Let's Make Brigadeiros

Hey! Let's munch on balls! 

Balls of delicious, caramelly sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder, and butter, that is! This is the glory that is the brigadeiro, a totally sweet and delicious Brazilian confection.

I first tried brigadeiros when Carla, a woman originally from Brazil who worked at my former yoga studio in Santa Fe, brought a few for me to try. Knowing my deep love of sweets, she figured I would enjoy discovering a treat from her home country. She was right. These balls are about as addictive as crack. 

Brigadeiros are extremely simple in construction: sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder, and a little butter. (I added a little bit of vanilla and a little bit of salt to mine, too). But in their simplicity there is a kind of sweet perfection: the sweetened condensed milk slightly caramelizes during the cooking process, making for a mellow, rich flavor that you don't ever want to leave your mouth. Since the confections are somewhat soft on their own, they are typically rolled in sprinkles, which not only makes them easier to hold on to, but makes them hella cute to behold, too.

The sweet mystery of brigadeiros

Brigadeiros gained popularity in 1940s, but where exactly they came from is the source of some debate. There are two basic theories:

The Ingredient Availability Theory: in the years following World War 2, fresh milk and sugar were in short supply, so recipes including sweetened condensed milk, which was shelf stable when canned, began to gain in popularity. Some brilliant person figured out that adding chocolate would make the sweet, syrupy milk mixture even better, and the rest is history. 

The Political Theory: Others say that what made the confection an enduring classic is its connection to a politician, and that the name was inspired by brigadier Eduardo Gomes, a handsome and liberal politician (apparently his running slogan was along the lines of "Vote for the most handsome and single brigadier"). Apparently, some loving fans began selling the confection as a means of fundraising for this hottie. 

My thoughts

I wasn't around in the 1940s, but I think that it's likely that a combination of the two theories above resulted in the confection's development and proliferation. It's my guess that the treat was borne of ingenuity with limited ingredients, but that it gained popularity and became widespread as a means for promoting the candidate. 

Make them!

Here's the recipe.

Brigadeiros

Printable version here - Adapted from From Brazil to You

  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • A bunch of sprinkles 

In a large saucepan, combine the sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder, and salt. Whisk until cohesive. It would be helpful if you sifted the cocoa beforehand, but I really can't be militant here because I did not do so. :-/

Add the butter, and put the saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture begins to thicken, about 5-8 minutes. What you're looking for here is for the mixture to thicken so that when you scrape a spatula along the bottom of the pan, the mixture is resistant to drip back into place. Keep on stirring well, because you don't want the mixture to scorch the bottom of your pan (you'll ruin your candy and have a huge mess to clean up, so you don't want that).

Remove from heat, and stir in the vanilla until combined. 

Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then using buttered or oiled hands, roll the mixture into balls. Roll in sprinkles (I kept mine on a shallow plate). Place on a tray or dish, and store in the fridge for an hour or so to "set". If they flatten out a little bit, roll them back into a circular form after they have chilled for a bit so that they will have the shape you desire. Keep them at either cool room temperature, or in the fridge if it is hot/humid where you are. 

Oh, and P.S., if you get tired of rolling the balls, you can just store the candy mixture in a jar as a sticky-sweet spread for toast or to enjoy by the spoonful. 

Enjoy! 

Freaking Easy Chocolate Bourbon Truffles

The other day, I received a big ol' bottle of bourbon in the mail. And it was WORK RELATED. It helped me make this happen (please don't judge my messy chocolatey hand):

Thanks, Four Roses!

After a glug or ten of "work", I decided to make some truffles. That last sentence was a joke, fyi. But honestly, these truffles are so easy to make that you could have a shot or two or ten and they would still come out fine. I'm also not a doctor or a qualified health provider, fyi. 

Chocolate bourbon truffles. Chocolate combined with butter and salt, and livened up with bourbon. They are surprisingly refined, and pleasingly (but not overwhelmingly) boozy. I used a very dark chocolate (85% cacao!) for a finished result that is for grown-ups and true chocolate lovers ONLY. 

