Dreamy Hot Chocolate

cream-close-upMy dream: sitting on the couch under a blanket reading and listening to the rain, while drinking hot chocolate and nibbling on sweets.

My reality: 7 loads of laundry, a pile of dishes in the sink, and a floor that hasn’t been mopped in weeks. Ok, months.

On the rare occasion I do allow myself to take a time out (and the even rarer occasion that it rains), I love to indulge in hot chocolate. I’m not talking about tearing open a package of the boxed stuff, either. I’m talking about a rich, chocolatey concoction with the same properties as Calgon…it takes you away…

I mentioned this recipe in my blog about cinnamon rolls a couple of weeks ago, and now it’s time to share it. In my quest for awesome hot chocolate, I have tried several versions: the one where you melt chocolate chips with half and half (too rich, not sweet enough), the kind that requires powdered sugar, the kind on a stick that you make in a candy mold (cute, but not sweet enough), etc. They were all ok, but all of them left me wanting more; just not more of that kind.

I came across this recipe and it was so simple I had to give it a try. It was a winner! I ended up using it as Christmas gifts for my family, and devouring a jar of it myself. So, do yourself a favor. Make up a batch of this, and say adieu to Swiss Miss. You won’t regret it.

hot-choc-7Let’s get started.

All you need is three ingredients: granulated white sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. I personally like using dark cocoa powder. I’m a big fan of dark chocolate, so I substitute it in recipes whenever possible. You can absolutely use whatever cocoa powder you prefer.

Add all three ingredients to a bowl and whisk well until combined. Don’t be afraid of the amount of salt called for. It really is just perfect and helps balance out all the flavors. Oh, and you will you use almost an entire box of cocoa powder, so make sure you have enough before you start.

hot-choc-6

Isn’t this the cutest vintage mixing bowl? It’s part of a set of three my mom gave me. She’s awesome.

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hot-choc-4To get it from the mixing bowl, I use a canning funnel. It minimizes mess and keeps all that delicious mix in check. Gently spoon the mix into the funnel until you reach the top of the jar.

This recipe makes quite a bit. I was able to completely fill one quart jar and a pint jar. You can choose how to distribute it in whatever containers you may have. Divide it into pint jars and give as gifts. Your friends will love you for it.

That’s it. Really. Simple, right?

hot-choc-3So when you’re ready to make your hot chocolate, here’s what you do.

Pour one cup of milk (whole milk makes the richest hot chocolate, but any milk works) into a mug and microwave for about 1 minute 30 seconds, until the milk is the temperature that you like. I prefer extra hot. I like to savor the cup, and if it cools too fast I lose some of that relaxation time. Yeah, I’ve really thought this through.

Add two tablespoons to the hot milk and stir until the hot chocolate mix is dissolved. You may want to use a little more or a little less, but this is the general guideline.

I like how dark and rich it looks. You know this is going to be good!

hot-choc-1

This is perfectly delicious as is, or you can add any toppings you like – whipped cream, marshmallows, mini chocolate chips, etc. – and enjoy! Macarons make a great accompaniment, I think.

cream-close-up composite

Dreamy Hot Chocolate
Author: 
Recipe type: Hot Drinks
 
A decadent homemade hot chocolate mix.
Ingredients
  • 3½ cups granulated white sugar
  • 2¼ cups cocoa powder (I use dark cocoa powder)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl.
  2. Whisk to combine.
  3. Pour into mason jars, or any container you prefer.
  4. To make hot chocolate, heat 1 cup of milk on the stove or in a mug in the microwave. Add 2 tablespoons hot chocolate mix and stir until mix is dissolved.
  5. Add any toppings you like, such as whipped cream, marshmallows, mini chocolate chips, candy cane pieces, etc.

 

Halloween Fun

skelegro-webpolyjuice-webI mentioned that I might throw in some seasonal décor and craft ideas on the blog, so here we go!

A couple of years ago I found an idea on Pinterest for making your own Halloween potion book decorations. However, the blog that posted it (and I can’t for the life of me remember where I saw it) didn’t provide the pages for printing. I searched elsewhere and couldn’t find anything I liked. I have a graphic design background, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.

