Hey everyone. I’m sure a lot of you have heard of the Keto diet, or know someone personally who is following that way of eating. Myself, I have been on it for about 50 days now and loving how I’ve been able to incorporate it into my life rather easily and still lose weight. One of the things I enjoy most about being a baker is the creative process of recipe development; it’s one of the reasons why I went to pastry school so that I could learn the science behind what works in a recipe. There are so many options now for sugar substitutes than say ten years ago. Sure, I still love to make regular desserts-that has not changed and it will never change. This is just another role play in my arsenal of becoming a better baker and what I can offer people.
I was intrigued with the whole sugar substitute thing and ways I could incorporate it into a brownie recipe as the Keto diet has become all the rage. This is my first foray into recipe development with replacing both sugar and flour. I’m no stranger to almond flour as a replacement for wheat flour as I’ve used it many times before. I was pretty pleased with the outcome of this brownie recipe. They came out fudgy and full of flavor and no weird aftertaste.
If you’re following a Keto diet, I hope you give these a try. There is a baking company called (Lillys click here) that makes chocolate chips and bars (my fave is the milk chocolate salted almond) that use Stevia, and you would be amazed at how they taste! You cannot even tell a difference in the taste- there is no weird aftertaste at all!! They definitely cure a chocolate craving for sure!
Fudgy Keto Brownies
1 stick (1/2 Cup) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 Cup Lily’s brand chocolate chips
4 oz. softened cream cheese
3/4 Cup Lakanto “classic” monkfruit sugar substitute
2 large whole eggs, + 1 yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 Cup almond flour
2 Tbsp. Hersheys (or another brand of natural) cocoa powder
2 Tbsp. black cocoa powder (I use King Arthur brand)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 bar Lily’s milk chocolate caramelized and salted, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 325° F. Prepare an 8×8 inch pan by spraying with nonstick spray and lining one side with a parchment sling.
In a large bowl microwave the butter until melted. Toss in the chocolate chips and stir until melted. Add in the softened cream cheese and stir to combine. Add in the sugar substitute and whisk to combine-note it will not melt like regular sugar and appear grainy (this is normal). Add the eggs one at a time and mix to combine, then stir in the vanilla.
Place a sifter over the bowl and add in the dry ingredients, then whisk gently to combine. Fold in the chopped “milk chocolate caramelized and salted Lily’s bar”.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and level the batter with an offset spatula. Bake until a few moist crumbs appear once pierced with a toothpick, and the top no longer appears wet; about 25-27 minutes. Allow the brownies to cool completely over a wire rack in the pan, then pull out the entire slab using the sling and cut into squares.
Everyone in our house is a spice head. The lazy Susan on our kitchen table has about 10 different bottles of hot sauce ranging from “hot” to nuclear. Guess which bottle is the most empty. My son and I are on a secret mission to turn his girlfriend into a chili head. She does not like spicy food, so of course every time she tries something I make she first asks if it is spicy. We keep trying to up the spice in things we give her so we can get her to join our club. I know it’s just a matter of time. Enter the chocolate tart…dun dun dun.
You can tailor these tarts to suite your level of spice. When you get to the point where you add the spices, then keep adding in pinches of spice to you get the heat you prefer. This past weekend I was catering a Mexican fiesta for a friend and she asked me to do the desserts. I made 4 different mini treats and these chocolate tarts were one of them. They were the first to go empty on the platter! I was kind of shocked because I assumed they would be the treat people would shy away from. There were children at the party so I didn’t make them super spicy; just a hint. Well guess who ate several of them? Yup, my son’s girlfriend. She loved em! And I’m a big fan too! They are super easy to make. A great tool to have when making them is a tart tamper-it helps with getting the chocolate crumb nice and flat-the small end fits perfectly in the wells of a mini muffin tin. This is the one I use below found on Amazon.
Mexican Chocolate Chili Tarts
yield~ 34 tarts
4 oz. Milk Chocolate Chips (I like Guittard or Ghirardelli)
4 oz. Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
2/3 Cup heavy whipping cream
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp chili powder
3-5 pinches of cayenne pepper
Prepare the mini muffin wells with the chocolate crumb layer below.
