Chocolate Espresso Stout Cupcakes

Eylisan Split Shot and cupcakes

Over the past few years, beer has slowly become my go-to drink of choice. It’s something that kind of crept up quietly on me. I’ve always loved beer, but when given the choice I would usually go for wine or something stronger like a Manhattan. These days though, beer always wins. There’s a very good reason for this gradual change in my beverage habits. Over the past decade or so, beer has experienced a sort of renaissance. People all over the States are going out of their way to create good quality, unique craft beers and this is a trend I am most definitely enjoying.

What draws me most to beer is that there are so many options. You have your super hoppy IPAs, your crisp Pale Ales, your chocolaty dark Stouts, your tart but oh so refreshing Sour Beers…..the list goes on and on. And this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. Within each style of beer there are countless variations and ways to change up the flavor profile. Seriously, it’s enough to make your head hurt thinking about all the possibilities. This is a good thing though, because it means there are always new beers to try. And trying new beers is one of my favorite things ever.

A couple months ago, I ran across a bomber of Elysian’s Split Shot and was intrigued by the addition of espresso to a Milk Stout. Naturally, I bought a bottle to take home and try. This style of beer tends to be a little sweeter, so I decided it would be my dessert for that night. This turned out to be a very wise decision. The minute I took a sip of the creamy, chocolate espresso laced beer, I knew it was begging for me to make it into a cake. It had all the perfect components…..a subtle sweet malt flavor with a slight bitterness from the espresso and undertones of smooth, velvety milk chocolate. It would have been wrong not to bake with this beer.

Chocolate and stouts pair beautifully together, so I made a classic Chocolate Stout Cupcake. The cupcakes came out a gorgeously dark color from the combination of the dark cocoa powder and the stout and the addition of sour cream made for a nice, light, moist cake. When I finished making the cupcakes, I realized I still had four ounces of beer left in the bottle. Now, I’m not one to waste beer, so I decided to boil it down and throw it in the frosting I was making. I didn’t have high hopes for this frosting, but now I’m a little obsessed with it. The results were out of this world. It’s a delicate whipped chocolate ganache with a hint of espresso and just enough stout to pull everything together. When I piled the fluffy, mocha frosting on the cupcakes it was magical. It upped the beer quotient of the cupcakes (which is never a bad thing) and really brought out the espresso flavors of the stout.

With all the beer in this recipe (a full 12 ounce bottle), it’s the perfect dessert to make for St. Paddy’s Day! I mean who wouldn’t love a dessert that combines chocolate and beer?? And if you’ve never had a Milk Stout before, it’s a good excuse to head out and buy a new beer to try. When you think about it, there’s really no reason not to make these cupcakes!

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Peanut Butter Pretzel Blondies

Peanut Butter Pretzel Blondies

The anticipation has been steadily building over the past two weeks and this weekend it’s finally here……the Mother of all Sundays, especially if you’re a fan of football or commercials. That’s right folks, you know what I’m talking about – it’s Super Bowl Sunday! Part of me feels like I should be unbiased when writing a post about the Super Bowl. That I should go the politician route and say something like, “Well, it will be a great match-up. Both of these teams had a good season and I’m excited to see the Broncos top ranked offense go up against the Seahawks top ranked defense.” But, here’s the thing, I can’t say that and it’s not because I have anything against the Seahawks – it’s because I am a huge Broncos fan. I’m talking crazy, semi-obnoxious, “sorry I can’t hang out with you on Sunday – the Broncos are playing,” wish I could rename my dog Peyton Knowshon Von Miller…….fan.

The Broncos are a big deal in our house. J (my fiancé) and I are die-hard fans. Every Sunday we put on all our Broncos gear, open up some fine Colorado craft beer, turn on the game, and yell at the TV (either in glee or utter frustration depending on how they’re playing). And we always watch the game alone at home…..mostly because we don’t want to subject our friends and loved ones to the insane human beings we become during game time. Trust me, it only takes one “Shhhhhhhhh….I can’t hear Peyton yell Omaha” to ruin a friendship.