Freaking Easy Chocolate Bourbon Truffles

Makes 20-30 depending on size 

Printable version here

  • 6 ounces Extra dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used 85% cacao) 
  • 1 stick unsalted butter 
  • pinch of salt 
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • confectioners' sugar or cocoa powder, for coating  

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to discourage scorching.

Remove from heat, and stir in the salt and bourbon. Glug glug.

Stir to combine, and then transfer to a heatproof bowl. Let the mixture cool until firm--several hours at cool room temperature or less time in the fridge. I wish this screen had smell-o-vision right now.

Spoon out the mixture, and roll portions of it into balls, about 1 inch in diameter. 

Roll the balls in cocoa powder or confectioners' sugar. 

Keep in the fridge or freezer until ready to serve; be sure to tell people that they are gluten-free, because they are (naturally!). Store leftovers in the fridge or freezer. 

What recipe will you make for the Kentucky Derby?

 

Recipe Redux: Rainbow Cookies Stuffed With Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Every now and again, it's good to look back at where we've come from, so that we can proceed mindfully and deliciously into the future. #sodeep

What I mean to say is, I recently revisited an old recipe from my first book and am happy to report that it is still delicious, still magical: rainbow cookies stuffed with chocolate chip cookie dough.

I mean, what could be better than taking a bite of a magical rainbow cookie and then realizing it's stuffed with chocolate chip cookie dough? It's like...your brain will be a confetti cannon, that degree of mind-blowing. 

Realizing that my original recipe, which employed a full batch of Kaleidoscope-cooky (yes, cooky) batter was a bit LARGE, this time I tried a half-batch, and it worked splendidly. So when just a half million cookies as opposed to a full million are in order, give this recipe a try!

Rainbow Cookies Stuffed With Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. 

Here's how you do it. Adapted from CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life

You'll need:

  • 1 batch rainbow cookie dough 
  • 1/2 batch or a little less of chocolate chip cookie dough (bake the rest normally, or use it to stuff cupcakes, you follow your bliss)
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. So, you've got your rainbow cookie dough all ready to go. Now, slice it into fairly thin coins--like, 1/8 inch thick. Lay them on your prepared baking sheet with about 1 inch in between rounds (they won't spread too much).
  3. On the center of each round, place a small dollop of chocolate chip cookie dough.Place a second coin of rainbow cookie dough on top. If it cracks between color segments, use your fingers to smooth it back into place. Gently press the sides down so your chocolate chip cookie dough doesn't ooze out.
  4. Bake for 9-10 minutes, or until rainbow cookies have a dull finish on top. 
  5. Let cool for 5 minutes on the sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy!

Can You Make Caramel Sauce With Milk Instead of Cream?

FACT: Caramel sauce is delicious. Caramel sauce is dreamy, and filled with cream. But wait. Can you make creamy caramel sauce when you're all out of cream? The answer is yes: it's possible to make caramel sauce with milk instead of cream, and I want to tell you how. 

But before I do that, I feel that I should offer a small education on the unusual process that is making caramel, because it is full of moments when your mixture looks WRONG, and I want to tell you about them and why you're actually doing things right.

These are some hard-earned tidbits I have picked up from experience. These hold true whether you're using cream OR milk.

1: A sturdy, heavy-bottomed saucepan with tall sides is your best bet.

You'll see that I didn't quite follow my own advice in the photo tutorial, but I am pretty accustomed to making this sauce so I have learned how to do it. If you have never made caramel, you'll be happy for the tall sides on a pot, because of the next thing:

2: When you add the milk to the sugar, the reaction can be scary.

The basic process of making caramel sauce is this: you'll melt some sugar, then you'll incorporate milk, then cook until thickened. 

But here's the thing: when you add the liquid to the hot sugar, it's going to have a firecracker of a reaction: it's going to bubble, it's going to hiss, it's going to seem like something is very wrong. Guess what? It's totally normal. You just want those high walls on the pot so that when it gets bubbly and scary, it doesn't make a big mess on your stovetop.