I searched for royalty free images and wording for a couple of potions. I settled on Skele-Gro and Polyjuice. Any Harry Potter fans out there? After a couple of hours of agonizing over every detail, I had a finished product. And that’s what I’m sharing with you today.

potion bookHow to make your own Harry Potter Potions Book

  1. I have added PDFs of the potions pages to my Etsy shop. Two bucks will get you a copy of each page. Head on over and download them: Harry Potter Potions Book Pages. Use white paper for printing, as the weathered parchment background is part of the image that will print. Oh, and try to find printer paper that is the same or similar weight to your book pages.
  2. My family are big HP fans, so we had extra copies of the hard cover books in the house. If you don’t have an extra and don’t want to defile your beloved copy, check out a thrift store and you’ll probably find one at a great price. You need the hard cover, though, because these pages are made for those dimensions. If you have another book with pages that are 5×7 in x 9 in, you can absolutely go with that.
  3. After downloading and printing the images, trim the edges and be sure to be accurate. We don’t want white around the edges.
  4. Put glue on the part of the page that will go inside close to the spine. You can glue the whole thing to an existing page, but I just added mine in as stand alone pages.
  5. For an antique effect, take a pencil and curl up the bottom edges of the pages, and take a few of the original book pages as well. Then, take a sponge or sponge brush and furniture polish and color the outside edges of the book pages. You can go as dark or light as you like with this. I even splashed the pages with a little water, which made some awesome discolorations.
  6. Lastly, cut a piece of ribbon just a little longer than the book. Using hot glue, glue the top end of the ribbon into the top of the book spine. It’s ok if it doesn’t go in too far, because most people will be looking at the pages anyway.

And there you have it! Your own Harry Potter Potions Book for Halloween. Put it on your mantel and your friends will marvel at your creativity.

halloween mantel

My Favorite Cinnamon Rolls

imageI love cinnamon rolls, but not just any cinnamon rolls. I like them to be a little gooey, not dry. I like brown sugar in the middle instead of white sugar. That makes them more juicy. I need cream cheese frosting. Yes, need.

So, I needed to come up with a recipe that encompassed all those things. There are many good recipes out there, but this one is perfect for me. If you’re like me, you’ll absolutely love these. Oh, and you can make these in about an hour. Win!

Make these for your family on Saturday. They will worship at your feet.

I have a great hot chocolate recipe to go with these rolls. I’ll share that next week!

Now, I don’t have detailed pictures yet for this recipe. That just means I’ll have to make them again so I can document the process. I’m willing to do that for you.

Here are my notes about these rolls:

– They can be made overnight. Prepare the recipe up to the point of slicing and placing on a baking sheet, then put them in the fridge to raise overnight. If you make them this way, they will raise quite a bit and you may have huge rolls. I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.

– As I said, use brown sugar if you can. It helps created this nice juicy filling that complements the bread.

– Wait a few minutes after you take the rolls out of the oven before frosting them. If you frost them while they’re really hot, the frosting will melt and get lost. Put an initial layer of frosting, then wait till they cool some more before adding the final amount you like.

 