Now even if you aren’t a Broncos fan, you can’t not be a Peyton Manning fan. I mean it’s the comeback story of the decade and it’s happening to one of the most humble and likable players in the league. And let’s be real here, hating Peyton Manning is like hating puppies. Or, to be more specific, hating a puppy that also happens to be a stellar quarterback and takes your team to the Super Bowl. If you’re still not convinced that Peyton Manning is the greatest person ever, then maybe this SNL skit with him will convince you: Peyton Manning United Way Skit

Blondies without salt

Okay, now that we’re all on the same Peyton Manning loving page, let’s move on to why you’re really here…..food. It’s a time honored tradition for football fans to gather around the TV and stuff their faces with unabashedly greasy, delicious food and to wash that food down with a crisp, cold beer. It’s a good time. When it comes to Super Bowl food, I have two rules – it has to be easy to prepare before the game starts and it has to be easy to eat in front of the TV (preferably without the use of utensils). To me, perfect Super Bowl foods are things you can snack on like guacamole and chips, spinach and artichoke dip, spicy hot wings, or hummus and veggies if you want a healthier option.

As far as Super Bowl desserts go, the same rules apply. You want something that isn’t too messy and is easy to eat with your hands. This year I wanted to make a dessert that incorporated some traditional Super Bowl foods and had a salty-sweet quality. I also wanted something peanut butter…..no idea why. And that’s when I realized peanut butter pairs perfectly with two typical footballs snacks, pretzels and salted peanuts! So I decided to make a Peanut Butter Blondie, add in some salted pretzels and peanuts, and then top it with a decadent chocolate ganache. It’s the ultimate Super Bowl dessert. It has everything you could want – the salty-sweet peanut butter, the rich chocolate ganache, the crunchy pretzels, and you can totally eat it while watching the game. As an added bonus, it looks a bit fancy, but is actually super quick and easy to make well before the game starts (but you don’t have to tell your guests that!). I hope everyone has an awesome Super Bowl Sunday……and Go Broncos!!

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Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl Treats

Cereal Bar Treats

When I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to eat sugary cereals on school days. I could eat them all I wanted during the summer and weekends, but weekdays….not so much. This kind of bummed me out, because I loved Lucky Charms and Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Corn Pops and pretty much any other cereal that wasn’t the most nutritionally sound choice. Now before you start feeling bad for me – you should probably know that my Dad woke up early every school day to make my brother and me an insanely good homemade breakfast. We’re talking Belgian waffles, pancakes, crepes, that thing where cut a hole in toast and cook an egg in it……breakfasts totally unworthy of elementary school kids and probably the reason why I’m still so obsessed with good breakfast as an adult. So I really have no reason to complain. But man, do I love sugary cereal.

So when I could eat my beloved Lucky Charms and other “not so healthy” cereals, I would go a little crazy. There was a whole art to making my bowl of cereal. First of all, I would pour as much cereal as possible into one bowl and I would never, and I mean never, eat just one kind of cereal at a time. At minimum, I would combine at least three different kinds in one bowl (I had to make up for school days when it was forbidden). The last step to my perfect, crazy huge bowl of cereal was a small splash of milk. And then I would plop myself on a comfy chair and watch some fantastically cheesy Saturday morning TV. My middle school Saturdays were spent watching 90210 reruns and eating multiple bowls of cereal……it was amazing.

I’ve been feeling kind of nostalgic lately and wanted to recreate my favorite old school Saturday morning treat in the form of a dessert. Luckily, this turned out to be pretty easy to accomplish. Basically, I made the most delicious, marshmallowy, cereal-packed Rice Krispy Treat ever (minus any actual Rice Krispys) and threw in some brown butter to class them up a bit….cause you know, I’m an adult now. Way too easy and way too good. I ate four squares the first day I made them. The best part about these cereal bars is that you can make them with whatever combination of cereals you like. You could even be a bit boring and make them with just one kind of cereal, but seriously….where’s the fun in that?

