Age of Decadence Birthday Cupcakes

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Yesterday was my brand new  minion’s respected co-worker’s birthday, and I wanted to celebrate her first month on the job (and a milestone birthday she wasn’t really looking forward to) with her favourite treat: a dark, rich chocolate cake. Cake’s a bit hard to transport around the office, however, so I went with the cupcake version instead, and I made someone else do all the hard work for me in choosing the best recipe. I picked Sally’s Baking Addiction’s tried and tested Death by Chocolate Cupcakes and doubled the recipe (as I am wont to do). An entire bar of this lovely dark chocolate went into the process and I think it was entirely worth it.

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Like all good cupcakes, you start with butter and chocolate, and melting things. In the bowl of a double boiler (or in your microwave, but I no longer own one of those), melt together 1 cup unsalted butter and 4 ounces chocolate (the recipe calls for semi-sweet but I say use whatever is your favourite).

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Once that’s all smooth and sassy, set it aside to cool a little bit. Line two muffin tins with cupcake liners and preheat your oven to 350°F.

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In a smallish bowl, whisk together 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour with 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Leave that alone and do the next thing.

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In a largish bowl, crack 4 large room temperature eggs,  then tip in 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Whisk-y, whisk-y, whisk-y.

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I kind of miss whiskey …

Pour the melted butter and chocolate into the egg/sugar stuff and mix until smooth.

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Grab yourself 1 cup buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, tip 2 teaspoons white vinegar or lemon juice into a cup and top it up with milk. Give it a stir and leave it about five minutes until it’s curdled and thick. It’s not *quite* the same, though, and the Pie likes having buttermilk for pancakes, so I am using the real deal).  Alternate pouring some buttermilk into the chocolatey goo with adding the flour mixture, and stir until just combined. You don’t want to overmix this or the batter will bake up flat.

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And this batter is going to be THICK. Sally says it’s thick like pudding. I think it’s even thicker than that.

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Thick, like dog poo thick. But in a delicious way.

Spoon the batter into your cupcake cups and bake for 18 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the centre cupcake comes out clean.

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Set those aside to cool completely and get started on your icing. Actually, before you do that, break up another couple ounces of that lovely dark chocolate and set them to melt in your double boiler. Once it’s all liquid, set it aside to cool almost to room temperature.

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Beat up about 1 cup room temperature unsalted butter in the bowl of your mixer until it’s pale and fluffy. Sift together (to avoid lumps) 5 1/2 cups icing sugar and 1 1/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder in a separate bowl.

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Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract to the fluffy butter and then tip in some of your icing sugar mix. Drizzle in, alternating with the icing sugar mix, 1 cup heavy cream.  Because I don’t remember where I put my mixer shield, this happened of course.

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This one’s for you, Eli.

And because none of my aprons fit me anymore, this happened as well. Baby bellies are cooking hazards, it seems.

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The Pie thought it necessary to remind me that I don’t own very many maternity clothes and should probably take better care of the ones I’ve got. I may have said a few bad words to him in reply.

But when you’re done you’ll get this lovely soft icing that’s pretty much exactly halfway between a ganâche and a buttercream. It’s very delightful. Use that and a wide tip to ice your cooled cupcakes.

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Age of Decadence Cupcakes 20And because age is just a number, I made little number signs out of that melted chocolate (poured on waxed paper and allowed to cool) and shoved them in the top.

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As I was making these, I remarked to the Pie that my youngest teammate, who is 23, was going to ask why there were “hashtags” all over the cupcakes, and he laughed. Then the next morning, the first thing she did when she walked into the room was go, “what’s with all the hashtags?” I so called it. Kids these days … 🙂

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Made for Love, with Love

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On Friday, my beautiful amazing baby sister-in-law Mags married the Dutchman, AKA The Nicest Man Alive and the whole day was absolutely delightful. You may remember that last year I made some cupcakes for Mags’ birthday. Well she liked them so much she’s been talking about them ever since and asked me to make them for her wedding – I was more than happy to oblige. We all knew that the results wouldn’t be picture perfect but when things taste absolutely amazing nobody really cares. And these were a big hit.

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I leave the wedding photography to the professionals, but I snapped this one on my phone so you could share in the joy of the day – what a beautiful happy couple!

A few tips if you ever want to take on one of these projects for yourself: preparation is key. Anything that can be made ahead of time should be done to give you plenty of time to spare. That meant that the Pie and I sat down for three hours one night and chocolate-dipped over 120 individual maraschino cherries, but that was fine. It was a good togetherness moment. Our marriage became stronger as a result of our struggle.