My Favorite Cinnamon Rolls
Author: 
Recipe type: Cinnamon Rolls
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
Soft, fluffy, moist cinnamon rolls. Ready in an hour or overnight - you decide.
Ingredients
  • Dough
  • 3½ cups warm water
  • ¾ cups sugar
  • ½ cup oil
  • 6 tablespoons yeast
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 10½ cups flour
  • Filling
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2½ cups packed light brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • Frosting
  • ½ c. Butter
  • 6 oz cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 4 c. Powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. Note: Recipe may be halved. If making 12, use 2 eggs, and approx. 6 cups of flour. Unless making overnight rolls, these should only take about an hour to make, start to finish.
  2. In a stand mixer, combine water, sugar, oil, and yeast and let sit for 15 minutes.
  3. Add salt, eggs and flour and knead with dough hook (or by hand) for 10 minutes. Dough should pull away from sides, but may stick to the bottom of the mixer bowl.
  4. Let dough rest for 10 minutes. Put about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil on the counter or cutting board.
  5. Divide dough in half. Press one half out into a large rectangle. Spread with half of butter, half of brown sugar, and half of cinnamon. Roll up tight, but not too tight.
  6. Divide into 12 rolls and place on greased or parchment lined cookie sheet. Repeat with other half of dough.
  7. *For overnight rolls, cover with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator overnight. Take out of fridge about 1 hour before desired bake time. Rolls will rise in the fridge, and even more as they come to room temperature. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 400 degrees. Turn the pan once during baking. Immediately after removing from the oven, frost with a little of the frosting. It will melt into the rolls. After they have cooled slightly, frost again with desired amount.
  8. To bake immediately, let rise until desired size. Because of the amount of yeast, these rise quickly. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 400. Turn the pan once during baking.
  9. Frost with a little of the frosting. It will melt into the rolls. After they have cooled slightly, frost again with desired amount.
  10. To make frosting, place butter and cream cheese in stand mixer and beat for 1 minute until combined. Add vanilla and 3 cups of powdered sugar. Beat for 3 minutes. Check for your desired consistency, and add one more cup of powdered sugar if needed. (I used all 4 cups).

Lemon Curd Cupcakes with Whipped Cream Frosting

 

lemon curd cupcakesLemon.

Your mouth just puckered a little, right? Mine, too. I love all things lemon. Lemonade, lemon drops (cheers Bob Hope!), lemon cake, lemon tarts, lemon chicken, shrimp gumbo – oops, my mind drifted off a little…

When I was a little girl, my nickname was “lemon,” but my sweet grandma called me “limón.” I don’t know where the name came from, but it stuck for most of my childhood. Nobody calls me that anymore, but my love of all things lemon has not waned.

One of my favorite lemon things is lemon curd. It’s super silky and just the right combination of tart and sweet. It’s decadent and refreshing. It’s pretty much perfect.

I learned how to make lemon curd about a year ago and was hooked. It was easy and, in my opinion, much tastier than any store bought version. I made some recently for my delectable tartelettes an citron (lemon tarts), and found a great way to use the leftover curd.

I made white cupcakes filled with lemon curd and topped with a sweetened whipped cream. You could probably go with buttercream frosting or even cream cheese frosting, but I found the lightness of the whipped cream to be the perfect accompaniment.

A few notes about these cupcakes.

The cupcake was from a box (gasp!). I was short one egg, so I substituted 1/4 cup mayonnaise – yes, you heard me right – for the third egg. It made for a nice, fluffy, moist cupcake. (You could absolutely make your favorite scratch cupcake recipe, if you prefer.) The whipped cream was homemade. I usually use powdered sugar for whipped cream, but since this cream was to be used for frosting, I use granulated sugar, which makes it hold up better than powdered sugar. The lemon curd recipe makes quite a bit more than you need for these cupcakes. That’s ok, though, because you can use it for other things – lemon tarts, spread on toast, as a topping over pound cake, or eaten with a spoon (my favorite)!

And now, without further ado, here’s how you can make your own.

Lemon Curd Cupcakes with Whipped Cream Frosting
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
Ingredients
  • One boxed white cake mix - prepared with one change: substitute ¼ cup mayonnaise for 1 egg
  • Lemon curd
  • 7 large egg yolks
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
  • ¼ cup grated fresh lemon zest (4 lemons)
  • ⅔ cup fresh lemon juice (4 lemons)
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream, chilled
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
Instructions
  1. Prepare and bake cupcakes according to recipe on the box, with the optional change as noted above.
  2. For the lemon curd: Whisk the egg yolks and eggs together in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the sugar until combined, then whisk in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Add the butter and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly and registers 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 5 minutes. Immediately pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl and stir in the cream.
  3. Whipped Cream Frosting: In a bowl of a stand mixer, combine heavy cream and sugar. Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.
  4. Assembly: After the cupcakes have cooled completely, use a large decorator tip to punch a hole in the cupcake making sure you don't go all the way through to the bottom. Remove the cake from the tip and set it next to the cupcake. Pour in about a teaspoon of lemon curd, then replace the extracted cake. Frost with the prepared whipped cream.
  5. Keep cupcakes refrigerated for a nice cool treat.