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I made some of these incredible chocolate rum cake balls for a work party and judging by how only two out of 60+ balls were left at the end of it, I’m guessing they were a big hit. Chocolate and booze just never goes wrong!

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As someone who prides herself on making things from scratch, I opted to make the chocolate cake and the glaze from scratch, even though I would be mashing them up into little balls later. The original recipe didn’t include rum, but I subbed some of the hot water that went into the cake with rum for some added booze. The cake itself was pretty darn delicious and moist and rich, but I knew I couldn’t just bring in a sheet cake to the party. No, that wouldn’t have been nearly as impressive nor delicious. I saved half the cake for non-party eating purposes, giving it away to appreciative friends who don’t get no homemade goodies all that often.

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As for the other half, I smushed it all up into little balls, while also throwing in some rum, heavy cream, and chocolate sauce, the proportions of which I eyeballed until the cake mixture became suitably compact.

While the original recipe called for a dark chocolate coating, I knew it was going to be a bit too bitter, so I used half milk chocolate and half dark chocolate instead. It was an excellent call.

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Dark Chocolate Rum Cake Balls
Adapted from Cookie Madness
Makes 60~ balls

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups (8 oz) all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, natural type (try Dutch)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk, room temperature
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water (or coffee)
1/2 cup rum

Ganache
3 ounces of chopped semisweet chocolate
3 ounces of heavy cream
6 oz milk chocolate
6 oz semisweet chocolate

Instructions
Preheat oven to 325 F. Spray a 13×9 inch pan with flour-added baking spray.
Mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Add oil, milk, eggs and vanilla. Beat two minutes with electric mixer at medium speed. Stir in water and rum until blended. Batter will be thin.
Pour batter in the pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until skewer or pick inserted comes out clean.
Let the cake sit in the pan for about 10 minutes, then carefully turn it from the Bundt.
Let the cake cool and then drizzle it with ganache. To make ganache, heat 3 ounces of heavy cream in microwave or saucepan. Pour over 3 oz chopped dark chocolate and stir until smooth. Let cool until thick enough to drizzle.

When you are ready to make the cake balls, set aside half the cake in a large mixing bowl. Mash up the cake. If you used all the ganache in the recipe, you won’t need any extra. Add rum, heavy cream and/or chocolate sauce until cake balls hold together. I recommend adding more rum than the other two ingredients.

Line a baking sheet with wax paper or parchment. Shape the scoops into smooth balls. Line the balls up on a tray, cover the with plastic wrap and put them in the freezer until firm.

In a chocolate melting pot, top of a double boiler or in the microwave, melt the milk and semisweet chocolate.

Dip cake balls into melted chocolate and lift with two forks, allowing extra chocolate to drip back into the pot. Put the balls on a wax paper lined cookie sheet to set.

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After “32 pounds of flour, over 100 individual tests, and 1,536 cookies”, Kenji of Serious Eats’ The Food Lab finally settled upon the “best chocolate chip cookie” recipe. Of course I had try this recipe worthy of a superlative, especially after such extensive experimentation. Nothing like trial and error to yield the best results, am I right?

My verdict? Short answer: not the best chocolate chip cookie recipe. The long answer is as follows.

1. Spread too thin: when I first baked these cookies after a night of refrigeration, they ended up spreading and gave nowhere near the crackled, chunky effect of Kenji’s version. I then put it in the freezer and ended up the texture as shown in the pictures. The cookies have a bit more height, but still don’t have an attractive texture.

2. Too salty: So I used Sel de Guarande, a French sea salt – which is not Diamond Crystal kosher salt, as was recommended in the recipe. From what I could tell based on my research, the fleur de sel I had was similarly, if not more coarse than Diamond Crystal – and thus shouldn’t over-salt my cookies. I was wrong. It ended up too salty for my taste and diminished the sweetness, and I am glad I didn’t garnish the cookies with more salt – that would have been overkill. Perhaps I didn’t brown the butter enough, but I thought that there wasn’t a strong enough toffee/caramelized flavor, and the taste was simply too salt-centric for a chocolate chip cookie.

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3. Fluffy texture: A fluffy texture might be a boon or a bane depending on who you ask, but personally I prefer a denser, more chewy cookie. Because the eggs and sugar are beat on medium-high for five minutes, a lot of air is incorporated into the dough, lending lightness and airiness. I didn’t really care for that, personally. If I had let the butter solidify completely after browning it, that might have helped with giving a denser texture that I personally prefer.

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I don’t think I’ll be making this again, since clearly it doesn’t fulfill my vision of what a chocolate chip cookie should be.

Click here for the recipe I used.

