Toffee Bundt Cake

I got tired of making cookies and squares for my research participants, so one weekend I pulled out this toffee cake, also from January’s Canadian Living magazine.

It’s moist and rich and sweet and satisfying, and for all that is pretty easy to concoct. It’s really good warm, but keeps up to three days.

So let’s begin, shall we?

Take yourself a 12oz/375g package of dried, pitted dates and plop them in a saucepan with 2 1/2 cups water

Bring the water to a boil and stir it around a bit, then let it cool.

Mash up the dates until smooth.  I found this was easiest in a food processor.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Grease a 10″ or 3L Bundt pan (you know, the one with the fluted sides and a hole in the middle).

In a large bowl, beat together 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar, 1/2 cup softened butter, and 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind until light and fluffy. 

One at a time, beat in 4 eggs, then add 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

In another bowl or measuring cup, whisk together 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 2 teaspoons baking soda.

Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture.

Stir in the dates as well. It’s funny how it’s the dates that give it that lovely toffee taste.

Scrape the batter into your greased Bundt pan.

Bake in the bottom third of your oven for about 55 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for about 15 minutes, then tip it out onto a plate.

While the cake is cooking and cooling, you can work on your toffee sauce.  Mine didn’t turn out toffee coloured, but still tasted fantastic. 

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt 3/4 cup butter.  Whisk in 1 cup granulated sugar until dissolved, and cook, whisking the whole time, for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is caramel-coloured.  Whisk in 3/4 cup whipping cream and 2 tablespoons lemon juice (be careful to avert your face, as adding cream can make it explosive — I’m serious).

Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until thickened, about 3-5 minutes.  Whisk in 2 tablespoons brandy or cognac.

Pour about 3/4 cup of the toffee sauce over your cake and let it stand to absorb. 

When you are ready to serve, drizzle it with the reserved warm sauce, slice and serve.

Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes

This recipe comes from January’s Canadian Living magazine and it was so fabulous that my parents had to take their share to be redistributed at my mother’s physiotherapist.  They are too delectable.

The amounts below give you about 12 cupcakes but of course I multiplied the recipe, and ended up with a variety of mini, medium, and large cupcakes.  Perfect for sharing.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a muffin tin with cupcake cups.

Melt about 2oz chocolate (I ain’t gonna try to tell you what kind, you use your judgment) in a double boiler with 1/4 cup strong coffee until melted and smooth.

In a bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup milk with 1/3 cup cocoa powder and stir into your melted chocolate/coffee.

In another bowl (this time make it a big one), beat 1/3 cup softened butter and 1 3/4 cups icing sugar until light and fluffy — this will take you about two minutes.  If you do this by hand, well, then it will take you a spell longer.  Be lazy: use a mixer.

Beat in 2 eggs, one at a time, as well as 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

In ANOTHER freaking bowl, whisk together 1 cup all-purpose flour with 1/2 teaspoon EACH baking soda and baking powder.  Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture alternately with the chocolate mixture, making three additions of flour and two of chocolate.  Stir that sucker up good until the colour and texture are even.

Divide the batter amongst your cupcake cups.

Bake for about 12-18 minutes, or until a tester/toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan for about five minutes before removing them to a rack to cool completely.

To make your lovely double chocolate fudgy icing, beat together in a bowl 1/2 cup softened butter and 1 3/4 cups icing sugar until fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Melt together about 2oz each of unsweetened and milk chocolates (or use dark and light, I don’t care), and beat the chocolate into the fluffy stuff along with about a teaspoon of milk. You can add more milk if you like until the texture is lovely and smooth.

Spread that brown goo all over your cupcakes.

Be prepared to see them magically disappear!

