for the night. The brownie was slightly undercooked, so it’s a deep dark chocolate batter with Biscoff swirled in. I know I’m comparing this spread to heaven with a bit too much frequency, but that’s really the only way to describe it.

Two of my suitemates just tried them a few minutes ago, and I wish I could have taken a picture of one of their reactions. One is the same one that made the mountain comment about my birthday cake, and she always has the most priceless reactions to my creations. I love her, haha.

I kindly requested that the 9″x13″ pan of brownies last AT LEAST the night so I can take some to my friends in class tomorrow, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it actually happens, especially with three sugar/chocolate/biscoff addicts in the same room.

I’m not counting on it, though. I might have to make more fudge in order to preserve the brownies from their Biscoff-covered fingers. It’s so addicting, so I don’t blame them. Instead, I blame myself for introducing it to them in the first place. I’m SUCH a bad influence.


Baked’s Sweet and Salty Cake

I love to bake. No surprises there. This topic seems to pop up all the time, no matter who I’m talking with. Well, it doesn’t come up so frequently in class, but it can’t contain itself in more informal settings when just chatting with people. It’s an important part of who I am as a person, and so it just comes up naturally. I may not document everything I make, but that’s mostly because I usually bake at night, and my roommates and I seem to make every crumb disappear by the time morning and the good light rolls around. Nevertheless, I am baking and making things all the time, and my internship supervisors caught on to that fact very quickly last semester. As an early Christmas present, those two lovely ladies gifted me with a  copy of Baked: New Frontiers in Baking. Needless to say, I was speechless and beyond excited when I opened the box to find the one cookbook I had been coveting beyond all others.

When I got home that night I sat down and went through the book page by page, putting sticky notes on every single recipe I wanted to try. In the end, I think there were more recipes selected than not! However, I found that I have to carefully plan ahead when I want to make something from this book, because chances are a recipe calls for something I don’t have on hand all the time, such as dark brown sugar, dark cocoa powder (but not anymore!), fleur de sel, sour cream, or lemon zest. I only have so much storage space (and money!) to stock everything all the time, so unfortunately this isn’t a spur-of-the-moment-baking type of book.

Because of this little hurdle–and the fact that most of what I want to make can’t be ready immediately–it took me until my birthday to finally break in my gift. I had intended to make the Sweet and Salty Cake at home over winter break, but after rereading through all of the steps and realizing the intensity of the project, I decided it wouldn’t work for an at-home recipe. However, it would be PERFECT as my birthday cake.

In recent years my favorite part of my birthday has been baking my own cake. Last year’s “Chocolate LOVE” was such a rewarding (if filling) experience. I don’t normally choose such time- and labor-intensive recipes, but my birthday is the perfect excuse to do so. It serves as a day that I can take for myself to do something new and exciting. I get a chance to bake something I wouldn’t normally have the time or funds to bake, so it’s like my present to myself. Some people buy bags and shoes, but I buy ingredients!

I didn’t have the entire day this year because I did have to go to work for a few hours, but I got home in the early afternoon and respectfully kicked my roommates out of the kitchen so I could get to business. I taped my printed out recipe to the cabinet doors and turned on my Keith and Damo playlist (sound familiar?). I also turned on every light in the common room, because I’m also a person who loves–no, NEEDS–light go leor (hence why I’m loving my two giant bedroom windows this year).

I have NEVER spent so much time mixing up a batter before. I’m sure if I had a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer this process wouldn’t have been so intense *hint hint nudge nudge*. Unfortunately I only had my dying $5 Wal-mart hand mixer at my disposal. This poor appliance is seriously on it’s last legs; it just doesn’t have a strong enough motor, and it can’t even mix up a buttercream anymore. I don’t know if it ever could, actually.

Despite my lacking appliances, the batter came together, albeit after a very long time. I didn’t time it, but I was already becoming exhausted after just this first phase. But who could blame me. Upon its completion, the batter filled my entire largest bowl. Wow.

I still haven’t even come close to baking without getting flour on every single surface, but the mess wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Something this cake required, though, was cleaning as I went, which definitely helped with keeping the mess in line.

This picture was the only one I took of the process because everything else was so time-sensitive that I didn’t want to juggle both my camera and the boiling caramel sauces. I’m not quite at that level of expertise yet. I also got rather caught up in the excitement that I sort of forgot about my camera for the most part. I legitimately haven’t been this excited about something probably since meeting some of the CT lads a couple of years ago (I was even more excited than when I got my internship or met Cassandra Clare in December). I was *that* excited, and my suitemates definitely noticed and commented.

