Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Black Forest Trifle & {2013} A Year In Pictures

I can't believe how quickly 2013 has flown by. The years just seem to get shorter and shorter the older I get. I remember when I was a kid that time seemed to pass so slowly. My parents would always tell me to just wait until I was an adult and it would be completely different. I definitely know what they were talking about now.  I have put together a small (well, as small as I could go) collection of photos to summarize 2013.  This year has been truly amazing with so many things to be thankful for.  We celebrated the birth of two new babies, reconnected with family that moved back home, enjoyed several vacations and many day trips, and had a blast spending time with family and friends.  I have a ton of beautiful pictures of our nieces and nephews but I didn't include any here because I am not sure who is comfortable having their picture on the internet. 

We began 2013 in beautiful, sunny Florida where we got see some amazing wildlife and breathtaking sunsets, squish the sand between our toes in December, and enjoy quality time with some of our family.  This was K and I's first trip out of the New England-ish area together and K's first time ever flying.  It was a wonderful 'big adventure' for us and there could not have been a better way to ring in the New Year.

In the spring we spent a couple of days in Maine where we visited the Nubble Lighthouse, walked on Ogunquit Beach and the Marginal Way, got up wayyyy too early to watch the sunrise, and K got his yearly fill (although I'm sure he could always go for more) of Maine lobster.

The summer was filled with lots of barbeques with family and friends, swimming, hiking, and just generally enjoying the beautiful weather.  We had a great fourth of July at K's family summer camp and watched beautiful fireworks over the lake.

We celebrated Sadie's 5th birthday in July. I can't believe my tiny dog is already five years old; where has the time gone!? And the most exciting news of all this year, in August, we found out that I am pregnant with our first baby! I won't turn this into a giant gush about how excited we are, so I will just say that we couldn't be more happy.

This year, the fall foliage was particularly bright and beautiful which was very enjoyable. It was a fairly low key part of the year, other than on Halloween we found out that we are expecting a baby boy! We had many Thanksgiving and Christmas get-togethers and we were able to spend at least a little bit of time with most of our family and friends over the holidays. I am so grateful for how wonderful this holiday season has been.

Of course, this year in photos would not be complete without a few of my flower photos.  There were so many to choose from but I think these are my four favorites of the year (at the moment....) My overall favorite photo of the year is of Gunn Brook Falls.  I won my first blue ribbon with this photo in the Franklin County Fair photo contest.

2013 has been so wonderful and we are very much looking forward to seeing what 2014 will bring.  Happy New Year to everyone!

Now, hopefully I haven't overloaded you with pictures and feel-good happy descriptive words and you are still reading, so that I can tell you about this amazing trifle! I made this dessert for Christmas Eve and it came out perfect! I made a great vanilla raspberry trifle last year, but this was a thousand times better.  The brownies were deliciously chewy and held up great to the pudding and cherry sauce.  The homemade pudding was smooth with a very rich chocolate flavor, but the cherry sauce was the star of this dessert. The sauce was thick and tart, just the way cherry sauce should be and it perfectly complimented the richness of the rest of the dessert.  This trifle would be great at a party any time of year, but it was perfect for the holiday celebrations.  This recipe makes a pretty big trifle, so this is definitely dessert for a crowd!  

Black Forest Trifle

1 9x13 pan brownies

Assemble and bake one 9x13 pan of brownies.  I cheated and used a box mix this time because I had a crazy amount of other baking to do, but my classic brownies would be amazing.  Let the brownies cool completely and cut into 1 inch cubes right before assembling.

Chocolate Pudding
3 tbsp cocoa powder
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup heavy cream
3 egg yolks
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 oz dark or bittersweet chocolate, chopped

In a heat proof bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt. Slowly whisk in the heavy cream until combined and smooth and then whisk in the egg yolks. In a medium or large sauce-pot stir together the milk and sugar and heat over medium heat until tiny bubbles form at the edges of the pot and the mixture is starting to steam.  You do not want to boil the milk mixture.

Carefully and slowly pour a small amount of the milk mixture into the egg mixture whisking constantly.  This will help temper the eggs so they can warm up slowly and not just turn into scrambled eggs.  Continue to pour the entire milk mixture into the eggs and whisk well.

Transfer the liquid back to the pot and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture starts to thicken and bubble. Boil for 2 minutes and then remove from the heat.  Add the vanilla and chopped chocolate and let stand for 1 minute to allow the chocolate to melt. Whisk well until everything is melted together and well combined.