In a heat proof bowl place both the chocolate chips. Heat the cream to a scald, then pour over the chips and allow the mixture to sit for 3 minutes, then stir gently from the middle out until combined. If you see a few small bits of un melted chocolate, then place in the microwave and heat for 30 seconds at a time and stir to combine. Stir in salt and spices. Taste the filling, and add in extra pinches of cayenne as desired for heat level. Pour the filling into each well of the prepared crumb layer. Allow to cool to room temperature then place uncovered into the fridge to set. Decorate as desired with chocolate pearls or dist with chocolate powder. Serve tarts at room temperature.
1 1/2 Cups Chocolate graham crackers
2 Tbsp sugar
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
Mix the crumb ingredients together and line mini muffin wells with paper liners. Measure out 1 level measuring Tablespoon of crumb mixture and press into the liners. If you have a tart tamper this is ideal. Bake the crumb layer in a preheated 350° F oven for 6 minutes. Crumb crust will puff up and after removing from oven, use the tamper again to press back down; being careful not to burn yourself (wear an oven mitt when doing so). Allow the tray to cool over a wire rack then fill with the chocolate filling.
I’ve always been a person that is mostly “out of the box”. I tend to think a bit differently than your average Joe, so when I saw this recipe for a stump de noel vs. the traditional buche de noel, I was intrigued. It’s a very striking dessert that has that “wow factor” when you’re called to bring the dessert for the Christmas party or family gathering. It requires quite a bit of work, but you can scatter the work over a few days time so on the day of assembly you can just focus on pulling it together. It’s best to read through the recipe a few times so you understand all that is required. You can make the buttercreams 2-3 days ahead and keep chilled; when it comes time to assemble you’ll have to let the buttercream come to room temperature and rewhip with the stand mixer. The meringue mushrooms and the sugared decorations can be made a couple days before. The assembled cake requires chilling so plan to assemble it the day before service, and assemble on the platter that you’ll be serving it on-I used a large square platter that I found with room on the sides for the pretty garnishes.
Stump de Nöel
recipe: Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, pages 144-145
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 pound bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
- 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 1/4 cup of hot water
- 1 dozen large eggs, at room temperature, separated
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Malted Buttercream and Dark Chocolate Buttercream
- Meringue mushrooms, candied cranberries and candied rosemary sprigs, for garnish (optional; see Note)
Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheets and line them with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on all of the short sides. Butter the paper and dust with flour.
In a small bowl, whisk the 1 cup of flour with the cocoa and salt. In another small bowl, combine the chocolate and espresso. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, combine the egg yolks with 2/3 cup of the sugar. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk and beat at high speed until the yolks are pale and thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate mixture along with the vanilla. Transfer to a large bowl.
Thoroughly wash and dry the mixer bowl and the whisk. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar on moderately high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 2/3 cup of sugar and continue beating at high speed until the whites are glossy, about 2 minutes longer. Whisk one-fourth of the egg whites into the cake batter, then fold in the remaining whites until no streaks remain.
In a small bowl, whisk the melted butter with 1/2 cup of the batter; fold this mixture into the batter. Working in 2 batches, sift the cocoa powder mixture over the batter and gently fold it in. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, spreading it out to fill the pans. Bake for about 18 minutes, until the cake feels springy and dry; shift the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Transfer the pans to racks to cool completely. Run the tip of a knife around the edges, cover with parchment paper and a baking sheet and invert; peel off the parchment on top.
Spread the Malted Buttercream over the cakes. Using a ruler, cut each cake precisely in half lengthwise, cutting through the paper; you should have four 6-by-17-inch strips of cake. Roll one strip into a tight coil, leaving the paper behind. Roll the 3 remaining cake strips around the coil in the same way to form a very wide, short jelly roll. Set the cake on a large plate, spiraled end up. Frost the outside of the cake with the Dark Chocolate Buttercream. Refrigerate until set, at least 8 hours. Decorate the cake with meringue mushrooms, cranberries and rosemary sprigs and serve, cutting the cake into wedges or horizontal slices.
FOR THE DARK CHOCOLATE AND MALTED BUTTERCREAMS
5 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60-72%), melted and cooled
1/4 cup malt powder
12 malted milk balls candies, crushed
MAKE THE DARK CHOCOLATE AND MALTED BUTTERCREAMS
In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are just warm to the touch. Return the bowl to the mixer and fit it with the whisk attachment. Add the vanilla and beat the egg whites at high speed until firm and glossy, about 5 minutes. With the machine running, whisk in the butter a few tablespoons at a time. If the mixture begins to look curdled, continue to beat until smooth before adding more butter.