The caramel sauces were terrifying and HOT. I bought a candy thermometer at the beginning of the semester, and this was my first chance to use it. However, it seems that there was not enough sauce in the pan for the temperature to properly register. Which meant that I had to tip the pan to create a deeper pool of caramel and thus expose myself to the heat of the pan and burner. Yay for oven mitts! During all of this I was terrified of burning the caramel. I had been reading about caramel and how the temperature can jump really high really quickly, and I was worried my improvised way of cooking it wouldn’t allow me too see exactly when it hit the correct temperature. In the end I probably could have let both batches cook for another minute or two, because the final products were lighter in color than they should have been. Oh well. Better to have ever so slightly undercooked (but still delicious) caramel sauce than burnt and ruined caramel sauce.

My mixer literally could not handle the ganache. Thankfully a major disaster was averted because a friend of a friend had another mixer I was able to use. What a difference a working mixer makes. I tell you, I really did not want to give the functioning one back after I used it. Think she would have noticed getting back a dying mixer?

I also encountered an issue when assembling the cake. The caramel and ganache didn’t seem to want to stay between the layers, so a lot of it came out the sides. I ended up just spreading the escaped fillings on as part of the crumb coat, so very little of it was actually lost. After I put on the crumb coat I stuck the cake in the fridge for a while to set up, and my suitemate’s reaction when she opened the fridge and saw it was priceless: “I didn’t know you were making a MOUNTAIN!” This cake was literally a mountain. There’s no other way to describe it, it was a giant mountain of chocolate and caramel deliciousness.

Putting on the final layer of ganache was messy, to say the least. At this point, the ganache was getting really melty because there was no room to keep it in the fridge, and the oven had been on for most of the afternoon so the kitchen was a sauna. I lost a bit of it to the kitchen table, but hey, that’s keeping with birthday cake ganache-ing tradition. Last year’s wasn’t even close to a pristine assembly either.

There was a lot of tasting along the way, and my suitemates and I certainly did a number on the leftover bowls of batter and ganache. At one point my roommate actually asked for a moment alone with the spatula I gave her. Love it.

After many hours of slaving away in a hot kitchen, my cake was finally finished. I would have loved to have taken proper-ish pictures of it, but I don’t think my suitemates and friends would have appreciated waiting until morning to dig in. Pictures without natural lighting it is, then!

To quote my suitemate again, it’s a “MOUNTAIN!”

I was also LOVING my new cake stand/spinner. It made frosting so much fun!

Fast-forward to the next morning when I was able to take more pictures by my window:

Another birthday success, if I may say so.  And this year I didn’t have to pawn of the leftovers on my Irish class! It pays to have dessert-loving suitemates.

One final note. How is it possible to write almost 1500 words in a blog post in an hour or so (WITH distractions), but be incapable of writing a 1250 word paper in less than an entire day? Beats me.

Baking, Uncategorized

Goodbye Vacation

Winter break is officially over after this weekend, and I don’t know if I’m ready to get back to the grind quite yet. This break hasn’t been as productive as I wanted it to be, especially in the book-reading department. I had a list of books I wanted to get through, but I just couldn’t make it through all of them. I was only able to finish The Cupcake Diaries series (a cute little kids series from Simon Spotlight) and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

Oh my, The Night Circus was absolutely amazing. It actually took me a bit less than two weeks to read it, but it was worth every second. I had been itching to read it since August, but timing was never right and The Strand never had a used copy available.  I finally got my hands on a copy, though. When I first heard about this book months ago, I believed it to be a YA novel, but then I read that the author is very adamant about the fact that it is not. The length of time it took me to read it is also a testament to the fact that it is very much a work of adult fiction; I can usually get through a considerably long YA book in a matter of a weekend, but The Night Circus has so many details and intricacies to it that I was forced to slow down in order to even try to take it all in. The tendency to jump between years in each chapter was a bit troubling at first, but by the end of the book I was able to get the timeline straight.This book is definitely something I would not hesitate to read again, because I am sure that I missed at least a few things, especially in my moments when I was half-asleep reading. The characters are well-developed and the plot is not so predictable that reading becomes boring.

I’m also in love with the book’s physical design. If I may say, it’s very classy. The jacket is wonderful with its black, white, and red coloring (the same palate as the circus itself), and the actual cover is beautiful with silver designs inlaid on a black background. I’m a sucker for a beautifully designed book, and these colors all come together in a wonderful way. The only way to describe it is that it’s classy, pure and simple.

Okay, enough about The Night Circus. On to my most recent batches of doughnuts!

Unfortunately I have no pictures of my improved chocolate doughnuts. They were just too good to wait for natural lighting so I could take proper pictures. Instead, I just have the recipe I came up with, which was inspired the Lara Ferroni recipe I used before.

Baked Dark Chocolate Cake Doughnuts

*Makes 9 delicious doughnuts*


1 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup granulated sugar                                                                                                                                                                                                                           3/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              5 squares of Trader Joe’s 70% Pound Plus dark chocolate, shaved/chopped


1.) Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly spray a doughnut pan with non-stick spray.

2.) Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda so it is all evenly incorporated.

3.) Add the sugar, nutmeg and salt. Stir to evenly incorporate.

4.) Add the melted butter, buttermilk, vanilla, and egg to the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined.