3: When you add the milk to the sugar, weird, hardened bits of sugar will form.

In addition to the crazy reaction, bits of sugar will solidify and look like ruined lumps and bumps when you add the liquid. Some of them, as you can see above, are really quite scary and wrong-looking. Guess what? Also this is normal. By continuing to cook the liquid, those bits will dissolve gradually. Even that monster-lump above! 

4: It's not hard to make caramel sauce, but it requires your full attention.

Making caramel sauce isn't hard, but please give it your undivided attention. It's worth it in the end, because you'll have a smooth, delicious caramel, and won't have any scorched pans to have to deal with later.

OK, now that you've read these cautions, let me tell you how to make caramel with milk instead of cream! 

Note: this is a salted caramel sauce. If you're the single person in the world who does not love salt and caramel, you can omit the salt. 

Caramel sauce with milk 

Printable version here

Makes about 1 3/4 cups 

  • 2 cups sugar 
  • 1 3/4 cups milk (I used whole milk)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Pour the sugar into your large pot. Shift the pot side to side to distribute the sugar evenly.

Put the pot over medium-low heat. Stay nearby, but don't stir or shift the sugar. This is a slow, gentle heating, and nothing visual will really happen for a few minutes. Concurrently, you can combine the milk and the vanilla in a heatproof measuring cup, and heat the mixture in the microwave for about 1 minute (this will help lessen the reaction when the liquid hits the hot sugar in a bit). 

After several minutes (it was about 8 minutes for me), you'll see the sugar beginning to liquefy. At this point, use a heatproof rubber spatula to turn the mixture over on itself, moistening the still-dry portions of sugar. 

Continue heating. As the sugar warms, it will begin to darken in color, first to a sort of beige and then to a light caramel tone. When the sugar has reached a rich caramel tone, medium-brown but not dark, remove from heat. Now, be ready for some hissing and bubbling as you pour about 1/3 to 1/2 of the milk mixture into the caramel mixture. It will hiss, it may bubble, hardened bits may form, but it shouldn't bubble over the sides of the pot. Once the bubbling has subsided, add the rest of the milk mixture, and return the pot to the burner, and put it on medium-low heat. Remember: those hardened bits = totally normal.

Stir constantly as the mixture cooks. You'll see that the hardened bits begin to shrink and then dissolve. Once they are mostly dissolved, stir in the salt.

Cook for about 10 minutes for a thinner caramel sauce, 15-20 minutes for a thicker sauce. Remove from heat when the mixture is about 20% short of how thick you'd like it, because it will thicken more as it cools. 

Transfer the mixture to a heatproof container to cool. Store leftovers in the fridge in jars. Enjoy on EVERYTHING. 

Do you like caramel sauce?

Two FREE Coloring Book Page Downloads!

Heyyyy creative people! I have made two brand new and totally free-to-download coloring book pages for Craftsy.com. The images below are previews; you can click on them to go to the download! 

First up is a coloring book page designed for cake decorators...

and then the next design is made for knitters!

Carrot Sugar: It's a Thing. Or at Least it Should Be.

I have done something creative and unusual with carrots. No, it doesn't involve starting my own adult YouTube channel. What I did is this: I made carrot sugar. 

CARROT SUGAR! 

Let me explain how this magical orange dust came into existence. You see, a few weeks ago I was working on developing a recipe for carrot cupcakes. They came out beautifully, and part of their appeal was the homemade candied carrot peel garnish. 

Candied carrot peel is made by boiling carrot shavings in a simple syrup, then baking them low and slow until they become firm. It's a fantastic carrot cake garnish.

But once the recipe was done, I had a lot of candied carrot peel. As appetizing as it is as a garnish, it's not quite as appealing as a stand-alone snack. So, I found myself with a good 3/4 cup of candied carrot peel. 

I don't know if I'm the only one who thinks like this, but.

When it came to using up this candied carrot peel, I pretty immediately thought "I wonder what would happen if I ground this candied carrot peel back into sugar?"

