Monday, October 20, 2014

Holiday Baking Live with the Cake Boss--and a Giveaway!

Buddy Valastro, star of TLC’s hit TV series, Cake Boss, will be teaming up with his 11-year-old daughter, Sofia, and Gabrielle Parisi, lead decorator at Carlo's Bakery, to host an exciting interactive demonstration on October 22, at 8:00 pm EST. Holiday Baking Live with Cake Boss™ will be broadcast LIVE from Buddy's New Jersey baking facility. Buddy, Sofia, and Gabrielle will be demonstrating decorating tips and tricks that you can use to make your own Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas sweets extra impressive this year.

The best part? You can tune in to the broadcast and have a chance to interact with the trio! To join in the fun, log on at either or the Cake Boss Baking Facebook Page, And don't forget to RSVP...those who do will be automatically entered to win the Cake Boss Airbrush Kit (valued at $120). Go here to RSVP:

So what to do with all the fun decorating tips and useful tricks? Why not pick up your own Cake Boss pans and try them out? The trio will be demonstrating Halloween decorating featuring the new Cake Boss Ghost Cakelette Pan, which is available exclusively at Kohls. And great news! The new pan and all other Cake Boss products offered at Kohls will be offered at 30 percent savings on in October.

Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday baking tips on the interactive demo will spotlight the new Cake Boss 4-Cup/2-Tier Round Cakelette Pan, available at You can make adorable mini layer cakes with this clever pan. I received a pan as a sample and I can't wait to try it. These little cakes are adorable!

And finally...I'd like to announce a giveaway! You can win a cast-iron decorating turntable of your own! Trust me...if you decorate cakes, this is an indispensable tool! To win, go visit this post on my cooking blog, Eat Real, and leave a comment there by midnight on October 31 answering the following question: What's your favorite holiday to bake for--Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas--and why?

Good luck and don't forget to tune in tonight at 8:00 EST to see what Buddy and the girls have in store for you!

Win me!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

What's happening here? Chewy chocolate cookies loaded with chocolate chips and peanut butter chips. I could go on, but I don't see a reason.
Instead, let me offer a couple of suggestions from my personal experience with these.
  1. Don't taste the dough. It's better raw than any other cookie dough I've tasted. If you taste it and eat the entire batch worth and feel sick and have no cookies to show for your work, don't blame me. I warned you.
  2. Immediately freeze half the batch ~ or more ~ upon cooling. Or you will have no cookies left for anyone else. If this is not important to you, disregard.  

Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

  • 6 ounces butter, room temp 
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar 
  • ¾ cup brown sugar 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • 1 cup chocolate chips 
  • 1 1/2 cups peanut butter chips 
  1. Cream butter and sugars until light. Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla, scraping down bowl after each addition. 
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to butter mixture and beat until blended. Stir in chocolate and peanut butter chips. 
  3. Form dough into logs, wrap in parchment, plastic, or waxed paper, and refrigerate 1 hour or overnight. (See Tips section.)
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Slice dough into ½” rounds; arrange 2 inches apart on baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake for 9-10 mins at 350 degrees F. Do not overbake. Let sit on pan 2 mins; remove to rack to cool. 


  • If you like your cookies soft and chewy in the center, don't overbeat your butter-sugar mixture. Just cream it till it's fairly smooth and has lightened a few shades.  
  • Don't overbake your cookies. Know if your oven is baking at the correct temperature (invest in a hanging oven thermometer, guys) and time them. They'll be squishy-soft when you pull them out of the oven so don't rely on touch; they set as they cool.
  • If you like more chips, add more chips. We don't get legalistic about add-ins. 
  • Forming the dough into logs isn't imperative, but it will give you nicely shaped (flat, round ~ not domed) cookies. The dough is soft, so don't worry about rolling it neatly. Just plop it down on your plastic wrap or waxed paper sheet, roll the plastic/paper around it, and coax it into a log shape. After it chills, roll it out a little on the counter to finesse the shape. If you like, you can freeze it at this point. Then just slice and bake ~ no thawing necessary. If you don't give a fig what shape your cookies are, you JUST WANT COOKIES, use a cookie scoop or two spoons to take care of business.
  • See how I bolded the "refrigerate 1 hour" part above? That's because I mean it. Skip that step at your own risk.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Tribute to the Queen of All Daring Bakers, Lis

Oven Love

I am not a joiner.
And yet five years ago, I joined an online baking group. Not just a baking group, but one that set for itself high goals and tight deadlines (something I didn't need more of in my life). I told myself, This is a terrible idea. Still, I joined.
Predictably, I stressed out over the deadlines. I hunted down impossible-to-find ingredients, was frustrated by my ineptitude and my failures, and was consistently pushed to produce complicated items I never would have attempted on my own.
I wanted to quit--Lord only knows how many times I promised myself, After this challenge, that's IT.
But then each time, there was that moment after I hit the Publish button and the post finally went live (with a great sigh of relief and always at the last possible second), that the Daring Bakers started to appear with their comments, offering their encouragement, support, commiseration, and instruction. I still have friendships I made over failed pate a choux all those years and posts ago.
Almost without realizing it, I learned so much that I actually started to want to know more. I no longer waited for challenges to push myself. I started a little baking blog to chronicle my experiments. And then, eventually, somehow, I became a pastry chef. And here we are.
To Lis, thank you for planting that seed of daring. And to everyone else who who stayed up too damn late boiling sugar syrup and offered advice on making cannoli molds out of dowels and otherwise cultivated that seed along with me, I thank you also. 
I'm still suffering PTSD flashbacks from the December 2008 French Yule Log Challenge (shudder). Anyone else?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Indian Pudding with Cinnamon Cream