The combination I’m liking most right now is the perfect balance of Lucky Charms, Corn Pops, Cocoa Puffs, and Cocoa Pebbles. It’s like everything I dreamed of as a kid in one deliciously soft, crunchy bite. Oh and as a total side note, if you ever see Chocolate Lucky Charms – you have to buy them. It’s as if they took the one bad part of Lucky Charms (i.e. the cereal part) and made it into irresistible chocolaty goodness. I’m not allowed to buy them anymore, because I might have eaten an entire box in one sitting and then went into a shame spiral when I realized there are supposedly 16 servings in a box. But that’s just me…..you might be able to control yourself around cereal. These Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl Treats, however, are another story. I have yet to meet a person who can control themselves around them. Maybe it’s because it transports them to the days of carefree Saturdays, when everything was good and the Soapnet channel still existed and 90210 reruns aired all the time…….oooh the good old days.

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The Earnest Baker Holiday Menu

Holiday Gift Box

Homemade Pop Tarts – $2 per Pop Tart, minimum order of 4
The breakfast treat you loved as a kid, but with a grown-up twist. Flavors like Brown Sugar, Strawberry, and Nutella are enclosed in a light, flaky pastry. Simply place them in your toaster for a warm, delicious treat anytime of the day. New holiday flavors include Plum and Maple Pecan.

Walnut-Pecan Thumbprints (Vegan) – $.75 per cookie, minimum order 12
The healthiest cookie you’ll ever eat. A hearty, but tender walnut-pecan thumbprint with fruit preserves in the middle. And by request, now made with certified non-GMO canola oil!

Mini-Almond Cakes (Gluten-Free) – $1 per cake, minimum order 12
Moist bite-sized almond cakes made with browned butter and, for the holidays, topped with cranberries.

Mexican Wedding Cookies – $.75 per cookie, minimum order 12
My absolute favorite holiday cookie….buttery, melt-in-your mouth pecan cookies dusted with confectioner’s sugar.

Salted Caramel Brownies – $2.50 per brownie, minimum order of 4
The ultimate salty/sweet treat – a thick layer of salted caramel sandwiched between a fudgy dark chocolate brownie.

Mint Chocolate Brownies – $2.50 per brownie, minimum order of 4
The perfect holiday brownie, a supremely chocolaty fudge brownie with a layer of chocolate mint candies in the middle.

* 24 hour notice required for all orders. Please contact me at Kristine@TheEarnestBaker.com to place orders. Thanks!

Best Ever Butterscotch Cookies for My Pops

front pic

Today is kind of a big day.  Today is what I like to (jokingly) call my Dad’s “Old Man Birthday.”  That’s right….today my Dad is turning 70 and Fiancé and I are in town to help him celebrate.  And yes, Boyfriend is now Fiancé and since I feel so weird and even a little pretentious typing out the word fiancé all the time – he will now be referred to as “Dude” (per his request).  So as I was saying, Dude and I made a special effort to make sure we were able to spend my Dad’s birthday with him.  For me, it was especially important to be there.  I mean this is the man who taught me how to bake and has in so many ways shaped the person I am today.  While most girls like to say, “I’m turning into my Mother” – the phrase you’re more likely to hear out of my mouth is, “Holy crap, I’ve turned into my Dad.”  I usually say this about once every couple of months to Dude, who whole heartedly agrees with my statement.

For the past month, I’ve been trying to come up with a cool and unique gift for my Dad’s birthday.  I was having trouble thinking of something and whenever I asked him what he wanted, his inevitable response was “a big bottle of Scotch.”  Magnums of Scotch are awesome and all, but it wasn’t quite what I had in mind.  Luckily, a couple weeks ago the idea for the perfect gift came to me.  My Dad and I are known to discuss recipes at length and he mentioned a recipe he was trying for Butterscotch Cookies.  He then went on to tell me about these amazing cookies he would get as a kid from a local bakery and how he was hoping this recipe would be similar to them.  Turns out, the recipe was terrible and not even close to what he wanted.  And that’s when I realized what I would give my Dad for his birthday……I would put my baking skills to use and recreate his favorite childhood cookie and give him the recipe he’s been looking for all these years.

Okay, so my super awesome, best daughter ever gift was settled upon.  But then came the hard part……recreating and developing a recipe for a cookie I’d never tasted and never even seen.  And since I wanted to keep this gift a surprise, I had to be careful when asking my Dad for a description of the cookies.  Basically, this is what I had to work off of – it’s a butterscotch cookie that doesn’t contain any butterscotch chips, it’s soft, it has nuts in it, and the tops have some cracks on them.  Sooooo totally easy to figure out, right????

