Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate PuddingI’m usually not the sort of blogger who labels her own recipes as “the best ever,” but y’all…this Chocolate Pudding might be the best ever. At the very least, it’s the best I’ve ever had.Chocolate PuddingOf course, until a few years ago, I’m pretty sure that the closest I’d ever come to eating pudding made from scratch was my mom making Jell-o Cook & Serve vanilla pudding on an occasional weekend night. I’m not complaining though—she served it in a set of rarely-used champagne coupes, so it felt very fancy for something we ate on the couch in front of the TV.Chocolate PuddingChocolate PuddingChocolate PuddingChocolate PuddingThis pudding though? It doesn’t need any elegant glassware to feel luxurious. It’s made with both cocoa and chopped bittersweet chocolate, giving the finished pudding a bold, in-your-face flavor. I cut the added sugar way down too, so there’s no cloying sweetness to distract from the intensity of the chocolate. Chocolate PuddingChocolate PuddingChocolate PuddingI can guarantee you that there is no boxed mix on the market that makes a chocolate pudding that’s anywhere near this chocolaty.Chocolate PuddingThis Chocolate Pudding is super thick, too. I mean, your average store bought pudding cup can’t hold a spoon straight up like that, now can it?!Chocolate PuddingAnother thing I love about this recipe is that it takes all of twenty minutes from the time I start measuring out ingredients to the time I put the pudding in the refrigerator to chill. This makes it perfect for a lazy night in or for a game night or cookout. I even think you could deck the individual servings out with whipped cream and shaved chocolate and serve them at a dinner party.Chocolate PuddingChocolate PuddingChocolate PuddingMy Chocolate Pudding stays good for a few days in the fridge, so it’s a great make ahead option too. If you can resist the temptation to take a cold, creamy bite, that is.Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate Pudding
makes 4 servings

1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter

For Serving:
whipped cream
chocolate shavings

In a medium-large saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and salt. Whisk the milk into the dry ingredients. Place the pan over medium-high heat. Continue to whisk until the mixture boils for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low.

Whisk egg yolks with a fork. Remove 1/3 of the warm chocolate mixture from the pot. Whisking constantly, slowly pour chocolate mixture into the egg yolks until completely combined. Add egg yolk mixture to the pot and turn heat back up to medium-high. Continue to whisk until mixture boils for 1 minute. Remove pot from heat. Whisk in vanilla, followed by chopped chocolate and butter.

Push pudding through a fine mesh sieve. Divide pudding among 4 small bowls (I used 4-ounce jars). Press plastic wrap to the surface of each bowl of pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours, or until cold.

When ready to serve, remove plastic wrap. Top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings, if desired. Pudding will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Chocolate Pudding

M&Ms Surprise Cake

M&Ms Surprise CakeI posted pictures of a big M&Ms-stuffed chocolate cake on my social media last week and y’all went crazy for it!M&Ms Surprise CakeI get it—chocolate cake + buttercream + M&Ms inside + more M&Ms on top = MAGIC.M&Ms Surprise CakeThat original cake was for a friend and not intended for the blog, but given the response, I thought you might like to know how to make your own!M&Ms Surprise CakeFirst things first. You’re going to need four 9-inch round layers of chocolate cake. This one is a super easy no-mixer recipe that makes four soft, moist, perfect layers. You may recognize this recipe from my my Chocolate Cake with Malted Chocolate Buttercream—it’s exactly the same except that I scaled it up by 50%.M&Ms Surprise CakePlace one of the layers on a serving plate or your favorite of all your cakestands. Spread a little frosting on top.M&Ms Surprise CakeTake two of the layers and punch out holes in the centers. I use a 6-inch ring for this, but you can use a wide-mouthed glass or even just a paring knife and a circle of parchment. Layer those on top of that bottom round, frosting between and on top.M&Ms Surprise CakeAt this point, you’ll have a three layer cake with a hole in it. That’s where the surprise M&Ms are going to go ❤Spread a thin layer of buttercream on the “walls.” This will help keep the moist cake from melting the color off the M&Ms too quickly. And speaking of M&Ms…M&Ms Surprise CakeM&Ms Surprise Cake…pour in almost 2 cups of them ❤ ❤ ❤M&Ms Surprise CakeM&Ms Surprise CakePlace your last intact layer of cake on top, effectively hiding all that surprise candy. Frost the cake. For a sort-of photo tutorial on that, see last week’s Cinnamon Buttercream post.M&Ms Surprise CakeM&Ms Surprise CakeI decorated the top with even more M&Ms and used the last of the frosting to pipe a border. The dollops are all different sizes and I love it!M&Ms Surprise CakeM&Ms Surprise CakeM&Ms Surprise CakeM&Ms Surprise Cake