After it had been around for a few days, it had gotten pretty dry, which I figured would work to my advantage. 

So, I put the carrot peel in the blender...

...and blended. At first it was somewhat coarse, so I blended a bit more, until it had a consistency with the smallest granules like confectioners' sugar, and the largest about the consistency of granulated sugar. 

All of those candied carrot bits yielded a rather small amount of sugar (about 3 tablespoons' worth), but look at how pretty. 

So how would I use this carrot sugar? 

The way that I decided to do it was like so: to use it in a very small-batch buttercream. 

I combined about 2 tablespoons of softened unsalted butter with the carrot sugar and a pinch of salt, and mixed with a little spreading knife, acting like it was a palette knife and I was mixing acrylic paint. It made me feel like a particularly artistic bunny. 

Then, I piped it on to a cupcake. 

I loved how this came out! I have to say that I have the benefit of having gone through the process of creation, so I think that I was tasting with extra curiosity and anticipation. I don't know if you'd be able to tell that this was a carrot buttercream, because interestingly, it didn't SCREAM carrot.

So, the carrot-sugar buttercream was subtle--not super carrot-y, but definitely a little different. The carrot bits gave it a little bit of texture, and a definitely earthy flavor. The sweetness wasn't as tooth-numbing as a typical confectioners' sugar. 

To review: how I made this carrot sugar

  1. I made a batch of candied carrot peel
  2. Part of it, I used to garnish carrot cupcakes. But I had about 3/4 cup of candied carrot peel leftover, and no particular use for it.
  3. I blended the leftover candied carrot peel into a sugar consistency.
  4. I used it in a small-batch buttercream, but I bet it would be a great way to sweeten a club soda or a cocktail, or to use as a sprinkled garnish on a carrot cake. 

Oh, and PS, I also reserved the sugar-water from boiling the candied carrot peel, let it dry, and then ground that, too. It's in the background here. What should I do with that, do you think? 

If you give it a try, enjoy! 

Rainbow Cookies

If you are what you eat, be a unicorn-approved rainbow cookie.

Sometimes, you want to eat a cookie that is beige. Sometimes, you want to eat a cookie that is the color of coffee. But me, I like my cookies the same way I prefer unicorns: full of rainbows and magic.

These cookies are incredibly easy to make, a little old-fashioned (they're based off of the Kaleidoscope Cookies in Betty Crocker's Cooky Book), and totally delicious. They taste more subtle then they look, with a basic, simple, nothin-wrong-so-why-change-it butter cookie flavor.  But the look is really what draws you in: a multicolored array of slice and bake cookies that will delight people and have them asking "how'd you do that?". 

Well, it's easy. I'll tell you how. Let's make these cookies. Right here, right now.

Easy rainbow cookies

Makes about 40 cookies, maybe more - Printable version here

  • 2 1/4 cup flour 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • food coloring 
  1. Sift together the flour and salt; set to the side.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until nice and creamy. Add the sugar, and continue beating until the sugar has been absorbed (employ rubber spatula as needed). Stir in the vanilla.
  3. Add the flour mixture in 2-3 additions, mixing on low speed, using the rubber spatula as needed. You're gonna be all "this flour is never all gonna fit in this dough" but trust me, it will.
  4. Divide the dough into four equal portions (or five, if you're feeling frisky). Tint each one a different color. Go vibrant, because food coloring fades a touch in the oven.
  5. Divide each tinted portion into two equal parts.
  6. Grab one portion of each color of dough, and roll each portion into a log about 4 inches long. Press the portions together, firmly, to ensure a seal. Now, roll the multicolored log into one long log, about 12 inches long. Repeat with the remaining dough portions, so you have two logs of dough.
  7. Wrap each log with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 2-3 hours or overnight.
  8. When you're ready to bake, line 2 baking sheets with parchment and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. 
  9. Remove the dough from the fridge, and let it soften slightly. Slice into "coins", at least 1/4 inch thick, a little thicker if you like fat cookies. If the dough is flaky or the color segments are cracking as you slice, let it soften a few minutes before working with it. (you can also gently smoosh the dough back together).
  10. Place the coins on the prepared baking sheets--they won't spread much so you can put them fairly close together.
  11. Bake for 7-9 minutes, rotating the pans at the 4 minute mark.
  12. Once matte on top (it can be hard to tell if they are lightly browned on the sides because of the vibrant colors) remove from the oven. Let the cookies cool on the pans for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Taste the rainbow!

