that takes the cake

Donna is retiring.  She’s been working on the Hill for over 40 years.  43 to be exact.  13 years longer than I’ve been alive.  I was completely and utterly gobsmacked when I heard that.

IN-SANE. 

Obviously that calls for a celebration of sorts. 

And so we threw her a party.

Yesterday afternoon, everyone took the time to set aside their work, leave their cubicles, and gather around Donna as we all thanked her for her tremendous work and wished her the best for the future.

There were speeches.  There were presents.  Pictures were taken.

And then we ate.

I had been asked if I minded baking the cake.  Of course not!  I even got Emily to help me out with the decorating.   Vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream.  Exactly as Donna had requested (I figured it was best to check and make sure she got the cake she wanted).

*Donna likes going to the casino … and we wanted to make sure she got her royal flush!

I was then asked if I wouldn’t mind baking another little treat … or two (or four).  Done!

I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to make …. cranberry bliss barsBlack & white toffee bars?

That’s when I found this recipe.

To say that I was excited would be an understatement.  You see – when I was 12 years old, I was gifted my first recipe book.  It was an A to Z cookbook – with a recipe assigned to each letter of the alphabet (I remember that X was xylophone cake).  

My personal favourites to bake were the lemon squares and the espresso brownies.  They were … incredible.  I remember the lemon squares were mouth puckering tart, and that the espresso brownies tasted of a rich mocha … they made me feel so grown up.  I’ve since lost that book (if anyone knows which one I’m talking about … send me a quick email … I’d love to get another copy), but the memory of both those recipes sneak up on me from time to time.

These brownies brought me right back to my childhood.  Only this version is a little more grown-up.  I got to use my coffee liqueur – that ingredient wasn’t in my original recipe ;0)

If you’re looking for something to quickly whip up for the holidays – these squares … aren’t really what you are looking for.  Easy – yes.  Quick … well you need to include cooling time … so I’m not classifying these as labour intensive – simply as slightly time-consuming… but only slightly

These babies pack a real punch – full of mocha and chocolate.  Oh my my.  Delish!  Coffee and baked goods all in one bite (plus a little shot of coffee liqueur)

Made in two different stages – the brownie base, and then once cooled the espresso topping – these will make your coffee loving heart sing as they bake. 

triple espresso brownies

ingredients:

1/4 c. water

2 tbsp instant espresso powder

1 c. butter

1 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

1 c. sugar

1/2 c. packed brown sugar

4 eggs, lightly beaten, room temperature

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

2 c. flour, sifted

1/2 c.  chopped toasted pecans

1/2 tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 350 F.  Line your rectangular baking pan with parchment paper (or foil), grease with nonstick spray and set aside.  Lining the pan with parchment paper or foil simply allows you to easily lift the entire pan of brownies out and cleanly cut them – not necessary if you are fine with just cutting them straight out of the pan :0)

In a medium saucepan, combine the water with espresso powder.  Add the butter and the chocolate chips.  Heat and stir over low heat until the mixture is smooth. 

Remove the saucepan from heat and whisk in the sugars, vanilla and eggs – whisking the entire time so that the eggs don’t curdle.

Grab your wooden spoon and stir in the flour, pecans and salt.  Spread the batter evenly in the pan.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes (middle rack, and until a toothpick comes out clean).  Cool in the pan on a wire rack.  Do not remove the brownies from the pan yet.

Step two: making the frosting.

espresso frosting

ingredients:

3 c. powdered sugar, sifted

1/4 c. butter, softened

2 tbsp boiling water

2 tbsp coffee liqueur or 2 tsp espresso powder

1/2 tsp vanilla

Place the powdered sugar in the bowl of your stand-mixer.  Add the butter, boiling water, coffee liqueur (or espresso powder), and 1/2 tsp vanilla.

Beat on low-speed until combined (use your paddle attachment), then increase the speed – allowing the batter to get fluffy and smooth (if needed, add a little milk to loosen up the batter).

Spread oven the cooled brownies (while still in the pan). 