5.) Carefully stir in the finely chopped chocolate.

6.) Fill each doughnut well 1/2 to 3/4 full. I used a spoon. Don’t overfill the wells, or the holes will get baked over. That would be sad.

7.) Bake for about 8 minutes, until the doughnuts spring back when touched. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

8.) Once cooled, glaze if desired (1 cup powdered sugar, slowly add buttermilk or milk until it reaches your desired consistency, add a splash of vanilla).


The doughnut-making didn’t stop there. I made those ones a few days ago, and I couldn’t resist making one more batch of doughnuts this morning. But this time I went with the Baked Glazed Doughnuts from Iowa Girl Eats, and I spruced them up with a dark chocolate glaze. I love me some dark chocolate!

I followed the recipe for the most part, but instead of using the cinnamon it called for, I replaced it with my new favorite baking spice: nutmeg! I used a little more than 1/4 teaspoon of that glorious doughnut spice.

For the chocolate glaze, I shaved 3 squares of Trader Joe’s 70% Pound Plus dark chocolate. Then I added about a teaspoon of milk and melted it all in the microwave for about 15 seconds. Then I mixed it vigorously to melt the remaining bits. I added 1 cup of powdered sugar and a bit more milk to the chocolate and mixed it all together until smooth. As it was there was a distinction between the chocolate and powdered sugar, so I added a splash of vanilla and a pinch of salt. Perfection!

I cooled the doughnuts before dipping the tops in the chocolate glaze. Then I put them aside to further cool and set up. I may or may not have put each doughnut in one of the wells from my muffin top pan. A normal plate was too small to fit all six doughnuts, but the six over-sized wells were a perfect fit. It was fate.

I only hope I’ll be able to share the remaining doughnuts with my three roommates and a friend who are coming back to the city tonight. But if not, it’ll be a great excuse to make them again. The glaze really is perfection. I could swim in a vat of it. I especially like how it sets up and becomes a thin but fudgey blanket over the doughnuts. Yum!


Baked Chocolate Glazed Doughnuts

Last year I was crazy busy beyond belief, and I can’t say that I’m sorry 2011 is over. This semester seems like it will be a bit calmer, but I have to say that I’m definitely going to miss interning at Little Simon. My time there was such an experience and I learned so much that I can actually apply to my future career. But, new year, new endeavors, new experiences. Bring it on!

Speaking of new things, I ordered a doughnut pan during winter break and broke it in this morning. I have been looking for the perfect recipe with which to christen this pan, and Lara Ferroni’s Baked Chocolate Doughnuts fit the bill perfectly. Everything came together very quickly and easily. I had to substitute milk and vinegar for the buttermilk, and I don’t think the final results suffered one bit. I also replaced the yogurt with my “buttermilk,” as I’m not sure if Greek yogurt would have worked properly in this recipe.

With these doughnuts, I finally did realize that it IS the nutmeg that MAKES the doughnut taste. I’m coming around to this particular spice, especially with this recipe.

I didn’t use my buttermilk substitute for the glaze, but I think it works with just plain old milk. I did add a bit more milk than I should have, so I didn’t get the thicker glaze/frosting that Lara’s had. It’s fine though. This one reminds me more of the Dunkin Donuts glaze.

When I next make chocolate doughnuts, I think I might use my brand new dark cocoa powder. I would like to have a chocolate-ier flavor, more akin to a chocolate cake/cupcake. I know that pretty much defeats the purpose of making doughnuts–I mean, why not just make cake–but I want to somehow replicate the DD’s chocolate glazed doughnuts. So good!

I think next week I’ll try a plain vanilla doughnut and jazz it up with a chocolate glaze. After that, the options are absolutely endless. Reese’s Cup Doughnuts, anyone?


The Post of Chocolate DEATH!

During my time away from the blog I made a couple of things that, if made repeatedly, could result in a death by chocolate. They were too delicious and absolutely to die for!

These Cheesecake Brownies from Buns in my Oven were fantastic. I made them for dessert for dinner at a friend’s apartment. We each made something, and it was all really good. We gorged ourselves on pulled brisket, mashed potatoes, potato rolls, and my brownies–a good old homemade, stick to your ribs dinner that we were all seriously craving by the end of the semester.

Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of them before we dug in, but that just means I’ll have to make them again sometime.

My next dessert of death consisted of my go-to brownies with homemade ice cream.

The brownies were so moist and gooey that I hope I can replicate this same effect in the future. Rather than use semi-sweet chocolate chips like I usually use, I had a giant bar of dark chocolate from Trader Joe’s that I chopped up and melted into the batter, and then I added more chunks before baking.


For the ice cream, I found this super easy recipe on It didn’t even require an ice cream maker, rock salt, or any of that stuff! Color me a happy camper. I’m definitely going to be making this over and over and adding in tons of mix-ins. I should start thinking of combinations right now.

Doesn’t it look like pure FUDGE? Delicious death in a bowl, that’s all I have to say.