Neapolitan Shortbread

Neapolitan ShortbreadI have never had many feelings about Neapolitan ice cream—that classic all-in-one combination of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry—except that I’d probably prefer a scoop of vanilla with sprinkles instead.Neapolitan ShortbreadNeapolitan Shortbread, though, are a different story. I saw a few recipes for them while scrolling through Pinterest a few weeks ago and thought they were super cute with their different colored stripes. I just had to make them, if only to make the world’s most adorable ice cream sandwiches. Neapolitan ShortbreadI clicked on a link and saw, to my utter (and definitely over-the-top) horror, that the layers were all made with one dough, the chocolate portion being mixed with melted chocolate and the pink part being just vanilla with food coloring! I clicked through more links and found a lot more of the same. Some had mixed their pink portion with strawberry jam, but that was even more problematic—it meant that all three portions would have different textures and bake differently. Neapolitan ShortbreadAnd so, I set out to fix this problem. Yes, I know that this “problem” is one I created with my own pickiness, but I don’t care because I believe in cookies that bake evenly and deliver flavors as advertised, damn it! I will not apologize for being a cookie snob. #justiceforstrawberry

Okay, rant over. (Sorry.) Neapolitan ShortbreadI set to work, and it took me five test-batches, but y’all, these Neapolitan Shortbread are fantastic. They’ve got bold colors and big flavors and they bake evenly and they are shockingly easy to make.Neapolitan ShortbreadNeapolitan ShortbreadEach layer is made from its own quick, simple dough, all three of which can be made in the same bowl in under twenty minutes. Here’s the rundown:

  • the chocolate dough is made with cocoa powder and a hint of espresso.
  • the vanilla dough is made with vanilla (duh) and a touch of almond extract.
  • the strawberry is made with pulverized freeze-dried strawberries (a la these) and a few drops of food coloring to keep the pink portion vibrant while baking.

Neapolitan ShortbreadNeapolitan ShortbreadNeapolitan ShortbreadNeapolitan ShortbreadAll the doughs are all pressed together in a wax paper-lined loaf pan and chilled until hard. Then the edges are trimmed off, the dough is cut into two long pieces, and each one is sliced into cookies. I ❤ ❤ ❤ a slice & bake recipe! Neapolitan ShortbreadNeapolitan Shortbread bake at a low temperature for 17-18 minutes. The cookies will be a little soft coming out of the oven, but should set up quickly. They’ll be crisp at the edges, slightly chewy in the centers, and oh, so buttery. Neapolitan ShortbreadThese cookies are as delicious as they are beautiful, with plenty of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry flavors in every bite! And that’s to say nothing of the bright, bold colors—I just love that berry pink!Neapolitan ShortbreadNeapolitan ShortbreadNeapolitan ShortbreadOh, and I was right. They do make adorable ice cream sandwiches 🙂 Neapolitan Shortbread

Neapolitan Shortbread
makes about 6.5 dozen cookies

Chocolate Dough:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder (natural or dutch process)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon espresso granules (optional)
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Vanilla Dough:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract (optional)
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Strawberry Dough:
1 cup freeze dried strawberries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3-5 drops liquid red food coloring (or 1 drop red gel food coloring), optional
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Line a 9×5-inch loaf pan with wax paper, leaving a couple of inches of overhang on the sides. Set aside.

Make the chocolate dough. In a medium mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in vanilla. Add cocoa powder, flour, espresso granules and salt, and mix until a dough forms. Dough will look crumbly, but should pinch together very easily. Press chocolate dough into a mostly-even layer in the bottom of the prepared pan. Refrigerate while you make the vanilla dough. Wipe down beaters and bowl.

In a medium mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in vanilla and optional almond extract, followed by flour and salt. Press vanilla dough into a mostly-even layer over the top of the chocolate dough. Refrigerate while you make the strawberry dough. Wipe down beaters and bowl.