Gather all your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers—really, anyone will do. Get them all around the table so they can see this amazing thing you’ve made in all it’s rainbow candy avalanche glory. This cake is delicious—with that much chocolate and butter, it has to be—but the magic is in the presentation.M&Ms Surprise CakeThen again, I was alone when I sliced this sucker open and it was still pretty damn magical. But I also took 200+ photos of it for you, so I suppose you were practically there.M&Ms Surprise Cake

M&Ms Surprise Cake
makes 1 large 9-inch round cake

Cake:
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup + 2 Tbsp natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup neutral-flavored oil (I like canola)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups strong, hot coffee

Chocolate Buttercream:
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
5 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 1/4 cups natural unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2-2/3 cup heavy cream

For Assembly:
1 3/4 cups M&Ms candy, plus more for decoration

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease 4 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

Make the cake batter. In a large mixing bowl to 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 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cakes cool in pans for ten minutes before running a small, thin knife around the edges. Invert cakes onto cooling racks and allow to cool to room temperature.

Make the chocolate buttercream. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy (about two minutes). Beat in confectioner’s sugar, followed by cocoa powder and salt, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add in vanilla and 1/2 cup heavy cream. Beat on high for 1-2 minutes, until very fluffy. Add up to 2 more tablespoons of heavy cream, until desired consistency is reached.

Assemble cake. Place one round on a serving plate and top with a layer of frosting. Set aside.

Use a 4-6 inch cutter (or a wide-mouthed cup or jar) to cut the centers out of two layers. Set centers aside for another use. Place one cut-out layer on the bottom layer and top with a layer of frosting. Place the other cut-out layer on top and frost. Coat the inside of the hole with a thin layer of frosting.

Fill the hole in the cake layers with M&Ms. Top with the last (fully-intact) layer of cake. Frost cake as desired. Decorate with more M&Ms, as desired.

Layer cake will keep covered at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to a week. M&Ms may lose their color over long periods of time.M&Ms Surprise Cake

Chewy Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

Chewy Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal CookiesI won’t lie to you—I was tempted to take today off of blogging. I made fifteen cakes between last Monday and this Monday. I like making cake, but fifteen is A LOT.

My brain is fried and my feet hurt. I went to bed at midnight last night without protest. That never happens. I slept for almost nine hours (hooray for working from home!) and I’m still basically half-asleep.Chewy Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal CookiesBut I love this little corner of the internet, so I’m here anyway–just taking it easy this week. I’m saying a big “NO” to yeast doughs, frying, and things that require a million step-by-step photos. I’m taking a hard pass on petit fours.Chewy Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal CookiesBut I’m saying yes to tried-and-true cookie recipes.Chewy Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal CookiesYes to oats. (And butter and brown sugar and the tiniest pinch of nutmeg.)Chewy Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal CookiesChewy Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal CookiesYes to chocolate chips. Yes to dried cherries.Chewy Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal CookiesYes to dough that doesn’t need a chill.Chewy Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal CookiesYes to Chewy Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Cookies.Chewy Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal CookiesYes.Chewy Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

Chewy Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Cookies
makes about 3 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup dried cherries

Place oven racks in center positions. Preheat oven to 350F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Set aside.

In a small-medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy. Add light brown and granulated sugars and beat until combined. Add eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients in two installments, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Mix in oats, followed by chocolate chips and dried cherries.