It's National Indian Pudding Day. Really, that's a thing. If you're from New England, maybe you're already celebrating. If you're from the rest of the country, you're probably wondering what? and why?

Look, don't overthink it; it's dessert. Head over here for the recipe and dig in. It's fun, festive (who doesn't like a national day dedicated to a dessert), and you just might find a new dessert to serve for Thanksgiving this year.
Bonus: From my lips to your ears . . . Indian pudding is a swell dessert, but it makes an even better breakfast. So I'm thinking you can whip up a batch of this on Thanksgiving eve and you have a ready-made breakfast to serve the fam while everyone's sitting around the TV, watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Score.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

Sure, I could sexy up the description of this cheesecake . . . but why? Here's what you need to know: Cheesecake. Chocolate. Peanut butter cups. Ganache layer.  Peanut butter buttercream. More peanut butter cups.

Don’t let the number of steps put you off. Think of it this way: there are many things in life that are essentially simple to do but would seem daunting and impossibly complicated if you were to try to follow written instructions for them. I'm sure you can think of a few examples.

Trust me, the payoff of making this showstopper is very, very satisfying. You should probably do it today. You know you want to. Or someone you love wants you to.  

Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake
Servies 12 to 16

· 1 ½ cups chocolate graham cracker or cookie crumbs
· 2 tablespoons sugar
· 2 ounces butter, melted
· ¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips
· ¼ cup heavy cream
· 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened slightly
· 1 cup granulated sugar
· ½ cup sour cream
· 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
· 3 eggs
· 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
· 12 peanut butter cups, roughly chopped
· 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
· ¼ cup heavy cream
· 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
· Peanut butter frosting, additional peanut butter cups to garnish (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8-inch springform pan.
2. In a small mixing bowl, combine chocolate graham crumbs, sugar, and butter. Mix with a fork until combined. Press onto the bottom of the pan and up the sides, trying to keep the thickness uniform. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes; remove from oven and let cool on rack. When cool, wrap the bottom of the pan tightly in aluminum foil, coming as high up the sides of the pan as possible. Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
3. In small saucepan, heat ¼ cup cream over low heat. When just steaming, pour over chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl. Let stand 2 minutes, then stir until smooth. Set aside.
4. In bowl of standing mixer with paddle attachment, combine cream cheese and granulated sugar and beat until smooth, scraping down bowl occasionally. Add sour cream and continue beating. Add cocoa powder and beat until combined. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating well after
each addition. Scrape down bowl and add reserved chocolate mixture. Beat until fully incorporated. Fold in chopped peanut butter cups.
5. Pour filling over baked crust. Place cheesecake in a baking pan large enough to accommodate the cake pan with at least an inch on all sides. Fill with at least one inch of hot water, being careful not to go over the top of the foil.
6. Carefully place cheesecake inside water bath in oven. Bake at 325 degrees F for about an hour and a half, until the center appears nearly set. Carefully remove from oven and take cheesecake out of water bath. Remove foil. Let cool on rack at room temperature for 1 hour, then refrigerate for at
least 4 hours or overnight.
7. To make ganache layer: Place 1 cup chocolate chips in a small heatproof bowl. Heat ¼ cup cream with 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract until just simmering. Pour cream over chocolate; let stand 2 minutes, then stir until smooth. Spread ganache over cooled cheesecake and return to refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
8. If desired, garnish cheesecake with rosettes of peanut butter frosting and/or chopped peanut butter cups. Keep refrigerated.

Tip: I use an 8-inch pan to achieve a tall, dense, velvety cake, but if you have only a 9-inch pan, you can use that instead. Just be sure to adjust the cooking time down, checking the cheesecake for doneness at around1 hour.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Light Wheat Irish Soda Bread

If there's one thing I've learned about Irish Soda Bread over the years, it's that everyone has an opinion about how they want it to taste. Seeds, no seeds. Raisins, no raisins. I'm easy . . . I'll eat it in any form, especially if someone bakes it for me. That said, I do have a pretty strong feeling regarding one specific issue: Irish Soda Bread is a quick bread, not a yeast bread. Why? It's called Soda Bread for a reason! It's chemically leavened ~ that is, with baking soda and baking powder. Hence, no yeast needed. The yeast can chill on the shelf until it's needed for Easter Babka (another holiday bread that seems to have as many opinions about its proper production as there are bakers who craft it).