Combine freeze dried strawberries and sugar in a food processor* and blitz until they are a powder. Transfer to mixing bowl. Add butter and use an electric mixer to beat it together until fluffy. Mix in vanilla and red food coloring, followed by flour and salt. Dough may be crumbly, but should hold together very well when pinched. Press strawberry dough into a mostly-even layer on top of the vanilla dough. Fold wax paper overhang over the top of the dough. Refrigerate for 3 hours or up to 3 days.

Place oven racks in top and bottom positions. Preheat oven to 300F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Remove dough from refrigerator. Unfold wax paper overhang and use it to lift dough brick onto a cutting board. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to trim the edges (which can be cut into rectangles and baked into cookies). Slice rectangle down the middle lengthwise so that you have two long, skinny rectangles of dough. Refrigerate one rectangle.

Slice rectangle into 1/4-inch slices, placing them at least 1 1/2-inches apart on prepared pans. If dough gets too warm, refrigerate full pans for 5 minutes before baking.

Bake cookies for 9 minutes. Rotate pans top-to-bottom and front-to-back. Bake an additional 8-9 minutes, until no longer wet looking. Shortbread should not turn golden. Let cool on the pans for 7 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat slicing and baking processes with remaining dough, letting pans return to room temperature between batches.

Neapolitan Shortbread will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for at least a week. They will soften slightly over time.Neapolitan ShortbreadNeapolitan ShortbreadNeapolitan Shortbread

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Cheesecake Blondies

Cheesecake BlondiesI have been debating for three days whether or not I should post these Cheesecake Blondies or use Independence Day as a “free pass” to take a rare blog day off.Cheesecake BlondiesCheesecake Blondies won out though, because they are the perfect treat to sink your teeth into while you watch the fireworks. Creamy cheesecake and chewy brown butter blondie in near-equal layers? Sign. me. up.Cheesecake BlondiesAnother great thing about these blondies? They are super easy to make and bake up in just 25 minutes!Cheesecake BlondiesThe most difficult part of making Cheesecake Blondies is waiting for them to chill. Those three hours can seem eternal, but they are completely necessary—nobody likes warm cheesecake.Cheesecake BlondiesOnce the chill time is up, slice up the blondies and revel in their cuteness. Chocolate chips have a way of making things more adorable, don’t they?Cheesecake BlondiesMake a batch of Cheesecake Blondies for your holiday cookout or pack a box into a cooler and take them on the go! You and your friends and family will love the combination of tangy cheesecake and sweet, brown buttery blondie ❤ Cheesecake BlondiesHappy Fourth of July!Cheesecake Blondies

Cheesecake Blondies
makes one 8- or 9-inch square pan, about 9-16 blondies

Blondie Batter:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips + more for scattering

Cheesecake:
8 ounces (1 brick) full-fat brick-style cream cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish with foil and grease lightly. Set aside.

Brown the butter. Place butter in a light-colored saucepan over medium heat. Let butter melt. Butter will bubble and crackle as the water content evaporates. Swirl the pan frequently for 5-7 minutes, keeping an eye on the color. When the solids are turning brown and the butter is nutty and fragrant, remove the pot from the heat and immediately pour the brown butter into a large mixing bowl.

Add brown sugar to the brown butter and stir to combine. Whisk in egg and vanilla. Use a silicone spatula to stir in flour and salt, scraping down the bowl as needed. Fold in chocolate chips. Spread batter into prepared pan. Set aside.

Make cheesecake. In a medium mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese until fluffy. Mix in sugar, followed by egg and vanilla. Pour on top of blondie batter and smooth to the edges of the pan. Scatter additional chocolate chips over the top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, tenting with foil at the 15 minute mark or if anything begins browning too quickly. Blondies are ready when the cheesecake just barely jiggles when the pan is jostled. Let cool in the pan on a rack until they reach room temperature. Refrigerate for 3 hours or until completely cold.

Use foil overhang to lift blondies out of the pan. Carefully peel off foil. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice bars, wiping the blade clean between cuts. Serve.