The mixture should be a thick pudding consistency but will thicken more as it cools.  Pass the pudding through a fine strainer into a clean bowl, to remove any lumps or chocolate bits that did not melt.  Lay a piece of plastic wrap right on the surface of the pudding to keep a skin from forming and chill in the refrigerator.

Inspired by The Kitchn

Cherry Sauce
4 cups fresh or frozen cherries, pitted
1 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar (more or less depending on how sweet your cherries are)
2 tbsp cornstarch

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sauce-pot and stir to dissolve the sugar and distribute the cornstarch.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cherries are soft and and the sauce is thick and syrupy. Transfer the cherries to a bowl and refrigerate until completely cooled. 

Inspired by Let's Dish

Whipped Cream

2 cups heavy cream
1 heaping tbsp white sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Beat the cream with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form.  Add the sugar and vanilla and continue to whip just slightly longer until the sugar dissolves. Don't whip the cream until right before you are ready to assemble the trifle.


Fold about 1/4 of the whipped cream into the chocolate pudding to lightened the consistency a bit.  Start by creating a layer of brownie cubes at the bottom of a trifle or other tall glass bowl.  Add about  1/3 of the pudding mixture making sure you really get the pudding around the edges of the trifle dish so that you can clearly see all of your layers.  Then make a layer of 1/2 of the cherry sauce, followed by 1/3 of the whipped cream, again making sure you can see each of the layers.  Repeat this process with 1/3 brownies, 1/3 pudding, 1/2 cherries, 1/3 whipped cream and then the remaining brownies, pudding, and top with whipped cream.  Garnish with some sprinkles or shaved chocolate, if you wish.  The trifle can be assembled a few hours before serving and stored in the refrigerator.  Leftovers will last a day or so before everything becomes too mushy, but this is so delicious I doubt there will be much in the way of leftovers!


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Apple Streusel Muffin

I made these muffins almost a month ago and just thinking about them again is making me sooooo hungry. I would really love to have one (or two) of these right now and if I had any applesauce in the house I would be downstairs whipping up a batch instead of writing this post.  This actually happens to me often when I have stock piled recipes to blog about but my life has been too crazy to get around to writing for awhile. So when I do finally have a chance to sit down and write I end up really craving that food again. K and I have this week between the holidays off from work, so I think I will make some of these tomorrow morning to have for breakfast or a snack while we are home.

This December has felt especially busy with the shorter than normal time period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We had lots of holiday get-togethers to attend and even had a wonderful baby shower with some of my relatives! Plus I had tons of holiday baking to do because I love giving homemade gifts this time of year.  I made at least 6 batches of salted vanilla caramels, 10 pounds of million dollar fudge, some toffee peanut butter holiday bark and that was just for gift giving. There was also lots of delicious cookie making and other dessert baking for the wonderful holiday parties we attended.  I wish that I had more time to photograph all of the recipes that I made, but I was able to capture a few of the goodies and will be sharing them soon.

So now that the holidays have gone by for another year and K and I have this nice break from work, we are going to get started preparing the nursery for our baby boy. The walls are painted and ready for the mural that my mom and I are going to paint but there is trim and ceiling painting to do, plus we are going to put down some carpeting to make the room feel more cozy.  We have already started accumulating baby gear so there is lots of organizing to figure out as well.  Plus we got some beautiful artwork from family members for the baby's room and I am so anxious to get those hung up on the walls.  We are definitely in "nesting" mode so we are extremely excited to get the nursery started!

Sorry, I got a little side tracked there...back to the delicious-ness of these muffins. The applesauce and grated apple in the batter makes them very moist and fluffy and they have a soft, smooth cake like texture that is a amazing with the crunchy streusel topping and sweet glaze drizzle.  The muffins themselves are not overly sweet which compliments the sugary toppings nicely.    The apple flavor shines through with just a hint of cinnamon and vanilla.  As I mentioned above, they really make a wonderful breakfast or snack and I hope you give them a try!

Apple Streusel Muffins


1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room temperature butter
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup applesauce (try my homemade version)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup milk
2 apples peeled, cored, and grated


1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon


1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 tsp water or milk

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  To make the muffin batter, cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl or use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.  Beat the eggs in one at a time and then add the applesauce, cinnamon, and vanilla and mix until well combined.  Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt mixing until everything is just incorporated and then stir in the milk.  You might need up to 1/2 cup of milk depending on humidity and how dry your flour is.  The batter should be on the thin side but not too runny.  Fold in the grated apples.  Spoon the batter into a greased or paper lined muffin tin, filling each muffin about 3/4 full. You should get 12 muffins. 