Five Things to Do With Leftover Carrot Cake

Please don't say "I never have leftover carrot cake". Because you're being boring and dismissing the important things I have to say here. And after all, what if one day you did have leftover carrot cake? It makes for a fine #whathappenswednesday question. 

Last week I had leftover carrot cake, because I had to make three batches of carrot cupcakes for a recipe I was developing. That's quite a few cupcakes.

With three dozen cupcakes and a household of two, a couple are bound to go stale before they are consumed. So if you should find yourself in the unlikely but possible situation where you have leftover carrot cake, here are my suggestions on how to use it creatively:

1. Melty ice cream and carrot cake cubes.

This is easy. It is not attractive, but it is delicious. It goes like so: cut the carrot cupcake into cubes. Distribute them in a container of nice and melty ice cream (or, in a soft scoop that is in a cup). Mix together, and enjoy. 

1b. Carrot cake milkshake

Related to the previous idea, you could just mix more vigorously and turn your creation into a shake, which is always a great use of leftover cake. 

2. Fried carrot cupcakes

Simply slice up the carrot cake and fry it in butter. It's easier than making French toast (which is also an option, of course) but no less delicious. You don't even need sugar because the cake is already sweet. 

3. Small batch cake truffles 

Crumble up the cupcake; the amount of frosting in proportion to the cake should yield a mixture which can easily be formed into balls. I got three good-sized portions from a single cupcake. Let the cake balls freeze for an hour or so, so that they won't crumble when you enrobe them.

Melt some chocolate (I used about 2 ounces of white chocolate), and coat the frozen balls (haha) with the melted chocolate. Enjoy! 

4. Carrot cake pudding

Crumble a carrot cupcake, as you did for the cake truffles. Place about half of the cupcake crumbles in the bottom of a bowl or mason jar. Spoon 1/2 cup (or more, to taste) vanilla pudding on top. Layer with the remaining cake crumbles, then with more pudding. You have a pretty parfait of a pudding. Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of the finished product!

5. Make carrot cake infused vodka.

Hmm, do you want to get a sugar high or do you want to get crunk? Why decide when you can enjoy both intoxicating effects, simultaneously, in one potable form? Making carrot cake infused vodka is the ultimate way to maximize vice consumption. Simply cut up the cupcake, put it in a sealable container (mason jars work well) with enough vodka to submerge it (it won't be pretty at first), and let it sit in the fridge for 2 days. Strain out the cake, and enjoy the sugary flavor it imparts on the vodka. Enjoy alongside one of the other carrot cake creations listed in this post.

Which is your favorite idea for using up leftover carrot cake?

April 5: National Raisin and Spice Bar Day

Today is National Raisin and Spice Bar Day. While they have a different name, I'm gonna say that these interesting bars fit the bill as they do contain raisins and spices: the "1812 Cookie Bar" by Matthews 1812 House

webIMG_4458.jpg

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a mail-order cookie and cake company called Matthews 1812 House. They asked if I would like to try some of their goodies. Well, twist my arm why don't you. I requested the "1812 Cookie Bar", because it seemed like an interesting item, and one unlike anything else I had ever seen.

The description of the bars goes like so: "Tangy apricots, crunchy pecans and chocolate chips are mixed into a honey and brown sugar batter, then baked on a buttery shortbread crust. Finished with our own special browned butter icing, you'll find these bars truly amazing."

While not specifically mentioned in the description, raisins and spices are listed in the ingredients, which is why I find them appropriate for today's national food holiday.