Leftover Cheesecake Blondies will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. For best storage, separate layers with wax paper.Cheesecake Blondies

Triple Chocolate Cake

Triple Chocolate CakeThis cake deserves a better name.Triple Chocolate Cake
It’s thin layers of my favorite chocolate cake filled with chocolate pudding and frosted with the best buttercream ever to come out of my kitchen. It should have a more creative name than Triple Chocolate Cake.Triple Chocolate CakeTriple Chocolate CakeTriple Chocolate CakeTriple Chocolate Cake
Other name options included, but were not limited to:

• Fancier Chocolate Cake
• Gertrude’s Chocolate Cake*
• Eleven Layer Chocolate Cake**
• The Chocolate Cake of My Dreams (This Week, Specifically)
• Unnameable Chocolate Cake

*Gertrude is a chihuahua whom I have never met. She cannot actually eat chocolate, nor has she ever baked a thing (as far as I know). Things got weird, okay?
**Six thin layers of cake (three layers, split in half), five layers of pudding.Triple Chocolate Cake
When all was said and done and over-analyzed, I went with the least ridiculous, most accessible, accurate name. Triple Chocolate Cake it is—the most decadent, chocolaty cake ever to appear on this blog.Triple Chocolate Cake
Out of the three sources of chocolate in this cake, I’ve already discussed two of them at length. You’ve heard me wax on and on about my stellar chocolate cake and I recently wrote all about my seriously phenomenal chocolate pudding. I could have frosted this cake with a thick layer of chocolate buttercream, but instead I turned the volume up to 11…Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
…Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream, y’all! The lightest, fluffiest, silkiest chocolate frosting I’ve ever made ❤

Every buttercream that has appeared previously on this site has been some variation on an American Buttercream: a frosting consisting of softened butter, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla. I usually jazz mine up with heavy cream, and while they are all fluffy and luxurious, none are quite as divine as this one, which is airy from whipped egg whites and rich from butter and melted chocolate.Chocolate Swiss Meringue ButtercreamChocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Let me give you a quick overview. It all starts with melting sugar into egg whites…Chocolate Swiss Meringue ButtercreamChocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
…and then beating it all into a glossy meringue. Next come two sticks of softened butter…Chocolate Swiss Meringue ButtercreamChocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
…and then ten ounces of melted bittersweet chocolate. Oh my word.Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Unlike American buttercreams, this one requires a couple of bowls and a little patience, but it is worth every last ounce of effort. I swear, I would eat Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream on a piece of cardboard if it were offered to me…Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
…but I would much prefer to eat it on chocolate cake. This one specifically.Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Triple Chocolate Cake
makes 1 9-inch round cake

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup + 2 Tbsp natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (low fat is fine)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups strong, hot coffee

For Assembly:
1 recipe Chocolate Pudding (about 2 cups)
1 recipe Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream (below)
mini chocolate chips, for garnish (optional)
chocolate sprinkles, for garnish (optional)

Cake layers and Chocolate Pudding may be made up to 2 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease 3 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

Make the cake batter. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, granulated sugar, dark brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together oil and eggs, followed by vanilla, buttermilk, and coffee. Whisk in dry ingredients in three installments, just until combined. Divide batter evenly among the pans. Tap full pans on the counter five times to release any air bubbles. Bake 25-27 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cakes cool in pans for 10 minutes before running a small, thin knife around the edges. Invert cakes onto cooling racks and allow to cool to room temperature. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 2 days. Layers are easiest to work with when they are cold.