In my experience, most of the soda breads you find in the grocery store are yeast breads. Why? Probably because they keep longer and are easier to produce in volume. An Irish Soda Bread is essentially a giant scone, and like all scones, it's at its best on the day it's made. Arguably, the hour it's made, when it's still harboring some warmth in its tender heart.

I've made mine here with a little wheat flour for the texture and the sweetness. Sometimes I throw in a handful of oats. Sometimes a half-cup of raisins, Craisins, or even chopped toasted walnuts. (Hey, I'm not Irish, I can make the leap with impunity.)

Usually I make a couple of loaves, with and without raisins, so everyone is happy. And because leftovers are awesome the next morning, lightly toasted with butter.

Go ahead and try this recipe; I think you'll like it. Make a couple of loaves, one with and one without--seeds or raisins--but please, no yeast.

Light Wheat Irish Soda Bread

•3 cups all-purpose flour
•1 cup whole wheat flour
•¼ cup light brown sugar
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
•1 teaspoon baking soda
•½ teaspoon salt
•6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
•2 large eggs, lightly beaten
•1 1/2 cups buttermilk, sour milk, or yogurt
•¾ cup raisins (optional)
•1 egg, beaten
•Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and buttermilk. Pour buttermilk mixture over flour mixture, add raisins if using, and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.
4. Dust with flour and knead three or four turns, just until dough clings together. Divide into two pieces and form each into a round loaf. Place on opposite ends of a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cut a 3-inch cross, about 1/2 –inch deep into the top of each loaf using a sharp paring knife. Brush loaves with beaten egg and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
5. Bake loaves in a 375 degree oven for 35 minutes, or until golden brown and bottoms sound hollow when lightly tapped. Let cool on a rack before serving.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Whole-Grain Caramel Apple Holiday Cake ~ And a giveaway!

There's nothing like a drippy cloud of dietary guilt to spoil a perfectly delightful parade of holiday goodies. Good news! You don't have to confine yourself to the veggie platter to enjoy healthier treats this holiday season. With high-quality ingredients and a few simple swaps, it's simple to create really delicious baked goods that you'll enjoy not only eating, but giving as hostess and teacher's gifts and serving at your holiday get-togethers.

I've come up with a recipe that adjusted one of my holiday classics to make use of two of my favorite Hodgson Mill products: Whole Wheat Pastry Flour and Whole Wheat Flour. Instead of butter in the cake, I use canola oil. The nutty wholegrain flours are perfect to host the homey spices, sweet apples, and crunchy nuts that make this cake so special. Well, that and the caramel butter frosting, which is a truly decadent finishing touch.
And more good news! Hodgson Mill has been kind enough to provide a $25 prize pack for one lucky visitor to At the Baker's Bench! For a chance to win, leave a comment below by midnight (EST) on December 15, 2012, telling me about your favorite holiday baking tradition, and include your e-mail address so I can notify you if you win. Also, visit Hodgson Mill online for a change to win a holiday gift pack. Click here for a printable Hodgson Mill coupon.

Happy baking!

Caramel Apple Holiday Cake

• 2 cups Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
• 1 cup Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 cup canola oil
• 3/4 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
• 3/4 cup granulated sugar
• 2 eggs, lightly beaten
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
• 2 medium baking apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (about 2 cups)
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 2 teaspoons cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1/2 teaspoon allspice
• 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
• 1 cup chopped, toasted walnuts or pecans (optional)

Caramel Butter Frosting 
• 1 cup packed light brown sugar
• 1 stick (4 oz) butter
• ¼ cup milk, cream, or half-and-half
• Pinch salt
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 1 to 11/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1. Spray two 9" cake pans with nonstick pan spray and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda, and baking powder; set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine oil, sugars, eggs, vanilla, apples, spices, and nuts, if using; stir to combine. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, stirring with a wooden spoon or large spatula to incorporate all dry ingredients—batter will be stiff.
4. Transfer batter to prepared pans and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center tests clean. Remove pans to rack for 10 minutes; de-pan cakes and let cool completely before frosting or freezing.
5. For Caramel Butter Frosting: Combine brown sugar, butter, salt, and milk or cream in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and let cook for 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla. Let cool 10 minutes. Using a hand mixer on medium speed, beat in confectioners’ sugar ½ cup at a time until desired consistency is reached. Frost cake layer(s) with a small offset spatula, swirling frosting in a smooth motion. If frosting hardens too quickly, place over low heat on stove (or in microwave for a few seconds) until it softens. If desired, add sprinkles or decorations immediately after spreading as this frosting will set up quickly.

 Recipe Notes: 
• You can make this cake in loaf pans, small Bundt pans, or even muffin pans. Adjust baking time down for smaller pans.
• If you want to drizzle rather than spread frosting, just prepare as directed but use less confectioners' sugar to achieve a drizzling consistency. Alternatively, thin frosting with a little bit of milk or cream, or heat and drizzle over cake while the frosting is warm.
• Unfrosted, this cake freezes beautifully. Make one layer to serve now and wrap the other tightly in two layers of plastic wrap and store in the freezer to serve later.

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