Dark Chocolate Ganache Tart {And A Fabulous Friday}

Delicious food, amazing people, princess tiaras, and fabulous news. I had a seriously great Friday.

Reason #1.

My best friend of almost 13 years had a lovely birthday lunch that was so over the top girly and pink it was the almost to the point of ridiculousness, but managed to pull itself off quite nicely. I’m not a pink kinda gal, but in honor of such an awesome friend I embraced it and made some princess tiara sugar cookies for the party, as well as a Dark Chocolate Ganache Tart.

The lunch was hilarious. Six chicks sitting around socializing, drinking champagne, and acting like wearing a tiara at 1pm on a Friday was normal.

Oh, and mister Stormtrooper made an appearance and met his new best friend, Stormtrooper alarm clock. It was a normal afternoon if you ask me.

Reason #2

This Dark Chocolate Ganache Tart was amazing! I’ve been flipping through Joy the Baker’s new cookbook pretty much everyday. I fantasize about shutting myself off from the world and staying in the kitchen until I make everything in that cookbook. If you don’t already have it, go on Amazon or out to Barnes and Noble and you buy it right now!! It’s rare that I find a cookbook with so many recipes in it that I love that I don’t even bother Post-it noting it because there would be a note on every page!

The recipe is pretty basic, which was perfect since I made it at 10am for a 12:30 lunch. It’s funny how simple desserts like this always look so impressive and taste so good, but require hardly any effort.

The ganache is silky smooth, and it’s dark chocolate which is known to be good for you! So this is kind of good for you. 🙂

The crust of the tart was so quick and easy to whip up because it’s a press in crust so nooooo rolling!! It has a bit of cinnamon in it which adds a nice flavor to the always mouthwatering combination of chocolate, whipped cream, and fresh berries.

Reason #3

It’s been two years since I left UCR to take a different approach to my college experience, and it’s been a long two years to say the least. I am proud to say that I just received my first acceptance letter into UCSB’s Geography program :). See picture below for how happy I am.

Side note: For some strange reason I do not have a 9inch tart pan, only a 10 inch and a large rectangular one, so I opted to use a spring form pan instead. I suggest using the tart pan, but just know that you could use a cake pan if you dont have one!

Enjoy!

Madeline

Toasted Coconut Vanilla Cupcakes

Sometimes life surprises you. You’re just going about your normal routine, and then adorable 7 year olds completely make your week, and your cupcakes taste infinity times better than you thought they would.

We taught an incredibly sweet group of 2nd graders this week at the beach. Just imagine smiley, super excited but well behaved little munchkins listening to everything you have to say like its just the most incredibly thing they’ve ever heard. If that in itself wasn’t enough to make my week, I may have fallen in love with a 2nd grader. This little boy followed me around, asked me lots of questions about the ocean, invited me over to play with his pet sand crab sometime, and told me that I’m beautiful. I mean seriously? When this kid grows up, he’s going to be such a heartbreaker.

To top it off, two days later we taught another class of 2nd graders, from that same school, and one of the girls came and told me that my little man went back to school and told everyone how pretty I was. Seriously?! I can only hope my future children are as sweet as you, little man.

Now let’s talk about cupcakes. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m not a fan of vanilla cupcakes. And by not a fan, I mean I just plain don’t like them. I’d rather not eat a cupcake at all if it’s going to be vanilla. I’ve tried a few recipes, and I’ve had them from cupcake shops, but they are never as satisfying as chocolate. Team Chocolate!

And frankly, I’m not a huge coconut person either!

So why did I make coconut vanilla cupcakes? I have no idea.

I was thinking about what I wanted to make and for some reason this popped in my head and I couldn’t get it out. I’ve never even had a coconut cupcake! But you know what? These were SO GOOD! How good? I averaged about 2-3 a day for 3 days. I’m half ashamed and half proud about that last statement.

If you’re not a vanilla person, or a coconut person, I think these would change your mind. The cake has vanilla & almond extract in it, as well as some toasted coconut mixed in. So the cake itself is not so much coconut as it is almond/vanilla, but the coconut in the batter adds a nice texture and flavor to it. I toasted the coconut instead of leaving it raw, which I think was a fabulous decision. The tangy but sweet frosting is a cream cheese frosting with vanilla & almond in it to compliment the flavor of the cupcakes, and don’t forget the layer of toasted coconut on top! Mmmmm, yes.

I never thought I would crave a vanilla cupcake…until now. I hope you guys had a week that was as lovely as mine :).

Enjoy,

Madeline

Homemade Tagalong Girl Scout Cookies

Once upon a time, I was a Girl Scout. I was a smiley, loud, bow in the hair, Girl Scout. I started out as a Brownie and even made it up to a Cadette. One of my favorite parts of being a Girl Scout though, hands down, had to be cookie season. There was nothing more exciting than having cases of Tagalongs, Thin Mints, and Samoas in your garage.