 

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Don’t these brownies look like they have a crispy bacon topping? Yeaaahhh. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you ask), those golden brown curls with the white edges aren’t crisp-roasted bacon strips. They are actually formed by marshmallows. Pretty neat, eh? I saw this recipe on Cookie Madness, and I was kind of surprised at how mine turned out. It doesn’t look nearly as neat as the one in the picture. It’s probably because I used cut-up pieces of large marshmallows instead of mini ones.

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I personally wasn’t very fond of the brownies, because I thought it had too eggy of a taste, and not enough chocolate. I don’t even like marshmallows all that much… I just had some around and I felt a need to use them. I didn’t use chocolate chips in my recipe because I thought the marshmallows would provide sufficient sweetness, but evidently I was wrong. I would highly recommend the use of chocolate chips and pecans as per the original recipe.

Marshmallow Brownies
Makes 1 8X8 inch pan
Adapted from Cookie Madness

Ingredients
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut up
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, slightly cold
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup miniature marshmallows

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line an 8 inch square metal pan with foil or parchment paper.
Melt the butter in a large (3 quart) heavy saucepan set over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, add chocolate and stir until smooth. If you are using a metal saucepan and butter is very hot, you can remove the saucepan from the heat and then add the chocolate, letting it melt over residual heat. Remove from heat when melted.
With a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir both sugars and salt into the chocolate mixture. Stir in the eggs one at a time. Add the flour and stir until well mixed.
Fold in the marshmallows.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly.
Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out moist but clean.
Let cool in the pan on a cooling rack for about 30 minutes, then transfer to the refrigerator and chill for a few hours.
When brownies are very firm and cold, lift from the pan and cut into squares.

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As my foray into gluten-free baking continues, I have been pushing the boundaries slowly. I’m not going to be making gluten-free bread or cake anytime soon – basically anything that contains flour as its main component will be tricky to perfect with gluten-free flours. I thought that an oatmeal cookie would be a decent compromise, since the oats take up considerable bulk in the cookie. I took a popular oatmeal cookie from Allrecipes and used a homemade gluten-free flour blend from the Celiac Support Organization website, specifically Carol Fenster’s General Baking Mix #1. I picked that recipe for its simplicity, and because I already had tapoica starch lying around.

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Then came the actual baking. These cookies are actually my second attempt. My first attempt came out overly spread out and lacy, and all the cookies merged into a giant lattice of baked cookie dough. It was still tasty, but it was more of a crisp and thin variety than soft and thick. Gluten-free flours without any additives generally don’t create structurally sound baked goods because the gluten protein provides a great deal of stability to a finished product. My hack was to then freeze the cookies so that they are less inclined to spread out. I then freezed the dough after shaping it into balls, and baked it at a higher temperature at a shorter duration. That worked wonderfully, and gave me cookies with a soft, almost cakey texture with a crisp caramelized rim.

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Soft Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies (Gluten-Free)
Makes 3 dozen cookies
Adapted from Allrecipes

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup gluten-free flour (recipe follows)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cup white chocolate chips (I eyeballed it – add to your heart’s desire!)

DIRECTIONS:
1. In a medium bowl, cream together butter, white sugar, and brown sugar. Beat in egg, then stir in vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; stir into the creamed mixture. Mix in oats. Roll the dough into teaspoon sized balls, and freeze till hard.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets. Place cookie balls 1 inch apart on cookie sheets.
3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet until completely cool.

Gluten-Free Flour Mix
Makes 1 cup
From Carol Fenster

1/2 cup rice flour
1/4 cup potato starch
2 tbsps tapioca starch/flour

Blend all flours till combined. These flours are very light, so take care to avoid coating your counter in white powder. Potato starch is also different from potato flour – be cautious in your purchase.

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I’ve known in the back of my mind how simple molten lava cakes are to make, but can you believe that I’ve never actually attempted this half-baked ubiquitous restaurant concoction? Now I have. And it’s actually really easy! The small amount of flour involved also means that the quality of the cake wouldn’t suffer too much with the substitution of gluten-free flour.

I used a Paula Deen recipe, fully well knowing that it would be excessively rich, which is why I third the recipe to create two ramekins worth of molten lava cake instead of six. And even then, each portion was way too rich for me – I ate it in fits and starts, and each ramekin took approximately three tries to finish. Whew.

This is a one-bowl recipe with little clean-up, and can be modified to your liking depending on what kind of flavorings or extracts you want to include. Sub the vanilla essence with peppermint oil, and you get a melty, cakey, After Eights. Add a dash of paprika for an inexplicable tingle on the tongue. Just let your imagination guide you :)

Small Batch Gluten-Free Molten Lava Cake
Makes 2 6-oz ramekins
Adapted from Paula Deen

47g bittersweet chocolate
47g butter
20g all-purpose or gluten-free flour
1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1/3 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 tablespoons orange liqueur (optional)
Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Grease 2 (6-ounce) ramekins. Melt the chocolates and butter in the microwave, or in a double boiler. Add the flour and sugar to chocolate mixture. Stir in the eggs and yolks until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and orange liqueur. Divide the batter evenly among the ramekins. Place in the oven and bake for 14 minutes. The edges should be firm but the center will be runny. Run a knife around the edges to loosen and invert onto dessert plates.