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Icings and ganaches can also be made a few days in advance and kept in the fridge. Even the cupcakes can be made up to two or three days beforehand. Just make sure that if this is the case you use a recipe that contains a good amount of fat to keep them moist, like sour cream or butter. When you’re ready to assemble make sure your icings and ganaches are at room temperature and everything is super handy for you to reach when you need it.

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I also made a wee cake topper for Mags and the Dutchman to cut at the reception, and to match the glittery winter theme I added edible pearls for gloss.

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And this cool sparkly snow-like sugar.

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When you’re putting together 120 cupcakes, do things in stages. That means do all the ganache layers first, for example, before working on piping on the icing.

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Then when you’re doing the icing you can just power through and do it all in one fluid movement.

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These plastic carrying containers saved my life this time around. They cost me $6.25 each at the cake store but they are worth their weight in gold. Though they’re not very heavy. So they’re probably worth about $6.25 in gold.

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I sprinkled on some pearls and snow on the cupcakes as well to match the topper.

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And the finished arrangement, using the cupcake stands I made this summer. Apparently as people were leaving they searched for carry-out cases to try to steal as many as they could!

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chunkies

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunkies 17 I made these to serve a double purpose: to provide cookies for the shindig last week (which was my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary), and also for the birthday of one of my coworkers – so I froze the dough for the birthday (which is tomorrow, yay!) and made the rest up for the party. I made these traditional oatmeal chocolate cookies with a little bit of a twist – the addition of some chipotle spice. It’s not excessive, but feel free to omit the spice if you wish. Oatmeal Chocolate Chunkies 16

Start by creaming together 1 cup butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar until it’s all lovely and fluffy.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunkies 1 Beat in 2 eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Oatmeal Chocolate Chunkies 2

Now whisk together 2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and then — DRAMATIC PAUSE — 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder.

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Then mix in about 1 cup oats. If you want them more oaty and nubbly, then add in 2 cups total – that’s up to you. The more oats you add the more structure the cookie will have. I was looking for flat and crispy so I only put in the one.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunkies 10 Chop up as well a large amount of chocolate. This worked out to about 2 cups chopped Belgian chocolate. Mmmm … Oatmeal Chocolate Chunkies 8

Now chuck the dough in the fridge for a little bit to chill so it’s easier to manipulate. Preheat your oven to 350°F and line some baking sheets with parchment. Plop rolled teaspoons of the dough onto your baking sheet and spread them out as they will flatten and expand while baking. I put them too close in these pictures so act accordingly.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunkies 12 Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until the centres are set. Let the cookies cool on the rack for about five minutes before putting them on a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy! Oatmeal Chocolate Chunkies 14

Cheesecake Brownies

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More shindig food, so you’ll have to forgive my less than ideal photos – I’ve been doing a lot of night baking and then shoving everything whole into the freezer, so I can’t get the best pictures. So needless to say, these freeze really well. If you want better photos, go to Yammie’s Noshery, which is where I got the recipe.

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Butter a 9″ x 13″ baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

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Start with 1 cup butter and 2 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and melt those together in a pot until smooth and bubbly.

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Let that cool for at least 10 minutes and preheat your oven to 350°F.

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While that’s chilling out, whisk together 1 1/4 cups cocoa, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1 1/2 cups flour. Set that aside for a wee spell.

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In another bowl, whisk together 8oz softened cream cheese (remember that the warmer it is, the less lumpy it will be), 1/3 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 egg. You may want the hand mixer for this job. Set THAT aside.

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Grab another bowl (so many bowls) and whisk together 1 teaspoon vanilla and 4 eggs.

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Tip in your butter-sugar goo and whisk it until it’s glossy.

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Then tip all that into your flour-cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.

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THEN dump in 2 cups chocolate chips and mix those in.

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Smooth all your cocoa batter into the pan. Try your best to dig little troughs down the length of the pan and fill those with the cream cheese batter. As you can see, my best is not the best. My batter was more fluid I think than was intended so the troughs kept filling in. It was like trying to build a sandcastle in a rising tide.

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Then grab a butter knife and cut into the batter, dragging the knife perpendicular to the troughs.

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I hope yours looks better than this.

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Bake for 25-35 minutes (25 for gooey, 35 for non-gooey; mine was in-between) and let cool completely before cutting into bars.

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I can’t wait to eat one of these puppies on Saturday!