Unlike the Girl Scouts I see today, eight year old Madeline & friends sold these cookies. And when I say sold, I mean that chick in the picture went door to door, counted money, made change – the whole shabang. So I found myself a little sad when I came out of the grocery store and saw that table full of cookies, only to find those adorable little Brownies off to the side talking about Justin Bieber and making their Mom count the change for my three boxes of Tagalongs.

As much as I’m a little disheartened with how Girl Scouts may not be as wholesome and girl empowering as it was when I was in it, I still have really fond memories that make me glad I was a part of it.

For one of our badges, we had to cook a meal. Yeah, yeah, yeah, this isn’t Boy Scouts people, we learned how to cook, clean, set tables and act like a lady. My future husband will thank me, and so will you when you come over for a dinner party. Your welcome.

Always posing for pictures

After that one encounter with the Justin Bieber GS cookie girls, I did not see one GS cookie stand ANYWHERE! I even downloaded the official Girl Scout Cookie Finder App for my phone. It had alerts for when cookies were near you – genius. But alas, here we are and I don’t have any cookies.

So instead of being depressed that I didn’t get to buy 15 more boxes of Tagalongs, I set out to make my own.

No more longing for tagalongs in mid September. I could not be more thankful for Jessica at The Novice Chef for posting about these. I think I may have been lost without them.

Which Girl Scout cookies are your favorite?

Enjoy!

Madeline

Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars

Happy Pi Day everyone. I thought about making a pie, I really did, but I’ve been craving cheesecake for weeks, so forgive me. Cheesecake is kind of like pie, right? Forgiveness shouldn’t be too difficult after I show you how amazing these cookie dough cheesecake bars are.

Let’s start at the bottom, with a buttery graham cracker crust scattered with mini chocolate chips that lends itself beautifully to the creamy layer of cheesecake, topped with some delicious cookie dough. At first I was kind of bummed about the small amount of cheesecake that was in the bar, but once you take a bite you won’t even care anymore. It is perfection.

What I loved about these bars was that it didn’t require all of the time spent in the oven and then in the refrigerator. Normally, cheesecake requires almost an hour in the oven and then a good 6+ hours to refrigerate. This does not work in my book. These guys only need 30 minutes in the oven and then just an hour or so in the fridge.

The one thing that upsets me about this recipe is that it doesn’t make nearly enough for how much you’re going to want to eat. Next time, I’m doubling this!

Enjoy,

Madeline

Kahlua Espresso Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I set aside a chunk of my Friday morning to read Confections of a Master Closet Baker by Gesine Bullock Prado. I thought I would lay out in the sun for a little (oh how I love southern California) and just read for 20 minutes, but that turned into 2+ hours. After having to force myself to put the book down, the little voice in my head (not that crazy one, but the other one) that says “I’m going to be a baker!” was jumping around and going nuts saying “go bake, go bake, go bake!”

If you like baking, you should read this book. Gesine, unfortunately known to many just as Sandra Bullock’s sister, was a hollywood executive that gave up the high-paid LA lifestyle to pursue her true passion in baking. It’s a hilarious and inspiring memoir. I’ll share with you just this one bit from the book, and then we’ll get to the cookies:

“I didn’t want more stuff. I wanted to be more happy. I wanted to be good. I wanted to stop hating people and start understanding. And the only way I knew how to feel like a good and kind person was through baking.”

I swear, as I read this book I have to stop and put it down for a few seconds every so often because it feels like she is reading my thoughts out loud.

I just want you guys to eat the desserts & food that I make. Plain and simple. I’ll have one, and you have the rest. Well, maybe I’ll have 3, and then I swear you can have the rest.

Those preschool teachers have it right I tell you, sharing is caring.

Here we go – I made some Kahlua Espresso Chocolate Chunk Cookies. I know “chunk” is a funny word, but I don’t use chocolate chips anymore in cookies so I would feel as if I am leading you down the wrong path if I said chips – there is a huge difference I tell you! If you haven’t made the switch to chopped up chocolate in your cookies, you need to now. You know those delicious cookies you get from a bakery that when you break them in half the chocolate just comes oozing out. That’s because they’re not using chocolate chips, which have stabilizers in them to keep their shape. Grab the bar of chocolate and take out some stress on it. Your cookies & taste testers will thank you.

I really wanted a chocolate chip cookie, but after looking through way too many “The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie” recipes I decided that there was just too much pressure on something so simple. So I took a different approach. These are like a “look at me I’m all grown up” kinda cookie. They remind me of my Oatmeal Cookies a bit because of the cinnamon that is in it. Overall, they were a nice alternative to the everyday chocolate chip cookie.

Lastly, can we just talk about how ridiculously adorable my little niece is. She says my name now, without me tricking her by repeating it over and over. I swear I will do anything and give her anything she wants as long as she comes running towards me saying “Madddy Madddddy” – my heart is melting just thinking about it…sighhhhh.

Hope you all had a fabulous weekend!