Scoop dough in 2 tablespoon increments and drop 2 inches apart on prepared pans (I like to use a medium cookie scoop for this). Bake 6 minutes. Rotate pans top-to-bottom and back-to-front. Bake another 4-6 minutes, until golden at the edges. Let cool on pans for 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat process with remaining dough.

Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Chewy Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

Black Bottom Key Lime Pie

Black Bottom Key Lime PieIn my short but very intense baking career, I’ve come to think that whoever coined “Easy as pie,” was making a very cruel joke.Black Bottom Key Lime Pie

Pie takes time and energy and the patience to scrape up the layer of flour that’s adhered itself to your best rolling surface, and unless you make it all the time (those late-November pies are always the easiest ones, aren’t they?), it can seem like a culinary Mount Everest. It’s not—anyone can make a pie—but I understand why it can be perceived as intimidating. Pie is simple, straightforward stuff, but it definitely isn’t easy.Black Bottom Key Lime Pie

Except for this Black Bottom Key Lime Pie, that is. It’s very easy and guaranteed to impress. I mean, look at those delicious layers!

Black Bottom Key Lime PieBlack Bottom Key Lime PieIf you want to make one of these magnificent pies for yourself, start by blitzing Oreos and butter together until they are sandy. Press the mixture into a pie plate to make a crust. Bake that for 8 minutes, just to set.Black Bottom Key Lime PieBlack Bottom Key Lime Pie

Warm some chopped dark chocolate and heavy cream together and stir to make a ganache. Carefully spread it onto the crust, and then give it a brief chill to set the layer. This magical puddle of ganache is the titular “Black Bottom.”

Black Bottom Key Lime PieBlack Bottom Key Lime PieWhisk together the key lime filling. This iconic pie filling is one of the easiest to make. Just whisk together a can of sweetened condensed milk, some egg yolks, some lime zest and key lime juice. I like to add 1/4 cup of sour cream, just to keep everything extra dreamy. If you’re a key lime pie purist, you can leave it out.Black Bottom Key Lime Pie

Pour the filling over the ganache layer and bake the pie for 20 minutes. It should be ever-so-slightly jiggly when it’s done. It’ll firm up as it cools.Black Bottom Key Lime Pie

Chill the pie well (nobody likes warm Key Lime Pie!) and then top it with some whipped cream. You can pipe this layer if you are so inclined. I am not, mostly because I would like to eat pie sooner rather than later.Black Bottom Key Lime Pie

Oh, y’all. This is the way to get your key lime fix. The tartness of the filling pairs beautifully and deliciously with the dark chocolate and the whipped cream, and the crunchy Oreo crust…well, it’ll keep you coming back for more.Black Bottom Key Lime Pie

Make this pie this weekend, or next Wednesday, 3/14. It’s Pi(e) Day, after all ❤Black Bottom Key Lime Pie

Black Bottom Key Lime Pie
makes one 9-inch pie

Crust:
25 whole Oreos
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Ganache:
4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream

Key Lime Pie Filling:
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup full-fat sour cream
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 tablespoon lime zest (or key lime zest)
1/2 cup key lime juice

Whipped Cream Topping:
1 cup heavy cream, cold
2-3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
chocolate shavings (optional)
lime zest (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie plate.

Place Oreos in the bowl of a food processor and blitz until they are crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse until the mixture can be pinched together. Press it into the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate (I find that a 1/4 cup measuring cup works wonders for this). Bake the crust for 8 minutes and then let it cool for 20 (or until you can handle the pie plate).

Make the ganache. Combine chopped chocolate and heavy cream in a small microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 15 second increments, stirring in between, until a smooth even ganache forms (about 45 seconds total). Pour it into the crust and use the back of a spoon to carefully spread it into an even layer on the bottom. Freeze crust and ganache while you prepare the key lime pie filling.

In a medium-large mixing bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk and sour cream. Whisk in eggs, followed by lime zest and key lime juice. Remove pie plate from freezer and pour filling mixture over the ganache. Pop any air bubbles with a toothpick or the tines of a fork. Bake pie 20 minutes, or until just barely jiggly. It will set as it cools.