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Quick Caramel Custard Croissant Bake

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 18This is yet another one of those I-bought-pastry-on-sale-and-the-Pie-bought-some-at-the-same-time-and-we-didn’t-eat-them-soon-enough-and-they-went-stale-so-what-can-I-do-with-them-rather-than-chucking-them-in-the-compost kind of situations. I’m sure you’re familiar with those. And I HATE throwing food away. I’m very proud of the fact that the Pie and I produce one box of recycling, half a small kitchen bag of garbage (mostly plastic and styrofoam), and two 1L bags of compost (this includes used tissues and meat bones) a week. My luxury is the paper newspaper, which I know I should give up, but I just can’t, and I can always find uses for old newspaper. But I digress. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 5

Trav was over concocting the most recent SideBar and the Pie was stirring up some of our famous meatballs so I decided to take a moment to chuck some things together. I had 9 stale chocolatines that needed taking care of.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 2So I buttered up a baking dish and crumbled them in. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 7

Then I grabbed a small pot and filled it with 1 cup granulated sugar and 4 tablespoons water. I put that on medium high heat and resisted the very real urge to stir it.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 4Eventually it started to bubble. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 8

And then turned golden. You can swirl the pot around but avoid stirring.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 10When it was this lovely caramel colour I removed it from the heat and tipped in, whisking all the while, 1 cup heavy cream and 2 tablespoons bourbon (you can use whisky too). Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 11

Don’t freak out when it fizzes up and you feel like it’s going to explode.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 12Just keep whisking, and when it calms down you’ll have a lovely caramel. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 13

Beat up 4 eggs.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 3Then whisk those eggs slowly into your caramel and pour the whole thing over your crusty baked goods. Let that stand for 10 minutes and preheat your oven to 350°F. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 14

Shove the dish in your oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the egg mix is solid (perhaps slightly less time than I did it as you can see it’s a little more than brown).

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 17Serve immediately with whipped cream or ice cream or caramel sauce or chocolate sauce or custard … Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 19

Guinness Chocolate Cake

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It was Krystopf’s birthday last weekend, and, as I do for the fam-dambly, I take on the cake-making duties as a present – the birthday person gets to pick whatever one they want and I do my best. Krystopf picked a Guinness Chocolate Cake, which is a very grown-up sort of cake (he did turn 38 after all, so I *suppose* he’s a grown-up).

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For the cake:

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In a saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 cup butter.

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Then grab some Guinness.

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Pour 1 cup Guinness (or other stout if you prefer). Keep the rest for yourself. It’s never too early for drinking Guinness, especially if you’re baking.

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Pour the Guinness into the butter and stir it up.

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Allow that to come to a foamy simmer before removing it from the heat.

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Whisk in 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder.

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Let that cool for a little bit.

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In the meantime, preheat your oven to 350°F and butter and flour a 9″ cake pan. This one is springform because I find with fancy cakes it just makes everything easier.

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Now, in a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, and 1 cup sugar.

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In a smaller bowl, beat up 2 large eggs and tip in 2/3 cup sour cream.

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Pour your no-longer-hot chocolate Guinness butter mix into the egg and sour cream mix and stir it up.

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Isn’t that pretty?

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My whisk has a much heavier handle than the whisk part and I always have to remember to take it out of the bowl when I let go of it. This ONE TIME, I forgot. That is chocolate all over my floor.

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Time for a new whisk.

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Now pour your chocolate goo into your flour and whisk until fully combined and smooth.

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Pour that in your cake pan and shove it in the oven. The recipe Atlas gave me said it would take 35-40 minutes, but I found it took closer to 60 minutes to cook all the way through.

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For the filling:

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While that’s on the go, you can make your filling. Slam 8oz bittersweet chocolate chips into a heatproof bowl and top with 2/3 cup heavy (whipping) cream and 2 tablespoons butter.

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Plop that over a pot of simmering water and melt, melt, melt!

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Set the finished ganâche aside to cool until it’s the consistency of pudding.

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For the frosting:

Now you can work on the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer, dump 1/2 cup room temperature butter and whip that until it’s pale and creamy.

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Slowly beat in 3-4 cups icing sugar.

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If it gets too stiff, add in 3-4 tablespoons Bailey’s or other Irish cream liqueur.

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I also found a little dribble of whipping cream got it to that perfectly creamy, spreadable consistency.

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Cake assembly:

By this time hopefully your cake is gorgeously baked and entirely cool. If not, then you’ll just have to wait a bit longer.

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When it’s ready, slice the cake in half horizontally.

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Take a small spoon to the bottom half and scrape away a bit of the inside.