Assemble the cake. Use a serrated knife to slice cake layers equatorially so that you are left with 6 very thin layers. Place one layer, cut-side-up on a serving plate or cake stand. Use an offset spatula to spread ~1/3 cup of chocolate pudding over the top. Place another thin layer on top and spread with more pudding. Repeat this process until you have 6 thin layers of cake and 5 of pudding. Tent the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

Remove cake from the refrigerator and uncover. Use an offset icing knife to frost the outside of the cake with buttercream. Pipe as desired. Decorate with mini chocolate chips and/or chocolate sprinkles, if desired. Chill cake for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Leftover cake will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
makes enough to fill, frost & decorate a 9-inch layer cake

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate
4 large egg whites*
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar**

Egg whites will not whip properly if they are not treated well. Before beginning, please ensure that all equipment used in this recipe is very clean and dry. I like to wipe down the bowl(s), whisk, and mixer attachments with vinegar before starting the recipe. There is no way to salvage this recipe if the egg whites are contaminated with oil, yolk, or even water.

Cut butter into 16 one-tablespoon pieces. Set aside.

Chop chocolate. Place chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 15-second increments, stirring in between, until smooth. Set aside.

Fill a small pot with 1-2 inches of water. Set a very clean, dry heatproof bowl over the top, ensuring that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Remove bowl and bring water to a simmer.

Combine egg whites, sugar, salt, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl. Place bowl over simmering water and whisk frequently until sugar dissolves. Test for readiness by rubbing a drop of the mixture between your clean, dry fingertips to feel for granules. Remove bowl from heat and wipe off the bottom to remove any condensation.

Use a very clean, dry electric mixer with a whisk attachment to beat egg white mixture until room temperature and doubled in size, about 7-10 minutes. At this point, the mixture (a meringue) should hold stiff peaks and be glossy.

Add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing to combine. Buttercream will probably curdle before re-forming; this is normal. Continue to whip until it thickens and becomes airy and frosting-like. If the buttercream is taking a long time to thicken, it may be too warm. Simply pop the bowl in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before whipping again.

Pour in chocolate and whip until combined. Fill and frost cake layers as desired.

Leftover frosting will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Let come to room temperature and whip until fluffy before using.

Notes:

1. I use the ones leftover from making pudding.
2. Cream of tartar is required for this recipe. There is no substitute for this ingredient.

Triple Chocolate CakeChocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Scones

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip SconesI put a poll on my Facebook page late yesterday afternoon because I couldn’t decide which of two brown butter chocolate chip recipes I should post to the blog today. The options were Cheesecake Blondies and these Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Scones, and while it was a tight poll, Team Scone ultimately reigned supreme.

For those who might prefer cheesecake over scones, don’t fret—that recipe will make its debut soon. I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine ever being tired of brown butter and chocolate…Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Scones
…especially when they’re folded into a simple dough, sliced into wedges, and baked into the very best chocolate chip scones I’ve ever had. Y’all, these are ridiculous. Ri-di-cu-lous.Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Scones
They’re soft and fluffy with crunchy edges and crispy caramelized sugar on top! Oh, and the depth of brown butter and just the right amount of mini chocolate chips ❤ I’m not much of a chocolate for breakfast gal, but these scones could easily convince me otherwise!Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Scones
The idea for these Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Scones has been floating around in my head and my “to bake” list for some time now—probably since I made the biscuits for last summer’s Brown Butter Strawberry Shortcakes. In fact, this recipe is quite similar to that one. It starts with brown butter that’s chilled until solid before being cut into dry ingredients.Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Scones
Half-and-half is the main liquid ingredient here; its extra fat helps make up for any moisture the butter may have lost during the browning process. An egg yolk helps with this, too. It may seem like an afterthought—what can one lone egg yolk really do in a scone recipe?—but it makes a huge difference in terms of texture and shelf-life. Where most scones begin to dry out by the end of the day they’re made, these stay surprisingly tender and fluffy into day two. I love how the tops lift right off!Brown Butter Chocolate Chip SconesBrown Butter Chocolate Chip Scones
Other things to look out for in this recipe? Brown sugar and vanilla. I have seen many chocolate chip scone recipes with citrus zest and/or warming spices, but I wanted mine to have flavors more reminiscent of a chocolate chip cookie. Neither of these ingredients is particularly prominent—instead, they allow the brown butter and chocolate to shine.Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Scones
Alright, that’s enough for a Wednesday! Now, go brown some butter and make yourself some scones. Or better yet, hold onto this recipe and make them for Father’s Day this weekend 🙂 Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Scones