Transfer 1 1/2 cups of the buttercream to a bowl and whisk in the melted chocolate. Cover the chocolate buttercream and refrigerate.
Dissolve the malt powder in 2 tablespoons hot water, then beat it into the buttercream remaining in the mixer. Beat in the crushed milk balls. Cover the malt buttercream and refrigerate.
Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, pages 194-195
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 ounce good-quality white chocolate, melted and cooled (I actually used semisweet)
2 ounces dark unsweetened cocoa powder, (like Valrhona) for sifting over assembled mushrooms
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the heat proof bowl of a standing mixer. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (double boiler method). Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture registers 140 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, 6 to 8 minutes.
Transfer the bowl to a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat it on high speed until stiff peaks form. Add the cream of tartar when the mixture begins to thicken, or after 3 minutes. Keep beating for another minute or so until stiff peaks hold.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip with the meringue. To make the caps, hold the pastry bag close to the parchment paper-lined pan and pipe out a small dome (about a tablespoon) of meringue, pulling up at the very end of piping to give your cap some height.
To form mushrooms stems, hold the bag close to the parchment paper and pipe the meringue, pulling up as you go, into small cone shapes. Make the same number of stems as caps.
Place the pans in the oven and bake the meringue pieces for 90 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway thought the baking time. Turn off the oven, prop the door slightly open and leave the meringues in place for at least 2 hours longer, or overnight.
ASSEMBLE THE MERINGUE MUSHROOMS
Turn the caps over and use a toothpick to make a tiny hole large enough to fit the tip of the stem into. Fill the hole with a tiny bit of white chocolate (or semi sweet-which is what I used). Gently press the stem into place and allow the chocolate to set. Sift cocoa powder over the assembled mushrooms.
Sugared cranberries and sugared rosemary
¼ cup superfine sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cinnamon stick
¾ cup fresh cranberries
10 rosemary sprigs
Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper. Place the superfine sugar in a small bowl.
In a medium saucepan, stir together 1 cup of water with the sugar, then add the cinnamon stick. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and pour into a heatproof, wide-mouthed bowl. Let the liquid cool for a few minutes, then remove the cinnamon stick.
Drop the cranberries in the syrup and stir to coat the cranberries completely. Remove the cranberries, a few at a time, with a slotted spoon (tap the spoon to release excess syrup) and drop them in the superfine sugar. Toss the cranberries in the sugar to coat completely, and place on the parchment paper to dry. Repeat the above procedure with the rosemary. Decorate the stump as you wish.
Who wants a whoopie?! I could use anything about now that gives me a hint of a mental boost. I’m sure my readers on the East coast of the U.S. right now will agree. Hang in there- Spring is coming! How can you be mad when you say the word whoopie? My computer keeps trying to auto change it to whoopee every time-clearly hinting to me with a mind of it’s own that I need to whoop it up a bit more than usual. Note taken.
I’ve been wanting to make whoopie pies for a while now, but wanted to forgo the traditional marshmallow filling. A couple of years ago I made this whopper buttercream for a filling in a buche de noel, and remembered how yummy it was. There are crushed whoppers in the buttercream which boosts the malt flavor even more. Who doesn’t love a good whopper? I love the flavor combination of chocolate and malt, and now that I have a container of malted milk powder I’m going to have to bust out some more recipes I supposed with malt! These are fun for a party or casual gathering. If you don’t know what a whopper is, you might know what a malteser is (if you hail from somewhere besides the U.S.) This recipe is adapted from a recipe called Devil Dogs from the Cookbook Baked Elements. Enjoy!
Keep the batter spaced well when scooping, as they spread when baked….
Chocolate-Malt Whopper Whoopies
yield: ~ 12-13 whoopie pies
Chocolate Whoopie Pies
yield: 12-13 assembled sandwiched whoopies
recipe: adapted from “Devil Dogs” in Cookbook Baked Elements
2 Cups all purpose flour
1/2 Cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder (such as Valrhona)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
1/4 Cup unsalted butter, room temp
1/4 Cup vegetable shortening, room temp
1 Cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1.5 oz. dark chocolate (60-72 %), melted and cooled (I used Guittard “Extra Dark” 63 % chocolate chips)
1 large egg yolk
1 Cup whole milk +1 Tbsp. vinegar (Or you can use 1 Cup buttermilk)
Whisk the first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.