Let pie cool on a rack before chilling in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

Make whipped cream topping. In a medium-large mixing bowl, combine heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla. Use an electric mixer to whip cream until stiff peaks form. Top pie with whipped cream. Scatter with chocolate shavings and lime zest, if desired.

Serve immediately. Leftover pie will keep covered in the refrigerator for a few days.

Black Bottom Key Lime Pie

Almond Joy Shortbread Bars

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsI don’t want to write about baking today—I want to write about how much I love the Olympics. I’ve watched the coverage every night and had it on in the background while I’ve baked during the day. This isn’t a recent habit—I grew up in a family that gathered to watch the games (summer or winter) every night they were on, and I even once had a wall of my teenage bedroom dedicated to the decorated short track speedskater Apolo Ohno.

Yeah…when it comes to the Olympics, I’m a real big nerd. I’m also a baseball nerd and an Oscars nerd, so…well, maybe I just watch too much TV. That’s probably it.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsAnyway, this isn’t an Olympics blog. It’s a baking blog. So, let’s talk about baked goods, specifically Almond Joy Shortbread Bars.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsIf you’re going to try to improve on the practically perfect combination of chocolate, almonds, and sweet coconut filling, layering it all onto a buttery chocolate shortbread crust is a pretty good way to start.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsAll the layers in these bars make them look like they take hours to prepare, but in reality, they take about 90 minutes from start to finish and are nearly no-bake. That easy chocolate shortbread crust is the only layer that has to spend time in the oven.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsIt’s topped with a thick layer of coconut filling and dotted with whole roasted almonds…Almond Joy Shortbread BarsAlmond Joy Shortbread Bars

…and a layer of milk chocolate. You can use dark chocolate if you like, but apparently Almond Joys are made with milk chocolate. I’ve been wrong for two years. Oh well.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsAlmond Joy Shortbread BarsBut back to the bars. Slice ‘em up and admire your handiwork. #thoselayerstho

The flavor is everything you love about sweet, chewy, crunchy Almond Joys, but better because they’re homemade. Oh, and because they have a crispy layer of chocolate shortbread offsetting all their sweetness. After sinking your teeth into one of these, you’ll never be able to go back to the mass-produced candy bar.

Y’all, these are seriously good. I know I say that about everything on this blog, but I really mean it today. These are a gold medal recipe for sure.Almond Joy Shortbread Bars

Almond Joy Shortbread Bars
makes one 9-inch square pan, about 16 bars

Chocolate Shortbread Crust:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder (natural or Dutch process)
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes

Coconut Filling:
1/2 cup whole raw almonds
5 fluid ounces (10 tablespoons) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups sweetened flaked coconut

Chocolate Topping:
6 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square pan with foil and grease well with butter. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, light brown sugar, and salt. Use your fingertips to rub butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. It will be powdery, but should hold together when pinched. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Spread it around to cover the bottom of the pan before using your hand to pack it down into an even layer. Prick several times with a fork. Bake 14-15 minutes, until no longer wet-looking. Let shortbread crust cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Make the filling. Place almonds on a dry baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk, confectioners sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in coconut. Mixture will be very thick. Drop filling in spoonfuls over the cooled crust and spread across the entire surface. Arrange almonds in lines (or as desired) over the top of the coconut and press down to adhere. Freeze full pan for 15 minutes.

Make the chocolate topping. Combine chopped milk chocolate and butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 15 second increments, stirring in between, just until melted. Drop chocolate over filling one spoonful at a time. Use a small offset icing knife (or a silicone spatula) to carefully spread it over a section of the filling. Continue dropping and spreading chocolate until it’s all used and the almonds are covered. Freeze until chocolate has hardened, about 15 minutes.

Use foil overhang to remove bars to a cutting board. Carefully peel foil down the sides. Use a lightly-greased sharp chef’s knife to slice bars. Lift bars from foil with a thin spatula. Serve.

Bars may be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days. Layer them with wax paper if they are to be stacked.

Almond Joy Shortbread Bars