Actually, more than appropriate. Because look at these things. They look crave-worthy, right? Especially on my new custom tray, by Bags of Love

They taste crave-worthy, too. I love a good bar cookie, and these are indeed a fine specimen. The cookie base is sturdy and flavorful, with just the right amount of salt, butter, and sweetness coming together. My darling one didn't care for the apricot, but I told him to shut up because I thought it was great, and I'm the one with a food blog, so I win, right? 

But really, for me, what brought these bars together was the browned butter frosting. I don't know if they sneak an elixir of addictiveness into it somehow, but I could eat this stuff with a spoon from a jar and be very happy. It gives the sweet frosting a depth of flavor that lasts on the tongue for several moments after you've taken a bite, in the best way possible. 

I won't lie, these bars are not cheap. A 6x9 tray (a bit smaller than a sheet of printer paper) is $32 plus shipping (I calculated to my home; the total cost would be $44 or so). But they are interesting, and very well made, and they were securely packaged and arrived fresh. So...if you feel like you want a unique, artisan treat, I would say they're worth it for a special occasion. 

Also, I thought the story of the company, which is based in Northwest Connecticut, was cute (right from their site), if not revealing about why the company has its unique name:

"Matthews 1812 House was started in 1979 in the family farmhouse by Blaine and Deanna Matthews. Named after the year the house was built, they started with two fruitcakes (and had two small children at the same time)! Soon there were baking racks in the hallways and people sorting apricots and pecans on the dining room table.

In 1991 the business moved to a dedicated facility just a mile from the farmhouse. With a carousel oven (yes, it rotates), and more room, they expanded from their line of specialty cakes into cookies, bars, and other mouth-watering baked goods."

Check out these bars and the full offerings of Matthews 1812 House here.

24 Hours In and Around the Grand Canyon and Flagstaff

Wow! It has taken me a while to get to this post, but finally I have, and I am so happy to share with you my whirlwind GRAND CANYON ADVENTURE. 

We went to the Grand Canyon for just one day, and stayed in nearby Flagstaff, AZ. While it wasn't a goal at all to hit every spot, we did hit a few good ones, so let me tell you about them. 

It started on a Friday, when I woke up and went to yoga in Santa Fe, with one of my favorite teachers. Afterward, me and my sweetie packed up our pugs and hit the road in our car. Westward on I-40! Pugs in my lap! Let's go! 

In Grants, NM, we paused and had a picnic, because I had thoughtfully packed slices of chocolate cake. Here's the recipe

After a few hours and a few small cities, we arrived in Flagstaff, Arizona. Since I'm into craft beer now, we checked out Mother Road Brewery, where I tried their Black IPA. I later used it to make a cake. Good stuff! 

Then, we went to my favorite store, possibly in the world, Black Hound Gallerie. I'll show you just one of the things I've purchased there over previous visits to illustrate the total awesomeness of this establishment:

Then, we had an awesome dinner at Criollo, a Latin american restaurant. This bread pudding was for dessert. 

The next morning, we had my favorite new coffee drink the Flat White at Firecreek Coffee. It was also here that I discovered the existence of something called barista milk, which is gently homogenized to create the most stable texture for frothing. It really is special!

We also observed that they had this, a pretzel breakfast roll among their offerings:

Then we hit up Macy's Coffee Shop, a unique shop featuring all vegetarian food. I got a towering quiche, which was seriously about a foot tall...

and we got cinnamon rolls, which were croissant-like in their flakiness.

And an almond danish. Because, don't do breakfast halfway.

Afterward, we went to...the Grand Canyon! Here I am with one of my pugs, Olive. I know, I know, you can't get over how remarkably good-looking we are. 

What everyone says about the Grand Canyon is true: you can't grasp its amazing-ness until you actually see it. I am so glad I finally got to see it!

On the way back, we passed this establishment. I wonder what they do there?

We headed on back, and snacked on some of the homemade candy corn I made (I told you I'm a bit delayed with posting this trip roundup!). When we got home, we were exhausted but happy.

When is the last time you took a road trip?