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Use your fingers to press down, creating a shallow bowl.

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By now your ganâche should look like this.

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Pour that gorgeousness into the little bowl in your cake. I didn’t use all the ganâche here because otherwise I was afraid it would run over the sides when I put the top on. And it did that anyway, so in future I would use all the ganâche and purposely make it run down the sides.

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Put the top on the cake. You can see that the ganâche is already peeking out.

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Spread your icing thickly on top. It’s already pushing the ganâche out the sides so I decided to forego icing the sides altogether and just do the top.

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Then it kind of looks like a poured Guinness with a nice frothy head.

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The final touch was shaving a bit of bittersweet chocolate on top. Serve to your brother or your friends and family. They’ll all enjoy it!

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Tim Tam Slam

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A little while ago my mentor at work found a new job and left us. She’s from PEI, Canada’s weirdest, smallest province, where they get way too much snow, grow way too many potatoes, and you can drive across it way too quickly (because it’s so small). And she’s famous for something that I only knew around the offices as “the Tim Tam Slam.” And on her last day we all gathered around in the kitchen and she showed us exactly what that phrase means. And now I’m going to show you. This is so not a summer beverage (I don’t even know if it’s a PEI thing), but it doesn’t matter. You need to know this if you don’t already, and you’re going to thank me for putting it on the internet for everyone to see. If you DO know this, you’re going to thank me for putting it on the internet for everyone to see.

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First, you need to grab yourself some Tim Tams, which are Australian chocolate cookies. So if you’re not in Australia you can get them in the imported cookie section of your regular giant grocery store, or in one of those fancy shops that sells imported food. Then you’re going to want to chuck them in your freezer for a while. This isn’t necessary but it makes the whole experiment work better.

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Then you make yourself some of your favourite hot chocolate. This stuff has marshmallows in it.

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Don’t be a heathen. Mix it with cream (or non-dairy whatever) first to form a paste so you don’t get lumps.

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Is your hot chocolate ready to drink? Okay. Grab the Tim Tams out of the freezer.

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Take a cookie and bite off just a tiny bit of one corner. Just a wee bit so that the middle filling is just exposed.

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Then take another wee bit off the opposite corner. I always take too much off one corner, but it’s not a huge deal. Just don’t go crazy and bite off a huge piece. It’s hard to resist, but you can do it.

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Then take your cookie, and pretend it’s a straw. Yup, a straw. Dip the cookie so that one of your bitten corners is submerged in the hot chocolate. Then put your mouth over the other bitten end and suck it like a straw. It will take a few pulls for the hot chocolate to make it through.

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Now you only have a few sips of chocolate through the cookie before the heat of the hot chocolate melts the whole bottom of the Tim Tam.

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When this happens, shove as much of the cookie in your mouth as possible. It is amazing and dissolve-y and definitely worth repeating. That is the Tim Tam Slam. Aren’t you glad you know?

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Chex Blox

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I thought the name I had come up with for these was pretty cute but one of my coworkers objected and decided they should be called “Chexicans” instead, because of the tenuous (maybe) connection of almonds to Mexico. Then he came up with Chex Yo Self, Chex-o-Slovakia (because Nutella was invented in the Czech Republic), and Early Chex Out (“like early check out, because if you eat too many you’ll die at a young age”). Then he arrived at “Dirty Chexican” because it made his fingers sticky. So I told him I would let you guys decide on a name because you are way smarter than he is. Annnnnnd GO!

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In any case, these little blocks of whatever-they-are are well-received wherever you want to take them. Aside from a wee bit of butter (that could be replaced with margarine), they’re dairy free, and the rice cereal makes them totally gluten-free as well. For nut-free folks you can easily skip the almonds. I totally made this recipe up as I went along so there’s no reason for you not to play around with it too!

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I started with a big-ass bowl and into it I dumped a whole box (about 5 cups) Chex cereal. It was the honey-flavoured but you could use plain too. Then went in about 1/2 cup sliced almonds (use any nut you like – these were on-hand), 1 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut, and 1 cup chocolate chips. Or about those amounts. I didn’t measure anything. I gave that a good stir.

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Into a small pot on the stove went about 3/4 cup Nutella and 3/4 cup peanut butter. The one picture I didn’t take doubles of is of course the one that turns out blurry.

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I stirred that around until it was fully melted and amazing.

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… okay so this one’s a little blurry too.

In another pot I melted about 2 tablespoons butter.

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Then tipped in a whole package (about 5 cups) marshmallows.

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Stirred that up until it melted. SO GOOEY.