Rosemary Parmesan Biscuits

This recipe is a variation on the original Quick Drop Biscuits, and is very similar to the biscuit topping on the Italian Pot Pies.  Of course you can flavour your biscuits anyway you like.  Anything that goes well with butter is going to go well in your biscuit, as long as you keep the liquid additives to a minimum.  My plan next time is to go with bacon and cheddar cheese.  These particular biscuits went very well with a lamb roast.  I made them twice the size of the original Quick Drop Biscuits, and so doubled the recipe accordingly.

Preheat your oven to 425°F.  If you have a convection oven, which my parents do, then 400°F is probably fine.  All ovens are different.

In a bowl, mix together 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.  Drop in 3/4 cup cold cubed butter, and cut to pea-sized pieces with two knives or a pastry cutter.

Stir in 2-3 teaspoons fresh or dried rosemary, broken up a bit, and about 1 teaspoon ground black pepper. (Just so’s you know, my hand isn’t really that pink in real life.)

Add about 1 cup finely grated parmesan, or more, to suit your taste.

Make a well in the centre of your mixture and pour in 2 cups milk.  Stir until just combined and mixture is clumping and sticky.

Drop large spoonfuls of dough onto an ungreased baking sheet (or several).  They don’t expand so you can place the drops pretty close together.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating halfway through, until firm and golden.  Because all ovens are different, make sure you keep an eye on them.

Of course these babies are best crisp and fresh from the oven, but you can store them in an airtight container for a couple of days and they’re pretty good then as well.

Espresso Brownies

Would you like another life-changing experience?

You should make these brownies.  I mean it.

I made about three hundred.  Every single one of them was eaten.  They’re even good stale.  The recipe for these babies comes with thanks from the folks at my mother’s physiotherapy place.  Not that they need any more caffeine.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and grease a 15″x10″x1″ baking pan (or whatever you can find that will fit the brownie goodness.

In a large saucepan, plop yourself in 1/4 cup water and 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder.

Add to that 1 cup butter (oh yes) and 1 1/2 cups chopped chocolate pieces (your choice).

Melt that pot of loveliness until it’s smooth and then remove from heat. 

Now this next part you are supposed to do in the saucepan but because I tripled the recipe I had to expand to a bowl.

Crack four eggs into a large bowl (I know there are more than four there, but just roll with it) and beat them up.

Add 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Beat it up.

Pour in your lovely chocolate goo and beat until just combined.

Stir in 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.

Stir in 2 cups all-purpose flour.

Spread your batter evenly in the pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

I love that crackly-shiny top on a brownie.

While the brownies are baking and cooling you can whip together 3 cups icing sugar, 1/4 cup softened butter, 2 tablespoons boiling water, 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and, if you wish, 2 tablespoons of a coffee liqueur.

Spread the frosting evenly over the cooled brownies and dust with more espresso powder.

Cut into pieces.

LOVE.

Cocoa-Caramel-Pecan Cookies

At the end of October I dog-sat for one of my neighbours, KDB.  She has two Scottie dogs, Hamish and Flora.

I wanted to leave her something nice to come home to, and to take advantage of the fun that is her kitchen.  It’s blue.  All of it.  And whatever isn’t blue tends to have the image of a Scottie on it.

Kristopf came over to help me make cookies (but in reality to use my computer).This is a recipe that I kind of invented myself, adapted from the basic Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.  I hope you like it.

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Soften 2 cups butter and plop it in a large bowl.Cream it together with 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar and 1 1/2 cups brown sugar.Crack 4 eggs into a bowl and whisk them silly.

Add the eggs to the butter stuff and mix well.

In a separate bowl, mix together 4 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 6 to 8 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa.  Add this to the goo mixture a little at a time and stir well.

Now, stirring the whole time (you may need to use your hands at this point as the dough gets hard to handle), add in 2 1/2 cups pecan pieces, 2 cups butterscotch chips, and 2 cups chocolate chips.Drop spoonfuls of the dough on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, rotating halfway through for even baking.  After removing them from the oven, leave the cookies on the sheets for a few minutes, then remove them to a rack to cool completely.

They are super good with your afternoon tea.

Try not to eat them all at once.