Enjoy,

Madeline

Pac-Man Sugar Cookies

Who doesn’t love Pac-Man? Honestly. If you tried to convince me that you don’t like Pac-Man right now, you would just be lying to yourself. It is the ultimate mindless and addictive videogame and I’m now wondering why there isn’t an iPhone app for it…or is there?

I’ve been dreaming about making these cookies for weeks and I was 5 seconds away from clicking “Add to Cart” on Amazon for the pack of Pac-Man cookie cutters. Then I realized I was about to pay $25 for 3 identical colored ghost cookie cutters and a Pac-Man. Why did I need 3 of the same cookie cutter? That’s just redundent and a waste of my precious money that could be going towards more chocolate.

So what does this crazy sugar fiend decide to do? Whip out the markers and scissors!

The Pac-Man was simple – a circle cookie cutter and the point of a heart cookie cutter. Boom, done.

The ghost? Not so much. I got out the markers and drew a Pac-Man ghost shape onto a thick piece of plastic (the lid of an oatmeal container), cut it out, then used it as a stencil for cutting out the ghosts. I know, I may be crazy.

After finally finishing cutting/baking/decorating these cookies I had a little trouble letting go of them. As much as I wanted to keep these forever, or yell at people to enjoy them because I put so much time into them, I didnt.

The best part of baking for me is sharing it with my family, friends and co workers. I love making other people smile with desserts, it makes my days & weeks 5 million times better.

You are never too old to play with your food. Ever.

Oh no!! Pac-Man eats Stormtrooper!

On another note, today was a really great day at work. Have I told you I work on the beach, teaching really excited children about the ocean. Seriously…that’s my job. The most rewarding job you could ever have. So I will leave you guys with this picture of me and my co worker this morning. When your job doesn’t feel like a job, you’re doing something right.

Recipe Here.

Enjoy!!

Madeline

Cinnamon Rolls {You Knead To Make These}

I have been thinking about making cinnamon rolls for months. I would find a recipe, drool over the pictures, and then read how it needs 2+ hours of waiting for the dough to rise at different stages. The thought of getting up at 5AM to make cinnamon rolls on a Saturday seemed silly, right? Maybe if I was trying to impress someone, then I would take the time to get up early and knead dough with one eye open, but that’s not the case right now.

I found this recipe in one of my new cookboks, Home Baked Comfort, and there was a little note off to the side saying that I could pop them into the fridge before I do the last step of rising. WHAT! Why didn’t anyone tell me this before!

After you roll up the cinnamon rolls, cut them up, and put them in your pan, this is where you’ll place them in the fridge for the night. Putting them in the fridge stops the dough from rising temporarily. In the morning, take them out of the fridge about an hour or so before you want to bake them. They need to come back up to room temp and then puff up so that they look like this:

They’re ready for the oven!

The hardest part about making these the day/night before is knowing that after you spend all of your time kneading and rolling, you don’t get to eat them until the next morning. It was torture! I wanted to go to bed at 8pm so that I could just wake up and eat them already.

Oh they smelled sooooo delicious.

I had extra Bailey’s Cream Cheese Frosting left over from my Stout & Bailey’s cupcakes the other day so I used that on top. It really did taste quite delicious, the Bailey’s is so subtle but it adds a nice flavor. I included the Bailey’s in the recipe, but feel free to completely leave it out, it will taste just as good.

You don’t need to be an expert baker to make these, you just need a little time and patience. According to the recipe, you can do all of the kneading in your mixer with a dough hook. I tried that approach and just wasn’t getting the results that I wanted so I took it out at the end and kneaded it for a minute or two by hand on the counter top. Don’t be afraid of kneading dough, seriously! It sounds intimidating but it’s nothing crazy, just get into it, it’s fun!

Must. Make. To. Top!

Enjoy!

Madeline

Stout & Bailey’s Chocolate Cupcakes {Sea Monster Edition}

A lovely friend from New Zealand, who has an up-and-coming microbrewery in Wellington called the Garage Project (go check them out!), was in town this week and brought lots of beer. I knew I had to revisit those Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes I made last year and test it out with one of the stouts he picked up along the way.

The beer in these cupcakes is an Imperial Stout from Ballast Point called Sea Monster. What an awesome name, and logo. My ocean-loving self is a big fan of the Angler Fish on it. As soon as I opened it up the intense smell of beer filled the kitchen. I was a little worried that this was going to be too overpowering for the cupcake, but they turned out amazing. There is no noticeable beer taste in the cupcake, it just accentuates the chocolate and gives it a unique delicious flavor.

I changed up the recipe this time by using Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder, which gives the cupcake a deeper chocolate flavor and a seriously dark color. I also used a dark chocolate for the ganache in the center. If you’re not a fan of dark chocolate (although you should be, it’s better for you. Any excuse to make chocolate good for you and Ill take it) you can use bittersweet or even milk, just depends on your taste. It all comes together in the end where the sweetness of the frosting balances out the darkness of the cupcake.

I hope everyone I shared these with enjoyed them!

Enjoy 🙂

Madeline