My first course of action was to go through my vintage cookbooks.  I figured since it was a cookie my Dad had back in the 1950’s that this would give me a good starting off point.  Wrong.  While those recipes gave me a decent base, the cookies were mostly bland and flat and, honestly, not very good.  I had to rethink my approach.  Based on my Dad’s description, the cookies almost sounded like a butterscotch flavored Snickerdoodle.  So I started looking online for a butterscotch cookie that had a bit of a twist to it and more closely resembled a Snickerdoodle recipe.  That’s when I came upon this recipe.  I decided to give it a shot and the flavor was perfect, but the texture was completely off.  The cookies were more crisp than soft and chewy.  So I reworked the recipe and tested what feels like a gazillion variations.  But finally I got it right and the resulting cookie was everything my Dad described.  It has a deliciously intense butterscotch flavor enhanced by brown butter and toasted pecans and is insanely addictive.

So Dad, on your “Old Man Birthday” I just want to say thank you……for being an amazing father, for teaching and instilling in me a love for baking, for always coming through when I need you most, for loving me even when I tell you things like Rocky is going to be a doggy supermodel and I’m going to retire and be a dog stage-mom, for making me your legendary Sticky Buns when I’m being a brat and not so subtly hinting that I want them, for not hanging up on me when I call just because I’m bored and have nothing to say, and, most importantly, for helping me become the person I am today.  I love you Dad and I hope you enjoy your gift…..and oh yeah, Happy Birthday!!

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Worst Blogger Ever (and the Best Mango Lime Pie and Key Lime Pie Ever)

Key Lime Pie

Sooooo…………how’s it going?  I guess it’s been a little while since my last post.  I’ve been meaning to write, but as you can see that hasn’t panned out too well.  I’m starting to feel like the parent who promises to take their kid fishing at the cabin and then bails at the last minute and leaves the kid sad and disappointed on the front stoop decked out in all their fishing gear (and yes, that’s an Arrested Development reference).  As it turns out though, I have a legitimate excuse for being such a neglectful blogger the past couple months.  Business has been steadily growing over the summer (which is beyond awesome) and I’m currently looking into expanding The Earnest Baker.  Hopefully I’ll have some exciting news to share within the next couple months, so stay tuned for that!

As most of you know, I started selling my products at the Farmer’s Market a couple months ago.  Business has been great and it’s been such a wonderful experience getting to share my baked goods, meeting the other vendors, and just being a part of the Market community.  What I’ve enjoyed most about the market is talking to and getting to know all my regular customers.  I can’t even begin to describe how stoked I am to have people who stop by each week to pick up their favorite baked goods.  I’ve always loved having that neighborhood bakery feeling where the regulars come in and you greet them by name and know their usual order.  That’s the feeling I strive to recreate with The Earnest Baker.  You know, kind of like Cheers, but with homemade Pop Tarts instead of beer.

The other reason I’ve been so busy is because I did all the desserts for my friend’s wedding back in July.  It was a gorgeous, casual, outdoor wedding by a lake in West Yellowstone and for the desserts we did 250 cupcakes and a small two-tiered wedding cake.  That was a fun, albeit a wee bit crazy (or maybe a lot if you ask my boyfriend) of an adventure for me.  It was just me, my one oven, my one mixer and two hundred plus cupcakes to bake and pipe.  This was followed by a nerve-wracking 90 mile drive through the mountains with the crumb coated wedding cake layers and a ton of cupcakes.  Luckily, all turned out well and, most importantly, the bride was happy.

Work has slowed down a little now, which is nice because it allows me the time to write and finally share some recipes with you guys again!  Since I’ve been such a bad blogger this summer, I decided to make it up to you by sharing not one, but two pie recipes.  This past week I’ve been on a serious pie kick.  It all started when I came across a bag of Key Limes at the grocery store.  For some reason, I had to have those limes and, for some reason, I had to make a pie (I guess my Miami roots kicked in at the sight of Key Limes).  My Dad makes the best Key Lime Pie, so I immediately called him and had him send me his recipe.