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Then I added the hazelnut peanut butter to the cereal and stirred it for a little while.

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Then went in the marshmallow and that got stirred around.

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I plopped it into a high-sided baking sheet lined with parchment paper and pressed it down into place. You can shove it in the fridge to speed up the hardening process but it will happen on its own on the counter if it’s not too hot outside.

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When it’s hardened you can cut it into blocks.

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Store whatever doesn’t get eaten in an airtight container. Enjoy!

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Eggless Chocolate Egg Cookies

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Necessity is the mother of invention. These cookies were a necessity. They were made under less-than-happy circumstances. We’d just come to the realization that Indy was no longer safe living in our house and we had to take him back to the breeder as soon as possible in order to avoid compromising his physical and mental health and to start the hard road of Gren’s anti-anxiety conditioning right away. To say we were abjectly miserable would be a gross understatement.

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So I made these cookies as a bit of cold comfort for the situation. I’d already braved the supermarket with sunglasses and a hat to hide my red eyes in order to take advantage of half-price Cadbury Mini Eggs, but when I got back I discovered I was completely out of eggs, and I just didn’t have it in me to go back. So I simply went without. And here’s the recipe for it.

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In a bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, and 1 teaspoon baking soda.

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In another, larger bowl, cream together 1 cup butter, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar.

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You can do this with a mixer but I did it by hand so as not to wake up my sleeping dogs. We were all having a spectacularly bad day.

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Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/4 cup milk or cream.

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Now gradually add in your flour mixture and stir until everything is uniform.

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Grab about 1 cup chocolate eggs (Cadbury’s are the best) and smash them up a bit (or don’t smash them, that’s up to you). Chuck them into the dough and mix it around. Now I don’t usually have the patience to chill dough but this stuff is much easier to manipulate if you chuck it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

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When you’re ready to bake, set your oven to 325°F and line some baking sheets with parchment paper.

Form the dough into little balls and press them onto the baking sheets. These don’t expand very much so you can make them whatever size you want.

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Bake for about 10-12 minutes and remove from the oven to let cool completely on the sheet, on a rack. I don’t recommend moving these until they’re more or less cool as they’re a little unstable when hot.

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Cranberry White Chocolate Scones

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I meant to make these back when I made the Savoury Sunday Scones but I ran out of time. So I just had a package of defrosted cranberries sitting in my fridge for AGES. I felt bad about those poor cranberries, so last weekend I whipped up a couple batches of this recipe from Chew Out Loud, one to eat right away, and the other to freeze unbaked as a giftie for Cait.

White Chocolate Cranberry Scones 1

First, make sure you have 1 cup butter sitting in your fridge (or better yet, freezer).

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Preheat your oven to 400°F and start with 4 cups flour (if you think that’s a lot of flour, imagine how much I had when I doubled the recipe. Okay, you don’t have to imagine: you can just do the math, I know). Whisk that together with 2/3 cup granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon salt.

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The original recipe calls for 1 cup sour cream, but I only had a very little bit. So I thought I’d add in some yogurt, but I only had lemon meringue flavoured yogurt (still, citrus and cranberry are a great combination). But I didn’t even have enough of that. So I added in some dregs of whipping cream I had lying around.

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I ended up cleaning out all three containers.

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So. In a bowl, mix together 1 cup sour cream (or your dairy Frankenstein equivalent), 2 large eggs, and 4 teaspoons vanilla. Set that aside for a minute or two.

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Grab your super cold 1 cup butter and grate it into your flour mixture. Yes, grate it. It’s oddly satisfying to grate butter. I always enjoy it, though I hate grating cheese.

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Use a spoon to stir it into the flour. I went ahead and used a pastry cutter on it as well just to ensure I didn’t have huge clumps of grated butter in places where they shouldn’t be.

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Stir in half a package of white chocolate chips (I used a whole one because I doubled the recipe).

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Now tip in your liquids and stir them until just combined.

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Add in half a package of fresh cranberries (again, I used a whole one because of doubling the recipe).  Stir those into the mix.

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I tipped the whole thing out onto a work surface to squish and kind of knead gently into a cohesive mass.

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I split it into four balls (two if you’re not doubling).

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I flattened the balls into disks, which I cut into 8 equal wedges.

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Whisk an egg in a small cup with a tablespoon of water and brush the egg wash over the scone wedges. Sprinkle with a bit of sugar.

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Bake those suckers on parchment-lined baking sheets for 14-17 minutes, until they’re a nice pale brown all over. Serve warm!

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