In a glass measuring cup place the milk and vinegar and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening until smooth and creamy, stopping to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary.
Add the brown sugar and vanilla and beat (about 3 mins.) until fluffy-stop to scrape down sides and bottom of bowl as needed. Add the cooled chocolate and yolk and beat until combined. Note: I used the microwave to melt my chips and it took me exactly 60 seconds total heat time-which I stopped several times to stir the chocolate as to avoid burning).
Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Stop the mixer often to scrape down the sides and bottom of work bowl. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a spatula to mix gently one last time and gather the batter into the middle of the bowl. Place the bowl in the refrigerator to chill for 10 minutes.
Prepare sheet pans with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 400° F.
Remove chilled batter from fridge. Using a 1 oz. scoop (2 Tbsp.), scoop and place batter onto prepared sheet pans, leaving 2 inches of space to allow for spreading while baking. Bake for 10 minutes or until cakes spring back slightly when gently pressed. Do not overbake. Allow to cool on pans completely, then carefully use a spatula to gently scrape underneath to remove. Note: the original recipe says to chill the cakes on pans for 10 minutes then remove, but I found that the cakes fell apart too easily with this, so I advise allowing the cakes to cool completely on the sheet pans then removing gently. Another helpful tip: I found that chilling the cakes (unassembled for about an hour before filling them also helps the cakes to firm up a bit which helps them stay firmer once assembling).
To Assemble: Scoop a generous amount of buttercream filling (recipe below) between two cakes and serve immediately. If not serving immediately, store assembled cakes in the fridge in an airtight container or in a container covered with foil.
Malted Buttercream with Crushed Whoppers
recipe adapted from the Book: Baked Elements
2 Tbsp. boiling water (I do this in a coffee mug in the microwave)
4 Tbsp. (1/4 C) malted milk powder (such as Carnation)
1/2 Cup heavy cream
6 Tbsp (1/4 C + 2 Tbsp. ) whole milk
1/4 Cup flour
1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
1 3/4 C confectioners sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Cup Whoppers Malted Milk Balls + more (if desired for garnishing outside of pies)
Dissolve the malted milk powder in the boiling water and using a spoon, stir and smoosh the powder as necessary against the side of the mug to ensure all of the powder dissolves.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the cream, milk, and malted milk mixture. Whisk in the flour gradually and stir constantly until mixture reaches a boil and becomes thick, about 3 minutes. Set the mixture in the refrigerator to chill for about 10 minutes.
Cream the butter and confectioners sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until fluffy. Remove the cooled malt mixture from the fridge and slowly pour in the mixture with the mixer on low. Once all the milk mixture is added, add in the vanilla and turn up the mixer and beat on medium speed until mixture is fluffy.
Place the Whoppers in a freezer type ziplock bag and using a heavy saucepot crush the candies until coarsely crushed.
Fold in the crushed whoppers into the buttercream.
Note: You can make the buttercream a day in advance if desired and store in an airtight container in the fridge. When ready to assemble whoopies- let the buttercream come to room temperature and rewhip by hand (vigorously) with a spoon to allow the buttercream to become fluffy again.
Note: you can crush additional Whoppers and roll the finished/assembled whoopies in crushed candies if desired.
I just finished reading a really moving book that tells the true story of Sasha Martin, called Life From Scratch. The book is sad, inspiring, raw, and sensitive. Along the way you feel the mood and emotion of her childhood as she moves into adulthood. Each chapter is a blessing of recipe(s) from her life’s journey. One of the recipes is a Chocolate Guinness Cake with Baileys Buttercream which I’ve adapted into cupcakes and added a bit of extra chocolate fudge frosting as a bonus. I’ve seen cake recipes before that use Guinness so I was especially excited to try this, and it was fabulous. Pick up her book if you haven’t read it- it’s a great read.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!!
Chocolate & Guinness Stout Cupcakes
recipe adapted from the book Life From Scratch by Sasha Martin
yield: 16 cupcakes
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
1 Cup Guinness Extra Stout Beer (take the beer out ahead of time and let sit on the counter unopened so that it is not cold)
1 Tbsp Vanilla
3/4 Cup unsweetened Cocoa powder
1 1/2 Cup sugar
1 1/4 Cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 large eggs, room temp
Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a small saucepan heat the butter until just melted, then whisk together with the Guinness, vanilla, and cocoa. While the Guinness mixture is cooling, line cupcake tins with paper liners. Whisk together the sugar, flour, and baking soda in a large bowl. Pour the Guinness mixture onto the dry ingredients, and then whisk in the 2 eggs. When the batter is shiny and smooth, pour it into the wells of the cupcake tins filling 2/3 full; exactly 1/4 cup of batter. Bake for ~ 15-20 minutes or until skewer inserted comes out clean. (baking time in a regular oven is around 19-20 minutes. I used my convection oven at 325° F and baked mine for exactly 15 minutes). Cool completely.