Once I had my Dad’s recipe for the filling, I just needed to figure out a recipe for the crust.  I love Graham Cracker Crusts and, in my opinion, the more crust the better.  I also like the crust to have a decent amount of crunch and texture to give the pie some more depth.  So I decided to make a Toasted Pecan Graham Cracker Crust and reserve some extra crust to bake and use as a topping for the pie.  The resulting Key Lime Pie was delicious, especially when paired with unsweetened whipped cream.

I really didn’t think I could make the pie any better…….but then yesterday, as I was eating a mango (which I’m obsessed with by the way) and editing pie pictures for this post, I had a sudden burst of inspiration.  I needed to somehow combine my super awesome Key Lime Pie with my slightly out of control mango obsession.  I knew what I needed to do……..I had to create a Mango Lime Pie.  Turns out it was pretty simple to do – I just upped the lime juice, omitted the lemon juice, and replaced it with fresh mango puree.  My Mango Lime Pie came out perfect on the first try and, if I say so myself, is even more awesome than the original pie.

I hope you’ll give both of these pies a try.  They’re both crazy delicious, super quick to make, and the perfect treat to help take advantage of these last few weeks of summer.  And more importantly, I hope they’ll make up for the fact that I’ve been the worst blogger ever lately!

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Tuesday’s Market Menu – July 16, 2013

Almond Cakes

Mini-Almond Cakes (gluten-free):  Moist bite-sized almond cakes made with browned butter and topped with seasonal fresh fruit.

Homemade Pop Tarts:  The breakfast treat you loved as a kid, but with a grown-up twist.  Flavors like Brown Sugar, Strawberry, and Nutella are enclosed in a light, flaky pastry.  Simply place them in your toaster for a warm, delicious treat anytime of the day!

Salted Caramel Brownies:  The ultimate salty/sweet treat – a thick layer of salted caramel sandwiched between a fudgey dark chocolate brownie.

Huckleberry-Blueberry Streusel Bars:  A buttery shortbread crust is layered with a mix of huckleberries and blueberries and a crumbly streusel topping.

Chocolate Truffle Cookies (gluten-free and dairy-free):  A deep, dark, fudgey chocolate cookie studded with walnuts.

Walnut-Pecan Thumbprints (Vegan):  The healthiest cookie you’ll ever eat.  A hearty, but tender walnut-pecan thumbprint with fruit preserves in the middle.  The perfect fuel for your backcountry adventures this summer!

Tuesday’s Market Menu – June 25, 2013

Nutella Pop Tarts

Homemade Pop Tarts:  The breakfast treat you loved as a kid, but with a grown-up twist.  Flavors like Brown Sugar, Strawberry, and Nutella are enclosed in a light, flaky pastry.  Simply place them in your toaster for a warm, delicious treat anytime of the day!

Salted Caramel Brownies:  The ultimate salty/sweet treat – a thick layer of salted caramel sandwiched between a fudgey dark chocolate brownie.

Chocolate Malted Brownies:  The nostalgic flavor of a Chocolate Malt Shake comes to life in the form of a brownie.

Huckleberry-Blueberry Streusel Bars:  A buttery shortbread crust is layered with a mix of Huckleberries and Blueberries and a crumbly streusel topping.

Chocolate Truffle Cookies (GF):  A deep, dark, fudgey chocolate cookie studded with walnuts.

Walnut-Pecan Thumbprints (Vegan):  The healthiest cookie you’ll ever eat.  A hearty, but tender walnut-pecan thumbprint with fruit preserves in the middle.  The perfect fuel for your backcountry adventures this summer!

Nutella Stuffed Cookies:  A classic Chocolate Chip Cookie made with browned butter and sea salt envelopes a hidden surprise in the middle – Nutella!

Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches

Dark Chocolate and Pecans

Today marks the first official day of Summer (best day ever), which means the hot sunny days of ice cream and BBQs are finally here.  Last week I was in Miami and had my first ice cream craving of the summer.  So I stopped by Whip N Dip (a staple for all born and raised Miami folks) and decided to buy an ice cream sandwich that was, no joke, the size of my face.  It was incredible.  I’m not sure if it’s because it was crazy hot outside or because it was the largest ice cream sandwich on the face of the earth, but I started wondering why I don’t make these more often.  When I was in college I used to make ice cream sandwiches all the time for my roommates and myself……….that could explain why we all weighed a good 5 to 10 pounds more back then.  To me, ice cream sandwiches are synonymous with Summer.  When I was a little kid, I used to love getting a Chipwich from the ice cream truck.  There was just something about those soft chocolate chip cookies and cold vanilla ice cream rolled in mini-chocolate chips that spoke to me.  It was and still is the perfect dessert for a long hot summer day.

This week I wanted to create a Chipwich for the grown-up crowd.  Something reminiscent of the ice cream truck treat we all loved as kids, but with a little bit of a twist.  It wouldn’t be an ice cream sandwich without a deliciously soft chocolate chip cookie, so I decided to make a Browned Butter and Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookie.  Once I settled on that, I needed the perfect ice cream – cause let’s face it the key word (or words….) in ice cream sandwich is “ice cream.”  I wanted the best ice cream I could get and immediately knew where to go……..Big Dipper Ice Cream, which is now being sold at Roost Fried Chicken.

First of all, let’s talk about Roost itself.  We all know how much I love my Southern food and I’ve been having a hard time getting my fix in Bozeman.  Luckily, Roost Fried Chicken came to my rescue and is serving up what I love best – fried chicken, biscuits, fried okra, and (my all-time favorite food ever) cheese grits.  Seriously, so good.  The biscuits are light and fluffy and pair perfectly with the crispy fried chicken.  And you can never go wrong with fried okra and cheese grits, so you kind of have to get those as well…….it’d be wrong not to.  Okay, now let’s talk about Big Dipper Ice Cream (the reason we’re here today).  Big Dipper is the kind of ice cream people dream about.  It’s cold, creamy deliciousness and, best of all, comes in unique and creative flavors like Salted Caramel, Maple Walnut, and Cardamom.  It was exactly what I needed to complete my ideal homemade Chipwich.

I decided to get the Espresso Heath, Butter Pecan, and Salted Caramel ice creams to pair with my cookie.  The next step was determining what toppings to roll on the outside.  Half of the fun of making ice cream sandwiches at home is tailoring them exactly how you like.  I wanted a combination of fun toppings like sprinkles and ones that were a little more sophisticated like crushed dark chocolate covered espresso beans.  I paired the Salted Caramel Ice Cream with chopped dark chocolate and toasted pecans and paired the Espresso Heath Ice Cream with the crushed chocolate covered espresso beans.  But these are just a jumping off point and you can get as crazy (or not crazy) as you like.  The whole point is to be creative and come up with your absolute perfect ice cream treat.  You could pair Mint Ice Cream with chopped up Andes or Chocolate Ice Cream with pistachios and dried tart cherries.  You could even get really wild and do two different cookies…….the possibilities are endless.

I really hope you have fun with this recipe.  It’s a great one to do with kids or as a cool dessert for a BBQ.  Just make up the cookies ahead of time and have an assortment of toppings and ice creams for everyone to play with.  I mean who wouldn’t love something like that?  So get those creative juices flowing and let me know what fun combinations you come up with!

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Tuesday’s Market Menu – June 18, 2013

Chocolate Truffle Cookies

Chocolate Truffle Cookies (GF):  A deep, dark, fudgey chocolate cookie studded with walnuts.

Salted Caramel Brownies:  The ultimate salty/sweet treat – a thick layer of salted caramel sandwiched between a fudgey dark chocolate brownie.

Chocolate Malted Brownies:  The nostalgic flavor of a Chocolate Malt Shake comes to life in the form of a brownie.

Homemade Pop Tarts:  The breakfast treat you loved as a kid, but with a grown-up twist.  Flavors like Brown Sugar, Strawberry, and Nutella are enclosed in a light, flaky pastry.  Simply place them in your toaster for a warm, delicious treat anytime of the day!

Huckleberry-Blueberry Streusel Bars:  A buttery shortbread crust is layered with a mix of Huckleberries and Blueberries and crumbly streusel topping.

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