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One of the primary motivators for my baking is because buying dessert everyday is too expensive. Yes, I crave sweets everyday, and most often of the pastry variety. Chocolate bars and candies don’t satisfy me. I was examining my Mint budget for the month of October, and was shocked at how much of it went to buying random snacks to tide over an afternoon lull. This must stop!

Enter the matcha, ginger, and almond biscotti. I had crystallized ginger from an oatmeal, white chocolate and ginger cookie recipe, and I had matcha powder from a previous iteration of a green tea shortbread cookie. I also had slivered almonds from a chocolate granola recipe - triple win! Efficient, and makes good use of existing ingredients I have in my pantry.

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Biscotti is cool because it’s a double-baked cookie. First it is shaped into a flat loaf and then baked till just firm on the outside, and then sliced into the familiar biscotti shape and then baked again. I’m not sure why this is so. Is it because biscotti is meant to be a long-lasting, storage food? 

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The one thing that I’m not so crazy about this recipe is the strong eggy taste. It might not be so discernible if you weren’t looking out for it, but it was strange to me. The exclusion of any fat whatsoever necessitates the additional eggs, so I think it would be inherent to any biscotti recipe, unless you get a bastardized American version that’s softer and chewier. Nevertheless, this biscotti is great to dip into a hot cup of tea and munch on.

Matcha (Green Tea) Ginger and Almond Biscotti
From Big Biscotti Bake

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons matcha green tea powder
3 eggs
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
½ cup roughly chopped almonds
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1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

2. In a large flat bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and matcha powder.

3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla extract.

4. With a rubber spatula, stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until the dough just starts to come together. Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is tacky.

5. Add the crystallized ginger and almonds, and knead the dough until incorporated, about 10 to 20 times.

6. Separate the dough in half. Form two logs, approximately 3 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet. Leave several inches between the logs, the dough will spread as it bakes. Press the top of each log with granulated sugar.

7. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split. Transfer logs to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

8. Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board. Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

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Trifles are one of my favorite desserts to construct. This is why:

1. It’s no-bake and thus super quick to assemble.
2. You can even use all store-bought, ready-made ingredients to assemble your trifle.
3. If your layer cake fails, turn it into a trifled “deconstructed” dessert.

This chocolate cake trifle was borne out of the third reason. I had made a chocolate whiskey cake, only I tweaked the recipe to double the amount of whiskey to 1 cup, and omitted the coffee chocolate chips. If I found the original recipe a tad too sweet, this new incarnation was excessively alcoholic. I legitimately felt tipsy after a slice, and would mostly eat it with a scoop of ice cream to offset the dryness and high alcoholic content.

The poor cake languished in my freezer for a while, until I chanced upon this chocolate sauce recipe. I loved that it didn’t contain any ingredient that couldn’t exist outside the refrigerator, which would imply that it’d have an extended shelf life much like a commercial chocolate sauce. I made a batch of it, and I saw it as the perfect solution to my dry and un-sweet chocolate cake. Then I had another great idea. I had some heavy cream left over from the Sachertorte. What if added a bunch of whipped cream to it and made it a trifle?

I made short work of it, both in making and eating it. I added some white chocolate chips for textural contrast and added sweetness. It ended up being a high whipped cream to cake ratio, which meant that the flavors ended up balancing out perfectly.

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Chocolate Whiskey Trifle
This is not so much a recipe as guidelines for freewheeling creativity. Go wild!

An amount of chocolate cake – I used this chocolate whiskey cake recipe
Chocolate sauce – homemade from this Allrecipes recipe, or store-bought is fine
1 cup of heavy cream
Granulated sugar to taste
White chocolate chips

1. Start whipping heavy cream on high with a mixer (or laboriously by hand if you don’t have a mixer – it is possible, just tiring) and add granulated sugar to taste.
2. Crumble chocolate cake into a container – ideally glass, so everyone can see the strata that make up your trifle. Spoon some whipped cream into it and even out. Squirt a bunch of chocolate sauce on to it. Sprinkle a handful of chocolate chips.
3. Repeat until a limiting factor presents itself – for me, the whipped cream ran out first.
4. Let sit for an hour so the cake moistens from the sauces and whipped cream. If you’re not patient enough, go ahead and eat it right there and then anyway.

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