To make the streusel, combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl and cut with a pastry cutter or use your hands to form small crumbs.  Top each muffin with a spoonful of the streusel and bake for about 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.  Remove the muffins from the tin and let them cool completely on a wire rack.

Stir together the ingredients for the glaze, adding just enough liquid to have a thin consistency.  Drizzle the glaze over the cooled muffins using a spoon or plastic baggie with a little hole cut in one corner. The muffins can be stored for 3-4 days in a air tight container at room temperature.


Inspired by Laura in the Kitchen

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Chocolate Snowcap Cookies

Do you ever have one of those days when a bunch of little annoying or frustrating things just keep happening to you all day long?  If it was just one or two problems you probably wouldn't have thought much of it, but that particular day the 'punches' just keep coming?  I recently had a day like this and the most annoying part of it was that both of my car's headlight bulbs burned out in the same day.  Seriously, who gets two padiddles in one day?

I noticed the first light out while I was running some errands and so I made an extra stop at the auto part store and got a new bulb.  When I got home later that day, I figured out how to get the replacement bulb in and turned the headlights back on to check that it was working.  To my great annoyance, all of a sudden the other headlight was now not working.  So, since padiddles are a major pet peeve of mine, I drove to another auto part store, picked up another bulb, and got both headlights back in working order.

After all of this and the rest of my frustrations earlier in the day, I grumpily went inside and started to prepare dinner.  As I was tidying up the kitchen, I realized that there were two cookies left from the batch of cookies that my nephew and I had made over the weekend.  I was soooo excited because there is nothing like a delicious, chocolaty cookie to cheer you up after a crummy day!  I think, maybe I am failing to execute this thought process properly, but the whole point of my lengthy padiddle story was not to gripe but to express to you how amazing these cookies are.  Cookies, especially these super yummy ones, can really turn your whole day around and can help make all those little frustrations a distant memory. So as I was saying, I scarfed down the cookies, got myself in a better mood, and enjoyed the rest of my evening.

Other than being an excellent way to cheer yourself up, these cookies are definitely a crowd pleaser and make a great addition to your holiday cookie collection.  Keep in mind that the dough does need to chill for about an hour, for best results, so be sure you leave yourself enough time to make them.   Other than the chilling time the dough only takes a few minutes to prepare and assembly is easy too.  Make sure that you really super-duper coat the dough balls in the powdered sugar before baking.  You don't want to tap any of the excess off because tons of powered sugar really makes these cookies awesome.  Give these cookies a try for your next holiday party or whip up a batch the next time you are in need of some cheering up.  They truly are an amazing chocolate cookie; chewy chocolate inside with a wonderful sweet sugary coating that melts in your mouth.

Chocolate Snowcap Cookies

6 oz dark chocolate, chopped (or chips)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup brown sugar
 2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup powdered sugar (approximate)

In a heat proof bowl, melt the chocolate in the microwave (stirring every 30 seconds) or over a double boiler.  Let the chocolate cool slightly while you cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (you can use a stand mixer or do this by hand).  Add the eggs to the butter mixture one at a time until combined and stir in the vanilla. Once the chocolate is not too hot, stir into the wet ingredients.  Carefully stir in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt until everything is just mixed together.  The dough should be fairly stiff.  Chill the dough for at least an hour in the refrigerator.  When you take the dough out of the refrigerator, preheat the oven to 350°F.  Use a small scoop or two spoons to form small balls of dough.  Roll each cookie in the palm of your hands until it is a smooth circle.  Coat the cookies very well with powdered sugar and place on a parchment or silicone mat lined baking tray.  Bake cookies for 12 minutes, let stand on the cookie sheet for 2-3 minutes, and move to a wire rack to cool completely.    

Inspired by Foodwishes


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cinnamon Roll Dutch Apple Pie

I made this cinnamon roll apple pie along with a chocolate cream pie to bring for Thanksgiving this year.  Both pies were a huge hit but this one was definitely more impressive because of the awesome cinnamon swirl crust.   

Even though the crust looks really amazing and complicated, it actually only took a few more minutes to put together and came out tasting great.  When I was a kid baking pies with my family we would make "rolly pollies" with the little leftover bits of pie dough that you cut off the edge of the crust.  We would roll the dough out, cover with butter, cinnamon, and sugar and bake them for a sweet treat.  They were definitely the highlight of pie making back then.  