Prepare a piping bag fitted with a large round tip (or your choice of tip) and fill each side of the bag with chocolate fudge frosting and Baileys frosting-it’s handy to use a “two tone” piping bag if you can find one.
Dark Chocolate Fudgy Frosting
recipe adapted from Sweetapolita
1 Cup plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
1 Cup plus 3 Tbsp confectioners sugar
1/3 Cup (40 g) extra dark unsweetened cocoa (I used Hershey’s extra dark)
1/4 Cup hot water
1/4 Cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
generous pinch of salt
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli) melted and cooled
In a food processor place all but the melted chocolate and pulse until incorporated. Add the melted chocolate and pulse until smooth. Chill frosting is not using right away.
Bailey’s Irish Cream Buttercream
recipe from Life From Scratch by Sasha Martin
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 lb. confectioners sugar, sifted
2-4 Tbsp Baileys Irish Cream
Whip the soft butter until fluffy. Add the confectioners sugar on low speed, then increase to medium high, and drizzle in enough Baileys to get the buttercream loose and fluffy. To achieve a whiter frosting whip it 5-10 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.
Cheesecake. Decadent, chocolaty with a burst of sweet cherries in every bite. Even the person who normally would shy away from eating dessert will usually go for a mini cheesecake as they are not much of a diet breaker being so small. They are literally like 4 bites of sweet nirvana. My child-who is not really much of a dessert person, devoured them. To be precise-imagine him taking one bite and then shoving the rest into his mouth. They are that good. You could dress these up even more by serving them with some roasted cherry sauce or ganache topping, but I kept them simple and topped with whipped cream and a fresh cherry.
Chocolate & Dark Sweet Cherry Cheesecake
yield: 12 mini cheesecakes
Cooked Sweet Cherries
Pitted fresh dark sweet cherries (cut into quarters to equal 1 1/2 Cups)
1 T water
1 T sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. water
In a small saucepan place the cut cherries, sugar, and 1 tablespoon of water. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes until become softened. In a small bowl make a slurry by mixing the cornstarch with 2 teaspoons of water. Add to the cherries and continue to cook while constantly stirring for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat, place in a small bowl and set aside while you make the crust and cheesecake batter.
3/4 Cup chocolate graham cracker crumbs
3 T melted butter
In a bowl mix together the crumbs with the melted butter.
Chocolate Cheesecake Batter
16 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 Cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 T Kirsch liqueur (optional)
1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (Hershey’s)
1/2 Cup semi sweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled
1. Prepare a mini cheesecake pan by rubbing the bottom and sides of each well with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil. Note: I’ve tried both spraying with non stick spray, and this preparation, and this works better. Firmly press a heaping tablespoon of the chocolate crumb mixture (recipe above) into the bottom of each well. If you don’t have a mini cheesecake pan, you can use a muffin pan and line each well with a foil type of cupcake liner.
2. Preheat oven to 325° F. In the bowl of a stand mixer place the softened cream cheese and sugar and cream on low speed until combined (I mix the entire batter on low speed to ensure no extra bubbles form). Add the vanilla, optional Kirsch, and mix well. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well, stopping to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the cocoa powder and mix to combine. Add the melted chocolate and mix to combine. Fold in the cherries- you will see some red marbling at first but it will come together okay.
3. Fill each well to the top with batter-(takes about 1/4 cup) note you might have about 1/4 Cup batter left over depending on the size of your cheesecake wells. Place the cheesecake pan on a sheet pan and bake in preheated 325° oven for about 30 minutes, stopping after 15 minutes to turn the pan from front to back to ensure even heating. Note: the cheesecakes will rise quite a bit and appear to separate into a “cap” like appearance but don’t worry-they will shrink back down level once cooled. Allow cheesecakes to cool over a wire rack, then move to the refrigerator to chill completely. Top with sweetened whipped cream and garnish with a cherry.