Sprinkle with some cocoa powder and then some chopped chocolate covered coffee beans. 

Allow these brownies to chill a little – either in the freezer for about 30 minutes or in the fridge (wrapped in plastic wrap).  This will make it much easier to cleanly cut them into pieces.

Lift the brownies out of the pan (the beauty of that parchment paper) and then cut into small cubes – you should be able to get about 60 squares.  Perfect little one-bite treats for any social gathering.  Especially one as memorable as Donna’s farewell.

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holiday cookie 2.0

Another week – another holiday cookie.

This time – think chocolate.  And molasses.  And espresso.  Oh … and lemon.  Yep.  No lies.  This is my take on a chocolate-ginger cookie.

You’ll remember that I am addicted to Edgar’s chocolate-ginger cookie.

A thin, chewy, little goodie … seriously addictive.  It can be a problem.  A real problem.

I think I whipped up this batter hoping for an Edgar-type cookie.  I was wrong.  And so my initial reaction – wasn’t a very positive one.

And then I tried the finished product the following day.

Wowzers!  That’s one good cookie.  Completely different from the original inspiration – but worthy of being baked and passed among friends, co-workers, or through a cookie exchange.

The original recipe didn’t have the espresso.  But I figured that it wouldn’t hurt the cookies.  And I am quite pleased with the final result.  Feel free to omit it if you aren’t a coffee person … but really … it’s pretty darn awesome.  Give it a try.

Oh yeah … you should know.  This cookie has a glaze on it.  That’s were the lemon fits into the recipe.  Picture it: chocolate ginger espresso base topped with a lemon glaze.  Sigh.  Not only tasty … but pretty too.

chocolate ginger espresso cookies

ingredients:

3 1/4 c. flour, sifted

1/3 c. cocoa powder, sifted

1 tbsp ground ginger

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp espresso powder

1 tbsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2/3 c. butter, softened

1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 c. dark molasses

1/4 c. chocolate chips, melted and cooled

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, espresso, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

Melt the chocolate in a double-boiler, stirring every once and a while.  Set it aside and allow it to cool.

In the bowl of your stand-mixer, using your paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar.  It’ll become fluffy.  Beat in the egg, molasses and melted chocolate – scraping the sides as needed.

Add the flour in 3 additions – keeping your mixer on its slowest speed.

When fully incorporated, divide the batter in 3 and shape into disks, wrapping each disk in plastic wrap.  Allow to chill for at least 2 hours.

When you’re ready – preheat your oven to 350 F.  Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one disk at a time.

Grab your cookie cutter – I used a 1-inch round shape, however the original recipe from baked explorations used a 4 or 5-inch round.  Your choice.  Or use a fun shape in honour of the holidays!  The size will determine how many cookies you end up with – I got at least 8 dozen (I stopped counting), but the original recipe yielded 36 cookies…

With your cookie cutter in hand, cut the dough into shapes, and transfer to the cookie sheets.  Re-roll the dough scrapes and cut out more cookies.  Repeat with the remaining two disks.

These cookies do not spread when baking, so you should be able to get about 20 cookies per sheet.  Bake for 6 minutes (if 1-inch round, 7 minutes if bigger).  Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes.  Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Now… if you’re like me, you’ll want to taste one of these cookies while it’s still warm.  You can.  But I don’t recommend it.  You’ll wonder why I like this cookie so much.  So just wait.  I promise … it’s worth the wait.

Make the glaze.

lemon glaze

ingredients:

1 1/4 c. powdered sugar, sifted

1 egg white

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

In a large enough bowl, whisk everything together (large bowl because powdered sugar goes flying when whisked!).  Whisk until smooth.

Dunk the tops of each cookie into the lemon glaze.  Shake any excess glaze off the cookie, then place them on the cookie sheet to allow to harden (about 30 minutes).

Now you can eat one.  And now you’ll taste the goodness.

They’re even better the following day.  Store in an airtight container or freeze.  Now we all have a new recipe for our repertoire.