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Scones
makes 8 scones

Brown Butter:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

Brown Butter Biscuits:
2/3 cup half-and-half, very cold, plus more for brushing
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup brown butter, solid, very cold
3/4 cup miniature chocolate chips
1 tablespoon coarse sugar (like turbinado), for sprinkling

Brown the butter. Place butter in a light-colored saucepan over medium heat. Let butter melt. Butter will bubble and crackle as the water content evaporates. Swirl the pan frequently for 5-7 minutes, keeping an eye on the color. When the solids are turning brown and the butter is nutty and fragrant, remove the pot from the heat and immediately pour the brown butter into a small bowl. Let the butter cool to room temperature before refrigerating until solid and very cold, several hours or overnight.

Brown butter may be made up to a few days ahead and kept in the refrigerator.

Make the scones. Place an oven rack in the center position. Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

In a liquid measuring cup, use a fork to whisk together half-and-half, egg yolk, and vanilla. Refrigerate.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, brown sugar, and salt. Add cold brown butter. Use a pastry blender or clean fingertips to cut the butter into the flour until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Stir in half-and-half mixture. Fold in miniature chocolate chips.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Pat it to 1-inch thick circle. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice circle into 8 wedges. Place scones at least 2 inches apart on prepared pan. Brush with more half-and-half and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake 14-16 minutes, until puffed and golden. Let scones cool on the pan on a rack for a few minutes, or until they can be handled.

Scones may be served warm or at room temperature. They are best the day they are made, but will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Scones

Nutella Swirl Brownies

Nutella Swirl BrowniesHey y’all! I’m writing from Cambridge, Massachusetts, where my baby sister (who is not a baby—she’s 30) is graduating from Harvard.

Yes, that Harvard. She’s wicked smart.
Nutella Swirl Brownies
I’m so proud of her and could write all about how incredible she is, but I’ve already done that twice. While she and her accomplishments are wonderful, I’m pretty sure you’re here for some Nutella Swirl Brownies.
Nutella Swirl Brownies
I don’t blame you. I’m pretty excited about Nutella Swirl Brownies, too.
Nutella Swirl Brownies
They’re exactly what they sound like: rich, chewy, fudgy brownies swirled with everyone’s favorite chocolate-hazelnut spread.
Nutella Swirl BrowniesNutella Swirl Brownies
The base is my very favorite recipe for Cocoa Brownies. It’s a foolproof no-mixer recipe that bakes up perfectly every time. The resulting brownies have just the right amount of squidge, and they’re only made better by swirling 1/2 cup of creamy Nutella right into the batter.
Nutella Swirl Brownies
Mmhmm.

So, in conclusion, sisters are great, Harvard’s great, graduate degrees are great, but Nutella Swirl Brownies are what’s really important…on this website, anyway.

Nutella Swirl Brownies
makes one 8-inch pan, about 16 brownies

10 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (I prefer dutch process here)
2 large eggs, cold
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup Nutella

Preheat oven to 325F. Butter the inside of an 8-inch square pan. Line the bottom with parchment and butter again. Set aside.

Melt butter in a saucepan or the microwave. Stir butter, sugars, and cocoa together in a large mixing bowl. Let mixture cool for a couple of minutes. Add the eggs one-by-one, mixing until they are completely incorporated. Stir in vanilla extract. Fold in flour and salt just until combined.

Transfer batter into prepared pan. Drop spoonfuls of Nutella over the top of the batter and use a butter knife to gently swirl it into the batter. Tap the full pan on the counter a couple of times to release any air bubbles. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with only a few moist crumbs.

Let the brownies cool completely in the pan on a rack. Slide a knife around the edges of the pan before inverting to release. Slice into 16 squares.

Store leftover brownies in an airtight container, placing wax paper between layers. They will keep for a few days at room temperature or up to a week in the refrigerator.

Nutella Swirl Brownies