When I saw this pie crust technique I was immediately reminded of those delicious pie crust morsels and knew I had to use it for my dutch apple pie.  This isn't exactly the same thing as rolly pollies because there is no sugar mixed in the with butter and cinnamon.  The sugar would melt and caramelize in the crust and to the pie plate making it impossible to get the pie out of the dish, which would not be impressive at all.

This crust recipe is not only pretty but also turned out to be flaky and tender with an extra kick of the cinnamon flavor.  Make sure that you use a glass pie plate so that you can show this beauty off to everyone.

The rest of the pie came out excellent too.  I have always preferred dutch apple pie to traditional two crust apple pie.  The crumble topping adds wonderful crunchy texture and extra sweetness making this dessert into a apple crisp/pie combination.  You get all the benefits of apple crisp and the satisfaction of a nice big slice of pie.  There is something very comforting about eating a slice pie especially around the holidays.  

I made all of my relatives wait to dig into dessert while I had K hold up the pie plate for me so that I could snap a picture of the bottom crust.  Oops, hopefully nobody minded waiting!  I meant to take step by step pictures while I was assembling but I got too distracted making a bunch of other recipes too.  You can see how each of the swirls are laid out and pressed together to form the crust.

The apples were perfectly tender but still had some texture left to them.  I really like a variety of apples in my pies for different sweetness levels and firmness.  Apples like Macintosh are very sweet but get smooshy easily, while Granny Smiths are much more firm but can taste very tart.  The combo of two or three apples with these characteristics works beautifully in any apple dish.   The pie is perfect topped with whipped cream or my favorite, slightly warmed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream: apple pie á la mode!  Give this pie a go next time you are looking to impress your family or friends.

Cinnamon Roll Dutch Apple Pie

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup ice cold water

Place the flour and salt in a medium bowl and stir briefly to combine.  Cube the shortening and cold butter into small pieces and add to the flour.  Using a pastry cutter or two knives cut the fats into the flour mixture until the most of the fat is in the size of small peas.  Slowly add the cold water about 1 tbsp at a time until the dough just barely holds together when you press it in your hand.  Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and use your hands to mold into a disk.  Wrap the dough up in the plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  If you leave it in the fridge longer than that, let the dough rest at room temperature about 10 minutes before trying to roll it out.

7-8 cups of peeled, cored, and thinly sliced apples 
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Juice of 1 lemon or 1/2 orange

Squeeze the lemon or orange juice into a large bowl and toss the apples in the juice as you prep them.  This will help keep the apples from turning brown.  Once all of the apples are peeled, cored, and sliced add the remaining ingredients and toss well to combine.  Set this aside until you are ready to assemble the pie.  This mixture will be fine in the refrigerator for a few hours if you want to prepare it in advanced.  You can use whatever variety of apples that you like.  I used mostly Macintosh and Golden Delicious with one Granny Smith since that is what I had on hand.

Crumble Topping
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

 Put the flour, sugar, and cinnamon into a bowl and mix together.  Cut the butter into cubes and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter or two knives.  The butter should be the size of small peas when completely combined.  This can also be prepared a few hours ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator.

1 tbsp softened butter
2-3 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1 tsp water

Preheat your oven to 375°F.  Roll out the pie crust out into a circle about 1/8 inch thick on a smooth well floured surface.  Spread the softened butter evenly over the pie crust and top with the cinnamon. Starting with the edge furthest away from you, roll the pie crust towards you into a spiral like you would for cinnamon rolls.  Trim off the ends and cut into 1/4 inch slices.  Place each spiral round into the bottom of the pie plate and press lightly to flatten the circle.  Continue this process until the entire bottom and sides of your pie plate are covered in cinnamon swirls.  Make sure there are no gaps between any of the spirals and the crust is relatively even in thickness.  Beat the egg with the water until well combined and brush over the entire surface of the pie crust.  Pour the apple mixture onto the crust and arrange the apples evenly.  The apples should be piled somewhat high in the middle.  Top the entire pie with the crumble topping and place the pie plate on a aluminum  foil lined baking tray.  Place this into the oven for about 50-55 minutes.  After about 35 minutes check the pie frequently to make sure the crust and crumble topping are not browning too much. You can tent the pie with foil to prevent excess browning.  Remove the pie from the oven, place on a wire rack and allow the pie to cool to room temperature before serving.

Crust inspired by King Arthur Flour
Pie recipe and technique inspired by Tablespoon